The Commons: The House of Comedians

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. In the 15 minutes between 2 o’clock and the start of Question Period, three different Conservatives were sent up to demonstrate their loyalty to the cause.

“Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party sure loves taxes,” sang Candice Hoeppner.

“This is a very troubling revelation and it should have Canadians worried,” moaned Bruce Stanton.

“The Liberals want to make Canada the most taxed country in the world,” reported Ron Cannan, who took the opportunity to compare some recently reported remarks of Michael Ignatieff’s to an earthquake in Italy this month that killed nearly 300 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

Ignatieff’s side balked and squawked at this last comment. Then their leader stood and offered the day’s first question. “Mr. Speaker, the government is presiding over the worst collapse in employment on record, 300,000 jobs lost in the first three months of 2009. Mayors and municipal councillors I spoke to in southwestern Ontario last week were promised federal help months ago to create jobs. It has not arrived. When will help arrive?” he wondered. ”What additional measures will the minister offer to protect jobs in a recession which the Minister of Finance has finally acknowledged is serious?”

The Prime Minister was away, as were both the Finance Minister and the Finance Minister’s parliamentary secretary. So up came John Baird, who took the opportunity to ignore the question and instead offer a few thoughts on the airplane scare in Montego Bay.

Ignatieff tried again. “Mr. Speaker, in town hall meetings across southwestern Ontario last week, people told me they are frightened by the cascade of job losses,” he said. “Closetmaid in Cambridge, 3M in London, Sterling Truck in St. Thomas, Navistar in Chatham, Ingersoll Fasteners in Ingersoll, 300,000 jobs in every region, in every province, in every sector in the country. What is the government prepared to do to help Canadians face the tsunami of job loss sweeping across the country?”

Back came Baird, this time with both an announcement and some questions of his own. “Mr. Speaker, this government is the one that brought forward a massive stimulus package to help stimulate growth in the economy. The leader of the Liberal Party talked about his trip to southwestern Ontario. The Liberal leader said, on that trip to southwestern Ontario, on April 14, just last week, ‘We will have to raise taxes.’ We thank him for finally honestly revealing the Liberal plan,” Baird said. “Now the questions for this member are, which taxes will he raise, when will he raise them, and by how much? He owes Canadians an answer.”

Indeed, the dozen or so Canadians watching on CPAC must have thought, an answer of some sort from someone, anyone, would be most welcome.

“Mr. Speaker, I will not take lectures from the Conservatives on fighting deficits,” Mr. Ignatieff fired back, the Liberals jumping to their feet to applaud. “This side of the House cleaned up one deficit, and we will clean up the next one.”

“This is an unfortunate international economic time,” Mr. Baird snapped somewhat limply.

Gathering himself, the Transport Minister noted for the House that “tax freedom day” had been advanced an entire 12 days after three years of Conservative rule. Baird, for one, seemed quite satisfied with this.

“I say to the leader of the Liberal Party, stand in your place, tell us where and when you will raise these taxes, and how much suffering working families in Canada will have to pay,” Baird finished with a flourish.

The Liberal leader has, of course, spent much of the last week trying to explain what he may or may have not said and what it may or may not mean depending on what may or may not happen between now and a later date to be specified at some point in the future. No doubt the Conservatives will insist he repeat said explanations until he is elected or defeated or is nice enough to offer them some new controversy to dwell on.

Fair enough.

But, as coincidence would have it, this government’s own succinctly named National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy made some statements of its own, just two days after Mr. Ignatieff’s musings in Cambridge. Specifically, it released a report impressively entitled Achieving 2050: A Carbon Pricing Policy For Canada, something of a guide if the Conservatives are to make good on their promises for environmental regulation.

