PMO to Tories: Shut up about flag 0
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 18, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is sticking to the party line, refusing to criticize the separatist premier of Quebec for hiding the Canadian flag during swearing-in ceremonies this week.
“There’s a new government in Quebec,” he said in Whitby. “They’re just getting organized. Let’s let them do that and let’s see if we can focus together on what really matters to people in Quebec and the rest of the country, and that is about economic issues.”
Flaherty’s comments track closely with orders from the Prime Minister’s Office, mistakenly e-mailed to reporters on Thursday.
The note warns MPs to talk about the economy when asked about the new Parti Quebecois government in Quebec City, instead of the “old constitutional battles of the past.”
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has dismissed the entire controversy as an “internal issue” for Quebec.
None of that stopped the Tories and Dippers from sniping over Quebec sovereignty during question period in the House of Commons when NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice challenged the Conservatives to produce new conflict of interest rules for ministers.
Tory MP Pierre Poilievre changed the subject to Boulerice’s past donations to a hardline Quebec separatist party and asked the New Democrat if he is now a federalist.
Boulerice countered with a reminder of a Tory election financing controversy.
“I would like to say three words in the House: In and out,” said Boulerice.
Poilievre pounced on the comment with some word play.
“Does he believe that his province should be in the country or out of the country?” he asked. “On this side, we are clear. We want Quebec in. We believe in Canada.”
The verbal sparring comes as a Conservative who championed a bill to defend the right to fly the Maple Leaf continues to declines interview requests.
John Carmichael’s office said the MP has no time over the next week to talk about the flag controversy.