Bury my heart at 269 West Block - The very last Ethics committee. Really. Maybe. - Macleans.ca

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

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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.