The Commons: Questions endure - Macleans.ca
 

The Commons: Questions endure

“Why, precisely, was it necessary to go without this daily exercise in accountability for the last month?”


 

The Scene. The Prime Minister did his best to recline, or at least slouch, in his place. Michael Ignatieff sat upright, leaning forward at the edge of his seat. The Prime Minister wore various shades of blue. Michael Ignatieff had chosen a grey suit and white shirt with a black-and-pink-striped tie.

Perhaps only one of these men was excited to be here.

The Liberal leader rose first with an attempt at humour. “Mr. Speaker, as we were saying before we were so rudely interrupted,” he began. A few Liberals chuckled—various Conservatives groaned.

“The Prime Minister shut down Parliament,” Mr. Ignatieff continued. “Canadians were rightly angered. Canadians want the House to reassert its just authority. They want democracy strengthened, not weakened. Will the Prime Minister support creating a special committee of the House to study prorogation, to limit it and to prevent its future abuse?”

The Prime Minister rose, buttoned his jacket and casually invoked the spectre of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition. His dutiful caucus rose to applaud his effort.

The Liberal leader moved on. “Mr. Speaker, everyone in the House and everyone in the country knows why the Prime Minister shut down Parliament. He shut it down to avoid legitimate questions about the Afghan detainee scandal and Parliament spoke clearly on this question,” he posited, bringing his fingers together and pumping his fist. “Parliament passed a motion in December which said: stop the cover-up, stop the excuses, deliver the documents. Will the Prime Minister now respect the will of Parliament and deliver the documents to the Afghan committee so that Canadians can get the truth that they deserve?”

Mr. Harper stood. He shrugged. He invoked the good name of the Canadian Forces.

Ujjal Dosanjh picked up this line of questioning. The Prime Minister, deigning to answer a Liberal backbencher’s query, attempted to suggest there was something ironic about the Liberal opposition asking about a detainee transfer agreement that was signed when a Liberal government was in power. His dutiful caucus seemed delighted with this. “Whoops!” they giggled. “Whoops!”

Gilles Duceppe heaped scorn upon the government’s environmental policy and dared suggest the Prime Minister did not speak for most Quebeckers. This greatly angered Mr. Harper, who rose to yell and point and invoke Canada’s success at the Olympics.

This neither assuaged nor sufficiently frightened the opposition benches into silence. Indeed, the government’s rather dramatic attempt to avoid questions two months ago seems only to have provoked questions, and the time invested in silencing this place only allowing more questions to arise and linger.

Bob Rae wanted to know how precisely the government had made such a mess of Rights & Democracy. John McKay demanded the government account for its various and contradictory positions on the funding of KAIROS. Marlene Jennings and Olivia Chow asked the Immigration Minister to explain why references to gay rights had been deleted from the government’s citizenship guide. Nicole Demers beseeched the government to explain why access to safe abortions will be excluded from the government’s commitment to improving maternal health worldwide. Siobhan Coady raised the matter of an investigation into the government’s handling of the access to information system.

On and on the opposition members listed their concerns. All before the government had tabled a budget that will surely only lead back to the most operative question of the last two months: why, precisely, was it necessary to go without this daily exercise in accountability for the last month?

Nearer the end of this first session in so long, the Conservatives sent up one of their own to ask a question of the Justice Minister.

“Mr. Speaker, in the last session of Parliament, the Liberal leader’s senators delayed and gutted our tough on crime legislation at every turn,” reported Garry Breitkreuz. “Now we hear that the Liberals are again preparing to block important justice legislation, this time in the House of Commons and the Senate.”

The Liberal side howled. Perhaps they now saw irony themselves, in a government that would prorogue the House, then lament the blocking of legislation. Perhaps they objected only on the grounds of objective reality. For whatever reason, they mocked loudly—so loud that Mr. Breitkreuz was compelled to return to his seat.

Conservatives threw their hands in the air and appealed for mercy. The Speaker called for order and then called on Mr. Breitkreuz to finish. He kept on, but the noise kept up, his words entirely inaudible in the cacophony. Once more the Conservatives threw their hands in the air and scowled and objected and pleaded for respect.

It is, no doubt, quite frustrating to be denied, in the most boorish of manners, your rightful opportunity to hold the government to account.

