Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Parliament In Review: October 4, 2011

Tuesday, October 4 was an opposition day, featuring a motion from Bob Rae on a national suicide strategy that provoked somewhat more agreement than usual. But that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty worth debating.

The Big Issue

While all parties naturally agreed that more needs to be done to prevent suicides both generally and in specific areas, there was plenty of disagreement on both the principles underlying the issue and the role of the federal government in addressing it.

One of the main opposition points involved the prevalence of suicide in First Nations communities for which the federal government bears direct responsibility - with Carol Hughes, Pat Martin, Charlie Angus and John Rafferty among many to comment on the high rates of First Nations suicides as one of Canada's greatest failings (while Linda Duncan dealt directly with the Cons' failure to deliver promised help). Meanwhile, Libby Davies pointed out that the risk of suicide is also higher for GLBT youth, while Hedy Fry and Peter Stoffer both pointed out that recent wars and Vietnam alike saw more troops commit suicide than die in combat.

Claude Patry noted that volunteers trying to address mental health in the workplace are often overworked and underresourced. Bob Rae sought to have the motion reflected in government policy. Megan Leslie offered to withdraw her own bill if the Cons would introduce a suicide strategy - signalling a positive willingness to put outcomes ahead of a desire for personal credit.

For the Cons, Harold Albrecht quoted Margaret Somerville in trying to paint suicide as a matter of insufficient spirituality. And Patrick Brown and Merv Tweed, to their credit, commented on the link between homelessness, mental illness and suicide - albeit without any indication that they can push their party to do much on any combination of those issues.

But lest anybody thought the issue might be entirely non-controversial, the vote saw the Bloc's members oppose the motion without having participated in the debate.

Good News Where You Can Get It

Most observers, on being told that they're engaged in potentially destructive activity without meaningful information about its impact, might consider that reason to take a step back rather than claiming victory.

But then, most observers are not Peter Kent. Instead, he responded to Megan Leslie's questions about a lack of information on the impact of tar sands development past and present by saying we should all be satisfied that the Cons have managed to convince the environment commissioner that they might eventually address the information deficit at some point in the future - with any actual policy changes to come only after that.

In Brief

Nycole Turmel challenged Stephen Harper to live up to the Cons' agreement with the NDP's jobs motion. Malcolm Allen questioned the Cons' spin that corporate tax cuts do anything at all to create jobs. Nina Grewal saluted Lieutenant Colonel Harjit Singh Sajjan as the first Sikh in Canada to take command of a regiment. Christine Moore questioned the Cons on the revelation that the cost of their F-35s has now doubled. Charlie Angus and Alexandre Boulerice continued to question the Cons' G8 patronage - with Boulerice's comments on the role of the Prime Minister's Office looking like a particularly fruitful avenue for further exploration. And Don Davies followed up on the scandal surrounding Prince Edward Island's nominee program with a series of adjournment questions on immigration.

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