The Scene. The government benches stood and cheered, unanimously and enthusiastically, swollen with pride. What were they all so happily applauding? Good question.
Surely it was not the news that an inquiry into their handling of Afghan detainees will soon be launched. Nor could it have been word that one former prime minister (Clark, Joe) sees Canada’s international stature wasting away under this administration. Nor reports the last prime minister (Martin, Paul) was recently in Mexico showing more concern for a mistreated Canadian citizen than the current head of government has yet demonstrated.
What about the arrival on Parliament Hill of Justice Gomery, the esteemed detailer of government malfeasance, to identify the current Prime Minister’s Office as a “danger to Canadian democracy?” Or the latest calls for various resignations in the wake of that NAFTA messiness?
No, neither of those developments seem worth cheering either.
So what was it? What had so reassured this bunch of its purpose and righteousness? Well, it was this.
“Mr. Speaker, for the past couple of weeks, both inside and outside of Parliament, the Liberal Party and its agents have been making allegations against me of a criminal nature that are absolutely false, that are despicable … Today my representatives have filed a statement of claim in a court of law, and I look forward to seeing the leader of the opposition actually let this go to trial so he can hear the whole truth and admit his own role in it.”
No sooner had those words left the Prime Minister’s mouth then his caucus leapt to its feet, each obviously thrilled to support the first Canadian leader in our nation’s history to file suit against his official opposition. Congratulations to each. No doubt they are all now guaranteed at least a little bit of history.
The leaders of most civilized nations, of course, wouldn’t dare do such a thing. But not so our man—Stephen Harper so courageous and steadfast in the face of overwhelming precedence and wisdom.
“I am availing myself of what any Canadian would do when he has been treated in a completely unacceptable and illegal manner,” the Prime Minister explained in words that will surely stand alongside the finest offered by Lincoln and Kennedy.
Liberal David McGuinty yelled out the obvious caveat: Stephen Joseph Harper is not any Canadian, he is the Prime Minister.
Indeed, as edifying as it must be to file the necessary paperwork, it is obviously more than a little fun to be on the receiving end of the first lawsuit filed by Canada’s duly elected leader.
On Wednesday, for instance, the Stéphane Dion presented the Prime Minister with a series of increasingly wacky multiple choice questions. On this day, on the eve of Parliament’s Easter break, he cut to the quick and just called the big man opposite a coward.
“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister clearly does not want to answer questions in this House about what he said on the tape. He even runs away from the media outside of this House,” Dion cried. “Where will the Prime Minister hide the next two weeks?”
Then more from Dion’s deputy, Michael Ignatieff. “Mr. Speaker, we are all heading back to our constituencies this weekend, with some relief, but the Prime Minister will not be able to evade Canadians the way he has evaded the House. He will not be able to threaten them with lawsuits.”
Unless Mr. Ignatieff speaks too soon. Remember, but a few weeks ago, it was inconceivable that a Prime Minister would sue Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. Who now dares guess the limit to Mr. Harper’s litigiousness?
The questions eventually came around to Ken Dryden. Once more he asked the government to explain why Dona Cadman, one of their own candidates, would lie about a financial offer to her husband.
“That attack is not credible,” responded James Moore, “it is not believable because in fact it is not true.”
So dismissed, the Liberal baritone took full advantage of one last chance to question the Prime Minister’s manhood.
“Mr. Speaker, we are all looking to the Prime Minister to explain himself, to explain his own words but he has chosen not to,” Dryden began. “I will give the Prime Minister another opportunity to explain. Two weeks ago he challenged me to say it outside this House and I did. Today I ask him, I challenge him, to explain it inside the House.”
The Liberals stood and cheered. The Prime Minister pretended not to notice.
Standing in for Harper, Moore once more stood tall.
“The Liberal Party,” he vowed, “will be held accountable for its behaviour in the court of law.”
And that, apparently, is the good news. Or at least as good it presently gets.