The Commons: Yell louder

The Scene. “Mr. Speaker,” Chuck Strahl said the other day, scolding Todd Russell, the typically loud Liberal from Labrador, “there is that old saying on the preacher’s note, ‘unsure of point, must yell louder.’”

It was a witty retort. And a remarkably candid explanation of how this government has apparently decided to approach this moment of economic crisis, unwinnable war and newly emboldened opposition.

The yelling began in earnest last week. Armed gangs ruled our streets. The Russians were threatening invasion. And, worst of all amid these infinite threats, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois weren’t showing the government due deference. Speaking in British Columbia, the Prime Minister dismissed opposition parties as sympathetic to criminals and disrespectful of democracy, then threatened them and everyone else with an election.

Back in the House this week, his obedient backbenchers were dispatched to read statements of outrage for the Liberal leader. On this day, for instance, four Conservatives were sent up in the 15 minutes before Question Period to disparage the opposition, most of the complaints having something or other to do with the Liberal side.

“Mr. Speaker, I understand the Liberal leader will be launching a book called True Patriot Love,” observed Laurie Hawn, a 61-year-old former air force colonel, taking issue with the relatively insignificant comments of a senator you’ve probably never heard of. “I would like to know if true patriot love includes having someone who supports the creation of the Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador in the Liberal Party.”

A moment later, Michael Ignatieff still somehow summoned the courage to stand and ask the afternoon’s first question.

How, he wondered, could the government account for its inability to spend some $3 billion in previously budgeted infrastructure spending?

Stephen Harper promised to spend significantly in the coming months.

“Mr. Speaker,” Ignatieff corrected, “we are talking about money that will lapse if he does not spend it shortly.”

The Prime Minister once more referred him to the spending in next year’s budget and accused the Liberal of not being helpful enough in that regard.

Ignatieff persisted. With his final answer on the matter, the Prime Minister decided to frame the matter on his own terms.

“I hate to use this expression,” he said, “but the leader of the opposition really is engaged on this entire budgetary business on the biggest exercise of suck and blow I have ever seen in Canadian history.”

Stephane Dion made his return then, receiving a standing ovation from the Liberal side and even a smatter of applause from the NDP.

“Didn’t you used to be somebody?” chirped a Conservative.

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Federal Court told the government that it must take all reasonable steps to stop the execution of the Canadian citizen facing the death penalty in Montana. The court said that the government’s refusal to support this Canadian citizen was a breach of duty, unlawful and invalid,” he explained. “Will the Minister of Justice assure Canadians that he will not appeal this ruling and that the Conservative government will finally stop picking and choosing which Canadians to defend and which rights it stands up for?”

Peter Kent, the converted newsman, was nominated to take this one. “Mr. Speaker, before I answer my honourable colleague’s question, I would like to remind him of the two young aboriginal men whose lives were brutally cut short by Ronald Allen Smith who marched them into a Montana forest and shot them execution style,” he said. “That said, we are currently reviewing the court’s decision and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

“Mr. Speaker, tragically no capital punishment will bring these lives back,” Dion shot back in English before repeating his question in French.

“Mr. Speaker, it would be nice if the opposition members showed as much compassion and concern for the lives of victims and their families as they do for those of criminals,” replied Kent, sounding nearly prime ministerial.

The rest of the day was all yelling and hand gestures—the Liberals taking great fun in taunting Kent, the Conservatives later enjoying an opportunity to mock Ken Dryden.

Bob Rae rose to press, again, the matter of whether Canada might appoint a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kent suggested that perhaps he should show more confidence in our diplomats.

Conservative Phil McColeman was sent up to ask his own government about the situation in Sri Lanka and a Tamil rally taking place on Parliament Hill. Kent took the opportunity to suggest a Liberal MP had been pandering to terrorist symbols.

A few moments later, Conservative Greg Rickford was dispatched to publicly wonder about the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition and the Plains of Abraham. Pierre Poilievre rose in response to explain that, in addition to the aforementioned pandering, Liberals were also not sufficiently distanced from racist and separatist elements.

“The Liberal leader should show true patriot love,” he explained, “condemn separatism and stand up for Canada.”

The Prime Minister smiled, seeming to find great fun in this.

The Stats. Employment, eight questions. Infrastructure and Afghanistan, five questions each. Pay equity, four questions. Capital punishment, Aboriginals, child care and Chuck Cadman, two questions each. Mexico, immigration, trade, Sri Lanka, fisheries, Saudi Arabia, Bisphenol A, history and government contracts, one question each.

The Commons: Yell louder

  1. Never heard of the great George Baker ? I guess I really am old.

    • No disrespect intended. More of a general statement.

