The Commons: That’s enough

We have surely reached the end of everyone’s patience

The Scene. It has been a long year. (Granted, no longer than any other year, but still, 365 days—or however many we’re at now—is an awful lot.) So you’ll forgive the Prime Minister if he didn’t seem all that interested this afternoon.

As Nycole Turmel hectored him about the latest problems to afflict the fabled F-35s, Mr. Harper fiddled with his mail, a particularly well-sealed envelope seeming to resist his attempts to open it. Apparently figuring he couldn’t get it open in the time allotted to Ms. Turmel to state her question, he put it aside long enough to get the gist of her complaint. He then stood and repeated his platitudes from memory.

“Mr. Speaker, I know very well that every time the government provides our men and women in uniform with the equipment they need, the NDP loudly opposes that and votes against it,” he sighed. “We are working on the best advice of the Canadian industry, including the Quebec industry, including our men and women in uniform in the air force, and we will continue to move forward and make sure that they have the best aircraft that are available when we have to replace the current fleet.”

So Support the Troops, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.

Once more en français between Ms. Turmel and Mr. Harper and then the NDP’s Matthew Kellway stood to showoff what self-confidence he’d gained during this sitting. “Mr. Speaker, respectfully I would caution the Prime Minister against borrowing from the Associate Minister of National Defence’s speaking points,” the backbencher dared venture, “because just yesterday the Air Force Commander contradicted those very speaking points.”

Mr. Harper kept to his mail undaunted, eventually unwrapping a book of some kind. The associate minister in question, Julian Fantino, duly stood and reminded everyone of his disdain for all of this.

Then to Marc Garneau, leading the Liberal side and filling in for the otherwise engaged Bob Rae. “Mr. Speaker, the Canada Elections Act explicitly states that one cannot falsely publish a notice that a candidate in a constituency has retired or withdrawn,” he reported for everyone’s benefit. “Given the fact that the Canada Elections Act says this, and given your ruling yesterday about the reprehensible behaviour against the member for Mount Royal, I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether he believes that the Canada Elections Act needs to be clarified and will he issue an apology to the member for Mount Royal?”

Mr. Harper does not generally go out of his way to answer questions that he can avoid. In this case, Mr. Garneau may have been leading the Liberal corner, but he was doing so as a deputy leader and so Mr. Harper let Peter Van Loan take this one. “Mr. Speaker, you have ruled on this issue very clearly. It is certainly the practice of our government to respect all rulings of all Speakers of the House. That has been our practice in the past. It will continue to be our practice in the future,” the House leader boldly declared. “Clearly, the member for Mount Royal continues to take his seat here in the House, and we, as a government, acknowledge that.”

“Mr. Speaker,” sighed Mr. Garneau, “I guess we are not going to get that apology.”

He went on to question why Conservative MPs were so eager to conduct the proceedings of the parliamentary committee on government operations in secret—a bashfulness that seems to be becoming habit.

“Mr. Speaker,” claimed Mr. Van Loan, “our government is always performing in an open and accountable fashion.”

The opposition benches burst with theatric guffaws.

There were more chuckles later when Peter Kent stood and testified that his side “would have preferred a more ambitious result from the global climate change conference.” And then the government side laughed when Megan Leslie noted the criticism of China, France and the United Nations. And then Mr. Kent attempted to belittle Ms. Leslie’s grasp of the situation.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “if my honourable colleague had been in Durban she would have seen…”

Now, of course, part of the reason Ms. Leslie wasn’t in Durban is because Mr. Kent decided she was unwelcome. And with that in mind, Justin Trudeau objected. Rather loudly.

“Bullshit!” he cried, his fury dramatically framed by flowing locks and sharply drawn facial hair.

“You piece of shit!” he added in Mr. Kent’s general direction.

Whatever this possessed in chivalry, it lacked in civility and so the Conservative MPs howled at the indignity of it all.

The rest was groaning and laughing and chiding and dismissing and apologizing.

They may yet prolong this business for another day, but we have surely reached the end of everyone’s patience. Time for a long winter’s nap. A toast to reflection for what’s passed and optimism for what’s next and to all a goodnight.

The Stats. The environment and military procurement, five questions each. Employment, four questions. Ethics, the economy, energy, aboriginal affairs, government appointments, patronage, fisheries, Lebanon, infrastructure and the Canadian Wheat Board, two questions each. Afghanistan, immigration, Bahrain and Quebec, one question each.

Peter Kent, five answers. Diane Finley, four answers. Stephen Harper, Vic Toews, Diane Ablonczy and Jim Flaherty, three answers each. Julian Fantino, Peter Van Loan, Rob Nicholson, Gerry Ritz and Denis Lebel, two answers each. Greg Rickford, Rona Ambrose, Keith Ashfield, Peter MacKay, Gail Shea and Christian Paradis, one answer each.

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