The Commons: Comedy, tragedy, but no inquiry -

The Commons: Comedy, tragedy, but no inquiry

Well, not a ‘public inquiry’ at least


The Scene. “Why don’t you ask a question about the economy?” pleaded one voice from the distant recesses of the Conservative side.

“What about jobs?” begged another voice from the furthest reaches of the government benches.

Sadly, though reputed to do a fine a cappella version of Free Bird, the leader of the opposition does not take requests. And paying no mind to his partisan audience across the way, he insisted on asking the government, once more, to explain precisely what it is it wants Justice Frank Iacobucci to do. “When will we see Justice Iacobucci’s written mandate? What will the mandate be, and when will he report to us about his findings?” he wondered aloud.

The Prime Minister stood and responded in kind, singing from his songbook in shrugging one-part harmony. “Mr. Speaker, I think we have been very clear,” he sang. “We are asking Justice Iacobucci to look at all of the documents that have been previously reviewed by public servants in terms of access to information. Justice Iacobucci will conduct a thorough inquiry on those documents and he will report according to his terms of reference.”

Ralph Goodale loudly wondered where precisely those terms of reference were. Bob Rae, it would seem, took quiet note.

“Mr. Speaker, this government shut down Parliament,” Mr. Ignatieff came back. “It intimidated witnesses.”

The Conservatives groaned.

“It withheld crucial documents from Parliament,” the Liberal leader continued. “The Canadian people are tired of this. It is adding a democratic deficit to this country’s operation. We need to know who in government knew what and when about torture in Afghan jails, and that should be the justice’s mandate. Why will the Prime Minister not give him the power to do the proper job? Why will he not appoint a public inquiry?”

The Prime Minister was unpersuaded. “Mr. Speaker,” he stated, “obviously I categorically reject all of the unfounded allegations contained in that question.”

He proceeded then to pump his fist and chop his hand and generally carry on so as to visually express his displeasure.

When the NDP’s turn came round, Jack Layton took the opportunity to note the day’s revelation that a diplomat had warned the previous government, a government of Liberal persuasion, of potential torture troubles. The Conservative benchwarmers enjoyed that opportunity to mock the Liberal side, while the Prime Minister seized the moment to say something rather ridiculous.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “in this country, prime ministers are not in the business of calling public inquiries on their predecessors.”

Well, you know, except for the current prime minister and, er, the one before that too.

Siobhan Coady and the Defence Minister then argued over how precisely to describe what it is a military board of inquiry has recently finished investigating and when some sort of accounting of its findings might be released publicly. Ms. Coady narrowed in on that unexplained field report to which the board of inquiry was referred. “The memo said, ‘Police did assault him, as happened in the past,'” she said. “Can the minister assure us that this particular section of the report will not be censored? What did it mean that such assault having happened before?”

Mr. MacKay ignored the second question and assured the House the first was strictly within the purview of government officials who were not him.

So here, finally, Liberals turned to the Riddler, Bob Rae, who stepped forward with a skill-testing question for the Defence Minister.

“Mr. Speaker, to the same minister, he said in the past, ‘The truth is there is no credible evidence to suggest that a prisoner was ever tortured.’ There now appears to be evidence of photographs being taken in order to ensure that something that happened in the past did not happen again,” Mr. Rae explained. “If something happened in the past, would the minister not agree with me that in fact is credible evidence?”

“I will answer the righteous member this way, Mr. Speaker,” Mr. MacKay shot back. “What I will say is that if there is credible evidence and we have seen in the past information that led us to believe there were concerns, we acted.”

And now perhaps emboldened by that, Mr. Rae chose to be nothing more than mischevious. “Mr. Speaker, a very simple question for the minister,” the Liberal foreign affairs critic began. “Will Mr. Justice Iacobucci, first of all, be able to review this document and how much of it can and should be made public? Second of all, can the minister please tell us what are the terms of reference of the Iacobucci inquiry? Who will be represented at that inquiry? Who will have the ability to make representations to that inquiry? What exactly is that inquiry?”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood for this one and expressed some puzzlement. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “it is not an inquiry.”

