The Commons: Stephen Harper begs for clarity

The Prime Minister breaks out the soothing tones in his call for reason and understanding


The Scene. “Our government’s commitment is clear,” the Prime Minister said one afternoon two weeks ago.

“Mr. Speaker, once again, the government has been repeatedly clear,” he said the day after that.

“Mr. Speaker, I was very clear,” he said the next day.

“We have been very clear,” he clarified the day after that.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Harper departed for China. He returned to the House this afternoon to pick up approximately where’d he left off. “Mr. Speaker,” he said,  “I think the government is very clear in this regard.”

The Prime Minister’s preference for rhetorical clarity thus established, it is likely worth reflecting on all we’ve heard these last few weeks.

That, for instance, those convicted of murder should be provided with rope and offered the opportunity to commit suicide. That if you should see someone attempting to make off with your ATV, it would be reasonable to fire a few bullets over the perpetrator’s head. That the registration of firearms in this country has something in common with the policies of Hitler. That a refusal to use information obtained through torture might result in “mass death” or otherwise imperil the constituents of St. John’s East. That those who oppose the government’s online surveillance legislation choose to stand with child pornographers. And that the government’s policies on military procurement are derived from the word of God.

It was on much of this that the NDP leader attempted to engage Mr. Harper this day. And it was on the Prime Minister’s absence for much of these declarations that Nycole Turmel attempted to venture some kind of lesson about the philosophical underpinnings of the Harper government.

“Mr. Speaker,” she said, “when the cat is away, the mice will play.”

However much this is an accurate reflection of rodent behaviour, it is almost certainly not a fair portrait of Conservative dynamics.

The Prime Minister assumed office precisely six years and eight days ago. And even if there were a statistical case to be made that members of his caucus are more likely to say silly things when he is out of the country—enterprising political scientists are welcome to cross-reference the data—it cannot be said that anything uttered these last few weeks is particularly beyond the parameters established by the tone and tenor of these last half dozen revolutions around the sun.

“While the Prime Minister was away, a Conservative minister told Canadians to fire warning shots if someone is trying to steal their ATVs,” Ms. Turmel recounted this afternoon. “Does the Prime Minister agree with the justice minister? Does he believe that Canadians should start firing warning shots?”

If the Prime Minister understood the question, he did not let on. “Mr. Speaker, there is legislation before the House,” he noted. “I do not know if this is what the member is referring to.”

This day, he was his usual mix of shrugs, up-turned palms, nods and dismissive sighs. Whatever the question, he talked past it. Whatever the allegation, he sidestepped it.

Whatever else the Prime Minister is ultimately remembered for, he will be recorded in history for two things: being the first Prime Minister to ever sue the official opposition and leading the first government to be found in contempt of Parliament. He once ventured that Stephane Dion sympathized with the Taliban. He once declared that Mr. Dion’s carbon tax would precipitate a national unity crisis. But he will also stand and beg in soothing tones for reason and clarity and understanding. He will pretend that everything else is all so much noise.

“Now that the Prime Minister is here, I would like to ask him how he would respond to the comments of a Superior Court judge in Ontario who stated that the use of a mandatory minimum sentence of three years with respect to the Smickle case would be ‘fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent and intolerable,’ ” Bob Rae begged. “What is his response to that?”

The Prime Minister’s response was easily offered. “Mr. Speaker, what I would do, first of all, is note that those particular changes passed by this government were in fact supported by the Liberal party and the New Democratic party. I think Canadians believe that the courts have not been tough enough in dealing with gun crime and this government is determined to make sure that we have laws that can deal with serious gun crime.”

Mr. Rae flustered about civility and comparisons to Hitler and child pornographers. The Prime Minister’s eighth and final answer was exquisitely crafted and simply delivered.

“Mr. Speaker, the changes in the lawful access legislation have not only been sought by police to protect our young people from pedophiles, but they have in fact been supported by every single provincial government, every single attorney general, including those who are Liberal,” he reported. “It might be relevant to the honourable member, that includes those who are NDP as well, depending on which side he is on these days.”

Various Conservatives guffawed.

“It is important that among the provinces there really is an all-party consensus on this,” he continued. “I hope Parliament will study this bill carefully and make sure we do what is best for our children and our law enforcement agencies.”

Of everything that has been said this last while, this bit—this Prime Minister, with his history, daring to stand in public and declare a hope that Parliament will study a government bill carefully—is by far the most ridiculous, but the moment passed and Mr. Harper’s day was done.

Sitting back in his seat he shared a laugh with Peter Van Loan.

The Stats. Crime, 15 questions. The oil industry, four questions. Military procurement and aboriginal affairs, three questions each. Veterans, trade and infrastructure, two questions each. Submarines, immigration, Air Canada, affordable housing, Ukraine, the media and foreign investment, one question each.

