The Commons: Peter MacKay picks a fight with God

With few left on this earthly realm to denounce, the government wits seek a higher target

The Scene. John McCallum rose first with an astonishing theory.

“Every economist knows that GST cuts do much less than income tax cuts for productivity,” he said, “but the Prime Minister was more interested in political gimmicks than sound economics.”

A nation gasped. Our Prime Minister? Stephen Harper? Political gimmicks? Surely the honourable member jests. Surely he will retract his statement forthwith.

Or not. No matter though because here came our right honourable PM, all too thankful for the opportunity to defend himself.

“Every single time we cut those taxes, every single time, the Liberal Party has opposed those things,” he said, apparently forgetting that it’s his party’s policy to mock the opposition for not opposing anything. “Now the Liberal Party wants to raise taxes across the board as part of its insane environmental and economic policies.”

A nation gasped once more. Insane? Really? How does the Prime Minister already know this? He must be psychic. Or perhaps he’s just getting tips from his hairdresser.

The economic and environmental policy of which Mr. Harper referred—the already infamous carbon tax—won’t be explained by the Liberals, you see, for a day or two yet. Not that ignorance has ever kept the Prime Minister from blustering. Not that anything ever does. But what of what we do know about the Liberal plan?

For instance, Stephane Dion and his carbonistas are said to be basing their plan on the proposal of economist Jack Mintz. Mr. Mintz is currently a prominent thinker of some standing at the University of Calgary. And whatever Calgary’s other merits, it still employs Tom Flanagan, the Prime Minister’s closest political ally. Indeed, if you check the records, you’ll see that some years ago the school bestowed two degrees in economics upon the eldest son of Margaret Johnston and Joseph Harper, a young idealist his parents named Stephen Joseph Harper.

Ah, but these are details. And who has time for fine print when an opportunity to question your opponent’s mental well-being presents itself.

“Mr. Speaker, what is insane is the government’s insane economic and environmental policies because both of those policies will cause energy prices to rise,” snapped McCallum. “Why is the government so totally missing in action on both the economy and the environment?”

Up came Harper. “Mr. Speaker, to be honestly missing in action we just have to look across the floor whenever we have a vote here,” he smirked, getting back on message. “The people of Canada are not going to be conned.”

Later, he referred to the opposition as “these guys.” As if he were fuming at the evening news from the comfort of a neighbourhood bar stool.

His trusted deputies picked up the tone from there. Most notably, the square-shouldered Peter MacKay, the Defence Minister so bullish this day that he could barely sit still long enough to listen to the questions coming his way and at one point turned directly to the Liberals to lecture them on their various failings.

Asked about the relative penetrability of those mud walls favored by Afghan prison designers, MacKay merely shrugged. “Mr. Speaker, with respect, I do not think the honourable member is somehow suggesting that a suicide bomb attack, where explosives were placed on a fuel truck, could have been prevented in any way by having a thicker wall at the prison.”

But faced with allegations that Canadian troops are under orders to ignore certain grave crimes committed by Afghans, the Minister of Defence fumed. “We are in Afghanistan to help promote human rights, to protect individuals. That is why we are investing in programs with immunization, with health care. Any suggestion that Canadian soldiers would deliberately turn a blind eye to assaults like this are abhorrent and should not be raised on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Ah, but those details. These allegations, you see, were first raised by a Canadian soldier, freshly returned from the fight in Afghanistan. But never mind that. Because in a story yesterday, the Star linked those abhorrent, unspeakable allegations that are beneath the likes of Peter MacKay, to no less than a military chaplain.

And so it is, it seems, that the Defence Minister had picked a fight with God.

“Let us be clear,” he later clarified, “in no way, shape or form have Canadian soldiers or certainly the Canadian government ever condoned or excused allegations of sexual abuse against children in this country or anywhere else.”

But then, perhaps realizing he had chosen a fight even his formidable chin could not win, he turned on his rhetorical heels—begging all to avoid jumping, as he just had, to conclusions. “Let us be clear about something else,” he explained. “Let us for once, just show a modicum of respect for the time frame that it takes to investigate and look into serious allegations such as this. Let us not cast aspersions without doing a little bit of research into the facts first.”

An astonishing appeal to civility and rational behaviour, sure. But by then the opposition was having none of it.

Sniffed Liberal Bernard Patry in response, “No crying about your responsibilities, Mr. Minister.”

The Stats. Maxime Bernier, eight questions. The economy, seven questions. Afghanistan, six questions. The environment, five questions. Minority rights, four questions. Waterways, a carbon tax, Louise Arbour and space technology, two questions each. Equalization, one question.

Peter Van Loan, eight answers. Peter MacKay, six answers. Stephen Harper, four answers. Josee Verner and David Emerson, four answers. Jim Flaherty, three answers. Loyola Hearn, John Baird, Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Jim Prentice, two answers each. Gerry Ritz and Monte Solberg, one answer each.