The Commons: To stand and say something

‘These are the Prime Minister’s own words. Does he not understand that these words apply to him?’


The Scene. The public undermining of the Honourable Beverley J. Oda’s professional standing continues at a methodical pace.

The opposition side is now engaged in unabashed mockery for the still-seated minister. “How can she remain in her position as minister when, by her silence, she refuses to be accountable to Parliament?” asked Liberal Hedy Fry after quoting from the Prime Minister’s own guidelines on ministerial accountability.

John Baird stood to take this one and so Ms. Fry upped the rhetorical ante. “The Minister of International Cooperation sits behind the Prime Minister, dutifully, day after day and is not allowed to answer,” she observed. “Is it this Prime Minister’s position that women in his cabinet should only be seen and not heard?”

This was enough to receive an admonishment from Mr. Baird, but not enough to get Ms. Oda on her feet. The Liberals pursued her twice more, but Mr. Baird stood for those as well. The Liberals jeered and yelled. They chanted “Let her speak” and thumped their desks. Ms. Oda sat quietly. Mr. Baird turned at one point to acknowledge her presence directly as he commended her “great leadership.” This earned her an ovation from the Conservative side and a pat on the back from Sylvie Boucher seated behind her.

On some antiquated principle of parliamentary democracy and representative government, the Liberals are probably correct to wonder why the minister does not stand in her place to respond to opposition queries and condemnations during the time allotted each day for the House to hear such things. But implicit in that is the assumption that her standing will serve some purpose beyond confirming her ability to perform the physical act itself.

This afternoon’s exchanging of pleasantries began with Michael Ignatieff standing to review and readdress the matter now known as in-and-out. “Mr. Speaker, the public prosecutor has charged four members of the Prime Minister’s inner circle of serious violation of Canada’s election law. The public prosecutor says that evidence of illegal activity is voluminous. So this is not just some accounting dispute. We are talking about election fraud,” he said. “Given that the Prime Minister’s party is facing a public prosecution for illegal activity, will he commit to this House today that at the next election there will not be another in-and-out scam?”

Here the Prime Minister stood to speak various sentiments, several of which had already been committed to the record the day before by his parliamentary secretary. “Mr. Speaker, this is an administrative dispute with Elections Canada that has been going on for five years,” he said.

The Liberal side laughed theatrically.

“Let us be clear, the dispute is whether certain expenses should be counted as local or national. We have a difference of opinion on this. We maintain that our people acted under the law as they understood it at the time,” Mr. Harper continued. “When it was clear that Elections Canada had changed its interpretation of the law, this party had already adjusted its practices in the 2008 election campaign.”

Mr. Ignatieff stood to repeat himself en français. Mr. Harper stood to do likewise.

As he stood with his third try, Mr. Ignatieff furrowed his brow. “Let me read something that the Prime Minister said when he created the office of the public prosecutor,” he said. “‘Bend the rules, you will be punished. Break the law, you will be charged. Abuse the public trust, you will go to prison.’ These are the Prime Minister’s own words. Does he not understand that these words apply to him? Does he think he is above the law? Who does he think he is?”

This was a decidedly existential query, the likes of which Mr. Harper could not possibly have responded sufficiently in the time allotted, but the Prime Minister stood to speak nonetheless. “Mr. Speaker, these are disputes over the interpretation of the rules,” he ventured. “That is why we have courts. They will render their decisions as appropriate.”

Mr. Ignatieff was now indignant and stood for a fourth time to scold the Prime Minister, noting a formal demand from the House that the government turn over various documents relevant to the federal budget. Mr. Harper was unmoved.

With a fifth and final opportunity, Mr. Ignatieff stood with an omnibus complaint. “The Prime Minister withholds documents. He defends friends charged with illegal activity. He shuts down Parliament when it gets in his way. He keeps a minister in cabinet who does not tell the House the truth, and will not even let her get up and defend herself in the House of Commons,” he complained. “All of this is an abuse of power. It is an abuse of democracy.”

Various Conservatives complained that the Liberal leader was going on a bit long. “Time!” they yelled at the Speaker. “Time!”

