It’s only been two days since the threatened all-night Ethics filibuster came to a confusing and cranky temporary halt, but it feels like so much longer. Not that anything was actually accomplished—not at that meeting, dutifully chronicled by ITQ, or since, but so much has happened outside this committee room.
With the meeting having just – as in, this minute – gotten underway, David Tilson moves to adjourn. Well, I guess that gives us some idea what the chances are that we’re going to get out of here anytime soon.
The motion to adjourn is handily defeated, thanks to the serendipitous arrival of the all-important NDP voting bloc in the form of Pat Martin, who was a minute late, thus giving the government a fleeting moment in which they would have been able to win the vote. Quick thinking by David Tilson, but not quite quick enough. That’s okay, though—he has a backup plan: a sub-amendment. Unfortunately, what he doesn’t have is a copy of it in both official languages, which he was told, in no uncertain terms, he had to have.
Somehow, Tilson manages to avoid being struck by the lightning of the irony gods when he accuses Carole Lavallée of “delaying tactics” for requesting that the motion be made available in French as well as English. As he fumes, she just laughs at him, showing far more humour than his belligerance would have inspired in a feistier Francophone. I can’t imagine what would have happened if Yvon Godin or Michel Guimond had been here.
The sub-amendment has been translated. It would add the words “previous elections” to the Van Kesteren amendment, which the chair, possibly to his great regret, ruled in order last time.
Before debate on the sub-amendment can get underway, Dean Del Mastro pipes up to voice his objection to the onerous requirement that amendments be put forward in both languages; Szabo tries to explain that it’s a courtesy.
Doing his best Pierre Poilievre imitation, Gary Goodyear moves a point of clarification, although he wonders whether such a thing exists. No, it doesn’t. But Szabo lets him go ahead, and… Hey, speak of the devil: a very, very subdued Poilievre just skulked into the room. We were trying to guess whether he’d eventually show up or had to report back to PMO to write out “I will not step all over the government’s good news day by being a blowhard on talk radio” one or two thousand times.
David Tilson continues to demonstrate a stunning lack of interest in respecting the other official language before finally getting back to his proposed sub-amendment. If it carries, he says with no lack of menace, the committee will be looking at all parties and all elections. How far back? Well, that would depend on what Elections Canada says, but he’s satisfied by leaving it open with “previous elections.” Sir Wilfrid Laurier, your in and out election funding skeletons are about to be exposed!
Dean del Mastro takes over, and tells the committee that the sub-amendment is “entirely reasonable,” since all the other parties do it too, and he’s willing to borrow Poilievre’s binder full of alleged in and out transactions to prove it. Yeah, we’ve heard this before. Some of us during more than one filibuster at more than one committee.
Marcel Proulx notes that, while this is all very interesting (no, it really isn’t), this isn’t about transfers between the central and local campaigns, but about the national campaign doing so to conceal the fact that it was spending above the legal limit.
Incidentally, serving as Conservative seat filler this afternoon is the former chair of Procedure and House Affairs himself: Gary Goodyear. At what turned out to be the final PROC meeting of the year, he found himself voted out of the chair when the opposition parties finally got fed up with him giving aid and comfort to his filibustering colleagues. (That, in turn, led to the infamous “indentured servitude” inflicted on Joe Preston.)
Goodyear becomes the first Conservative of the afternoon to break out the catchphrase “tyranny of the majority.” He’s giving a long, labourious speech on why the original Hubbard motion is out of order, unless and until the DVK amendment passes.
During a tangent on the necessity of respecting sub judice protection, Goodyear notes that the Justice committee “doesn’t investigate individual break-and-enters.” No, it doesn’t. In fact, it doesn’t investigate anything at all, since the government has been stonewalling a motion to look into the Cadman affair since March.
According to Goodyear, if the committee goes ahead with an investigation that looks only at the Conservative party, it will violate the rights of the accused—that would be the Conservative party—to a fair trial, while simultaneously costing millions of dollars and failing to make this world a better place.
Goodyear: “I want to waste more taxpayer dollars.” Okay, that’s slightly out of context, but his hectoring tone and supercilious sense of superiority is getting on my nerves.
If he had stood up to his colleagues at Procedure and House Affairs, the in and out investigation would probably have been wrapped up months ago. Instead, he sat back and let them play silly buggers until the committee collapsed under the weight of dilatory debate and frivolous motions, and that’s why this whole mess has landed in the lap of the Ethics committee.
If this is going to turn into a partisan witchhunt against one party, Van Kesteren says, he doesn’t want to be part of this committee. Well, there’s a simple solution to that. Town’s that way, as they say.
Tilson Tie Watch: Crimson, violet and grey stripes.
Tilson Mood Ring: White Hot Coals of Rage.
Finally, an opposition member gets to speak: Carole Lavallée, who notes that she thought they were here to discuss a motion to look into the ethical practices of a particular political party. The only party to have had a search warrant for its headquarters exercised by the RCMP, she says, is the Conservative party.
Maybe the Bloc Québécois did use the in and out method—just not illegally, she says.
This produces snickers on the other side of the table, but I have to tell you that the fight seems to have gone out of the Tories at this point.
I’m not sure whether it was the fall from grace of government jester Pierre Poilievre, or they’re just burnt out and longing for the end of the session, but the truculence that was so evident on Tuesday seems to have drained away, replaced by a dull resignation.
Lavallée finally gets around to bristling over Tilson’s derision of her desire to have motions prepared in her language of choice and suggests that what the committee really needs is a motion against “bad faith.” Oh, Voice of Sanity. I’ve missed you so.
