The Commons: Not a contest you want to win

Pierre Poilievre is next in line to defend this government against accusations of scandal

Pierre Poilievre is next in line to defend this government against accusations of scandal

The Scene. Back again, then, to the House. And to the question of the day, or perhaps the month, or perhaps the year.

“When,” asked Stephane Dion, “will the Prime Minister wake up and smell the coffee?”

This was, somehow, a reference to the state of our national finances.

The Prime Minister, unfortunately, was not present to offer a response. Though he was later spotted on the balcony overlooking the House foyer, apparently posing for pictures with some children. Cameraman desperate for fresh images of the man were left to capture riveting images of the back of his head.

Not that the government was left without a strong voice on this day. Quite the contrary.

“I am pleased,” sniffed Peter Van Loan, “the leader of the Liberal Party has woken up to the economy.”

So dismissed, Dion changed metaphors. “They spent the cupboard bare,” he charged of the other side.

When that failed to rattle the government, Michael Ignatieff openly wondered whether Conservative incompetence was part of a “secret agenda.”

“I am sorry to disappoint the member opposite Mr. Speaker, but there is no secret,” Jim Flaherty lamented.

This was getting us nowhere, so, thankfully, the Bloc Québécois chose a different tact, returning us once more to the risquely named In-and-Out controversy.

One immediately expected Van Loan, the resourceful House leader, to rise once more. But no. He sat. And up came Pierre Poilievre.

“What’s he doing standing up?” a member of the press gallery asked openly.

Poilievre, recently named in a poll as both the biggest gossip and the second-best scrooge on the Hill, has also won the title of Tory point man on that bit of electoral dodginess. If James Moore’s Cadman quagmire is any indication, Poilievre will now be fielding questions on this so long as the allegations of nefariousness persist. Congratulations or condolences are probably in order.

With John Baird beaming proudly at his protege, Poilievre stood no fewer than 14 times this day, demonstrating a remarkable ability to simultaneously excuse his party’s actions and accuse its opponents of doing likewise.

First, there were a few quotes from the former chief electoral officer (never mind that apparent misreading of the source). Then even a line from our own Andrew Coyne.

So daunted were the Liberals by the government’s newborn pit bull that several of them called out, “More! More!”

Later, a few allegations of Liberal misdeed—a tactic that was at least preferable to the limpest of talking points. “Mr. Speaker,” Poilievre offered at one point. “Conservative candidates paid for Conservative ads with Conservative money.”

When it was all over, Gordon O’Connor, late of the defence minister’s portfolio, stopped by on his way out of the House and patted Poilievre on the shoulder. Smiling, the white-haired veteran of this stuff offered a hearty thumbs-up.

Surely O’Connor knows what is to come for Poilievre in subsequent days. And surely he must be happy that, exiled to national revenue, he will likely never again see such fun.

The Stats.
Election financing, 14 questions. The economy, seven questions. Quebec media, four questions. International aid, abortion, language rights and natives, two questions each. Drugs, Chuck Cadman and biofuels, one question each.

Pierre Poilievre, 14 answers. Jim Flaherty and Josée Verner, four answers each. Peter Van Loan and Rob Nicholson, three answers each. Bev Oda, Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Chuck Strahl, two answers each. James Moore and Gerry Ritz, one answer each.

Segue of the Day. Courtesy of Liberal Joyce Murray. “Mr. Speaker, earlier the Minister of International Cooperation boasted about the Conservatives meaningful commitment. Here is one we know about. Financial considerations were offered to Chuck Cadman to influence a critical vote.”