The Commons: Two wrongs make a farce

Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

The Scene. Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine. Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph. Ms. Turmel wanted to propose a public inquiry. Mr. Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph.

Switching to English, Ms. Turmel presented an itemized list of grievances.

“Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said he wants to change the culture of Ottawa,” he noted. “Changing the culture, like replacing Liberal scandals with Conservative scandals? A culture where people can rig elections? A culture where the Prime Minister does not answer questions? A culture with no accountability, no transparency? A culture of denial and partisan attacks? If the Prime Minister wanted to change the culture, he must take responsibility. Will he?”

The President of the Treasury Board actually spoke this weekend of changing to a culture where tax dollars are spent prudently. (“The real job that we have to accomplish is change the culture in official Ottawa from one of being spending enablers to one of being cost containers,” Tony Clement mused, apparently daring everyone within earshot to chuckle at the irony.) But the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary would not even protest this much, the government having apparently decided that the content of the opposition’s questions is now entirely irrelevant.

“Mr. Speaker, last week, the Liberal leader indicated that suggestions being brought forward by myself and this party were indeed wacko,” Mr. Del Mastro reported, in response to no one in particular. “Unfortunately, they have proven to be absolutely true because we now know that the member for Guelph in fact paid for illegal robocalls that concealed the fact that the calls came from his Liberal campaign. Liberals used a bogus number, a fictitious character. They broke the CRTC regulations. They broke Elections Canada laws.”

The NDP’s Charlie Angus stood and ventured a justification for these 45 minutes on the daily schedule. “Mr. Speaker, Canadians want answers to the ever-widening pattern of voter suppression that happened under the Conservatives,” he declared.

On that note, Mr. Angus returned to apparently imminent confession of Mr. Poutine. “That is a good start, but who paid for those calls?” he asked. “Who provided the scripts and why are they the same scripts that are being used in other ridings? Is there something else the government would like to tell us about its role in this before it comes to a public inquiry?”

There were at least three questions here, perhaps as many as four. Mr. Del Mastro acknowledged none of them. In fact, here Mr. Del Mastro very nearly inverted the entire notion of Question Period. “What we have learned and this is what the Liberal leader must respond to, is that the Liberal leader provided training sessions by four Liberal members at one o’clock on Saturday, April 30,” the parliamentary secretary explained. “They trained them on Liberal robocalls.”

Mr. Angus again thought it necessary to clarify matters. “Mr. Speaker, the issue here is not the incompetence of the Liberals with their campaigns,” he explained. “It is about voter fraud that happened under the Conservatives.”

Squaring up to the government side, Mr. Angus repeated his concerns, chopping his hand and jabbing his finger for the sake of keeping everyone’s attention.

“Who paid for those scripts? Who gave him the money to make those calls? Why did he have access to the national Conservative database?” he asked. “Do the Conservatives really think that Canadians are going to believe that the guy who named himself after cheese curds and gravy is behind this, as though he is some kind of robofraud equivalent of Dr. Evil? When are the Conservatives going to come clean with their involvement in this coordinated campaign of voter harassment?”

There were five identifiable questions here, including a reference to a popular movie starring a beloved Canadian actor. That was enough to elicit a passing acknowledgement from Mr. Del Mastro. “Mr. Speaker, once again,” he sighed, “it is the unsubstantiated smear campaign of the NDP.”

Then it was back to what a Liberal MP had done in his campaign for the riding of Guelph and how terrible that had been.

Rising then for his first opportunity, the interim Liberal leader attempted to make something of this. “Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member is so certain about his phony allegations,” Bob Rae charged, “perhaps he would agree with me that the time has now come for a royal commission into what happened in the last election.”

The Conservatives present descended into an uproarious fit of giggles and guffaws.

The Stats. Ethics, 18 questions. Air Canada, three questions. Government spending, search and rescue, aboriginal affairs, health care and employment, two questions each. Crime, foreign investment, Syria, the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, infrastructure and the budget, one question each.

Dean Del Mastro, eight answers. Pierre Poilievre, five answers. Peter MacKay, four answers. Denis Lebel and Lisa Raitt, three answers each. Tim Uppal, John Duncan, Colin Carrie, Diane Finley and Ted Menzies, two answers each. Julian Fantino, Rob Nicholson, Christian Paradis, Bev Oda, Peter Van Loan and Peter Penashue, one answer each.