The Commons: In other news -

The Commons: In other news

Peter MacKay owes Helena Guergis a note of thanks


peter mackayThe Scene. When all of this is past, and Helena Guergis has either been redeemed or forgotten or both, various members of this government might send her a polite note of thanks. Peter MacKay in particular.

If not for Ms. Guergis’s unfortunate spring, it might very well be much worse for the government side. If not for the opposition’s eagerness to chase the mystery of Ms. Guergis’s misdeeds—rightly or wrongly, justifiably or not—the questions would be far more profound and far less easily dismissed. As it is, every question asked about who may or may not have alleged what she may or may not have done and why we may or may not ever know about any of it, is a question that does not involve the phrases “torture” and “Asadullah Khalid” and “Afghanistan.”

Indeed, every question about the affairs of the former minister of state for the status of women is one less opportunity for Peter MacKay to stand up and say something silly. And for this we are all surely the poorer.

Over the weekend—though understandably buried in a back section, well behind the smiling faces of Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer who graced the front page—the Globe and Mail published the results of another investigation by Graeme Smith into the moral muck that is this country’s mission in Afghanistan. This time the tale involved an Afghan governor, his torture chambers and the possibility of implicit Canadian complicity.

Monday afternoon, the official opposition mustered not a single question about the matter, dwelling instead on which cabinet ministers Ms. Guergis’s husband may or may not have spoken with at some point last year. It was, instead, the stubborn and relentless Newfoundlander Jack Harris, the NDP’s national defence critic, who first raised the issue.

“Mr. Speaker, on Saturday The Globe and Mail reported that the government was aware of the activities of the former governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Khalid, and his gang of torturers called brigade 888, regarded as trusted allies. Brigade 888 reportedly received $12,000 a month from Canada’s Joint Provincial Co-ordination Centre and it is alleged that Canadian Forces were even asked to hand out the money,” Mr. Harris reported. “These allegations come as close to complicity as it gets. Can the Minister of National Defence tell us who made the decision that Canada would act as paymasters for torturers in Afghanistan?”

This was, surely, a serious charge. It deserved, theoretically, a serious answer.

Instead, the Defence Minister rose and managed, in simultaneous sentences, to both dismiss the reporting in question and cite it as authority. “Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member likes to believe every single solitary word he reads in the Globe and Mail,” Mr. MacKay chided, “but let me quote from that same article. It says: ‘However, Canadian soldiers who served at the JPCC said they were unaware of any payments…’ It goes on to quote a Canadian officer who says, ‘We never paid those guys.’ Why would he not take the word of a Canadian soldier on this matter instead of a journalist?”

You could spend much of the rest of your life trying to unravel the logic of all that. Or you could give it a once over and conclude there is none.

Mr. Harris tried again and Mr. MacKay once more assertively asserted his unyielding support for the troops. Claude Bachand then rose to raise issues that have arisen from the last hearings of the Military Police Complaints Commission. Mr. MacKay dismissed these too.

Onward and upward and over then to this morning. Just past 9am, Richard Colvin, in a grey suit and closely cropped hair and looking somewhat uncomfortable, walked into the converted broom closet on the 10th floor of a downtown Ottawa office building that is the scene of the MPCC hearings. Around the room, binders of evidence were stacked nearly to the ceiling. Slightly more than a dozen reporters sat close together in the makeshift gallery, just less than a dozen lawyers sat close together in the makeshift courtroom, the cameramen crowded into the one corner of the room that allowed them a clear shot at the witness. As the commission lawyer proceeded with the methodical business of interrogation, Colvin, softly speaking in a British lilt, reviewed his story: much of it already stated, almost all of it still not adequately accounted for.

Messrs. Bachand and Harris were rejoined by Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh this afternoon. The three combined for six questions, two of which were handled by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and four of which were taken by Peter Kent, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs with responsibility for the Americas.

“Mr. Speaker, these allegations have been made previously,” Mr. Nicholson said of Mr. Bachand’s concerns.

“Mr. Speaker, allow me to reassure the House there is nothing new here,” Mr. Kent assured a response to Mr. Dosanjh.

“Mr. Speaker, as I just told my honourable colleague in the official opposition, these allegations have been fully and widely aired before the special commission on Afghanistan and the Canadian government continues to press the government of Afghanistan with regard to the respect of human rights,” Mr. Kent said of Mr. Harris’s question.

It’s unclear how precisely this was meant to reassure anyone.

The Stats. Helena Guergis, 14 questions. Afghanistan, six questions. Access to information, five questions. Rights & Democracy, four questions. Foreign ownership, pensions and auto safety, two questions each. Employment, trade, foreign aid, Gerard Kennedy, Status of Women and oil, one question each.

John Baird, 14 answers. Peter Kent, 10 answers. Stockwell Day, five answers. Christian Paradis and Mike Lake, three answers each. Rob Nicholson, two answers. Diane Finley, Merv Tweed and Rona Ambrose, one answer each.


