Here comes the vote! Maybe—Liveblogging the in-and-out motion at Ethics

4:32:05 PM
Well, I’m back—after a thoroughly refreshing Red Bull-and-sunshine break—and the privacy reform portion of the meeting is still going on. Mike Wallace is quizzing the Corrections Canada officials about what kind of information is contained in an inmate’s file, and seems to be enjoying it immensely. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so inspired, actually.

4:35:40 PM
Yikes. I just noticed that Maurice Vellacott is here, and he’s sitting directly beside Russ Hiebert AKA The Ghost of Maurice Vellacotts Past. Somewhere, a goose just walked over my grave.

The witnesses are starting to look increasingly frantic. I suspect they were hoping to get out of here after an hour as well.

4:42:56 PM
Mike Wallace just came out with one of the creepiest bursts of laughter I’ve ever heard. You wouldn’t have thought privacy reform would be such a rich vein for humour, but then, you probably also wouldn’t be trying to stretch out your questions so as to preclude debate on a motion later this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the opposition members are starting to look meaningfully at their watches.

4:49:34 PM

Apparently, nobody else has asked a single question of the witnesses. Unfortunately for the fate of the Hubbard motion, they can do that pretty much indefinitely.

4:51:01 PM
Brian Murphy—a Liberal—points out that in their brief, the witnesses state that they aren’t willing to comment on the Privacy Act, so … whatever his argument was going to be, however, we’re not going to get to hear it, because the chair rules that it isn’t a point of order, so—back to the questions. What is this, round 17?

4:55:43 PM
I wonder if these witnesses know they’re being used as human shields?

They seem to be growing increasingly puzzled by the existential nature of the questions, but maybe they’re just taken aback by the heretofore unrevealed fascination that prison privacy holds for members of the Conservative caucus.

4:58:38 PM
Charles Hubbard finally speaks—although it’s hard to hear him over the grumbling from the other side of the table. He points out that he deliberately skipped his round before, because he was hoping the committee would get to his motion.

The chair points out that the witnesses, as public servants, really aren’t able to criticize the policy, and I hope that means he’s going to release the hostages and move on to the motion.

5:03:07 PM
No luck. Although he did warn the questioners to stick to the topic.

5:04:21 PM

Oh boy, more questions from Mike Wallace! This time, the witnesses aren’t even pretending to be able to answer the questions. They’re starting to look desperate. Poor things.

5:08:29 PM
Wait, how did I not notice this earlier: David Tilson isn’t here! I guess he’s still on Thibault duty in the House.

Meanwhile, David Van Kesteren wonders if the “problems” that, apparently, someone has are the fault of the Charter. Yes, that Charter—always getting in the way of … Wait, what? Oh, okay, his point seems to be that criminals—inmates—are abusing the privacy laws. I thought this study was about improving the Privacy Act, not making it weaker.

Wait, why am I getting sucked into this filibuster? Must not fall for cunning Tory trap!

5:15:54 PM
Pierre Poilievre just pointed out that it’s 5:15. I’m not sure why he felt the need to share that, but I wanted to pass it on.

5:17:53 PM
The chair reminds us that the meeting will be adjourning at 5:30, as scheduled. Which means that this whole liveblog has turned out to be a shaggy dog tale. My apologies to anyone who stuck through to the end; I’m going to keep plowing away until the gavel drops, but I don’t blame you if you go off to read Coyne’s liveblog instead. We have an open relationship, remember.

5:21:07 PM
What did bureaucrats do to stonewall before there were Treasury Board guidelines to hide behind? Actually, in fairness to these witnesses, they’re not trying to stonewall, they’re just facing unanswerable questions.

5:24:13 PM
The chair weakly thanks Russ Hiebert for his questions, and hands the floor over to Maurice Vellacott. Again. Oh, but he also has a statement to make to the committee after the hostages have been freed, to give some idea of where they’ll go from here. (Insert chorus from Buffy musical here.)

5:26:25 PM
Damnit, now I totally have that song going through my head.

5:28:15 PM
The chair just cut off the witnesses to announce that—wow, that’s too bad: apparently the regular clerk, Richard Rumas, had a “health incident” yesterday, so he’s been temporarily replaced by James Lattimer. Who is usually clerk to Procedure and House Affairs, which is a nice bit of symmetry.

Also, Mulroney’s lawyer has responded to the committee’s request that he reappear—three guesses as to what he said—and Hubbard’s motion will be first on the agenda when the committee meets on Tuesday.

And that’s all for this meeting. Quel anticlimax. On the plus side, I now know far more about prison reform, and Mike Wallace, than I ever thought I would. So there’s that.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.