An oddly serene atmosphere in the room, given the tensions simmering at
the table. On the agenda today: an opposition-backed motion to sidestep
any further attempts at filibustering by the Conservatives, and finally
get down to the business of debating whether or not to investigate the
‘In and out’ controversy.
This could get interesting – the lone NDP member, Yvon Godin, doesn’t
seem to be here, although he could be enroute. If he’s a no-show, that
means that the opposition can’t override the chair.
Whooo, the cavalry – in the form of Yvon Godin – has arrived, and the debate is now officially underway. Let the games begin!
Let the games be temporarily halted by a point of order from Scott Reid!
His complaint: the motion itself – the one that would consider debating
holding the debate – is out of order, and a “circuitous” attempt to
thwart the business of committee. The chair, however, calls it
“perfectly okay.” Point to the opposition.
Scott Reid isn’t giving up, however: he wants the chair to make a
ruling, and he’s not happy that he keeps being interrupted by the
Liberals – in this case, Marlene Jennings.
The chair, incidentally, looks very, very tired of this whole ordeal,
and is now reduced to pleading with the members, rather than snarling
or using his gavel. “I’m trying not to have this start in a bad way,”
he says, wistfully. He just wants the committee to vote on whether to
consider the motion. Is that so difficult?
And — the motion carries. Surprise, surprise. Onto the debate over the
debate! And apparently, Tom Lukiwski, who led up Team Filibuster last
week, is getting a break; Scott Reid appears to be on annoying point of
order duty today.
Meanwhile, Karen Redman kicks off the debate with a recap of why
she thinks the committee should investigate the ‘anomalies’ surrounding
the Conservatives’ election financing practices. Nothing new, although
as she notes, it’s the first time that someone other than a
Conservative MP has gotten to talk about the issue at committee, what
with the eight months of filibustery shenanigans.
And now, the Conservative response, courtesy of Joe Preston, who
complains that there is no government representation on the steering
committee, which is “odd” and “discouraging”. There is reference to
“railroading” and wistful regret over the loss of collegiality. Oh, and
he is sad because the committee has turned into a “partisan pack of
wolves,” rather than “the committee that all committees aspire to be.”
Methinks someone is looking at the past through a pair of distinctly
Joe Preston is still talking, and wonders why the committee can’t
return to the good old days of the veiled voting debate, when the
parties were all in agreement over the need to pander to the xenophobe
vote in rural Quebec. Yeah, that was some impressive legislating, guys.
The staffer behind Preston is nodding enthusiastically at his every word.
Seriously, Joe Preston has to stop talking about the veiled voting
debacle. It’s making me get all cranky, and the day has barely begun.
Plus, isn’t this debate over? Didn’t sanity win?
Still. Talking. The filibuster is dead. Long live the filibuster! I’m
not sure what the plan is, as far as the opposition — no mystery on
what the government’s
plan is, obviously; talk, talk, talk and talk some more, and run down
the clock. But the opposition has a few options — they could let this
play out, and then point to the Conservative stonewalling as evidence
that the party has something to side.
What about legislation, Preston wonders. “What about the running of the country?” he asks, having apparently confused Procedure and House Affairs with the House itself, or possibly the PM’s inner cabinet.
You know, he keeps going on about how many other, more important things
the committee could be doing, but he doesn’t seem to have that many
other than the bill on veiled voting. Oh, and running the country. I
bet the PM will be relieved to find out that he’s been replaced by a
Man, Joe Preston really has issues with the steering committee.
Counselling may be in order – or a committee-wide group hug at the very
Joe Preston would like you to know that he isn’t represented on this
committee, and this hurts him very much. There, I’ve saved you an
hours’ worth of listening to his anti-steering committee tirade.
He also hasn’t heard from one member of the public, “Hey, look into that election financing thing.”
The members of the steering committee, who are pushing this “witch
hunt” ahead of all other business, should be forced to wear identifying
badges, according to Preston. A scarlet A. Or possibly an R. Wait, who
are the witches, and who are the hunters in this metaphor? I’m getting
Also, there are school yard bullies who threaten to take their ball and
go home, and also throw mud. I thought school yard bullies were more
likely to steal the ball, possibly shoving kids into the mud along the
The person beside me has hit the wall, and is trying desperately to
control an outburst of that special sort of maniacal laughter brought
on by extreme stress or, in this case, the exquisite pain of listening
to Joe Preston talk about his feelings. Which, in case you’re joining
us midway through this ordeal, are very hurt, and it’s all the fault of
the meanies on the steering committee, and its wicked witch hunting
Shamelessly sucking up to the chair should totally be out of order.
It’s like how, in the House, everyone feels the need to laugh
uproariously when the Speaker makes even the mildest of witticisms.
Ooh, intrigue! Opposition members are passing around mysteriously
folded pieces of paper. Pink paper. Possible amendments? Top secret
strategy bulletins? Early Valentines? ITQ will fill you in just as soon
as we’re able to sweet talk one of the staffers into letting us take a
Reinforcements from the fourth estate! I was holding down the fort by myself for a while there after Tim
Naumetz – who, with Glen McGregor, broke the ‘in and out’ story in the
first place – bailed out early due to an apparent dearth of newsiness.
“It’s really good that we’re able to spend all this time together,”
says Preston, to general snickers from the other side of the table. I
have to say, some of the heckling that he’s getting is pretty amusing,
and he’s taking it in good spirits.
Breaking news: Preston is finally ready to discuss the substance
of the motion: the perfectly normal and entirely legitimate practice of
funneling national advertising expenses through local campaigns, which
every single party does, and Elections Canada just doesn’t understand.
And now he’s wandered off on a tangent about the fast food industry,
and test markets, and – wait, I’m sure he’s going somewhere with this.
I wish he’d stop talking about food, though.
Is “regionalness” a word? Joe – I feel I can call him Joe now – and I
want to know. He’s explaining how selling a party is a lot like selling
hamburgers, at least as far as localized advertising, which I’m not
sure but I think is what the fracas with Elections Canada is specifically not about
At one point, it looked as though there might be a ‘negotiated
settlement,’ as the chair hopefully phrased it, between the government
and the opposition to end this standoff, but that is looking less and
less likely as the moments tick by.
Joe Preston, meanwhile, is calling on the committee to let the courts
rule on the matter – the Conservative Party has an appeal before the
federal court – before
deciding whether the law should be changed. Isn’t that the exact
opposite of the position the Tories usually take on the need for
parliament to reign supreme over those uppity activist courts? And
isn’t it a little cart-before-horsey to assume that if the court doesn’t side with the Conservatives, it automatically means that the law has to be changed?
Now Joe is defending the noble art of the filibuster, especially as
practiced by his colleague, Tom Lukiwski. Sometimes, one has to fight
the power using any means necessary. Or something like that.
Time is nearly up – at least, in theory. Not sure if this is going to
turn into one of those afternoons – and if it does, I’m in trouble
since I skipped breakfast – or whether the chair will just end it at
the regular time.
Apparently, the steering committee meanies are also into light BDSM, as
it is “handcuffing” and “railroading” the hapless members of the
committee as a whole.
The chair is counting keywords, and informs Joe that he has talked
about the Elections Act three times, and used the word “witch hunt”
fifteen times. Wait, did he mean fifteen or fifty? Because I think it’s
closer to the latter.
Anyway, it’s over. Yay! To the cafeteria, and then I’ll give the berry
a couple of hours to recover before this afternoon’s installment of the
Mulroney/Schreiber affair. A committee wonk’s work is never done, y’all.