And other news from a fine day for democracy
The Scene. Emerging from the House after Question Period, Michael Ignatieff shuffled slowly to the microphone and, upon arriving at the designated spot, entered a plea of remarkable ignorance.
“This is about the possibility, I say the possibility, of a link between organized crime and airport security in Montreal, right, and the possibility of improper bidding for contracts relating to security. I make no allegations here, I don’t know the facts. That is the point. I want someone in government to establish the facts and establish if there is or is not a link with a minister of the crown,” he explained to reporters only too eager to hear him.
Then this. “I don’t care about her skirts, I don’t care about her cleavage, I don’t care about her past, I don’t care about any of it, it is none of my business quite rightly, but this stuff is not only my business, it is the business of all Canadians.”
There are few certainties in modern life, but here is one: whenever the deputy leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is compelled to clarify his views on the chest presentation of the Foreign Affairs Minister’s former love interest, it is most definitely a good and happy day.
This was, in case you were wondering, an altogether dignified day on the Hill. With the President of Ukraine stopping by for a visit, the Prime Minister’s Office quite literally rolling out the red carpet to welcome the champion of the Orange Revolution.
Tall and slender, but broad in the shoulders, Viktor Yushchenko was enthusiastically and unanimously applauded as he addressed a joint-session of Parliament. His face grey and scarred from that mysterious poisoning, he arrived as an impressive-looking figure in a finely tailored suit—sitting tall in the House beside the slouching PM, it must be said, he shamed our guy by comparison. And when Yushchenko was through with his meticulous report on the infrastructure and government of his burgeoning democracy, the likes of Maxime Bernier and Jason Kenney, like 12-year-olds to a professional baseball star, rushed near for a handshake.
From there it was off to a short news conference. And after some perfunctory questions about Russia and the Ukrainian economy and international trade, a duly nominated Canadian reporter was sent up with her duly decided query.
Er, Mr. Prime Minister, what of these latest allegations concerning Mr. Bernier’s special lady friend? Might you assure us national security has not been breached?
“I don’t take this matter seriously,” he huffed en francais.
Messrs Harper and Yushchenko then retreated to some reception or another, or perhaps to discuss matters altogether more serious. And when Question Period arrived, neither was present. Which was a pity, if only because the government side could’ve used their respective bluster and gravitas.
“Mr. Speaker, over the last three weeks the government has had to clean up behind the Minister of Foreign Affairs about three times. It had to clean up at an international meeting after he promised a Canadian airplane that was not available. It had to clean up in Afghanistan after he misspoke about the governor of Kandahar. It had to clean up in this House after private associations left him distracted,” began Ignatieff’s oh-so-subtle opening shot.
“Why should the government have to keep on cleaning up after the minister? Would it not be simpler to just get rid of him?”
Bernier had by then disappeared, a Parliamentary page dispatched to seize the binder from atop his unoccupied desk and deliver it to Peter Van Loan.
“Mr. Speaker,” the House leader began, “our Foreign Affairs Minister and our Prime Minister have been showing considerable leadership on the world stage.”
He then pointed proudly to our nation’s efforts in Afghanistan, bolstered as they are by Mr. Bernier’s dunderheaded diplomacy and tasty dessert cakes.
Ignatieff kept at it. Van Loan likened the debate to an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Opposition members nominated the house leader as the titular host.
As the Liberal deputy began his third question, Conservative Jim Abbott registered his hackneyed disgust. “Oh balderdash!” he cried.
Shortly thereafter, Ignatieff was out in the foyer, eloquently making a case for this most ineloquent of controversies. “I mean this is a minister, a nice agreeable fellow but he is just not up to the job and this government is visibly embarrassed with his conduct, visible embarrassed with his deportment and visibly, in my judgement, about to give him the heave-ho and I think they should.”
And shortly after that, Yushchenko, trailed by a sizeable entourage, was making a hasty retreat down the front steps toward a waiting car and a police escort away from here. No doubt, seeing where it can lead, he will soon report to his homeland that this democracy business is not necessarily a happy alternative to totalitarianism.
The Stats. The Foreign Affairs Minister, seven questions. Air travel, six questions. The environment and the military, four questions each. Ethics and agriculture, three questions each. The President of the Treasury Board, multiculturalism, language rights, and Omar Khadr, two questions each. Space exploration, one question.
Peter Van Loan, 12 answers. Stockwell Day, six answers. Peter MacKay, four answers. Rob Nicholson and Christian Paradis, three answers. Deepak Obhrai, Bev Oda and Mark Warawa, two answers each. Brian Jean and Pierre Poilievre, one answer each.