Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair can’t keep from smiling, some days. They share an affinity for the art of rhetorical trash talk. They’re unyielding partisans. Their talents aren’t particularly suited to back alleys or locker rooms, but the House of Commons is a fine setting for the daily taunts.
Today, Harper and Mulcair renewed acquaintances and exchanged accusations. The main points of argument:
1. Mulcair wondered why the government wouldn’t grant Yves Cote, Elections Canada’s commissioner of elections, the power to compel witnesses during ongoing investigations. Cote told a parliamentary committee yesterday that certain prospective witnesses simply won’t talk to Elections Canada. Mulcair mused about the governing party’s lack of interest in strengthening Cote’s hand. Do the Conservatives, he wondered, want to see certain probes, including the infamous robocalls investigation, derailed?
2. The PM wasn’t much interested in addressing that question. He did respond that the commissioner would be appropriately empowered by new rules under the Fair Elections Act, but Harper hoped to deflect attention. He returned, repeatedly and with some intensity, to the NDP’s party offices in parts of the country—Saskatoon, for instance—where the party has no MPs. The NDP should pay for those offices out of its own funds, not taxpayer coffers. Mulcair defends the offices, says they were pre-approved, and added that he can’t wait to provide testimony to that effect at a parliamentary committee.
Now, for the theatre of it all. Thirty seconds into today’s clip, catch Mulcair taunting the PM, smiling as he takes his seat. He exudes comfort in his own skin, and relishes the moment. Then, pay attention to Harper, the less animated of the two. He flinches not one bit as he smiles, bites back at his attacker, and calmly observes the ovation that surrounds him. So goes the duel.