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Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay answers the opposition during Question Period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, October 20, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick)
Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay answers the opposition during Question Period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, October 20, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick)

Question Period

Finger pointing and allegation Add to ...

A soldier's autobiography touched off a firestorm in Question Period today. That and the continuing controversy over Conservative logos on infrastructure stimulus cheques dominated the daily session.

Retired chief of defence staff Rick Hillier seems to have a blockbuster on his hands in his new book, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, given the storm brewing around it.

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According to reports and questions from opposition MPs, he wrote that he told CIDA, Foreign Affairs and others in government about the abuse and torture of Afghan detainees that were handed over by Canadian troops.

"We are asking in this House, a very simple set of questions," Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said Tuesday. "Who in the government knew about this? If not in the government, who in the bureaucracy knew about this? And why did it take so long for the Government of Canada to act, to act in the name of decency and to act in the name of honour?"

Defence Minsiter Peter MacKay took questions on the Hillier revelations. And he skated around with his answers, never saying what he knew or when he knew it.

Rather, he tried to deflect to his opposition foes, accusing them of engaging in "this game of political pointing of the finger and allegation."

So, despite the bluster and the outrage, nothing new was learned.

On to the cheque-logo controversy: Leading off the day's questions, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he could not believe that Stephen Harper was not aware that Conservative caucus services designed and produced the cheques at taxpayer expense.

"Would the Prime Minister now rise in his seat and admit what has been true all along, that his office is behind this scheme?," Mr. Ignatieff asked.

The Prime Minister did rise but wouldn't admit that at all.

Instead, he said the results of the government's economic stimulus are impressive.

"Obviously it is normal that the members who are championing those projects would want to take credit for those projects," he said. "We insist that they follow the rules. Obviously we would encourage the opposition members to do the same thing. These are important projects for their ridings as well and they should be backing them and pushing them forward."

NDP Leader Jack Layton continued along the same line as the Opposition Leader, arguing that the Harper Tories are adopting Chrétien Liberal sponsorship techniques - using taxpayer money to buy votes.

That accusation didn't sit well with Mr. Harper:

"Of course we remember in the dark days of the previous government public money went into private hands. It disappeared. It was stolen," he said, noting that this money is going into public projects.

The parliamentary ethics commissioner is now investigating the matter.

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