The sketch: How little can the Prime Minister get away with saying?

Because Paul Calandra is out of pizza store stories


Adrian Wyld/CP

“Why,” Mr. Mulcair demanded to know at the outset this afternoon, “is the Prime Minister not able to stand up in this House and assume his responsibilities?”

Technically, the answer to this, at least at this particular moment, was, “Because he is in Lac-Megantic.”

Which is not to say Mr. Harper entirely avoided having this day to entertain queries. Of the questions that were posed to Mr. Harper in Lac-Megantic, the CBC figured he “did not answer specific questions,” the Star figured he “suggested … his former trusted chief of staff Nigel Wright lied to him” and the Globe figured he was “continuing to disavow any knowledge of a plan for his Conservative Party to have paid Mike Duffy’s expenses.” The CBC followed up with Mr. Harper’s director of communications and was provided with a simple “no” to the question of whether the Prime Minister knew about the possibility of Mr. Duffy’s expenses being covered by the Conservative party. That assurance was then repeated to Postmedia.

So there is at least now that.

In the House this afternoon, Paul Calandra was praising Mr. Harper’s leadership.

“Mr. Speaker, of course what we saw yesterday is that the Prime Minister took extraordinary leadership on this matter,” the parliamentary secretary reported. “It is quoted right in the documents. ‘Rob Staley, legal representative for the PMO, advised my office that he had clear orders from the Prime Minister to provide complete cooperation with the investigation, and to provide any assistance or documentation the RCMP requested.’

“That is real leadership. That is the leadership that this Prime Minister has been showing. Also, it says in there quite clearly that the Prime Minister did not know and, as the Prime Minister has said, had he known he would have in no way endorsed such a scheme.”

Real leadership can thus be defined as cooperating with the authorities after it has been revealed that one’s chief of staff cut a $90,000 cheque to a senator. Perhaps at some point that definition can be expanded to include an expansive and direct explanation of what he knew and a full accounting for allegations that one’s office was involved in rewriting a Senate committee report and attempting to protect a senator from an audit. (Perhaps the opposition and the press gallery aren’t asking the right questions. Perhaps they shouldn’t have to find the precise wording that unlocks an explanation.)

Of what Mr. Harper had to say yesterday, Mr. Mulcair seemed unimpressed.

“The Prime Minister admitted that he said to Nigel Wright that he was good to go. When confronted with that, the Prime Minister told another nose-stretcher,” Mr. Mulcair reported, perhaps testing how far one can go without suggesting the deliberate conveying of a falsehood. “He claimed that he meant ‘good to go with Mike Duffy paying his own expenses,’ that is what he meant. In that case, there is really only one question. Since when does the Prime Minister of Canada have to approve a senator repaying his own expenses?”

Mr. Mulcair adopted a mocking tone and the New Democrats laughed and then stood and cheered.

Now Mr. Calandra responded in kind, adopting a mocking voice and sort of dancing in place as he recounted how Mr. Mulcair had once been offered an envelope by the mayor of Laval.

Mr. Mulcair wondered why, of the Prime Minister’s staff, only Nigel Wright had lost his job. Mr. Calandra offered a sentence of reassurance and then returned to the story of the envelope.

Mr. Calandra would, over the course of 22 responses this day, raise an impressive number of unrelated references and accusations, the House hearing about the Liberal party’s position on the Canadian Wheat Board, the Liberal party’s allegedly insufficient support for Veterans, the Liberal leader’s comments on China, the Liberal leader’s comments on mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines, the sponsorship scandal, the NDP’s acceptance of donations from unions, Charlie Angus’ involvement in the riding redistribution process and Alexandre Boulerice’s donations to Quebec Solidaire and comments on WWI.

In fairness to Mr. Calandra, none of whatever occurred within the PMO would seem to be any of his responsibility. And the 35 seconds he is allotted for each response must be filled somehow. And he is apparently all out of instructive stories about his father’s pizza store.

