After battling my way to the Hill through winds so strong and persistent that, if I’d been carrying an umbrella, I might well have wound up the accidental nanny to a clutch of cherubic English children, I’m back in East Block, where the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee is poised to drive the democracy zealots at PMO into a rage blackout.
How? By passing a bill that would make the Prime Minister fill the dozen-odd (and growing) empty chairs in the Red Chamber. Those are, of course, the very same chairs that Stephen Harper has vowed will remain empty until he gets his precious piecemeal Senate reforms through Parliament, which almost certainly isn’t going to happen, hence the ongoing attrition in the Upper Chamber. The room is slowly, but surely, filling up with senators and staffers. The mood is far more relaxed than most Commons committees, yet somehow imbued with a casual dignity. Courtliness – I think that’s what it is, although I could just be thinking of Peter Van Loan’s frequent acerbic asides about the “land-owning aristocracy” that, in his mind, populate this place. Or, alternately, the place in his mind that bears little resemblance to this place, depending on your perspective.
Ooh, Senator Larry Campbell is here! He’s the closest thing the Senate has to a rock star.
Five minutes late, but the gavel goes down – it’s time for clause by clause. The chair, Everest the incandescent Joan Fraser, who will hopefully forgive me for that appalling misreading of her nameplate (my defence: I have to keep the faces and names of 308 MPs straight; my wee brain is too stuffed to properly identify senators, and also, I should probably have my eyes checked) reads the clauses, and it goes off without a hitch – not a single amendment, no observations. The bill goes back to the Senate in exactly the same form as it arrived. I guess Van Loan’s presentation failed to stir the seeds of revolution, even amongst his fellow Tories.
“Congratulations, Wilf,” says another senator, as the committee adjourns.
“I love this committee,” confesses Wilf, otherwise known as Wilfrid Moore, the author of the bill and, at least for the day, Peter Van Loan’s own private nightmare.
Chatting with a staffer afterwards, it turns out that the government will propose amendments, but at third reading in the Chamber itself rather than here. That debate will kick off next Tuesday, and ITQ, it scarcely bears mentioning, will be there.
But now – a mad dash across the lawn to catch the Industry meeting, already in progress.