The Scene. Bob Rae rose with provocation in rhyme.
“Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the President of the Treasury Board, we know very well that he can Twitter. We know very well that he can tweet,” he informed the House. “What we also know is that he cannot get up on his feet.”
After the interim Liberal leader had expounded on the “absurd situation” before us—a cabinet minister unable or unwilling to stand in the House and explain his actions in helping divvy up millions in “border infrastructure” funds for bike racks and gazebos in his riding—the Prime Minister stood and restated the script about this having been “thoroughly aired” and there being “process improvements” to be made and so forth.
Then though, feeling charitable or chuffed or some combination thereof, the Prime Minister decided to impart his analysis of the spring election’s meaning and lessons.
“I would think the Liberal party,” he mused, “having run an entire campaign, the worst in its history, on this issue and having been dropped so badly, would decide that now is probably not the time to keep talking about politics in this way.”
This is, for sure, one way to look at it. In re-electing the Conservatives, the population writ large has absolved the government of the contempts against Parliament and the sooner the Liberals stop insisting on such stuff, the better for them and all of us. Put another way: so long as a sufficient number of voters are willing to cast their lot with the Conservative party, Tony Clement can do with the public accounts what he likes with no responsibility to stand in his place in the House of Commons and explain himself.
Or perhaps that’s a cynical reading of the Prime Minister’s insinuation. Perhaps he just means to advise the Liberals that such a tone—so negative and accusatory—has not served them well over the last few years. This is possibly reasonable advice.
Alas, for the NDP or Tony Clement or some combination thereof, the new official opposition seems eager to ignore the Prime Minister’s desired lesson of the 2011 general election campaign. Indeed, they seem quite dogged in their pursuit.
“When the media starting asking about how he was trying to pass off a $21 million Olympic hockey arena, complete with a swimming pool, as a media centre, he intervened with the local mayor and said: ‘Do not talk to the media until we get our lines converged,’ ” Charlie Angus explained this afternoon. “To which the mayor responded: ‘Done. Call me. I will be waiting. Fran loves it when you use that term.’ ”
This was getting a bit weird now, but Mr. Angus did have a question here. “When,” he asked, “will they stop trying to get their story straight and come clean with Canadians?”
If the government does indeed have a date in mind at which point they plan on explaining themselves, they weren’t telling. “It is this kind of muckraking that Canadians rejected in the last election campaign,” moaned John Baird, standing in once again for the standing-impaired Mr. Clement. “What they sent all of us here to do is to fight for Canadians, to fight for jobs, to fight for more opportunity, and that is exactly what the government is doing.”
Mr. Angus was unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, it has been 110 days since the Muskoka minister was put in the doghouse and that is the best the government can come up with?” he wondered aloud.
And, in fact, it was not, because next Mr. Baird stood to boast of the jobs created by Mr. Clement’s spending.
Mostly though, Mr. Baird was full of disappointment. “Mr. Speaker, that kind of muckraking is exactly what Canadians rejected at the last election,” he sighed in the direction of the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice. “What they wanted from their elected representatives was a team of men and women who would fight for jobs, who would fight for more opportunities, for more hope, and that is exactly what this government is doing each and every day.”
When Ralph Goodale stood, recounted Mr. Clement’s actions on this file and observed that “this looks like the behaviour of a coward,” Mr. Baird pronounced himself positively besmirched. “I would have expected better from him,” he lamented, “and I will not dignify his question with a response.”
When Marc Garneau next informed the House that he “entered politics to counter the public’s perception that politicians are on the take” and that “regrettably, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka is making that extremely difficult,” there was much grumbling from the government members and the Speaker stood to call for order.
“There is a long-standing tradition that you cannot do indirectly what you are not allowed to do directly,” Speaker Scheer observed. “This is the second time I have heard an indirect way of making an unparliamentary remark so I think we will move on to the honourable member for Windsor—Tecumseh.”
The Conservative side—champions one and all of the sanctity and principles of this chamber—applauded the Speaker’s ruling enthusiastically.
The Stats. The G8 Legacy Fund, nine questions. The environment, seven questions. Infrastructure and crime, four questions each. Oil sands development, trade and the environment, three questions each. Science, two questions. Political fundraising and cigarettes, one question each.
Stephen Harper and John Baird, six answers each. Joe Oliver and Rob Nicholson, four answers each. Jim Flaherty and Denis Lebel, three answers each. Christian Paradis, Colin Carrie, Ed Fast and Gary Goodyear, two answers each. Peter Kent, Dean Del Mastro, Kellie Leitch and Gerald Keddy, one answer each.