The Commons: United in mutual disdain

"Mr. Speaker," Mr. Rae replied, "let me return the favour to the Prime Minister and say those comments are also totally false"

The Scene. Bob Rae stood and posited one account of reality. The Prime Minister rose and put forward another understanding entirely.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Harper said, “the statements made by the member are quite false.”

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Rae replied, “let me return the favour to the Prime Minister and say those comments are also totally false.”

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Harper concluded, “once again, the statements by the individual are completely false.”

Attempting to break the tie, Mark Holland rose from the near corner of the Liberal side to enunciate the indictment. “Mr. Speaker, the eyes of the world are on South Africa as it hosts the World Cup of Soccer. It is hosting nearly 400,000 people including world leaders for a full month at a security cost that is $700 million cheaper than 72 hours of private fake lake summit meetings,” he testified. “At 500% more than the last summit Canada hosted in 2002, everyone knows these costs are crazy. How can Conservatives say the do not have money for real priorities, priorities like prison farms or EI for cancer patients, when they have a billion dollars for this kind of waste?”

Looking somewhat aghast that he would even be called upon to respond to such stuff, Lawrence Cannon stood and attempted to plead reasonableness. Undeterred, Mr. Holland returned to pronounce scorn on the government’s gazebos. Across the way, Tony Clement, the minister with responsibility for outdoor landscaping, shook his head indignantly.

Luckily, a point of some agreement would soon emerge.

Into the breach stepped Jack Layton, the NDP leader up to pronounce shame on both sides, this time for having signed an agreement on the review of Afghan detainee documents that his side considers woefully unsatisfactory. “Mr. Speaker, the coalition of the unwilling is on the march,” Mr. Layton proclaimed. “Unwilling to let members of Parliament do their jobs, unwilling to give them access to all of the documents that are necessary to be revealed, as per your ruling, and unwilling to get to the bottom of the role that was played by both Liberals and Conservatives in covering up what they knew about torture in Afghanistan. Is the Prime Minister not ashamed about having put together this coalition of the unwilling to prevent the truth from becoming known to all Canadians?”

The Prime Minister stood here and quite humbly passed on both his thanks and compliments to his ministers and their counterparts on the Liberal and Bloc Quebecois benches. And with the House teetering on the edge of irony, Mr. Layton then rose to up the absurdity, lamenting that the Conservatives had joined with the Liberals and “les souverainistes” had aligned to hide the truth. And so now here was the Prime Minister, switching back from French to English to pronounce shame on the NDP side for something their deputy house leader said some time ago about the state of Israel.

This bit drew both Liberals and Conservatives to their feet to applaud. When everyone was back in their seats, Mr. Layton went back up to defend his party’s position on Israel and then once more damn the “coalition of the unwilling.” Mr. Harper then enjoyed one final opportunity to raise his voice, pronounce shame and, perhaps simply for kicks, raise the spectre of Helen Thomas. What followed was a protracted exchange of off-the-record shouts, eye rolls and hand gestures between the NDP’s Paul Dewar and Heritage Minister James Moore—the specifics of their discussion inaudible from the press gallery.

And while they made faces at each other, the House returned to debate on the expense and and substance of the G8 and G20 summits. Soon enough, Mr. Cannon was on his feet seeming to declare some kind of outrage with the Liberal side’s level of national pride, seemingly in response to some accusation of short-sighted partisan callowness.

The circle of shame was thus completed.

The Stats. The G20, 12 questions. The oil industry, crime and Aboriginal affairs, four questions each. Foreign affairs and Afghanistan, three questions each. Veterans, Multiple Sclerosis and securities regulation, two questions each. Fertility and government spending, one question each.

Stephen Harper, eight answers. Lawrence Cannon, five answers. Christian Paradis and Chuck Strahl, four answers each. Leona Aglukkaq, three answers. Bev Oda, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Stockwell Day, Rob Nicholson, Vic Toews and Jim Flaherty, two answers each. Rona Ambrose and Deepak Obhrai, one answer each.