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The Commons: A question of maturity

Five letter writers connected to Helena Guergis, yet she claims ignorance. What a coincidence.


 

The Scene. “Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Prime Minister,” Bob Rae said quite matter-of-factly. And this being Question Period, the Speaker allowed him to proceed.

“What was supposed to be the Canadian signature initiative on maternal health has been described as completely inadequate by the two major allies, that could get to a microphone, both the United States and the United Kingdom,” Mr. Rae continued. “I wonder if the Prime Minister can explain how such a major diplomatic setback could be occurring in the build up to the G8 which Canada is hosting.”

The Prime Minister stood to put Mr. Rae at ease.

“On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, the initiative on maternal a child health is supported throughout the G8. Of course G8 countries will have different priorities in terms of the specific things they fund. Particularly on the issue of abortion a number of G8 countries have a different position,” Mr. Harper said, without actually saying what his government’s position is.

“Whether it comes to our role in Afghanistan, our sovereignty over our Arctic or ultimately our foreign aid priorities,” Mr. Harper declared, “it is Canada and Canadians who will make Canadian decisions.”

Happy Conservatives leapt to their feet to applaud their leader’s coming-of-age. Indeed, the Prime Minister has surely matured greatly in the seven years since he felt Canada should stand with the Brits and Americans and go charging into war.

If only all the people around him were so enlightened. Alas, if there remains any reason at all to doubt this government’s self-assurance and maturity, it lingers just over Mr. Harper’s right shoulder in the presence of Helena Guergis, a junior minister who the Liberal side eventually got round to mocking with some glee this afternoon.

“Mr. Speaker, the Status of Women minister denies knowledge that her staff wrote a series of fawning letters to newspapers in her riding,” Anita Neville reported with the day’s 13th question. “However the sheer volume of letters demonstrates a troubling pattern of deceit. Not only did her executive assistant, Jessica Craven author at least four separate letters to the editor, but her constituency staffer, Valerie Knight wrote at least three. Does the minister not read her local papers? When will the minister step down for her serial abuses of public trust?”

There were jeers and moans and even a few boos from the government side.

Ms. Guergis stood here and did what she could, which is to say she said as little as possible before retreating to her seat. “Mr. Speaker,” she said, “I did answer this question yesterday in the House.”

In fairness, Ms. Guergis did stand yesterday and answer a question. Unfortunately, that question had nothing to do with the letters of Ms. Knight—the writings of that particular individual not publicly known until hours after Question Period.

Liberal backbencher Alexandra Mendes rose to raise the case of another Guergis associate. Ms. Guergis stood again to insist that she had answered to this matter, even if, again, it had not actually been previously raised.

Now it was Liberal Yasmin Ratansi’s turn. “Mr. Speaker, it shows the minister is totally out of control and her staff is totally out of control,” she ventured. “She has expanded her letter-writing brigade and drafted other member staffers to write on her behalf. Bonnie Ainsworth, a constituency staffer for the neighbouring riding of Barrie, wrote to the local paper to also defend the minister. Like the others, she failed to identify herself as a paid staffer. With all these letters coming out, how can the minister continue to deny any knowledge of this orchestrated campaign? When will the Prime Minister boot the minister out?”

“Boot!” cried the Liberal side, apparently in reference to what Ms. Guergis may have down with her own footwear during an airport tantrum in Charlottetown.

Here, though, the government sent up John Baird to plead for reasonableness and peace. “The minister has clearly spoken to this issue in this place not just today, but as well yesterday,” he claimed. “All of us in this House have been given a great opportunity to serve the interests of Canadians. Let us focus on their priorities, on jobs, on improving health care, and on making our communities safer.”

To bring this tale of woe to a conclusion, the Liberals turned to Wayne Easter, who sang his song of sorrow.

“Mr. Speaker, this letter defending the minister and sent to a local Simcoe newspaper was signed by Dawn Richards, who is apparently the mother of, wait for it, Jessica Craven,” he reported in his PEI twang. “Five letter writers connected to the minister, yet she claims ignorance. What a coincidence.”

