The Commons: The Prime Minister gets all hot and bothered

Helpfully, Peter Van Loan cools him off with a glass of water

The Scene. Someone somewhere the other day was lamenting the Prime Minister’s appearance. Not his physical condition mind you—on the contrary, as the Globe exhaustively explained some weeks ago, the PM is down several pant sizes and eyeing the 2010 Olympics.

No, the concern expressed was for the man’s apparent spirits. Seems the Prime Minister’s been looking a bit down lately. Slouching a bit more dejectedly than usual, perhaps.

Ah, but let us never doubt the resiliency of this future decathlete. For no sooner had he begun to seem in desperate need of vacation, then he roused himself—bringing to life once more the vicious partisan this country first fell sort of in love with two years ago.

That the morning brought salacious accusations of forgery and hoax and Chuck Cadman is surely coincidence.

The issue to inspire him this day was actually the economy. Or, more precisely, his ability or lack thereof to keep Canada from sliding into dreaded recession.

“The latest numbers show that in the first quarter of 2008 Canada had the worst performing economy in the G7,” explained Stephane Dion, labouring with a bit of a cold himself. “When will the Prime Minister admit his finance minister’s rosy words are wrong, that Canada’s economy is in trouble? When will the Prime Minister wake up and smell the coffee?”

For reasons completely mysterious, the Liberals are apparently quite fond of this turn of phrase. But whatever the relevance of brewed caffeine to the matter at hand, such a colloquialism never fails to sound a bit funny coming from the mouth of such a distinguished francophone.

In any event, the Prime Minister would not tolerate such an attack, questioning no less than Mr. Dion’s patriotism in response.

“I can tell the House having talked to virtually all of our G8 leaders last week, they would love to have an economy like Canada’s,” Mr. Harper revealed, “and it is such a disappointment that all the opposition does is run down our country.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Dion wouldn’t take “shut up” for an answer and kept at it, eventually suggesting the Prime Minister might dispatch his Finance Minister to wherever he’s exiled Maxime Bernier.

“The reality is that the fundamentals of the Canadian economy are strong due to the actions of the Minister of Finance, especially his actions in cutting taxes, in cutting taxes early and deep before there was a recession,” the PM declared. “The leader of the opposition wants to impose new taxes that would put this economy into recession. That is why he is not fit to be Prime Minister of this country.”

Again with the fitness. The man starts walking round the block a few times each week and suddenly he’s Jim Thorpe.

The Bloc was up next, wondering why the Prime Minister was so reluctant to appear before a parliamentary committee to account for the bungling Mr. Bernier.

“If the Bloc has a substantive question,” snarled the PM, “I’m waiting for it.”

Well, said the Bloc’s Serge Ménard, here’s one: Did the RCMP inform the Prime Minister of Ms. Couillard’s dodgy dating history? This though was apparently not substantive enough to merit standing, so Mr. Harper let Peter Van Loan take a turn.

And afforded a short rest, the Prime Minister was then well-energized to disparage the NDP’s Jack Layton, pointing and shouting and dismissively sweeping his hand at all those who would raise taxes. Fine stuff, all of it. Or at least good theatre—the Conservatives enthusiastically applauding like the patrons of the arts that they so obviously are.

A moment later though, Van Loan was back up, attempting to make a mockery of Bob Rae (Mr. Rae was apparently once the premier of Ontario and, by many accounts, it didn’t go so well). For whatever reason, this required the House leader to gesture wildly with his right hand. And that just so happened to result in the knocking of a glass of water—the contents of which were deposited all over the Prime Minister sitting nearby.

“You’re all wet!’ cried Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale.

“You’re swimming in half truths,” chirped Marlene Jennings, stretching the limits of appropriate water-based analogy.

A red-faced Mr. Van Loan was visibly mortified, all-but-grovelling for forgiveness at the PM’s feet as napkins were fetched for Mr. Harper to sop up the mess. When a page brought the House leader a new glass of refreshment, Van Loan made a point of placing it to his left side (soaking Josée Verner is apparently a preferable option).

The Prime Minister though seemed decidedly unfazed, laughing good-naturedly at the sudden dampness of his suit, even joking with Michael Ignatieff across the way. Odd what an opportunity to publicly demonize one’s opponent can do for the wounded political spirit.

The Stats. The economy, 10 questions. Maxime Bernier, eight questions. The environment, four questions. Food prices, NAFTA, Omar Khadr, diplomacy, tourism and copyright law, two questions each. Health care, taxes, natives and sports, one question each.

Peter Van Loan, eight answers. Stephen Harper, seven answers. John Baird and Jim Flaherty, four answers each. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Gerry Ritz, Tony Clement, Deepak Obhrai, Stockwell Day, Diane Finley and Jim Prentice, two answers each. Chuck Strahl, one answer.

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