With just a few minutes to go until the afternoon session begins, the Kangaroo Chamber(tm pending) is quiet. *Too quiet.* Wait, no – just exactly quiet enough. The MPs are mostly here, but not engaged in any dramatic battles for free speech and/or democracy; instead, they’re eating lunch and reading the Hill Times.
This afternoon we have an interesting potpourri of witnesses – the mother-son duo from Vancouver East who accidentally launched the whole investigation when the latter allegedly told Elections Canada that the expense was for national, not local advertising, and Liberato Martelli, who is a bit of a wildcard. I don’t think anyone knows what he’s going to say — he’s made some possibly incriminating statements (incriminating of the party, that is — but I don’t know if he’s here voluntarily, or under threat of speaker warrant.
Well, this is disappointing — the Fabulous Pagtakhans aren’t here. Why? Apparently, Szabo was advised earlier this morning that the former candidate – Elizabeth Pagtakhan – wasn’t able to be served because her husband interfered with service of the subpoena, and her son, Denny, avoided it somehow.
Um. Okay. Hope she’s not planning to run on a law and order platform next time around.
David Tilson has a point of order, y’all. I know! When was the last time that happened?
Wait, it’s not a point of order — it’s a point of privilege. “I can’t wait to hear what this is,” mutters Szabo. As do we all. Apparently.
That wasn’t really worth the wait: he’s just grouchy because there is only one witness here — maybe because the other two deliberately avoided service. Coincidentally, two witnesses who would almost certainly have been in the position of defending the party’s conduct, but yeah, it’s all Szabo’s fault. Clearly.
Showing more patience than most of us woud expect, Szabo explains that yes, it’s unfortunate when witnesses dodge service, and avoid bailiffs, and also points out that the party reportedly told some witnesses not to appear. David Tilson demands evidence; apparently, it was in the clerk’s report.
David Tilson, rather unwisely, demands that he table that report. Which he will probably do.
Instead, the chair reads that sentence from the report from the clerk, in which he – the clerk – states that the witnesses told him that the party had instructed them to deny all invitations.
Tilson demands to know whether that is all he has – just the word of the clerk? Well, yes. Is he going to accuse the clerk of lying? Because that seems to be the direction in which he’s heading. To quote Cordelia: “And here’s a lower place.”
Now Tilson is kvetching over the “double standard” of swearing in some witnesses but not others, and there’s another subdebate about sub judice privileges, and I’m still shocked by the implication that the word of the committee clerk can’t be trusted.
Pat Martin is getting fed up by Szabo humouring the points of order coming from the government side, but that’s not going to stop them — Gary Goodyear fumes about accepting “hearsay” from the clerk, and wants to know whether he knew that the two witnesses wouldn’t be here when he “threw out Doug Finley” – “one of the best witnesses we’re going to have”.
Okay, that was hilarious; Gary Goodyear tried to get all Ben Stone on Szabo over the time, and it turns out that the email message came from the clerk at 12:30 — long after the Flight of the Finley. “But … you said ‘this morning’,” our Clarence Darrow hopeful stammers. “It was the morning session,” points out Szabo.
Yeah, time to drop that one, guys. You’ve managed to get your party’s apparent attempt to interfere with witnesses on the record. Somehow. I think there will be more than just process servers trying to reach the Pagtakhan family now.
Paul Szabo muses wistfully about the tradition of the “talking stick” — which would likely end up being wielded as a weapon if put into use at this committee, but his point is taken.
I just heard someone on the Conservative side murmur the word “marsupial.” Whoever had 2:28:49 PM in the pool, you’re a winner!
Finally – *finally* – Martelli is up. He ran against Denis Coderre during the last election, and since then, he’s given at least one exceptionally informative interview with Mike Duffy Live, in which he explained how Benoit Larocque, a local Quebec organizer, called the transaction “just a simple in and out.”
Pat Martin snaps, and accuses the Tories of trying to hijack the meeting by moving yet *another* point of order.
Oh, this one is new – now Lemieux is complaining that the witnesses haven’t been advised of the “legal issues” of testifying on sub judice matters. Of which there are none for anyone but Mayrand, and the parties involved in the judicial review, so that was just an attempt to scare witnesses with legal bafflegab.
Ooh, snap: Martelli tells the committee that he didn’t bring a lawyer because he’s going to say the same thing he told the press last year. “If you guys can’t handle the truth,” he says, directing his gaze at the Conservative members, “that’s your problem.”
Ooh. This might be more interesting than we were expecting.
And – question time. Marcel Proulx is up first, and he asks Martelli to tell his story — basically, he was asked to take a deposit, which would be returned to the party within the same day — “a simple in and out.” The money was deposited – $14,000 – and he eventually got back $8,000 from Elections Canada, which was sent back to the party.
