The many expressions of Michael Ignatieff let everyone know what the Liberal Leader thinks as the jabs fly around him in Question Period.
Whether it's leading the heckles or nodding in agreement from his chair, his off-camera mannerisms can be telling.
As Day 2 of his first internal party scandal comes to a close, the Liberal Leader has yet to address the media to say what he thinks. He did issue a brief statement earlier today announcing that MP Ruby Dhalla had resigned her critic positions while she defends herself against allegations she mistreated two foreign nannies and paid them under the table.
Conservative MPs are given two questions a day to pose to their own cabinet, and both questions today were focused on Ms. Dhalla.
Mr. Ignatieff could only watch the exchanges from his seat in the middle of the chamber. His reaction ran from shouting disgustedly at the Conservatives to nodding in agreement as Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made a thinly-veiled suggestion that Ms. Dhalla could face up to two years in jail if found guilty of the accusations leveled against her.
Mr. Ignatieff shook his head at the first Conservative back-and-forth on Ms. Dhalla. When a second Tory MP, Lois Brown, said "not one Liberal has come out and stood up for these abused nannies," Mr. Ignatieff led the heckling, shouting: "Shame on you." A few seconds later, the Liberal Leader was solemnly bobbing his head in agreement during Mr. Kenney's reply, in which the minister said:
"Mr. Speaker, as I said on this matter yesterday, we are concerned about any allegation of the abuse of the rights of live-in caregivers or women more generally. I pointed to various avenues.
"I encourage women in these vulnerable situations to understand that their rights can and will be protected under Canadian law. I would refer them, for instance, to section 124 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which says that every person who employs a foreign national in a capacity in which the foreign national is not authorized under this Act to be employed could be found guilty of an indictment with a penalty of up to $50,000. or two years in jail, or both."
As for the rest of 45-minute free-for-all, the Liberals led off in the same way as they have all week, calling for a national standard of 360 hours to qualify for employment insurance.
Mr. Ignatieff attempted to use the issue to divide the Tories. "When the Minister of Finance said just last night that he was willing to consider our proposals on EI, was this for real or was it just a case of 'when the cat is away the mice will play.'" Prime Minister Stephen Harper is travelling in Europe, leaving Human Resources Minister Diane Finley to answer:
"Mr. Speaker, we did ask the Liberals for their opinion several months ago and what did we receive? Zero. That is what we got from them in terms of looking for ways to help Canadians. ... All they can come up with is borrowed ideas. That is their idea of leadership. We don't buy it."
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, meanwhile, accused science minister Gary Goodyear of inflating his figures when it comes to the amount of money Ottawa is spending on research and drew loud heckles from Tories for this line, delivered in French:
"Does the government realize that its ideological and creationist stubbornness toward scientific research will have irreversible impacts?"
Replying to a follow-up question on funding cuts in Quebec, Mr. Goodyear said: "The honourable member should know that these decisions are made by independent peer review panels. These are experts in the field who choose specific projects for research funding. The government, this side, chose to put $5.1-billion towards science and technology. The Bloc, all of them, voted against that." The NDP, a party that made gains in northern Ontario in the 2008 election, raised questions about the mining layoffs at Xstrata Nickel in Sudbury.
Said Claude Gravelle, the NDP MP for Nickel Belt: "Workers and families feel abandoned by the Conservative government. Will the government realize that its inaction is causing the demise of mining communities like Sudbury right across northern Ontario?"
The reply from Industry Minister Tony Clement: "Mr. Speaker, it is quite the opposite. At the time of the original decision by Xstrata, we announced that Xstrata would in fact commit to contractual terms on investment of up to $390-million in Sudbury for their mining operations. It was not just something that was in a brochure or in an annual report. We committed them to contractual terms."
When Question Period ended, Mr. Ignatieff got up, walked a few seats over to his right and sat for a chat with Liberal MP Bob Rae. Pointing at the Tory benches where the Conservative questions on Ms. Dhalla came from, the two men appeared to discuss their response for several minutes.
Mr. Rae then rose, headed behind the curtains, and emerged in the foyer of the House of Commons to face a horde of reporters with questions on the Dhalla controversy.