You know, it’s amazing how a former candidate holding a screem in the middle of a committee room can reenergize a hearing. Spirits are high – at least, in every part of the room except Conservative Corner.
Dean del Mastro unwisely takes a shot at Pat Martin before the meeting gets underway: “Are you going to attack that witness too?” He asks, pointing at poor. Francois Bernier. “Are there any lunatics left in the room?” Martin shoots back, which cracks up the audience.
Sam Goldstein’s webmaster, by the way, might be somewhat surprised by the sudden upswing in hits this afternoon, as opposition staffers have been merrily passing out printouts of the site. Our working theory now: He resolves stress for his clients by absorbing it all himself, and releasing it, all at once, at parliamentary committees. It’s like the Arc of the Covenant, but with demands for payment upfront.
Paul Szabo opens the meeting with an explanation — when a meeting suddenly finds itself confronted with audience participation, the chair has the power to suspend it without warning, which is exactly what he did – in the interests of the committee, and the public, and livebloggers, and democracy as a whole.
Okay, only the first two, but I bet he was thinking the rest.
After a few backs and forths between the chair and Martin, the latter withdraws his motion.
Unbelievably, Dean del Mastro is now trying to – well, not exactly defend Goldstein’s unforgettable appearance this morning, more ignore it entirely so he can once again accuse the committee of not wanting to hear from him. Even though it was his party that voted against allowing Goldstein to testify after the other witnesses.
Pat Martin makes noises of disgruntlement, but Del Mastro defends his interjection -“It is too a motion!” Alas, it does not appear to be the case, because Szabo has moved on, and the questioning of Marc Mayrand has resumed.
In response to a question from Karen Redman, Mayrand confirms that the law changed between 2004 and 2006 – “the law changes all the time.”
Can a campaign agree to transfer expenses before a candidate has been nominated? Mayrand seems unsure of what she means – it would have to count as expenses, and be listed as such. Mayrand says that the contracts have to be for goods and services used during the campaign. “I’m not sure who is running a campaign if there’s no candidate,” Mayrand says, finally.
Oooh. It would seem that there may be another potential violation of the law. I bet the Conservatives are glad they agreed to keep Mayrand around for the afternoon.
David Tilson is reading the names of MPs whose expense reports have not been finalized – all NDP and Liberal, that is – so I think I’ll take a moment to do a staff check.
Conservative side: three staffers and A. Hamilton
Opposition side: six staffers, apparently no legal counsel
“We have made allegations,” says Tilson. I think it’s safe to say we all agree with him on that. He’s making rather a leap here, though – just because a report hasn’t been finalized, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the numbers; it could be administrative, or it could be something entirely unrelated to expenses.
It’s also a bit of a stretch to claim that all these files are “under investigation”.
This is the dullest timewaster ever – Tilson is just reading names and ridings into the record, and he goes crazy when the chair mildly suggests that he move it along. “This is my question and I’ll ask it however I want, and you’ll just sit there!”
At which point he runs out of time without ever actually getting to the question.
Massimo Paccetti gives Mayrand the opportunity to answer, asking what other kinds of expense claims have been rejected – telephone, rent, that sort of thing. What about transfers of employment? Mayrand can’t confirm or deny that, and seems uncomfortable with the line of questioning; he doesn’t want to name specific candidates.
Okay, that was mostly to reestablish the fact that there are no other known examples of transfers of this kind.
Dean del Mastro is about to get tripped by his own loose end – he’s trying to equate an unfinalized expense claim with a “flag” – which, he says, is “the term used by the jury”, which gives Mayrand the opportunity to explain that under review is not the same as an investigation.
In other words, there is absolutely no reason to think that any of these claims have anything to do with transfered expenses.
Oh, good – that worked so well that Del Mastro brings up the allegedly fabricated invoice, and his exceptionally awkward analogy to blocking out a credit card bill – as opposed to printing out your own, adding the GST, and submitting them to Elections Canada – and Mayrand refuses to play that game. He doesn’t know.
Szabo comes out with his own example, and notes that a Visa bill “is not an invoice.” Goodyear then pretends that Szabo is answering his own question as though he has the authority to answer by Elections Canada.
Dean del Mastro has a pout of order – the chair deliberately “changed” a statement that he made as far as falsification of a document. Entering evidence before the panel! Misdirection!
The Conservatives are now handing out a list of all campaign returns that are still being reviewed – oh, sorry, that would be all opposition returns; there isn’t a single Conservative listed, although there are definitely some candidates whose reports haven’t been finalized, and are under review.
“Are you saying all these returns are under investigation?” I ask, and the staffer assures me he is not – they are under review.
The heading at the top of the sheet: “List of MPs/Candidates under investigation”.
To his credit, the staffer cheerfully acknowledges that this is not the case, and that the files are merely under review. Even Libby Davies.
Pat Martin manages to raise the spectre of sponsorship again – there were nightly perp walks of guilty Liberals, and the Conservatives were rolling in cash that they couldn’t spend. Woe! What to do?
He then muses about Goldstein, and his “little fit” earlier today, and then closes down without even asking a question.
We’ve now received new copies of the list, this time entitled “List of MPs/candidates under review”. So that’s all good.
David Tilson brings up an issue close to his heart, what, he somewhat dubiously claims is now “widely known” as the Mayrand Accommodation, if by “widely known” you mean “at this table.”
This is almost pitiful to watch – David Tilson is trying to uncover a dark conspiracy between Marc Mayrand and the chair to take over the world. Oh, or to set a date for his appearance. Same thing. He also demonstrates a somewhat baffling lack of understanding of the sub judice principle. “Did the chair offer to protect you?” He asks Mayrand, who doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. “Maybe not in those words, but …”
The Sub Judice Conspiracy. It goes all the way to the top.