When Michel Rivard looked at the papers — he was the one who did his – Martelli’s – taxes during the campaign, he had him sign “a bunch of papers.”
Carole Lavallee wonders whether he ever saw an invoice for these ad buys — he didn’t.
I’m beginning to see why the Conservatives may not have wanted to give this guy time to speak. He just admitted – somewhat nonchalently – that *of course* he never saw an invoice for the ads, or the ads themselves.
Martelli explains that he noticed the Conservatives were the only party with a surplus of cash — every other party was struggling for money — and he wonderwd why that was. He joined the party, he says, because he believed in their vision — but he doesn’t believe that anymore. “They’ve lost a lot of people,” he notes.
“They had set forth a vision, and there were people who believed in that vision,” he says. “It was disappointing when they pushed it over.”
Yeah, this guy is going to make the news in Quebec, I suspect.
Pat Martin thanks the witness for being here, and says he seems like an “upfront, honest guy.” Let’s try to forget that he said much the same thing about Miriam Bedard, shall we?
Twisting the knife a little, Pat Martin asks how Martelli felt — ethically — about the in and out scheme. “Disappointed,” he says. “A lot of people were disappointed.”
It’s like a licence to print money, muses Martin – $14,000 in, $14,000 out and $8,000 tot the party. That’s what it was, agrees Martelli.
Gary Goodyear up for the defence — er, the Conservatives, and it goes from bad to worse. Asked whether he read the handbook – that accursed, infamous handbook – Martelli says that it was his first election: “I trusted you guys!” Yeah, keep asking questions along those lines, Gary. It’s going brilliantly. “If it was perfectly legal, why would Elections Canada be calling me up and asking questions?”
And at that point, it’s time for a reprise of the Libby Davies Experience, which you might remember from this morning, and which is being re-delivered, word for word, by Gary Goodyear.
When he asks what Martelli thinks, the now former candidate says, thusly: “I don’t think this is about the NDP. I think it’s about the Conservative Party.”
Oh, this guy is so off the Conservative Party Christmas card list. “I think we have a hostile witness here,” says someone — I couldn’t tell which side of the table — to the great amusement of the audience.
Dominic Leblanc once again asks exactly what transpired during that conversation with Quebec organizer Benoit Laroque, and Martelli obliges.
Leblanc repeats Lavallee’s question from earlier, which is why his name isn’t on the list, even though he took part in the scheme. Could there be other candidates? He doesn’t know — but he doesn’t rule it out. He also doesn’t seem to have much faith in his former party, to put it mildly.
You know, the opposition parties should just cede all their questions to the Conservatives — this guy can handle it, and it always goes wrong.
This is novel: Dean del Mastro is now claiming that Martelli wasn’t part of a media buy at all — he didn’t get a rebate from Elections Canada, and he wasn’t part of the scheme. Then why did the party send him $14,000 and take it back? Oh, because they were helping him out, like parties help out candidates … by transferring money in and out of a bank account in a single day? How is that helpful?
Wait, what? Okay, Dean del Mastro claims that, since Martelli got less than ten percent of the vote, he wouldn’t have gotten the money back at all, but how would the party know that?
Oh – never mind. Turns out he got over 15% of the vote, which means that entire Columbo routine was totally pointless, and the entire audience is now cracking up. I’m sorry, but the look on Gary Goodyear’s face was just priceless.
Carole Lavallee has a few more questions – and Martelli has answers, and also takes another shot at the Conservatives. “I don’t trust this party anymore,” he repeats.
Dean del Mastro – not Gary Goodyear as originally reported – tries to preserve what’s left of his dignity by apologizing to Martelli for claiming he got less than 10% of the vote, but insists that he wasn’t part of the regional ad buy. So – uh, yeah.
Pierre Lemieux tries to convince Martelli that it was Perfectly Legal to transfer money from national to local campaigns – which is spectacularly not the point – and the two end up bickering over sign buying. He’s now yelling at the witness, who is sitting, pristine and unfussed.
The chair is trying a new tactic: he seems to be letting the Conservatives use their allotted time pretty much as they please, whether it be reading and rereading the same email from Libby Davies’ former campaign manager, or ranting for ten minutes about how Perfectly Legal the in and out scheme was. It’s an interesting experiment — makes it much harder for the Tories to claim persecution by kangaroos. Unfortunately, it also means we have to listen to Pierre Lemieux.
“You can laugh now, but you’re going to be crying later on,” is Martelli’s reply. He takes issue with the claim that his campaign got money from the national campaign, and — appears to have many more interesting things to say, much to the displeasure of his erstwhile potential former caucus colleagues.