Turning from the Speaker, he tried to address the Prime Minister directly. The Prime Minister, choosing to be the mature one here, pretended not to notice.

“The Prime Minister’s code of conduct states that ministers must act ‘to ensure public trust and confidence,’ yet the minister continues to abuse the public trust without end,” Mr. Easter continued. “How can the Prime Minister condone this kind of behaviour by his minister?”

Once more to Mr. Baird, now straining to seem solemn and earnest. “We have all come together to represent Canadians, to work hard on the matters that are important to Canadians and their families,” he intoned. “Let us remain focused with the laser on jobs, the economy and improving the lives of Canadians.”

And let John Baird show us the light.

The Stats. Foreign affairs, seven questions. Taxation, six questions. Rights & Democracy, Helena Guergis and Afghanistan, four questions each. Employment and Aboriginal affairs, three questions each. Education and medical isotopes, two questions each. Infrastructure, pensions and railways, one question each.

Stephen Harper, 12 answers. Peter Kent, seven answers. Peter MacKay, three answers. Jim Flaherty, Helena Guergis, John Baird, Christian Paradis, Chuck Strahl and Tony Clement, two answers each. Rob Nicholson and Jim Abbott, one answer each.


 

The Commons: A question of maturity

  1. Pathetic .

  2. Guergis and her husband are an embarrassment to the country.

  3. Instead of 'answers' maybe you should call them something like 'irrelevant responses'.

  4. When some huge embarrassment lands on Baird's plate, whoever will get to give the responses in Parliament then?

    • According to popular theory, John Baird is asexual and will eventually self-divide, thus creating a second John Baird to answer any questions about the others potential indiscretions.

      Now, as to whether the Centre Block will be dinged for noise violations is a different matter…

      • Someone yesterday suggested the Conservative Members might be potted plants — so, if true, John Baird will doubtless generate rhizomes. Multiple tiny John Bairds everywhere, like triffids.

      • Maybe the sound waves from two of him will cancel each other out and we will have blessed silence.

        Come on, John! Split, John, split!

      • Who says it hasn't happened already?

  5. Mr. Wherry, I just wanted to mention that I truly enjoy your daily scene from QP despite the fact that it fills me with rage more often than not. Thanks!

  6. Is Macleans the new TMZ? Really, this is news???

    • Yes, what is said during Question Period actually is news. Even if the subject is (in your opinion) trivial, the fact that it takes up time in the House is definitely newsworthy.

      For what it's worth, I'm inclined to agree with the Conservative government on most (definitely not all) issues, but I still believe that the personal integrity, particularly in regards to how honestly said MP relates to constituents is worth noting. Whether or not the PM or the Conservative caucus decide to cut her loose, I do hope that her constituents will remember this period and decide whether or not she is a worthy representative of them.

      • Yeh? Like Ruby Dallah or whatever her name is. You remember, the Liberal 23323one with nannies mistreated, abused, shouted at,

        • Weren't those allegations disposed of?

          • A quick refresh of the related news suggests you are not wrong. However, I also find nothing to say that the allegations were substantiated, either. As always with these sorts of things, I suppose your inclination to believe one side over the other will largely be determined by your predisposition, rather than an evaluation of the circumstances and evidence.

            I don't really have a predisposition to one party over another or about this particular MP in particular. I am predisposed to be concerned about individuals who are not part of the elite and who are vulnerable. And I'm distressed these kinds of things could happen because of the potential to abuse such kinds of employees and the lax oversight employed on their behalf. On the other hand, much of the rebuttal sounded plausible as well. Moreover, there were counter allegations that political influence may have been brought to bear on the said nannies.

        • So, what you're saying is, that both scenarios are non-issues? We shouldn't care about the behaviour and integrity of our MPs?

