The Commons: So it goes - Macleans.ca

The Commons: So it goes

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The Conservatives have no credible answers and the Liberals are now mocking them in verse
The Scene. It surely says something about this place right now that you can wander way for a few days, only to return and realize you haven’t missed any development of any kind. Indeed, in this case, the Liberals continue to come after the Conservatives with straightforward questions on the Cadman case, while the government steadfastly refuses to provide wholly forthcoming answers. Perhaps both should be commended for their persistence.
But first, a poem, courtesy of Todd Russell—the Liberal class clown rising just before Question Period from his seat in the back row with the following.



I am PM
PM I am;
I do not like green eggs and ham,
I won’t answer questions about Cadman;
I will not answer them in this House,
On this I’m quiet as a mouse;
I will not answer in Yellowknife,
I won’t answer questions from Bob Fife;
I will not answer in Vancouver,
Duck and hide, that’s my manoeuvre;
On that tape you’ll hear me say,
Things I can’t discuss today;
I will not answer here or there,
I will not answer anywhere!
Why won’t the press just let me be,
I will not answer can’t you see.
Please, please do not pester,
For the truth holds disaster.
I know the rule is not to lie,
But when your starn’s in a sling, I say let her ride!

As a general rule, it’s not a terribly good sign when your opponent feels so bold as to mock you in verse. But, in any event, let’s proceed with the day’s interrogation.

“Mr. Speaker, my question is for the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services,” began Stéphane Dion, glancing at the Prime Minister’s empty chair and theatrically shrugging. “At the time of the confidence vote in 2005, the parliamentary secretary told journalist Lawrence Martin that Mr. Cadman did not want an election because it could cost Mr. Cadman’s family a fortune in benefits. Which benefits?”

“Mr. Speaker,” huffed James Moore, “the Liberals’ story on this file keeps changing.”

This drew a chuckle from the Liberal side.

Dion tried again. “I asked a question to the parliamentary secretary. He didn’t answer so I’ll ask again in French.”

Moore vouched for his own honesty. “Mr. Speaker, I always say the truth in the House. Always.”

Even the Conservatives could barely bring themselves to applaud this.

Michael Ignatieff proceeded with the hostile witness. “Sandra Buckler and Ryan Sparrow from the Conservatives have refused repeated offers by the media to go on record denying that any kind of financial inducement was ever offered to Mr. Cadman,” the Liberal deputy offered, referring to the government’s strangely incommunicative communications department. “So I ask a perfectly simple question. Did any Conservative official ever offer a financial inducement of any kind to Mr. Cadman, yes or no?”

Moore came back with a perfectly simple response. “The answer is no, Mr. Speaker,” he said. “The answer is no.”

Never mind that this directly contradicts the infamous audio recording of our present Prime Minister.

The parliamentary secretary, showing unearned faith in his research bureau, next quoted from a pair of newspaper reports indicating the late Mr. Cadman held a desire, up until his last days on Earth, to seek re-election.

Never mind that one of the Conservatives who met with Cadman before that May 2005 vote has publicly stated his belief that the independent MP wasn’t fit for a campaign.

Raymonde Folco took a shot at making sense of the non-sensical.

“Mr. Speaker, in his book, Tom Flanagan does not say that the Conservatives were interested in having Chuck Cadman return to their caucus,” she said referring to the aforementioned disbeliever in Cadman’s ability to run. “No, their interest was motivated only by the fact Chuck Cadman was a ‘swing voter’ who could, at that time, trigger an election and they were prepared to make one last desperate try to win him over. Who should we believe, the parliamentary secretary or the man who ran the last Conservative campaign?”

In response, Moore outdid himself.

“Mr. Speaker, I am not asking my colleague to believe. It is the nature of Question Period. I can understand the adversarial nature of it,” he said. “However, all we have asked is that the Liberals respect and believe the word of Chuck Cadman, who himself said that the only offer or anything that he had from anybody was the offer of an unopposed nomination.”

A shiny nickel to any philosophy student who can explain the position Mr. Moore has taken here on the nature of belief.

Ultimately, it fell once more to Ken Dryden, this Parliament’s lone winner of a Vezina trophy, to offer the obvious and inevitable rejoinder. “Mr. Speaker, why would Mr. Cadman tell his wife that he received an offer of a $1 million life insurance policy if it was not true? Why would he lie to her? Why would Mr. Cadman tell his daughter and son-in-law the same thing and each of them at a different time?… Why would he lie to them?”

Moore had no answer for this.

The Liberal goalie then struck the day’s cruelest blow—daring to appeal to Mr. Moore’s common sense. “Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is a thinking person. He knows that he has to try to answer every day. He must have asked himself these very same questions,” Dryden posited.

“It is not just what the Cadman family said. They described the scene, what Mr. Cadman’s reaction to the offer had been; how he was angry and offended; how the family was shocked; how Mrs. Cadman considered it a bribe. All their stories are consistent. There was no misunderstanding or mishearing. Why would Mr. Cadman lie to his wife and family? Why would they lie to us?”

Moore was once more bereft of any explanation.

So it goes. And so it will likely continue to go until someone gives Mr. Moore something credible to say.

The Stats. Chuck Cadman, 11 questions. The environment, 10 questions. Diplomacy, five questions. Information security, four questions. Quebec, three questions. Afghanistan and John Baird, two questions each. The North, health care and tourism, one question each.

James Moore, 11 answers. John Baird, 10 answers. Maxime Bernier, seven answers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, three answers. Peter Van Loan and Jason Kenney, two answers each. Rob Nicholson, Chuck Strahl, Tony Clement, Diane Ablonczy and Bev Oda, one answer each.

Adjective of the Day. Actual phrases used by Environment Minister John Baird in discussing climate change and the government’s approach to it. “Real results… real plan… real plan… real plan… real problem… real ideas… real plans… real results.”

Heckle of the Day. “Choo! Choo!” Aimed at Conservative Dean del Mastro, whose riding was blessed with funding for a high-speed train in this month’s federal budget.

Expression of Concern of the Day.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, responding to a question about the plight of Brenda Martin. “Mr. Speaker, like my honourable colleagues, we are concerned. I am concerned. The government is concerned about that. We are doing our best to help Ms. Martin. It is an important case and like I said before, I had a telephone conversation with my counterpart and I expressed to her the concern of our government.”