Meetings of the House of Commons’ committees are normally staid, quiet proceedings that often have observers looking for a more interesting way to pass the time, like a root canal.
But not the Commons’ committee on access to information, privacy and ethics. It’s got enough finger-pointing, political tensions and outright cursing that it might need a restricted rating.
And when this committee meets Thursday, it will have all the makings of a grudge match.
The meeting on Tuesday disintegrated into chaos after Paul Szabo, the Liberal chair, adjourned it over the objections of other opposition MPs.
“You son of a bitch!” NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) shouted twice. He charged around the committee table and wagged his finger at Szabo, according to a Canadian Press account.
“You’re a disgrace!” Martin said. “That’s it. You’re done!”
Martin had proposed a motion to have former prime minister Brian Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber come before the committee to testify about their joint business dealings.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed a third-party advisor to write the terms of reference for a public inquiry on the same topic. But Martin wanted the committee to call Schreiber immediately, before his possible deportation back to Germany within the coming weeks.
However, Szabo ended the meeting before Martin’s proposal could be dealt with, sparking the angry reaction. Szabo later brushed off Martin’s cursing.
“I understand his, his fervour on this and I forgive him for the comment. I think it was done in the heat of the moment. It’s inappropriate but I, it’s not an issue with me,” he told reporters later.
Martin’s enthusiasm at the committee reveals a broader strategy by the federal New Democrats to keep the Mulroney-Schreiber issue in the spotlight – and hope that it costs the Tories and Liberals alike.
New Democrats are using this controversy to remind voters about the Liberal sponsorship scandal and paint their party as the only one untouched by scandal.
The NDP website even has a banner that says, “Conservative and Liberal scandals leave working families behind.”
A party official is promising to go “full bore” on the issue.
“If we want to be perceived as the effective opposition, we not only need to be in the game, we need to be better at it,” the official said.
“We’re not going to let a pitch go by without a swing,” he said.