The Commons: ‘I’m sorry if there’s been any confusion’

Rahim Jaffer enters an already unimpressive picture

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. The Prime Minister seemed in a rather foul mood. Perhaps he was disappointed in himself. Perhaps he was merely upset with just about everyone around him.

With the first opportunity in Question Period, Michael Ignatieff stood and demanded the Prime Minister apologize, on behalf of the government, for a Conservative backbencher’s press release that likened the nation’s police chiefs to cult leaders and accused them of corruption.

“Will he condemn these disgraceful remarks?” the Liberal leader wondered.

Stephen Harper would not. He would instead note that the backbencher had apologized, that the assistant who had put those words in the backbencher’s mouth had resigned and that, anyway, the real problem here was the Liberal leader’s position on the gun registry.

Mr. Ignatieff came back with an accusatory finger, demanding the Prime Minister answer the question. And so here came the Prime Minister, yelling and pointing and carrying on. “Of course we all agree with that apology,” he offered of his backbencher’s retraction, “and we accept that apology.” And then he again turned on the Liberal leader, upon whom said backbencher had wished metaphorical violence.

Bob Rae was up next and he introduced the day’s Liberal refrain. “Mr. Speaker, another example of the Conservative culture of deceit which has enveloped this House is the way in which the Minister of Justice comes into this House and tells the House that he is such a strong supporter of the work that is going on at the Military Police Complaints Commission at the same time as he says the people who are in that commission are making it very difficult for the commission to do its work,” he explained. “How does the minister explain this Conservative culture of deceit?”

The Justice Minister stood, acted besmirched, blamed the previous government and then beseeched the Liberal member to let the Military Police Complaints Commission do its work. Apparently, in the Minister’s version, the MPCC is somehow presently frustrated not by the government’s unwillingness to provide relevant documentation, but by Mr. Rae, whose words somehow hurt the commission’s feelings quite severely.

The Liberals continued to read from their culture of deceit chronicles, including bits about whatever remains of the access to information system, the complaints of the national ombudsman for the victims of crime and no less than four chapters on the affairs of Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer. The best John Baird could offer in response to this last issue was to commend the Prime Minister for referring what he knew to the relevant authorities and to encourage the Liberal members to do likewise.

And so here, at the moment, lies Mr. Harper’s government.

A cabinet minister is accused of unsavoury behaviour and the best the government can offer in its defence is that the Prime Minister properly referred those allegations to the RCMP. A backbench MP is quoted as wishing figurative harm upon the leader of the opposition and equating the nation’s police chiefs with cult leaders and the best the government can offer in its defence is that the backbencher was merely a warm body to whom those comments were assigned and that the underling responsible has resigned.

One can only imagine how unimpressed Stephen Harper might’ve been as opposition leader to gaze upon such a scene.

And then Rahim Jaffer entered the room. Not the House of Commons, of course, but one of the grand committee rooms off Centre Block’s Hall of Honour, the grand walkway that connects Confederation Hall with the wondrous Library of Parliament. Specifically, Mr. Jaffer walked into the Reading Room, once the scene of the great fire that ultimately burned down nearly all of Parliament in 1916.

Mr. Jaffer arrived at 3:26pm and, after the cameras had acquired their prized pictures of him sitting at the committee table, proceeded to explain himself as a remarkable example of the Canadian Dream who had been brought low by an error of judgment and the howling jackals of the media and opposition. He apologized to his former colleagues, his family and his wife. He choked up a bit. He lamented that some members of the House of Commons had so lowered the bar as to come after him in this way.

The next hour and a half was spent trying to sort out what exactly it is Mr. Jaffer does for a living now—something to do with renewable energy and emerging markets and so forth—and how, if at all, he might have violated various statutes of government relations. Whatever was going on, he confessed, his company hadn’t yet made a cent.