“I got nothing to hide,” says Martelli, who then goes off on a tangent about Stephen Harper’s superficial affinity for Quebec. He wouldn’t come to their ridings, he notes, sadly. It wasn’t losing the election that bothered him, but to “get me involved in their schemes” — that was too much.
Pat Martin, on the other hand, is trying to ask questions so open-ended that Martelli can pretty much say whatever comes into his head.
“If I really wasn’t involved, gentleman, why am I here?” Martelli asks. That was rhetorical, Gary Goodyear, so don’t bother answering.
Charlie Hubbard wonders what the candidate thinks of the revelation that the Conservative Party didn’t include him in that media buy – they didn’t support his candidacy. “Did Senator Fortier help you in the campaign,” Hubbard wonders. No, not at all. Has he had any contact with Fortier since? Not at all – maybe the occasional Christmas card.
Yeah, that won’t be happening again, I suspect. The chair tries nobly to nudge Hubbard back on topic, but the MP just wants to express his sympathy to the witness.
One more intervention from the witness: he thanks the committee for letting him come forward to tell the truth, and then takes another shot at the party, for which the chair frowns at him
And then Mike Wallace plays him out with an inspiring paeon to the leadership of Stephen Harper, since Martelli clearly couldn’t have won that 10% — whoops, make that 15% — of the vote himself. It was all about the Conservatives, and Stephen Harper. Oh, and wouldn’t it have been great to hear from Doug Finley? Yes. Yes, it would. Thank you, and goodnight.
The preceding has been a service of the Stephen Harper Devotional Network.
Paul Szabo points out that he offered to hear from Finley this afternoon, but he refused. He’s now been summoned for Wednesday, and hopefully he will appear. Or they’ll have him dragged *in* by security next time.
A final comment from Martelli – after the half dozen points of order have been dealt with, that is – and then we’ll have a ten minute recess before committee business, which – I’m not sure how that’s going to work, since the member whose motion is up for debate is missing in action.
Where are you, Scott Reid? Where?
In case you were wondering, the chair is still explaining what a public office holder is, what a witness is, how a witness doesn’t have to be a public office holder, why water is wet, how deep is the ocean and miscellaneous other life lessons.
With a flourish, Szabo hands the floor back to Martelli, who thanks “those guys” – the opposition – for being nice; as for “those guys” – the Conservatives – well, they’ll have to live with the consequences.
Gary Goodyear makes a last pitch to have the witness list rewritten to include more of his party’s witnesses, and less of the other. Yeah. See how fast he runs.
And we’re back – just in time for committee business! Most of the media has fled – although Martelli was scrumming in the middle of the room for most of the break, and has only just now left the vicinity.
The committee, meanwhile, is now going over the proposed budget, and David Tilson is grousing over the expense — why so much money being allotted to these proceedings? — as well as the apparent inequity of providing money to some witnesses but not others. Why the double standard? Well, as Szabo explains, many of the witnesses are either a) in Ottawa, and don’t need to have their travel costs covered or b) avoiding service by bailiffs, and won’t be coming to town.
Mike Wallace, however, takes the novel position that the committee should reimburse certain witnesses who came before committee today. Yes, cut a cheque for Doug Finley – that would be the perfect capper to the day.
Oh, and he wants to veto any witness who wasn’t part of the regional ad buy, based on – oh, nothing, really. Just because.
The chair explains, with remarkable serenity, that he has not, in fact, budgeted for witnesses who have declined to appear, but Wallace isn’t ready to give up: He agrees that those who testified today should be paid – “that’s obvious” – but wants to hold off on the vote until tomorrow.
Gary Goodyear is playing Good Cop – he agrees that the witnesses should be reimbursed, since it’s “not their fault” that they’re being “used” by the Liberals. Pat Martin, meanwhile, takes issue with the argument that – hey, shoutout to Mia Rabson from the Winnipeg Free Press, who tracked down another fifty-odd ridings who seemingly used the same modus operandi for polling expenses.
That was a great story.
Pierre Lemieux weighs in against reimbursing witnesses – the taxpayer, don’t you know – and dismisses the testimony from two of the morning’s witnesses, Louise O’Sullivan and Ann Fortier. None of these witnesses are relevant, he insists. None! He wants Canadians to know that they’re paying for “this little vendetta.” Canadians? You’re paying for this show, but honestly, it’s a pretty good one from my seat. A brief segue to the tyranny of the majority, which has brought out anarchy, and now it’s costing money.
Wait, how much money is it that the Conservative Party is attempting to extract from Elections Canada? Remind me again; I think I’ve forgotten. That’s taxpayer money too, I think.
