Join ITQ for an Ottawa-sized hit of pomp and pageantry as the government reboots
the 40th Parliament in advance of tomorrow’s budget extravaganza.
Okay, first, I’ll start with what I *didn’t* see when I ventured down to the Hall of Honour to get my fill of pre-pageant goodness: the signature red carpet, more than the bare minimum number of camera crews to constitute a media stakeout, a single extra Canadian flag or Governor’s General Footguard.
This is a bargain basement Speech from the Throne, y’all. I wouldn’t be surprised if Her Excellency rolls up in a cab.
What almost made up for that, however, was what I did say, or more precisely, who: the don’t-try-to-tell-*him*-he’s embattled Mayor of Our City of Ottawa, Larry O’Brien, who was just leaving the Hill by the basement exit, only to find himself scrummed by a single intrepid reporter. (Not ITQ, for the record.)
Apparently, he was meeting with Transport Minister John Baird, presumably to try to push his latest pitch for the feds to get involved in our transit strike, now on the verge of hitting fifty days. He seemed happy enough to not answer questions, although ITQ can report that his chains of office were clinking briskly as he scampered into the back of his Mercedes.
Meanwhile, the fifth floor cafeteria was like Grand Central Stations: while waiting for her sandwich, ITQ spotted various MPs and staffers engaged in furious, whispered discussion as well as Jean Lapierre, presumably preparing to deliver his trademark brand of punditry for CTV’s first Duffyless Throne Speech in ages, and Peter MacKay, who seemed to be struggling with his tray.
We have our embargoed copy of the Speech! I’m pretty sure I can’t reveal anything, even the page count, lest I be thrown in parliamentary prison, but it has, in fact, arrived.
Well, I’m back in the Hall of Honour, and it looks a little bit more like a Throne Speech now, although still a distinctly downscale one: the receiving line is starting to assemble, and Colleague Raphael is snapping pictures to my left. Still no military tattoo, though. They better go *all out* for the next opening of Parliament, which at the current rate of prorogation should be sometime around May.
The PM is here, everybody! Wow, what’s wrong with his suit? It seems to be – I’m not sure what the issue is, actually, but wider in the gap than usual. Maybe he’s lost more weight. No sign of Laureen – which has greatly disappointed Mitchel – or anyone else. It’s a minimalist welcome party for a Throne Speech that could pretty much fit on a postcard.
“She’s here,” barks the commanding officer of the teeny-tiny-just-enough-for-one-per-step brigade of military officers, who nevertheless were quick to stomp a “ten-hut!” We heard the start of what should have been a 21 gun salute, but has probably been reduced to eleven. Meanwhile, while I was typing that, Her Excellency appeared; she’s wearing a flashier, but more casual dark blue suit and boots that I immediately, passionately covet, and had a brief chat with the PM before beginning her official march to the Senate chamber. Which is where ITQ had best be scampering right about now, huh?
Okay, made the dash past various sword-carrying honour guardsman, and am now awaiting the stampede of our elected members of Parliament, who will soon cluster around the Bar of the Senate (again, not that kind of bar, although come to think of it, someone should *totally* open one of those on Sparks) to watch the Speech. Well, in theory; in reality, most will have wandered off by the two minute mark, which in this case, will mean having sat through a record-breaking 80 per cent.
Okay, MPs, let’s get things moving. Time’s a’wasting! Not that there’s anything much on the agenda today – other than reacting to the speech and speculating about the budget.
Okay, I am currently tempting fate by peeking around the nearest column, which probably triggers all sorts of lethal reflexive reactions in the security detail.
I always wonder what she’s doing during the interim between arriving, and starting to speak – the GG, that is. Does she amuse herself counting how many Supreme Court justices appear to have been lulled to sleep by the combination of a warm and stuffy Senate and those furry red dress robes.
And – here they come! First up – after the Speaker and his retinue, that is – a three-way tie between Jack Layton, Olivia Chow and Stockwell Day. Oh, there’s David Tilson who doesn’t even look cranky, and Stephane Dion, and Marcel Proulx and at the very very very very end, the PM’s former parliamentary secretary, Sylvie Boucher.
Okay, she’s talking – I can’t actually hear what she’s saying, mind you, because the accoustics in the Other Place are just awful, but her trombone like tones are echoing through the foyer. Since you’ve probably already gotten to read the speech, I’ll spare you a recap, although I do have to give a shoutout to that fabulous bit of sarcasm on page two. Now, though, I’m going to head down to the House foyer to the scrums, which appear to be already underway.
