Tuesday’s Question Period in the House of Commons was among the most boisterous since October.
And it wasn’t just because the denizens of what my late cousin called “adult daycare” wanted to get outside to play on a spectacular national capital spring day.
If Ottawa isn’t in the full grip of election fever, MPs are at least starting to hack the House down. There are, as someone who can count these things pointed out to me recently, only about seven full sitting weeks left until the summer recess. Once the last bell rings in June, there’ll be no return before voting day on Oct. 19 brings Canadians a brand new government.
Rumors have routinely floated that Stephen Harper may go in the spring or early summer. True, rumors can sometimes become reality. Today, however, the betting is very much on a summer-long phony campaign followed by an autumn filled with prospective MPs who just want to shake your hand.
The warm-up act starts now, just as one of the longest cold spells in the capital city’s history gives way to weather so balmy it feels absurd to be caught wearing a winter coat. Suddenly rising sap is as good an explanation as any for Justin Trudeau’s, uh, shall we say, zany accusation this week. In a Monday night speech in Toronto, the Liberal leader compared the Harper government’s objections to the Islamic niqab with the historic shame of Canada refusing entry to Jews escaping from Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Outside the Commons yesterday, he stuck to his quite frankly sickening simile.
What makes his words worse is that he’s actually right on the underlying issue. Whatever the majority of established Canadians might think about the arrival of Muslim women in veils, and however much the prime minister might protest the position is based on the principle of equality for women, the government is simply wrong to attempt to dictate the fundamental haberdashery choices of any Canadians, new old or in-between.
It has already been told by the courts it is wrong, which of itself is no reason to fold the tents. As we all know, the courts can be at least as howlingly wrong as any cohort of MPs. The simple reason it should give up the fight is that its position against wearing the niqab violates fundamental small-c, small government, conservative and what at least used to be Conservative principle.
Even Defence Minister Jason Kenney, as fine a cabinet occupant as this country has ever produced, has been heard to acknowledge that the State has no business in the bedroom closets of the nation. But even he then goes off into what should be a spoof-loop about how “we” have a culture of showing our faces while “they” do not. For conservative Conservatives to need leading back to the right side of history, and by no less a liberal’s Liberal than Justin Trudeau, makes one wonder how well the Liberal leader might do if could learn to, y’know, just say the right thing and stop. Talking, that is. And saying silly things. And making odious comparisons. And undermining himself with his own chatter.
That he could safely leave to NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who always starts out well but somewhere along the way grows a third foot to put in his mouth. Yesterday’s scene in the Commons was classic Mulcair as he went after the Prime Minister over a rather picayune ethics matter involving Public Works Minister Diane Finley. The federal ethics commissioner has scolded her for putting her thumb lightly on the scale to help a GTA Jewish group get funding to make its community centre accessible for the disabled. A better use of tax dollars is hard to imagine, but the rules are the rules, and Finley apparently technically skirted them.
To hear Mulcair tell it, however, Al Capone had just looted the treasury and got away with the public works minister as his sidekick and chauffeur. It was bad enough as hyperbole but it was inexplicable as a tactic given that the NDP itself is in very deep water ethically for using tax dollars to operate “satellite” Parliament Hill offices ... in Montreal and elsewhere.
Undaunted by the Prime Minister’s warning shot about NDP hands being as dirty as any, Mulcair pressed forward with what he must have thought was a brilliant riposte: “Mr. Speaker, we’re ready and willing to go before a judge—is he [Harper]?”
In that tone of coolly offended dignity that is his signal contribution to parliamentary give and take, Harper retorted: “I’m glad he [Mulcair] is ready to go a before a judge, Mr. Speaker, because I won’t have to. He will.”
The adult daycare went bananas. And we were one day closer to summer recess.