The Commons: Stephen Harper and Libby Davies trade howlers

It was a knee-slapping good time

The Scene. Libby Davies rose to list a series of complaints about the Harper government’s general and to take note of a new proposal for child care services. “Now that even the big banks are challenging Conservatives’ priorities, when will the Prime Minister rethink his shortsighted budget choices?” she wondered.

The Prime Minister was obliged here to stand and offer the official assurances. “Mr. Speaker, the policy of this government has been to gradually balance the budget over the medium-term while not raising taxes as the NDP would like us to do and while preserving our payments for vital programs like health care, education and, of course, pensions for our senior citizens,” he reported.

And, in light of yesterday’s news, there was apparently another reason to brag.

“With that approach, Canada has record leading job creation among major developed countries and policies that are highly emulated around the world,” Mr. Harper continued, “one of the reasons I think that somebody like Mr. Carney can be recruited to serve in another country. Canada has a lot to be proud of.”

So apparently Mr. Carney has Mr. Harper to thank, at least in part, for his new job. Perhaps David Cameron might’ve saved himself the expense of hiring a new bank governor and simply renamed his budgets as “economic action plans” and started yelling about how the opposition’s plans to introduce a carbon tax imperil the monarchy. (Oh, the British government has proposed putting a price on carbon? Well, I suppose Mr. Carney’s cause is hopeless then.)

For whatever reason, Ms. Davies thought she saw an opening to turn this around.

“Mr. Speaker, 50,000 more people are unemployed today than before the recession,” she offered. “That is the Conservative record. The global economy is shaky and Canadians need reassurance. Now the Governor of the Bank of Canada has abruptly resigned.”

The Conservatives howled with laughter. Were there not desktops in the way, numerous knees might’ve been slapped.

Ms. Davies was forced by the noise to pause. The Speaker called for order and returned the floor to the New Democrat deputy leader.

“Mr. Speaker, he left in quite a hurry,” Ms. Davies attempted to clarify.

More chuckles were had.

Mr. Harper stood to respond with a smile on his face. “Mr. Speaker, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who has done a tremendous job and we know will do a tremendous job in a country with much greater difficulties than Canada, has told me he is taking up that job in July of next year,” the Prime Minister offered. “That sort of stretches the definition of abruptly just a little bit.”

The Conservatives laughed once more. The Prime Minister is indeed a stickler for specificity in public discourse.

“The record of this government is that there are 800,000 net new jobs created in this country, more people working now in Canada than before the recession,” Mr. Harper continued. “While there is a ways to go, this is better than the vast majority of developed countries at this time.”

Ms. Davies saw a segue. “Mr. Speaker, the record is that the finance minister and the Prime Minister cannot get their stories straight on whether the budget will be balanced by 2015,” she ventured. “They cannot agree even on whether more service cuts are coming. The finance minister claims he has a plan for another recession, but the Prime Minister cannot tell us what it is. How can Canadians have any confidence in our economy when the Prime Minister does not seem to have confidence in his own finance minister?”

Mr. Harper, rising with a shrug, was happy to convey his admiration for Jim Flaherty.

“Mr. Speaker,” the Prime Minister recalled, “the Minister of Finance has been recognized as probably the best in his job in the entire developed world.”

Indeed, Mr. Flaherty has the championship belt to prove it.

“His record speaks for itself and besides, of course, agreeing on all of the big issues, one of the things we most strongly agree on is that this country does not need the kind of tax increases advocated by the NDP,” Mr. Harper continued.

“We do not need to raise taxes on employers at a time when we are trying to create jobs.”

Well, except for that increase in EI premiums.

“We do not need to raise sales taxes on consumers…”

Which isn’t quite the NDP’s stated position.

“… and we are opposed to a carbon tax on everything as the NDP proposes.”

Well, except that Mr. Harper was both for it and against it before he was against it.

If your knee should be readily available, feel free to slap it.

The Stats. The environment, six questions. The economy, five questions. The budget and national Defence, four questions each. Health care, fisheries and refugees, three questions each. The F-35, foreign investment and museums, two questions each. Pharmaceuticals, unions, science, search-and-rescue and agriculture, two questions each.

Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty and Peter Kent, six responses each. Peter MacKay, five responses. Jason Kenney and Gail Shea, three responses each. Rona Ambrose, Christian Paradis and James Moore, two responses each. Leona Aglukkaq, Pierre Poilievre, Gary Goodyear and Gerry Ritz, one response each.

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