The Commons: Smile and shrug

Tony Clement faces off against Michael Ignatieff


The Commons: Smile and shrugThe Scene. After the last of several government MPs had been sent up before Question Period to cast aspersions on Michael Ignatieff’s character, the Speaker decided to interject. Calling for order, Peter Milliken told Conservative Daryl Kramp that he might “find himself suspended” if tries again to defy a recent ruling against the use of Parliament’s time to attack a fellow MP.

Those on the Liberal and NDP benches applauded. The government side pouted and, after Question Period, once more asserted its right to freely disparage by doing just that.

“This is politics. This is not a Harvard classroom,” explained Kory Teneycke, the Prime Minister’s press secretary. “You have to be able to take it as well as give it.”

Above all else, it seems, one’s ability to “take it” is the highest measure of public leadership in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa. Take, for instance, the Question Period that followed the Speaker’s warning.

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the Minister of Industry three simple questions about whether they did their jobs to protect Canadian autoworkers and Canadian taxpayers,” Michael Ignatieff began by way of review. “And the answers were as follows. No secure credit facility right now. No corporate assets backing up our loans and no warranty guarantees for Canadian consumers.

“Is this the government’s position? Because if it is, they’re not doing their job.”

Tony Clement stood to respond. “In fact, what I indicated yesterday was, of course, we are working with these two auto companies, as before,” he said. “There has not been any money flowed to General Motors and, of course, there are strict conditions before they are. And should the company’s restructuring plans not be certified or should that company go into CCAA or Chapter 11, of course, we can convert those loans to debt financing which … have higher security. So that’s the answer to the honourable member’s question.”

This was not an insufficient response. But Clement could not let Ignatieff go unchallenged.

“When is he going to do his job as the leader of the opposition and not say one thing in British Columbia and say another thing in the House of Commons?” he snarked.

The Conservatives stood to cheer. Clement sat back down, leaned forward and glared across the aisle.

It is tedious to belabour this point, but if the government persists, it perhaps necessary to do likewise.

In Squamish, B.C. this past weekend, Mr. Ignatieff commented on the prospect of financial aid for the automotive industry. “I don’t believe in bailouts,” he said. “What I believe in is fully-refundable loan packages for industries that give you a business plan that will restore them to profitability. No voter in B.C. wants to throw money into the auto sector and neither do I.”

This is, it must be said, a position not unlike that of Mr. Clement’s government. But seizing on the last 16 of Mr. Ignatieff’s words, the Conservative side has chosen to assert the Liberal leader is a double-speaking enemy of Canada’s economy.

“Mr. Speaker, I make a habit of saying the same thing right across the country,” Ignatieff shot back.

Clement made an odd waving gesture with his right hand.

“I did not get an answer about protecting warranties for Canadian cars,” Ignatieff continued. “I did not get an answer to the question about access to the credit facility … why? When will the government start doing its job, which is to protect Canadian taxpayers and Canadian autoworkers?”

Back came Clement. “When we get some details of what the Obama administration plans on warranties, we’ll have a look at that of course,” he said. “But, indeed, as I said before, we have made loans available. GM has not asked for those loans. There are strict conditions that are attached to those loans.”

Then on to something almost entirely unrelated. “When the honourable member stands up and says he is being consistent, I’d like to ask him about how consistent he is on the carbon tax,” he continued, “which he pushed on the previous leader of the Liberal party and is now trying to distance himself from.”

The Conservatives stood again to cheer.

Fifteen months ago—far exceeding the statute of limitations on what is remembered here—there was great concern over the safety of the nuclear reactor at Chalk River, a small town northwest of Ottawa. The facility had been shut down on account of such concerns, but the pause in its operations had resulted in an international shortage of medical isotopes—the radioactive substances used in tests for cancer and other ailments.

When the issue reached the House of Commons, the Prime Minister was quick to blame his partisan rivals.

“What we do know is the continuing actions of the Liberal-appointed Nuclear Safety Commission will jeopardize the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians,” Mr. Harper fumed. “The question is whether the Liberals will continue to block the production of medical radioisotopes in the country. It is on their shoulders, and they continue to block what is necessary for the public interest and the health of Canadians.”