It is an interesting read, not least because of bits about mitigating the “adverse impacts on some segments of the economy and society” and how the national economy might be “reduced in size” and why those in the lowest income bracket might eventually lose as much as “just over 3% of their average disposable income” to the cause of a better world. That, weaker minds might conclude, sounds a lot like some sort of permanent tax on everything. That, given everything that was said in the last election and everything that’s happened since, might be, at the very least, something worth discussing in the sort of place where issues of national significance are meant to be discussed.

But then the ghost of Stephane Dion still haunts this place. So after turns from the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, the Liberals next sent up Frank Valeriote to loudly and indignantly vent about the government’s handling of the auto sector.

Industry Minister Tony Clement reviewed his work to date. “What we get on the other side, though,” he sniffed, “is a plan to hike taxes and that just is the wrong policy at the wrong time for this country.”

After a second burst of noise from Valeriote, Clement stood again. “On the other side, what we have in terms of a dissonance of messages is their leader saying that he does not want to help the auto sector and his only help appears to be raising taxes to Canadians,” he said, managing the neat trick of taking two separate statements out of context in the same sentence.

A short while later, the Speaker called on the Conservatives to ask a question of themselves. Up came the dutiful Mike Wallace.

“Mr. Speaker,” he squeaked, “the Liberal leader finally let the cat out of the bag about his real intentions regarding taxes.”

Mr. Ignatieff laughed and feigned fright. Across the aisle, the Conservative chuckled.

“I implore the leader of the Liberal party,” cried John Baird once more, “to stand in this place and promise the people of Canada that he will not raise their taxes or at least have the decency to say how much he will raise them, when he will raise them and which ones he will raise.”

A good time was had by all.

The Stats. Forestry, nine questions. The economy, seven questions. The auto industry, listeriosis, taxation, science, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, food safety, high-speed rail and Manitoba, two questions each. Pirates, employment, the environment, health care, forestry, fisheries and agriculture, one question each.

John Baird, seven answers. Christian Paradis, five answers. Peter MacKay, Tony Clement, Pierre Lemieux and Jean-Pierre Blackburn, four answers each. Diane Finley and David Anderson, three answers each. Vic Toews, two answers. Bev Oda, Jim Prentice, Leona Aglukkaq and Keith Ashfield, one answer each.

The Commons: The House of Comedians

  1. “pirates…..one question”

    unreal.

  2. Hard to believe we pay 150K to these clowns, and 250K to the Ministerial clowns like Baird.

  3. Are the LCD TVs flying off the shelves in Windsor because of the 2% GST cut? I think not. The Conservative cuts are not helping the unemployed of SW Ontario

  4. ““I implore the leader of the Liberal party,” cried John Baird once more,”

    You could have said “bawled” or “screamed” here, why stop at cry?

    ““Mr. Speaker,” he squeaked, ”

    You’re killing me here, AW, you’re killing me. And people call me a parody.

  5. My MP CPC Bruce Stanton from Simcoe North, instead of taking the time to hilite something/someone from his constituency, during Member Statements today, embarassed himself by receiting a scripted passage from the PMO, to attack Iggy.

    Obviously my MP has abandoned a previous MO of respectful dialogue, while on the hill, in order to audition for a seat nearer to King Stephen. Gone is any respect I had for Mr. Stanton.

    I and all of Simcoe North came to expect more from him, and are now gravely disappointed in his morfing into yet another BORG in Harper’s arsenal!!

    • … and if those are the best statements that PMO can write, I wonder what they did with the rest of the day?

      • Just out of interest, have we ever had a sitting govt quite like these guys? In cricket parlance [ sorry it's my sport ] they’re batting and bowling at the same time – asking the sort of pointless gotcha questions one would normally expect from a partisan opposition. This is nothing less than a mockery of Parliament – why don’t they perogue the place for the rest of the year; it’s utterly pointless, when will Canadians catch on?

  6. Wasn’t the Speaker saying he was going to stop this partisan slander during Members Statements? It appeared he did stop the Conservative MPs for a week or so after he first put out his order to class-it-up, but he didn’t even try today.

