I was sitting up in the gallery on the day after the Speech from the Throne to catch the show after question period. Stephane Dion would be making a decision regarding what path his party would take in response to the government’s proposed mandate for the next parliamentary session.
Observing the Commons first hand can be quite different from watching it on TV. Particularly, the television coverage, wired in and directly controlled by House of Commons staffers often omits peripheral detail when it focuses in on the parliamentarian who happens to be speaking. Thus, catcalls and taunts between government and opposition benches are often barely heard on the television feed. However, this noise can be highly distracting when one has a front row seat.
What the television coverage captured, and which I missed because of my vantage point, was Michael Ignatieff chuckling along with Conservatives when they tossed barbs in the direction of the hapless Stephane Dion when the Liberal leader was delivering his response to the Throne Speech. I had even heard from an observer afterwards that Ignatieff had placed his hand over his mouth to stifle laughter while Dion was speaking.
So, I went back to check the videotape.
The first clip shows Ignatieff smirking and even rolling his eyes at one point . The second clip shows the deputy Liberal leader smiling, grimacing hard and then finally burying his face in his hand. It appears to be a man trying, but without much effort, to contain composure.
Here’s an excerpt what Sheila Copps (former Liberal leadership candidate and now Sun columnist) had to say about the incident:
While Dion has been fighting for his political life, Ignatieff underlings are doing everything possible to finish him off. With friends like those, Dion doesn’t need Conservative enemies.
While Ignatieff has recently taken to the airwaves in support of Dion, his face during the throne speech told a different story.
One eye cocked, and a smirk bubbling below the surface, at one point he even joined Tory guffaws at Dion’s awkward delivery. With Ignatieff’s poorly disguised glee, don’t expect the hemorrhaging in the Liberal Party to end any time soon.
and from Aaron Wherry of Macleans.ca:
The catcalls, meanwhile, grew louder — the government wits even winning a laugh from Ignatieff. As those who remained in the press gallery took turns groaning, the Conservative caucus descended into fits of giggles.
It has also been reported that Ignatieff remained seated for a number of standing ovations that the Liberals gave Dion during his speech. Here’s what Don Martin wrote:
One Liberal’s reaction was particularly telling. When all other MPs rose to celebrate a rare good jab in Mr. Dion’s address, deputy leader Michael Ignatieff seemed to stay in his seat most of the time. I’m not sure whether this was a sudden attack of leg cramps or the opening shot of a leadership challenge, but the optic was hard to miss.
Here’s a video summary of the standing ovations given to Dion during his speech. Also, look for Dion’s quick check of Ignatieff who isn’t applauding like the rest of caucus at 1min 18s (-1:41)