“The Prime Minister goes around the world preaching democracy overseas,” Mr. Ignatieff continued. “When will he defend and practice democracy—”

Here he had apparently exceeded his limit.

Somewhere there Mr. Harper found something to which he could vaguely claim to respond. “Mr. Speaker, in all of that, the leader of the Liberal Party raised the question of budget,” he noted. “It is the responsibility of all members of Parliament to read a budget before deciding on it. I know the Liberal Party leader seems to have made up his mind on the March budget back some time in September or August. I would encourage him to take his responsibilities seriously, to look at the budget documents when they are tabled, read them and obviously do what is best for the Canadian economy, which is to continue to focus on that economy and not on an unnecessary and opportunistic election.”

“Take your responsibilities!” cried a voice from the Liberal side.

But of course, on the basic principle with which Ms. Oda is now taunted, the Prime Minister had indeed taken his responsibilities. He did stand and he did speak and by a certain standard this is sufficient.

The Stats. In and out, nine questions. Accountability, five questions. KAIROS and energy, four questions each. Tunisia, crime, health care, food prices, Agent Orange and the CBC, two questions each. Libya, the budget, the Quebec City arena, aboriginal affairs, the economy and transportation, one question each.

Stephen Harper, 11 answers. John Baird, five answers. Pierre Poilievre, four answers. Jim Flaherty, Christian Paradis, Leona Aglukkaq and Vic Toews, three answers each. James Moore and Chuck Strahl, two answers each. Stockwell Day and Josee Verner, one answer each.


The Commons: To stand and say something

  1. "Ms. Fry upped the rhetorical ante"? Well, I never! After all, they ARE burning crosses on lawns in Prince George even as I write this…

  2. This was a decidedly existential query, the likes of which Mr. Harper could not possibly have responded sufficiently in the time allotted, but the Prime Minister stood to speak nonetheless. “Mr. Speaker, these are disputes over the interpretation of the rules,” he ventured. “That is why we have courts. They will render their decisions as appropriate.”

    And so the courts have, with the The Federal Court of Appeals decision today. Even though the ruling will probably be appealed to the Supreme court, there's no denying that this was a bad news day for the CPC, sure to dampen the spirits of Conservatives who were celebrating hitting 43% in the latest Ipsos Reid poll.

  3. Perfect.

  4. I'd be far more worried about getting beaten in court than the latest transient poll numbers. I doubt many Canadians are paying much attention to either, but the effects of legal problems tend to be long-lasting and unpredictable.

  5. Bev Oda's inability to defend herself should rightfully embarrass her.
    The Conservative government's unwillingness to let her speak is embarrassing to the electorate.
    The Government House Leader who "answers" her questions? I can't understand what that Bairdassmeant.

  6. yes, up to 43% in the polls, maybe another scandal will drive them up to 50%…. i have officially given up all hope for humanity…

  7. And in wholly unrelated news,

    the latest poll shows the CPC skyrocketing to 43% – with all….let me repeat that….all…the polls showing the CPC at or near majority territory.

    The reality is that not only are these faux "scandals" not having an effect, they are operating against the Liberals.

    As we approach an election, the focus goes becomes increasingly about a COMPARISON with the liberals.

  8. Unlike raving leftists who start from the proposition that the CPC is a malevolent force, average Canadians ponder a real choice. And to make real comparisons.

    All of this talk of scandal invites the public to consider CPC transgressions (putting a "not" on a document, or spending their own money and having an accounting dissagreement with elections Canada)

    compared to the Liberals' most recent transgressions: stealing $40 million in taxpayer dollars and funnelling it though money laundering and brown paper bags under the table to the party.

    In response to this invitation rational Canadians can see which is small stuff, and which is truly scandalous.

    This scandal talk clearly helps the CPC.

    More please.

  9. Bob Rae says Oda is in the 'Witness Protection Plan'

  10. My only caveat to your first point is that it assumes she's really the one who needs defending. One could argue that her continued silence is actually in itself a defence of SOMEONE ELSE.