    Nothing disgusted me more than seeing MP Cannan’s earthquake remark. The Liberal MP preceding him made a statement about aid and support for victims of the Italian earthquake, and Cannan immediately follows, awkwardly inserting, “I appreciate the member opposite for his remarks on the Italian earthquake, but let me tell you, there’s an earthquake in this country too, and it’s the leader of the opposition” before his ad nauseum speaking points. It’s bad enough that the Tories are continuing to use Members Statements for partisan attacks, but to turn a message of condolence into a joke? This is worse than the listeriosis joke – this is in public and clearly a failed attempt to be funny.

    If anyone captured it, I hope it gets posted up on here.

    • Laurence you need to get a life if you think the reference to the earthquake in Italy was that bad. I would suggest if the tax and spend Liberals ever do get back into power it will be considered an earthquake by the middle class in Canada. Suck it up buttercup this is politics.

      • “Laurence you need to get a life if you think the reference to the earthquake in Italy was that bad. I would suggest if the tax and spend Liberals ever do get back into power it will be considered an earthquake by the middle class in Canada. Suck it up buttercup this is politics.”

        and that is why people are ashamed of their elected representatives.

      • Laurence, you’re fine.

        hollinm– people died in the earthquake. Just in case you didn’t know.

        • I know perfectly well that people died in the earthquake.

          Would I have used that reference. Not likely. However, you would prefer to focus on that part rather than the substance of what he was saying because it was inconvenient for you to hear.

      • So how are the Cons going to reduce the deficit? The Cons certainly knows how to leave deficits but can they reduce one? The answer to that is simple: NO

        Could you imagine the debt Canada would be in right now if the Liberals hadn’t cleaned up the mess left by the Cons?.

        • So you want to blame Mulroney for the deficits and debt left by the great almighty Pierre Trudeau and his star Finance Minister Jean Chretien? You know when and how the deficit came from. Stop with the Liberal talking points.
          Harper could have stuck to his guns and said no deficit and then what? You guys would have screaming at the top of your lungs. Truth is we probably would have a coalition government today supported by the Separatist party and Dion as PM. God forbid!

  7. Its interesting to see the adjectives applied to the Conservative members of Parliament by Wherry while Liberals of course are the righteous ones. You know it would be nice if a “reporter” would simply report the facts without embellishment which shows their own political leanings and let the reader make up his/her own mind. The more important question that should be asked by the press is what are the Liberals policies in respect to future taxation. Oh, that would be too much to ask of the unelected leader of the Official Opposition. Wherry and his ilk may not like the answer.

    • It’s a blog.

      • Your point is what? Wherry is representing McLeans and therefore those reading those comments associate it with McLeans. If he want to be a real blogger on Liblogs he should do it under his own name.

    • You made up your mind in spite of whatever problem you have with Wherry’s choice of words. Are you the only one capable of such a feat?

  8. Yesterday on Politics, comedian Jaime Watt was barely able to contain his glee as he gloated about how Baird had repeatedly ignored Ignatieff’s questions by attacking Ignatieff with cheap shots about his comments on the possibility of raising taxes when the recession is over . So much for making parliament work.

    • Cheap shots!!!!!!!!!!!!! The man said he is going to raise taxes. There was no equivication. He said he would need to raise taxes. I think Canadians have a right to know. If they agree fine but if they don’t they should know it before voting for him. Raising taxes before, after or during a recession is not necessary if the unelected leader of the official opposition was prepared to eliminate programs/policies that cost billions of dollars i.e gun registry but do little for the vast majority of seriously ordinary Canadians.
      Iggy wanted the deficit and did everything in his power to get it. He got what he wanted and so for him to talk about the size of the deficit is hypocrisy. He will wear it just like Harper.
      Of course you make no comment that the elitist leader of the Liberal party talks about an $84 billion deficit. That’s in 5 years if the economy is still in the tank. That kind of misleading statement does not serve Iggy well or the country. He knows full well a lot of the spending is time sensitive I.e. EI and will reduce as employment improves.
      The Liberals better just hope that the country is not well on the road to recovery by the time the next election comes about .

