The Commons: Canada moves back in with its parents

Why stop at the embassies, Mulcair charged, Ottawa and London could also merge their armed forces

The Scene. After two general questions about the economy, Thomas Mulcair narrowed in on one particular side effect of the global recession: the trend of adult children compelled by financial concerns to live with their parents.

“Mr. Speaker, this weekend, British government sources leaked the details of a new agreement to create shared British-Canadian embassies in countries around the world. In these countries, Canada would now be represented by a desk at the British embassy instead of an independent Canadian diplomatic mission,” Mr. Mulcair reported for the House’s benefit. “Why did Canadians have to learn about this through the British press? If the Conservatives will not stand up for Canada in the world, why do they expect that the British will do it for us?”

The New Democrats stood to cheer their man’s indignation.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stood and kindly asked that everyone move along as there was apparently nothing to see here.

“Mr. Speaker, Canada has a strong and independent foreign policy,” Mr. Baird explained. “What we will be announcing in an hour’s time is that we will be moving forward with a small number of administrative arrangements where we can co-locate.”

(If recent adjective history is any indication, this will almost certainly end in a guilty plea of some sort.)

Mr. Mulcair was unpersuaded. “Under this agreement, Britain would be the de facto face of Canada in the world,” he charged.

There was grumbling from the Conservatives.

“Canada’s foreign policy will be hardly distinguishable from that of the British. Under these conditions, how can the Conservatives argue that Canada could maintain a strong and independent voice in the world?” the NDP leader continued. “It’s all very nice to be nostalgic for the great British empire, but there are still limits!”

He leaned forward to better scold the minister.

Mr. Baird smiled as he dismissed the fuss. “Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is just making it up as he goes along,” the minister protested. “He refers to an agreement that we have not even released yet.”

Mr. Baird proceeded here to list all of the ways the Commonwealth is being maintained. “Here is what we do around the world,” he said. “Canadians are working out of the Australian mission in Cambodia; Australians are working out of the Canadian mission in Columbia. The United Kingdom works out of our mission in Mali. Canada provides services to Australians on the Ivory Coast, Algeria, Maui, Romania, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Australia provides services to us in Bali, Hawaii, Cambodia, New Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Laos. Canada even depends on such friends and allies as Jamaica to help us out.”

Even Jamaica? (Our friend and ally will surely be pleased to referred in that way.)

“What we are talking about,” the minister clarified, “is services like providing a passport and providing consular services to Canadians when they need it abroad.”

So it is all merely a matter of paperwork. Unless it is also about sticking it to the European Union.

Mr. Mulcair was unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve the best diplomatic representation. They deserve the best consular services and under the Conservatives they will get neither,” he alleged.

The Conservatives howled. The New Democrats cheered. Mr. Mulcair talked over the applause.

“The Conservatives need to find money to curb the deficit they created with their irresponsible corporate tax cuts,” he charged. “Why stop at the embassies? They could merge our armed forces. No wonder they are so nostalgic for the war of 1812. Why not merge the Senate with the House of Lords? It is the same difference. Why not a united Olympic team? The Conservatives could do that, or they could stand up for Canada.”

The New Democrats stood to applaud.

Mr. Baird came back with an uncharacteristic clunker. “When the member opposite talks about amalgamation, borrowing one from the other, it is funny,” he mused. “The New Democratic Party finally had to turn to the Liberal Party to find itself a new leader.”

On that note, Bob Rae made his return to the House—he was away last week—and, raising his voice, tabled two questions.

“Mr. Speaker, if it is just a small administrative arrangement, I wonder if the minister could explain why he is having a highly touted press conference with the British foreign minister to discuss it?” he wondered. “If we have such a wonderful, independent foreign policy, why is the Prime Minister of Canada not discussing that foreign policy in front of the United Nations this week, like so many other heads of state?”

To explain Mr. Harper’s absence from the UN’s general assembly, Mr. Baird deferred to an award that was once given to Jean Chretien. “Obviously the Prime Minister of Canada continues to play a leading role on the world stage. He will be visiting New York later this week where he will have the opportunity to represent Canada at a number of very important bilaterals,” the minister explained. “I am going to go out on a limb and invite the member for Toronto Centre, the leader of the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister, in New York, will be celebrated and honoured as the best statesman of the year.”

The Conservatives cheered and Mr. Baird enthused over the applause. “There will be a seat at the front row for the leader of the Liberal Party,” he assured.

And, if our diplomats behave themselves, presumably the Brits will let Canadian boarders hang the text of Mr. Harper’s acceptance speech in their rooms.

The Stats. Foreign affairs, eight questions. Employment insurance, six questions. The economy, four questions. Foreign investment and the F-35, three questions each. Omar Khadr, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, prisons, ethics and immigration, two questions each. Veterans, sports, children, forestry and cell phones, one question each.

John Baird, 13 responses. Kellie Leitch, six responses. Rona Ambrose, five responses. Vic Toews, four responses. Gary Goodyear, three responses. Jason Kenney and Tony Clement, two responses each. Eve Adams, Bal Gosal, Joe Oliver and Maxime Bernier, one response each.