  2. Aaron, do you know why most Ministers don’t bother coming to Question Period on Fridays? I understand they have to do a bit of traveling but maybe the should just cancel the Friday sitting. Most journalists don’t seem to cover Friday QP anyways. It seems pretty boring.

    • I believe most MPs travel back to their ridings on Fridays. QP’s held at 11am (instead of 2pm) and generally passes without any of the party leaders and probably half of cabinet. To be honest, it’s the one day I don’t go, if only because most doctors will tell you that firsthand exposure to that stuff should be limited to four hours per week.

      Still useful and probably necessary if you believe in accountability and all that.

      • Hah, 4 hours does sound like a lot although a good Wednesday QP could do the trick. I watched last week (Friday) and only saw one minister out of all of them. I can’t believe they travel back and forth to their ridings. I would have thought ministers had more important things to do in Ottawa.

        • The Government House Leader keeps a rotating list of Cabinet Ministers who must be in Ottawa on Fridays to attend to QP. If left to their own devices, no one would be in QP on Friday’s. The frequency in which one says “who is that” when seeing a purported “answer” to an opposition “question” is why Friday QP is referred to as amateur hour.

      • Friday’s QP used to always be good for getting in a question on a local issue, or a more detailed question that would survive less heckling. Some of the most interesting questions-and-answers have actually occurred in Friday Question Periods.

        • I’ll be sure to watch tomorrow.

      • I actually watch today’s QP and it was really funny. It almost seem relaxed? Their was a question from a liberal about airplane companies charging for people to use the bathroom, tax. etc. The Liberal said, “Are hard working Canadians going to have wear diapers on planes. John Baird tried to answer it and was laughing so hard he could not answer. When he finally answered he said, “That Depends” even the speaker was laughing.

        • John Baird laughing made him look like a much easy to get along with guy. It was almost refreshing to see that. I wish all QP could be this jovial. It would have been fun to be there yesterday.

  3. Which Conservative?

    >>> “Didn’t you used to be somebody?” chirped a Conservative.

    • Joe Preston – so petty, no class

      • Yikes! Didn’t he used to be Jabba the Hut?

        • Yeah, he didn’t used to be somebody and he still isn’t.

          What an indignity for poor Dion. Chantal Hebert commented on this last evening, and said the meaness in the HoC is palpable.

  4. “The leader of the opposition really is engaged on this entire budgetary business on the biggest exercise of suck and blow I have ever seen in Canadian history.”

    And this is our Prime Minister. No class whatsoever.

    A very legitimate and important question, especially with Harper threatening another unwanted election over the speed of passing his slush fund without any accountability measures, easily deflectable with a typical Harper non-answer. But instead he goes straight to the gutter.

    Mulroney, Chretien and Martin and even Harris were certainly no less hyper-partisans in their day but it seems to me that they let their underlings take the low road pot shots while they took the high(er) road; but Harper just seems to prefer the partisan potty mouth lines for himself.

  5. Is there any point to QP any more? From this voter’s point of view, it’s a complete waste of time.

    The opposition ask questions they know won’t be answered and the government doesn’t answer them, and it’s been that way for a very long time.

    A pox on all of them. They demonstrate their contempt for the Canadian voter on a daily basis.

  6. “Conservative Phil McColeman was sent up to ask his own government about the situation in Sri Lanka and a Tamil rally taking place on Parliament Hill.”

    “Tamil rally” is one hell of a euphemism for “terrorist group banned by Canada, and their supporters, numbering about 2500, meeting on the front lawn of Parliament, and a Liberal MP speaking to them and calling them, the Tamil Tigers, freedom fighters.”

    I can’t believe I actually witnessed that on the Hill yesteday. And I can’t believe the media is colluding with actual terrorist groups to not report what actually happened yesterday. Quite a change from the peace camps back in the 80s, I don’t think Aaron was born yet but hippies actually used to camp out for the summer and smoke reefer on the hill over cruise missiles. Annoying, but at least they didn’t have the angry, unfriendly faces I saw among the Tamils yesterday, and they didn’t offer lame excuses which insulted Canadians, as did the Liberal MP yesterday. Not a good day for Canada at all.

    • 2500? Really? It didn’t look Obamaesque to me.

  7. Joe Preston – have you ever been anybody?

    • He’s Larry Miller’s long lost brother.

  8. Big mistake : Lib MP’s (apparently more than one some are saying) attending the rally with all those tamil tiger flags = Ouch!!!!! and this when Iggy finally decides to steer the LPC away from it’s usual ridiculous policy and comes down firmly on being Israel’s friend and ally … I wonder if he is going to let these MP’s get away with stuff too hmmm .. not a good start Iggy where’s that whip again?

    • That’s quite the response.

      So which low-level CPC staffer are you that’s been charged with somewhat-rapid response? Really, pay closer attention to your Google Reader.

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