There were some uncomfortable noises from the gallery when the NDP’s Pat Martin started talking about cocaine—Mr. Jaffer denied partaking of any illegal substance—but ultimately the afternoon turned on what Mr. Jaffer had or had not said on his personal website. Various members of the committee said he described himself in a particular way, Mr. Jaffer refuted their assertions. And it might’ve ended there if a Liberal operative hadn’t started handing around copies of the “biography” section of rahimjaffer.com. Thus did it seem to be proven that the committee members were correct and Mr. Jaffer was mistaken.

One such photocopy found its way into the hands of Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, a baby-faced 31-year-old backbencher from Grande Prairie, Alberta. And so it fell to Mr. Warkentin, a young man who can still reasonably look forward to the sort of political future that once seemed to be Mr. Jaffer’s, to deliver the unofficial verdict.

Sounding pained and exasperated, he reviewed how he had just moments earlier asked Mr. Jaffer some questions about that website and now he held in his hand a piece of paper that seemed to indicate Mr. Jaffer’s responses were inaccurate. And then Mr. Warkentin began to lament for it all, for good intentions gone wrong and everything else.

“This type of behaviour,” he said, “sullies all of our names.”

“I’m sorry if there’s been any confusion,” Mr. Jaffer offered.

The Stats. Helena Guergis, eight questions. Crime, five questions. The gun registry, employment, aboriginal affairs and foreign ownership, three questions each. Afghanistan, Haiti, access to information, the Congo, auto safety and veterans, two questions each. Taxation and trade, one question each.

Stephen Harper, eight answers. Rob Nicholson, seven answers. John Baird, six answers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, four answers. Lawrence Cannon, three answers. Jason Kenney, Christian Paradis and Chuck Strahl, two answers each. Vic Toews, Jim Flaherty, Stockwell Day, Tony Clement and Peter Van Loan, one answer each.

The Commons: ‘I’m sorry if there’s been any confusion’

  1. "Mr. Jaffer denied partaking of any illegal substance"

    I heard he was totally just holding it for this other guy, just like Theo in that episode of the Cosby Show.

    And just because he lied to the committee today doesn't mean the above was also a lie. He probably stakes his reputation on that.

  2. and the best the government can offer in its defence is that the backbencher was merely a warm body to whom those comments were assigned and that the underling responsible has resigned.

    Talk to people in PR. Making up quotes for press releases happens all the time. All we are left with is whether the qlleged quotee had a chance to green-light the words placed in his mouth. To think a press release never makes it out without that rubber stamp is, well, to not think very much. Anyone who out and out rejects that "defence" understands little about what goes on in the real world.

    Ignatieff missed the ext ramp for the high road, here. Accept the apology, say something about "heated rhetorical disagreements should never let us lose our respect for one another as parliamentarians," "useful lessons for all of us, myself included, who have been granted the privilege of serving the people of Canada," etc., etc. Declare the matter closed. High road. Missed. Shame.

    • Ha! Speechifying Conbot mentions high road. What kind of GPS system could lead a member of Harper's party to that celestial path — something off the USS Enterprise, i presume.
      That the central point being punted about was how the MP (or his mouthpiece) of the law-and-order party was besmirching the opinions and views of the police chiefs of Canada, seems to float blissfully over the head and talking points of madatstuff et al.
      Shame.

      • Dude lost me at "conbot". I tried to rally by reading on, but dude just responded to my point about the pointlessness of tying up QP with "Harper must apologize" crap with some other point altogether. Fail.

      • He didn't like your comment, Burlivespipe.

      • Actually the release was BANG ON!
        The police chiefs are up their ass with the effectivness of the registry!

    • So it's okay because everybody does a crap job anyway and we should just be satisfied knowing that they're only doing a crap job, nothing *unusually* bad?

      Please.

      • He's saying that the government defence is plausible, perhaps even likely, what happened. I don't think he ever said it was "okay".

        • Uh, thanks sbt. Correct on "plausible" and "never said it was ok." Main point was Ignatieff missed an opportunity.