The budget passes – not even all the Conservatives are willing to vote against it, so it isn’t even close.
And now – the motion we’ve all been waiting for: Scott Reid’s proposal to force Elections Canada to hold a second investigation into the alleged leak – and by alleged, I mean “alleged by the Conservative Party” – of the plan to hold a search of Conservative headquarters.
On with the debate!
Hey, Canadians? Sorry to bother you again, but Dean del Mastro says that you really want an independent inquiry into this leak that he claims filled you all with uncertainty over the neutrality of the federal electoral agency.
After that, maybe there could be an investigation into the Conservative Party’s continued suggestion that Elections Canada is in cahoots with the Liberal Party and the CBC, which seems like a more direct assault on the credibility of the organization.
David Tilson is now going to read an excerpt from an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen by former and possibly current Mulroney spokesperson Robin Sears, in which he accused the agency of “stormtrooper” tactics. He doesn’t feel too comfortable that the Conservatives’ election plans are “under lock and key”, however.
All of the opposition parties should be worried, says Tilson. If it can happen to the Conservatives, it can happen to anyone!
Carole Lavallee says that her party believes in independent investigations, and public inquiries – like the one going on today – but notes that the Conservatives have rejected requests for inquiries into two other issues: the Bernier Affair, and the NAFTA leak inquiry, claiming that the matters had already been the subject of internal inquiries. Just like the alleged leak at Elections Canada, in fact.
Funny, that. It’s as though there’s a double standard at play. This is why she gets to be the Voice of Sanity.
Paul Szabo takes the wind out of Gary Goodyear’s now nearly entirely flaccid sails by pointing out that Marc Mayrand actually *did* file the documents that the committee requested last month — about a thousand pages of evidence, which arrived on August 7th, and is being translated as we speak. “Why were you hiding it?” He asks, but you know, his heart doesn’t seem to be in it.
Moving on hastily, Gary Goodyear goes back to safer ground: the leak that nobody but the Conservatives, and possibly Robin Sears, seems to believe with such rock hard, immoveable faith took place, and how we have to find out whether the folks at Elections Canada, or the RCMP, phoned up their “buddies” at the Liberal Party. Yes, the RCMP and the Liberals: a love for the ages. Just ask Ralph Goodale.
Pierre Poilievre may not be here — actually, where *is* he, anyway? — but his legacy liveth on: Patrick Lemieux is reading from his interrogation of Mayrand last month, wherein, Lemieux avers, the three top officials at Elections Canada “investigated themselves,” and found themselves blameless.
That, he says, is just unacceptable. Canadians want to know how the Liberal Camera Crew ™ got there half an hour after CBC first broadcast footage of the raid, only he forgot to add that last part.
Szabo reminds the Conservatives that the committee doesn’t actually have jurisdiction over the Chief Electoral Officer, and can’t order him to do anything — but you know who does? The Prime Minister! So why doesn’t — oh, wait. Turns out that the Tories *do* trust Marc Mayrand — at least, if the alternative is dropping the PM in the middle of it. “I think,” says Goodyear, “that Mayrand *does* believe there was a leak.” Really? Based on what, exactly?
Nevermind – it’s time for the vote.
And that’s it for the motion: Defeated, six to five, split down party lines. Sorry about that, BCMI – but I’m sure you’ll pick up more government work soon. Somehow, it seems like a good bet.
Now Szabo is offering a bone to the Conservatives, and asking if the Bloc Quebecois would mind withdrawing one of its proposed witnesses — former candidates who did not take part in the regional ad buy — and Lavallee says she’ll take it under advisement.
Dominic Leblanc, however, isn’t willing to give up his witness – the former candidate for Brome Mississquoi – as he has spoken out about his refusal to be part of the scheme, and subsequent rejection by the party. He’s still relevant, in other words, as far as the Liberals are concerned.
Gary Goodyear isn’t giving up — he wants to re-review the list of witnesses, to see if there are any others who are irrelevant. Szabo, who isn’t looking nearly as tired as I feel, and most likely look, rules his motion out of order, and the chair is challenged yet again. “Why does Ms. Lavallee get nineteen hours to make her argument?” grumbles a Conservative. Because she’s the Voice of Sanity. Step off.
“You all heard that,” snarls Goodyear. “Canadians heard that!”
Somehow, the ruling survives, and the meeting adjourns. The Conservatives scowl, bang their desks and otherwise demonstrate their deep dissatisfaction with the day; the rest of us make a dash for the exit.
See, wasn’t that fun? Aren’t you looking forward to tomorrow? Maybe Doug Finley will show up again! See you there!