QP: Insufficiently tough about softwood lumber

A single day after the prime minister took all of the questions, he was too busy with “private meetings” to return for a second day in a row, but his deputy was present, so hopefully it would be okay after all. Erin O’Toole led off, script on his mini-lectern, and he moaned about the higher softwood lumber tariffs and called the prime ministers a “pushover.” Chrystia a Freeland read that she was extremely disappointed by the unfair and unwarranted decision by the US, that Trudeau did raise it in Washington last week, as did she, and that it was fuelling America’s inflation. O’Toole accused the Liberals of selling out workers, for which Freeland reminded the Commons that O’Toole publicly called on the government to drop retaliatory measures against other American tariffs, which Canada won. O’Toole then raised the threats over PEI potato exports, and Freeland said she would leave it up to Canadians to judge their successes with the New NAFTA and the 232 tariffs, before she pivoted to addressing PEI farmers, reminding them that she grew up on a farm too, and she was working to resolve the situation. O’Toole then switched to French, and said the government was racking up failures, for which Freeland reiterated that they have been trying to resolve the softwood lumber situation. O’Toole raised the issue of inflation, and Freeland reminded him that this is a global phenomenon as a result of economies restarting, and the government was working to help Canadians.

Alain Therrien led for the Bloc, and demanded that all health transfers be given to provinces without strings, and Freeland assured him that they wanted to work with Quebec. Therrien demanded a public summit with premiers, for which Freeland reminded him of the support they sent to Quebec during the pandemic.

Jagmeet Singh rose for the NDP, and he demanded immediate action on the climate crisis and an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and Freeland stated that she agreed that climate action as urgent and essential and that those subsidies would be phased out next year, and that a raft of independent experts judged the Liberal plan the best. Singh repeated the question in French, and got much the same response. 

Round two, and Michelle Rempel Garner returned to the softwood lumber tariffs (Ng: We are disappointed in the decision, and we have been defending our workers and sector), Richard Martel repeated the question in French (Ng: This issue is top priority for out government, and why we have pursued litigation, while your party encouraged us to capitulate to Trump and settle for a weaker deal). Michael Chong accused the government’s standing of declining in Washington (Freeland: We refute your untrue assertions, and we have a good working relationship).

Kristina Michaud wanted a crackdown on guns at the border (Mendicino: We are cracking down on the trade of firearms, and have promised municipalities $1 billion to help ban handguns), and Michaud reiterated border action including with First Nations (Mendicino: We have already made investments in securing the border). Rhéal Fortin demanded more federal action (Mendicino: Same response).

Randy Hoback returned to the softwood lumber issue, pretending that the US president has the powers to make this change unilaterally (Ng: We have all raised this with our counterparts), and Brad Vis amped up the drama for the same question (Ng: Same answer).

Bonita Zarrillo demanded immediate affordable housing (Hussen: We have addressed the housing needs for a million Canadians, and we are introducing an accelerator fund for municipalities and an innovative rent-to-own programme), and Blake Desjarlais demanded specific Indigenous housing initiatives (Hajdu: We have committed to this).

Round three saw questions on the Roxham Road crossing (Fraser: We have international obligations to meet when it comes to asylum seekers, and I object to the language that you are using to stoke fear and division), Stephanie Kusie worried about labour shortages (Qualtrough: The strength of our economy means that some businesses are outstripping their ability to find workers, and we will solve this by welcoming more people to Canada and meeting the needs of evolving sectors), softwood lumber tariffs (Ng: We have been working on this), the electric vehicle tax credit in the US (Ng: We have been raising this and will work to find solutions), reports of systemic racism in the Immigration department (Fraser: Systemic racism is a real threat and I will follow through with the anti-racism action plan), inflation (Gould: I am looking forward to making life more affordable with $10/day child care; Freeland: Canadians understand that inflation is a global phenomenon, and here are some actual statistics and some quotes from the National Post; Do you believe that COVID lockdowns were the time for austerity?), militarised police at the Wet’suwet’en blockade (Mendicino: We expressed concerns, we will monitor the situation but elected representatives do not direct operations or adjudicate decisions), and the Environment Commissioner’s report (Wilkinson: We are reviewing the recommendations, but this one programme was a temporary COVID economic measure).

Overall, things are settling into their normal state of being (nature is healing, etc.), with it being fairly lively without being too raucous. There was the usual state of repetition to the questions, which is not too unusual, but there are plenty of other issues happening that deserved some attention and didn’t get any. That being said, there were a couple of exchanges that were ridiculous. One was Jasraj Hallan framing his necessary question on allegations of systemic racism in the department of Immigration, Refugees and Canadian Citizenship by saying that the new minister didn’t stand up to the prime minister about his history of Blackface – something that is ludicrous on its face and not exactly showing that one is serious about the question being asked. The other was Brad Vis asking the very same questions about the softwood lumber tariffs, but turning up the drama for it. There are theatrics, and there is junior high drama camp, and that’s what Vis delivered.

I will also point out that the Speaker is back to his usual tactic of gently chiding MPs rather than actually enforcing, such as standing up to say that he heard something unparliamentary, but wasn’t going to call out the perpetrator or make them apologise for doing so. What’s the point of having a Speaker to enforce the rules if he won’t actually do so? It’s no wonder that the Conservatives decided that Rota was the one they wanted in the Chair (and I know enough of the math of the vote that he was their choice), since he won’t call them out. It’s not a great foot for the 44th Parliament to get off on.

Sartorial speaking, snaps go out to James Bezan for a blue suit with a white shirt and a blue-striped yellow tie and pocket square, and to Anita Anand for a medium blue jacket over a white collared shirt with oversized cuffs along with black slacks. Style citations go out to Patty Hajdu for a shapeless black sack dress with bright red florals, and to Michael Kram for an eggplant suit with a dark taupe shirt and tie.

QP: Insufficiently tough about softwood lumber