Must-see QP: Chris Alexander really wants to talk about Iraq

Your daily dose of political theatre

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is question period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 11:15 a.m. until just past 12. We livestream and liveblog all the action.

The must-see moment

No doubt, today’s main event in the house was a much-anticipated speech from the Prime Minister outlining his plan for Iraq in combatting the Islamic State. Mulcair and Trudeau, no doubt working on their responses to Harper’s motion, were thusly unavailable; the smaller numbers in what is generally already a small Friday chamber made for a perfunctory-feeling question period that felt like a required prequel for the fireworks to follow. So much so, in fact, that it seems like Immigration Minister Chris Alexander couldn’t help but jabber about his leader’s plans in Iraq. When NDP MP Peggy Nash queried him about the government’s appeal of a federal court’s ruling against its refugee health-care cuts—Alexander had just then stated rather boldly that “there is not a single refugee in Canada not receiving health care”—the minister managed to turn his answer into a retort about the NDP’s refusal to support the Iraq mission, because refugee health care has, apparently, correlation to Canadian soldiers entering Iraq. Isn’t that kind of warped obfuscation generally the work of parliamentary secretaries like Paul Calandra, and not a cabinet minister? Well, no matter. Alexander got himself twisted up in his own curious logic, dismissed with a swipe immediately by Nash’s follow-up: “Thank you, Mr. Speaker: Back to the topic at hand.” In the end, nothing was gained from the exchange—the government stands by its decision to appeal the judgement—but it looked bad on the minister.


The blog

The context

Some humdrum leaderless Friday it will not be, after all! Though leaders typically stay out of the week’s final question period, today’s will no doubt feature frissons of excitement with the announcement that the Prime Minister will lay out his plan for a combat mission against the Islamic State in Iraq in the House today, right after QP. In a way, the speech’s timing is unsurprising: For the last week or so, the NDP had been stonewalled on more information on Canada in Iraq, thanks to the protective screen of operational security, and this end-of-week speech will allow Stephen Harper to deflate the prosecutorial NDP for at least one Friday and a weekend. Meanwhile, on the Liberal side, Trudeau delivered a fiery speech yesterday at the Canada 2020 conference suggesting that the onus is on Harper to prove the conflict is worthwhile; Harper, set to provide his argument today, just moved up the deadline for Trudeau to make up his mind in a big, big way, taking some of the ballast out of his move. Expect a fuller-than-usual Friday QP to feature a lot of Iraq-themed questions, still, with the Tories deferring to their leader’s coming speech; if Mulcair shows up, the buzz will be deafening. Let’s watch, shall we?