The Commons: On your feet

Canada is screwed. Canada is great. Let us stand and applaud either way.

The Scene. The Prime Minister had just finished declaring, on the stength of Liberal Derek Lee’s projections, the Canadian economy impressively robust and the opposition equally ridiculous. Leaping to their feet the government members cheered and gloated.

And so the rules of engagement for this day were established.

Stéphane Dion rose and commended the “good work” done when Ralph Goodale was minding the nation’s books. The Liberals stood and roared their agreement.

Still standing, Dion denounced the haplessness of not one, but two of Harper’s lieutenants—Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Economic Development Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn. Barely back in their seats, his caucus rose in ovation.

Once more Mr. Harper returned to quoting from the rosy projections of a Liberal backbencher. Once more his disciples stood and testified to his leadership.

Well, said Dion, anything good to be said of the nation’s finances must be properly credited to the Liberals.

“This is the problem with the leader of the opposition,” the Prime Minister shot back. “A couple of questions ago the economy was terrible. Then when I talked about his own member, he said it is great and it is due to the Liberal Party.”

“Huzzah!” cried the Liberals, standing in rare agreement with the PM.

“Mr. Speaker, the simple reality is this,” Mr. Harper continued once order was restored. “The reason the Liberal Party has supported the government’s economic plan and allowed it to pass this spring is because more Liberals support this plan than support the carbon taxes of their own leader.”

“Indisputably!” concurred the government side, answering the opposition’s ante.

Then it was Michael Ignatieff and Jim Flaherty trading accusations of illiteracy—each convinced of the other’s inability to comprehend the latest fiscal projections.

“Answer the damn question,” snapped Ignatieff at one point.

“The Liberals can badmouth the economy in Canada,” snapped Flaherty. “They can badmouth hardworking Canadians.They should at least get their facts right.”

The Conservatives stood and clapped. And by now this silliness was contagious.

Gilles Duceppe came up and questioned Blackburn’s aptitude. Standing ovation. Jack Layton challenged the Liberals to vote the Conservatives out of office. Standing ovation.

Then John McCallum, just returned from the picket line in Oshawa, was on his feet, charging furiously at the Finance Minister.

“Does the minister not care or, since he has told the world not to invest in Ontario, is he afraid to look his constituents in the eye at this moment of family upheaval?”

Standing ovation.

“When the minister says I was condescending, he is not insulting me; he is insulting his own constituents who were very pleased to see me and shocked that he was not there and one or two of them shouted out that he should resign.”

Standing ovation.

“Why do the Conservatives not get off their duffs and do something about his constituents?”

Standing ovation.

“Grandstander!” barked Dean del Mastro from the furthest reaches of the Conservative backbenches.

Then Flaherty was holding his last budget aloft, pointing to it and proclaiming there to be money hidden somewhere between the pages. His mates snapped to attention and cheered.

All sides seemed winded then. Six questions passed on the matter of Maxime Bernier without erect glee. Not until Gerry Ritz, the mustachioed Agriculture Minister, stood on a friendly question to lament those tyrants at the Canadian Wheat Board was another standing ovation apparently called for.

The NDP’s Nathan Cullen next accused the government of desecrating our national wonders—on World Environmental Day no less!—but could only rouse Pat Martin and Olivia Chow to rise and applaud. But the New Democrats, their enduring commitment to socialism leaving them loathe to single out any member above others, would not go quietly into this good afternoon.

Afforded the last two questions, Brian Masse of Windsor West declared this godforsaken land ungovernable. Or at least ungoverned. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “when it comes to standing up for auto jobs and auto workers, this government is as bad as the last.”

Up the Dips came, thrilled at the opportunity to condemn both their superiors at once.

“Why do we not have that leadership,” he asked with his final opportunity, “for crying out loud?”

“Indeed!” shouted the the Dips, jumping to their feet.

The government could hardly muster an appropriate rejoinder. Surely they were tired—exhausted by this particularly tiresome exercise.

The Stats. The economy, 15 questions. Maxime Bernier, six questions. The environment, four questions. Farmers, natives and air travel, two questions each. Arts funding, tourism, international aid, drugs and Chuck Cadman, one question each.

Jim Flaherty, Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Peter Van Loan, six answers each. Stephen Harper, five answers. Gerry Ritz, Gary Lunn, Chuck Strahl and Lawrence Cannon, two answers each. Josee Verner, Diane Finley, Bev Oda, Tony Clement and James Moore, one answer each.

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