  11. ''The opposition side is now engaged in unabashed mockery for the still-seated minister''

    CPC 43% Libs and Dips in the tank.

    If you don't see what many Canadians are seeing, it is your blind hatred for Harper.

    The media tried to do this to Rob Ford,
    he got a majority with a record number of people voting.

    Harper haters may think it is ok for a coalition govt with 40% Quebec MPS, including 30% separatists,
    but the ROC sees the coalition and your ridiculously under qualified leader as a no go.

  12. my funk continues and deepens,,,, if these comment boards are full of wilsons and chets and the like, why do I even want to be here?

  13. Maybe a jail term will take them up to 60. Dying to test that out.

  14. Wherry says that in reply to Hedy Fry's accusations, Baird admonished her. Not worth detailing this 'admonition', right Aaron?? Wouldn't want to embarras a Liberal after all.

  15. Mulroney had separatists within his government.

  16. One in four Canadians is mentally ill. Don't judge the country or the world by them.

  17. I know, it's terrible to have the odd Conservative commentator… spoils the unanimity. Furthermore, they usually make good sense, which is not to be tolerated.

  18. Come on bettie, share it with us. Or does it only involve hand gestures?

  19. Some of those regional MOE's are 12%, chet. I wouldn't be cracking the bubbly just yet.

  20. If you really want to know, read it in Hansard tomorrow.

  21. I find all the Conservative commentators a little odd.

  22. i don't mind odd, i don't mind conservative…. what I do mind is the lack of any intelligent debate.

  23. "this was a bad news day for the CPC, sure to dampen the spirits of Conservatives who were celebrating hitting 43% in the latest Ipsos Reid poll."

    Maybe, but I'm not sure why. I defy you to go out on the street and ask 10 people to explain to you what the In-and-Out scheme is, or who Bev Oda is. If ONE person can give you anything resembling an answer to ONE of those two issues, I'll be shocked. People just don't care. Very sad, but true. As far as I can tell, more and more people are gaining respect for the Conservatives for acting like a**holes.

  24. Further, the next step for the Conservatives will be to attack the spending limits… "Why do we have limits on spending our own money? This is stupid!" And, it'll work. Mark my words.

  25. give it a break…old story.

  26. You're looking in the wrong place if you're hoping to get any from either chet or wilson.

  27. Right. Why can't we all just forget that Hedy Fry invents random, inflammatory, baseless and scurrilous b.s. and spouts off about in accusatory tones in parliament when it suits her rhetorical hysteria and partisan motives, and instead treat her like a very serious person trying to protect the integrity of our institutions and tone of political discourse? What a piece of slime infested trash she is.

  28. You know you've hit rock bottom when . . . Hedy Fry is mocking you.

  29. Precisely. They can't afford to let her speak, else she'll say she was overruled by PMO in her initial approval.

  30. Pride yourself on your civility?

  31. Heh, chet's already started that talking point's circulation, just down thread from here.

  32. Wherriggy – are you aware of the concept of the double standard?

  33. Not especially, no. And certainly not when it comes to preening, delusional and dishonest hysterics like Fry.

  34. Make that "Witless"

  35. Yes, but your vapid idiocy is the only concept at issue here, just as it was in the moronic response you posted to me yesterday, which I ever so brilliantly satirized at the time. But I have lost all time for you now, grasshopper.

  36. I'm going to waste time looking up something Baird said? You must be kidding.

  37. What, exactly, would be the problem in just admitting that, if it is true? After all, the PM does have the right to overrule Ministers, no? Hopefully it wouldn't happen too often, but it can happen.

  38. Exactly. At what point will Oda's own personal pride kick in and prevent her from just sitting there – it's got to be pretty galling to be sitting there, with so much false praise being thrown her away.

  39. You do a mean Charley Sheen, Whirligig.

  40. The opposition has cried wolf too many times. There are no scandals, just the pretend ones to keep the Libeals from going insane by having to look inside their own party. Voters can see that much.

  41. Even if that is true.
    Here she is, 67 years old, the first Japanese Canadian MP, an accomplished broadcaster/executive.

