The Commons: Let us now amuse ourselves

One bad joke deserves another

The Scene. Jack Layton stood and suggested that perhaps the government might work with his party on a “New Democrat plan that would make life more affordable for our seniors.” Alternatively, he suggested, the government could “could choose Bay Street and more corporate giveaways.”

Across the way, various government members chuckled. But this was apparently not intended as a joke. “Clearly,” Mr. Layton lamented, “that will be the Conservatives’ choice, judging by the reaction in their back benches at the moment.”

The funny Mr. Layton had intended to make came a short time later.

“Mr. Speaker, it seems the Conservatives have made their choice,” he said. “Their preferred option for fixing the pension system is to take the big banks approach. It reminds me of that ad we see on TV: the Bay Street model does not work. The managers take up to 40% in fees. We call them egg management fees.”

This was, apparently, that funny.

Unmoved by such wit or having simply expended his own wit yesterday with a quip about Michael Ignatieff’s patriotism, the Prime Minister did not even attempt to respond in kind. “I suggest, Mr. Speaker, changes to the CPP require the consent of the provinces,” he said. “It cannot be done by the federal government unilaterally.”

Lucky for Mr. Harper, and surely all of those in attendance, sitting a few seats over was Tony Clement. And Mr. Clement, an industrious man and loyal cabinet minister, had apparently set to work on a suitable reply on his Prime Minister’s behalf.

Eventually, the Speaker called on the NDP’s Charlie Angus and here, after Mr. Angus had challenged the government on a current controversy over Internet access, Mr. Clement saw his opportunity to reclaim the humorous high ground.

“The honourable member is part of a party that had a leader who mentioned the egg management fee in this chamber earlier,” Mr. Clement reminded everyone. “All I can say is that when the NDP are in charge of the eggs, they nationalize the eggs, throttle the chickens and at the end of the day we are all plucked.”

The joke here was apparently that New Democrats are socialists. And that the word plucked kind of sounds like a swear.

A few spots to Mr. Clement’s right, Jason Kenney regarded the Industry Minister with a certain astonishment.

Such biting wit would’ve sent most men scurrying for cover, but Mr. Angus, no dullard himself, was fast to his feet and quick to response.

“Mr. Speaker,” he quipped, “what a turkey.”

Various opposition members delighted in this bird (or luncheon meat) reference.

For all the regular moaning about the sound of this place when our politicians imagine themselves to be professional wrestlers, let us remember here that such stuff is preferable to when our politicians imagine themselves to be comedians.

The Stats. Pensions, six questions. Taxation, trade and Internet access, four questions each. Nuclear energy, the military, bilingualism, public services, the economy and the United Arab Emirates, two questions each. Egypt, Tunisia, copyright, CRTC, porn, seniors, aboriginal affair and the seal hunt, one question each.

Stephen Harper, eight answers. Diane Ablonczy, seven answers. James Moore and Tony Clement, four answers each. Dave Anderson, Peter MacKay and Diane Finley, two answers each. Keith Ashfield, Jim Flaherty, Stockwell Day, Gerry Ritz, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Rob Merrifield, Julian Fantino, John Duncan and Gail Shea, one answer each.

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