Robo-call scandal and Conservative bills: Parliament Hill live blog
The whole Hill is abuzz with two political intrigues today - adding to the RoboGate election scandal, Bob Rae has just apologized after Liberal staffer Adam Carroll was revealed as the author of the @Vikileaks30 Twitter account. Earlier this month, the account leaked alleged details of public safety minister Vic Toews private life (including alleged exerpts from his divorce papers and allegations of marital infidelity) in retaliation for his online spying bill - The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
Bob Rae's apology was accepted by Toews, who in turn apologized to the NDP for blaming them for the leaks. More apologies to come? It's Apology Day! Carroll, a staffer at the Liberal Research Bureau, resigned yesterday, Rae told us in a media scrum at the House of Commons.
As more ridings pile up in the RoboGate electoral fraud scandal, this revelation bodes poorly for the Liberals, who now have to face criticism from the Conservatives for their own staff indiscretions (or policies, depending on which side you're on).
It certainly takes some of the steam out of Rae's argument that the RoboGate scandal goes all the way to the top - Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party - when their own staffer resigned over that affair. You can feel the excitement in the House foyer every time the door opens.
It could, however, be argued that exposing a government minister's private life - however one may feel about it - is not on the same scale as alleged cross-country electoral fraud targeting thousands of voters. Your call.
12:30 p.m. PST:
Question Period ended. As public safety minister Vic Toews defended his so-called online spying bill - and comments he made and later retracted accusing opponents of supporting "child pornographers" - MPs filtered out of the house.
I joined the large, teeming herd of reporters in the House of Commons foyer to try to get comment as they emerged.
It was like fishing - a journalist would hail each MP as they emerged, usually to no luck. Suddenly, out came natural resources minister Joe Oliver, who raised controversy this year when he labelled tar sands and pipeline critics of being "foreign funded radicals."
He maintained the government line that the Conservative Party had nothing to do with the robo-calls scandal, and that his party ran an ethical campaign.
The Vancouver Observer then asked our question: "Minister Oliver, why is a former Conservative campaign address being used by Ethical Oil?" Ethical Oil is a pro-tar sands and pipeline group.
He walked up the stairs without commenting. But it was worth a try.
11:45 a.m. PST:
Opposition has moved on from electoral fraud issues - now criticizing refugee bill (which proposes automatic, indefinite detention of asylum-seekers). There is an electric energy in the House, the tension is high.
11:30 a.m. PST:
Question Period is upon us in the House of Commons! The big moment, and electoral fraud is front and centre. The Conservatives maintained their innocence, saying they have shared all information with Elections Canada in its investigation, and called on opposition parties to supply proof of wrong-doing.
“It is the Liberal party that has made these allegations – very vague allegations,” said prime minister Stephen Harper during Question Period. “We don't have any info on that.
“I challenge them to produce it and give to Elections Canada if it exists. This is exactly the kind of behaviour from the Liberal Party that Canadians rejected in the last election.”
The Liberal Party interim leader Bob Rae reacted instantly, but not surprisingly did not succeed in forcing any sort of admission from the prime minister.
"When is the prime minister of Canada going to take some degree of personal responsiblity for what's taking place?" Rae asked. "It's the Conservative party which is in poss of info. It's the leadership over there who knows which contracts were signed."
The NDP also joined the attack, with veteran MP Charlie Angus making some very colourful comments in an attempt to force the government to accept responsibility.
“One more time, the Conservatives have been caught with their fingerprints all over the broken safe,” Angus said. “They're up to their eyeballs in this.
“Are they going to take responsibility and hold a public inquiry so Canadians can find out who's guilty and who should be going to jail? The wheels of the bus have fallen off this Conservative party.”
Fingerprints. Safes. Wheels on the bus. My mind is exploding from the mixed metaphors.