Must-see QP: Why the NDP can't win on the minimum wage

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 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action, and recap the clip you can’t miss.

Where were we?
Yesterday’s return of the politicians brought with it the requisite, interminable back-to-school metaphors that flood parliamentary coverage each autumn. The opposition had much to pursue after so many months away from the Commons. New Democrats pushed hard on military deployments in Iraq, which they say merits a parliamentary vote that Harper promised when he was first elected; and a federal minimum wage, which they say would lift poor Canadians out of poverty. Liberals duelled with the government on traditionally Tory-friendly territory, particularly according to party spin: jobs and the economy. Toronto’s newest MP, the former city councillor and TV journalist Adam Vaughan, asked a question we thought was yesterday’s must-see moment. Vaughan juxtaposed the government’s spending on reducing violence against Aboriginal women with its gleeful spending on locating the lost Franklin Expedition. Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch lectured him with intellectually dishonest panache about the opposition’s role in Parliament.

What happened?

New Democrats have said, since their emergence as an Official Opposition, that they intend to prove their competence as administrators of the public purse. Tom Mulcair made that pledge a pillar of his successful run for the party leadership. Nobody can win a federal election if they can’t convince voters they know what they’re doing in all matters economic. This week, the NDP has staked out ground as Parliament’s biggest promoters of a minimum wage—$15—that would apply to all federally regulated workplaces. The Tories oppose the measure, and New Democrats are asking why. These are the economic battles the ambitious New Democrats hope to win.

Chris Charlton, the NDP MP from traditionally pro-labour Hamilton, Ont., led the charge in Question Period. She demanded an answer on minimum wages. Enter Jason Kenney, the minister of employment and social development who stands between the NDP and political triumph. Kenney walked the NDP in front of a figurative mirror, explained that provincial New Democratic governments never propose minimum wages as high as their federal cousins, and concluded that Tories trust provinces to set minimum rates that apply to federally regulated workers across Canada. Rare that a Conservative would compliment anyone who’s not a Conservative—or be allowed to do so, even if they so desired. Rarer still that a Conservative would half-praise a New Democrat anywhere. But Kenney’s admission that some social democrats get it right muted an opposition NDP that needs to start winning economic fights, and loudly so, if it hopes to gain momentum in an election year.