Must-see QP: Jason Kenney burns down the House

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

As expected, the opposition parties held the government’s feet to the fire in the wake of a rather damning Fall report from the Auditor-General that, among other criticisms, slammed the Tories for their Nutrition North program and their mental-health services for veterans. It spawned a fair few must-see moments: Bernard Valcourt, leaning on his notes despite his repetition of the same talking points and positive notes that Stephen Harper used to lead off QP yesterday, claimed that “no one can deny” the positive impacts of the program, offering up an alley-oop dunk to NDP MP Dennis Bevington, who suggested the Minister visit his Northwest Territories riding and tell that to his constituents. Likewise, Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay gaffed herself into a corner by stating that the Conservatives “are very proud of our record at CRA, overall,” drawing guffaws from the crowd given yet another CRA scandal—a leak of prominent Canadians’ tax records.

But question period is so often about the pageantry, and the theatre didn’t get much better than Jason Kenney’s aggressive non-apology over using a now-falsified Sun Media report to score political points. A secret recording—which Sun News quietly retracted Tuesday—suggested that Banff-Airdrie Liberal candidate Marlo Raynolds said that couples with children wouldn’t use the Tories’ income-splitting program to care for their kids; in reality, it was a public citizen’s remarks. That quote attributed to Raynolds was been used by Tory MPs, including Kenney, in the House of Commons. And though Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux had tried to demand an apology on Tuesday through a misused point of order, it was only today that Lamoureux had a chance to directly demand that Kenney apologize.

Needless to say, Kenney didn’t so much backtrack as he aggressively foretracked. Rather than seek penitence, the firebrand minister  instead chose to channel Al Pacino from …And Justice For All: You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole Liberal Party is out of order!

Get your popcorn, indeed.

The recap

The context

From criticisms of the federal government’s handling of mental-health services to veterans to a scathing condemnation of the controversial Nutrition North program, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s fall report has brought a surprising tremor to affairs in the House of Commons. Yesterday, we saw what was expected—backbench MPs excusing their department’s actions, chalking them up to bureaucracy or misinterpretation or some other such bafflegab shirking of responsibility—as well as something perhaps unexpected, when Stephen Harper stood to respond to opposition deputy leader Megan Leslie’s lead-off criticism and…appeared to apologize? The concession was meagre, we’ll grant—he noted that the ministry “has obviously accepted” the AG’s recommendations on Nutrition North—but hey, it wasn’t nothing. After two days where the fall report has dominated question period, will the Prime Minister’s vague contrition be the fix-it salve that allows the House to peaceably move forward? Will Harper’s subtle repentance mollify the opposition as election season starts to hum to life?

…No, probably not.

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