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Space is the place for Peter MacKay and Marc Garneau to bicker

Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Feb. 3, 2011.

Pawel Dwulit/THE CANADIAN PRESS

There is no love lost between Peter MacKay and Marc Garneau. For the second consecutive day the Defence Minister and Liberal industry critic were at each other's throats during Question Period.

Mr. MacKay made fun of Mr. Garneau - Canada's first astronaut and a retired military officer - by invoking Star Trek. Mr. Garneau later referred to the Defence Minister as a "space cadet in training."

Here's how it went down.

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On Wednesday, Mr. Garneau asked Mr. MacKay about the cost of having to modify the new stealth fighters to enable them to refuel in the air. The deal for to purchase 65 F-35 jets is to cost more than $16-billion.

The Defence Minister didn't like the question, lashing out and accusing him of "working against those men and women he used to serve with."

"I had hoped, given his background, that he would boldly go where no Liberal has gone before - that he would support the men and women in uniform. But alas, he has fallen back on that old Liberal position of playing politics on the backs of the men and women in uniform."

On Thursday, Mr. Garneau went after the Defence Minister - mocking his Star Trek reference and referring to him as a space cadet.

"The Minister of National Defence is quick to question my patriotism. I will go up against him any day on patriotism. I do not just dress up like a soldier. I actually serve my country," Mr. Garneau charged. "The minister also likes his little Star Trek analogies so let me take him where no Conservative has gone before, to fiscal competence and balanced budgets. Let me ask him why he will not hold an open competition, get the best aircraft for our needs, guarantee industrial benefits and save Canadians billions of dollars?"

Replied Mr. MacKay: "That is exactly what we will do. In fact, I regret not having had the opportunity to serve my country in uniform. I serve my country a different way."

"Canadians can always count on this government to do the right thing when it comes to giving the best equipment to the best citizens, who are the members of the Canadian Forces. They can always count on this government as well to look out for the interests of taxpayers and our aerospace industry," Mr. MacKay said. "Why is it that this member, from a region of Montreal, is demonstrating contempt for the aerospace industry in his own region? He should explain that to his constituents?"

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Unimpressed, Mr. Garneau shot back: "Spoken like a space cadet in training, Mr. Speaker."

Such is the state of debate between MPs just four days after they returned to the Commons from a lengthy winter holiday.

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