The chair hands the floor over to Richard Nadeau. Two opposition members in a row! And there hasn’t been a point of order from the government in nearly half an hour. Are they really so lost when deprived of the presence of the Pied Piper of Procedural Petulance?
Good heavens, is that Gerry Ritz taking over for Mike Allen—seat-filler for a seat-filler? Doesn’t he have a department to run? (Note: That may actually be a previously undiscovered Conservative backbencher who bears a passing resemblance to Gerry Ritz, who, admit it, none of you could pick out of a lineup anyway.)
Richard Nadeau recites the list of the Conservative ministers implicated in the in and out controversy: Maxime Bernier, Josée Verner, Lawrence Cannon. At that point, one would expect it to be a Tory who spoke up to question the relevency of naming non-public office holders, but they sit silently, staring at their notes. Eventually, Marcel Proulx, a Liberal, intervenes and the chair agrees that only POHs are relevant.
You can thank him for that later, Conservative backbenchers.
Okay, it’s not Ritz—it’s David Anderson. In my defence, they really do look alike, and they’re both obsessed by the Wheat Board, so it was an honest mistake.
Marcel Proulx is up now and he stresses the importance of differentiating between ordinary, run of the mill candidates and MPs, and public office holders, who could—in theory—wind up in prison.
That wakes up Dean Del Mastro, who calls it a factual error, which it isn’t, although it’s highly unlikely that the investigation will lead to criminal charges against individual MPs—ministers and otherwise. (Party officials? That’s another story.)
You know who else isn’t here? Russ Hiebert. No wonder they’re so quiet over there—this is clearly the B-team.
Marcel Proulx gives notice that there is “no way” he’s going to vote in favour of the sub-amendment. Somehow, I’m not surprised.
Back to Dean Del Mastro, who happily jumps at the chance to discuss—the sponsorship scandal? Really? In the context, that is, of Things Elections Canada Failed To Investigate. Millions of dollars stolen! Money going to Quebec ridings! Proulx objects, and the chair agrees that it’s a fine line: the motion is not to opine on the activities of Elections Canada. The objective isn’t to find wrongdoing, but to assess whether anything that occurred, from the facts that we know, triggered any ethical responsibilities.
“If you’re going to talk past elections, you have to talk sponsorship,” claims Del Mastro. Wouldn’t that be a partisan witchhunt of the sort with which Gary Goodyear didn’t want to be involved?
Well, if it wasn’t, it is now, since del Mastro is now casting vague but menacing aspersions against unnamed persons “sitting in this House” who may be guilty of various crimes and “unfit to sit in judgment.”
Now he’s giving a rah-rah on how much money the Conservative Party raises—lots!—since Canadians stand up for the Tories! He wants to know if stolen money was reimbursed. “A double in and out,” suggests Mike Wallace from the bleachers. Doesn’t anyone else want to know?
Crickets from the other side of the table.
Del Mastro notes that it’s a pity Pat Martin has left, since he was a “champion” for turning everything into a way to attack the Liberals. Well, he put it differently, but still.
David Tilson now attempts to explain how he’s going to vote against the main motion, but in favour of the DVK amendment and his own subamendment. He acknowledges that this may seem “somewhat contradictory,” but… Oh, no. Turns out, he’s not going to explain it. He’s going to talk about his sub-amendment, and the good old days of being in opposition, and asking questions on the scandal—The Scandal, he repeats, somewhat wistfully.
Basically, the upshot of his rambling point is that it was wrong at the time for the Liberals to try to avoid answering questions by pointing to the inquiry and calling on the opposition to allow Gomery to do his work. Somehow, though, in retrospect, that stonewalling has been retro-righted, which is why they shouldn’t ask questions about in and out until whatever ongoing investigations have been completed.
Oh, and he keeps taking shots at Lavallée; I think he’s channeling his usual Szabo rage in her direction for some reason, since his fellow obstructioneers aren’t there to give him backup if he goes into a classic Tilsonian tantrum.
Speaking of the A-Team, look who just slunk back into the room: Pierre Poilievre, still crestfallen and gazing sadly at a sympathetic David Anderson.
David Tilson keeps going further back to find procedural precedent and citations that support his newfound reluctance to investigate anything before the courts. He started with 1977, then 1942, and then some dustup involving Diefenbaker—and now, Sir John A. and the railway scandal.
I think he’s been waiting for the chair to interrupt him, because he seems to be trying to stretch this last bit out as long as possible.
Another new face on the government side – Bruce Stanton. Is there some totally awesome party for Tory MPs going on, and these are the luckless souls who drew the short straws, and had to fill in at Ethics? (Poilievre excepted; we know why *he* wouldn’t be allowed to “partake” of any such festivities.)
I think Carole Lavallée really managed to get under Tilson’s skin. He’s spending an awful lot of time trying to repudiate the points she made, like when she claimed the Bloc Québécois “has never done anything illegal.” “How do we know?” he asks. Why not ask Elections Canada why they haven’t investigated whether the Bloc has done anything illegal? Here’s a thought: because there were no grounds to launch an investigation? Why not have the police investigate people at random, just to make sure there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be investigated. Note to Stephen Harper: Don’t put this man in charge of the RCMP.
Still talking, although he keeps claiming to be “almost finished.” That’s repetition, notes the chair, who is apparently reading my mind. “I really mean it this time,” Tilson promises.
Szabo mercifully interrupts Tilson to thank him for his many, many helpful suggestions on prejudicing existing legal proceedings and Proulx moves to adjourn. “But we want to go on,” sniffs Tilson.
Reluctantly (on the part of the Conservatives) and resignedly (on the part of everyone else), they vote to adjourn.
And that’s all, folks—until Tuesday, when the debate on the sub-amendment continues. Can you feel the excitement?