A year ago now, at the peak of the sound and fury surrounding allegations of bribery and Chuck Cadman, the matter came round, as it so often has, to a question of manhood.
Question Period on March 3 began with Stephane Dion. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the Prime Minister has tried everything to avoid answering questions about his party’s million dollar bribe. He has even resorted to threats of a lawsuit. It is going to take much more than the threat of a lawsuit to stop us from getting to the truth. Is the Prime Minister willing to change his story? Is he ready to tell the truth?”
The Prime Minister responded with his grand prediction—”The truth is that this will prove to be in court the biggest mistake the leader of the Liberal Party has ever made.”
Only the Liberals didn’t let up. And so the Conservatives did as they do.
“You big wimp!” John Baird yelped at Dion. “You sneaky wimp! You’re gutless!”
The minister of the crown then barked in Ken Dryden’s direction. “You’re gutless!” he cried. “You’re gutless!”
The Prime Minister kept at Dion. “We will be watching very interestingly,” Stephen Harper smirked, “to see after Question Period whether the leader of the Liberal Party publishes those questions on his website.”
“He’s a weasel!” Baird concurred. “You watch, he won’t do it!”
Eventually the Liberals sent Dryden up, the former goalie ever ready with another gusty condemnation of the ruling party’s behaviour.
“Mr. Speaker, we know in a TV interview that Mr. Cadman said he received certain offers but did not mention a life insurance policy. We know he told his wife he was offered a $1 million policy and told his daughter and son-in-law the same thing. We know the Prime Minister was aware that certain offers were being made to Mr. Cadman,” Dryden said. “Would the Prime Minister not agree from his own life experiences that under these circumstances it is far more likely one would decide to be less clear in a TV interview than with their own wife and daughter and son-in-law?”
James Moore mumbled something in response.
Dryden came up again. “This is about offering money for a vote to bring down a government. Buying a vote to bring down a government is unimaginable, unthinkable, in Canada. This is as serious as it gets,” he explained. “I am sure the Prime Minister would agree that if this is true, he must resign.”
Moore frothed. “If that member has the guts, and he believes in what he is saying, then he should say it outside the House of Commons where people can defend themselves,” he challenged. “That member does not have the guts … if he really believes he is on the side of the angels on this, then he should have the guts to stand by what he says and say it outside the House of Commons.”
Mr. Harper stared across the aisle and motioned towards the door. Patting his heart, the Prime Minister appeared to suggest Mr. Dryden lacked as much.
What followed, in the theatre of this place, was a particularly remarkable show. Question Period came to an end and reporters gathered outside the Commons to gather reaction. Out, into the foyer, stepped Dryden. He stood perhaps two feet beyond the parliamentary privilege of the House and, after summoning the cameras and microphones, repeated, word-for-word, the questions he had just asked of the government. Asked if he feared reprisal, he currently responded no and walked away.
Nearly a year later, the suit is gone, the questions remain. And now it is Pierre Poilievre, the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary, standing in the House and making allegations, and it is the opposition suggesting—though not yet in such schoolyard language—that he step outside and repeat himself.
One wonders how Messrs. Harper, Moore and Baird would assess their friend’s manhood.