Bury my heart at 269 West Block – The very last Ethics committee. Really. Maybe.


3:29:44 PM
I know I’ve said this before – and I may end up saying it again – but this is almost positively definitely absolutely the last Ethics meeting before the summer break. In fact, it may be my last committee, period, before the summer break. Suddenly, I feel so lost. What will I do with myself without the comforting buzz of a government filibuster?

Then again, they could always bring it back over the summer, should something break wide open on the in and out scandal, or the scourge of veiled voting menaces democracy again.

Man, I miss Procedure and House Affairs.

3:33:49 PM
So who is here for the final countdown? For the Conservatives: Russ Hiebert, David Van Kesteren, Dean Del Mastro and Gary Goodyear; for the Libs: Charlie Hubbard, Sukh Dhaliwal and Marcel Proulx; and for the Bloc: Carole Lavallée and Robert Boucher.

No David Tilson? We may as well shut this thing down right now.

3:35:34 PM
Carole Lavallée is up first; she notes that this is the fifth meeting on the in and out motion. And how many hours of debate? She said eight, but that doesn’t sound like nearly long enough. Anyway, after lots of debate, the Conservatives have made every conceivable argument against it. “They have nothing else to say,” she notes, and she’s tired of it. She wants them to present new arguments, or let the committee vote.

3:37:10 PM
Dean Del Mastro wants to correct the record: the Conservative Party was not searched by the RCMP, he says. Really? Who searched them, then? Sadly, that fascinating point is left unexplored, because the chair realized it wasn’t actually a point of order. Carole Lavallée resumes her plea for sanity, but Gary Goodyear interrupts her, claiming that her threat to shut down debate demonstrates that this committee is “not qualified” to hear this case. Er, study this issue. Any court in the land, he says, would be able to listen to the evidence, and reserve judgment, but this committee is clearly just not that capable.

3:40:57 PM
Pierre Poilievre is here! So is Pat Martin. Gary Goodyear is pretending that there are members of the public listening to him ramble on about the ulterior motive of the Bloc Québécois, who just want to stop him from exposing their perfidious accounting practices.

Are you really out there, members of the public?

Pat Martin, meanwhile, is playing Goldilocks. After unsuccessfully hopping up and down on his chair, he swaps it for another one – just right, apparently.

In the spectator gallery: two possibly-staffers, or very lost tourists, and that man with wooly grey hair and thunderous eyebrows who turns up at almost every meeting.

3:44:41 PM
Szabo has interrupted Goodyear’s tirade, and is trying – very politely – to get him back on topic, but Goodyear vows to return anon to the crimes of the Bloc. “I’ll keep raising my hand until September,” he says.

3:46:54 PM
Szabo once again gives a rundown on what does and doesn’t count as legitimate avenues of debate; it really has to relate directly to the ethics of public office holders, not elections or votes, or political parties, even. This is about individuals. Goodyear reminds him that the chair has the right to allow “latitudity” in debate, which doesn’t sound like a real word at all. I bet I misheard it.

Goodyear then randomly threatens to bring Stephane Dion, for instance, to committee to explain… what? His lack of leaderness? The permanent tax on everything? How to launder excess cash through bogus local ad campaigns? Again, we’ll never know, because the chair reels him back in.

3:51:06 PM
It’s kind of fitting that the final filibusterer may be Gary Goodyear, the man who, as chair, presided over the suffocation of the Procedure and House Affairs committee over the very same issue. It’s like the opposite of irony.

3:52:41 PM
A brief tangent into the now frowned upon practice of drilling into the skull to let out the evil spirits doesn’t really enlighten the committee further on Goodyear’s argument, but does fulfill certain bloodthirsty fantasies some committee members may be entertaining at this point in the meeting.

3:54:11 PM
More bickering over whether this study will look at parties, or candidates – the original motion, Szabo explains, with ever decreasing patience, that this has nothing to do with political parties. Which means you can’t talk about them.

Let a thousand points of order bloom – and at least half of those will come from Pierre Poilievre.

A point of order on a point of order. How fitting.

3:57:41 PM
Pat Martin seems to know the man with poofy white hair! Or else, he’s so bored that he’s driven to make small talk with random passersby. Meanwhile, Pierre Poilievre and the chair are debating the party issue – still – but there’s another point of order within nanoseconds. Dean del Mastro thinks it’s completely disingenuous to claim that this isn’t about parties, but people. “If that’s the case, there are a whole lot of people I’d like to look at!”

Oh, please tell me we aren’t about to discuss the meaning of “public officeholders” again. Please.

4:03:27 PM
Del Mastro just blasted the tyranny of the majority! Drink! (Next to go on the cliche list: “Kangaroo Court”.)

4:04:51 PM

I wish the government would introduce an anti-carbon tax motion here. It would be so entertaining to see the opposition parties devour it alive.

