The Scene. “Mr. Speaker,” Liberal MP Scott Andrews declared, “there is no more denying the facts.”
Apparently fun time was over. Our reckoning, or at least someone’s reckoning, was at hand.
“The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is under active and serious investigations by Elections Canada for election fraud,” Mr. Andrews reported. “How can the Conservative member for Peterborough conduct himself as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and hold his position on the ethics committee while he is being investigated for breaking the rules at Elections Canada?”
This was not quite Mr. Andrews’ question.
“My question is to the member for Peterborough,” he continued, seeming concerned that the member for Peterborough be the one to respond. “Why does he not do the honourable thing, step aside as the Prime Minister’s private parliamentary secretary and step aside from the ethics committee while he is under active investigation?”
Duly, Dean Del Mastro did stand to speak both for himself and of himself.
“Mr. Speaker,” he quipped, “I did not know that there was anything private about me being the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.”
Indeed, the use of the term “private” seemed odd here. Perhaps Mr. Andrews believes that as the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary, Mr. Del Mastro serves as Mr. Harper’s butler.
“I think the member has served on committee long enough with me to know a couple of things about me,” Mr. Del Mastro posited. “One, I serve with integrity and conviction. While the member and I have not always agreed, he does know of those qualities about me.”
Objectively speaking then, Mr. Del Mastro is a fine and upstanding gentlemen. Possibly the finest individual in the history of the dominion. Though perhaps we’ll have to wait for Jason Kenney to say so to be sure.
Moving on, Carolyn Bennett now invoked the hallowed Guergis Principle.
“Mr. Speaker, Helena Guergis was removed from cabinet and thrown out of the Conservative caucus based on mere allegations to the Prime Minister by some private eye,” she recalled. “The parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister is facing a serious investigation by Canada’s independent election authority. I ask the Prime Minister, why is the member for Peterborough still his parliamentary secretary and why is he the government’s spokesperson on election fraud?”
Now, granted, the Liberals did once call for Ms. Guergis to be removed from cabinet, but not specifically over whatever that private eye alleged. So this question was not entirely ironic.
The Prime Minister was very far away from this place, but Mr. Del Mastro was apparently done for the day. Instead, Pierre Poilievre, the Prime Minister’s previous butler, took this one. “Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister has already indicated that as long as four years ago he filed documents with Elections Canada with respect to the 2008 campaign. They were audited, approved and he has not heard anything from Elections Canada ever since, nor have we seen a single scintilla of evidence to the contrary,” Mr. Poilievre reported. “What we do know is that the Liberal member for Guelph made illegal and false phone calls to his constituency, a fact which he was forced to concede after he was caught red-handed. We will take no lessons from the sponsorship party on these matters.”
So there. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but one wrong does mean the wrongdoer can never again suggest impropriety on the part of someone else. It is the law. More or less.
The NDP’s Charlie Angus stood and noted that it had been Mr. Del Mastro who had been assigned the task of defending the Conservative side against “allegations of widespread voter fraud.” “We now learn that he is, himself, under investigation. So, given the very serious nature of these allegations, it has compromised his ability to do his job,” Mr. Angus surmised. “Will the Prime Minister do the right thing, remove him from his position while this investigation is under way?”
This too was taken by Mr. Poilievre, who stood and repeated his points about Mr. Del Mastro’s conduct. “However,” he pivoted, “what we do know is that just this week, the NDP, yet again, had to accept guilt for breaking the law in accepting illegal union donations. What we do not yet know, because its leader will not reveal, is how much illegal dirty money did it take and when and how much will it be paying back.”
The Conservatives seem to enjoy this a great deal.
Of course, another thing we know is that the Conservative Party of Canada pleaded guilty in court last fall to breaking election law during the 2008 campaign and that the Conservatives declared that pleading of guilt to be a “big victory.” In that sense, perhaps Mr. Poilievre should’ve congratulated Mr. Mulcair.
“Mr. Speaker, it is a general rule in this House that when that members stands, whoever he is defending has been benched. So, I guess that is our answer. He has not been put on the backbench until this investigation is complete,” Mr. Angus shot back.
But there was apparently more. At least so far as Mr. Angus was concerned.
“The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is named in court documents for questionable election spending with Holinshed Research Group. In 2009, Holinshed received $125,000 from the Canada economic plan,” Mr. Angus reported. “So, who signed off on this expenditure and when? And will they show us the GeoVote application that Canadian taxpayers paid for? Where is it?”
Mr. Poilievre mounted another show of outrage.
“Mr. Speaker, they ask the same question again and again, but they refuse to answer the obvious questions that Canadians are posing to them,” he ventured. “They received illegal donations from unions, in contravention of the law. The only thing that we do not know, because yesterday the leader of the NDP refused to reveal it, is how much illegal money it took and whether it is actually going to pay it back. On this side of the House, we follow the rules. Why can they NDP not?”
The Conservatives stood to applaud. But the New Democrats, laughing, did so as well, apparently impressed with Mr. Poilievre’s chutzpah.
The Stats. Ethics, eight questions. Employment, six questions. The economy, five questions. Military procurement and aboriginal affairs, three questions each. The budget, the environment, fisheries and human rights, two questions each. Taxation, foreign investment, the Canada Revenue Agency, crime, product safety and foreign aid, one question each.
Peter Van Loan and Diane Finley, six responses each. Jim Flaherty and Pierre Poilievre, four responses each. Greg Rickford, three responses. Peter Kent, Keith Ashfield, Robert Goguen, Peter MacKay and Gail Shea, two responses each. Dean Del Mastro, Tim Uppal, Dave Anderson, Vic Toews, Colin Carrie and Maxime Bernier, one response each.