Emergency legislation to restart the reactor was soon enough passed. Days later, Tony Clement, then the health minister, was asked to explain his superior’s sudden burst of outrage. “Sometimes,” he said, “you gotta fire a couple shots across the bow to make sure the opposition knows that you’re serious about the issue.”

Today, Ignatieff sneered in reference to Clement’s promise to consider what the American president ends up doing. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the answer amounts to saying, always a follower, never a leader.”

“It’s very interesting,” Clement responded. “He says things in different parts of the country that he thinks will be acceptable to them. Doesn’t he understand that we have 24-hour news channels? We hear those things and we wonder, when is he going to be consistent? Because if he wants to be Prime Minister, he’s going to have to be consistent.”

Marc Garneau asked a question about the conditions General Motors must meet to receive a government loan. Clement ventured a sort of answer, pronounced himself “consistent” and encouraged Garneau to tell Ignatieff to do likewise.

Frank Valeriote stood, removed his glasses and hectored Clement to do better.

“I would only say to the honourable member that President Obama, yesterday, credited the Canadians with being part of the solution, credited us with working together with them,” Clement said in response. “It’ll be something that even the leader of the Liberal party must be very jealous of.”

With that Clement sat back down, smiled across the aisle and shrugged.

The Stats. Taxation, eight questions. Employment, six questions. The auto industry, five questions. The economy, four questions. Infrastructure, border security, energy, immigration and Afghanistan, two questions each. Justice, aerospace and the environment, one question each.

Tony Clement and Jacques Gourde, six answers each. Ted Menzies, five answers. Ed Komarnicki, four answers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Peter Van Loan and Jim Prentice, three answers each. John Baird, Jason Kenney and Stockwell Day, two answers each.


The Commons: Smile and shrug

  1. Whenever a poll comes out that disappoints Harper’s party, they take out their frustrations in the House. Little wonder that teachers have given up taking their students on field trips to the Parliament Buildings when the House is in session.

  2. Ahh, the silent echo of chimpanzees doing what monkeys do. CONs at work, diligently distorting the truth. It’s a shame no one is watching but no doubt this gang of reprobates feel that this exercise serves a purpose as psychological warfare. One wishes they treated the act of governance with such focus.

  3. “After the last of several government MPs had been sent up before Question Period to cast aspersions on Michael Ignatieff’s character…”

    But his character is both awful and germane, it’s critically important for Canadians to be apprised of this.

    “Personal attacks”, feh, what’s wrong with them? We are to restrict criticism to inanimate objects? We are to not criticize persons, no matter the heights of their asshattery? Speaking of objects, Iggy’s henchman is suing everything that moves in this country, and the Canadian people should know of Iggy’s thuggery and attempts to attack free expression.

    • What? Someone should tell him that only the Prime Minister is allowed to sue people for no good reason!

  4. “Mr. Speaker, I make a habit of saying the same thing right across the country,” Ignatieff shot back.”

    I can prove otherwise to a comical degree with little effort. Here’s what Iggy said to the Economic Club of Canada recently (warning: do not read with mouthfull of coffee, you will laugh):

    “Liberals believe in sound money, balanced budgets, low taxes, personal responsibility.”


    Bwahahahahahahahahaha! I’m serious, he actually said that to the Economic Club of Canada! I swear I didn’t add that line about personal responsibility, he did in fact say that, presumably with a straight face. Now, here’s what he said to Arts guy Evan Solomon a few months earlier:

    Certain parts of me are utterly unchanged, I’m a kind of Pierre Trudeau, gay marriage, tax and spend liberal on the social domestic side, pretty well unchanged since the sixties, in fact confirmed by events.

    He repeats that he is a “tax and spend liberal” in the same interview, just in case a few greedy Liberal voters missed it:

    I’m a blue-state tax and spend liberal as I’ve said.


    You can’t believe in low taxes and personal responsibility *and* be a “tax and spend liberal”, I’m sorry, it’s just not doable.

    Mr. Ignatieff makes spectacularly contradictory statements like this all of the time and the sooner someone brings it to his attention the better for him, notwithstanding whining from certain corners that this constitutes a “personal attack”, which I am to understand is a bad thing. Mr. Ignatieff’s rank duplicity and cheap, cheap demagoguery constitutes a personal attack on Canadians, their wallets, and the national treasury, and I see no reason why we, the people, and our elected representatives should not respond in kind.

