Well, we’re back. Actually, we’re not officially back for another ten minutes or so, but the committee room is surprisingly lively. There are a few MPs here – Pat Martin, David Tilson – and the chair is already in position – as well as a full contingent of clerks, including the long-suffering Richard Rumas.
Ooh, and reinforcements on the Liberal side, in the form of Derek Lee. He and Szabo represent the parliamentary brain trust as far as the caucus goes — Jerry Yanover being the undisputed master of behind-the-scenes dark arts, of course — which means that the opposition side will likely be more lively when the inevitable procedural wrangling begins.
Okay, this is getting somewhat unsettling; every MP who walks in and sees me says, with some amazement, “You’re back!”
Well, of course I’m back. I’m hardly going to cut out mid-filibuster. That would just be — wrong.
The MPs are in fine spirits, I must say; there’s no trace of rancour or partisan bitterness. Mike Wallace just doffed his tie, and DVK is wearing a spectacularly unexpected Hawaiin shirt. Hey, so is Sukh Dhaliwal. Was there some sort of Hawaiin shirt event of which I was not informed?
And we’re back. DVK is up, and he’s talking compromise — which sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? Alas, it appears that he may be leading up to an amendment much like those ruled out of order earlier: expanding the inquiry to include all political parties; or, at the very least, those damned Liberals.
People back home, he says, don’t care about bickering, and the schoolyard fights. As far as the public is concerned, they don’t grasp what’s going on here — they just see the committee diverting its attention away from important issues like privacy and identity theft.
After that inspiring preamble, he suggests a compromise motion, which would add the other parties, but with some sort of caveat. It’s not clear why he thinks this amendment would be ruled in order, given the previous decisions by the chair, but hope springs eternal in minority parliament.
And now, the addition: “Should the committee find, in their investigation, similar ethical practices, it will recommend to Elections Canada whether these practices should be continued.” Wait, I think I must have misheard that. “Electoral” practices would make more sense.
The chair reminds him that this would have to target public office holders. Anything else would stray outside the mandate.
Steven Fletcher just showed up, which brings the parliamentary quota to… three? Is Hiebert a PS? I always forget. He should be.
The members chat amongst themselves as the chair considers the amendment. After a particularly loud outburst from Mike Wallace, Pat Martin tells him that his laugh “will haunt me forever.” You and me both, Pat.
What people did during the break: Slept (DVK), showered (Mike Wallace), waved his cane and told those kids to get off his lawn (David Tilson) (presumed).
The chair wonders whether this refers to similar acts under the Elections Act, and DVK tells him it’s just a way of broadening the investigation. “Did it happen elsewhere?” Wallace wonders. “If it did, do we get to call people?”
Rather than make it a partisan witch hunt, DVK says, he wants to make it a good, thorough report.
Szabo is still unsure.
Poilièvre just swung over to the opposition side of the table, where Pat Martin and Marcel Proulx are engaged in discussion. The latter narrows his eyes. “Can’t I talk to me colleague?” Poilièvre wonders. Apparently not.
I’m not sure, but it sounds like the chair is going to rule this amendment in order. It’s a “reasonable offer” to move the committee forward, he says – and rules the motion in order, which sparks a spontaneous burst of applause from the government side of the room.
Hot diggity, does this mean I might be home by midnight?
Now that his motion has been ruled-somewhat unexpectedly, I suspect – in order, DVK is on the spot. He has to speak to the motion, and he doesn’t really seem to have that much to say.
Thankfully, David Tilson has more than enough for an entire committee. He promptly moves a point of order that seems to have something to do with the Chief Electoral Officer and his symbiotic parliamentary relationship with Procedure and House Affairs – also known as Patient Zero of parliamentary dysfunctionitis.
But we were doing so well! There was the possibility of some sort of consensus! What are you doing to us, Cranky?
As far as Tilson is concerned, both the motion and the amendment – proposed by his colleague – are out of order.
So wait, the chair finds a Conservative amendment in order, and he suddenly has a problem with it, because the main motion is illegitimate? That didn’t stop him from throwing a tantrum every time the chair ruled against one of Mike Wallace’s amendments.
Szabo reminds him of past rulings – pecuniary interests and other nebulous hypotheticals – and defends his ruling. As for the original motion being out of order, the committee already dealt with it earlier.