The Liberals howled and pointed at the Prime Minister, the Justice Minister having not noted, or chosen to ignore, Mr. Harper’s use of the term in his first answer.

If the Greeks intended a division between comedy and tragedy, it was perhaps only because they could not possibly have foreseen anything quite like this.

The Stats. Afghanistan, 14 questions. Government spending, five questions. Helena Guergis, four questions. Taxation, three questions. Immigration, auto safety and infrastructure, two questions each. Haiti, trade, foreign aid, First Nations University, the budget and veterans, one question each.

John Baird, 10 answers. Stephen Harper, eight answers. Rob Nicholson, five answers. Peter MacKay, four answers. Jim Flaherty, three answers. Jason Kenney and Rona Ambrose, two answers each. Lawrence Cannon, Stockwell Day, Peter Van Loan, Bev Oda, Chuck Strahl and Jean-Pierre Blackburn, one answer each.


The Commons: Comedy, tragedy, but no inquiry

  1. Just a quibble with The Stats at the end:

    You imply that ministers have provided answers. Based on the quotes you provide, that is much too generous.

    • Aaron is not in the habit of citing the government's answers in full.

  2. If the Greeks intended a division between comedy and tragedy, it was perhaps only because they could not possibly have foreseen anything quite like this.

    I love this line!

    • You remember the end of the Symposium?

      " . . . there remained only Socrates, Aristophanes, and Agathon, who were drinking out of a large goblet which they passed round, and Socrates was discoursing to them. Aristodemus was only half awake, and he did not hear the
      beginning of the discourse; the chief thing which he remembered was Socrates compelling the other two to acknowledge that the genius of comedy was the same with that of tragedy, and that the true artist in tragedy was an artist in comedy also. To this they were constrained to assent, being drowsy, and not quite following the argument . . . "

  3. So many questions… so few answers…

  4. non answers to non questions

    • Indeed. The Opposition is, of course, absolutely free to ask genuine questions, even if they suspect or are certain that they may not be rewarded with genuine answers in return. As well, the Government is absolutely free to provide genuine answers when given the opportunity, even if the questions have certain shortcomings.

      I will look very favourably on either (or both) group(s) if they would try this approach; I'm not holding my breath.

    • These are a series of very precise and specific questions that warrant genuine answers:

      "Will Mr. Justice Iacobucci, first of all, be able to review this document and how much of it can and should be made public? Second of all, can the minister please tell us what are the terms of reference of the Iacobucci inquiry? Who will be represented at that inquiry? Who will have the ability to make representations to that inquiry? What exactly is that inquiry?”

  5. Thursday – 5 questions
    Monday – 4 questions
    Tuesday – 1 question
    Wednesday – nada

    • on Parliament is supreme, where are the documents?

      • on parliament is supreme… did Diana Ross show up on the hill?

    • …?

      • Rights and Democracy fades away…See, you weren't even paying attention. My point.

        • Because it's dwarfed by the detainee thing. It, ah, doesn't follow that R&D is not an interesting, important, or scandalous issue, though. If we reckoned by question-counts, the swine flu thing would have been a really important problem.

          • indeed. Deward has a motion for the Foreign Affiars comm to look at it. it is far from having exited the headlines.

          • I suppose if it still were an interesting, important, or scandalous issue Aaron would have reported the questions and the non answers.

            I suspect many of the q were already argued at length in these blogs here, and nothing much more will happen. It will come to marginal cost/marginal benefit of devoting limited committee time to this issue. I'd be surprised if it leads to much more media interest/coverage of any committee meetings if they ever occur.

        • In that any creation of government "shall never die," it is only but a saving grace that some of them sometimes do "just fade away." Would that their budgets would do likewise…

          As to not paying attention. Well, I had been paying as little attention as possible to Broadbent's plaything since it was created. Recent machinations convince me the beast should have been aborted, or stillborn, or decapitated long ago. Which, I recognize, is likely what Harper (ominous timpani roll of DOOM…) has been scheming to achieve.

