The Commons: Let us build a bridge

Upon this we must drive together toward the future. Or at least Verdun.

Be it so decreed that something must be done about the Champlain Bridge. On this we are all agreed. On this we are united. Upon this we must drive together toward the future. Or at least Verdun.

Or so we might, if we were not so divided on pretty much every other matter raised this evening. There are apparently some gaps not even the Champlain Bridge can transcend.

For instance, hockey metaphors. Or, more specifically, the proper hockey metaphor to describe the usefulness of Bloc Québécois and New Democrat MPs in the House of Commons.

It was Mr. Layton—with another of his one-liners—who suggested the Bloc Quebecois was a team composed entirely of defencemen. And only the NDP, he figured, with all due respect to the legacy of Doug Harvey, could score goals.

Mr. Duceppe was moved, at least enough to extend the metaphor. The Bloc team, he noted, had long been fielding a team of more players than the NDP side. Presumably this power play made up for the Bloc’s lack of offensive skill.

From the other side of the room, Mr. Ignatieff felt it necessary to say something on the subject—whatever it was we were now talking about. What goals, he wondered aloud, had the NDP ever scored?

Mr. Harper, perhaps thinking this—like the “parliamentary squabbling” he would later lament—to be beneath him, declined to engage and so Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Layton segued, not at all awkwardly, into a discussion of the firearms registry.

Save for the bits that had nothing to do with anywhere other than Quebec, tonight’s debate was, not least because of this hockey tangent, a slightly better show than last night’s engagement. Properly warmed up, the leaders were more ready for these two hours. Mr. Duceppe, for instance, seemed to have had a good night’s sleep, while Mr. Ignatieff seemed simply to have taken a deep breath before arriving to the studio.

Mr. Layton seemed almost to be bursting with enthusiasm. Sensing his opportunity, he was the demonstrative and forceful and well-stocked with choice words for everyone in sight. The moderators were lucky to escape without the NDP leader demanding to know what they’d accomplished these last five years for the sake of ordinary Canadians.

Mr. Duceppe was in his element. He seems placed here on earth to do three things: demand more of everything for Quebec; complain about a lack of everything for Quebec; and debate the 1981 patriation of the constitution. Here he had nearly two hours to alternate between these causes, with a few moments set aside to torment Mr. Harper about their dealings in 2004.

Mr. Ignatieff remembered here that he had a platform to peddle. And so at every opportunity tonight he had a policy to promote. Struggling to mind your middle class family? Mr. Ignatieff’s government will give you somewhere to send your preschooler and help you take care of your mother. Worried about crime? Mr. Ignatieff will send easily distracted young people to university. Thinking about living in a democracy? Mr. Ignatieff will respect that.

For the last week, Mr. Harper’s advisors meanwhile have apparently been yelling at him incessantly to smile, untold hours spent practicing this basic gesture of contentment. Tonight was Mr. Harper’s chance to prove all the work was worth it. And so after every denouncement, Mr. Harper would smile. After every protest, a smile. After every pronouncement, a smile. Even when listening to the scathing criticism of an opponent, Mr. Harper’s mouth would take the approximate shape of a smile.

If his facial expressions remain a struggle, he has his patter down pat. Raising the corporate tax rate by one and a half percentage points will impose catastrophic calamity upon the nation, sparing no man, woman or child. The answers to almost all problems are contained in his side’s most recent budget. A Conservative government will continue to keep taxes low while doing everything anyone asks of government. The $11-billion in cuts he mentioned the other day will only deal with “inefficiencies”—most of it saved, one assumes, by forcing bureaucrats to print memos on both sides of the paper.

So far as la belle province is concerned, Mr. Harper’s appeal is somewhat simpler—Notre région au pouvoir, your region in power. Or as he put it shortly after the other leaders had explored Mr. Layton’s hockey metaphor, only the Conservatives can deliver the “merchandise” for Quebec.

Here for Canada then, with a new stereo or living room set for whoever elects a Conservative MP in Quebec. And a bridge. A bridge to somewhere.

The Commons: Let us build a bridge

  1. Perfect Mr Wherry….perfect. Bravo.

  2. Perfect Mr Wherry….perfect. Bravo.

  3. I just wikied said bridge and found out the Feds own it. Am I the only one who didn't know this?

    • It spans the Saint Lawrence Seaway which the federal government also owns. It's a huge structure built by and owned by the federal government. There is not a Montrealer who doesn't know this.

