The Commons: The boys are back in town

The Prime Minister and his loyal Doberman return to rouse the government lads

The Scene. As is his habit, Stephen Harper slouched. As Question Period began, he leaned back on only his left elbow. Later, he settled on both.

He appeared satisfied. Relaxed. Undisturbed. Content.

Indeed, with he and John Baird freshly returned to the House after a week away for each, there was a certain air of confidence in numbers. The boys club—Peter, John, Jason, Jay, Stockwell, Rob, PVL and the rest—was back together. Each visibly happy to be in each other’s midst, the bunch of them lounging around the government front benches in their typically dark suits and ties.

Oh sure, this is an administration under seige—one of their brothers lost to the wiles of a female interloper. But to expect obvious signs of concern from this bunch would be to assume a certain seriousness for the business of governing that has blessedly never burdened more than a couple of them. Except of course when the camera turns their way and a furrowed brow or pensive glare must be summoned.

Indeed, for a full 15 minutes or so this day, the Prime Minister made a reasonable effort of appearing careful and considerate.

“Will the Prime Minister finally take this matter serious and order a complete and independent inquiry?” asked Stéphane Dion, returning immediately to this business of the late Maxime Bernier.

“Mr. Speaker,” responded Harper, “obviously, the rules with regard to classified documents are extremely important. That is why the minister offered to resign and why I have accepted his resignation. He also asked his ministry to look into the matter, to review the facts.”

For sure, who better decide on the parameters of an investigation than the departed minister to be investigated?

“Mr. Speaker, the government has blamed the entire Couillard affair on the member for Beauce. That is hardly surprising because this is a Prime Minister who takes credit for everything and responsibility for nothing,” sneered Michael Ignatieff. “It was the Prime Minister who chose the minister, it was the Prime Minister who watched him make mistake after mistake, and it was Prime Minister who took five weeks to fire him after he became a security breach. The member for Beauce at least has taken responsibility for his actions. When will the Prime Minister take responsibility for his?”

Harper considered this for perhaps a second, maybe less, then turned and told Peter Van Loan to stand and answer on his behalf.

“Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore quite rightly observed, the minister did take responsibility for his actions,” explained the dutiful House leader.

The Bloc picked up where the Liberals left off, but could get no further. The tone from the government side was altogether even, if not particularly candid.

Ah, but as the questions came around to the NDP, the Prime Minister was obviously growing bored. Asked to account for the government’s dismissal of a joint Ontario-Quebec effort to stave off environmental apocalypse, the PM made pithy mention of his own side’s efforts in this regard, then disparaged the leader of the opposition’s proposed carbon tax.

“I can assure everyone when I was in Europe last week,” he smirked, “nobody wants that either.”

With that he returned to his seat, his work apparently done for the day. His loyal ministers left to deal with the ensuing battle.

“Why is it,” Dion wondered, taking another turn, “that the only for this government is to attack?”

Up came Baird, nearly frothing with sarcasm. The PM looked on gleefully.

“Attack John!” yelped a Liberal voice. “Attack!”

And so he did, the Environment Minister all-too-eager to explain how the Liberals were conspiring against the elderly.

Martha Hall Findlay rose and asked the Finance Minister to account for the economy’s shrinkage (a rather personal matter the economy might be left to address privately).

“Mr. Speaker,” lamented Jim Flaherty, “it is regrettable to see a new member of Parliament so pessimistic about our country.”

Indeed it is regrettable to see so many Canadians feeling likewise—”Consumer confidence in Canada has plunged and is at its lowest point in more than seven years,” read the morning news report—but surely that has more to do with Hall Findlay’s untold influence than anything the current administration has so far done.

“Attack Jim!” cried the Liberals. “Attack!”

Eventually, discussion turned back to the circumstances of Boo Boo Bernier’s final bungle. As rude as it is to speak ill of the politically dead, Bob Rae was sent up to wonder aloud exactly how the lads opposite could justify anything less than a public inquiry into the matter.

Giggles Van Loan was only to happy to take this one, disparaging Rae’s time as premier of Ontario and proudly avoiding even vague reference to the issue at hand.

Rae came back, intent on asking his question again. But before switching to French, he paused to acknowledge the House leader’s efforts in a language the louts might better understand.

“I have,” Rae posited, “heard worse from better people, Mr. Speaker.”

At that, even the Prime Minister, hunched in his seat, appeared to smile slightly.

The Stats. Maxime Bernier, 12 questions. The environment, nine questions. The economy, provincial relations, cities, ethics, Brian Mulroney and abortion, two questions each. Afghanistan, the budget, Tom Lukiwski, drugs, cluster bombs and tourism, one question each.

Peter Van Loan, 10 answers. Stephen Harper, eight answers. John Baird, seven answers. Rob Nicholson, four answers. Jim Flaherty, three answers. Christian Paradis and Brian Jean, two answers each. Tony Clement, David Emerson and Jim Prentice, one answer each.

Sound Effect of the Day.
When Liberal Sue Barnes rose to wonder why the famously repentant Tom Lukiwski has so far failed to meet with the gay and lesbian community in Regina, the Conservative benches audibly hissed.

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