The Commons: In other news

  1. I'm betting that Mr. Harper will reveal the allegations against Ms. Guergis and/or identify the mysterious "third party" on the same day the Speaker returns with his much awaited judgment on the question of privilege.

    Any takers?

    • or after the next prorogation announcement, which ever comes first.

      • so?

        • a needle pulling thread?

          • La?

    • CTV already reported.It was an exclusive. I like that

      • We know who the third party is, but we still don't know the allegations against Ms. Guergis.

        I should clarify though – I think Mr. Harper will reveal the allegations on the same day the Speaker provides his ruling as long as someone else doesn't do it first.

  2. At the end of the day, Mr and Mrs. Jaffer should behave themselves and they made the Canadian politicians more ugly.the whole story will go on and make more more dirty.
    Helena should gone and hope she will not come back.,it's too bad.

  3. I noted that Baird is continuing to perfect his tiny-low-voice act. He does this by responding to questions he doesn't want to be seen answering in a news clip by speaking in such a low and monotonous voice that sound editors are confounded, and MPs opposite become enraged and get louder. The louder the opposition gets, the tinier you respond, which makes them shout even more, until the whole exercise becomes a shambles.

    This technique, first pioneered if I'm not mistaken by Pierre Poilivre, is the ultimate show of disrespect for opposition members, for parliament and democracy itself. Baird probably thinks he's clever. However, such behaviour from a minister is shameful.

    • Shameful for the minister to speak quietly: Sorry. I don`t get it.

    • You disagree.
      Fine, but save the schoolyard taunts for family reunions.

    • Now you are criticizing how Baird speaks. Never happy. He speaks too loud, now he speaks too low. Make up your mind. I am sure anything he does will not meet with your approval.
      The fact is the opposition is on a fishing expedition once again and Canadians are watching with disgust. Like other faux scandals the Libs tried to create it will turn out to be a tempest in a teapot. Simple as that. Iffy's performance in the House will not help him in his leadership polling numbers.

      • It is not difficult to see that this is a stunt which is deliberately intended to rile the House and avoid answering the question while making it look as though you are being shouted down.

        The Speaker even softly rebuked Baird for this today and openly opined the useful fiction that maybe the Minister's microphone was broken.

        Perhaps the Speaker did so because this tactic is especially disrespectful to Parliament when it is done by a Minister who has been officially designated to answer a question on behalf of the Prime Minister.

      • "The fact is the opposition is on a fishing expedition once again"

        The fish are climbing over each other to get out of the barrel. This idiotic offering is too much for the goombahs standing there ready to shoot. So the fish master whispers, 'Make them go for the shiny gold ones'. And whattya know, they do. Meanwhile the barracudas that everyone oughta be gunning for whistle blithely by, swimming towards tomorrow.

  4. Unfortunately for Wherry and his buddies on this board there is nothing knew. No direct evidence. Just innuendo and speculation. So have at it people. You can keep beating a dead horse but if you are after McKay or even Harper you going to continue being frustrated. The soldiers did not commit war crimes as alleged by the anti Harper crowd. They are the ones that turned over the detainees, not Harper or MacKay. Canadians aren't buying it and so Graeme Smith can continue to speculate until the cows come home and Liberal sycophants like Wherry can continue writing columns ad nauseum. Canadians don't care.

    • I'm a Canadian and I care.

    • And fools can continue to turn a blind eye . If ourgovernment knowingly pays and supports corrupt Afghan officials, condones torture and willingly undermines the reputation of our diplomats I care andwant to know.The Graeme Smiths of this world are there to let Canadians know what our government won't tell us. I'm sure Bernstein was told Watergate was just innuendo and speculation and no evidence connecting Nixon Stop hiding behind the troops and national security and release the unredacted documents.

    • I dont care , not one iota. I know liberals and dippers that think as I do.

      • The only ones that care are the ones that hate Harper.

        • What are they going to do, call an election.

  5. ''…Indeed, every question about the affairs of the former minister of state for the status of women is one less opportunity for Peter MacKay to stand up and say something silly.
    And for this we are all surely the poorer…''

    Mr Wherry, your disappointed because you believed the Liberals stood for something. That 'your guys' are the 'good guys'.

    Is it not obvious, now, what the once great Liberal Party of Canada has become?

    • It is obvious to any thinking person. Problem is there are a lot of people in this country who refuse to think when it comes to political party support. Especially Liberals.

  6. I wouldn't worry too much about the Afghan file not being in the frame. That thing is going to come to the forefront once the speaker rules on the documents.

    Meanwhile, let's watch the "busty hookers" show. I'm guessing a public appearance by Helena Guergis and/or Rahim Jaffer will be the next show in town.

    You know what would be really cool — if Helena walks into a press conference with Belinda Stronach by her side. That would be really cool.

  7. The Libs really need to move on. The Wannabe Goombah, the Beauty Queen from Hell and their "friends" are doing a fine job completing the destruction of their reputations. No need for Lib help.