      • In fact there are plenty of the giant Government of Canada signs on it, Perhaps this government has replaced them with their "Harper Government" signs but it is a Federal responsability!!!

        Aaron, you and many other non-Québec journalists to a great disservice to your readers by not being aware of this fact and using the fact that it is mentioend in a debate to demogogue about parochialism when, since you got it wrong, you are the ones showing how parochial you are.

  4. I just wikied said bridge and found out the Feds own it. Am I the only one who didn't know this?

  5. Don't forget snowmobile trails and hockey rinks the infrastructure around hockey rinks.

  6. Don't forget snowmobile trails and hockey rinks the infrastructure around hockey rinks.

  7. The moderators were lucky to escape without the NDP leader demanding to know what they%E2%80%99d accomplished these last five years for the sake of ordinary Canadians.

    LOL…good one. I realised something tonight. When i see or hear jack i'm impressed, in the debates a lot. But when i read what he has said, much of the gloss looks exactly that, just gloss. I'd like to see the guy get to be PM – now if only he were a liberal.

  8. The moderators were lucky to escape without the NDP leader demanding to know what they'd accomplished these last five years for the sake of ordinary Canadians.

    LOL…good one. I realised something tonight. When i see or hear jack i'm impressed, in the debates a lot. But when i read what he has said, much of the gloss looks exactly that, just gloss. I'd like to see the guy get to be PM – now if only he were a liberal.

    • The reason Layton appears to be " just gloss " is because he is just that. When you are the leader of a Party that has never had and never will have the burden of actually governing and making the tough decisions that come with that, then your total focus every day is to campaign. That`s it—say what ever you think will get you a headline—NDP`ers will never have to follow through on any of their gloss—-just show up every day and see what your country can do for you.

      So when I see a Lib-supporter say he would like to see Layton as PM, I first think—-now I know why the Liberals have little appeal to middle-of-the road Canadians—they have become NDP-lite.
      Then, I think, I never know when these guys are kidding anymore.

  9. The moderators were lucky to escape without the NDP leader demanding to know what they'd accomplished these last five years for the sake of ordinary Canadians.

    LOL…good one. I realised something tonight. When i see or hear jack i'm impressed, in the debates a lot. But when i read what he has said, much of the gloss looks exactly that, just gloss. I'd like to see the guy get to be PM – now if only he were a liberal.

  10. It spans the Saint Lawrence Seaway which the federal government also owns. It's a huge structure built by and owned by the federal government. There is not a Montrealer who doesn't know this.

  11. Unlike the one the night before, I totally enjoyed this debate. The most important thing I heard was Layton explaining his actions in 2004 with Harper and Duceppe and how he backed out of the trio when he realized what Harper was up to. At that point Duceppe declared proudly that he got in 2004 what he wanted from Harper: money, some billions negotiated between Harper and Duceppe on 'fiscal imbalance'. It became clear, the memories of the Bloc Quebecois supporting The Harper Government in its first steps while Bill Graham in the interim led his MPs to vote against the government.

    Duceppe is the biggest gidoune Quebec has ever sent to Ottawa. He spends his political carreer and our ears in thirteen debates complaining about Quebec's exclusion from the 'constitutional family' yet when he gets a crack at getting inside the family he asks for money and displays no interest in the constitution. And Harper was happy to cooperate in this shameful scam: deux guidounes!

    To me that's what really transpired in last night's debate, is the tragic and totally irrational behaviour of nationalism and regionalism. Les Québécois want to return "dans le girond constitutionell' they say on the one side of the mouth while they vote twenty years straight, en bloc, for a party who has no interest in pursuing this and who blames the others for this failure. Albertans also want in and support a leader and a party that has misspent taxpayers' money on all fronts, so they can merrily complain about all the money they send to Ottawa going to Quebec.

    Dans ce tas de fumier, Michael Ignatieff shone as the only leader capable of steering the ship.

    • Great points. And I guess so long as the Liberals are in power, then Ontario will be happy as a clam, and when they fall out of power, Ontario can go on blaming the rest of the country for being nothing but a bunch of regionalists.

      • From what I gather from the polls, Ontarians don't give a damn that Ignatieff's riding is in Ontario! His Ontario credentials don't register with voters in this province. Harper wouldn't stand a chance in Alberta if he represented a riding in Ontario. Alberta would just create another regional party. They spring like fiddleheads in early May. And Duceppe is winning Quebec seats because he is a Québécois. As they say in Quebec, votons Québécois.

      • Remember that until now Ignatieff, who represents an Ontario riding, was not at all popular in Ontario.

