In his first round of questions as leader of the official opposition, Pierre Poilievre addressed inflation, housing and tax increases. He also had several replies to his earlier comment that cryptocurrency Canadians could “do without inflation.”
After nearly 20 seconds of applause from his party, Poilievre put his first question on Tuesday, calling on the government to cancel planned “tax hikes”. This determined the content and tone of most follow-up questions from Conservative MPs.
Tourism Secretary and Deputy Treasury Secretary Randy Boissonnault responded, first congratulating Poilievre on his first question in his new role and then contrasting the federal government’s plan to “assist Canadians who need it most” with the “vision of the Conservative Party and its members.” don’t bother with Canadians.”
The new leader of Canada’s federal Conservative Party will not have a chance to face-to-face with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau until Thursday, when Trudeau returns from the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
“Our hope on this side of the aisle is that the Conservative Party will support us in bringing these measures closer to the people,” Boissonnault said, referring to the one-time increase in Canada’s housing benefit, the temporary increase in the GST reduction and the new dental service for children under 12.
Boissonnault largely responded to numerous similar queries from Conservative MPs by highlighting the new affordability measures tabled in the House of Commons. But as the session progressed, Boissonnault threw a few barbs in Poilievre’s path.
Conservative Deputy Deputy Leader Tim Uppal commented that the current high cost of living is “caused by this government’s runaway spending, high-risk economic policies and painful rate hikes”.
“Let’s be really clear,” Boissonnault said. “The riskiest advice anyone in the House of Commons has given Canadians in the last six weeks is to invest your money in bitcoin. If Canadians had done that, they would have lost their shirts, they would have destroyed their own personal finances.”
Towards the end of the session, Boissonnault dealt another crypto blow when Conservative MP and House Speaker Andrew Scheer said the government’s new affordability measures would only be “vaporized” by ongoing inflation.
“I’ll tell you what has been vaporized: the savings of Canadians if they follow the new Conservative leader’s advice to put money into Bitcoin,” Boissonnault said.
Scott Aitchison, along with other Conservative MPs, condemned proposed increases in Canada’s pension plan and employment insurance premiums, as well as the carbon tax.
The Environment Secretary’s Parliamentary Secretary, Terry Duguid, answered most questions about the carbon tax. In his reply to Aitchison, Duguid referred to Poilievre’s campaign focus on “freedom” – a concept the current leader did not clearly define.
“I hope the honorable member of the opposition didn’t mean pollution freedom and well the Conservatives want pollution free again,” Duguid told the House.
Based on the new highs of the question period, it doesn’t look like the Liberals have started to pull any real punches in what pundits were expecting to be a tumultuous session, said Donald Desserud, a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.
“[The Liberals] knew this was going to be a big moment for Poilievre… One way to distract from that is not to bring out all his big guns and give him the stage he wants,” Desserud said in an interview with Canada’s National Observer.
While that approach might be strategic, he noted that since Trudeau is out of town, it’s also possible they’re not fully organized yet.
“We always assume they think these things through … sometimes they don’t, they basically invent it over time,” Desserud said.
He says that as the session progresses it will be interesting to see which Liberal MPs will emerge as champions of the question period to counter Poilievre’s “aggressive” style. Dominic LeBlanc, Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, is one possibility.
“[LeBlanc is] a person I’ve watched to see if he’s stepping up or being asked to perform because I think he’s certainly more than capable of taking on a Poilievre in some sort of … punch-for-beat Q&A.” he said dessert.
Natasha Bulowski, reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative, Canada’s National Observer