4:05:38 PM
Once again, the chair warns committee members not to cry wolf, because eventually, he’ll just stop taking notice. You know, I think a feral wolf, released at the right moment, could really move this debate along.

4:08:42 PM
Gary Goodyear is getting grumpy – not cranky, that term is reserved for David Tilson – because the chair won’t let him talk about the original motion, but somehow is also forcing him to talk about the original motion. “I’m not going to do it, Paul,” he grouses. Well, in fairness, it sounds like it would be impossible to follow those rules, put that way. He goes back to talking about the Liberals – yes, the Liberals. Did I mention that? He is listing Liberal candidates whose financial returns show transfers to and from the national campaign. “It goes on for pages,” he says. “I just don’t want to waste everyone’s time.”

4:12:34 PM
Oh COME ON. How many times does the chair have to tell the committee – by which I mean the government side of the table – that all MPs are not public office holders; only ministers, and parliamentary secretaries. This is really not that tricky to understand. Even if it was, the fact that it has been explained every single time the issue comes up should have made it sink in. Ben is Glory!

4:16:19 PM
Ben is still Glory! (Translation: they’re still arguing over the definition of public office holders.)

4:19:48 PM
Goodyear is now refusing to give names, but is reading out random financial returns that may or may not belong to a public office holder. He won’t tell us – it’s more fun that way.

4:25:02 PM
Apparently, if this motion is passed, it will be one of the darkest days to befall parliament. This – this fight to the death, this noble struggle – is to do the good work for Canadians. This is a disgrace – a disgrace! – a partisan circus!  And with that bit of deep violet prose, he concludes, and hands the floor over to Del Mastro.

4:29:10 PM
Dean Del Mastro is frustrated that he hasn’t yet been able to get to the point – and he does have one – and the chair sort of waves him back into full oratorical flight. Carole Lavallée is calling repetition on him – or at least, trying to do so – and Pat Martin appears to have fallen asleep, and I don’t blame him a bit.

Lavallée says that she’s been at the last five meetings – me too! – and that she’s been listening carefully, and making notes – hey, could she be my separatist twin? – and this argument has already been made by Pierre Poilievre.

4:32:15 PM
Dean Del Mastro calls a point of privilege – personal privilege, even. He doesn’t care if she’s heard these arguments before; he has the right to speak!

4:33:03 PM

The chair may have finally had it. He points out the obvious – they’ve had ten hours of debate, and the whole thing has degenerated into procedural wrangling, and… Wow. He did have a plan. He wants to go to a vote now – right now – and the chair’s decision has been challenged by… Marcel Proulx? Seriously? But he’s a Liberal!

4:34:37 PM
And the vote: Proulx votes with the chair – I guess the plan was to get the vote on the record – and the chair is sustained! The debate is over.

“Can you imagine what the press is going to say tomorrow?” yells Del Mastro.

Uh, hi! Have you met me? I’m the only journalist here.

The vote, by the way, is going on as the Conservatives yell, scream and now stomp out of the room, yelling “Damn Communists” as a parting shot and telling the remaining committee members to go to hell.

That was gracious.

4:37:28 PM
With that, Del Mastro roars out, leaving only Pierre Poilievre, who is going to get the ITQ award for best behaved Conservative of the day.

4:38:22 PM
The motion passes. The study goes ahead. The Conservatives are very, very angry – and I’m stunned. But what will I write tomorrow? Dean Del Mastro apparently has some suggestions, but he seems to have disappeared.

4:39:32 PM
A little more housekeeping: The Martin motion is held, and as for the letter from Guy Pratte, the committee has to do something, if only if it means sending a sharp, short note back.

4:41:37 PM
The remaining committee members – the opposition, plus Pierre Poilievre – decide to let the chair draft a letter staying the request, and the chair is now speedreading through the agenda. All in favour of getting the hell out of here? Motion carried.

Wow. That was actually worth it. And a fitting way to end the session. Not that I’ll be going away, of course – there are always things that need liveblogging, even when the House isn’t here.


Bury my heart at 269 West Block – The very last Ethics committee. Really. Maybe.

  1. Why does he keep repeating himself instead simply calling G. Goodyear on repetition? SO annoying!

  2. Holy Crow!

    The clerk must be having a heart attack, shouting over the members.

  3. That was wild! No stomping or yelling was lost on parl-vu. Too bad it was just audio, but you paint a great picture Kady.

    I suspect Poilievre has either been reined in, or has realised himself how he was being perceived.

  4. Seriously did some one storm out complaining abiout the “damn Communists” Does this mean that Fred Rose is still infiltrating parliment from beyond the grave. What a brillant plan really, reviving Communism would make conservative ranting sound so much more resonable.

  5. “Damn communists” – I heard it clear as a bell. It was directed at Pat Martin, I think – although it was in the plural, so maybe the Bloc and the Liberals were included. It was a rather chaotic exit.

