The Commons: Young Stephen Harper meets Last Year’s Bob Rae

Anything you say can and will be used against you

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. Stephen Harper sat impassively as his former self was once again resurrected right in front of him.

“Mr. Speaker, referring to an earlier omnibus bill, the Prime Minister once said, and I quote, ‘I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles,’ ” Thomas Mulcair reported. “Yet the Prime Minister now asks his own MPs to blindly vote in favour of a budget without proper study. Where are the Prime Minister’s principles now? Where is the Prime Minister’s respect for the principles of his own members of Parliament?”

The Prime Minister stood here to commend his government on its commitment to transparency. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the government makes no secret of the fact that it brought forward a budget in March that is very comprehensive in its efforts to ensure that we create jobs and growth for the long term for the Canadian economy.”

Let us rejoice in this era of open government. Never again shall such talking points be locked away or merely whispered.

“We have had a record amount of study of this particular piece of legislation,” Mr. Harper continued. “There has been major work before Parliament for three months. On this side of the House, we are prepared to continue getting on with continuing to produce jobs and growth for the Canadian economy. I encourage the members over there to also do their work and get things passed after a few weeks of work.”

This measure of three months is, in two ways, a stretch. It is nearly correct to say that three months have expired since the Finance Minister tabled the budget plan on March 29. But the matter before the House is the budget implementation act, a bill that was tabled on April 26, a little over six weeks ago. In the 46 days between now and then, the House of Commons has been expected to review and scrutinize 753 clauses that affect some 70 acts of Parliament. Even if the House had been sitting continuously since April 26, even if it had devoted itself solely and entirely to this bill and even if all MPs had found a way to go entirely without sleep for the duration of the last 46 days, each clause would have only received 1.5 hours of consideration.

It is primarily the fault of our scientists that time travel has not yet been mastered so that the Young Stephen Harper of 1994 might be asked what he makes of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s explanation of today. Perhaps at the next opportunity the current version might be asked what the former version would say. In the meantime, there are only taunts.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has stated over the years and certainly back in 1994 as a member of the Reform Party that omnibus legislation was in itself bad,” Bob Rae recalled with his first opportunity. “He stated very clearly that this kind of legislation could not be carried out without abusing Parliament. He stated very clearly that this kind of an effort could not be made without causing a serious attack on the privileges and rights of members of Parliament. I would like to ask the Prime Minister, has he simply been corrupted by power?”

Mr. Harper chuckled slightly before standing to respond. “Mr. Speaker, our focus, as we said back in March when we first tabled the budget, is ensuring that we have jobs and growth for Canadians,” the Prime Minister repeated. “The government has been very clear in its plans before Parliament, and those plans have been before Parliament for more than three months.”

As Mr. Rae proceeded with his second question, John Baird passed a note to Mr. Harper down the government’s front row. With his third opportunity, the interim Liberal leader attempted a direct confrontation. Mr. Rae jabbed the air with his finger and even momentarily shook his fist at the Prime Minister.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister speaks complacently about his record,” Mr. Rae ventured. “Let us look at the record. The government has increased its net debt by $117 billion; unemployment since 2006, up from 6.4% to 7.3%; 300,000 manufacturing jobs down the table; Bill C-38, unprecedented assault on Parliament; dumping on the provinces; dumping on people; without precedent in the history of our Parliament in terms of its abuse; the way he has acceded power to himself. That is some record. The Prime Minister has no right to boast to other countries about the Canadian record.”

Mr. Harper stood with a slight smile and soon he was jabbing the air in front of him with his own finger.

“Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we have 750,000 net new jobs that have been created,” he proclaimed.

The Conservatives applauded.

“On this side of the House, we have the lowest debt ratio in the G7, and by a country mile,” he declared.

The Conservatives applauded again.

“In terms of power and corruption, I notice the man who said he would never run for the permanent leadership of his party is now apparently prepared to accept it,” Mr. Harper finished, “which I guess proves, down in that corner of the House, lack of power can corrupt.”

The Conservatives were delighted. Mr. Baird was ecstatic, standing to mime a homerun swing. Across the way, Mr. Mulcair laughed. Returning to his seat, Mr. Harper seemed thoroughly pleased with himself.

Even Young Stephen Harper probably would have appreciated this.

The Stats. The budget, eight questions. Military procurement and ethics, six questions each. Pensions, four questions. Government spending and health care, three questions each. Fisheries and CSIS, two questions each. National Defence, Nutrition North, the economy, Canada Post and heritage, one question each.

Stephen Harper, Rona Ambrose and Pierre Poilievre, six responses each. Ted Menzies, four responses. Kellie Leitch and Peter Kent, three responses each. Keith Ashfield, Vic Toews and Leona Aglukkaq, two responses each. Peter MacKay, John Duncan, James Moore, Steven Fletcher and Christian Paradis, one response each.