Tilson keeps grumping about the fact that the Chief Elections Officer should only appear before Procedure and House Affairs, and when Szabo tries to move on, he challenges the ruling.
Mike Wallace is staring at him with giddy fascination. Interestingly, his other colleagues aren’t making eye contact.
Tilson challenges the chair, and for the first time, the Conservatives don’t seem to be voting as automotons. They oppose the ruling – what, that their own motion is out of order? – including, unbelievably, DVK, who proposed the motion in the first place. This is now officially beyond ridiculous.
Pierre Poilièvre is making a valiant effort to rationalize the fact he just voted against the chair’s ruling that a Conservative amendment was in order and he’s doing so by reading from his trusty stack of Liberal election financial reports. “In, out – where was Elections Canada?”.
Wait, this is all starting to sound eerily familiar. Didn’t we hear this exact same speech before the three-hour break?
The chair apparently experienced the same frisson of déjà vu and points out, basically, that we’ve heard all this before. Unfortunately, this results in him saying that the Liberals “used in and out as well.” He was attempting to summarize Poilièvre’s argument, not admitting to any sort of widespread election law flouting, but Poilièvre seizes upon it like a Boston Terrier with a Bullwrinkle.
Poilièvre has now moved on to the Bloc Québécois, which, he claims, forced its candidates to participate in the same sort of not-at-all-insidious in and out scheme.
I’m thinking it really would have been smart to pack a Caramilk or two when I was putting together my filibuster survival pack.
And a point of order from Marcel Proulx: he questions the relevancy of the testimony, and Szabo agrees that a line has to be drawn. Hiebert has his warrior grimace on: I’d call it a smile, except it so clearly is entirely uninspired by mirth. But Szabo doesn’t shut Poilièvre down immediately. He just warns him to make sure he focuses his comments on the intent of the amendment.
Cue Tilson, who manages to give the angriest sigh I’ve ever heard.
Isn’t it a little hypocritical for Poilièvre, or any of the Conservatives, to argue in favour of an amendment that he tried (and failed) to have declared out of order?
Marcel Proulx points out that the Bloc will never have public office holders and, as such, are entirely irrelevant to the debate. Which would rule most of Poilievre’s filibuster fodder out of order – no more candidate by candidate rundowns of every transfer made between riding and party.
Not surprisingly, the Conservative MPs pounce, and claim the chair has inadvertantly ruled the motion out of order, since a party can’t be a public office holder, QED the motion cannot stand. A weary Szabo explains, once again, that this is about candidates who may have since become public office holders, but the government side of the bench explodes. “You’ve ruled yourself out of order,” Tilson bellows. “You’re in a mess now.”
The chair is trying to restore order, but after such a promising beginning, the bonhomie is starting to sour. Hiebert is once again kvetching about the bias of the chair, and Poilièvre grouses that he’s finding it increasingly difficult to “express himself.”
He’s clinging to this public office holder finger trap, and occasionally tosses a little salt in the wounds by suggesting that the matter should really go to Procedure and House Affairs, which, of course, was sent to the first circle of parliamentary hell as a direct result of the opposition’s attempt to bring the in and out controversy forward.
Sukh Dhaliwal comes out in support of the chair and scolds Hiebert when he begins heckling. The chair pleads with Poilièvre to move on and he grudgingly agrees to do so, but pledges to make those same arguments outside committee. He will not be silenced.
Hey, it’s Yvon Godin! Man, this really is like an unofficial reunion for Procedure and House Affairs survivors.
Meanwhile, Pierre Poilièvre is stubbornly continuing to read highlights from his binder. Now he’s moved onto the NDP – something about advertising in the Lower Mainland – and wow, Szabo just exploded.
“You don’t have any shoes on,” Tilson points out. I don’t know if that is addressed to the chair or someone else – I can’t see anyone’s feet. We will just have to wonder.
Szabo is reading the riot act – otherwise known as the section of Marleau and Montpetit that deals with disorder – and then closes with a plea: don’t throw mud at each other, not inside the committee room at least.
I love listening to Poilièvre rewrite history. Tonight, he’s telling us the thrilling and somewhat tragic tale of how the Tories have tried for months – nay, years! – to launch an investigation into the practice of in and out and yet the opposition parties have thwarted them at every turn.
“If we’re going to allow one party to be investigated,” he says, “we should allow all parties to be investigated.” Sure, but when did “should allow” turn into “must ensure”?
