The Commons: Sound and fury signifying a lack of anything

"It is like a skit out of Monty Python, except it is not funny"

The Scene. He seemed from the outset to be slightly smirking. With his first opportunity, the Prime Minister invoked the Olympics. When that failed to dissuade the opposition side, he raised his voice and began speaking forcefully about unrelated matters. The well-coached extras who fill the government backbenches sprang to their feet to roar their support.

For another day, the opposition persisted in asking about novelties—the fake lake, the gazebos, the antique boat—and pursuing the premise that behind it all was nothingness. Lacking explanation for their specific expenditures, the government responded with volume. Where yesterday the government was chastened, today it was defiant. The day would be won or lost according to the decibel count. In short order it was a contest of which side could more readily leap up to applaud.

After Mr. Harper had finished with his performance, Jim Flaherty was sent up to fume, then Vic Toews. John Baird spoke furiously. Lawrence Cannon did his best to project assurance. Mark Holland and Marlene Jennings yelled back. The official opposition and government traded the ovation advantage.

The Bloc mocked. The Prime Minister and Jack Layton accused each other of conspiring with the Liberals to ruin the country. Charlie Angus, in all dark colours, whined and teased. For whatever reason, the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary was sent up to provoke. Indeed, the only relevant minister not heard from this day was Tony Clement, he of the riding that has seemingly most benefited from the government’s recent interest in decorative landscaping.

“Mr. Speaker, it is getting absolutely bizarre,” cried Liberal Michael Savage at one point. “We learned now that the Conservatives are selling off real lighthouses in Canada, including the famous Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, but it is full steam ahead for fake lighthouses to guard the G20 fake lake. Real lighthouses—we do not want that. Fake lighthouses—go to the head of the line. It is like a skit out of Monty Python, except it is not funny. Governments make choices. How can this one choose to spend billions of dollars on a weekend when child poverty rates are on the rises, people line up at food banks and people are worried about their pensions?”

This won a standing salute from his side. Some time later, Mr. Flaherty was up, so loudly and angrily projecting on the potential doom of a global bank tax he shook and seemed on the verge of passing out in the centre aisle.

Eventually discussion turned to other matters, the opposition pursuing news that the government is presently before the federal court, attempting to keep various documents from a Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry into the alleged abuse of Afghan detainees.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson was at first merely dismissive. Pressed though by the Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh, Mr. Nicholson stood to proclaim his support for the troops. When Mr. Dosanjh deigned to suggest that he too supported the troops, Mr. Nicholson apparently felt compelled to rebut.

“The honourable member says he stands up for the Canadian Forces,” the Justice Minister scoffed. “Why in the last 300 questions he has asked on this concerned Taliban prisoners? Why does he not ask a question in support of our men and women in uniform just to mix it up for a change?”

The Conservatives roared at the money shot.

The House moved on. As the hour neared a close, Mr. Harper lounged in his chair, looking altogether quite content.

The Stats. The G20, 20 questions. Afghanistan, four questions. Iran and aboriginal affairs, three questions each. The budget bill, Parliament and the oil industry, two questions each. Asbestos and crime, one question each.

Stephen Harper, nine answers. Lawrence Cannon, seven answers. Rob Nicholson, five answers. Jim Flaherty, four answers. Christian Paradis and Pierre Poilievre, three answers each. Rona Ambrose, two answers. John Baird, Gail Shea, Leona Aglukkaq and John Duncan, one answer each.