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The Commons: Young Stephen Harper meets Last Year’s Bob Rae

  1. I’ll give Harper a chuckle for that last shot at Rae – it was a good one. But:

    - Where does he get that 750,000 jobs figure? Which two points in time are being compared? He keeps bandying it about, but without context it is meaningless (just like most of the comments he and his hacks toss out in the HoC). The sad part is, the media just grab sound bites without ever challenging anything he says (making them, essentially, free ads for the government).

    - How is it that we, as a nation, allow him & his alternate mouthpieces to stand up day after day in the HoC to, on a good day, spout platitudes that do not answer the questions being asked, and on many days outright lie to the country? How do we allow this party to continue to dismantle our democracy?

    Thankfully they got rid of the long gun registry; it will make it easier to arm the militias to overthrow this mockery of a government. [Note to CSIS and Vic Toews: this is hyperbole; I'm not really planning an armed insurrection... yet.]

    • Yes, Conservatives are bad and hate democracy. Liberals and New Democrats are good and love democracy.
      Why, when Jean Chretien was Prime Minister, he always courteously and fully responded to every question the opposition put to him. He never mocked the opposition, never obfuscated, never evaded. He was a saint. Because, of course, he was a Liberal.
      Stop Harper!

      • Well, at least you got the first sentence right. What little respect I had left for this government vanished with C-38. The gutting of environmental regulations; the concentrating of power (or should I say further concentrating) with the PM; the weakening of every position charged with governmental oversight; the refusal to seriously discuss or debate any of the changes – we’re now another petty sheikhdom under the thumb of Big Oil. As for your comparison to Chretien… he may have been pragmatic and arrogant, but he wasn’t a patholigical liar and unprincipled con man. Harper has reversed himself on every single stance he took while in opposition. Conservatives think Adscam was bad? Small peanuts compared to this. Some bagmen skimming money vs the wholesale destruction of a nation for the benefit of one province? No comparison. Shame! Subject: [macleansca] Re: The Commons: Young Stephen Harper meets Last Year’s Bob Rae

        • “Harper has reversed himself on every single stance he took while in opposition. ”
          Yes, unlike Chretien with respect to the GST, free trade, etc.
          You’re funny.
          The non-ironic use of the word “shame” btw is the preserve of douchebags. Just sayin’.

      • OrsonBean, commenting on a subsequent blog entry:

        “Yes, if you support the omnibus bill, you’re a bad Canadian. If you
        oppose the omnibus bill, you’re a good Canadian standing up for all that
        is right and good. This isn’t about partisan politics.”

        OrsonBean, reminding us all what our 12-year-old sister would say if she were a dedicated Conservative voter.

  2. “In terms of power and corruption, I notice the man who said he would never run for the permanent leadership of his party is now apparently prepared to accept it,” Mr. Harper finished, “which I guess proves, down in that corner of the House, lack of power can corrupt.”

    And so it begins.

  3. This story underlines a serious problem in today’s politics and with today’s political media – and that is the idea that the politician who hurls the cleverest. most vicious and most hurtful insult has won the exchange. Words, of course, matter in politics, but there was once a time when using them to inspire was considered a greater feat than using them to bludgeon your opponents into silence.

  4. Mr. Harper is a hypocritical liar. He knows it; the Opposition knows it; the Conservative government knows it; we all know it; and yet he arrogantly laughs when he is faced with his own comments. This man and his bunch of cronies are an embarrassment to Canada.

  5. “On this side of the House, we have the lowest debt ratio in the G7, and by a country mile,”

    Yet another Harper lie about the economy. According to the 2011 IMF numbers, the debt/GDP of G7 countries are (in order of lowest to highest):
    Germany 82%
    UK 83%
    Canada 85%
    France 86%
    US 102%
    Italy 120%
    Japan 230%

    Harper also turned $20B trade surpluses to $50B trade deficits:

    G7 trade balance (% of GDP)
    Germany +5.4%
    Japan +2.0%
    UK -1.9%
    France -2.2%
    Canada -2.8%
    US -3.1%
    Italy -3.2

  6. Here are some more numbers that show Harper’s claim that Canada has the “strongest economy on the planet” is completely ridiculous…

    Productivity has fallen under Bitumen Harper (world rank OECD):
    US #4
    France #7
    Germany #8
    UK #15
    Canada #17
    Italy #18
    Japan #20

    Davos Global Competiveness Index (2011-2012)
    US #5
    Germany #6
    Japan #9
    UK #10
    Canada #12
    France #18
    Italy #43

    Conference Board of Canada Ranking (2011)
    US #8
    France #9
    UK #10
    Canada #11
    Germany #13
    Japan #14
    Italy #16

    According to The Economist Canada’s relatively strong position during the 2008 recession was due to the previous Liberal government: “Much of the country’s resilience stems from policies—such as bank regulation and sound public finances—which predate Mr Harper.”

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