The Commons: The tiny, perfect Conservative

'We are not about symbols. We are about real action.'

The Scene. She is a pair of dimples in a room full of jowls.

Meet Michelle Rempel, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment. She is short and smiley and perfectly patronizing. She speaks without holding a script, gestures with confidence and seems even to listen to what her counterparts are saying (even if only in search of a turn of phrase she can turn back on her opponent). Only 31 and barely six months into her first term in Parliament, she is already feigning indignation like she was born here. And so the government side is surely thankful that Peter Kent has been out of town this last little while.

For much of the fall, the Minister of the Environment had been struggling to keep up with the NDP’s Megan Leslie. Mr. Kent glowered and Ms. Leslie mocked. Mr. Kent grumbled and Ms. Leslie sighed. He was one of several grumpy old men lined up at the far end of the room, she was quick and snappy and a bright face that stood each day in obvious contrast.

Then, with Mr. Kent’s departure to Durban, along came Ms. Rempel. She stood confidently and sneered cheerfully. She accused the other side of plotting to devastate the national economy and questioned their patriotism. She spoke of “real action”  and “strong action” and having not only a “strong action plan,” but also an “action-focused plan.” She was sarcastic and caustic without all the gloom. “Mr. Speaker, imagine a place where 75 per cent of our electricity is generated by sources that do not emit greenhouse gases, or where a government invests billions of dollars in clean energy technology, or where there is one of the most stringent regulatory frameworks in the world,” she mused one day. “Wait a second; that is Canada.”

To open today’s set-to, Ms. Leslie suggested that the Harper government was turning Canada into a “laughingstock” so far as the discussions in Durban are concerned. Ms. Rempel stood looking solemn, even pausing, somewhat dramatically, before she began her response. “Mr. Speaker, Canada is a nation of 33 million people who emit less than 2 per cent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, somewhat weakly. “In spite of this, Canada is not a laughingstock. It is a world leader in saying we need domestic action at home. We have done that. We have also committed to coming to the table and saying all major emitters need to be part of this agreement. This is not a laughingstock matter. This is something our nation should be proud of. I would ask my colleague opposite to respect our country.”

This was not Ms. Rempel’s finest moment and Ms. Leslie pressed her advantage. “Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising that the parliamentary secretary may not have speaking notes to the minister’s announcement because he is making up policy on the fly,” she chided. “Yesterday, he changed his tune. He is now lecturing countries, saying that they have to join a binding climate deal for 2015. The government has no credibility after doing its best to sabotage the Durban talks. Now I think it is just trying to save face. Instead of its job-killing approach or its members lecturing by themselves, alone in the corner, why will the government not try co-operating with the world community to work toward an energy economy future for Canada and the world instead of making of climate change policy on the fly?”

Ms. Rempel seized on the slightest of segues. “Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about lecturing,” she came back, “my colleague opposite travelled to the United States and lectured the United States, lobbying against our jobs here in Canada.”

This was more like it.

Indeed, suitably warmed up, Ms. Rempel later went after two Liberals with zeal. “Mr. Speaker, when the member opposite talks about no credible plan, I sure hope she is referring to her party’s inability to have a plan when it signed on to the Kyoto protocol,” she snapped at Kirsty Duncan. “Furthermore, the member referred to the Kyoto protocol as an important symbol for climate change. We are not about symbols. We are about real action.”

Then, with surely her finest 30 seconds so far, she took aim at Justin Trudeau. “Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague opposite of a few things with regard to environment policy and energy policy. First, emissions increased in this country under their government, and a policy that he should be especially familiar with, the National Energy Policy, lost thousands of jobs across the country.”

The House erupted in noise. The Speaker called for order. Ms. Rempel added an Al Gore reference—”inconvenient truths”—for good measure.

She had looked serious in her interventions all afternoon, but back in her seat she beamed. She will probably be Foreign Affairs Minister by summer.

The Stats. National security, aboriginal affairs and ethics, five questions each. The Canadian Wheat Board, infrastructure and the environment, four questions each. Crime, three questions. Military procurement, seniors and trade, two questions each. Food safety, fisheries, veterans and affordable housing, one question each.

Stephen Harper, seven answers. Julian Fantino, six answers. Michelle Rempel, four answers. Gerry Ritz, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, John Baird and John Duncan, three answers each. Steven Fletcher, Pierre Poilievre, Alice Wong and Ed Fast, two answers each. Randy Kamp, Eve Adams and Diane Finley, one answer each.

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