John Baird’s guide to polite conversation

The Commons: ’So much for the Leader of the Opposition raising the tone of political debate in this place’

The Scene. In the 15 minutes before Question Period, John Weston stood and worried that a carbon tax would raise the price of Halloween candy. Then Cheryl Gallant fretted that a carbon tax would raise the price of wood. Then Lawrence Toet lamented for a carbon tax that would punish families and kill jobs. Then Pat Martin stood and attempted to shame a Conservative backbencher into rejecting his talking points. And then Kelly Block cried that a carbon tax would “hurt ordinary Canadians.”

All of this was supposedly something to do with the NDP and its leader.

When Question Period was finally called to order, Thomas Mulcair wanted to fret publicly about the Harper government’s handling of foreign investment.

“Mr. Speaker, let us look at the facts,” he offered with his second query. “The Conservatives are about to sell off a huge slice of Canada’s own natural resources to China. Investors are wondering whether the Minister of Industry will once again decide the fate of this deal behind closed doors like a thief in the night.”

This was apparently reference to the Industry Minister’s night owl tendencies.

“This uncertainty has already cost investors and pension funds tens of millions of dollars,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “When will Conservatives listen to Canadians, to business leaders, to foreign investors and put forward the clear rules they promised Canadians two years ago?”

John Baird stood to report that the House’s honour had been besmirched. “Mr. Speaker,” he sighed, “so much for the Leader of the Opposition raising the tone of political debate in this place.”

Mr. Baird then spoke three full sentences before concluding thusly. “It is interesting to see the member stand and support the oil sands, something that he once called a disease and something that his own policies want to shut down,” he declared, wagging his finger. “That would be the real cost of an NDP government, a carbon tax.”

Mr. Mulcair was ready with a retort of sorts. “Mr. Speaker,” he shot back, “only a Conservative could consider a call to tell the truth and respect an undertaking to be a personal attack.”

New Democrat David Christopherson duly thumped his desk with his right hand.

“It is not only Conservative mismanagement of foreign takeovers that is causing economic uncertainty,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “The Parliamentary Budget Officer has just reported that next year the Canadian economy will grow by a mere 1.5%. That is $22 billion less than the finance minister forecast seven months ago. With crisis in Europe, uncertainty in the United States and flagging growth here at home, for once does the Conservative government have anything more to offer Canadians than ‘keep calm and carry on?’ ”

Mr. Baird was perfectly undaunted, proceeding to chop his hand and pump his fist and perform his routine. “Mr. Speaker, it is this government which presented a job creation action plan to Parliament earlier this year. It is this government which has weathered the economic storm for this country. It is this government, which at the bottom of the global recession, has seen the creation of some 820,000 net new jobs,” he sang. “While challenges remain in Europe, while challenges remain in the United States, this government’s strong economic leadership has been fundamental to more job creation, more economic growth, more hope, more opportunity. The only thing the NDP would want to do to that is bring in a $21.5 billion carbon tax on Canadians.”

Both men likely came with some feeling of victory.

The Stats. Employment insurance, six questions. Foreign investment, four questions. The economy, ethics, emergency preparedness, gas prices, the census and taxation, three questions each. The F-35, salmon and bilingualism, two questions each. The environment, immigration, pharmaceuticals, government services and science, one question each.

John Baird and Christian Paradis, six responses each. Ted Menzies and Candice Bergen, three responses each. Rona Ambrose, Pierre Poilievre, Randy Kamp, Jacques Gourde, Gerald Keddy and Gail Shea, two responses each. Peter Kent, Jason Kenney, Julian Fantino and Maxime Bernier, one response each.