  6. I’m laughing so hard. I wish I had been there. Consservative debaate gets exponentialy funnier the warmer the weather and the more greivous the =scandal, but ‘damn communists’ may have just about taken the cake.

  7. I can’t believe that the motion actually passed – what a way to end the season. Your earlier “10 points from Slytherin” comment has led to some particularly enjoyable imagery (red, orange, and royal blue banners suddenly pouring down from the ceiling as the Conservatives lose the House Cup, punctuated by Szabo’s gavel).

  8. “Ben is Glory!” I (heart) your geekishness.

  9. Kady,

    Thank you for following our debate in such a playful way. I have always enjoyed your slant but no matter how it is described, what went on over the last 3 meetings was not pretty. Now its time to arrange a date for our first witness which is Elections Canada.

  10. Classy sign-off, Mr. Szabo. So will there be hearings this summer?

    – JV

  11. Whew, Mr. Szabo. My eyes froze part way through
    your last sentence…. is the paltroon putting
    a hit on the fair Ms. Kady? No! He can’t have
    her! Our need is greater. And we must be served.

    Then my eyes recovered and I finished the sentence. It’s alright then.

  12. The Peg is only a couple more warm days away from mosquito winter reaching full bloom. Its going to be tough talking the damn communist into extended sitting.

  13. The Conservatives began today’s House festivities with a point of order asking the Speaker to suspend the Ethics Committee and stop them from studying the CPC’s in & out scheme. Milliken refused with the usual “Committees are masters of their own destiny” lecture. Unfortunately, the Tories can’t take NO for an answer and are still plugging away at this very moment, but Statements and QP will cut off these shenanigans, at least until noon.

  14. GTL, don’t complain. I had a snowstorm last week. The tourists were appalled.

  15. we would have charged extra

  16. So glad to hear you have to work through the summer, Kady. You’re my favourite conversation of the day! I was going to write and ask if you could arrange your holidays when I have mine, but that would just be selfish!

    The “damn communists” parting reminds me of being at a karoake bar with a group of female friends in the nineties, and a very petite man, who favoured sharing his renditions of those heartwrenching, talking country songs like “Teddy Bear” asked one of my friends to dance.

    To someone singing. Badly.

    She politely declined, and a true gentleman, he asked if any of us “lovely ladies” would like to dance, and we all demurred.

    “F*cking d!kes,” was his parting shot.

  17. Is THAT all it took? The chair says enough, calls for a vote, a Liberal dekes the Tories with a challenge of the chair’s decision, a vote sustains the chair’s decision, and the next vote approves the motion?
    Something stinks. The Liberals could have pulled that off a loooong time ago. But no, they wait until nothing can happen for months, as summer will shut everything down. So the Liberals can have their cake but deliberately choose not to eat it, kind of like the hiding-behind-the-curtains during House confidence votes to avoid bringing down the government-that-is-so-damaging-to-Canada-that-we-simply-must-kill-it-whenever-we-get-completely-sick-and-tired-of-trumpeting-how-wise-it-is-to-keep-showing-Canadians-how-bad-this-Tory-government-is.
    Or am I missing something? Kady, oh great procedure-wonk guru, help us digest this last piece of theatre!

  18. madeyoulook: The Citizen is reporting that the hearings will actually happen during the summer. Which may result in due punishment for the Cons’ filibuster: instead of taking place when other matters in Ottawa could distract from the story, they’ll presumably be the only major political story going on at the time.

  19. Actually, this was a pretty bold move for the chair to make – I don’t think it’s been done more than a handful of times in parliamentary history – Canadian, that is. It’s the equivalent of a tactical nuclear strike on filibusterage, which normally is using a hammer to crush an atom.

    Which isn’t to say it wasn’t entirely necessary, in my view. Having watched a similar motion bring down Procedure and House Affairs, I can say with virtual certainty that there was absolutely no way that the vote would have gone forward – like, ever – if the chair hadn’t done this. (Remember, at Proc, the chair was controlled by the Conservatives as well, so he wasn’t about to pull a similar gambit; he was happy to let his colleagues carry on forever.)

  20. Thank you, Jurist and Kady. If your patience can stand a couple more ignorant appeals for enlightenment:

    Q1: Now that the hearings are to proceed, even apparently this summer, is there anything to stop filibustering of the hearings? In other words, rather than an intrepid Maclean’s blogger watching a committee paralyze itself in a regular meeting, now we can have said intrepid blogger, maybe a reporter or two, and a called witness watch the paralysis?

    Q2: At some point, and I suspect we’ve reached it, this embarrassment deserves some kind of authoritative smackdown. Does anyone have that authority? Can the committee chair expel disruptive committee members? Can the Speaker of the House sanction members for their behaviour in committee? Can the Governor General do anything (maybe she never would, traditions and all that, but maybe there is something in law that would let her step in if she had the suicidal courage)?


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