Funny, it doesn’t feel any different up here: Liveblogging the (first) afternoon of official opposition on the Hill

Join ITQ for an afternoon of wandering betwixt Chamber, Foyer and everywhere in between as she soaks up the atmosphere on this, a day that could, at least in theory, go down in history — or at least make the year end parliamentary highlight reel. Check back after 3pm for all the action from the post-QP scrums, and stick around for full coverage of wherever ITQ finds herself next. It’s like a Throne Speech, only without the red carpet!

(Okay, so actually, it’s more like the exact opposite of a Throne Speech. Picky, picky, picky.)

3:04:04 PM
Greetings, confidence-in-the-government-holders and those aren’t so sure! ITQ is once again coming to you live from the Foyer, although it’s not clear whether the post-QP scrums will be postponed until after the vote later today. The NDP, we’re told, will be biding its time until then, presumably to preserve some semblance of suspense over their symbolic absence/abstention/whatever gesture of parliamentary disobedience on which they eventually decide.

Meanwhile, the Liberals — ever distractable hummingbirds that they are — appear to have all but lost interest in their motion; bringing down the government, it seems, is so *last week*. Instead, spinners and staffers and MPs alike are whirling from gaggle to gaggle with their latest alleged proof of government-funded funny business — the new logo for the Olympic hockey team, which bears a haunting resemblance to the Conservative Party logo.

3:15:17 PM
Oh, here’s Paul Szabo, obligingly expressing concern and just the right degree of outrage over the latest controversy to hit Lisa Raitt and her former employer, the Toronto Port Authority

3:17:45 PM
Ooh, the Liberals are handing out actual samples of the hats! Swag! ITQ is such a sucker for swag. She knows just the place for it, too — perched jauntily on her Republicans for Ignatieff sign.

3:23:30 PM
The gallery can’t make up our collective mind whether we’re amused or appalled over the Tory Hat Trick – yes, I just coined that, let’s see if it prevents the inevitable -gate-ing – but Charlie Angus suffers no such fits of uncertainty (or, ITQ suspects, accompanying fits of giggles). He wants the government to stop playing politics with Our Team, and he does his best to look dignified as he poses with the chapeau clutched in front of him.

3:25:48 PM
Aww, the Liberals and the Dips are on the same side of a scandal-ette for the first time. They’re even sharing the same supply of prop hats! It’s adorable.

3:41:48 PM
Brief foray back to the Hot Room to take a picture of the hat — which I’m sure you’ve all seen already, considering how many cameras were aimed at my hand when it held an impromptu scrum earlier today. Will post in a minute!

3:53:05 PM

As promised:

Photo 14

3:54:50 PM
And now, back to the non-con shuffle. ITQ should note that, despite the faintest of slight possibilities that the government could – at least, in theory – fall tonight, it’s pretty much business as usual on the Hill; committees are meeting, albeit most are still stuck at the election of chairs, OLO staffers are doubtless already preparing questions for Question Period tomorrow, and in every way you can imagine, it feels like just another Thursday on the Hill. Even the House of Commons is all but abandoned, although that’s still the next stop on the ITQ itinerary. If there’s going to be atmosphere, you’d figure it would be there.

4:12:13 PM
Did ITQ mention that those hat§ were $15 a pop? And that the Liberals were handing them out to anyone like, well, novelty baseball caps during the scrums? Laurier Club members, how do you feel about this shamelessly media-baiting use of your donor dollars? (ITQ is betting you’re actually okay with it, all things considered, but who knows? It’s not like you can pick up a gentle used election platform on Ebay, after all.

4:16:26 PM
Would it surprise anyone out there to learn that ITQ is the only reporter in the gallery? Probably not, come to think of it — and she can’t say she blames her colleagues fo their collective non-appearance. Meanwhile, on the floor (or Floor, as it should perhaps be styled) fewer than twenty opposition MPs are present and accounted for.

The Liberals, not surprisingly — it is their big day, after all — have mustered up the most impressive show of force: nine members currently in sight, including Scott Simms, Martha Hall Findlay, Keith Martin and Justin Trudeau; there are a half dozen Bloc MPs on hand as well.

On the other side of the aisle, there are — twelve? Possibly thirteen; it’s hard to keep track when they keep darting back behind the curtains — government MPs holding down the fort, although Carol Skelton seems to be the only minister on House duty.

4:34:08 PM
Hey, here’s Justin! I swear, that wasn’t planned. “Being in this House used to mean something,” he muses — it was about discussion and debate, and hopes and dreams – where there were “real conversations” about values, and priorities, about fascism in Europe and bilingualism (note: not at the same time, presumably).

“There were issues that defined their times,” he says – but on the defining issue of *our* time – that would be ‘the environment’ – where is this government? And what about the fight against poverty? “Totally absent from the defining issues of our time,” is his verdict, and even as the Liberals have lost confidence in the House, Canadians appear to be losing confidence in this House to address those issues.

Note: despite his assertion, that is not, in fact, irony.

4:38:08 PM
ITQ Correction: That may have been Lynne Yelich, not Carol Skelton. Oops. Apologies all round! (Oh, like *you* could tell them apart. Yes, you — that is, unless you work for the Whip’s office, or are Jenni Byrne, who Sees and Knows All.

4:40:54 PM
Trudeau is still talking — he’s moved onto the plight of Canadian youth, another group that has suffered at the hands of this government, with its “tactics and tone” so “pernicious”.

4:43:10 PM
“We do not want an election any more than any other Canadian,” Trudeau says, earnestly and to great outpourings of snorts from the other side. They’ve just had enough, which is why they can no longer support this government.

