The Commons: New day, different story

Would it surprise you in the least to learn the government has misspoken once more?

The Scene. The Liberals were once more attempting to make something of this access to information business. Amid the rabble, Jason Kenney turned to Dean Del Mastro, one of this government’s more dutiful backbenchers, and asked, with audible sarcasm, how many calls the member’s office had received. Oh, responded Del Mastro, his staff has been inundated. Everyone smiled knowingly.

Ha Ha. Ho Ho. Yes, this business of governing can be quite tedious, can’t it?

A short while later, Conservative Kevin Sorenson shouted a little advice across the aisle for Liberal Scott Brison to pass on to the opposition leader. “Scott,” he cried, “tell him you’ll never win on this one.”

Indeed. Asking the government to account for its changes of policy? Pfft. Isn’t there something more interesting we could discuss? Perhaps the slate of upcoming summer blockbusters. I hear Iron Man is quite good. That Robert Downey Jr. is such a captivating screen presence. And isn’t it so refreshing to see a superhero movie that deals thoughtfully with the realities of our post-9/11 world?

Anyway. Until this government successfully vanquishes democracy, we’ll have to make do with days like today.

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister of the most secretive government in our history misled the House once again,” Stephane Dion opened QP, rising with a grin on his face, his wife looking on proudly from the gallery. “He twisted the words of professor [Alasdair] Roberts to justify his decision and to kill the CAIRS registry, but Professor Roberts said yesterday that he always wanted to ‘make the entire thing publicly accessible.’ Will the Prime Minister admit he misled the House and restore the registry?”

Stephen Harper would not. At least explicitly. With yesterday’s talking point on the aforementioned professor sufficiently flayed though, there would be no mention of him today. This is, per usual, as close to an admission of guilt as you’re likely to receive from this bunch.

A few questions later, Michael Ignatieff stepped forward with a little alliteration. “This is a consistent story of suppression and secrecy,” he charged.

But left a bit dizzy from that effort, he then slipped on his own rhetoric. “Mr. Speaker, they have been in office for two and a half hours,” he yelped, quickly correcting himself with the more accurate “years.”

The Conservative benches descended into giggles and the Liberal deputy had to sit as the Speaker restored order.

“Mr. Speaker,” Ignatieff began once back on his feet, “either way it feels like a lifetime.”

Everyone this day was a comedian. None funnier than the pairing of Harper and Vic Toews, debuting their own modern take on the Smothers Bros.

“The purpose of the registry,” the Prime Minister deadpanned first, “as brought in by the previous government, was to centralize and control access to information calls.”

“The purpose of the registry by the previous Liberal government,” he repeated with his second answer, “était de centraliser et de contrôler l’accès à l’information.”

Then Toews. “Mr. Speaker, let me tell you how this Liberal scam worked in respect of CAIRS.”

The humour here was subtle, mind you—your level of laughter entirely dependent on knowledge of the fact that it was Brian Mulroney’s government, by most accounts a conservative one, who created said registry.

The Liberals will surely stand on Wednesday and demand the government account for this latest misstatement. And Jason Kenney, that great populist, will surely yawn.  And then the government will make another claim it can’t possibly prove.

And so it goes. If the government’s bored of this democracy stuff, it’s at least making a pretty good case for this system’s easily exploited flaws.

The Stats.
Election financing, six questions. Government disclosure, five questions. Burma and the economy, four questions each. Natives and drugs, three questions each. The finance minister, Quebec, air travel and the oil sands, two questions each. User fees, the Quebec armoury and farmers, one question each.

Stephen Harper, seven answers. Pierre Poilievre, six answers. John Baird and Tony Clement, four answers each. Vic Toews, three answers. Maxime Bernier, Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Lawrence Cannon, two answers each. Peter MacKay, Gerry Ritz, Jim Flaherty and Stockwell Day, one answer each.

Freudian Slip of the Day. Peter MacKay referred today to the Minister of Heritage as the Minister of Patronage.

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