The Commons: Wait for the book

Oh what insights Peter Van Loan might one day bestow upon us

The Scene. Down south, where political reputations are taken quite seriously, the chattering classes are all atwitter about a former White House spokesman’s decision to come forward in book form and detail life in George W. Bush’s midst.

Of course, the post-employment tell-all is something of a tradition in U.S. politics. And not only among those who have a war to denounce. Just before this latest tome was released, Doug Feith, former under secretary for defense, was promoting his own account. A true believer in the Bush doctrine, he even appeared on The Daily Show to rather courageously defend what is now so widely scorned. It was, if nothing else, enlightening.

And at this it is surely tempting to wonder what books may one day emerge from the ranks of this Harper government. Which expressions of patent nonsense will come to be denounced. Which expressions of patent nonsense will come to be redeemed.

What, for instance, will Peter Van Loan some day say of his time as government House leader?

No other member has more selflessly risked personal credibility for Stephen Harper’s sake than the man who sits directly behind the PM. Rare is the accusation of scandal that the government House leader has not been left to handle. And Wednesday was another stand-up day for Mr. Van Loan—the Prime Minister’s preferred stand-in rising 23 times to take opposition queries, often swinging wildly in apparent belief that the best defense is a brutish offense.

Faced first with accusations of tarnishing the Maple Leaf abroad—this business of Maxime Bernier has been “covered by 370 news organizations in 28 countries around the world,” Stephane Dion helpfully reported—Van Loan accused the opposition leader of advocating for the invasion of Pakistan.

Never mind that the Prime Minister once desired quite explicitly for Canadian involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

Undaunted, Michael Ignatieff reiterated the international shame of our bumbling Mr. Bernier. Van Loan blustered about the proud history of Conservative diplomacy and the barely concealed communist sympathies of Liberals.

Never mind that the building that presently houses Canada’s foreign ministry is named for a Liberal prime minister—a point Canada’s New Government should no doubt amend so to avoid providing comfort to the reds. And never mind that the man now presently holding the Foreign Affairs position, one David Emerson, was last elected under the Liberal banner.

Ujjal Dosanjh, with the backing of some apparently high-level sources, rose seeking clarity on the stumbles that led to Mr. Bernier’s abrupt dismissal. “Mr. Speaker, I think that there has been actually a fair bit of media attention on this question,” huffed Van Loan. “There is not a lot of mystery.”

“Read the paper!” suggested one helpful voice from the Conservative side.

But with that Bob Rae was up, wondering if Van Loan could account for a report in the morning’s broadsheet that the Prime Minister had known Monday morning of Mr. Bernier’s boo boo—a revelation that, if true, would seem to reflect poorly on various public statements of this government and, indeed, no less than Mr. Bernier’s publicly released letter of resignation.

“Mr. Speaker, I can account for it quite simply,” Van Loan assured. “Sometimes journalists get things wrong.”

Unfortunately for most of us, Peter Van Loan isn’t there each morning to explain which stories we can safely believe and which should be dismissed out of hand.

Instead, we can only hope that one day the House leader might expand more fully on his first-hand knowledge. Indeed, if some enterprising publisher has not yet offered the government House leader a tidy sum of money for his story, the bidding should perhaps start now.

The Stats. Maxime Bernier, 24 questions. The environment, three questions. Drugs, NAFTA, Vic Toews and natives, two questions each. Free trade, economic development and seal hunting, one question each.

Peter Van Loan, 23 answers. Stockwell Day, three answers. Tony Clement, Rob Nicholson, Chuck Strahl and Mark Warawa, two answers each. Jim Flaherty, David Emerson, Jacques Gourde and Loyola Hearn, one answer each.

Caucus Relations of the Day. In the midst of heated debate about something or other, Liberal Carolyn Bennett planted a big kiss on the cheek of her seatmate, Scott Brison.

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