The Scene. Stéphane Dion wanted to talk about the economy. Stephen Harper wanted to yell.
“Why,” Mr. Dion asked, “has the Prime Minister refused to act to stimulate our economy?”
Mr. Harper came up talking fast and mad and glib. “Un pacte avec les souverainistes!” he cried.
His minions jumped to their feet and cheered, not at all looking like a bunch whose livelihoods depended on him.
“This is nonsense,” Mr. Dion sighed, “and I will not respond to it.”
So he didn’t. Not that the Prime Minister seemed to notice either way.
“Jacques Parizeau!” Mr. Harper yelped. “Weaken this country!”
Mr. Dion did not seem impressed—or daunted—looking around the chamber with little regard for the bellowing Prime Minister standing two sword-lengths in front of him.
“Why,” the Liberal leader asked, “does the Prime Minister care more about his own job than allowing Parliament to save the jobs of Canadians?”
“Mr. Speaker, if the leader of the Liberal Party wants to save the jobs of Canadians, he can put on the table specific proposals that will save those jobs,” Mr. Harper responded, rhyming off all of the options he has so far left unexplored. “He can reach across the aisle and work with this government.”
The Prime Minister’s aides, huddled together in the gallery’s front row, appeared delighted.
The studious Ralph Goodale came up and reminded Mr. Harper of all the support he has received from les souverainistes—140 votes with this government, including 14 confidence votes.
Ever ready to insult the intelligence of all within reach of his voice, the Prime Minister stood then and expanded on his falsehood of yesterday. “Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party sat down with the leader of the separatist party on national television. Those pictures are all there,” he said. “They will show those flags put way off to the side where they are out of the camera angles. If the Liberal Party continues down this path, those images will never be forgotten by the Canadian people. If they want to help the Canadian economy, they should sit down with us in front of the flag and do it now.”
The Prime Minister’s young men glowed. The country defamed, our democracy degraded, our flag demeaned? No matter, their man was speaking in a loud tone of voice. Huzzah. Victory.
Gilles Duceppe stood next and harkened back to his co-operative talks with Mr. Harper in 2004. What also, he wondered, of the Canadian Alliance’s dealings with the Bloc Quebecois in 2000?
Stockwell Day, leader of the Canadian Alliance at the time, pleaded ignorance. Quite convincingly, it must be said.
Shortly thereafter, an aide to Mr. Duceppe appeared in the press gallery, handing out a stapled, four-page document entitled “Consensus Leadership For a New Century.”
“We, the leaders of the Canadian Alliance, the Bloc Quebecois and the Progressive Conservative Party, have met and agree that Canadians have delivered a clear message in the election held on November 27, 2000,” the opening paragraph read. “Canadians do not want a Member of Parliament from the Liberal Party to be Prime Minister.”
A little bit further down the page, under the heading of “leadership,” this sentence: “We agree that we will support Stockwell Day as Prime Minister of Canada.”
Day, apparently unaware of this massive conspiracy to make him Prime Minister, appealed to his DNA and heart. The opposition laughed and waved their own copies of the document in the air.
“Try to sue your way out of that one!” yelped a Liberal.
A little later, the Bloc official was back, this time with a new piece of paper, on which was printed a newspaper clip from July 2000, headlined “Canadian Alliance could court Bloc Quebecois.”
“There have been informal discussions,” Rahim Jaffer, the recently unelected chair of Conservative caucus, was reported to have said. “A few [Bloc MPs] were very responsive to what our agenda was, so we’re excited about that.”
“The Canadian Alliance position is to be open to anybody who is interested in a truly conservative form of government,” Mr. Day was quoted as explaining.
So having attempted to bankrupt their rivals and failed, having taped the proceedings of another party’s caucus discussions and had that matter turned over to law enforcement, having falsely claimed the opposition’s denigration of the flag and having slurred his opponents as complicit in an unprecedented deal with separatists, Stephen Harper’s rivals now found themselves with nothing left upon which to claim their own legitimacy.
And with nothing left to say, they just fumed.
John Baird, Jim Flaherty, Pierre Poilievre and Lawrence Cannon each took a turn or two—the opposition parties delighting in each new Conservative to rise.
Lisa Raitt tried to keep pace, but found herself loudly dismissed by the other side. “You’re better than that Lisa,” heckled Liberal Carolyn Bennett. “Don’t stoop to that level.”
Cannon stepped to the edge of the aisle, leaned forward, pointed and screamed unintelligible bleatings at Mr. Dion. Sitting across the way, the Liberal leader feigned like he might charge Mr. Cannon, then fell back in his chair and burst out laughing.
The Foreign Affairs Minister kept up his show, but with each successive performance even his Conservative allies appeared to grow more reluctant to applaud.
It fell to Ken Dryden, blustery and earnest and full of terribly deep and meaningful emotions, to demonstrate how one might both speak loudly and say something.
“Mr. Speaker, it is the Prime Minister who sets the tone of the House,” the great goalie said. “Respect gets respect. Disrespect breeds disrespect. The Prime Minister now fights to stay on to win a battle that never need have been fought in the first place to preside over a Parliament whose dynamics, whose very relationships he has poisoned and destroyed. Too late, he has broken it. How could this Parliament work with this Prime Minister?”
The Conservatives sent up Lil’ Pierre Poilievre. They might not have bothered.
Back came Dryden.
“Mr. Speaker, the biggest economic crisis in decades—as a country, as a world, as parliamentarians it was time to come together, but the Prime Minister just could not resist. He cannot stop himself. He has this pathological inability to put aside politics. Too bad for him and for all of us,” Dryden lamented. “Now how do we repair the irreparable? To the Prime Minister to help him with his answer: No, sorry, it is over; cannot trust him any more. We need a new Prime Minister.”
The Liberals cheered.
Mr. Harper deigned to stand, but offered nothing of consequence in response.
The Stats. Government, 19 questions. The economy, 11 questions. Brian Mulroney and women’s equity, two questions each.
Stephen Harper, 11 answers. Lawrence Cannon, five answers. Stockwell Day and Jim Flaherty, four answers each. Pierre Poilievre, three answers. Lisa Raitt, Vic Toews and John Baird, two answers each. Leona Aglukkaq, one answer.