The week past was the Conservatives' supposed “accountability week” and it was a very entertaining week indeed of embarrassing incidents that highlighted just how much of a farce the accountability mantra has become for the Harper Conservatives, from expense scandals involving two ministers to arresting a civil servant to filibustering a committee looking into the alleged torture of Afghan detainees, and much more.
I just came across an entry on Liberal MP Mark Holland’s Facebook where he Blackberry blogged the bizarre behaviour of Conservative MP Leon Benoit at a meeting of the International Trade committee (news coverage here). Enjoy:
Via Blackberry –Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers
Being the good friend that I am, I agreed to stand in today for Navdeep Bains at the International Trade Committee. Moments ago, the Conservative Chair Leon Benoit cut off the witness in the middle of his presentation. The witness was Gordon Laxer, a Director with the Parkland Institute. The puzzled Mr. Laxer was stopped by the Chair because Leon said he was off topic. He demanded the witness speak only about items linked to the days agenda. Fair enough - except that the witness was doing exactly that. In point of fact, the previous witness was also discussing the same thing - energy security as it pertains to Canada-US trade. After being rebuked by the Chair, the witness was allowed to continue. After about another minute of speaking, the Chair unceremoniously cut off the witness a second time leaving him with still half of his presentation to make. Flustered, Leon called upon the next witness to start speaking who just looked back at him totally baffled. There are about 30 or so people watching all of this - all of whom were laughing in bewilderment or shaking their heads. This all would have been odd enough but it gets worse.
The ruling that the witness could not continue was challenged. The Chair gave a long speech about why his ruling should stand. When people attempted to question this, he said a motion to challenge the chair is not debatable. It was pointed out that he had just been debating - he ignored that. Leon, then asked "Shall the ruling of the chair be sustained?". Only 3 Conservative hands went up. "If you want to support the decision of the Chair, put up your hand," Leon clarified looking around hopefully. The same 3 Conservative hands rose. He asked who was opposed and all the opposition members raised their hands. Leon looked down, grabbed his gavel and snapped, "this meeting is adjourned!" He then stormed out, leaving all in the room in a surprised paralysis. After a time, it was pointed out that the chair can't just declare the meeting over and walk out. So, Lui Temelkovski as our Liberal Vice-Chair took position and the meeting resumed.
Honestly, it was an embarrassing episode and, if it didn't reflect so poorly on the committee, it would have been extremely funny. Parliament can be a strange and weird place. Leon didn't do the Conservatives or parliament proud today.
... Now back to committee, Mr. Julian of the NDP just introduced a motion to oust Leon as the Chair. Man this is a zoo. Nav - I'm glad this is your committee.