    • I see no contradiction at all in his statements. If this is the best that Conbots can do, the CPC is in serious trouble.

      • I’m sure this is just a beta, or even alpha, release. Revising the software from version 1.0 (Code name: Not A Leader) to version 2.0 (Code name: Snooty book-writing foreign-living flip-flopper) isn’t an easy task, and there are sure to be a few bugs in the test release.

      • A blind man facing the wrong direction can see the contradiction (note that I specified man, as opposed to Liberal). I don’t think he can help himself at this point; a lifetime immersed in the public sector has infused public sector “thought” into his very marrow. If a chump like me can riff Iggy incongruity off the top of his head, Teneycke is going to have a field day with him.

          • Ah – t’would be amusing if these monkeys had a sense of humour. I for one would throw a banana or two in their general direction IF they made me laugh!

  5. I think the Conbots — especially the dumbest of ’em all, Kory “I love FoxNews” Teneycke — should realize that the current President of the US, and their hero — the former President, the not-so-lamented Bush Jr. — are all Harvard alumni. In fact, many of the elite in American politics are Harvard alumni.

    They should also know that Harvard alumni stick together. When you insult their alma mater, you insult them all. They should think about that the next time they use “Harvard” as a slur.

    • “In fact, many of the elite in American politics are Harvard alumni. ”

      Yeah, but Obama is unique among them in that he needed “affirmative action” race quotas to get into Harvard and to advance.

      Obama has never released a test score or his grades or his papers, there is absolutely no evidence for his so-called “supple intellect”, and a great deal of evidence he is a mediocre fraud. A big reason why Harper has led Canada to the best economy in the G8 is due to his Ivy League educated finance minister, who didn’t need race quotas to get his mick ass into Princeton, so I guess they do have their uses.

      None of them are in Stephen Harper’s league, though, didn’t he have like a 98.7% average in grade 13, before becoming a self-taught programmer to pay his way through university? Harper may well be the only leader in world history to have spent hours debugging code; as Bill Gates says “The mathematical mind is often the superior one.” He’s just on a different, higher intellectual level than the non-mathematically inclined like, say, Yann Martel.

      • I think you’re being awfully hard on the Prime Minister. He may have his faults, but he doesn’t deserve this kind of ruthless satire. I think he’d be quite a nice guy if he weren’t in politics.

        • This is getting annoying, but a light went off: I can say pretty much anything and it will be regarded as satire, yes? Facts, figures, deadpan delivery, it’s all satire to you, yes? And I’m also regarded as nuts (not really, but I’ll play along for a moment), right? I get this in real life too, btw.

          Well, why the hell am I afraid of the Canadian Human Rights Commission? There’s not a judge or jury or commissioner in Canada who would take me seriously, as ol’ Mitchell and others will be happy to testify that I cannot possibly be serious about or responsible for anything I say. Cool, so how can I best monetize this, Jack? Book myself at the Fringe festivals? A blog? Give Breslin my spiel and give YukYuk’s a shot? What say? I really shouldn’t be wasting the pretty here, time go go hard or go home.

          • Now you are satirising your own satire of satire. I doff my cap. Is this really a try-out for stand-up comedy, or are you going to stick to the written word? If I were you I would try “open mic” nights at your local comedy club, you just to rehearse carefully — and need to keep it dead-pan. But what am I saying? I’m talking to a dead-pan master. Anyway, let us know if you go on tour, it would be great to see you live.

          • Repackaged yug-iT.

          • He truly does contain multitudes.

          • Rich Little of the Macleans blogosphere.

          • I understand the entertainment value of “what will he (whatever he’s calling himself at any given moment) say next”, and far be it from me to discourage the posting of comments to blog posts, but still.

            I think people really need to consider whether or not they should be feeding trolls.

          • It doesn’t really matter whether we feed him or not. If we don’t, someone else will. At least we know enough to avoid taking him seriously.

          • True enough.

          • Maybe if you assclowns commented on the topic at hand for a change instead of me…yeah, let’s switch that around, how about *you* guys comment on topic for a change, and I follow you from post to post commenting on your comment? What say?

          • Sounds like a plan, LEV.

          • Oh sorry LEV. I was mixing up threads. The Mulroney thing reminded me of his tainted tuna scandle (aka Tunagate)- you know where the tuna was banned in Canada, yet it mysteriously showed up elsewhere.