As for Mr. Harper, you can hardly blame the Prime Minister if he would rather not get too far into the details. For one thing, it’s not much his style. For another, he has made it this far and so far without much bothering. Perhaps we should have a full accounting of what occurred here, but it seems almost silly to demand that before we have a full accounting of the billions in spending cuts this government has pledged.

Complicating matters here though is the RCMP, with its search warrants and production orders and access to the otherwise private emails of PMO staff. Not merely does that all prolong and focus the matter, but, as we have seen, it provides its own explanation.

After Question Period, the Ghost of Conservative Past floated into the foyer to speak with a TV reporter and was soon encircled by members of the press gallery. Brent Rathgeber reminded everyone of our system of response government, under which the Prime Minister is responsible for his department. This matter, the Independent MP ventured, called “for an explanation, some contrition and a promise to clean house and do better in the future.”

Even just the first of those things might be refreshing.


The sketch: How little can the Prime Minister get away with saying?

  1. Pnocchio Harper and his Short Pants Crew have disgraced the office.
    Time to send in some new clowns.

  2. Stephen Harper; the micro manager that somehow didn’t know bout the big issue causing his staff to scurry madly about. Kept in the dark. Not part of the process. Not part of the planning……. um……… sure

    On top of that. When this all happens on his watch. he passes the buck and goes into full denial mode. What happened to that new era of accountability and transparency? The promised ministerial responsibility? To government being held to a higher standard of ethics? I guess it was just a big bag of sh!t.

    This is leadership? Really?

    C’mon Francien, explain it all to me. Show me how it’s a non scandal. Denounce that bad bad Nigel Wright….

  3. Why was Trudeau not in the HOC on such an important day? This scandal should be handled by him as leader of the Liberals. Clearly he prefers the heavy lifting to be done my the NDP.

    • You have to admire the job Mulcair is doing. Trudeau? Not so much.
      I just hope the end result is not vote splitting that puts the Conservatives in.

      • Aha! That’s it! Like the Bletchley Park decryption masterminds, you’ve cracked the Enigma Code! Opened Pandora’s Box! Found the key to the executive washroom!

        This whole sordid scenario is a calculated gambit on the part of the legendary three-dimensional chess player, himself, to burnish the image of the NDP leader, thereby undermining the stature of the even-more-deeply-hated Trudeau, leading to a surgically-precise split in the opposition vote, all carefully analyzed, plotted out and engineered riding by riding, using the Cons’ infallible Constituent Information Management System (CIMS). Stunning in its elegant simplicity.

        All leading, naturally, to a march up the middle to another Con majority.

        You, my friend, are absolutely brilliant. You should quit your day job and go to work in counter-espionage.

        Either that or it’s Friday afternoon ;)

    • No, Trudeau has a bench that are capable of doing it for him. Trudeau can make more hay going out to meet the people of the country and not play populist like Tom is doing now.

      • “If you don’t show up for work, you don’t get a promotion!”

      • Mulcair is doing Canada a service by very effectively holding Harper’s feet to the flame on this.

    • Why use the A team to ask questions of the D team?

    • Trudeau was too busy promoting marijuana use to Canadians.

      • If promoting marijuana use to Canadians is the biggest offence by JT, he is in fine shape considering the patholigical liar we have running the Country. Harper has no moral authority to lecture canadians about the rule of law in this Country or anywhere else. He lost the moral authority long time ago when he systematically went around undermining Canadians right to a free and fair elections with the IN/OUT scheme, Robocalls, $1b fake lake, $50m gazebos and missing $3.1b with no paper trail. The Senate scandal and it’s involvement in overt coverup is a trait very much like him, The Cadman is a fine example of how he tends to push the botton and blame others for what he personally orchestrated. Come 2015, majority Canadians will be taking back the Country from these group of compulsive liars ably led by the most patholigical liar of all time.

      • You’d rather have that Con icon in Toronto, hizzoner Ford, out there promoting crack, instead?