        And in my opinion, if Harper was an Ontario MP he wouldn't have all the seats he now has in AB! You'd see another regionalist party come to life.

        As for Duceppe, the way they say it in QC – votons Québécois.

  12. Unlike the one the night before, I totally enjoyed this debate. The most important thing I heard was Layton explaining his actions in 2004 with Harper and Duceppe and how he backed out of the trio when he realized what Harper was up to. At that point Duceppe declared proudly that he got in 2004 what he wanted from Harper: money, some billions negotiated between Harper and Duceppe on 'fiscal imbalance'. It became clear, the memories of the Bloc Quebecois supporting The Harper Government in its first steps while Bill Graham in the interim led his MPs to vote against the government.

    Duceppe is the biggest gidoune Quebec has ever sent to Ottawa. He spends his political carreer and our ears in thirteen debates complaining about Quebec's exclusion from the 'constitutional family' yet when he gets a crack at getting inside the family he asks for money and displays no interest in the constitution. And Harper was happy to cooperate in this shameful scam: deux guidounes!

    To me that's what really transpired in last night's debate, is the tragic and totally irrational behaviour of nationalism and regionalism. Les Québécois want to return "dans le girond constitutionell' they say on the one side of the mouth while they vote twenty years straight, en bloc, for a party who has no interest in pursuing this and who blames the others for this failure. Albertans also want in and support a leader and a party that has misspent taxpayers' money on all fronts, so they can merrily complain about all the money they send to Ottawa going to Quebec.

    Dans ce tas de fumier, Michael Ignatieff shone as the only leader capable of steering the ship.

  13. Speaking of the Seaway and the bridge, it is estimated that 60 million vehicles used the Champlain Bridge last year. The bridge is fully owned by the federal government as it spans the also fully owned by the federal government St Lawrence Seaway. It is approximately 6 kilometer in length. The old bridge is now considered dangerous. Want to go for a drive between Montreal and Brossard?

    • Should have kept the tolls instead of dropping them in 1990 – $0.25 wasn't a big deal.

      • HA! You should have seen the traffic when they had the tolls. I'm sixty years old, I remember that very well.

        Sixty million vehicles use this bridge every year. On weekdays rush hour, it now takes one to one and half hour to cross to the South shore – without stopping for the tolls!

        • Presumably, though, the money not collected since 1990 could have been recycled into improvements and expansion to meet the growth?

  14. Speaking of the Seaway and the bridge, it is estimated that 60 million vehicles used the Champlain Bridge last year. The bridge is fully owned by the federal government as it spans the also fully owned by the federal government St Lawrence Seaway. It is approximately 6 kilometer in length. The old bridge is now considered dangerous. Want to go for a drive between Montreal and Brossard?

  15. Yesterday's edition of the Toronto Sun had a front page picture of Michael Ignatieff with the headline "Channeling Chairman Mao." Will they do the same with Steve?

  16. Yesterday's edition of the Toronto Sun had a front page picture of Michael Ignatieff with the headline "Channeling Chairman Mao." Will they do the same with Steve?

    • How long before they begin using Fraktur as a typeface?

      • Heh.

    • They will never say anything negative about their own, republican/conservatives. Just wait till they launch Fox News North I hear sometime this week? Who will be the conservative Glenn Beck?

  17. The reason Layton appears to be " just gloss " is because he is just that. When you are the leader of a Party that has never had and never will have the burden of actually governing and making the tough decisions that come with that, then your total focus every day is to campaign. That`s it—say what ever you think will get you a headline—NDP`ers will never have to follow through on any of their gloss—-just show up every day and see what your country can do for you.

    So when I see a Lib-supporter say he would like to see Layton as PM, I first think—-now I know why the Liberals have little appeal to middle-of-the road Canadians—they have become NDP-lite.
    Then, I think, I never know when these guys are kidding anymore.

  18. Great points. And I guess so long as the Liberals are in power, then Ontario will be happy as a clam, and when they fall out of power, Ontario can go on blaming the rest of the country for being nothing but a bunch of regionalists.

  19. From what I gather from the polls, Ontarians don't give a damn that Ignatieff's riding is in Ontario! His Ontario credentials don't register with voters in this province. Harper wouldn't stand a chance in Alberta if he represented a riding in Ontario. Alberta would just create another regional party. They spring like fiddleheads in early May. And Duceppe is winning Quebec seats because he is a Québécois. As they say in Quebec, votons Québécois.