    From Wiki

    From 1995 to 1999 she was a Senior Vice-President of CTV and Baton Broadcasting. She was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in November 2003, and was awarded The Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of work in broadcasting.

    Surely she retains some residue of once proud journalistic ethics? A sense of right and wrong? Some of the prideful honour she felt when she won the Jubilee Medal?

    If what you imply is true, then her personal integrity is on a par with Helena Geurgis.
    I wonder how that will play back in her mind as she quietly ponders her life in her retirement years.

  42. There would have been nothing wrong if she'd said so at the time. Or even if she'd mentioned it at the committee–which is why I personally think the chair was so gung-ho on strict time limits, because they were awfully close to getting at least something more from her. But, for whatever reason, Harper thought it would play better if it were a CIDA decision, or if it couldn't be that, a decision of the Minister. I suspect the hidden agenda meme. Now, of course, that's exactly what we think, and are only amazed at the lengths gone to keep it hidden!

  43. It was posted yesterday but it is based on a poll from 10 days ago.

  44. Election soon…

    Can't wait to see how this one unfolds.

    I predict many sad posters on Wherry's blog the day after, including poor little Aaron himself.

  45. Yes well done, putting responsibility back where it really lies on the person in charge of the out of control PMO.

  46. I'm headed out to stand in the street now.

  47. Survival tips: The difference, debate-wise , seems to be the distinction between conservative and Conservative. One is based on wild swings in principle and policy and the other is based on steady adherence to community values. When one claims the other, hilarity ensues.

  48. Hedy Fry–accountable. HAR HAR HAR HAR.
    Are they stil burning crosses on the lawns in Prince George, Hedy.
    Wingnut par excellance.

  49. Don't forget Wherriggy……the best part came after her statement.

    Turns out Ms. Fry, when she was working with a women's group, was one of the folks who ACTUALLY BURNED A CROSS in front of a Catholic church. So when she said crosses were burning in BC….she meant the one's she herself had set alight.

    How's that for cool.

  50. OriginalEmily1 wrote:
    "One in four Canadians is mentally ill. Don't judge the country or the world by them"

    So, Emily……are we to now call you Ms. 25%.

  51. Given conservative economic policies, I'm sure many people will be joining you shortly.

  52. "CPC 43% Libs and Dips in the tank. "

    Actually, the poll shows the Libs gaining support at the expense of the Greens and the NDP.

    You really should read the bits below the talking points.

    Also, I'm not sure how happy the CPC brain trust is with the race trending towards a Harper vs. Iggy competition. If the NDP and Greens continue to drift back, then an election will come down to a debate between Harper and Iggy. I'm not certain that the CPC wants that clear a contests, especially since so much of their message has been about secret coalition deals, etc. Also, Iggy's pretty good at one on one debates.

    This is clearly Harper's race to lose, but his side does have a track record of bungling at the finish.

  53. Here is Baird's admonition to Fry:

    "Mr. Speaker, the member wants to talk about integrity. That specific member, who was a minister, wants to talk about misleading the House. That is the member who said, “As we speak, crosses are burning in Prince George”. She has a lot of chutzpah"

  54. And before someone asks, here's Ms. Fry's original comment (March 21st, 2001 / 2:45 p.m), to which Mr. Baird was referring:

    "Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question. March 21 remembers the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa in 1960 when innocent people were killed protesting apartheid.

    We only have to look around the world today at Kosovo, at Macedonia and at Northern Ireland to know that people are still discriminated against in the world because of their race, their religion and their culture. We do not have to go too far.

    We could just go to Prince George, British Columbia, where crosses are being burned on lawns as we speak. It is very important we recognize that race, religion and culture in this country are part of our strengths and that we must keep every day to ensure that we will"

  55. Turd Ferguson is an excellent alias (and/or name haha).

  56. Hedy has quite a few "thingys" in her closet.

    "A series of alleged "dirty tricks", some of which broke federal Liberal party rules, may have saved member of Parliament Hedy Fry from losing her nomination as the candidate for Vancouver Centre in an extremely close and controversial vote last month."

  57. Is there? any commons sense?,