        • Besides, that's what happens to older issues. They fade away as other stuff comes up. I bet nobody brought up the "Six and Five" wage and price controls plan, or the Canadian Pacific scandal, or the debate over replacing the red ensign, or the canning of the Avro Arrow, or not-necessarily-conscription, or…

          • And Louis Riel hasn't been discussed in ages… Oh, wait…

          • and the half-life of carbon 14 is…

          • …?

            (turning above text into a macro for when "replying to Dot")

          • I think you're just playing to the crowd. Last time you did that, +4 and counting.

            Carbon 14 is the isotope used for carbon dating…it lasts, and lasts – the gist of your point.

          • Playing to the crowd…? This crowd? Me? Have you read what I post around here? I fear I have a loooooooooong way to go before I've got them lapping at my feet…

        • Speaking of fading away, anyone notice the # of questions concerning the budget, according to Aaron's summary? (Hint: greater than zero, less than two…). Even if you add in "government spending" and "taxation", which are presumably distinct enough from the budget to get their own catagories, it still seems surprising to me.

  6. Might not a public inquiry into afghan detainees be a distraction and a diversion of resources? Do the Liberal's realy want our top generals and diplomats spending time with lawyers preparing their testimony instead of being focused on the mission?
    The priority should be on ensure everything is being done to safegaurd the lives of Canadians and Afghan civilians. Shouldn't the diplomats be monitioring the detainees rather then testifying about the detainees?
    Why not compromise? Ask for a Royal Commison in the Afghan Mission, and start it in 2011. Examine the enitre scope of the mission, from start to finish, not just detainees, but every part of it. How it was managed and how we can do better the next time. And there will always be a next time.

    • '' Examine the enitre scope of the mission, from start to finish, not just detainees, but every part of it. How it was managed and how we can do better the next time. And there will always be a next time.''

      that was what the current committee was supposed to be doing,
      but LibDippers are using the committee to accuse the Harper govt of war crimes.
      To LibDippers, that is the only reason for Parliament, getting rid of Harper.

      • That was fine to start Wilson; but then extremely evasive actions by the Cons made the opposition and Canadians suspicious. The proroguing to evade the provision of unredacted documents to Parliament said a lot.

    • In hindsight, I guess it was a waste of several millions of conservative dollars reminding Candians that Michael Ignatieff wans't here when all that occured

  7. Liberals will pay dearly at the polls come the next election … they will be portrayed as the defenders of the Taliban terrorists killing our Canadian soldiers … and not some highly principled Geneva Convention adherents. The more the Liberals rant and rave about 'war crime' acts by the gov't, the more ammunition there will be come the next election because it's the economy stupid … believe it.

    • Everytime you post I cannot help but be reminded of a favourite line of mine from Orwell:

      "He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms — one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended."

      • That quote is Money!…..Richard.

      • The arrogance and pretension you show when you reply is only exceeded by your naivety. I suspect Observant is entirely correct in his observation about how the public will look at the Liberals in the next election. So go find some more quotes to impress your cohorts and maybe you could convince Iggy to continue to impress us likewise.

        • The irony of having a hyper-partisan who claims to speak for the "common man" refer to *me* as arrogant is too delicious for words.

          • You folks should thank Observant for his attempt to inject a little reality into your fantasy life. Here`s a topic for your upcoming Thinker`s conference: How does the average man and woman really feel about Liberals constantly bitching about the actions of other Canadians ? Jeez, you`re forcing the public back into the hands of the CPC.

          • I would suggest that using the Canadian Armed Forces Personnel as shields in an attempt to deflect questions is both insulting to the troops and disgusting beyond belief to me.

            And, frankly, poll numbers tell a different tale than what you seem to suggest. Transparency and accountability was what the Conservative Party promised. Obstruction and dodging is what we received.

            Democratic deficit indeed.

        • I was set to vote Conservative for the first time. Then they started using the troops as a shield and implying that anyone who wanted to have a debate or better understand the Afghan detainee issue was somehow not supporting the soldiers. My Grandfather was a POW for 18 months. He would be apalled, and so am I. Maybe the Conservatives only lost one vote. But they lost one.

