The Scene. It should not ever be said this government goes about its business too quietly, that it attempts to hide or conceal its true feelings or intent. Indeed, to the contrary, it wears its gleeful disregard quite proudly.
Consider, for instance, today’s display from Vic Toews. Take note particularly of the really, very hilarious thing he said.
After Ralph Goodale, all cuff links and wide neckwear, had led the Liberal charge and John Baird, all smiles and self-congratulation, had dismissed Mr. Goodale’s concerns, the official opposition sent up Alexandra Mendes with a question about the government’s commitment to proper nutrition. Here specifically the backbencher wondered aloud about the 71,000 chocolate bars, 57,000 bottles of Coca-Cola and 42,000 bags of chips that had apparently been purchased on the public tab for the purpose of hosting the G20 in Toronto this summer. This was, Mendes ventured, cause to wonder about the government’s priorities.
To explain—to stand and read into the record some unrelated sentences—stood Mr. Toews. “Mr. Speaker, actually we are proud of our accomplishments at the G8 and G20 summits,” he began, innocently enough.
Where typically the minister, one of the Prime Minister’s most faithful conduits, might have simply been expected to mouth something about the government’s general righteousness, here Mr. Toews went for a punchline. “I wonder why members opposite continue to put Toronto down,” he moaned. “Its hockey team may disappoint from time to time, but a new study was released stating that of 90 cities around the world, it found that Toronto is the most attractive place for employers. That is what we are focusing on, getting jobs for people in Toronto instead of criticizing Toronto the way the member just did.”
The men in suits seated all around Mr. Toews giggled happily.
You see, for some weeks now, the government side has been lamenting the tyranny of Toronto elites—those shadowy aristocrats who apparently control the Liberals and NDP and who seek only to oppress with paperwork the Real Canadians who toil in the fields and mind the livestock in the regions. And so here was a sort of joke about that. The punchline apparently being that members of this government often say things they don’t really mean. Or something.
You will no doubt agree that, whatever the exact joke, that this is quite hilarious. And so let it never again be said that this daily ritual is a witless exercise.
Undaunted, or perhaps eager to hear the joke again, Scott Brison stood later to press the same matter. (He too having something sort of funny to say.) “Mr. Speaker, with rising interest rates, Canadians are struggling to pay their mortgages. Yet for the G20 boondoggle the Conservatives wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury, high-end furniture and glow sticks. Glow sticks that now shine a light on Conservative wasteful spending,” he smirked, raising the level of wit in the House roughly two points on the Diefenbaker Scale.
“Now who authorized this waste in the Conservative government?” he asked. “How can the Conservatives be so wasteful with hard-earned tax dollars when ordinary Canadians are barely making ends meet?”
Over again to Mr. Toews, unmoved and unshamed by this suggestion. “Mr. Speaker,” he candidly offered, “I just want to continue the theme about why the Liberal Party is putting down Toronto.”
In fairness to Mr. Toews, it is surely hard to explain seriously one’s decision to spend thousands of dollars of public money on glow sticks.
Seeking a riposte, Mr. Brison was moved to suggest that it was, in fact, the Conservative side that had demeaned the metropolis in question. So there. But to this, Mr. Toews was moved to say something quite worthy of knee-slapping. “It was good that we were able to highlight the city of Toronto,” he said of a place that came to be the scene of smashed-up storefronts, burning police cars and the largest mass arrest in modern Canadian history.
For sure, here was a joke well played.
The Stats. The economy, 12 questions. The census, six questions. Infrastructure and the G20 summit, four questions each. Veterans, three questions. Trade, Rights & Democracy and health care, two questions. Gun control, food safety and the environment, one question each.
John Baird, Tony Clement and Vic Toews, six answers each. Christian Paradis and Chuck Strahl, four answers each. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, three answers. Ted Menzies, Gerald Keddy, Leona Aglukkaq and Deepak Obhrai, two answers each. Gerry Ritz, one answer.