View From The Hill – November 29th, 2013

House of Commons

For a moment, it felt like Canada might have its own French Revolution moment, and hold Question Period in a tennis court — er, well, a parking lot.

A late morning fire alarm forced everyone in Centre Block out into the cold, as a crew of firefighters ran into the capital building to asses the situation.

Outside the Senate doors, one page was forced to carry around the huge golden mace, as the Parliamentary mace-bearer was nowhere to be found.  The mace, of course, cannot be allowed to get destroyed, or democracy in Canada would simply end and we would once more by the subjects of an absolute monarch.  It’s in the constitution: look it up.

But eventually it was declared a false alarm and the staffers and MPs were allowed to shuffle back into the building, and set themselves for QP.

It’s pretty much a truism that, if Question Period is generally useless on a good day, that Friday is an especially low bar.  And Paul Calandra, in the last member’s statement before the democratic bafflegab, set the tone.

Calandra worried for the fate of the CBC’s journalistic integrity, as it was revealed yesterday that they paid noted secret-purveyor, Glen Greenwald, who has strong and controversial opinions about public security, Calandra fretted.  Why is the CBC advancing Greenwald’s agenda and lining his Brazillian bank account?

But Calandra got no answer for his rhetorical question.  The curtain was drawn, and Question Period began.

David Christopherson led the charge for the opposition, running off a news story from Postmedia journalist Stephen Maher, insisting that the PMO is employing ‘hired guns’ because it is anticipating ending up in court.

Not true, says Paul Calandra, sitting down.

The NDP questioning that began riffing on a theme that has been the headline for most of the week — how did PMO staffer Patrick Rogers know about the details of the Deloitte audit before it was even released?

Well, wouldn’t you know it, Paul Calandra did not exactly fawn over the question.  He told the House that the Deloitte audit was kept strictly confidential, or, in other words: if we tried to influence the audit, it didn’t work.

As the questioning dragged on, Calandra looked more and more unhappy with his treatment.  His voice went quiet.  His non-answers even more half-hearted.  He eventually snapped during one of the routine questions from the opposition.

This is disrespectful to the institution, Calandra said with seemingly no sense of irony or self-awareness.  When questions are that disrespectful, I choose to ignore them.

And then he sat down.

In perfect timing, Pierre Poilievre — who was Calandra before Calandra was — stood up to answer a question from Dipper Linda Duncan, over a report from Huffington Post’s Althia Raj, who reported that Tory backbencher Michael Chong was preparing a PMO-neutralizing private member’s bill.  Why won’t the Prime Minister limit the powers of his office? Duncan asked.

Poilievre, with an impish grin, told his legion of loyal fans how happy he was to be back.  The Prime Minister is the most democratic Canadian ever, he told the House and sat down, looking satisfied with himself.

The late-game question that actually mattered, today, was from our Parliamentarian of the Year, Peter Stoffer.  He was asking about one veteran in Nova Scotia, who was desperately seeking assistance from the Veteran’s Affairs office in Halifax.  Parliamentary Secretary Parm Gill stood up to assure Stoffer that he had instructed departmental staff to get on the fire.  And everything felt right.

Now, if only the member and his party hadn’t vote against our efforts to help veterans.

As the others in the gallery held me down to stop me from pulling the fire alarm, one nameless, faceless Conservative backbencher stood to ask a question of his own party.

During this time of year, some insist that we have to say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas,’ he lamented.  Will the Minister of State for multiculturalism inform this House whether he believes wishing someone ‘Merry Christmas’ is an offence?

At that point, I self-immolated.

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Other articles by Justin Ling

Billionaires and Plutocrats

The last MP out can turn off the light

Harper’s Clues

Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

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