      • look in the mirror!

      • "they will be portrayed as the defenders of the Taliban terrorists killing our Canadian soldiers"

        Well that bit is undoubtedly true – whether Canadians will swallow the Harper-Conservative line whole is another matter all together. Reaction to the prorogation seems to argue against.

  8. so today's QP laid bare 1) the government has a Terms of Reference for the Iacobucci review, as referenced by the PM today, ut are not sharing it, notwithstanding Nicholson's commitment to do so; 2) they still refuse to call and inquiry; and 3) that they are complying with the motion to produce the detainee docs. what are Lee and the opposition waiting for exactly? the opposition is becoming derelict in its duties.

    • This is SO frustrating. It is apparent that the supremecy of Parliament is being breached by the minority CPC. WHY aren't there conseqences? What can the majority of the House – the LIbs/NDP/BQ parties do together to fight this abrogation? Where are the charges and the actions beyond these accusations?? How long can the Conservatives get a way with this evasion of reponsibility?

      • only as long as the opposition lets them. I suspect hat is happening is that the oppo – who want to avoid an election – are intimidated by CPC threats to make Lee's motion a confidence matter and are seemingly intent on finding any out possible to avoid that. but now that they even Iacobucci's review won't provide that, they are folding to avoid a confidence vote. if so they ought to be ashamed.

        • Thanks sea-n-m, I guess I was hoping there was another formal grievance/judicial process of some sort.

    • I noticed that too. The terms of reference are decided, but not shared with the house. The opposition has to take action…how much more contempt can our parliament take? Iacobucci is apparently an honourable man…at what point is it likely he will refused to be used?

      • sounds like he haas already signed on, so not sure it is likely at all, unfortunately KCM.

  9. ''“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “in this country, prime ministers are not in the business of calling public inquiries on their predecessors.”

    One can hide behind ambiguity but what about when something is said that is irrefutably and categorically false? Why are they not held responsible for their bald-faced lies?

  10. It really seems like Harper has the Macleans demographic won over…

  11. Isn't New Hampshire relatively close-by? Live Free or Die complaining on a Macleans blog.

    • …? oh I get it. You've apparetnly placed me in the Eastern Townships before, so now I should just take my undeserved public-educated ass and shuffle off southward to the land of no-seat-belt-or-helmet laws. But, dude, I enjoy my personal freedom. Have you seen who they elected as President down there? I think I'll hold off a bit…

  12. ”…The former Liberal government had been accused by Canadian diplomats in Kabul in 2003, 2004 and 2005 that torture was commonplace in Afghan prisons.

    “Torture in Afghanistan: The Liberals knew”
    by DavidAkin

    ''My friend and former colleague Joel-Denis Bellavance reports in this morning's La Presse (April 2007) that the Liberal governments of 2002 and later
    knew that Afghanistan authorities were likely to torture or abuse those they captured as suspected Taliban operatives or sympathizers…”

    • Yes, this iteration of the Liberals will surely pay a heavy toll for the sins of their predecessors. Much like the failures of Mulroney caused the collapse of Harper's Conservatives.

    • 'The former Liberal government had been accused by Canadian diplomats in Kabul in 2003, 2004 and 2005 that torture was commonplace in Afghan prisons"

      So implementing the 05 agreement was a calculated risk over what was hiiting the news with the US hell holes like Abu ghraib…it wasn't good enough in hindsight. They'll pay a price for this in any inquiry. But i don't see any evidence of an organized PR strategy to deny deflect and stay with the message, such as is becoming evident with this gov't. Where are the liberal attempts to silence whistle blowers, where are the thwarted military commisions, where are the liberal prorogations and defiance of parliamentary orders??? The libs may well pay a heavy price for their indifference toward Afghan detainees, but i'll bet Harper winds up paying up a bigger one yet.

      • The way I see it, the Conservatives are letting the liberals rant on and on while all the time holding the Ace in the Hole about pre Conservative years. One day they will spring it on the liberals and BOOM, the axe will fall onto the failed accusations of war crimes against the Conservatives. Ya betcha I think.