          • Is that surprising to you?

    • I wonder if you would feel that way if it was suggested "figuratively" that you be beaten black and blue?

      • If the "attributed" person apologized immediately, denied that the remarks were his, does not believe the remarks, and had whoever did write them out on Wellington with a box of personal effects the same day? Yeah, I would feel that way.

        • "Declare the matter closed. High road. Missed. Shame."

          myl. concern trolling. shame. fail.

    • Huh. My Liberal membership notwithstanding, I kind of agree with MYL.

      It really is okay (with me, anyway) if the Liberals take the high road with every fork that comes their way. Like, without thinking, as if there is no other road.

      • I agree with madeyoulook, too, about it being a missed opportunity. Jean Chretien would have taken the letter in stride, and then stuck Breitkreuz with something twice as sharp while he accepted his apology. And he would not have stopped smiling for a second.

    • "Making up quotes for press releases happens all the time. All we are left with is whether the alleged quotee had a chance to green-light the words placed in his mouth. To think a press release never makes it out without that rubber stamp is, well, to not think very much."

      I understand and am mostly willing to accept the argument that we're talking about an industry norm that, in the vast majority of cases, works well enough to not cause anyone any problems. But when it doesn't go right, it exposes the ethical laxity of said norm. Maybe it does happen all the time, but does that change the fact that it is fundamentally dishonest to attribute words to someone that you know they did not say? Maybe it's not bad enough to send you to hell, but you sure will feel like you're there as you try to explain to the cameras how quotation marks mean something different to people in your profession than they do to people who know what quotation marks are for.

      • Why are we referring to Parliament as an industry? Shouldn't it be held to a higher standard than that of a public relations outfit?

        • We're not referring to Parliament as an industry. Held to a higher standard of what? Accuracy? Rhetoric? Style?

          • I'll ask for a higher standard of accuracy, style and ethics and pass on a higher standard of rhetoric, if I can get that combo.

          • All of the above.

          • My mistake. I took the below as putting Parliament on the same level as a PR firm in excusing the made-up quotes.

            MYL: Talk to people in PR. Making up quotes for press releases happens all the time.
            craigola: I understand and am mostly willing to accept the argument that we're talking about an industry norm

            Again, sorry for the confusion.

    • Why on earth should Ignatieff ever take the high road when dealing with the Conservatives? Don't forget that the Tories spent millions of dollars on attack ads that questioned Ignatieff's patriotism, among other things.

      I can't help but think that any gesture of conciliation, of any kind, would be interpreted as weakness and as an invitation to attack further.

      If Stephen Harper wants respect, he will first need to provide it.

    • Stephen Harper has lead political discourse in Canada, and the behaviour of government minister, so far from the high road that there is no way it can be reached from here. If Ignatieff were to make the statement you so rightiously wrote for him, the political tag team of Manning, Day and Harper would have their communications machine tear him to pieces. Shame on you.

  3. ""scene of the great fire that ultimately burned down nearly all of Parliament in 1916."

    The awesome roar of the flames, the fierce, comforting warmth, the glow that mimics the dawn of a brand new day…*sigh*

    …Z'huh? Sorry. Went into a bit fugue state there.

    • The Hun did it. No so-called evidence can convince me otherwise.

  4. Rahim's protestations that he didn't use any illegal substances reminds me of Bill "I never inhaled" Clinton back in the 1990s when he was asked about partaking of marijuana. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you have to be REALLY charming.

    If there was nothing incriminating on the rahimjaffer.com website, why was it taken down so quickly and why is it still down?

    If Rahim was not peddling influence, why was he allegedly still passing out his MP business cards long after he was turfed by voters in his riding? Is he just sentimental about the good old days when the public trough came to him instead of the other way around?

