The Commons: Seriously, Mr. Flaherty needs your help - Macleans.ca

The Commons: Seriously, Mr. Flaherty needs your help

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Quite seriously Flaherty needs your help

The Scene. The peanut gallery seemed to find the first full day of Canada’s 40th Parliament to be a bit of a bore. Which is to say, they seemed to find the first full day of Canada’s 40th Parliament to be generally lacking in shouted comparisons of various members to barnyard animals or human orifices.

Alas, this new era of co-operation and civility does have its downsides.

“I do not think it serves the leader of the opposition, or anybody else, to fight the last election over again,” the Prime Minister huffed at one point, apparently finding the questions of his counterpart to be too specific in nature.

Granted, the Right Honourable Stephen J. Harper is correct in this regard. It serves absolutely no one to reenact that battle, bloody and messy and vacuous as it was. The people have spoken. Their will has been voiced. Democracy has spoken. Let us move onward and upward and approximately forward.

But then, the Prime Minister won that fight, didn’t he? Indeed, it was from just that spectacle that his present mandate is derived. So why not bask in such triumph? Why so quick to forget?

Surely, nothing to do with this recession the Prime Minister said would never come. Nor this seemingly imminent deficit he vowed never to allow.

“We will take whatever measures are necessary to protect the Canadian economy in difficult times,” the Prime Minsiter vowed this day. “I would ask the leader of the opposition to provide specifically his ideas about what those best measures might be.”

Indeed, said his Finance Minister. “I know there is an economic team over there that is going to get together and talk about this and come up with a theme and some suggestions,” said Gentleman Jim Flaherty, gesturing toward the Liberal benches. “When they do, and I mean this in a cooperative way, I would love to hear their suggestions about the manner in which we can stimulate the economy.”

For sure, Flaherty later added, Canadians expect nothing less. “If any members in the House have any constructive suggestions of ways in which the economy could be stimulated in addition to the tax reductions that we have already made, then I welcome them,” he said. “Quite frankly, I think that is what Canadians expect of us when we come back after an election in a time of serious economic slowdown.”

And let there be no doubt how seriously this government takes this seriously serious bit of seriousness.

“I say to the member opposite this is a serious situation,” Flaherty cautioned.

“It is a serious situation in Canada,” he explained.

“Surely the honourable member knows that we are going through a very serious global economic downturn,” he pleaded.

“The seriousness of this situation is not to be underestimated,” he warned.

Quite unseriously, the Liberal leader took issue with Mr. Harper’s psychic abilities, or at least the abilities of his psychic. “Mr. Speaker, if he saw that coming, why then did he eliminate the contingency reserve?” Stephane Dion begged. “It does not make sense.”

Scott Brison then tried a meteorological approach. “If the Prime Minister could actually foresee storm clouds on the horizon, why did he permit his finance minister to eliminate Canada’s rainy day fund?”

And when that failed to sufficiently shame the government side, the Liberal asked pointedly of Mr. Flaherty’s intimate relations with the national treasury. “When will the Minister of Finance admit that having conceived these bad policies he is responsible for fathering the Conservative deficit and as such he has earned the title of Canada’s new deficit daddy?”

Red-faced, Gentleman Jim demurred. “I am not going to go there, Mr. Speaker.”

The official transcript shows that this was followed by a shout of “Who’s your daddy?”

So there was that.

Otherwise, here was the general order of the day. Neither side having much in the way of answers for our current predicament, each quite sure the fault was not theirs.

But, from a distant corner, a shouted voice of desperation. A simple plea. A humble offer.

“Mr. Speaker, we presented our ideas and the government did not accept them,” Jack Layton whined. “What can I say?”

Not much, Mr. Layton. But, without the hurled invective of yore, that puts everyone just about level.

The Stats. The economy, 31 questions. Arts funding, two questions. The Parliamentary budget officer and the environment, two questions each. Senate reform and equalization, one question each.

Suck-up of the Day. Conservative Mike Lake responds to a question about a job losses in Welland, Ontario. “Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to this by reading a statement. During question period today we have heard a lot of rhetoric, but it is important to understand that our leader is the envy of the world in terms of the way that he is approaching the economic situation. The London Telegraph in July wrote, concerning the economies of the G-8, ‘Of all the leaders, only [our Prime Minister] is able to point to a popular and successful record in office…the Canadian Tories are a model of how to behave during a downturn.'”