Weekend Notes (Vol. 1, No. 19)

In the print edition this week there are two pages under this byline on the enigmatic Peter Van Loan, thus marking the 376th time I’ve referred to the government House leader in print in my short time with this magazine. This time though there’s further commentary from Ralph Goodale, Michael Ignatieff, historian Ned Franks (who confesses he can’t watch QP anymore) and Senator David Smith.

It is perhaps an under-reported fact that Mr. Van Loan and the Senator, the party stalwart presently charged with running the next Liberal campaign, go back a ways and remain good friends—Senator Smith is quite sure he was the only Liberal at the House leader’s wedding not so long ago.

That there isn’t yet a wild-eyed conspiracy theory about the close association between the Prime Minister’s right-hand man and one of Mr. Dion’s primary election advisors is, suffice it to say, somewhat disappointing. Surely some enterprising blogger should have connected the dots by now. For shame.

—So on Monday, Jack Layton is spotted cavorting around Ottawa with the government’s little yellow army of obedient young people. On Wednesday, the only opposition member acknowledged in the Prime Minister’s apology is the NDP leader. And then on Thursday someone makes sure the Star knows that it was an NDP aide whose wise counsel helped convince the PM to let native leaders speak. What, one might ask, is the possibility that this confluence of events was purely coincidental and is not indicative of anything but happenstance?

—For all the stage-managing of Mr. Poilievre’s apology on Thursday, most of his carefully placed peers weren’t actually visible on TV. Indeed, if I saw correctly later, the only visible Conservative (until the camera pulled back to show Rob Clarke applauding) was Fabian Manning. Next time one of their members needs to publicly grovel, I trust the party’s strategists will have a better understanding of camera angle.

—Going back, if just for a moment, to those young Tories dispatched to spread the good word around Ottawa on Monday, one wonders why the troops weren’t sent somewhere like Winnipeg or Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal. Certainly they might’ve influenced more real people in those places than where they were—standing out front of West Block and loitering around the downtown patios of the capital. Ah, but those cities don’t have the country’s foremost political journalists wandering about, eager to spread word of our democracy across the nation. And, really, why spring for air fare, when the press gallery will deliver the message for you? (See previously, This space for sale.) 

Garth Turner on Pierre Poilievre. “Now the only reason Pierre Poilievre merits this attention is the loss that he represents. He has the abilities to make a positive and perhaps monumental contribution to national life. Seldom does a person of his talent show up on Parliament Hill, able to grasp issues, master House procedure, speak for an entire government and rustle such emotion in others. But seldom, also, does the Hill see such idolatry, raw partisanship or the blind ideology of which it is born.”

—A former colleague of mine at the Post, Sean Fitz-gerald, is writing a series on the CFL, the NFL and the future of the sport in Canada. Interesting reading, whether or not you take Senator Campbell’s Canadian Football Act at all seriously. (Apparently this isn’t even the first time an enterprising Canadian political has tried this trick. Seems Trudeau-era cabinet minister Marc Lalonde introduced his own CFA in 1974, looking to block expansion of the World Football League. And, hey, look how effective that legislation turned out to be.)

Michael Ignatieff and Glen Pearson have now posted their respective thoughts about Wednesday’s apology. And CBC’s unsigned bureau blog has commentary from inside and outside the House. I will say this for the experience inside the Commons: to see the galleries packed and to hear those watching react passionately to what was happening on the floor made for a reinvigorating scene. And while the House could never otherwise allow such noise from spectators (the parties would quickly move to fill seats with shouty partisans, turning Question Period into the equivalent of a high school football game with cheerleaders and pep squads to go with the fragile egos and awkward souls at play), it did, for a moment, feel like the grand stage of democracy we often forget it is.

—In the Peter Van Loan piece above, I recycle the Barney Rubble comparison. A commenter here has previously likened him to Jackie Gleason. And this week a Liberal heckler introduced a new reference: Don Rickles.

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