  7. You know things are bad when John Baird is the voice of reason.

    • LMAO

  8. I thought Parliament voted on Canadians paying for 3rd world abortions, and a majority in Parliament said no……
    And Parliament debated and parties made compromises, then voted to end the Afghan combat mission in 2011…
    And I counted 8 Ministers from the G8 countries at a G8 meeting…

    Do the Opposition parties think that Clinton/Obama run our country too?
    Perhaps the unelected leader of the Official Opposition forgot for a moment, where he was?

    Very curious that the unelected leader of the Off Opp turned into
    Mr Angry, over Helena's fan mail….rather silly actually, usually that fake outrage is assigned to a nobody.

    • The Conservatives wanted Obama to run our environment policies:
      http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/02/03/quebe

      "…Most importantly, Harper has never believed a Canadian prime minister can legitimately disagree with an American president on something important. He sends Prentice out to attribute this to “the degree of economic integration,” but it's really just his personal credo…"
      http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/02/05/why-prentice-t

      But now they are followsing Bush's lead in weakening environmental regulation:
      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/tori

    • He get his orders from the right wing Charles McVety folks – Harper's main advisors – he even has secret meetings with them.

    • How mundane. But a long weekend is coming up so I won't fault you too much. By the way, if you have a chance read up on the Parliamentary system of government, you'll be surprised, pleasantly or otherwise, to find out the leader of the Opposition is in fact elected. By the fine folks in Etobicoke Lakeshore.

      • Um…………I think they are refering to the fact that he has never been leader of the party, merely apointed!

  9. I searched all of the Japanese newspapers here in Tokyo today and could find nothing in any of them about a major diplomatic setback for Canada.

    Perhaps the opposition parties in Canada are treating it as more serious than it is?

    And there was alsso nothing about Helena…

    I wonder when the opposition parties will show a little maturity of their own and start to focus on issues that matter.

    oh well, …back to viewing the cherry blossoms…they really are pretty at this time of year.

    • "…This season starts a day later than last year in Tokyo, but six days before the historical average. The first flowers have bloomed earlier in recent years, triggering concerns of global warming. In the southern, warmer Okinawa islands, cherry blossoms began blooming in late December. .."

      http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/

      When will the Conservatives focus on climate change, an issue that matters?

      • In fact, looking out the window from my Tokyo apartment, the cherry trees appeared to be in full bloom a few days earlier than last year.

        If I'm not mistaken, the Government of Canada is already focusing on measures to deal with climate change. You may not agree with what the government is doing (that's your right to do so) but I think it is wrong to suggest the issue is not beint with.g deal

        • They have stopped funding climate research, gagged the scientists at Environment Canada, cut any programs that were having practical success at cutting energy waste, appointed a creationist as Minister of Science and have introduced legislation to weaken environmental regulations.

          They are doing ther exact opposite of what they should be doing; and they are thus betraying the interests of Canadians.

          • Just to add a bit of realism. The government is still funding climate research and environmental scientists are still at work at EnvCda. Yes, wasteful programs have been cut but are you saying all programs should run forever? Moreover, misrepresenting the religious views of a minister is irrelevant to governemnt policy. I've also seen new legislation aimed at strengthening environmental regulations.
            Your views strike me as failing the fact test.

          • "…Canada's climate researchers are being muzzled, their funding slashed, research stations closed, findings ignored and advice on the critical issue of the century unsought by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, according to a 40-page report by a coalition of 60 non-governmental organisations…"

            "…Earlier this month, the new federal budget failed to provide any funding for Canada's main climate science initiative, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmosphere Sciences…"

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/18

            The new legislation will weaken, not strengthen environmental regulations:

            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/tori

    • Out of curiosity, which Canadian "issues that matter" were covered in the Japanese newspapers today?

  10. Ms. Taber didn't bother to comment or find fault with the Liberals when they were found guilty of planting senior Ignatieff strategist and former CBC lawyer Mark Sakamoto in a H1N1 vaccine line-up on TV to complain about the Conservatives handling of the roll out of the vaccine.
    Does she have a double standard? Did she ask for any resignation , a slap on the wrist or did she just ignore the story – after all it is a Liberal and they can do no wrong.
    However we were exposed to Wayne(doorknob)Easter and his histrionics in the House about Guergis.