Apparently, the opposition parties are big old hypocrites, and if they weren’t afraid of what the committee might find, they’d vote in favour of putting the NDP’s financial practices “unrobed” before the committee.
Oh no, I’m starting to remember this speech from Procedure and House Affairs. It involves an extended metaphor of nakedness and it made my skin crawl.
After an opposition member obligingly brings him a Coke, Poilièvre goes into a fantastic faux rant about how he will not be silenced. He will not be bribed, either – the member can take back that Coca Cola, but they will never take his freedom! I swear, sometimes I am convinced the whole highest-ranking Canadian student politician schtick is an act and that he is entirely aware of the odiousness of the persona.
Okay, back to Russ Hiebert, who is very, very sincere, and is very, very sincerely trying to persuade the chair that… Wait, what is he arguing now? I think that the investigation should be expanded to include all parties, which, if the amendment passes, he and his ilk will promptly vote against it.
The chair gently warns Hiebert not to repeat himself and he grumbles a little before dropping his bomb: he has a sub-amendment, which would postpone the investigation into after the committee had concluded its study on reform of the Privacy Act. The chair rules it out of order as a sub-amendment because it relates to the whole motion and not just the amendment.
Aha! Another parry from Hiebert: he proposes a sub-amendment that would delay the investigation until after the litigation between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party is over and done with. And, once again, Szabo rules it out of order.
Hiebert just doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want to challenge the chair. He just wants to know why this motion – “which I spent a lot of time on” – was ruled out of order. Alas, the chair does not have to explain every decision and, in this case, I think he already did. He doesn’t think sub-amendments to limit or delay the time frame are in order, since that relates to the main motion, not the proposed amendment.
Now Szabo has moved on to the bigger issue – order, disorder, and respect for the chair. Poilièvre tries to move a point of order, but Szabo silences him with a glance. Well, he delivers a silencing glance, but Poilièvre keeps muttering.
My goodness, the Conservative cavalry is here – James Rajotte and Dean del Mastro, at least. Since my last update, Poilièvre has had two points of order ruled out of order and Russ Hiebert is still trying to understand why his last motion wasn’t in order.
Okay, Hiebert has now given up on the whole idea of consensus and is proposing an amendment that incorporates the theory that Elections Canada is biased against the Conservative Party and treats its candidates differently for doing much the same thing. Why is he even bothering to propose this? There’s no way it would pass, even if it is ruled in order.
Wait, I get it. Debate on that subamendment will open the door to all those wonderful talking points that Poilièvre has left over from Procedure and House Affairs, because he can give examples of this so-called bias.
Szabo is getting testy. “What the hell are you talking about?” Poilievre asks, just loudly enough to be overheard. Szabo snaps and Poilièvre challenges the chair. Or wait… Maybe not. The chair is demanding an apology. David Tilson is castigating him for “admonishing” a member and Hiebert actually apologizes on behalf of his colleague. He invites Szabo to give his ruling, which is that the motion is out of order.
Tilson is outraged that the chair would demand an apology. If he’s losing control of the meeting, the proper response is to adjourn.
It’s getting ugly in here.
Szabo admits that the situation is deteriorating. He’s in the middle of rulings and members start debating. The process is becoming a “monster.” It’s not supposed to get bigger, it’s supposed to get smaller.
I think it’s time for a ten minute break.
Okay, tempers seem to have cooled for the moment. Wait, I spoke too soon. As the chair rolls towards what appears to be his concluding remarks, the Conservative contingent wave copies of the Van Kesteren amendment in protest. I have to admit I’m losing the thread.
Doughnuts! Someone just gave me a doughnut! I care not for the inevitable stickiness of fingers; the sugar will make it all better.
And another controversy erupts when the Conservatives attempt to sign in a couple of ringer MPs – the aforementioned Del Mastro and Rajotte, I assume. The chair admits that there’s a language issue. Poor Carole “Voice of Sanity” Lavallée isn’t getting amendments in her language of choice. Wait, is he wrapping up? I think he is! Either that, or a very long suspension. I may make it home by midnight yet.
And that’s it. We’re adjourned until Thursday – at least as soon as David Tilson stops talking. For the love of all things parliamentary, bring the gavel down.
Clack! It’s done! Well, until Thursday, when the antics begin anew. Or again. I’m so tired. Goodnight, everybody!
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