The Commons: Stephen Harper is very sensitive

And Pierre Poilievre calls us all to a higher purpose

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, October 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld</p>

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, October 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Shortly after Conservative Brian Jean had stood to accuse the New Democrats of advocating for a “job killing carbon tax” and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong had stood to say that “the policy of the NDP is to go south to recruit foreign criminals to come to Canada” and Conservative MP David Wilks had stood and claimed to possess “a long list of attacks on Canadian interests from the NDP” and Conservative MP Robert Sopuck had stood and ventured that the NDP leader “leader rejects sound science and works hard to kill Canadian jobs” and Conservative MP James Bezan stood and said Thomas Mulcair had “attacked Canadian jobs, attacked Canada’s national interests and took up the cause of a convicted cop shooter” and shortly before Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood and declared that “New Democrats are never on” the side of victims of crime, Stephen Harper stood and declared himself quite disappointed with Mr. Mulcair’s tone.

“Mr. Speaker, Peter Penashue broke… the… law,” Mr. Mulcair had enunciated, now pausing for effect. “If our law and order Prime Minister considers Peter Penashue, a known lawbreaker, to be the best Conservative MP, what does that say about the rest of his caucus?”

In fairness, Mr. Harper had not said that Mr. Penashue was the best member of the Conservative caucus, rather that he was the best MP that the riding of Labrador had ever had. Though perhaps that description too raises questions about how the Prime Minister measures quality.

Regardless, Mr. Harper was now profoundly saddened. “Mr. Speaker, obviously, I disagree with that categorization,” the Prime Minister sighed. “I am sad, but not surprised, to hear that kind of negative campaign from the—”

He could not finish because the New Democrats had burst out laughing.

The Speaker called for order and returned the floor to Mr. Harper.

“Mr. Speaker, in Labrador, Minister Penashue,” the Prime Minister continued, apparently still struggling to come to grips with the reality of Mr. Penashue’s resignation, “will be able to point to a record of respecting his promises, working against the federal long gun registry and for such things as the Trans-Labrador Highway, the Lower Churchill project and obviously for the strong record that he has presented to the people of Labrador.”

So Mr. Penashue might not have rightfully won a seat in the House of Commons, but at least while he had it, some things happened that the people of Labrador might have reason to be happy about.

The House proceeded to other matters, but after Rob Nicholson had declared his concern for the victims of crime, Bob Rae detected a segue back to Mr. Penashue.

“Mr. Speaker, the victims of the latest Conservative crime are the people of Labrador. Those are the victims we need to stand up for,” Mr. Rae ventured. “It is now clear that there was a completely orchestrated-from-central-casting resignation by the minister. Peter Penashue held press conferences. He used government money to hold press conferences. He placed ads. The Conservative Party transferred money to the riding association in Labrador. The entire thing was orchestrated by the Prime Minister of Canada and orchestrated by the Conservative Party of Canada.”

There was not a question here, but the Prime Minister stood anyway.

“Mr. Speaker, the member for Labrador has taken the correct action,” Mr. Harper said. “The people of Labrador will decide.”

But, once more, the Prime Minister was besmirched.

“They will have the difference between that kind of negative, ugly campaign,” he said, drawing laughs from the Liberals, “and, on the other side, a record of positive achievement for the people of Labrador by minister Penashue and, obviously, we will respect the decision of the people of Labrador.”

Mr. Rae saw another segue.

“Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister wants to see ugly, he and his cabinet colleagues should simply look in the mirror and assess their own conduct—”

The Conservatives groaned their displeasure. The Speaker called for order.

“I do not think we need to make those kinds of personal characterizations,” Speaker Scheer suggested. “It is certainly not adding to the debate today.”

Mr. Rae pleaded innocence. “Mr. Speaker, if looking in the mirror produces unacceptable results,” he offered, “it is hardly the fault of the people who are asking the questions.”

The interim Liberal leader again failed to register a question, but the Prime Minister stood again nonetheless.

“Mr. Speaker, I think the real problem is the positions that the Liberal Party of Canada has on issues that matter to the people of Labrador,” Mr. Harper ventured. “The people of Labrador value the seal hunt; they value investments in their infrastructure and in their Internet; and they certainly value the Lower Churchill hydroelectric electric project.”

It is a well known fact that the Liberals despise the Internet, but at last check they did support both the seal hunt and the Lower Churchill project.

The questions about the former minister persisted and it was Pierre Poilievre who took up the cause of defending his honour.

“Mr. Speaker, in anybody’s mind, writing cheques for nearly $50,000 is a clear admission that Conservatives broke just about every law in the book during the Labrador campaign and that they knew they broke them,” Liberal MP Gerry Byrne charged. “With that said, the Prime Minister also knows that sanctions with serious consequences remain inevitable against Mr. Penashue and his party. With absolutely nothing left to lose under those circumstances, a byelection is about to be called to try to dull some of that reality. Does the Prime Minister really feel that holding a byelection could ever trump the rule of law in Canada and that the process of justice might actually be able to be turned off for a byelection?”

Somewhere in this distance, or perhaps only in Mr. Poilievre’s head, a string quartet began to play the national anthem.

“Mr. Speaker, there they go, launching a nasty, negative campaign full of slurs,” he sighed. “Never did a slur create a job. Never did a slur protect a traditional aboriginal way of life that Peter Penashue has fought for.”

The anthem swelled. Watching at home, mothers gathered their children to listen. In office towers, business halted. In the fields, plowing ceased. Tears trickled down the cheeks of grown men.

“Never did a slur help a school child in a remote community have access to the world through high-speed Internet, the way Peter Penashue delivered. Never did a slur protect CFB Goose Bay,” Mr. Poilievre continued. “Slurs do not do that, but Peter Penashue did.”

And lo was the nation stirred and lo did all who heard Mr. Poilievre now rush to Labrador, cheques in hand and the Elections Act in mind, to donate the maximum allowable funds to Mr. Penashue’s re-election campaign.

For sure, Mr. Poilievre was so very right. And thus it is to wonder why so many others waste so much of their and our time with such empty words.