The Commons: Jim Flaherty feels your pain

Don’t let the finely-tailored suits fool you, these are ministers in touch with the common man

The Scene. News broke in the morning that General Motors, an automobile manufacturer of some repute, was making plans to eliminate another 1,400 jobs in Windsor, Ontario—news perhaps most remarkable in that it confirmed there were still 1,400 jobs in Windsor left to be lost.

So after a few questions on the situation in Burma, Liberal Martha Hall Findlay rose to openly wonder what the government would do about this. Stumbling toward gravitas—Hall Findlay tends to speak slowly and deliberately, but often to the point of seeming confused—the opposition frontbencher eventually arrived at a question, namely what the Finance Minister would say to those Windsorites now facing inevitable lay off.

Jim Flaherty all-but-sniffed his response. “I actually know a lot of auto workers,” he said, “which I doubt the member opposite does.”

Tut. Tut.

Let there never again then be doubts raised about this government’s blue-collar bonafides. Sure, decorum demands they show up for work each day in shirts and ties—and, indeed, Flaherty does claim a Princeton pedigree—but oh what they wouldn’t give to be toiling in the coal mines and oil refineries from whence real Canadians keep this country in motion.

Witness, for instance, Maxime Bernier’s response to still more questions about who he’s been photographed with and why. Never mind his infamously dressed ex, the latest questions have to do with a shot of the Foreign Affairs Minister shaking the hand of a man now facing multiple weapons charges.

Another example of the dodgy hob-knobbing that goes on in this high-falutin world of national politics? Hardly. “I was photographed with the individual in a public place,” Bernier carefully noted. “It is common for politicians to be photographed with people in public.”

Indeed, what man of the people would Bernier be if he were not able to commune with the public in their natural places? Surely we wouldn’t want the Foreign Affairs Minister sequestered to his Sussex office, gazing down upon the little people below, never to understand their concerns or feel first-hand the calluses on their working-class hands.

Finally to this populist pity party was Jack Layton, the NDP leader obviously concerned at this attack on his side’s last flank. What, he wondered, of this reported price gouging at the gas pumps.

Up came Jim Prentice. “I did meet this morning with the president of Measurement Canada and have given him instructions,” he began, his exquisitely chosen words stirring the echoes of Lincoln and Jefferson, or at least Perot. “First, I have ordered increased enforcement over the course of the summer and additional inspections. Second, I have instructed regulatory changes to be prepared. These will increase the onus upon gas retailers. Fines will be increased from $1,000 per occurrence to $10,000 per occurrence. In addition, there will be even higher fines for aggravated circumstances. Finally, I will be writing to all Canadian gas retailers, asking them for their cooperation.”

Huzzah, cried the Conservative. Fie, shouted Layton. But everywhere, in Tim Horton’s across the land, the people were pleased. Sure, the jobs were fewer and farther between. But here was a government willing to offer cheaper gas, handshakes and the Finance Minister’s enduring friendship.

The Stats. The Foreign Affairs Minister, eight questions. Burma and the economy, five questions each. Gas prices and Brian Mulroney, three questions each. Quebec, Chuck Cadman, capital punishment, the military and seniors, two questions each. Supreme Court, rare diseases, Lebanon, real estate, the environment and fisheries, one question each.

Peter Van Loan, 10 answers. Jim Prentice, five answers. Jim Flaherty, Lawrence Cannon, Maxime Bernier and Rob Nicholson, three answers each. Jason Kenney, James Moore, John Baird, Laurie Hawn and Monte Solberg, two answers each. Tony Clement, Bev Oda and Loyola Hearn, one answer each.

Amateur Psychiatry of the Day. Jason Kenney, to a member of the Bloc. “I think the honourable member is somewhat destabilized.”

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