Paul Calandra: The designated obfuscator

How to get away with not answering

Before Paul Calandra, there was Pierre Poilievre. And before Pierre Poilievre, there was Dean Del Mastro. And before Dean Del Mastro, there was Peter Van Loan. And before Peter Van Loan, there was Herb Gray. And before Herb Gray, there was probably somebody.

For surely as long as the human species has been able to engage in oral politics, there has been some desire for obfuscation. And for likely as long as there have been question period, governments have probably found it handy to give someone the job of throwing himself or herself in front of uncomfortable questions. The Canadian Press explored Calandra’s contribution to the phenomenon last fall.

If Paul Calandra has distinguished himself in this particular regard it is in his creativity. He does not aim merely to bore or attack or change the subject, but to expand the limits of what we might imagine could be said to deflect a question.

There were, most famously, the stories about the pizza store his father owned and the lessons of how he has raised his daughters.

Here is a Press Progress compilation of some of those highlights.

But there was also the time he referred to journalist Glenn Greenwald as a “porn spy.”

And that time he accused the Liberals of trying to take away Santa’s Canadian citizenship.

And then there was yesterday, when he used questions about Canada’s mission in Iraq to complain about the online posting of an NDP employee.

In an interview last fall, Calandra was asked about his use of stories about his family. He apparently told the Stouffville Sun-Tribune that he used those anecdotes to help Canadians understand the issues. As for whatever criticism he might have received for his tact, he was apparently at peace with his situation. “Anybody who’s elected, at some point in time, their position would put them in the media spotlight,” Calandra told the Sun-Tribune.

This afternoon, Calandra was not sent up by the government to respond to Thomas Mulcair’s questions as he had been the day before, but it’s hard to imagine we’ve seen the last of the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister. With Mike Duffy’s trial to begin next spring, he might have even more to try to deflect very soon.

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