Must-see QP: Bernard Valcourt fires up the Tory benches

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.

The must-see moment

Moribund is a useful word to describe the Tory benches as their beleaguered colleague, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, salvages a defence of his tenure in that troubled portfolio. As the New Democrats and Liberals front-loaded question period with a savaging of Fantino’s record of late, the former cop could only recite his lines and pretend the opposition’s voting record has anything to do with his own. After one particularly lacklustre effort, seat mate Bernard Valcourt, the aboriginal affairs minister, could only stare off into space.

A few minutes later, it was Valcourt who livened up the government side. NDP MP Romeo Saganash proclaimed the government’s northern food subsidy a failure. He repeated the recent revelation that some northerners are left scavenging dumps for food. He wanted the area’s MP, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, to take responsibility for the region’s well-being.

Aglukkaq stayed seated. Valcourt rose. “The record is clear,” he said, arms waving. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, seated a row back, bolted forward, clasped his hands together, and grinned. He must have sensed momentum from his colleague. Valcourt admitted the auditor general made recommendations to improve Nutrition North, the subsidy in question. But he insisted the program has already achieved “significant results.” “Shipments of nutritious food have gone up by 25 per cent. That they cannot deny!” he urged. The average price of a food basket in the north has declined by $110 a month, he said, even as it rises everywhere else. His time coming to an end, Valcourt spat out that the other side should “stop playing politics on the backs of northerners!”

Poilievre, and many of his colleagues, jumped to their feet. Finally, after a week that’s seen Fantino and Aglukkaq get pilloried during question period without abandon, a minister worthy of applause.

The recap

The context

We were watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper energetically defend his government’s treatment of and support for veterans, even as stories like this emerge:

Major Mark Campbell was lying in a hospital bed, just starting to comprehend losing both his legs above the knees in a Taliban ambush, when he found out the federal government had stripped his lifetime military pension.

Add to the stories of benefit-deprived veterans even more questions about the government’s vaunted six-year, $200-million investment in vets’ mental health. The Globe and Mail poked around part of that commitment—$6.98 million over six years for “cutting-edge research”—and found this:

…two of the four research projects that will be funded with the new money – a Canadian Forces cancer and mortality study, and studies on life after service – are merely extensions of studies that have been conducted by Statistics Canada for many years.

Meanwhile, Harper launched the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, an idea hatched in Budget 2014 that’s meant “to help Canadian post-secondary institutions excel globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canada.” Odds of that announcement getting much traction in question period: slim, nay, nil.