        • Where's Admiral Ackbar when you need him?

        • Well Norm you are entittled to your opinion of course. I see where your going, this is all part of Harper's master plan to destroy the libs once and for all. Tell you what, if he's that damn smart, i just might vote for him myself next time around, he'll have earned it.

          • The libs can do that all on their own, they simply choose a leader.Dion, Now iggy. Its easy –

        • I agree Norm

          • Devilishly clever to make themselves look so sneaky and underhanded all the while biding their time!

            Sorry, but if there was an Ace to play on this issue Harper would not have held it back and would be playing it now.

          • What a surprise!

          • And the thumb down…did you stick your tongue out too?

          • No, but now I will.

    • Great, a full inquiry would help solve all this, don't you think?

      • Yes, as long as it goes back to 2001. Full disclosure, I dont have a problem with it.Unless it in any way harms our men & women.

        I think The Hurt Locker should be mandatory viewing.- we have no idea at all what its like in a war zone like this.

  13. Oops…premature commentry.

  14. You gotta hand to Harper : he has this uncanny ability to drive frustrated left wing nuts aboslutley crazy! Personally I find this a particularly endearing quality. From day one coming up to 5 years now the web forums have been full of stark raving mad harper haters writing him off all but tying the toe tags on themselves and yet what do we see? .. well … one opposition leader retired permanently and looking like another will be joining the ranks. 3 other opposition parties all frothing at the mouth declaring the end of democarcy itself and yet unwiling to actaully stand up and VOTE no confidence – rofl – small wonder harper haters just don't get it and seem to look forwad to more of the same – I love the new LPT strategy let Harper be Harper – this is the best – imagine a strategy where you talk big and don't even carry a stick – poor wingunts doomed to be frustrated even longer than orginally thought!

    • Harper lover :)

      • Conbots are such babies, and humourless too. Although i'm pretty sure i know who thumbed that down – it wasn't Wayne.

        • lol're such a scamp.

    • I'm having a T-shirt made proclaiming that I am "aboslutley wingunts." I bet it'll be a big seller in Japan.

  15. The Liberals better be careful what they wish for. I think that a public inquiry would be more damaging to them than the Conservatives. I suspect that they were aware of torture during their tenure in office, and did absolutely nothing about it. At least the Conservatives took action.

    • Fred, the Liberals have said it many times that they want an inquiry to go as far back as needed. Knowing Harper, he knows it too and if their was some damming info on them and not on him, he would not be blocking the Inquiry quite so much. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

  16. 140 of our sons and daughters dead in a war that the liberals got us into.I will trust the morality and ethics of our forces before I will trust the LPOC.

  17. It is the past how many years that so many of our soldiers were killed. Most of them past the deadline that was previously set by the Liberals. Most of the fallen soldiers happened under Harpers watch and there probably a few more until we get the hell out of there..

    I dp trust the morality of our forces but I do not trust the morality and ethics of the CARP clan. They are a joke only loved by his brain drained parrot followers.

  18. Lets just call a spade a spade….Liars Lairs pants on fire, their butts must be burning or they're faces ,because they are either jumping up to protest way too much or shouting and making much ado about nothing .
    How is it that all these so called members cannot to save their lives tell the truth in a simple and timely manner.
    I am sure they were taught better.

  19. The Liberals did not get us into the war in Afghanistan. They had no choice. Remember what Parish did with the Bush doll? Most of us felt that way, too. Remember when Chretien's buddy called Dubya Bush 'a MORON"?

    Now, can you imagine Harper's neocons calling Bush a "moron"!

    But you should imagine, and know it well, that HARPER would have cost us THOUSANDS of our boys and girls dead in that Afghanistan disaster (Obama's Vietnam)!

    Harper wrote the New York Times telling them he was 'ashamed' of being a Canadian and not participating in the War.

    Thank God Chretien had the intelligence and love of his country–not to mention GUTS–to say to Dubya: NO!