Nobody expects the Public Safety committee interrogation: Liveblogging debate on the Bernier motion

3:30:00 PM

3:30:00 PM
Ooh, perfect timestamping. So it turns out that there’s a pretty good chance that the Bernier motion—the one to hold a four-star spectacular committee hearing on the whole Affair—may be up for debate at Public Safety this afternoon, even though it wasn’t listed on the most recent notice. The mere possibility, however, is enough to motivate a dozen or so journalists—some with camera crews in tow—to West Block, where we’re currently staked out in front of the very closed door.

My guess: if the motion comes up, someone—an opposition member, that is —will call for a vote on whether to open the meeting up to the public (read: media).

3:33:32 PM
And that’s exactly what just happened. We’ve been ushered back into the room, where Serge Menard is explaining his motion—you can probably guess what his reasoning is, since we’ve heard it all before. His colleague, whose name I always forget, concurs – and moves a friendly amendment to begin holding hearings by next Monday. The chair, Garry Breitkreuz, seems bemused, but the debate is officially on.

3:38:33 PM
For a moment there, it looked as though the government was going to let the motion go by without too much rankling, but apparently, they were just waiting for marching orders. A Conservative MP—not sure which one, since I’ve been relegated to the very back row—just noted that there are already witnesses scheduled, but somehow, I’m doubting that’s going to convince the opposition to back down.

The parliamentary secretary, Dave Mackenzie, worries that it would be rather rude of the committee to displace next Monday’s meeting, and keeps making offhand references to how “important” the opposition had claimed the Taser study was; but now, they seem to be ready to put it off indefinitely.

Eventually, the Bloc agree to change the date to Tuesday, June 10th, which wouldn’t interrupt any prescheduled meetings. Mackenzie is still not happy—he wants to be sure this would be only one meeting—which seems to be news to the opposition.

Ujjal Dosanjh suggests that the first meeting be held on the 10th, and future meetings on every subsequent Tuesday, but Mackenzie is still grumbling. Now he wants to move the study to Mondays, and really, isn’t this academic at this point, since there will only be two more Mondays before the House rises? Or do they want to hold hearings all summer long? That would be awesome.

3:46:27 PM
More date-bartering. Speaking of dates, there is a tray of apparently forgotten cookies on the table behind me. I’m resisting, but it’s hard.

3:47:57 PM
Brian Pallister wants to know if the other side is prepared to sit once the House rises. “Yes,” all parties reply in chorus. “All summer?” He repeats. “Yes,” comes the gleeful refrain.

Okay, so we’re decided on the day. Tuesday will be Bernier Day. Can we move on to the main motion?

3:51:10 PM
Penny Priddy wants to be absolutely, positively clear that the Taser study will still be completed, as planned, and not tossed to the side, and the chair—and everyone else—promise that it won’t be sacrificed to the Bernier investigation gods.

After a few more back and forths, the amendment—to set the date—passes easily with all opposition parties voting in favour. The Conservatives vote nay, but without much enthusiasm.

3:54:37 PM
The committee now moves to debate on the main motion—to investigate the security implications of the Bernier affair. Priddy speaks first; she supports the main idea, but doesn’t want the hearings to turn into a “circus”—especially given the presence of Julie Couillard on the witness list. She doesn’t want the questions to descend into prurient inquiry on her wardrobe, or anything else of a salacious nature.

Dosanjh agrees wholeheartedly that the ideal outcome would be an RCMP investigation, or a public inquiry, but until one of those two eventualities take place, this is the best way to get answers.

3:58:20 PM
Dave Mackenzie somewhat lackadaisically speaks out against the motion—for about 15 seconds—and then the chair calls the vote, which passes easily.

Pass the sunscreen, Maxime—you’re coming back to Ottawa too! Wow, with this and the possibility that Mulroney will be back on the Hill as well, next week is starting to look like one heck of a grande finale to the session.