The Commons: The minister’s coat

The latest vaguely scandalous twist in the hypothetically scandalous story of Christian Paradis


The Scene. The Liberal leader opened with two questions about the need to address the looming crisis of pensions in this country. Then he moved on to more relevant matters.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “let me raise another issue. In sworn testimony before a House of Commons committee, explosive allegations were made about how the contract was awarded for the renovation of the West Block. For a year now, we have been trying to get to the bottom of this sorry affair, and now there are lurid allegations about the minister and his cashmere coat, and the question I have is, why is the minister still in his job? When will the Prime Minister tell Canadians the truth about this affair?”

Indeed, this morning had brought another vaguely scandalous twist in the hypothetically scandalous story of Christian Paradis. It seemed the Minister of Natural Resources once owned a $5,000 coat, that he had lost this coat at a fundraising cocktail, and that a construction company owner who had obtained a government contract to renovate West Block and who had been at that party was subsequently asked to buy Mr. Paradis a new coat. Crucially, this coat was allegedly made of cashmere—a word that begs for parody.

With Michael Ignatieff’s question awaiting response, the Prime Minister stood here to address an anxious nation. “Mr. Speaker, the facts are very well known in this particular case,” he assured. “Officials have testified there is absolutely no political interference in the contracts. In fact the individual the leader of the Liberal Party is quoting is an individual who lost the contract.”

But what of the coat? What of this profoundly telling outer-garment?

“As for the minister’s coat,” Mr. Harper continued, “the minister had an $800 coat stolen. He reported that to the police.”

So there. With the price of the coat now downgraded, Mr. Paradis seemed less a dandy than merely an upper-middle-class buyer of menswear—perhaps not in keeping with the party’s double-double image, but not quite so egregious as to warrant his banishment to the backbenches.

Alas, the opposition was unpersuaded. “Mr. Speaker, let’s talk facts,” graciously offered Liberal Denis Coderre. He proceeded to list a number of names and dollar amounts that might at some point amount to something untoward.

The government sent up Rona Ambrose, the Minister of Public Works assuring the House that nothing inappropriate had occurred, then suggesting that if anything untoward had happened it perhaps had something to do with the Liberal member opposite. “What Mr. Sauvé did say today at committee is that the only MP he has met with in the past number of years is the member for Bourassa,” she noted. “I wonder when did those meetings take place? What was the nature of those business meetings?”

“Ohhh!” the Conservative side sang.

Mr. Coderre was duly impressed. “That was a good try, Mr. Speaker,” he said.

After the Bloc and NDP had redirected the House to the matters of climate change, North Korea and Afghanistan, Liberal backbencher Bonnie Crombie rose with a series of declarative sentences. “Mr. Speaker, a Conservative minister attempted to extort a $5,400 designer coat from a contractor,” she cried. “A Conservative riding association president demanded a fundraiser in exchange for a public works contract. A Conservative Senate staffer promised a public works contract in exchange for money, and a Conservative lobbyist has been doling out cash around the party.”

There were noticeable grumbles now from the government side. Then Ms. Crombie unveiled her cleverly worded query. “When,” she begged, “will the Prime Minister hand the minister his designer coat and show him the door?”

Now it was John Baird’s turn to stand and state an interest in the facts. “The minister’s coat was stolen from a restaurant in the city of Montreal,” he reported. “The minister did not buy the coat at Holt Renfrew. He bought it in Thetford Mines. The coat is not worth $5,400. It is worth less than $800.”

In a matter of hours then the coat had depreciated in value from $5,400 to $900 to $800 to less than $800. After Question Period, Mr. Paradis’ office would produce a receipt in the amount, after discount, of $650. And for that price, apparently, the minister had purchased a coat made not of cashmere, but of simple, hard working, everyday wool. Tomorrow we will no doubt learn the coat was woven together by some nice grandmothers in his riding and gifted to the minister so that wherever he goes he may carry the warmth of the common people with him.

“Maybe,” Mr. Baird concluded, impressively managing to maintain a straight face, “the Liberal Party could just stop always blaming the victims of crime.”