    However, expecting the meek Speaker Milliken to rule against the government on the privilege questions, is dreaming. He'll do anything to avoid that conflict. Moreover, the Libs can't yet afford – fiscally or politically – to force a vote on the detainee issue. They need to keep the pressure on the detainee issue but not force a crisis. Today they were handed a new issue with the Info Commissioners scathing report. There is plenty to beat the government on, no need to ride the Wannabe Goombah et al.

    • The Info Commissioners report is 'scathing' only because the media won't compared it to the Chretien years.

      Don't believe me, check it out yourself, the current and 2004-05 report are on her site:

      • The classic "The Liberals did it, so it's okay for the Tories too" defense, eh wilson? It's pretty hard for the Tories to claim to be the more transparent party if they don't aspire to anything greater than the previous government.

        I forget which MP said it the other day, but the quote was valid: (paraphrasing) Accountability is not just an act passed in 2006, it's the actions the government is taking today. The actions of Messrs. Togneri, Sparrow et al certainly stand in stark contrast to the spirit of the FAA, and cannot be justified just because the Liberals may have done it too.

        • "The Liberals did it, so it's okay for the Tories too"

          That's not what we are saying when bringing up the Liberals. We are saying "The Liberals did it too, and no one said a word back then, so why are you complaining now"?

  8. D'Oh!

  9. A deer, a female deer.

  10. Mr. Harper has. once again successfully dangled a Bright Shiny Thing. He's, like, the Doug Henning of politics. A master of illoooooosion and misdirection. Guaffer has no upside for anybody in The Grand Calculus.

    Everybody oughta stick to their knitting and deal with the stuff that counts.

    • I would add that this is very good writing on Mr, Wherry's part, regardless of whether one likes the slant. It paints a very grim picture of process and goings-on regarding the nation's business. He makes these hearings look, yes, his words have pictures, like an pageant at the Ministry O f Love.

      Nice work.

      • Agreed.

  11. "the moral muck that is this country's mission in Afghanistan. "

    He does know the detainees are the ones we don't kill? War isn't all storming Juno beach and vimy ridge. Sometimes we firebomb Dresden, sometimes we spend millions training afghan prison guards and afghan human rights monitors.

  12. The Liberals aren't focusing on Governor Khalid, because the previous Liberal government made the decision to choose Khalid as a partner when Martin chose to go the Kandahar.

    Canada doesn't get to choose who governs in Afghanistan. Canada (Paul Martin) did get to choose where Canada went in Afghanistan. Paul Martin chose khalid as Canada's "partner".

    • Canada doesn't get to choose who governs in Afghanistan.

      Uh, wasn't the whole reason we went to war in Afghanistan to replace who was governing Afghanistan? It's kinda hard to say "who governs Afghanistan, and how, is none of our business, we don't overthrow corrupt regimes" with regard to the regime that is in place because you overthrew their corrupt predecessors.

      • Are you arguing for imperialism?

      • We went in to replace a regime that was providing a safe haven for terrorists. The level of corruption in the government was not really a key factor in initiating military action.

      • NATO didn't go to Afghanistan because the regime was corrupt, it was because it sheltered Al Quaeda. But I take your point, if we can justify overthrowing one government in the region, why not overthrow more? And then overthrow them again if that doesn't work out…

  13. A note that follows so.

    • Te?

      • A drink with jam and bread.

      • A drink with jam and bread?

  14. As I've said before, wouldn't it be nice if our elected officials stopped being political for even a short time and went about doing what we actually elected them to do? Why has Parliament Hill become so politically polarized? Aren't there other things that need attending to? If the Canadian press were to start covering those issues, it would force the government to act.

  15. If not for the opposition's eagerness to chase the mystery of Ms. Guergis's misdeeds—rightly or wrongly, justifiably or not—the questions would be far more profound and far less easily dismissed.

    If not for the media's salacious, innuendo-driven coverage of this story, instead of keeping the coverage in proportion to what it should be, perhaps the opposition would focus on what it should be focussing on.

  16. The Liberals did it too, and no one said a word back then, so why are you complaining now.

    Isn't an equally valid question "If you want to complain about the fact that people didn't complain back then, shouldn't you be complaining now???" I mean, presumably YOU were complaining back when the Liberals were acting like this. Do you still think it's a problem, or was it only a problem when the Liberals did it?

    • It's a fair question. And indeed I do. If I had another palatable alternative to the current Conservative party I would choose them. Unfortunately I don't.

      But in a choice between the Liberals and the Conservatives, the way things are I will always choose the Conservatives. Not because of policy, or performance; the Conservatives have basically been the Liberals without the corruption. But for the exact reason I outlined above. When the Conservatives do something wrong, damn sure we will all know about it. When the Liberals do something wrong? I have absolutely zero confidence in our media to call them on it. Within 2 years we'll be back to the Liberals robbing us blind and the media looking the other way.