Monday, June 11, 2012

Parliament in Review - May 9, 2012

Wednesday, May 9 saw the first Committee of the Whole discussion of the Cons' budget bill - with the opportunity for hours of direct questions about military spending giving rise to little more than even more tedious repetition of F-35s talking points in place of responses.

The Big Issue

Jack Harris opened the committee of the whole by asking a simple question as to which other planes had been considered aside from F-35s as specifically referenced in the Auditor General's report. And Julian Fantino set the tone for the discussion to come by refusing to offer even those basic facts in response to direct questions.

What followed was a continued recitation of F-35-related talking points in response to all kinds of different issues - ranging from the maintenance and operating costs of our current F-18s, to the source of any requirement for first strike capability. The NDP was able to get the Cons to admit that they were "aware" of a number for possible industrial contracts (though they immediately disclaimed any interest in discussing its accuracy), and (with some effort) to confirm the number of staff members assigned to a joint strike fighter office in Washington which had been producing costing reports since 2001. And perhaps unintentionally, Peter MacKay stuck his neck out more than we're used to seeing in volunteering that the only reason the Cons favour the F-35 is stealth capability.

Meanwhile, Matthew Kellway fleshed out some of the Auditor General's more scathing comments which the Cons effectively conceded to be accurate. But the Cons wouldn't even admit that their own F-35 photo op actually happened. Bob Rae then followed suit with a few choice passages from the Auditor General. And Christine Moore wondered whether the Cons were slashing the jobs of epidemiologists working largely on veterans' mental health, only to be told that Peter MacKay has no clue who (if anybody) might be cut.

In Brief

Fin Donnelly highlighted Food Banks Canada's challenge to parliamentarians to experience just a day of hunger, while Marie-Claude Morin invited MPs to join the international campaign to stop the use of rape as a weapon in war. Rodger Cuzner and Peter Stoffer commemorated the Westray mine disaster by calling for action to protect worker safety, while Scott Armstrong and Lisa Raitt made clear that the Cons have no interest in responding with anything more than platitudes. Megan Leslie criticized the Cons' short-sightedness when it comes to the environment, as well as their refusal to allow the environment commissioner to do his job by talking about contaminated sites. Peter Julian contrasted the Cons' own Code of Silence award for secrecy against the national transparency and good governance honours won by Tides Canada. Marc Garneau questioned cuts to the Canadian Space Agency, while Libby Davies followed up on the complete lack of funding to match the Cons' supposed interest in mental health. Ralph Goodale wondered whether Glencore's sketchy international operations would be taken into account as part of the Cons' assessment of the Viterra takeover. Donnelly and Yvon Godin spoke to a report from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, only to have the Cons who apparently had no problem with the report as written end the debate since the committee's call for responsible fishery practices had been trumped by the Cons' anti-environment budget. Rejean Genest's housing motion passed unanimously, while Patrick Brown's breast screening awareness bill won the support of everybody but the Bloc. Hedy Fry and Anne-Marie Day slammed the vindictiveness of the Cons' bill to deny EI benefits to incarcerated workers. And Rosane Dore Lefebvre raised questions about the conditions in immigration holding centres which the Cons are so eager to stuff with more immigrants, while Carol Hughes questioned why the Cons are cutting health services for First Nations rather than doing anything to address drug addiction as a public health issue.

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