    Canadians should recall in the Sakamoto incident Harper and Conservatives did not ask for resignations and try to blow the incident up into a big scandal – in fact the opposite was true and as you can see they deliberately downplayed it.
    What is more can't you all be impressed by the way Harper handled this controversy – he said the party will not be commenting – how different from Ignatieff and Wayne (dooknob Easter) who try to blow this minor incident into a scandal with help from a subservient media .
    At the time of the Sakamoto incident Taber wrote in her column
    "1. The politics of H1N1. Did the Ignatieff Liberals really plant one of their own to complain on national television about the shortage of vaccine? Indeed, the accusations are flying today with the Harper PMO sending out an alert to all of its MPs, Senators and staffers urging them not to respond or comment about a news story on CBC's The National last night “in which an employee of Michael Ignatieff's office appears in a ‘street interview' as an ordinary citizen concerned about the supply of H1N1 vaccine.”
    The notice, sent via email, goes on to “urge MPs not to respond to the transparent attempt to pass off an Ignatieff staffer as a non-partisan Canadian. We will not be commenting on the incident. It is very sad and unfortunate that the Ignatieff Liberals are desperately attempting to politicize the H1N1 preparedness efforts of the federal and provincial governments.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/otta

    • Ah, yes. Except, of course, that the guy was in a lineup for an H1N1 shot, and was asked a question by a reporter doing a streeter. Had he disguised his face and run over to the reporter begging to be on TV then yes, it would be the same thing.

      But keep trying.

      • And you are convinced that wasn't a Liberal set up – you are one of very few who would deny this.
        However you are still out to lunch and have a different standard because this Liberal lawyer should have identified himself as a partisan Liberal if Liberals demanded that Guergis's staff do that.
        Here is a hint for you – Sakamoto was a former employee of the CBC so the CBC knew who he was and his party affiliation – this wasn't a random selection of a man in the street.

        • Yes. Everybody at the CBC is given a photo card they must memorize to avoid catching management staff and consultants on camera.

          How silly of me not to see the conspiracy…

          • Got a snappy comeback to the set-up Garth Turner did with CPAC? Quite the non event in the MSM on that score.
            Or one for the 2005 election letter writing campaign to assist Paul Martin's child care initiative with nary a peep as well.
            Pretty tough to convince the blind that the sky is a certain colour on certain days!

        • hey peter, don't let the facts get in the way of your talking points there buddy.

        • Oh Peter!
          An eye for an eye…..

          OR maybe this ZANY reaction!

          What? Sakamoto?!? What a cad!
          Well – if he did that, then Guergis is super awesome!
          Guergis for PM!!!!!!!!

  11. Dear messrs. wilson / TwoYen jarrid at al. (I know jarrid hasn't posted on this thread yet – but I guess the PMO gave him the day off)…
    It's called TRUST bubs – it is what we do when we elect representatives to Parliament – that is – trust them – and – but for the fact that your Reform principles are long lost – we would have a mechanism where the good people could get Ms. Guergis out of the house as it were – something called recall!!

  12. She is kinda hot though. All is forgiven, whatever it is we are to forgive her for (I figure it's just Liberals yapping away again because that's what Liberals do… yap yap yap yap yap)

    • Dang, was hoping for a -8 within the hour… I guess -4 will have to do for now

      • Looks like someone ruined your day, as we're sitting at -3. (it wasn't me, i'm too lazy to sign up for this intense debate stuff)

        • This is outrageous!

  13. For every dopey Guergis and dopey Dhalla….

  14. Here we go, Harper's blogging reponse staff playing the victims again.

    Sad.

    • No, it's not Harper's people, it's the Vegreville–Wainwright constit office's writing shift tonight. Harper's people aren't on Maclean's duty until next week.