Undaunted, Ms. Crombie went for her big finish, the Liberal member moving to ensure this day did not pass without an open question about sexism in the highest ranks of government. “Does the Prime Minister condone this corruption,” Mr. Crombie wondered, “and if not, why has the minister not been fired from cabinet, or is that treatment reserved exclusively for cabinet ministers who are women?”

Mr. Baird was positively besmirched. “Mr. Speaker, that is quite unbelievable,” he lamented. “I would have expected that from other members of her party, but not from this honourable member.”

Then finally, self-righteousness. “With respect to big money in politics, it was this government, this Prime Minister,” Mr. Baird declared, “who finally, once and for all, eliminated the influence of big money in politics.”

Thus for all intents and purposes was the matter closed, both the official opposition and government sides no doubt satisfied that they had successfully achieved what they came to Question Peroid this afternoon to accomplish.

The Stats. Ethics, seven questions. The environment, six questions. The military, four questions. North Korea, Afghanistan, G20, the Quebec City arena, pensions, infrastructure, Edmonton and transport, two questions each. Iran, crime, federal parks, foreign investment and Rights & Democracy, one question each.

Stephen Harper, eight answers. John Baird, five answers. Peter MacKay and Chuck Strahl, four answers each. Gail Shea, Rona Ambrose, Lawrence Cannon and Vic Toews, three answers each. Josee Verner and James Moore, two answers each. Jim Flaherty, Rob Moore and Tony Clement, one answer each.


The Commons: The minister’s coat

  1. Thus for all intents and purposes was the matter closed, both the official opposition and government sides no doubt satisfied that they had successfully achieved what they came to Question Peroid this afternoon to accomplish.

    Thank goodness our elected representatives are preoccupied with such weighty matters.

  2. At 150,000 a pop, more for the ministers, this is Must See TV. Hard to believe the ministers actually rehearse this in the cabinet room before QP!

  3. By tomorrow it'll turn out to have cost a buck ninety-eight from a Goodwill Store.

  4. Mr Speaker, why is the Minister scooping up bargains intended for those who live in poverty?

  5. DENIS CODERRE: Mr. Speaker, let's talk facts.

    Coderre? Denis Coderre? Facts?

    That's funny.

  6. "…Tomorrow we will no doubt learn the coat was woven together by some nice grandmothers in his riding and gifted to the minister so that wherever he goes he may carry the warmth of the common people with him…"

    Nice. That one is worth framing.

  7. The CBC fell for the receipt business hook, line and sinker… o, the coat was only worth 600 bucks…. that is not the question… we have had a witness at a parliamentary committee testify that he was asked to pay up 5 grand. Focus people…. any receipt does not prove or disprove this evidence.

  8. LOL they haven't thought of that yet.

  9. Very true. It doesn't matter what the 'receipt' says, or what the actual cost was….the contractor was asked to pay for it.

  10. So good!

  11. Perhaps – just perhaps – yesterdays barrage of less then satisfied comments had some effect on Wherry, as this is certainly the best article of his that I have ever seen.

    Then again, the official opposition persisting in questioning the government on false allegations about the price of a coat is pretty difficult to spin into anti government rhetoric. I cringe to imagine what Wherry would have written had that receipt not been produced. That being said, I whole heartedly agree with the poster above; that line was very good.

  12. The source of the problem lies in the PPG twitter universe. For example, David Akin re-tweets this gem:

    RT @laura_payton: BREAKING NEWS: I have seen the police report and receipt for the coat…bought in Thetford Mines, on sale. And it's wool.
    9 minutes ago via TweetDeck

    For more gossip, go here:

    or any other member of the PPG on twitter.

  13. While I grant your (alleged) point, I still wonder who needs to do the focussing.

    And I quote: "Mr. Speaker, a Conservative minister attempted to extort a $5,400 designer coat from a contractor"

    Sounds to me like this Member thought the coat was 5,400 dollars. I'm just saying.

  14. Cashmere IS wool. LOL

  15. But not pure laine.

  16. agreed… the mp should have stated: "Mr. Speaker, a Conservative minister's staff member tried to collect $5,400 from a contractor"…. better?

