Depending on who was speaking, Thomas Mulcair was either the dirtiest liar or the most glowing saint in the room. You can guess who supported which sides of that argument. In any case, the Procedure and House Affairs Committee met this morning (and ran into the afternoon) to question Thomas Mulcair on one of the most thrilling topics imaginable: using public money to pay for party activities.
Believe it or not, some people get off on these sorts of committee meetings. For those people, this event was undoubtedly a treat. For the majority of the population, though, tuning in to watch this debacle on CPAC would be about as pleasant as ripping out a toenail. The True North Times does not wish you any pain, so we’ve summarized the most exciting moments from the proceedings for you.
Act One: The Dance
Following his 5 minute introductory speech, which he concluded by saying “I will answer any questions in the rare event that you have any,” Thomas Mulcair came under fire. The inquisitor was a relatively unknown MP from Kitchener named Stephen Woodworth. Woodworth asked that Mulcair answer all of his questions with either a “yes” or a “no”. This request echoed Mr. Mulcair’s requests of Stephen Harper and Frank Calandra during the Senate scandal. Unsurprisingly, the outcome was the same. Mulcair provided extremely lengthy responses to Woodworth’s questions. As Woodworth grew visibly angry with Mulcair’s responses and satisfied demeanour, the conversation began to resemble an episode of Saved by the Bell in which Zack Morris and A.C. Slater compete for some girl’s attention. Both men tried their very best to make the other look silly. It was unclear who was Zack and who was Slater, but it was clear that Mulcair was much better at keeping his cool, and that he would have won the girl’s heart in this case. When the Chair stopped the questions because Woodworth’s time had run out, Mulcair smirked and moaned “oh darn.”
Act Two: The Counter-Attack
Next, NDP MP Peter Julian was given a chance to question Mulcair. He used his time to take shots at Stephen Harper for refusing to appear before committees, to praise Mr. Mulcair for appearing before this committee, and to mispronounce Stephen Woodworth’s name. Mr. Woodworth used a point of order to request that Julian pronounce his name correctly, and even threatened to mispronounce Julian’s name if the mistake was not corrected.
Act Three: Disintegration
As questioners became more and more frustrated, Mulcair used his time to show attack pamphlets that the Conservatives had sent out in various ridings across the country. He claimed these were examples of party business conducted with public funds. Woodworth, blind to irony or unfamiliar with his own Party, was complaining that Mulcair was “the most evasive witness [he’d] ever seen”. Francoise Boivin and Peter Julian introduced so many points of order that the Committee Chair began to yell at them. It was clear that, for once, the Conservatives had lost control of something, and that they were extremely unhappy about it. The climax of this Act came when Woodworth asked Mulcair to commit not to open satellite offices in Saskatchewan or other provinces in which the NDP has no MPs. Mulcair responded: “I can tell you we are committed to being the only party that will go into Saskatchewan and listen to Canadians.”
Act Four: Resolution?
Mulcair spent at least three minutes answering every question posed with “we have always respected all the rules.” Debating constitutional law, he offered Woodworth an autographed copy of a book he wrote, and claimed it would help Woodworth better understand the subject at hand. Then, Mulcair summed things up with a knockout blow. He predicted that the Conservatives are headed for third or fourth party status, and that the Liberals can hope for third party status in a best-case scenario. So who will form opposition? If the NDP holds its Quebec seats, as Mulcair presumably thinks it will, the only party left is the Greens. Strange. Anyway, Mulcair summed things up: “This government is using its majority, along with its Liberal henchmen, to call the NDP to account, even though we have always followed the rules.” On that note, the meeting ended.
There was no doubt as to who won the day. Mr. Mulcair entered the room as a man under fire for potentially abusing public funds. He took a big risk appearing before a committee that had every opportunity to skewer him, yet he left the room with a smile on his face. Why? He delivered a performance befitting the most capable Conservative cabinet minister. He demonstrated a legendary ability to inappropriately answer questions. He beat the Conservatives at their own game. Should they have known he was capable of this? Certainly. So why didn’t they? Perhaps they were so used to calling him Angry Tom that they actually believed that was his only persona. If that was the case, he proved them wrong. The inquisitors left the room hanging their heads, while Angry Tom, as dastardly as his performance was, left grinning ear-to-ear. It was a symbolic victory for the NDP, and a real defeat for decency in Canadian democracy.