What even this number-crunching fails to fully explain is how remarkable a run last week represented for the government House leader. His outstanding work in the dark arts of obfuscation has been well-noted in this column, but for five days he exceeded even himself—perhaps single-handedly reimagining the basic principles of Parliamentary democracy.
Behold, the week that Peter Van Loan was the government.
On Monday, mere hours before Maxime Bernier was to be dumped, Peter Van Loan rose and stridently defended the Foreign Affairs Minister’s leadership on the international stage. Tuesday, with the Prime Minister having determined such leadership was no longer necessary, Van Loan was dispatched to enunciate the finest of lines between what was relevant (that Mr. Bernier had misplaced some classified documents) and what was apparently irrelevant (that Mr. Bernier had misplaced some classified documents at the home of a woman tied to organized crime). When that failed, he outed the opposition as closeted commies.
By Thursday, he was flirting with the profound. “What happened is what happened,” he said. “It is not the fault of the rules that they were broken.” And by Friday he was taking questions on regional economic development and the mining industry in Sudbury.
If you include his efforts Thursday evening during Parliament’s committee of the whole sitting on Foreign Affairs, the government house leader took a preposterous 129 questions. More, apparently, than Michael Ignatieff has so far asked in this year’s first five months.
In almost all seriousness, it was an impressive and courageous display. The sort of thing one might applaud. Not, of course, for his candor or clarity or purity of purpose. But simply for having proven it could be done—that the human will could be so tested and remain as obstinate and tedious as ever.