The Commons: Racists, anarchists, women's rights and 'McCarthyite demagoguery'

Outrage is all the rage

A skill questionThe Scene. The House had managed just half a dozen rounds this afternoon before the Speaker was first compelled to admonish those in attendance for the noise. Two more questions after that, he was calling for order again.

It should have been obvious then that we would not get through these 45 minutes without someone being accused of McCarthyism.

About halfway through Question Period, the NDP’s Mylene Freeman stood to state her disappointment with a Conservative MP’s recent choice of committee witnesses.*

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stood and identified the parliamentary secretary in question—Chungsen Leung—as an immigrant from Taiwan, who received a suggestion from one of his constituents, but who demanded, upon learning of the “totally inappropriate” comments of the potential witnesses, that they be removed from the witness list. Mr. Kenney also declared the current Conservative caucus to be the most ethnically diverse in history and reported that immigration levels have been kept at their highest.

It should not surprise you that the matter was not then dropped.

“Mr. Speaker, voting to take away women’s rights an hour after inviting racists to a parliamentary committee is a new low even for Conservatives,” declared the NDP’s Jinny Sims.

This new game of “Let’s See Which Disparate Subjects We Can Link For The Sake Of Denigrating Our Opponents” seems to be spreading.

There was grumbling from the government side, but Ms. Sims went on.

“The group’s website even features a prominent picture and positive statement about the Minister of Immigration. It also defends white supremacism and includes a section called ‘chinafication. ‘ Conservatives defended calling this group to committee,” she claimed. “Even a cursory look shows the group should not have been invited. How could Conservatives fail to do even basic due diligence?”

Ms. Sims wagged her finger and the New Democrats stood to cheer.

Mr. Kenney stood and attempt to outdo Ms. Sims’ outrage. “Mr. Speaker, what a fine example of McCarthyite demagoguery from the member opposite,” he declared.

“The member for Willowdale is an immigrant to Canada from Taiwan,” he explained. “He put forward a witness at the suggestion of a constituent. The moment he found that the witness had expressed totally inappropriate views on the Internet, he condemned those views unequivocally, demanded that the witness be withdrawn, and said that if the witness came before the committee he would give them a serious condemnation of their outrageous views.”

Three sentences removed from condemning “McCarthyite demagoguery,” the Immigration Minister concluded thusly. “Let us face it,” he proposed. “This is coming from the NDP, whose members hang out with the anarchist group No One Is Illegal that says that Canada is illegal.”

Back over to Ms. Sims.

“Mr. Speaker, we did not invite racists to committee,” she testified. “We did not vote to take away a woman’s right to choose. That was the Conservatives, including the Minister for Status of Women.”

For bonus points, Ms. Sims might have also quibbled with the corporate tax rate here.

“To quote from the writings of the CIR,” she continued. ” ‘This hate on for National Socialism is completely misguided … there is nothing inherently wrong with it at all.’ Conservatives even tried to defend these witnesses. Why are they bringing racists to a parliamentary committee?”

Mr. Kenney appealed to a higher standard.

“Mr. Speaker, those comments are below the member who just said them,” he scolded. “She knows perfectly well that the member who put forward the suggested witness is an immigrant to Canada from Taiwan. Is she really making this kind of ad hominem remark against that member?”

Perhaps identifying the parliamentary secretary as an immigrant is intended to demonstrate that he couldn’t possibly agree with the views expressed by the witnesses he put forward. But it does not quite explain why they were put forward as potential witnesses (or, rather, how they nearly ended up testifying without anyone noticing the website in question).

“The moment that Conservative members learned about these outrageous views associated with this Canadian, they insisted that the person not be brought before committee and condemned unequivocally these outrageous remarks,” Mr. Kenney assured.

And speaking of ad hominem attacks.

“However,” the minister segued, “will the member deny that her predecessor, the immigration critic of the NDP, has gone to rallies for the anarchist organization called No One Is Illegal that says that Canada is illegal? That is outrageous.”

Outrage is all the rage.

The Stats. Employment insurance, nine questions. Food safety, five questions. The environment, four questions. Immigration, science, aboriginal affairs and foreign investment, three questions each. Health care and national defence, two questions each. Sports, children, forestry and abortion, one question each.

Diane Finley, nine responses. James Moore, Gerry Ritz, Jason Kenney and Gary Goodyear, four responses each. John Duncan and Michelle Rempel, three responses each. Colin Carrie, Joe Oliver and Peter MacKay, two responses each. Bob Dechert and Rona Ambrose, two responses each.

*Previous versions of this piece have included the sentence, “Freedom of speech!” Gary Goodyear called from the government side as Ms. Freeman spoke. Yesterday afternoon, I emailed Mr. Goodyear’s office to ask if his heckle was in reference to the witnesses invited to appear before the immigration committee. His director of communications responded four hours later that it was not. I immediately asked what it was in reference to. After not receiving a response last night, I emailed again this morning. I have yet to receive a response. Rising on a point of order after Question Period yesterday, the NDP’s Jinny Sims alleged that Mr. Goodyear had said “freedom of speech” while she was asking her questions. Ms. Sims repeated the allegation this morning—though, in this case, the heckle was said to be “free speech”—during statements by members.

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