The Stats. Rights & Democracy, five questions. Afghanistan, prorogation and citizenship, four questions each. Crime, three questions. Nuclear energy, KAIROS, AIDS research, foreign ownership and maternal health, two questions each. Securities regulation, the environment, the gun registry, infrastructure, access to information, bilingualism, Helena Guergis and employment, one question each.

Stephen Harper, 10 answers. Lawrence Cannon, five answers. Jason Kenney and Bev Oda, four answers each. Dave Anderson, Rob Nicholson, Leona Aglukkaq and Tony Clement, two answers each. John Baird, Stockwell Day, James Moore, Helena Guergis, Christian Paradis and Denis Lebel, one answer each.


 

The Commons: Questions endure

  1. It's good to have you back.

  2. "This greatly angered Mr. Harper, who rose to yell and point and invoke Canada's success at the Olympics."

    Three questions. If, like me, you wondered how long it would take Harper to wrap himself in Olympic glory, the answer is three freakin' questions.

    "Rights & Democracy, five questions. Afghanistan, prorogation and citizenship, four questions each. Crime, three questions. Nuclear energy, KAIROS, AIDS research, foreign ownership and maternal health, two questions each. Securities regulation, the environment, the gun registry, infrastructure, access to information, bilingualism, Helena Guergis and employment, one question each."

    You know, a smart opposition would have spent the last 12 weeks priming the press and Canadians for *this* session of QP. Heck, frame it as a 'showdown', or whatever dramatic term makes people want to watch. And then – as they've more or less done today – ask one reasonable question after another, and allow the government to either play the usual smirking fratboy routing or try to look serious while still obviously dodging the questions.

    And, for the love of god, doesn't Ignatieff have anybody willing to be a sacrificial lamb and get thrown out of Parliament for calling Breitkreuz a liar and refusing to recant? Sure it would be silly theatrics, but it would attack that false talking point head-on and let the press report that Breitkreuz was, in fact, telling a blatant lie.

    I am so sick of Harper being given free rein to set the terms of the debate with nobody ever knocking him on his heels with a gutsy, unanticipated move. This is simple tactical stuff, not difficult at all.

    • Hopefully Mr. Lee's motion will do just that

      • I hope so too. Unfortunately Mr. Lee seems overwhelmingly concerned with not "going to the wall". We'll see whether the Liberals use this opportunity or get stared down by the government.

    • A " gutsy, unanticipated move " on the Libs part would be to actually make some constructive suggestions to improve the tough on crime bills rather then diluting the legislation in an effort to appease some of their more left-wing voters.

      • Hey. Have you ever tried using facts to justify your points?

        Here are some for you. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the kind of anti-crime legislation passed by the liberal government:

        DNA registry
        Sex offenders registry
        Anti-stalking legislation
        s. 810 – allows for the court to authorize the monitoring of suspected and covicted child sex offenders
        Created a whole new drug scheme
        Youth Criminal Justice Act
        Minimum sentences for gun crimes

        And so on. And so on.

        You know what Harper did? Increased the age of consent and tinkered with sentences. And even on these bills he delayed and delayed and delayed, because it was more important to him that he use them as political fodder.

        And now you accuse the liberals of "diluting" legislation? The conservatives have nothing substantive to add to the criminal legislation in this country. It is all tinkering and more tinkering.

        • So if you really believe these " facts " you`ve quoted, then you would have to believe the Liberals will be willing to allow the tough on crime legislation to pass without " politicial games " delays. I`ll delay my judgement on the Libs until I see how they behave.

          • There's tough on crime, and there's stupid on crime.
            Why on earth should the Liberals pass the latter?

          • Why do you put facts in quotation marks? These measures were passed by the liberal government. It sounds like you are suggesting they do not exist.

          • No doubt they would – but Harper's legislation is not "tough" – it is pandering.

            And expensive and useless…

  3. Good God! Three more months of this, if it lasts that long.

  4. Ha, Iffy capitulates yet again.

    The opposition thinks their impotent cause they dress impotent.

    Losers………Lib/NDP types……….suckers.

    • Poor bruce…reduced to sentence fragments.

  5. Rights & Democracy, five questions

    I was thinking the same as David Akin when he tweeted:

    This should warm the heart of @inklesspw — after prorogation, Rights and Democracy is top of the #QP charts today…

    Wherry didn't give it much cover (office fatigue?) so I searched R&D in google news. Found this David Matas opinion piece in today's Epoch Times. Some foreshadowing, perhaps of what might be in the works. Or what he's thinking.