4:44:28 PM
In response to Trudeau’s speech, Conservative MP Mike Lake – a favourite of ITQ, she should disclose – pops up to read various media clippings praising Canada for its much-vaunted-to-the-point-that-the-rest-of-the-world-must-be-sick-of-hearing-about-it banking system, and reminds Trudeau that *he* was the one who questioned the wisdom of the then-candidate who is now his leader at the Montreal convention.

Trudeau dispenses with that bit of cheek without much difficulty, but gets a little more of a rhetorical workout from the next questioner, a Bloc MP who wonders if he should happen to have any idea where the missing $40 million from the sponsorship scandal wound up. Much heckling ensues, which results in frowny-facing from the acting Speaker.

4:49:09 PM
James Moore is up next — still responding to Trudeau, in case anyone has lost track — and ITQ sort of zones out for a minute or two, only to snap back to attention when she hears Trudeau ask the other side of the House, ‘Have you seen the polls?’ I know. Apparently nobody has told him. Shhhhh. He’s so peaceful when he’s oblivious. This, not surprisingly, produces even more merriment on the government benches, and Moore offers to extend Trudeau’s time by five minutes just so he can keep going.

4:52:28 PM
Wow, now it’s Bob Rae’s turn to hold the floor, and ITQ can’t help feeling like she picked a pretty good block of time to do House duty. He begins by reminiscing about the plotline of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as a segue to a fairly thunderous condemnation against the Conservatives for attacking Ignatieff “not of what he believes in, but because he was out of the country” – a “vicious, corrosive, neverending attack on his person”.

As for not wanting an election, “Who does he think he’s kidding,” growls Rae, who is working himself into a fine feigned rage. The party opposite spends every moment of every day campaigning for an election – that’s the Conservative Party he knows, not the one that claims it only wants to build hockey rinks and parks for Canadians.

4:55:56 PM
Rae gets an ovation, and suddenly has a crowd behind him — TV cameras, take note. “It comes out at night, Mr. Speaker,” he snarls – just when Canadians are trying to fall asleep, there it is, the vicious Mr. Hyde side of the Conservative Party.

5:00:39 PM
Eventually — too soon, some might say — Rae winds down, to still more applause, and it appears he’s struck a nerve, because Jay Hill seems downright rattled; he reminds Rae of the soldiers-in-our-streets ads, and wonders what he thinks of *that* bit of corrosiveness. Rae bats him away without effort, and goes back to *his* theme — the permanent campaign being waged by the party opposite; the one that only comes out at night

5:02:57 PM
And now, Claude Dufours would like to spend a little bit of time reminding us how very, very much alike the prime minister and the leader of the opposition seem to be, from their shared support for a Toronto-based securities commission to a penchant for the tar sands.

Rae, claws in for the moment, assures him that there are many differences between the Conservatives and the Liberals, and the two leaders — and promises that we’ll see those in the coming days.

5:04:55 PM
What is this, widely-rumoured-to-be-future-leadership-candidates hour in the House?

Thomas Mulcair is up now, and ITQ doesn’t envy anyone who has to follow Rae’s performance, but he’s going to do his best to walk the line between moral superiority and sanctimonious practicality. In fairness, he also takes a pretty funny shot at Trudeau for his musings about his many ancestors — ITQ won’t even attempt to retell it as she’d almost certainly mangle the punchline, but it involves potatoes.

He then discusses the Liberals’ epic multi-year failure on the environment, quotes Eddie Goldenberg, and condemns their record as “the worst in the world” — they actually *increased* greenhouse gas production. “That,” he sniffs, “is the definition of political cynicism.”

5:14:35 PM
And there go the bells! Meet you back here in fifteen minutes.

5:22:55 PM
A brief pop by the Foyer to check out the atmosphere outside the Chamber as MPs hustle — some more enthusiastically than others — through the stained glass-paned doors and into their respective lobbies, and then it’s upstairs and back to my seat, where ITQ discovers that, somewhat *more* surprisingly than before, she is *still* the only reporter in the room, and, even more distressingly, that she has forgotten to take off her hat. (A modest fleecy black chapeau, and not a political prop, she should point out before the flaming pitchforks come out in the comments.)

5:26:54 PM
Yay! Colleague Wherry is here! I knew he’d make it!

The desks are banging and the bells have gone silent; any minute now, the Whips will do their traditional promenade down the aisle. Can you feel the excitement?

Oh, and from what I can see, every Liberal within a fifty mile radius is here and ready to vote their respective hearts out. John Baird is yelling at the gallery – oh, look, it’s the entire OLO team up there!

Meanwhile, the turnout from PMO is — nonexistent. Seriousy, guys? Not one Dimitri? Or even a Mike White?

5:33:05 PM
ITQ can report that Julie Van Dusen, David Akin, Roger Smith and Jane Taber have joined our happy band of journalists, and we’re all watching with – well, not anticipation, but definitely interest – as the yeas stand to be counted.

Hey, turns out the Dippers weren’t suddenly flu-stricken after all — they’re here, although looking distinctly less jovial than anyone else in the Chamber.

5:36:24 PM
The prime minister gets a round of applause when he rises to lead off the nays, but otherwise, there’s nothing about this vote that distinguishes it from any other — not without knowing what the motion is, of course. Context changes everything.

5:39:59 PM
And that’s it — the motion has been defeated, and it turns out the NDP’s symbolic act of defiance may have been circumvented by the Clerk; as Yvon Godin explains in a rather petulant post-vote point of order, his caucus should be recorded as having been present, but not voting, just so future generations don’t mistake them for a bunch of slackers.

5:41:30 PM
As the House empties out, there is a sense of — not quite relief, maybe, as LM Montgomery would put it, the fitness of things. Finally, after many months of topsyturvydom, the official opposition is opposing. It’s rather refreshing, really.

That’s it for ITQ — hope you all enjoyed the chronicling. Somehow, I have a feeling this isn’t the last time we’ll be doing this.