  17. LOL good point!

  18. I'll have to dig up a copy of the Checkers speech.

  19. Cashmere

    Well, I suppose the Accountability Act does require a coat of arms……

  20. Macleans, it is beneath you to report on this stupid allegation and to have MPs discuss it in Question Period is beyond belief. They're becoming like the Native Chiefs: too much money for doing too little.

  21. " made of cashmere—a word that begs for parody"

    I miss the days when MPs were debating mere cash.

  22. Funny….it was never 'stupid' when Cons made allegations like this.

  23. Exactly…but didn't.

    Like you said above: focus people!

  24. Boy this is really important stuff. And these guys want to take over the government? I can see why even Kinsella has retreated from their defence. Jaysus!

  25. "foreign investment and Rights & Democracy, one question each."

    I'm actually more curious about what was asked here.
    Or am I? Hey look – it's a shinny object (coat)!
    Everyone – let's go chase!!!

  26. Kickbacks and bribes are important…yes.

  27. `The Cons allegations were that the Liberals stole millions of taxpayers dollars for their own benefit ( Adcsam ) —what is stupid is your ludicrous analogy.

  28. Maybe not quite that. But the stolen coat could have had a $1.29 pack of gum in the pocket. Whatever, I hope the contractors covered that cost as well.

  29. *cough*chewing gum* cough

  30. Mr. Wherry

    It is obvious to everyone here that you are extremely bored covering the commons. Please do us all a favour and stop publishing your mental doodles. They may be enough to entertain you while you try to pay attention, but they are not enough to inform us about anything other than your bored (and boring) mind.

  31. Says a very annoyed Con. LOL

  32. Forget the coat.
    When Wherry thinks a Liberal MP hits a homerun with an especially cutting question, you can bet it was a real stinker.
    And such was the remark from Bonnie Crombie that the reason Paradis was not fired was because he was not a woman.
    That`s what you can take away from this session of Parliament—such a desperate Liberal Party, that they convince a normally sensible woman to stand up and ask a totally ludicrous question.
    Only the true partisan would think that this misguided attempt for the female vote did not smell of silly desperation.

  33. He appears to be keeping YOU entertained…or at least occupied.

  34. awesome Dot

  35. Yes, amongst many other allegations…..some big, some little….all of them false.

  36. The both of you are correct. I am annoyed and occupied. Clearly, the two of you find this to be at the very least either amusing or satisfying. In either case, better than the blog. Glad I could help.

  37. No, let's not forget the coat. A kickback is a kickback whatever it is.

    Cons are getting pretty frantic these days

  38. The contractor, apart from the alleged coat shakedown is claiming a 'pay to play' scheme operating out of Public Works. You don't see a similarity here?

  39. Blue, then can you explain the expulsion of Ms. Guergis?

  40. Does Bonnie Crombie think Maxine is a woman's name?

  41. not better. It was a third party that asked for the money for the coat. This is a game of broken telephone.

  42. It is. Maxime on the other hand…

  43. When there are no more dying MPs to bribe, Stephen Harper has eyes on your cashmire!

  44. Time to submerse yourself in some other hobby. How about shaping tinfoil out of whole cloth?

  45. "Vague", "hypothetical", "scandal" chasing bullsh#t… Makes one long for the good old days when the "Liberals" were in power and the scandals were neither "vague" or "hypothetical". Ahhh, those were the days.

  46. Adscam was hypothetical until Paul Martin had the integrity to call an inquiry……how many 'hypothetical' scandals is this now for the Conservatives with none of that much vaunted accountibility in sight?

  47. Yeah but $5400 was just a negotiating position, they would have taken like $540 with a bit of haggling.

  48. I presume you meant "shaping cashmere".

  49. Ministers have resigned, or been asked to resign for much less, even in the notoriously corrupt Mulroney government. They are supposed to be above even the appearance of wrongdoing, and right now Paradis appears to have the pigeon sh*t of parliament all over his cashmere.

  50. I cant believe this is the topic's covered now, the liberal days of medicoidy are missed. Thats just sad. I cant wait for the day harper is gone. Im counting the days when this joker and his party are out of power.