      • Baird twice deflected Ignatieff’s questions about the economy with cheap shots that Ignatieff wants to raise taxes, without the caveat that those tax increases would take place after the economy recovers, and without an explanation of what kind of taxes would be increased – Ignatieff has never, to my knowledge, specified that personal income taxes would pay the full burden. Perhaps you know of some way to pay down the massive debt we now seem to be accumulating, notwithstanding the gun registry which most police forces seem to support, without raising taxes when the recession is over? Do you have some evidence to support your claim that Ignatieff wanted the deficit and did everything in his power to get it? Do you know with any degree of certainty what the eventual cost will be? There’s very little chance that the country will be well on the road to recovery by the time of the next election, probably in 6 months, unless Harper decides to bail before then. In the meantime, smart-assed remarks from members of the current government do nothing to reassure Canadians that their best interests are in good hands.

        • The opposition parties and of course the media were demanding the government do something to address the declining economic activity of the country. I am sure they did not want Harper to hold a parade. They wanted him to spend money and lots of it. You conveniently forgot the rhetoric of the Liberals prior to the economic statement and the eventual budget. So they demanded spending and they got it big time. Now Iggy will wear it just like Harper will.
          Iggy and his band of merry men supported the corporate tax reductions. Where else do you think they are going to get new taxes i.e. higher GST, elimination of the child tax credit, cuts to military spending, carbon tax/cap and trade and God knows what else. That will hurt the middle class big time.
          I don’t know what the deficit will be just like you don’t. We could stop it in its tracks if there was consensus that the spending is not going to help the economy recover and stop with the bailouts etc.. Only the U.S. coming out of recession will do that since 85% of our exports go to them.
          Harper is going no where. That’s what you guys want because he is a formidable opponent. Keep underestimating him and find out where that gets you. Iggy has a lot of baggage and it will be revealed all in due course.
          Once again with the “smart assed” comments. You don’t like the government reminding the Liberal leader that he put his big foot in his mouth. In the meantime you revel in the lies/distortions told by the Liberals.

          • You do not provide evidence to support your claim about ‘the rhetoric of the Liberals prior to the economic statement and the eventual budget’.

            You do not provide evidence to support your claim about what might or might not be subject to higher taxes once the recession is over.

            You do not provide substantiating evidence that government spending will not help the economy recover.

            I do agree with your comment that ‘Harper is going no where[sic]‘, and it’s refreshing to learn that you recognize that.

            What I don’t like about smart-assed comments is that the inappropriateness of them in the current circumstances is completely lost on this government and it’s supporters.

            You are entitled to your opinions, but not to your facts.

  9. I for one am glad that the conservatives are pointing out the 1-2% tax cut here, the up to $5,000 tax credit there, and the potential of not having those goodies if the Liberals are in power. Yes, I am so over-joyed to know these things. You see, I used to work for one of those companies named. I am one of those 300,000 laid of and on unemployment. For the 1st time in 18years. So I’m glad to know I’m saving -% here and there. Since I’m ‘making’ just a bit over 1/2 the wages I have been used to. I’m so glad that if I wasn’t spending my savings to make ends meet that I could get a tax credit of up to $5,000 for ssving for the ‘future’. I’m not a writer but there is a word to describe a government which asks people who are barely hanging on to spend the economy out of a recession, but gives those that have money $5,000 tax credits to make they’re futures brighter. Along with my fellow employees we sent a letter to my local conservative MP 6 months before it was announced our plant would close completely with lay-offs starting in 3 months. He didn’t even contact us.

    One of the most prosperous nations on the planet and this is what we are reduced too? Shame. Oh, but things are looking up in the future. It can’t be that long before the next federal election..