  15. Dean Delmastro….asleep in the HOC during question period.

    It would be funny if everyone left quietly and left him sleeping.

  16. This abortion tempest is ridiculous. I have not heard any opposition MP call for "abortion on demand" in any country. When they refer the George Bush "principle" of funding, I hear them asking if any funding body that includes funds for abortion in countries where that is legal, will the Harper plan REFUSE ALL FUNDING for that agency? That was the Bush plan. No agency, no country could receive funding if they provided that service. So the real question is: Will Harper refuse ALL funding to any agency or country that funds abortions? For Harper to repeatedly intone, "We will not open the abortion debate," is tiresome. We don't want to open the debate, just get a simple answer to a simple question. Why is that too much to ask!

  17. ",,,even though there was no direct reference to abortion in the motion, that was the intention behind it…"

    Gabby, you are not smart enough to be able to figure out their intentions. Stop lying about what Clinton said.

  18. Keep Guergis in cabinet! She's a helpful reminder, a poster child really, of the real nature of Harper conservatism. Hope she has a prominent role in the next election, along with her husband!

  19. why did the failed Liberal motion read in part…

    "… that the Canadian government should refrain from advancing the failed right-wing ideologies previously imposed by the George W. Bush administration in the United States, which made humanitarian assistance conditional upon a “global gag rule” that required all non-governmental organizations receiving federal funding to refrain from promoting medically-sound family planning. …”

    Does not mean, "Abortions for all! No more education or contraception!" It does mean, you can't withhold funding to NGOs that promote family planning (including education, contraception, abortion, etc.) as part of their mandate.

  20. Pretty sad pile on Maccleans..When Guergis misplaces a billion dollars like Sgro,or pisses away two billion on a two million $ gun registry like Rocks or uses tax $ to protect their golf course investment like Cretin ,then we have a scandal.Not even going to mention Adscam perpetrated by a bankrupt deluded party of mongrels pretending to have solutions other than tax increases.

    • HRDC Jane, also misplaced a million.Old man Chretien said, its only a million dollars-only!

  21. And finally, why are members of the opposition and the media applauding Ms. Clinton's championing abortion as a means of “family planning” for underdeveloped countries when her own country,

    Again, if you have actually read anything that Mrs. Clinton has written, or said, directly, it is clear that she is not pro-abortion. She is, however, very pro-choice, and believes that abortion has a part in family planning in instances when other options have failed. And, that she believes that by funding abortions in this situation, we will be able to avoid the deaths of numerous women who otherwise would have to rely on unsafe, unsanitary abortion techniques (ie 'back alley abortions').

    • Well, if that's what she believes, then she should FIRST make it so in HER country BEFORE chastizing others.
      She should just shut her big cake hole!

  22. Second, why did Bob Rae refer to the "global gag rule" as being a policy imposed by **George W Bush**, when in actual fact the policy, known as the Mexico City Policy, was first implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1984?

    Imposed does not mean created. Regulations can exist without being used. Clearly Mr. G.W. Bush was vehemently anti-abortion (and family planning for that matter), and clearly Mr. Clinton did not feel the same, so it would make sense that regulations that had lapsed into disuse in the Clinton administration, would then be imposed on NGOs in the G.W. Bush administration.

  23. Come on people, have a little sympathy for Ms. Guergis. She is a pretty lady. Pretty women always have had it easy. Back in school guys were always fawning over her. Even the male teachers, I suspect. So she then begins to think that she is special. Everywhere she goes, she attracts attention, and she knows she is special. So then she gets into government, and surely some of the Committees she gets on are because she adds a pretty distraction to the boring agendas, but she thinks its because she is so smart and special. Why shouldn't she think she is even more special.

    So guys, her little hissy fits are our fault because she now knows she is so special.

    By the way, what does a "minister of womens whatever" do; bake cookies for the guys, and laugh at their little jokes?

  24. Sorry……never been through a leadership selection process by party members, merely appointed.

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