Carole Lavallee has had enough – she wants to table a motion to release the witnesses, and move onto the next order of business, which incites the predictable reaction from the — I was going to write “opposition”, but I meant government, of course.
The chair eventually grasps her intent, and invites her to do so – it’s not debateable, and he puts the question right now: Should the committee move to the next order of business?
Why yes, it shall.
Oh, this isn’t going to go over well at all.
More hurt than angry, Gary Goodyear complains that the documents he so impassionedly demanded yesterday are only available now. “It’s too little, too late,” he says sadly, staring at the now-empty seats vacated by the guardian of Canada’s democracy, and his legal services sidekick.
Szabo is now going through his response to yesterday’s charges from the Conservatives – banning Doug Finley, withholding documents, not swearing in witnesses … You know, the usual.
Szabo is replying, point by point – do I really have to recap it? Basically, he contests every point, and rebuts every condemnation, while his minions of clerkdom whirl about the room, handing out documents.
The staff table is slowly being buried in piles of paper – soon I’ll not be able to do status counts. Szabo is still answering Gary Goodyear, who is busily making notes of his own for the inevitable counterrebuttal.
“I accept your … thing,” he continues, almost to himself at this point.
Pat Martin, who has had it once again, tells the chair that he doesn’t actually have to go through “every one of the little petty grievances” that Goodyear and his colleagues have put forward over the last few days. There is actual business to get done, he notes – so why not get to it?
“Sometimes you have to let a little venting happen,” Szabo points out – to Martin, but it really applies to everyone, including the chair himself.
Carole Lavallee gets the floor finally – finally – and she has a motion to introduce, but only as a warning, that would authorize the chair to go to the Speaker for a warrant, it would apply to all the no-show witnesses from the last week. She doesn’t propose debating it *now*, but wants to table it, so it can be passed if necessary. She wants these potential Speaker’s warrantees to “take the time to think about it,” and, eventually, she hopes, choose to come back. Talk to lawyers – not, she suggests Conservative Party lawyers – and make that decision.
“We are asking the Conservatives to respect this institution,” says the member whose party is, in theory, dedicated to breaking up the country. She begs the governing party to “think about the consequences” – if they care about law and order; these witnesses should be here.
Man, she really is sane, isn’t she?
Szabo interrupts her, eventually, to note that this once again means he might have to issue warrants.
David Tilson takes issue with the claim that there was no need to give notice for this motion, and – I don’t know, I don’t think *he* even knows why he’s objecting.
Oh, the Conservatives want to up the ante and force the committee to report to the House, at which point they’re counting on the Speaker ruling the whole study out of order.
The amendment is in order, but I’m doubtful it will actually pass, and Lavallee really doesn’t think much of the amendment. It doesn’t seem to include any of her original motion – in letter *or* in spirit. I’d have to agree; actually.
Szabo tries to reassure her that it’s all going to be alright – and then Dean del Mastro goes off on a long tirade about how important it is to report all this to the House “at the earliest possible time”.
Dean del Mastro hopes I’m paying attention. Well, he said “people in the back” but I’m taking it personally. If the opposition parties don’t vote for his motion, this is “nothing but a kangaroo court”.
Okay, I’m going to say this one more time: If a summons has been issued for you, you have been summonsed. If it isn’t served, you have indeed not been served with a summons, but you have, indeed, been summonsed.
Pat Martin is in full flight – this committee is in the vanguard, and Parliament is under attack! These people aren’t fit to govern, or even manage a political party, he says – and he wants these witnesses here, but he opposes del Mastro’s “latest mischief” – whatever it is.
He knows what the Conservatives are trying to do, and it’s a slippery slope.
“We want bums in those seats,” he concludes. He’s voting against Del Mastro, and in favour of Carole Lavallee.
Karen Redman, meanwhile, plays Good Cop, and reminds Del Mastro of all the very, very valid points that his colleagues have made about vacation, and some people not receiving summonses, and kidney replacement, and – wait, not that last one. Anyway, in the spirit of mercy, she will support the Lavallee motion.
Passive aggressiveness. Is there anything it can’t do?
Gary Goodyear is hurt that the other members have such little faith in his motivation. Meanwhile, Massimo Paccetti just sent Dean del Mastro into momentary but intense visible distress by reminding the chair that the committee “still has to hear from Mr. Goldstein”. Cue a panic-stricken Del Mastro scanning the back of the room, but luckily for him, there is no sign of the Screaming Sam.
Okay, that was just mean, guys. He’s had a very trying day.
Do I really have to keep typing out talking points? Really? I think I’ve covered the basics here – although I’m shocked, really, by how little faith Del Mastro seems to have in the ability of Doug Finley and Patrick Muttart to change their minds, and come forward voluntarily.
Pierre Lemieux believes that totalitarianism is when six MPs consistently outvote five MPs, and that’s just about all there is to say about his views on parliamentary democracy.
“I think all our grievances are on the record,” says Lemieux. Indeed. No further comment necessary.
Szabo almost – but not quite – makes it to the vote, but it turns out he accidentally gave Voice of Sanity’s spot on the speaker list to Pierre Lemieux. He apologizes and gives her the floor.
We’re almost through here, people. Courage. Courage! (Okay, that was mostly for my benefit.)
Dave Tilson is now waving a white flag – or napkin, at least, across the floor, which is the first evidence I’ve seen of him having a sense of humour.
Finally – the vote. First the subamendment – the one that will be defeated – and then, the Lavallee motion, which will pass.
Oh, am I spoiling? Sorry.
I was right, though – and I think we’re done. As long as Sam Goldstein doesn’t suddenly materialize – which he hasn’t – we’re adjourned.
Camp In and Out is now out of session. Bring on the next round — after a suitable break!