  10. Personally I’m glad the conservatives are ramming they’re low tower tax achievements / Opposition possible future tax increase agenda tru the airwaves. You see, I used to work for one of those companies and I now am one of those 300,00 who are on U.I. Trying to start my own business
    so I’m not deemed too costly by some multi-national. In the meantime it’s good to know that I can
    buy things at a couple % lower tax rate while I try to collect my U.I. payments ( somehow 55% of your
    previouis wages doesn’t go as far ). But at least I can keep in mind that during a recession we haven’t
    seen since the big one, the government has kept in place they’re policy to give those who can afford it
    a $5,000 tax credit to save. Yes,save. Save while they ask me to spend to get the economy going. Spend
    so the economy can get going and they can pay off the deficit they’re running up by…giving people who
    don’t need it ….a $5,000 tax break now.

    I’m not an economist like the Prime Minister or finance minister, but where I come from thats what we call politely..stupid. Oh I forget our finance minister used to be finance minister for Ontario. And they’re last year in power they ran the first deficit in years. Do we see a trend here? The conservatives do cherish the dollar…..my dollar..your dollar…You get up in the morning and grab your lunch box and go off to work ( thank god you still have a job ) and theyll ‘take care’ of your money.

    • While I am sorry you have lost your job and you are suffering financially lets not lose perspective here. I know you will find this crass but the fact is if the unemployment rate is 8% then 92% of the people are still working and it is those people that the government is encouraging to spend to give the economy a boost which may help people who are in the same perdicament as you.
      The government whether it is a Conservative or Liberal government cannot guarantee a person a job. While they can make sure the rules governing EI are fair and equitable across the country the hard fact is we are experiencing a global recession the likes of which we have not seen since the great depression.
      You can complain about the deficit but what would be your answer. Simply tell everybody that it is a recession and it would be foolish spending money we don’t have in an attempt to kick start the economy. That would go over really well with the Canadian people and particularly those that are hurting.

      • I aappreciate the kind sentiments but I think you have been listening to too many conservative talk show hosts. Your talking points are very weak. 8%-unemployment does not mean 92%-employment. People who gave up getting a job but did qualify for grants/loans to go back to school are not included. Those that have to get any work at all are finding enough part-time ( low wage no benefit jobs ) to no longer be considered by the government to be unemployed. According to various studies I looked thru the real unemployment rate at this point in a signicant recession would be accurately somewhere closer to 12-16%. And the Bank of Canada says that our ‘annouced’ rate will probably creep over 10% sometime this year. So let’s ‘conservatively’ say we’ll peak out at 15% real unemployment. Iif 300,000+ full-time jobs lost since Oct. doesn’t make you shudder there’s a percentage that should, Or how about a fraction 15% is approx. 1/6 …yes, 1 out of every 6 workers. Look around your work place….1,2, 3,4,.5….gone….7,8,,9,10, 11…gone.

        Does the government owe me(people) a job. Well I didn’t say that. But, now that you mention it.. These guys berated the previous Liberal government for not accurtely reporting the Governement surpluses ( yes a positive under a Liberal governemt ). The conservatives cried ouit shame, give the people a tax break ( during one of the best economies ) in years. What were Chretein and Martin doing…paying off multiple billions of long term debt Well Harper got in. Lowered the GST, lowered taxes. What do you suppose happened.. Inflation INCREASED. No surprise. The Bank of Canada increased our interest rates above the U.S. So inside of a couple years ‘our dollar went from under 70 cents to over a dollar even. I actually want to give the NDP some real credit. They were already travelling around 2-yrs. ago telling people how destructive this could be. I can tell you that the president of our company was in (from the U.s ) about 9 months before we were notified we were being shut-doiwn and moved to the southern U.S.. He did his company profile thing and told us that if the dollar went to par we would be uncompetitve. We did, they moved.

        Solve the deficit, bring back jobs? Can you guess what the solution should be, now?

        Regards,

        Bill

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