Stephen Harper, eight answers. Vic Toews, six answers. Joe Oliver, four answers. Rob Nicholson and John Duncan, three answers each. Gerald Keddy, Julian Fantino, Denis Label and Steven Blaney, two answers each. Peter MacKay, Jason Kenney, Lisa Raitt, Diane Finley, John Baird, James Moore and Christian Paradis, one answer each.


The Commons: Stephen Harper begs for clarity

  1. LOL ‘Clarity’

    Harp is SUCH a kidder.

  2. Caption; “Oh, yeah? Well I have pandas.”

  3. I thought Wherry was describing Jean Chretien. Harper learned from the master of obfuscation. None of the opposition touched Harper today in Question Period. He made them look foolish.

    • He made them look foolish… by dodging all their questions without ever once addressing anything of substance?

      This is all just a game, eh? Harper “won” by avoiding accountability at every turn. Nice system of government you got there.

      • When the opposition ask legitimate questions then I will criticize Harper’s answers. If you think the question posed by opposition parties are real questions rather than mini speeches then I guess we don’t see Question Period the same way.
        It is all a game. Don’t you get. They are all performing for the TV cameras. None of them really take any of the questions/answers seriously. The intent is to get out of that 45 min. zoo known as Question Period and get on with the real business.

        • And the Cons have had six years to do something about that.

          Moreover, now that they have an unassailable majority, instead of ramming legislation through the house by routinely imposing time allocation, they could be doing something to make question period something more than the “game” you so sneeringly dismiss.

          • Hey don’t shoot the messenger. You know as well as I do that Question Period is a sham and has been a sham for many years.There are proposals put forward to change the format but nobody is picking up the challenge.

            How much time would the opposition like? They have an opportunity in three stages to discuss legislation and when it becomes a filibuster in an attempt to delay the legislation or gut it they use time allocation.

            The Conservatives have three left wing parties and they do not fundamentally agree with the government. No amount of discussion is going to change their positions and you know it.
            When the opposition asks legitimate questions rather making a mini speech then the government may answer fully. How do you answer a question which is loaded in 45 seconds.

          • I don’t recall an example of any opposition question you’ve considered “legitimate”.

            So I suppose, in your mind, that perceived failure on the part of the opposition exonerates this government from ever providing a direct, forthright, and relevant answer, let alone showing leadership (they are the majority government, after all) by maintaining a little class and decorum.

            Instead, like a bunch of unschooled thugs, they smear their critics and opponents with comparisons to Hitler, accusations of sympathizing with child pornographers, hating the troops, being financed by “foreign radicals”, blah, blah, blah.

            In that respect, I guess they are different from the Chretien you love to loathe. His government rarely engaged in such low-life despicable tactics.

    • “Harper learned from the master of obfuscation. None of the opposition touched Harper today in Question Period. He made them look foolish.”

      Thank you for acknowledging that your guy is now no better than the one you (and your ilk) claim was political evil incarnate.

      Put another way, I guess the sins of the Liberals are now OK when they’re perpetrated by King Stephen and his court of incompetents.

      • . Canadians made their decision on May 2nd whether you like it or not.They will be asked to make another decision in 2015. Canadians will judge whether they agree with the way the government has managed the country and they will make their decision.
        Let me pose a question to you. Are you prepared to put any of the NDP leadership candidate in the PM’s chair in 015. Are you prepared to put a former failed NDP premier who will have been appointed leader of the Liberals given his history and track record in the PM’s chair. You may. However, I suspect many Canadians will worry about those two choices..

        • That’s actually several questions. In response to all of them: a resounding yes. Thank you for asking.

  4. MaLeans, I’m outa here.  Byee. 

    • Promises, promises.

    •  Exceeded the limits of your attention span?

    • Party HQ run out of funds?

    • Bye chet.

    • Still a virgin?

  5. Bobby Rae better watch out.  Justin Trudeau began auditioning for Rae’s job today.  And demonstrated he’s learned from Jack Layton the benefits of playing footsie with sovereignists.

    Left hook to Bobby Rae.  Straight right across the jaw of the vapid NDP leadership field.

    Justin has a strategy.  Looks like he’s a-running.  Though he is going to make Rosedale and Westmount Liberals squirm with obfuscation the sovereignty issue.

    The strategy is the culture values holy war suggested by CBC/Liberal pollster Frank Graves, and do the Jack Layton sovereignist dance.

    • Leader of which party? Vacancies in Libs, NDP and BQ at moment and Trudeau would be comfortable in any of them.

  6. According to Vic Toews Logic, and lets be CLEAR!
    “If you are AGAINST the Decriminalization of marijuana, then you SUPPORT terrorists and drug gangs”

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