Liveblogging PROC: His point - and he *does* have one ... (From the archives)

(originally liveblogged on February 14, 2008)

11:03:20 AM
Well, this
meeting has a lot to live up to, as far as the standard set by Ethics.
Bang goes the gavel, and the Conservatives lose no time in proposing
that the committee proceed “immediately” to Bill C6, the veiled voter
bill. (Incidentally, my entirely unsolicited recommendation: kill it
with fire.)

The chair is now shuffling papers slightly
grumpily; meanwhile Yvon Godin is taunting the Tories, and the Clerk
has no determined that this is a superseding motion, which means no
debate and no amendment. Oh, and a Liberal MP just handed out chocolate
kisses to Godin’s EA and me. Yay, breakfast!

11:08:20 AM
Michel Guimond is Not Impressed with the latest motion, and wants to get back to Karen Redman’s motion to debate the original motion to investigate the Conservative “in and out” campaign financing scandal.

Aha, I see the strategy: since the chair adjourned the last meeting,
the Conservatives are taking advantage of the clean slate, agenda-wise,
to flood the committee with unrelated motions. Believe it or not, this
is the stuff of which meaty parliamentary debate is made: impassioned
arguments over the meaning of the word “superseding”.

11:12:55 AM
Michel Guimond, who has a point of order, reminds me of a cheerful,
humourous but equally tenacious Francophone David Tilson. So really,
not a lot like David Tilson at all.

11:17:43 AM
Okay, the chair has determined that the motion – today’s motion, that
is – is, in fact, debateable and amendable, which means – you guessed
it. At this committee, all motions lead to filibustering. The opposition members, meanwhile, want to know what happened to the motion from the last meeting – the one that Joe Preston talked about for two hours on Tuesday.

11:23:58 AM
According to the chair, the Conservative motion is thoroughly in order,
and therefore, let the debate begin. Not so fast, says Yvon Godin: committee business means the business actually before committee, not future
business, which is what the Conservatives want to debate. Sorry for all
the italics – I feel like Emily of New Moon – but there is some serious
angel pin-dancing going on here.

11:28:42 AM
Okay, so I think what happens now is that Pierre Lemieux – who moved
the original motion to go back to the veiled voter bill – now spends
two hours explaining, in exhaustive detail, why he did so. Which we
call “filibustering.”

So why is the opposition, which controls
the majority of votes, allowing this to go on? It’s not totally clear,
but the chair – Gary Goodyear – seems to have come up with a foolproof
way to avoid being overruled by his own committee: he never actually
makes an official ruling, so the opposition can’t vote to overturn it.
I’m not sure exactly why that’s allowed, but it seems to be working for
him so far.

11:35:26 AM
More huddling by the opposition, and I learn why Godin, in particular,
has heard just about enough out of Lemieux today; he is apparently
fresh from a filibustery good time at Official Languages, of which
Godin is also a member. Lemieux hopes that, on Valentine’s Day, the
committee can get together for a big group hug.

11:42:45 AM
Yes, Lemieux is still talking, and I wasn’t even pretending to listen
to him until he brought up last summer’s veiled voting debacle. And now
we’re suspended for five minutes for “disorderly behaviour,” which
gives everyone a chance to chatter amongst ourselves.

11:50:36 AM
We’re back, and Goodyear is now explaining that he really doesn’t mind
conversations between members, but gets annoyed when those people on
the outskirts – that’s us! – start to drown out the members. Or, in
this case, the member, who is giving his account of the veiled voting
debacle – AKA Canada’s Stupidest Week, as per Megapundit – and, in
particular, the actions of Marc Mayrand, despotic overlord of all
electoral law.

12:00:59 PM
Still. Talking. Meanwhile, the rest of us are getting caught up on our
email, and our Red Bull consumption. Apparently, the early media
coverage of Pelossi is fairly devastating to Mulroney’s version of

Lemieux is going on about Stephane Dion, and the
non-esotericness of the veiled voting issue, what with actual, real,
upcoming byelections, in which people would vote. Sometimes veiled!

12:07:23 PM
I had no idea that the Conservatives were so influenced by the words of
Stephane Dion and other Liberals; Lemieux has apparently collected
everything ever said by a living, breathing Liberal during that dark
pre-Outremont age of unreason.

12:09:53 PM
A break for Lemieux, thanks to an outburst from the chair, who warns
him to get back on topic. In response, he – Lemieux – reads from a
non-Liberal, Yvon Godin, who also spoke out against the scourge of
veiled voting.

Have you learned a valuable lesson from this,
NDP and Liberal MPs? Don’t mindlessly jump on the first xenophobic
populist bandwagon to pass by, even if there is a byelection at stake,
lest your words wind up immortalized for all time. Not to mention
providing fuel for future filibusters.

12:23:44 PM
Pierre Lemieux notes, plaintively, that committees are dominated by
opposition members. “That’s what Canadians wanted,” Godin reminds him
cheerfully from the other side of the table.

When the chair
warns Lemieux, a few minutes later, that he may be wandering a little
too far afield from the substance of the motion, Godin gives the table
an enthusiastic thumping, and calls out, “Good chair! Good chair!”

12:28:46 PM
You know, one of the many ironies that enswirl this debate is this: the Conservative position is that all the parties’ respective books should be opened – financially speaking – but they already are open.

I mean, every party files reports with Elections Canada – quarterly,
annually, after every election, byelection and leadership race. That’s
how the Conservative Party’s transfers between national and local
campaigns for advertising came to light in the first place.

What the opposition parties want to do is call witnesses
– specifically, a few of the 60-odd Conservative candidates who were
involved in the controversial exchanges, especially the ones that are
now going public with their unhappiness with the party’s handling of
the situation.

12:35:39 PM
Apparently, Pierre Lemieux has it on the highest authority that the
ridings that are about to hold byelections may involve potential voters
who are both Muslim and women – hence the urgency in dealing with the legislation at hand.

What about the possibility that the Conservative candidates in the
riding in question might exceed the advertising spending limits? Isn’t
that an urgent matter as well?

12:42:51 PM
Fifteen minutes to go, and the other members are getting restless,
which, as usual, results in a flurry of points of order, none of which
are accepted by the chair. Of course.

Marcel Proulx is staring
pointedly at Lemieux, who is directly opposite him at the table. Maybe
he thinks he can make him shut up – or, rather, wind down his
intervention – with sheer power of will. Good luck with that. Behind
him, Dominic Leblanc and Marc Lemay are conversing in a conspiratorial

Pierre Lemieux (you will, no doubt be fascinated to learn) won his riding by a mere 200 votes.

Dear 200 voters responsible for sending this guy to Parliament,

I want the last two hours of my life back.


12:53:11 PM
Yvon Godin requests a clarification: How, he wonders, can the
identities of those who vote my mail be verified? Alas, the chair says
that isn’t really topical. Really? Why not? Oh, never mind. Less than
ten minutes to go. Power through, power through. Although terrifyingly,
the chair refused to answer Karen Redman when she asked whether the
meeting would end at 1pm, as scheduled.

1:01:54 PM
Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay! the great and merciful chair has
freed the hostages. I’ll even forgive him the happy Valentine wishes,
just because. Of course, we’ve not actually accomplished all that much,
and nobody knows where the various motions stand, but that’s okay.
We’ll just have to tune in next time the gang gets together.

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