View From The Hill – December 3rd, 2013

House of Commons

As Question Period verged on satire, teetering ominously on the ledge of irrelevance, something quite magical happened: it got really, really boring.

No doubt via edict of the overseas-bound Prime Minister, the front benches tempered their previously egregious legislative tomfoolery so much so that the answers were even audible over my head slamming against my desk.

Whereas last week, Parliamentary Secretary for eating blame, Paul Calandra, was responsible for taking spoonfuls of opposition scorn and swallowing it down while recounting an anecdote about his daughter’s lemonade stand, or his parents’ pizza shop, today: he looked positively subdued.

The opening shots from today’s Question Period were actually serious misfires from the opposition, as they tried to delve into the unknown in relation to the mysterious case of former PMO legal adviser Benjamin Perrin’s disappearing-and-reappearing emails.  Between Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader fill-in, Dominic LeBlanc, they poked at whether the Privy Council deleted the emails, whether the PMO instructed them to hide the emails, whether the emails were between the sofa cushions, and so on.

James Moore, to field the first few questions, told the House very plainly: The Privy Council Office has taken responsibility for the mistakes they made.  And they did.  And the PMO agreed to release the lawyers’ emails, even though they didn’t have to do.  So he was right when he said that the PMO offered complete cooperation.

Goodale still wondered how they were only now found.  Was someone unconscious for six months?  Moore would not answer as to whether Rumpelstiltskin was sleeping under a desk somewhere at the PCO.

But the opposition just wouldn’t take “we suck!” for an answer.  They didn’t want an admission of ineptitude, they wanted confirmation of a wild conspiracy — proof of which is non-existent.

Eventually we reverted back to the new normal: Paul Calandra talking about things other than what is being asked by the opposition.

So when Angus asked a half-decent question, wondering if Perrin’s conviction that he was uninvolved in the Duffy deal was incorrect or, worse, a lie.  The PM was not involved in the deal, Calandra read with glazed eyes.  He acted as soon as he found out.

The closest we heard to the Calandra we know and despise was during a question from Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, who wanted to know the cost in legal fees incurred because of the Duffy affair.

Ask your leader, Calandra half-heartedly lobbed back.  He couldn’t even bring himself to make up some stuff about Mulcair and corrupt ex-mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.

And then came the question on everyone’s mind — would Conservative MPs be allowed to vote their conscious on Michael Chong’s Reform Act?

John Duncan, erstwhile Aboriginal Affairs minister who has now been mothballed as House Whip, and Pierre Poilievre took turns telling the NDP that they don’t like freedom.

Poilievre, especially, took some liberties in waxing on how much the NDP loves whipped votes.  No NDP MP voted against their leader for two years.  Two years!  That, of course, doesn’t actually mean that the NDP whipped their vote.  Ostensibly, it just means that they agree with each other.

In the end, we had no indication of how the government will position itself on Chong’s bill.

Despite a relatively boring front end of Question Period, the last half travelled to a strange place.  Paul Dewar asked if this government would be open to fixing its cluster munitions bill, which contains a huge loophole in which Canada allows itself the freedom to use cluster munitions if its American allies do the same.  Even a former Australian Prime Minister is asking Canada to change the legislation, he said.

Deepak Obhrai proved that he knew his current whereabouts by telling the House that this isn’t Australia, this is Canada!  There was then raucous applause because, honestly, screw Australia.  He, by the way, did not commit to changing the bill.

Then, Yukon MP and noted government softball question-lobbed Ryan Leef asked Kerry-Lynne Findlay what the government is doing to tackle an issue that is very important to my constituents — white-collar crime.

Yes, apparently the towering skyscrapers of the Yukon are teeming with tax cheats and bank fraudsters.  Nothing could matter more to the people of the North than tackling the rampant financial sector criminality.

What he really wanted to know was what the status is on the case against disgraced London mayor and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Joe Fontana.  And how, the question is as ludicrous as it sounds.

In trying to push my grey matter back into my ears, I heard one of the worst answers in QP imaginable.

Mike Sullivan asked the government how it’s possible that one of his constituents was denied entry to the United States on the basis of private medical records about her mental state.

Ask the Americans, Steven Blaney told the House.

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Other articles by Justin Ling

The Taming of the Prime Minister

Harper’s Lincoln Continental

The last MP out can turn off the light

Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

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