Ambrose jousts with Trudeau in first QP of new Parliament

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Leader of the Opposition Rona Ambrose asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Thursday, December 10, 2015. FRED CHARTRAND/CP

“Why is [Trudeau] stepping back from the fight, when our allies are stepping up? … Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for him to leave our CF-18s there? … ISIS .. is a death cult that sells children and women into sexual slavery. It targets and kills gays and lesbians and it has murdered thousands of Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. … Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for (Trudeau) to leave our CF-18s there?”

— Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose

Ambrose jousts with Trudeau in first QP of new Parliament

OTTAWA ­— Rona Ambrose was sharp.

Justin Trudeau looked better answering questions than he ever did asking them.

And Thomas Mulcair vowed to be the left-wing champion of progressive voters.

The highly anticipated maiden question period of the 42nd Parliament on Monday afternoon did not produce the sparks that flew when Mulcair battled Stephen Harper over the senate scandal. But Ambrose, the interim opposition leader, and Trudeau had some solid back-and-forth exchanges.

The diminutive Ambrose led with sharp questions on the Liberal decision to pull Canadian jet fighters out of the fight with ISIS even as the U.S., the U.K., and France are amping up the fight in Syria and Iraq.

“Why is the prime minister stepping back from the fight, when our allies are stepping up?” Ambrose asked in her first volley from the Opposition benches.

Trudeau has been pressed on this by reporters for the last few weeks as he’s travelled to various international summits and, each time, he points to the election promise he made.

“We have made a clear commitment to withdraw the six CF-18 fighter jets and to engage in a continued way militarily, in humanitarian efforts, and in refugee efforts, which we are continuing to do,” Trudeau replied.

That wasn’t good enough for Ambrose.

“Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for him to leave our CF-18s there?” Ambrose asked.

“There is not a Canadian in this country who does not think that ISIS is a group of terrible terrorists who should be stopped,” Trudeau replied. “The question has always been: How best to engage?”

When last seen in the House of Commons, Trudeau was asking questions as leader of the third party and, even those in his own party, thought he often looked shaky and unprepared.

But when it comes to answering questions, he drew the applause of his side on more than a few occasions and was comparatively more sure and confident of his responses.

For his part, Mulcair came at Trudeau on themes near and dear to progressive voters.

He called, for example, on Trudeau to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions this year. Trudeau would only commit to meeting with the premiers early next year to come up with a plan on climate change.

Mulcair then asked Trudeau to honour his campaign commitment to restore Canada Post home mail delivery.

Trudeau dodged again, saying he’d work with Canada Post to provide Canadians with the service they expect.

Some Notable moments in the first Question Period of new Parliament:

Interim Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose:

“ISIS .. is a death cult that sells children and women into sexual slavery. It targets and kills gays and lesbians and it has murdered thousands of Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. … Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for (Trudeau) to leave our CF-18s there?”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion with most Optimally Effective Answer:

“Our view is that we will be more optimally effective with our allies in flighting this awful terrorist group if we stop delivering only 2% of the air strikes and focus on where Canada will make a real difference.”

Knockout Punch?

Former agriculture minister and Saskatchewan Conservative MP Gerry Ritz demands international trade minister Chrystia Freeland sign the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal his government negotiated. “This deal has been years in discussion and is now the gold standard on environmental and labour chapters. She claims to be pro trade, so when will she stop stalling and sign this deal?”

Freeland delivers the knockout: ” I must say to my honourable colleague that he is a little mistaken on the facts when he suggests that we could be signing the deal now. The deal is not yet open at the moment for either signature or ratification. The member might want to have a coffee with the honourable member for Abbotsford who is well versed in the details of how trade deals work.”

Freeland was referring to Abbotsford MP Ed Fast who, as trade minister in the Stephen Harper government, negotiated the terms of the deals including when it could be signed and ratified.

Best Good Question and Worst Non-Answer:

Cathy McLeod, Conservative MP from B.C. asked:

“On June 2, when the Truth and Reconciliation report was released, the current prime minister pledged his unwavering support for all 94 recommendations, the full list, no exceptions. Could the minister of indigenous affairs give us the full cost of keeping this promise?”

Carolyn Bennett, the Toronto MP who is minister of indigenous affairs answered:

“We are so pleased to see that already the provinces and territories have taken up those calls to action that are theirs. The universities in the country have already committed to help with the things that are theirs and that we will be able to do this. It was inappropriate for us to cherry-pick out of the 94 recommendations. With political will, leadership, and partnership, nation-to-nation, we are going to get this done.”

Best Moment:

Mauril Belanger, the Liberal MP recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a terminal condition, gets a standing ovation from all sides when he rose to ask his own government about violence in Burundi and Canada’s response to that.

BY DAVID AKIN, PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

Toronto Sun

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