G-day: perspective from the Hill

In Ottawa today for G-Day. Thought I’d try to get in for the historic tabling of the official document in the House as it would be an historic occasion. However, Irwin Cotler held up the hallway to the House this morning with his own personal scrum.

Got wind that Stephen Harper was going to address the press at the National Press Theatre so I made my way on over and watched Mr. Harper comment to the media. Interestingly, before the press conference started, there were murmurs among the reporters about the headline that had already been written, “Martin Exonerated”.

Had some lunch with some party friends over in West Block before heading over to Question Period to watch the big show.

A few notes from the gallery during QP:

  • Liberal members would rise to give Martin standing ovations for questions answered and questions answered about him as if the Canadian public should be thankful that we have such wise leadership from the Liberal Party.
  • As Paul Martin answered Stephen Harper’s questions, I looked over at Jack Layton (since defeating the government is ultimately up to him) and Jack Layton was furiously shaking his head at the BS coming from Martin’s mouth.
  • Conservative members would applaud questions about Gomery from the NDP while they did not applaud the Bloc on the same question.
  • At the start of question period Martin was fidgeting with his glasses. I don’t know if this level of anxiety is more than his baseline state.
  • I’m certain that if you asked Ed Broadbent, he’s probably not at all comfortable with propping up the Liberal government.
  • The Tory strategy of painting the Chretien cabinet (including Martin) as culpable might not be the magic bullet that they’re looking for. While Chretien is responsible because he was PM and the cabinet of the time was responsible, the headlines will say that Martin was “exonerated”, which is unfortunate because it is a conflict in message.
  • Chatted with MP and Blogging Tory James Moore just outside the gallery after QP.

A member of the press remarked to me that it’s difficult to remain impartial given Martin’s laughable answers in the House today.

I got a tip that Chretien would be addressing the media at the National Press Theatre on Wellington at 5:45pm. The administrator of the NPT said that he wouldn’t allow me in the Theatre for the Chretien press conference because I was partisan but he was nice enough to offer the Board Room of the National Press Building where I could watch the conference. Since Chretien hadn’t yet arrived, I decided to exit the building as there were cameras and reporters waiting to mob the former PM as he arrived. We waited for about 20 minutes as Chretien was late and when he arrived the cameras and the boom mics and reporters rushed to flank his entry route. I propped myself on the right flank and as he was walking by I asked, “Mr. Chretien, how will this affect your golf game?”

Yes, I heckled the former Prime Minister as he arrived to give perhaps the most serious press conference of his life and it got a good response from the press waiting out in the cold. Chretien bowed his head and grimaced as he walked into the building without a word. I guess that this perhaps one advantage of being a blogger instead of a full fledged member of the mainstream media; you get to rip into politicos when they deserve it while not risking your media clout.

However, perhaps one disadvantage of being a politically partisan blogger is that they’ll let in you in the door, but they’ll make you watch from the board room. I watched the whole press conference from the board room (probably a good call given my new penchant to heckle). Press conference was classic Chretien: combative and humourous. One particular highlight was when one reporter took him to task and asked him if we were really to believe that it is bias that is the basis of the report and that the report’s all fiction.

At the conclusion of the press conference I though I’d watch Chretien try and escape back into the cover of darkness. However, the same crowd of 20 cameras, boom mics, and reporters swarmed him as Jim Munson tried to manage his boss into the waiting van.

“Let’s walk”, Chretien declared as the intrepid scrum of reporters formed a bubble around Chretien and Munson as they walked down the street.

“It’s not safe to walk backwards”, Chretien exclaimed with false concern as the cameramen preceded him.

“What effect will this have on your legacy?”, “Have you read the report?” shot out reporters as they chased Chretien. Chretien’s gettaway van with the open backdoor followed the moving press bubble as we followed the PM for about six blocks. “Aren’t you going to get into your van?” they called out. “I’m going to my office”, Chretien responded as we walked another block until the former PM and his entourage ducked into an office building in downtown Ottawa.

This is sure to be an interesting week in Ottawa. I’m going to set up a few podcasts so stay tuned.