So apparently, opposition members do *not* have the benefit of an embaroged copy of the speech, which is why they keep giving us annoyed looks when we leap out into the halls to demand that they comment upon it.
Oh, there goes the parade in the other direction. Wave to the parliamentarians, everyone!
What? I’m a sucker for ritual.
Okay, the scrums are squirching all over the foyer like mercury – it’s impossible to follow, especially when important-looking advisors keep slipping behind closed doors to escape the crush. But ITQ will prevail!
That was weird – I just tried to file an update on the Ignatieff scrum – short version: he “likes the tone” but isn’t ready to commit – from the eye of storm that is the subsequent Layton scrum, but it disappeared into the ether, which is too bad because there was a great metaphor about exposed tender flesh and lunging hyenas that has been lost forever.
Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, Layton seemed cautiously apocalyptic about the prospect of tomorrow’s budget – so, no change, really. Now I’m lurking in the background of RDI, watching him make very earnest and concerned hand gestures during an interview with Daniel Lassard.
Oh, look! James Moores’ eyebrows! (Sorry, y’all, that’s really all I can make out at the moment. I need to find a less popular minister or member in mid-scrum.)
Aha! I’m now perched strategically beside Don Newman’s platform, listening to Ignatieff elaborate on the scrum I mostly missed a few minutes ago, wherein he once again expressed the genuine confusion and apprehension of a lover once spurned now confronted with what could be flowers, but could, in fact, be a cunningly designed carnivorous plant that will consume the economy like Audrey 2, but without the rich vein of irony and the toe-tapping medleys.
Or something like that. You can’t always get the full tone of these interviews from behind a column.
Yes, squirching is too a word. Also, Jim Prentice – environment minister, remember? – has been pressed into service as budgetary footsoldier, and is currently telling Susan Bonner and about three dozen of her closest media friends that the environment – of which he is minister! – is “very important”. Even if it hasn’t made it into even one of the many, many leaked spending announcements yet.
You guys, I’m not sure how much more is going to happen down here – the crowd is starting to thin out, although the panels continue. Then again, I’m pretty sure that the day after a global thermonuclear meltdown, there would be panels of pundit-deputized cockroaches hitting the airwaves.
Okay, time for a short break – I need to hit the Hot Room to grab a fresh can of — er, orange juice. Sugar-free. Organic. Okay, I’m totally lying, but really – better Red Bull than meth, right?
Well, I’m back in the foyer, and the frenzy has definitely abated somewhat. it’s really no crazier than after QP on Wednesday, really. I’m able to weave haphazardly through the crowd without even looking up from the berry, which is good, since I do that anyway, occasionally with terrible and bloody results.
Thomas Mulcair is lurking just behind the CTV booth; not sure if he’s waiting to go on, or getting rapid response feedback from his staff. Wait, he just sat down next to John McCallum at the Newsworld desk. I guess that answers my question.
Are they even – no, I guess not: it’s just McCallum and Mulcair (and if that isn’t a pilot police procedural in the making, I don’t know what is), no Conservative representation. Well, or Bloc, but that’s sadly common.
You know what would be a great infrastructure project? Padding the columns of the foyer. You could use recycled material, it would create jobs – and, most importantly, it would make leaning against them so much less likely to encrickify your back.
Btw, I’m now trapped on one side of the hallway by the McCallum-Mulcair show, since I really don’t want to dash across the background. Also, Thomas Mulcair does not trust the Conservatives – he isn’t exactly ready to play close-your-eyes-and-fall-back-into-the-arms-of-Michael Ignatieff, mind you, but he distrusts him less.
There’s Michael Ignatieff again – on the other side of the snarl, so I can’t tell what he’s saying, but I’m sure it’s much the same as the last few stops on the circuit. Right now, he’s actually *not* talking – because the cameras are off, not because he’s giving Peter Van Dusen the silent treatment. He is staring somewhat painedly at the monitor, in fact.
Okay, I think it may be time to check out the buzz of activity in the Hot Room. I’m not sure, but this liveblog may be drawing to a close. I’ll post a final update first, but I’m not sure how much more action we’re going to see tonight – other than the constant loop of reaction from the various designated spokespersons, of course. All the more energy to save up for tomorrow’s madness, right?
Alright, I’m going to sign off for now – if anything dramatic breaks between now and tomorrow’s lockup, I’ll update y’all in a shiny new post, but for now, ITQ wishes all and sundry a wonderful budget eve night, and sweet shovel-ready dreams.