Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If Parliament's an institution, why do the inmates get paid?

I took a handful of my former first-year students to the House of Commons and the Senate. It was an interesting choice of days. The Tories had got the hang of blowing smoke over the In and Out election financing scandal, deflecting questions with a lame half-assed Greek chorus led by John Baird and Pierre Poliviere.
Today, the auditor general's report came out. Maybe the Liberal research office missed that memo. The Liberals and the Bloc never mentioned it in QP. But the NDP was ready. Its caucus raised questions about air safety and the treatment of immigration detainees. That's how you win debates.
I don't understand the Liberals. They have some top-notch researchers (most of whom used to be Press Gallery reporters, but that's for another day). Yet the Liberals are one day behind the news cycle. When the prime minister and every minister have written answers to your questions, it's time to re-think how you're coming up with those questions. And that's where the Liberals were at.
The Tories scored a big point when one of the cabinet ministers listed the number of days, the number of questions and the number of House votes wasted by the Bloc, a party that now keeps about 50 Quebec seats in mort main.
But that point was forefeited by Peter MacKay, who said the Minister of Patronage would soon be looking at the reconstruction plans for the lovely old Quebec armoury that burned down some weeks back. Er, that was supposed to be Minister of Heritage.
There was enough truth in the statement that everyone who wasn't in CPAC's shot got a good laugh from it.
My students lasted longer than Michael Ignatieff, who was gone by the halfway mark. I guess he has other fish to fry.
Perhaps the best line of the day came from Clare, a brilliant student who is going to be running a newsroom some day. When I told her how Stephen Harper's goon squad zip him around to different entrances of the Parliament building on different days (supposedly to shake off any press that want to steal his soul with a camera), she quipped "Sort of a Chevy shell game."
And the House always wins.

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