  20. Should have kept the tolls instead of dropping them in 1990 – $0.25 wasn't a big deal.

  21. HA! You should have seen the traffic when they had the tolls. I'm sixty years old, I remember that very well.

    Sixty million vehicles use this bridge every year. On weekdays rush hour, it now takes one to one and half hour to cross to the South shore – without stopping for the tolls!

  22. How long before they begin using Fraktur as a typeface?

  23. In fact there are plenty of the giant Government of Canada signs on it, Perhaps this government has replaced them with their "Harper Government" signs but it is a Federal responsability!!!

    Aaron, you and many other non-Québec journalists to a great disservice to your readers by not being aware of this fact and using the fact that it is mentioend in a debate to demogogue about parochialism when, since you got it wrong, you are the ones showing how parochial you are.

  24. I recall Bob Rae struggling with exactly what you describe: taking power after a career of hyperbole he never could have dreamed he woudl have to live up to. Never mind that he was faced with a disaster not of his own making and with "choices" that really were the only thing he could have done under the circumstances. He had to act more like a conservative than many conservatives have acted in power.

    This may be the same difficulty, for different reasons, that our PM has had to struggle with. promises made to capture the public imagination are often dificult to support when faced with having to make the real decision, faced with the bald facts. Was there any mystery involved in Income Trusts when he promised not to tax them? I really can't see how there could have been. But people were anxious to hear someone unequivocally say they wouldn't tax them.

    Chretien had the same problem with Free Trade and GST. Unpopular, but undeniably profitable policy.

  25. Presumably, though, the money not collected since 1990 could have been recycled into improvements and expansion to meet the growth?

  26. Oh I remember well – last time on the old Pont was 1981 (ex was born and raised in Verdun)

    Electronic tolling system would fix much of the traffic problem – the new bridges in greater Vancouver have them.

  27. Excellent points.
    The struggle of Pragmatism over Principles may not be one that is isolated with the NDP Party, but it does seem that Layton, more than other leader, except maybe Duceppe, is aware he will never have to be pragmatic.

  28. Excellent points.
    The struggle of Pragmatism over Principles may not be one that is isolated with the NDP Party, but it does seem that Layton, more than other leader, except maybe Duceppe, is aware he will never have to be pragmatic.

    • He does have that luxury to be sure.

  29. He does have that luxury to be sure.

  30. Tolling won't fix a bridge that is falling apart!!!!

    Though I agree that electronic tolling would bring in money.

  31. Tolling won't fix a bridge that is falling apart!!!!

    Though I agree that electronic tolling would bring in money.

  32. Remember that until now Ignatieff, who represents an Ontario riding, was not at all popular in Ontario.

    And in my opinion, if Harper was an Ontario MP he wouldn't have all the seats he now has in AB! You'd see another regionalist party come to life.

    As for Duceppe, the way they say it in QC – votons Québécois.

  33. Heh.

  34. Presumably this power play made up for the Bloc's lack of offensive skill.

    Fear not, Aaron. The Bloc is mighty offensive.

  35. Presumably this power play made up for the Bloc%E2%80%99s lack of offensive skill.

    Fear not, Aaron. The Bloc is mighty offensive.

  36. Presumably this power play made up for the Bloc's lack of offensive skill.

    Fear not, Aaron. The Bloc is mighty offensive.

  37. And if the tolls were a fair market price, would also discourage excess demand at rush hour.

  38. They will never say anything negative about their own, republican/conservatives. Just wait till they launch Fox News North I hear sometime this week? Who will be the conservative Glenn Beck?

  39. Didn't the Harper government just spend Billions and Billions of dollars in their 'stimulus' package? Somehow they missed our infrastructure like this bridge. But then again, their attitude towards Quebec says it all doesn't it.

  40. Didn't the Harper government just spend Billions and Billions of dollars in their 'stimulus' package? Somehow they missed our infrastructure like this bridge. But then again, their attitude towards Quebec says it all doesn't it.

  41. After listening to the bloc,s ranting for some twenty years about having their own country,I think we should let them have it but only the north shore,south shore would stay as our corridor to the atlantic provinces,thats my price for your so called freedom.what say you bloc?I dont see why we must put up with your constant bribery as you simply dont care about any other part of this great country,put up or shut up.

  42. After listening to the bloc,s ranting for some twenty years about having their own country,I think we should let them have it but only the north shore,south shore would stay as our corridor to the atlantic provinces,thats my price for your so called freedom.what say you bloc?I dont see why we must put up with your constant bribery as you simply dont care about any other part of this great country,put up or shut up.

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