The Commons: No questions asked

Just as there haven't been answers these last few weeks

The Scene. From the far southwest corner of the room, Conservative MP Wai Young wondered aloud whether New Democrat MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre had children.

“Do you have children?” she asked, loudly, of Ms. Doré Lefebvre, who stood in her spot in the opposite corner.

“Do you have children?” Ms. Young repeated.

“You don’t have children!” she concluded.

Ms. Doré Lefebvre was, at the time, attempting to challenge the Heritage Minister on his opposition to an exhibit about sex at the local science museum. Apparently Ms. Young objected to Ms. Doré Lefebvre’s criticism. Apparently Ms. Young considered the question of whether or not Ms. Doré Lefebvre was currently raising children to be somehow relevant to this discussion.

Afterwards, Nathan Cullen rose and suggested that perhaps Ms. Young’s comments were inappropriate and an apology thus in order. Eventually, and shortly after first declining to do so, Ms. Young did apologize. The House then moved on to a discussion of when and how a member might properly use the adjectives “stupid” and “ignorant.”

This seemed about right. A fine end to a brutish couple of days—yesterday and today—that capped a few weeks of futility

“Mr. Speaker, laws on government secrecy exists to protect real national secrets, not embarrassments to the Prime Minister,” Thomas Mulcair said this afternoon of a report that had the RCMP investigating a leak of F-35 information to the Globe and Mail. “The Prime Minister might take issue with the truth but it does not justify calling the cops, it does not justify intimidating reporters and it certainly does not justify attacking freedom of the press. Is this the point we have reached in the country, having police investigate journalists who are only doing their jobs?”

James Moore was the day’s stand-in for the Prime Minister. “Mr. Speaker, that is not at all what happened,” he said. “The government has an obligation to protect sensitive information, and the Clerk of the Privy Council took appropriate action.”

The Heritage Minister might’ve returned to his seat here, but then what fun would that have been?

“Since the leader of the opposition raised the question of ‘national embarrassments’—”

Note: The leader of the opposition had not actually done this, unless Mr. Moore means to imply that the F-35 is a national embarrassment.

“—I am wondering when the leader of the opposition will apologize to Western Canadians for suggesting that the strength of the Western Canadian economy is ‘a disease on Canada,’ ” Mr. Moore segued.

There were moans of “shame” and various other groans from the government side.

“He even admitted yesterday that he had not even been to the oil sands in Western Canada,” Mr. Moore continued. “He attacks Western Canada, he attacks our energy industry, he attacks all of the west and the great work that is being done by Western Canadians to contribute to Canada’s national unity. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Mr. Mulcair stood and stared down the Heritage Minister. “Mr. Speaker, they are leaving the largest ecological, economic and social debt in history on the backs of future generations,” he shot back, wagging his finger. “We know what the problem is. It is the way we are developing them. No one is saying we should not develop the oil sands. We are saying—”

The Conservatives howled and the Speaker stood and called for order. Even with his microphone turned off, the NDP leader kept going, his words inaudible, but fiercely delivered. Across the way, John Baird sat smiling at the show.

The Speaker turned the floor back over to Mr. Mulcair and the bearded New Democrat turned to his actual question. “This is not run of the mill Conservative secrecy. It is vindictive, it is vicious and it is illegal,” he ventured. “One government department went so far as to check the home address of Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc. Why? Why is the public service being enlisted to run a witch hunt on journalists?”

Back to Mr. Moore. “Mr. Speaker, that is not at all what happened,” he protested, “and the leader of the opposition is not going to change the subject.”

There was laughter from the New Democrats.

Barely three questions into the afternoon, the business of Question Period was apparently over.

Mr. Moore continued his harangue. “It is unconscionable for someone who wants to be the prime minister of the country—”

The New Democrats applauded this noun.

“—to be so utterly irresponsible.”

The Conservatives applauded this adjective.

Mr. Mulcair rose for a fourth turn, not even bothering now with a question. “Mr. Speaker, 500,000 good paying manufacturing jobs have been lost because we are not enforcing legislation. We are not enforcing the navigable waters act. We are not enforcing the migratory birds act. We are not enforcing the Fisheries Act,” he said, ticking off the failures on his fingers. “We are allowing these companies to use the air, the soil and the water as an unlimited free dumping ground. Their model for development is Nigeria instead of Norway. We know what we want: it is sustainable development to protect future generations.”

The NDP leader variously wagged and pointed. The New Democrats stood to cheer when he was done.

James Moore stood and sighed. “Mr. Speaker, there he goes again attacking the west and he has not even been there,” he said, wagging his own finger.

To finish his lecture, Mr. Mulcair took a fifth turn. “Mr. Speaker, Conservatives are destabilizing the balanced economy that Canada painstakingly built up since the Second World War, sacrificing the entire manufacturing sector and all other export sectors because the Canadian dollar is being held artificially high because they are failing to enforce environmental legislation,” he explained. “The high number of U.S. dollars is bringing the Canadian dollar too high, hurting all export sectors. That is the result of choices. Their priority is the unbridled development of the oil sands. We stand for sustainable development in this country.”

He chopped his left hand and pumped his right fist. The New Democrats stood again to cheer. The Liberals, for some unexplained reason, were in hysterics.

“Mr. Speaker, I notice the Liberal Party is seeing the resuscitation themselves and the meltdown of the NDP leader as he tries to divide Canadians over the economy,” Mr. Moore quipped. The Liberals applauded.

The minister proceeded then to lecture Mr. Mulcair on the proper behaviour of an opposition leader. “If the leader of the NDP would at least have the dignity of going to the west and actually visit the people whose economy he says is a disease in this country, he might start the pathway back to a little dignity for the leader of the opposition,” Mr. Moore scolded, “because the fact is western Canada is driving the Canadian economy. We are the future. We are creating jobs for all of this country and we are very proud of it.”

The Heritage Minister pumped his fist and the Conservatives stood to cheer.

Apparently enjoying this, Mr. Baird rose and asked for unanimous consent for more questions.

But just as there haven’t been answers these last few weeks, now there weren’t questions being asked.

The Stats. Employment, seven questions. Military procurement and poverty, five questions each. National Defence, three questions. The oil industry, two statements and one question. The G20 summit, museums, immigration, abortion and veterans, two questions each. Political fundraising, business, airports and the Arctic, one question each.

James Moore, 11 responses. Kellie Leitch and Leona Aglukkaq, five responses each. Julian Fantino, four responses. Peter Penashue, Vic Toews, Jason Kenney and Rob Nicholson, two responses each. John Baird, Tim Uppal, Maxime Bernier, Denis Lebel and John Duncan, one response each.