With Harper finally — finally! — back in the House for the first time since the whole ClusterDuff affair really exploded, it was shaping up to be an incredibly tense day. Thomas Mulcair stood without script or mini-lectern before him, and asked short, pointed questions about the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy exchange. Harper stood and delivered his usual points about how he learned the about the issue at the same time as everyone else, and that he accepted Wright’s resignation — his tone getting all the more exasperated. When it was his turn, Trudeau asked a longer question with more of a preamble, asking for information and documentation related to the exchange. Harper insisted that they were cooperating with the investigations from the Ethics officers of both chambers. For his final question, Trudeau asked if everyone involved, including Harper himself, would testify under oath in public about what he knew. Harper repeated his answer, and threw in a gratuitous slam about Trudeau trying to pit regions against one another.
Round two, and Mulcair was back up — did he instruct Carolyn Stewart Olsen to whitewash the report (Harper: No), hid he discuss the matter in cabinet (Harper: This was not a matter of government or cabinet business), when did he know about the agreement between Wright and Duffy (Harper: Wednesday, May 15th), the orders from PMO about Mike Duffy remaining silent (Harper: I wasn’t privy to this information), was Duffy ending his cooperation with audits part of his agreement (Harper: The money didn’t come from PMO or taxpayers, and there were no legal documents), can we see the cheque (Harper: The cheque didn’t come from PMO so I can’t really say anything about it), how can you say that if you didn’t see the cheque (Harper: Nigel Wight went on the public record). Trudeau returned to the topic of the date — the story aired on CTV on the evening of the 14th (Harper: Wright informed him on the morning of the 15th), why did it take a week to relieve the Chief of Staff of his responsibilities? (Harper: He resigned and took sole responsibility), and asked why Canadians should believe that story (Harper: The facts are simple and clear). Back to Mulcair, and the role of Benjamin Perrin in the affair (Harper: Perrin answered this and it was all Wright’s doing), what did he learn about Wallin’s audit that he asked her to resign from caucus (Harper: There is an ongoing Wallin’s expenses and she chose to step aside until all matters are resolved). Nathan Cullen got up and read over some of Harper’s old comments with regard to Paul Martin and Adscam (James Moore: Harper is showing accountability), and what was Ray Novak’s role (Moore: Help us with Senate reform!)
Round three saw questions on the ACOA hires and a supposed whitewash of the report into it, the allegations around quid pro quo for the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee, the failure of communication between CSIS and the RCMP in the Delisle case, Justin Trudeau asked about the use of the Conservative database as found in the Federal Court judgement (Poilievre: We won that case, and there is no evidence we participated in what we were accused of), Arthur Porter’s arrest and the judgement behind his appointment, Trudeau got back up and hectored Harper about his accountability for his actions (Moore: He has set the level for accountability and he lives up to it), the First Nations child welfare case at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the search for a missing Canadian in Australia, and getting Arthur Porter removed from the Privy Council.
Overall, today was a demonstration of how great QP can actually be. The short, pointed, prosecutorial questions that predominated in the first two rounds were the way things should happen, rather than grandstanding or scripts to be delivered. Trudeau, who took all of the Liberal slots today, was weaker on this point, though he did get in a couple of good kicks (especially when he went through the issue of the dates involved), but he didn’t have the same kind of incisive effect. For Mulcair, it was probably his best performance ever in QP, and we can only hope to see more of the same in the future — not that I’m holding my breath. And so, when the usual kinds of questions cropped up in round three, with the grandstanding and the leftover scripts around the ClusterDuff affair (and most especially with the script fail as one MP rose to ask the very same question that a minister had just provided a full answer to), it all seemed all the more pathetic, showcasing just how debased Question Period has become on a regular basis. I hope that today taught all of the parties a lesson in how things should be run in the future, but again, I’m not holding my breath.
Sartorially speaking, snaps to out to Diane Ablonczy for a pumpkin jacket and a black top and skirt, and to Greg Rickford for a tailored dark grey suit with a white shirt and pocket square and a rich blue tie. Style citations (and there were many today) go out to José Nunez-Melo for a tan suit with a cranberry shirt and a faded floral tie, and to Cheryl Gallant for a mustard dress with a purple sweater.