The Conservatives are thugs and the Liberals are undemocratic. Those were pretty much the themes of Question Period today - an unruly and uncivilized affair full of heated rhetoric and feigned outrage during which MPs were wearing red carnations to honour multiple sclerosis awareness month.
"When women's groups speak out, they get their funding cut. When public servants like Richard Colvin testify, they get smeared. When independent watchdogs try to do their job, they get fired. When Parliament asks tough questions, the Conservatives shut the Parliament down," the Liberal Leader charged. "When will the Conservative Party and the government stop intimidating their critics and start listening to them?"
Michael Ignatieff accused the government of having no respect Parliament, stifling debate when it doesn't like what it hears.
Figuring into the Tories-are-thugs theory are reports of between 12 and 14 women's groups that have seen their funding cut by the Harper government. The reports came out just after Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told international groups to " shut the fuck up" about the maternal health initiative or suffer the consequences of a backlash.
Some women's groups say the cuts were ideologically-driven as the Conservative government is denying groups who support access safe abortion as part of the government's maternal health initiative for the G8. And Bob Rae added to the pile-on, questioning the so-called "STFU" strategy.
"Given the treatment of the individuals that we have named today, given the treatment of the groups that have come forward to say that they have been silenced, how can Canadians draw any other conclusion other than a very simple one," the Toronto Liberal said. "If they toe the line, they will be funded. If they criticize the government, they will be cut off at the throat."
So that was the Liberal thread from Question Period. The Conservatives, meanwhile, were painting the Grits as undemocratic hypocrites with Transport Minister John Baird leading the charge.
Mr. Baird took on Mr. Ignatieff for not allowing his MPs to vote their conscience on the controversial Conservative private member's bill to abolish the long-gun registry. He is again filling in for Prime Minister Stephen Harper who is traveling in Europe this week to commemorate the 65th anniversary of V-E Day and to meet with other leaders in advance of next month's G8 and G20 summits.
Although there has been no new development on the registry and issues around the registry had nothing to do with the questions Mr. Baird was asked by Mr. Ignatieff, he threw it into the mix anyway as it is an issue that divides Liberals and reenergizes the Tory base.
"The Leader of the Liberal Party will have an important opportunity in the not-too-distant future to allow debate, to allow openness, and to allow eight of his members of Parliament to stand in their place and represent their constituents, to vote their conscience when it comes to the long gun registry," Mr. Baird said.
"I say to the Leader of the Liberal Party, join the Conservative government, allow democracy, allow democratic debate, and allow his own members to stand up and vote how their constituents told them to vote."
In fact, he accused Mr. Ignatieff of bullying and muzzling his MPs. The Conservatives, he says, believe in "open debate."
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