Must-see QP: The prime minister calls something ‘crazy’

Your daily dose of political theatre

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is question period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.

The must-see moment

Leona Aglukkaq, the environment minister, was off speaking to a “nearly empty room” at global climate talks in Lima, Peru when her boss updated her talking points.

NDP MP Megan Leslie asked for the umpteenth time when the government plans to introduce emissions regulations for oil and gas producers. Years ago, the Tories said movement on the file was imminent. Then they hemmed and hawed and said they were waiting for Americans to catch up. Today, a new cue card: “This government’s position has been clear: that we want to see oil and gas regulations on a continental basis, given the integrated nature of this industry. With the current conditions in the oil and gas sector, this government will not consider unilateral regulation of that sector.”

The change is in bold. Never before did the government rule out unilateral action; they only implied as much. Leslie noticed, and rose again towards the back end of question period. She put the same question to the PM, and suggested his most recent answer constitutes a broken promise. Harper grew only more emphatic, calling it “crazy economic policy” to go ahead with the regulations the NDP so desires. He insisted Canada is better than America when it comes to regulating emissions. He smiled all the way, and his benches roared.

To explain the problems with Harper’s statements, we call upon Paul Wells. Paul?

The recap

The context

The power of the written question on the order paper, that parliamentary tool so valuable to a curious opposition, continues to reveal tidbits about the workings of government. NDP MP Charlie Angus wondered how many ministerial staff work in each Canadian city. The Ottawa Citizen‘s Glen McGregor reports that, in fact, ministers’ offices employ more political staff now than did the last Liberal government. This comes after austerity-induced job cuts tore through the public service. The top-line numbers:

Data tabled in the House of Commons on Monday shows the number of political staffers working for cabinet ministers has ballooned under the Tories, up 21 per cent per cent from the last year of Liberal rule.

Paul Martin’s government employed 452 people as “exempt” ministerial aides, advisors and other staff in 2005. This year, that number has swollen to 549 bodies on the public payroll.

McGregor guesses that Angus’s curiosity was driven by questions thrown at the NDP earlier this year about the party’s controversial staffers in offices nowhere near Ottawa. Angus regularly gets a chance to rise during question period. Today, among veterans affairs and the week’s other issues, expect something about the government’s propensity for hiring political workers.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.