    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/3077

    • So Matas is now arguing the staff were rnning the asylum absent any supervision from the board. Which board? What evidence does he have that the staff were not cooperating with the original Beauregard board; odd how none of this surfaced in reports to the OIG.

      • Just because his piece doesn't fit your predetermined narrative is no reason to reject it. He was previously, and currently is a board member. Which is a lot more than can be said for anyone here.

    • Ezra Levant posted that piece five weeks ago. Do try to keep up.

      • It appears I'm not the only one. Must have been back when in the day when I wasn't paying any attention to this file (rightly so, as it turns out).

        • Your snark isn't spicy enough.

  6. QP IS BACK!!

  7. Unbelievable! After a few months, despite two opposition leaders tag teaming to point to OUR concerns, Mr. Harper can still ignore Canadians and not even deign that many were displeased at his prorogation game. Instead, once again, he tells us what is most important to us. Psst:t………we wouldn't have put boots to the ground if we were not perturbed Mr. Harper. We would not have continued to hound your steps and your Ministers' steps had we not been truly concerned.
    We can be upset about democratic rights being curtailed AND concerned about the economic recovery. And also be proud of our athletes. All in parallel! Sort of like being able to walk and chew gum.

    Get a committee going on prorogation and curtail PM powers. Not just this PM, all future PM s. Then Mr. Lee, please do file your doc. We also would like to know what occured with the detainees and if our government covered up. The more games are being played to avoid releasing the documents, the more it gives the impression of a coverup. NOT by our troops but by their political masters. (we like our troops!)

  8. Hopefully, the solution will be: "Exit, pursued by a bear."

  9. I'm really not understanding why they prorogued. Can someone explain to me again why they needed the time away? I mean, I thought it was because they had things to do so couldn't answer questions.. but here they are not answering questions when we're not prorogued.. so I'm a bit confused as to the difference.

  10. Harper still doesn't answer questions and still blames everyone else. What weak, petty man.

    • Ya,.. Not much different from the Lieberals when they were in power.. Remember the phrase attributed to the lieberals .."It's Question Period" not "Answer Period".. No thanks, I'll take Harper over a Lying, thieving, liberal trough wallower, any day..

      • How old are you? What a childish, silly answer.

      • Thought "Iffy" was living in a different world during that time…Can't have your cake and eat it too LaserGuy

  11. The only way to get the voters opinions heard and acted upon is by referendum .

    My whole life has been wasted in this country thinking my vote meant anything. Where as I always vote by referendum in my country ( by marriage ) and the politicians must pass the law as voted on.

    Tax paying Canadians get things voted on and settled once and for all and move this"slow as MUD " country on to this present century.
    Governments can't run anything or handle money. That's a fact. NONE ARE worth the 4 1/2 times our meager retirement allotment. After years of so called work.
    Hello to the Republic of Canada.

  12. The CDSA has nothing to do with natural health products.

  13. Aww the daily pissing contest is back in session : ) This could be the most entertaining TV around : ( lol

  14. Harper and Flaherty think hey know what Canadians want. They think we prefer corporate tax cuts, gimmicks, reducing tariff barriers to trade (non-tariff barriers still exist), and military spending are our top priorities. I think they will find out that we care much more about the health and welfare of our seniors, of mothers, of children, of the less privileged, of the environment, and of foreign countries then we do about our military and multinational corporations. Let's get our corporate taxes back to Paul Martin levels for goodness sake, and stop injecting so much money into military engagement. It serves nobody accept military contractors and corrupt despots.

  15. The sandbox brats back at it again.

    A pox on all their houses.

  16. Parliament was not prorogued long enough if the questions of the Opposition are anything to go by. The hysterical screeching (for that is what it was) by so-called adults about issues 98% of Canadians don't care about merely justifies a belief that the Party politics that passes as democracy is a failure. This is why 40% of eligible voters don't vote and the rest vote to try and get their side in power so they can "give" them something at the expense of the other side.

  17. Mr. Harper is not a good PM… everyone in Canada knows that he isnt a good PM.. he should step down before he really messes up Canada. the same way that Mr. Bush did to the USA… Mr. Harper is everything that Canada isnt..