        • The C in Conservative stands for Crack

    • Trudeau is seemingly away from question period almost as much as harper

      harper is avoiding so he doesn’t have to answer for his crimes and cover-ups in the HoC but i’m not sure why Trudeau is mia…………

      they both should be there, everyday

    • Trudeau cannot compete with Mulcair in QP. For one reason, Mulcair gets to ask way more questions. For another, it is in Harper’s interest to promote Mulcair over Trudeau. But the biggest reason is that Mulcair is better in QP than Trudeau.

      If I were choosing a PM based on who is best at cross examination, I might choose Mulcair. But I am not, so I won’t.

      Trudeau is doing what he has to do right now – reaching out to Canadians and building the LPC. The whole thing about Ignatieff not being in the HofC won’t work on Trudeau – for one thing he will have an answer. For another he has been successful in building the party, which is more than I can say for Ignatieff.

  4. Calandra should have returned to his effective stories of how his daughters ordered a mushroom pizza but got an Hawaiian pizza!
    Moral: accidents happen?
    Oh never mind. How about when his daughters bought popsicles and they melted and they started to cry?
    Moral: things change so forget it and get on with a new popsicle?
    Calandra – using such profound parables – is as good a match against Tom Mulcair’s grilling as Harper. Mulcair is a meaney – according to his daughters.
    Powerful stuff – no wonder he is Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary.

    • Calandra reminds me of the sparring partner who’s shoved into the ring to get pounded senseless by the champ, as part of the plan to keep the belt and the title.

      Calandra will be hopelessly punch-drunk before long. His apparent inability to understand simple questions and his long, rambling, irrelevant, tangential responses are definite symptoms.

  5. :-) Indeed. Why would a Prime Minister need to approve a senator doing the right thing?

  6. I actually feel sorry for this Paul Calandra MP.
    Before this whole Senate scandal, he was a relatively unknown MP.
    Now, he’s got a dirty job to do, he’s got to face tough questions.
    But at a certain point, you have to wonder about his personal pride.
    His scripted answer (from the ‘kids in short pants in the PMO’) have resulted in him becoming an object of ridicule.
    You can face a lot of things in the political arena, but when people start laughing at you, that’s when you know you’re in trouble.
    The people of Markham who elected him will have a choice to make in 2015!
    Do they want a person who has personal pride, or a Harper trained seal people laugh at.

    • Calandra witnessed Rempel and Alexander get cabinet spots BECAUSE they were willing to go on TV and carry the pm’s water. Calandra wants to be in cabinet too. So Calandra is more than happy to do this. And frankly, he seems to enjoy being an idiotic trained seal repeating lies for his master. And if he is being laughed at — well, he’s made his bed.

  7. as a Canadian taxpayer(joe voter), I would like to know how the media are able to get through the daily lies of the harper government to believe anything they say anymore. if harper is lying about this cover-up, how can we as taxpayers and the media tell whats the truth anymore of what comes out of harpers mouth ? Do the media totally believe everything this government says anymore ? Integrity and honesty has been shattered in the office of the PMO. I can never believe this harper government ever again(never ever did really believe them(harper cons) anyway, now I have more reason not to).

    • if there is any reporter who doesn’t know exactly what happened by now, they are obviously not doing their jobs and should be looking for another career choice

  8. when the ‘ Allen Riddell ‘ contract to pay for his expenses to stand down from an election was made public, harper continued to deny it existed, harper and his regime are bold face liars

  9. Fair warning from past corruption, could the GRC please arrest someone? The conservative spin is “obstruction” of Canadians right to a clear answer.

    GRC usually get good answers when they have control of suspects. Apparently the HoC and media do not get that respect ( of a fair answer)

  10. The people have woken and the Liars are cooked. Harper can try to prolong this all he wants but he’s doing us a favor. The reason I say that is because we know he cannot win come election day. If he resigns now, then we will have to listen to his lying successor (probably MacKay or Kenney) which will only distract from what the next leader is saying. Personally I want to hear more from Justin Trudeau. So far I like his approach to honest and transparent government.

  11. Calandra, Stephen’s personal hand puppet parrot. Your bottom must really be sore, Polly, but take heart for this too shall pass.

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