        • Jack you are being far too hard on Con-bot L-E-V.

          Harper’s many accomplishments include working in the mail room at Imperial Oil where he delivered addressed mail to the correct department 100% of the time and according to supervisors committed 110% effort. Find a Harvard alumni who got 110% on any of their tests at that school. You won’t.

          And Harper progressed to ‘data entry’ AKA computer systems specialist at Imperial Oil with unrelenting ambition. Records indicate he could enter data at 25 words-per-minute which was “like a 98.7% average” compared to the other ‘data entry computer specialists’. Can Obama even say he was ever in ‘Data entry’ ? I bet he can’t!

          So please don’t mock Harper. He is special in his own way and his many achievements should be celebrated.

          • Ah – mail room. That’s how he learned to send out so many ten percenters. That splains it Looshy. Delivering mail is in his soul.

        • No, because he is an insufferable and egotistical person. He wasn’t happy in private life because he wasn’t popular. He’s still working on that, but there’s a problem with Personality Fail.

      • “Yeah, but Obama is unique among them in that he needed “affirmative action” race quotas to get into Harvard and to advance.”

        So, where’s your evidence for this? Oh, maybe your next statement will clarify matters:

        “Obama has never released a test score or his grades or his papers…”

        So now you’re saying there is no evidence that his test scores or his financial aid situation or his race had anything to do with his admission to Harvard? Which is it?

        “… there is absolutely no evidence for his so-called “supple intellect”, and a great deal of evidence he is a mediocre fraud.”

        So his progress from law school, to authoring two books, the state Senate, the US Senate and then the US Presidency prove he’s mediocre?

        There are so many self-contradicting elements to your statements. Is it because they’re based on anger and hatred rather than reason or evidence of any kind?

        Let me restate this in the event you find my questions too challenging: Did you make this stuff up, were you instructed to write it this drivel or are you just a mouth-breather filled with rage?

        (BTW – I’m not even an Obama supporter.)

        • “I must say, however, that as someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review’s affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year, I have not personally felt stigmatized either within the broader law school community or as a staff member of the Review.” – Barack Obama


      • No he didn’t need “affirmative action”, all he needed was a scholarship to play hockey. Of course they are quite rare for canadians in U.S. universities.

  6. Wow…I’m even finding myself starting to agree with Aaron. I dislike the Liberals as much as anyone, but even I have to wonder just what the hell guys like Kramp are trying to accomplish. Attacking in QP is one thing, that’s just part of the ridiculous (on all sides) gong show that is QP…but nobody outside the HoC watches member’s statements. Absolutely nobody. Who does Kramp and others think they are talking to?

    • Standard Republican tactic – keep a small number of attack points ready at all times. Hammer them at every opportunity.

      The attack points don’t have to be true – honestly, the public doesn’t do any fact-checking and neither, generally, does the media – you just gotta hammer them with overwhelming conviction and endless repetition.

      I’d imagine QP is a useful place to work out the bugs on the attack points and get them flowing freely off the lips of the backbenchers.

      • It falls in to the category of “if you repeat something often enough, it will be accepted as true by virtue of the number of times it has been said”.

        They are trying to beat a message into our heads, a form of brainwashing as it were.

  7. I see the computer crash didn’t affect your coverage of QP! It was like being there.

  8. Hello Tory “Corn Cob Bob” – no it’s not a Harvard classroom – it’s also not a grammar school classroom. Will the real adults please stand up -hmmmm, no one on the government side stands up.

    They’re jealous because they didn’t go to Harvard? Hey, Con kiddies – Jim Flaherty went to Princeton and acts like he went to grammar school only.

    • This is brilliant satire. That you Jack? It’s outstanding, you capture what the Dene call Yixgitsiy qay xudix not’ux, or “insolent white liberal woman outside kitchen” in Slavey, perfectly, it’s like I’m back on the Mackenzie.

      • Forget it. Stick to what you are good at – creating satire, not in trying to find it where none exists.

      • Izzat you Ezra?

    • Is he the one in the photo?
      I was thinking that he really needs an image consultant — looks like a conceited dandy, and he sure does fancy himself in his very ugly pinstriped suit and striped shirt — looks like a Chicago mobster from the 40s.

      Oh — right. lol

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