    As well, Rahim should realize that the bar has to be set really, really low for him to be able to jump over it.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

    • This form of peddling influence reminds me of police officers and others who went on in Toronto to create a business to help people defend themselves against traffic violations including DUI. They use their background knowledge of the "system" and people have the opportunity to use the service of those who once clearly had the mandate to enforce the same laws they now assist in disputing for a fee of course!
      X-coppers……it's all in the name. It just somehow does not seem appropriate.

      • Yeah, and try fighting a traffic ticket without them along for the ride. The system will eat you up and spit you out…poorer.

    • It's all part of his green energy business. You can't just throw leftover business cards in the landfill. Reduce, recycle, reuse.

      • Sorry, I must be high. I never thought of that. He really is an environmentalist after all.

  5. Poor Rahim. Without talking points, he's just lost.

  6. whats happened here is deceptive, sad and abuse of influence and manipulation…the guy is advertising his company for free and getting away with drug possession and other charges and covering up for his wife who will then sue the party and on and on and on…typical money/greed bs

  7. Heard some of the "testimony" on the radio whilst driving home. It was excruciating. Jaffer and his buddy, came across as the sleaziest breed of government grant sucking huckster. Couldn't or wouldn't explain how they were going to make a buck by "not" lobbying until their discussions with Ministers of State lead to govn't interest and a formal proposal. Could barely keep the story straight between consecutive questions.

    I've seen folks like this in Ottawa and they exist only to suck nourishment from the federal teat and exist only because they often can. That someone like this became an MP and, if I recall correctly, a caucus chair (?) is truly frightening.

  8. Another day, another circus.

    • I beleive the two clowns met as undergrads.

      "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants."

      • You lost me there, Dot.

        • They apparently have long established "synergies".

          • Interesting. I didn't realize they were university classmates. Did they meet in the MBA program, or in undergrad?

          • Undergrad. I believe I read somewhere that they were at one time roommates, and apparently hung out together since Rahim's early political days back in Ottawa. The timing of Glemaud's quitting Justice in Nov 2008 (I'm going by memory for this date), shortly after Jaffer's defeat appears to me to be more than coincidence.

      • Animal House – the later years. Neither one of them seems to have learned much in the interim.

        • No way, Animal House was funny this is just pathetic!

  9. From a slightly different take on the whole sorry mess. It's a glaring example of how billions are wasted world wide as sleaze bag ex pols and other hucksters slime their way into taxpayers pockets, via moronic politicians desperate to buy votes by looking "green". Gore will be come a billionaire after leaving politics 10 million in debt. Jaffer just hasn't been able to pull it off yet. Perhaps he can join forces with another failed politician, Lizzie May, and together they can sell a perpetual motion machine(a green one of course) to MacGinty or Campbell, two absolute rubes who are emptying out their provincial treasuries to offshore crooks.

    • Nay, Jaffer is destined to selling used luxury automobiles.

  10. "I'm sorry if there's been any confusion."

    Rahim Jaffer stole my epitaph.

    • Hahaha…that man can't do anything right!

  11. It's all just note-perfect embracing of Harper's key rules to surviving own stoopidity, subsection ii) attract dumb, scapegoat candidates to join party; in case of calamity, break glass and point at scapegoat.

  12. Ignatieff made a fatal mistake in announcing his intentions on the gun bill so early. By the time the Tories are done blanketting the targetted ridings with truth-distorting attack ads, there won't be any room left for the Libs to explain the compromises they have made for gun lovers.

  13. Anyone who has that douchebag hairstyle is swimming in hookers and blow.

    Jaffer, exit stage left…

  14. Why is everyone so uptight-remember the sponsorship scandal, serving and ex mp's are in for one reason , FOR THEM SELFS.

  15. Ok Gaffer, you may have gotten off in the law court on some technicality or other, but in the court of public opinion, you don't have the right to keep quiet. If you are unable or unwilling to tell us how you happened to have the cocaine on you, you are guilty.

    Verdict: guilty as sin.

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