The Commons: Let he who is without shame

The point seems to be that whatever’s going on with Rahim Jaffer, it’s not as bad as what the Liberals did

The Scene. Liberal Dominic LeBlanc rose to report on the latest stash of documents to be released in regards to the Gaffer Affair and to wonder aloud, with seven departments now said to have been contacted by Rahim Jaffer, how many more ministers and parliamentary secretaries were still to disclose their communications with the husband of the deposed Helena Guergis.

And so John Baird stood to pronounce on the heroism of his government. “Mr. Speaker, let me very clear,” Mr. Baird clarified, “we would not be having this debate about documents if it were not for the government which made all these documents public.”

Alas, the Liberals did not congratulate the minister so much as laugh derisively.

Mr. LeBlanc stood again and took direct aim at Mr. Baird with the allegation that the Transport Minister had put his parliamentary secretary between he and Mr. Jaffer and that such a move might constitute some violation of the vaunted Accountability Act. And here Mr. Baird did what he had the day before—he invoked the ghosts of Liberal scandals past.

“Let us be very clear,” he again attempted to clarify. “Let us contrast the actions of our government with the previous Liberal government. Mr. Jaffer got no grants, got no money as a result of any of his meetings. Compare this to the previous Liberal government when millions of dollars went missing and the Liberal Party found itself in a position where it had to return some of the kickbacks it had received from taxpayers. Shame on the Liberal Party. We have $1 million back from the Liberal Party. We want the extra $39 million.”

For awhile, the government seemed quite intent on seeming serious and solemn in regards to this saga. But yesterday, perhaps with some knowledge that a stash of e-mails detailing the friendly treatment Mr. Jaffer received from various officials of this government were about to become public, the government turned quite angry and accusatory. Suddenly it was 2005 again and the Conservatives were pursuing the sponsorship scandal.

The point now seems to be that, well, whatever’s going on here, it’s not quite as bad as what the Liberals did. So there. Apparently when the Conservatives said “Stand Up For Canada” in 2006, what they meant was “Surely We Won’t Be As Shameful As Chretien.”

The Liberals pressed on, pursuing various angles old and new. Mr. Baird accused them of “fishing,” then persisted in alluding to the aforementioned Adscam. The minister pumped his fist and chopped his hand and bobbed his head. He shrugged his shoulders and scrunched his face and attempted metaphor. “I say to my friend in the Liberal Party,” he said to his Liberal friend Alexandra Mendes, “tomorrow is the day when Canadians have to pay up for their tax bills. Tomorrow should also be the day that the Liberal Party pays up for their $39 million of missing money.”

If this keeps up, expect the Liberals to be moaning on about the Pacific Scandal by next week.

What this moment obviously required was someone untouched by the corrupting influence of power, someone beyond and above the fray to comment from a position of unquestioned righteousness. What we needed was some kind of saint.

Here, then, came the NDP’s excitable Pat Martin, standing at the far end of the room and putting one foot out into the aisle to stare down the government side directly. “Mr. Speaker, it seems that if one has good Conservative credentials and knows the secret handshake, doors open, officials jump and illegal is just a sick bird. What red tape, they say. Rahim wants an answer by Friday, or at least before tee time,” Martin mused, waving his arms and then wagging his finger.

“We all know that the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport is just a patsy in all this,” he ventured. “He is an expendable fall guy and we expect that he will take the fall. I want to know when the Prime Minister is going to take responsibility for his ministers running roughshod over the Federal Accountability Act, the very centrepiece legislation of the government’s agenda.”

Mr. Baird appeared deeply hurt. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “I deeply resent the comments that the member of the New Democratic Party has made about the hard-working member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.”

“Ahhh!” the Liberals mocked.

Mr. Martin returned undaunted. “Mr. Speaker, it took 13 years for the Liberals to get this corrupt and arrogant, but the virus seems to have mutated. The Conservatives have succumbed in less than four,” he sang.

The Conservatives loudly appealed for decency.

“Rahim Jaffer lied to Parliament, but a lie by omission by the government is just as offensive,” Mr. Martin continued. “Why did it let Rahim Jaffer skulk around the corridors of power for a year and a half without telling anybody that he was lobbying them illegally? Why did it keep taking meetings with him and giving him privileged access and services without telling him to stop? Does anybody over there even know the difference between right and wrong, or has the virus consumed that too?”

Well then.

“It is quite colourful language he is using,” Mr. Baird observed.

And if we have come to point at which only Mr. Martin can speak with some authority, we are in a colourful place indeed.

The Stats. Helena Guergis, 13 questions. Government appointments and Afghanistan, five questions each. Prisons, four questions. Environment and maternal health, three questions each. Forestry, two questions. Infrastructure, taxation, food, democracy, veterans and workplace safety, one question each.

John Baird, 17 answers. Vic Toews, four answers. Peter MacKay, three answers. Christian Paradis, Denis Lebel, Lawrence Cannon, Mark Warawa and Chuck Strahl, two answers each. Josee Verner, Jim Abbott, Jim Flaherty, Rona Ambrose, Steven Fletcher, Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Lisa Raitt, answer each.

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