The Commons: Down with inequality, up with the price of cheese

MPs agree: in Canada, you can never pay too much for dairy

The Scene. It began with a rousing cheer for Nycole Turmel. The official opposition was perhaps behooved to loudly endorse their interim leader after a Conservative backbencher had used the House’s preceding minute to read aloud some scripted bit about how disgraceful Turmel had behaved on some matter or another.

“Mr. Speaker, over the past few months we have witnessed a protest movement on a scale never seen before,” she ventured. “The Occupy movement is denouncing economic disparity.”

There were grumbles and groans from the government side.

“People are fed up and they decided to act,” Ms. Turmel continued. “The parks might be cleaned up, people may have to go home, but the economic problems will not go away. Unemployment is too high, especially for youth. The economic gap is growing. Has the Prime Minister heard the cry for help?”

The Prime Minister didn’t much like this question and so he substituted his own. “The real question, Mr. Speaker, is whether the NDP has heard any such cry,” Mr. Harper sighed.

Soon enough he was wagging his finger and moaning about how a couple of NDP MPs, taken with apparent concerns for the environment, had gotten on a plane and flown to Washington to express an opinion about the Keystone pipeline that was not unquestionably supportive. “This government does not go to another country to argue against job creation in Canada, but that is what the NDP did,” he complained,  “a party that is totally unfit to govern or even comment on the creation of jobs.”

Ms. Turmel went on about how the government wasn’t doing enough about jobs and Mr. Harper went on about how the opposition was opposed to jobs. “The fact that the NDP has focused on the Occupy protest rather than on job creations tells us everything we need to know about the NDP,” Mr. Harper huffed, “a party that is totally unfit to govern or even comment on job creation.”

Having repeated this line for the cameras twice, Mr. Harper returned to his seat to await the Liberal leader’s questions. In the meantime, Peter Julian and Ted Menzies engaged in a debate over responsibility. It is the NDP’s stance that the government is to blame for the 72,000 jobs lost last month. It is the government’s stance, conversely, that it is to credit for the 600,000 jobs created since the end of the recession. You might say both are right. You might say both are wrong. But neither would agree with you either way.

“Mr. Speaker, it is sad,” Mr. Julian sighed. “Canadians are struggling with lost jobs and the Conservatives are struggling with bogus job numbers.”

The NDP critic tabled his preferred statistics. “We have seen, under this government, that the jobs that are created are low-wage jobs,” he reported. “One in five Canadian men and one in three Canadian woman now make less than two-thirds of the average wage and the jobs they get make $10,000 less than the jobs the Conservatives lost.”

Mr. Menzies countered with his preferred big-sounding number. “Mr. Speaker, I can say what a $10 billion tax hike would do to jobs,” he warned. “That is what the NDP wants to load on us. It was in its campaign platform. It wants to download that onto Canadians.”

But if you were to conclude from this that the governing side and the official opposition agree on nothing, you would be terribly wrong. Because for all the fury and indignation, however little each side seems to think of the other, there is one thing on which they are absolutely and loudly unified: the need to artificially inflate the price of cheese through government intervention.

“Farming families are asking for a simple answer to a simple question,” NDP MP Malcolm Allen declared this afternoon. “Is the government dismantling supply management, yes or no?”

“Yes,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz confirmed, answering in the positive where he actually meant the negative, “we are with the supply management sector.”

So let them—Occupiers and non-Occupiers, New Democrats and Conservatives—eat Canadian cheese. Presuming they can afford a block.

The Stats. Military procurement, six questions. The economy and energy, five questions each. Ethics, four questions. Supply management, three questions. Infrastructure, Service Canada, the environment and the Internet, two questions each. Seniors, Syria, crime, human rights, Iran, water safety and immigration, one question each.

Stephen Harper, six answers. Joe Oliver, five answers. Julian Fantino, four answers. Ted Menzies, three answers. Denis Lebel, Ed Fast, Diane Finley, Pierre Poilievre, John Baird, James Moore, Christian Paradis and Peter Kent, two answers each. Gerry Ritz, Rob Nicholson, John Duncan and Jason Kenney, one answer each.

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