The Commons: Post script

The Harper government has a gift for Canada

The Scene. Nycole Turmel aimed for summation. The Conservatives have a lot of explaining to do this holiday season, she said, proceeding to list a few particular concerns.

After she’d finished, the Prime Minister stood and ignored her entirely. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “especially at this time of year, we all appreciate the chance to be Canadian.”

And why are we all so particularly appreciative this year?

“One reason is that our government and our country have a very good record in job creation and economic growth compared to other major developed countries,” Mr. Harper explained. “That’s the target of this government and we intend to continue to target the economy, growth and job creation.”

Later, one of Mr. Harper’s lieutenants would describe the government’s omnibus crime bill as a “gift” to all Canadians. (You were probably hoping for an iPad, but imagine all the fun your kids will have on Christmas day when they’re sentencing each other to mandatory minimums.)

Ms. Turmel did not seem so taken with the spirit of the season. She suggested that the Prime Minister might also consider answering questions and then, for his benefit, she repeated her concerns. “The Prime Minister’s national defence minister charged taxpayers $3,000 for just two nights in a hotel. His MPs hide their dirty tricks by forcing committees to meet in secret. His choice to run Treasury Board misdirected $50 million into a slush fund,” she reviewed. “I ask the Prime Minister again. Will he make a New Year’s resolution to clean up his act in 2012?”

The Prime Minister seemed unmoved, or perhaps unmovable. “Mr. Speaker,” he sighed, “I do not accept the assertions in that question at all.”

Well, of course not. And why would he? Ms. Turmel’s concerns seem not to be with the Prime Minister, but with all of the Conservatives who insist on sitting around him.

The proceedings eventually came around to one of these individuals in particular.

“Mr. Speaker, if you will indulge me for a moment, I would like to pitch a new Mastercard ad,” Liberal MP John McKay begged from the far end of the room. “Joyride on a search and rescue helicopter: $16,000. Staying in luxury hotels in Europe: $1,400 per night. Endless grief by the Minister of National Defence for the Prime Minister: priceless.”

Somewhere a Mastercard advertising executive sighed for the millionth time and felt awful about the strain of humour he had unleashed upon the world so many years ago.

“I bet the Minister of National Defence is having his own ‘shiddle-diddle’ moment,” Mr. McKay continued. “How does he explain these abuses of taxpayers’ money and when will he reimburse the taxpayers?”

Peter MacKay stood here and offered something like the ur-explanation or the uber-explanation or whatever the applicable German prefix is for such all-encompassing enlightenment.

“Mr. Speaker, Canada has certainly earned its seat at the international table when it comes to discussions like we had at the Munich security conference. This conference was held in Germany,” he said. “As to the expenses that the member is referring to, Canada books rooms at the same hotel where the conference takes place, where the majority of participants stay. Nation to nation meetings at conferences such as this advance the interests of Canada and advance the interests of the hardworking men and women who serve our country around the world. I was proud to represent Canada at that conference.”

This was pitch perfect. He might as well have hummed O Canada while wearing a uniform of red-and-white camouflage.

The Stats. Ethics, five questions. The economy, four questions. National security, aboriginal affairs and pensions, three questions each. Crime, military procurement, the coast guard, the environment and affordable housing, two questions each. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, employment, Newfoundland, immigration, Canada Post, legislation, transportation and Quebec, one question each.

Peter Van Loan, six answers. Jim Flaherty, four answers. Stephen Harper, Diane Finley, Ted Menzies and John Baird, three answers each. Robert Goguen, Julian Fantino, Keith Ashfield, Pierre Poilievre and Steven Fletcher, two answers each. Candice Hoeppner, Peter MacKay, Jacques Gourde, Diane Ablonczy, Peter Penashue, Jason Kenney and Christian Paradis, one answer each.

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