The Commons: Happily outraged

The Scene. Oh how happy Conservatives must’ve been made last night to read the inflammatory remarks of Liberal MP David McGuinty. Oh how giddy they must’ve been at the prospect of hanging this one on the Liberal side. One presumes several backbenchers could barely sleep, so anxious to get on with today’s festival of shame.

Well, of course, happy and outraged. Deeply, terribly outraged. Yes, yes, incredibly outraged. Profoundly saddened even.

So immensely outraged, in fact, that the Immigration Minister was sent out after the meeting of the Conservative caucus to specially address the matter. And no less than four Conservatives—each of them an Albertan who could claim a personal affront—were sent up before Question Period to variously fume. 

“Our government strongly condemns the Liberal Party of Canada’s comments that say that Alberta MPs do not belong in Parliament and should go home,” Michelle Rempel proclaimed. “This anti-energy prejudice is the same the Liberals had when they brought in their disastrous national energy program in the 1980s, a program that damaged the economy and cost Albertans billions. This type of regionally divisive policy and rhetoric from the Liberal Party is unfathomable.”

“The Liberal Party may find it offensive to have Alberta’s interests defended on the floor of the House of Commons, but Albertans find it offensive when the Liberal Party tries to shut down their voices,” Chris Warkentin informed the House.

“Mr. Speaker, Albertans are rightfully appalled by the arrogant comments from the MP for Ottawa South,” Blaine Calkins reported.

“Mr. Speaker, as time passes people learn, grow and change. Unfortunately, even though time has passed, the Liberal Party has not learned a thing,” Blake Richards sighed from the back row with Ms. Rempel, Rona Ambrose and Devinder Shory positioned behind him.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think there might be a by-election in a few days. But understand that the Conservatives—whatever the smiles on the government side—do not lament for this lightly. Their tolerance for heated rhetoric is exceptionally high. Suggest someone sympathizes with the Taliban or imply that to disagree with a piece of legislation would put one in league with child pornographers and they will restrain themselves. Declare a policy to be “unCanadian” or venture that a proposal would “screw everybody”  and they will shrug and accept that such is politics.

But here now they must draw the line. Here now they must take a stand. Or, rather, here is something they will not stand for.

Indeed, here was something from which they could not allow themselves to be distracted.

“While I am on my feet,” the Prime Minister segued, switching to English halfway through his third response to Bob Rae on the issue of prescription drug abuse, “I think it is incumbent upon me to raise the issue of statements made by another member in this House. I find it shameful, not surprising, but shameful, that 30 years after the National Energy Program, these anti-Alberta attitudes are still close to the surface in the Liberal Party.”

The Liberals howled for the Speaker to cut the Prime Minister off. The Conservatives stood to applaud when Mr. Harper was finished.

A short while later, Liberal MP Joyce Murray rose and suggested the government was undermining the tourism industry. Jason Kenney, his precise responsibility for tourism unclear, stood to respond. “Mr. Speaker, we are supporting, not undermining, tourism. But the Liberal Party is now undermining the unity of this country by attacking members of Parliament from Alberta for representing their constituents,” Mr. Kenney lectured.

The Immigration Minister received a standing ovation.

Stephane Dion asked about the processing of visas for people from Syria. Mr. Kenney took the opportunity to restate his disappointment en francais.

Lest there be any doubt about the minister’s feelings, Mr. Shory was sent up a few rounds later with the following query on government business. “Mr. Speaker, in the 1980s, the Trudeau Liberals brought in the National Energy Program that absolutely destroyed the economy and cost my constituents and Alberta families their jobs, their homes and billions of dollars,” the backbencher explained. “Comments yesterday by the senior Liberal spokesperson for natural resources show that the Liberals have not changed much since then. When will the Liberals understand that Alberta’s energy industry brings incredible prosperity and jobs right across the country?”

For the sake of obeying the standing orders, Mr. Shory added a question for the minister. “Can the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism update the House on our government’s commitment to Canada’s energy industry?” he asked.

Apparently unfamiliar with how Question Period is supposed to work, Mr. Kenney responded with a question for the Liberal corner. “We have a question for the Leader of the Liberal Party: When is he going to fire his critic for natural resources for having attacked the members of Parliament from Alberta for simply representing their constituents as they are expected to do?”

An answer to this was offered shortly after QP. Presumably the Conservatives will be happy to hear it. Or perhaps they will be sad to see Mr. McGuinty go.

The Stats. Ethics, seven questions. Foreign investment, five questions. Securities regulation, four questions. The economy, pharmaceuticals and employment insurance, three questions each. The budget, tourism and foreign affairs, two questions each. Public Works, labour, veterans, Alberta, immigration, Parks Canada, infrastructure, aboriginal affairs and forestry, one question each.

Stephen Harper, seven responses. Jim Flaherty and Pierre Poilievre, six responses each. Christian Paradis, four responses. Jason Kenney and Diane Finley, three responses each. John Baird and Denis Lebel, two responses each. Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt, Eve Adams, Peter Van Loan, Peter Kent, Maxime Bernier and Greg Rickford, one response each.

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