It’s been a weird and whimsical week in Ottawa. Prime Minister Stephen Harper unwittingly summarized it best Wednesday with a mid-morning Twitter post.
Attached was a hazy photo, taken through a window, of snow coating the parliamentary grounds.
“Hello spring equinox, good to see that spring has sprung(ish),” he wrote.
The observation fit well with inherent contradictions swirling around the Hill these past few days.
Wednesday afternoon, for the second day in a row, Harper insisted on defending disgraced former cabinet minister Peter Penashue.
Defending is not even the word.
Calling Penashue “the best member of Parliament Labrador has ever had” suggests more of a quiet desperation. (Longtime Labrador MP and senator Bill Rompkey was reportedly amused.)
Penashue would likely have been forced to step down if he hadn’t quit earlier this week. Elections Canada has uncovered dozens of illegal donations to Penashue’s 2011 election campaign. And he apparently started his re-election campaign before even stepping down.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae took the opportunity to mock Harper’s motherhood pledge of running an accountable government.
“Can the Prime Minister please tell us, when do his standards start taking effect?” he said in the Commons.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was gearing up for Thursday’s budget, in which he announced a $150-billion deficit.
Ironic, says the National Post’s Andrew Coyne, considering he just finished warning lending institutions not to cut rates, lest consumers be tempted into further debt. Can’t encourage free market competition now, can we?
“I don’t want to cause a panic,” wrote Coyne, “but I’m told that, as we speak, Sobeys has a special on canned peaches.”
Perhaps the silliest exchange of the week occurred on a Porter Airlines flight from Halifax to Ottawa Tuesday night.
Liberal leadership shoo-in Justin Trudeau was handed a note by another passenger, in which he was asked whether he thought he could beat Harper in an election.
“Just watch me,” Trudeau wrote back, evoking his father’s famous retort during the 1970 October Crisis, when asked how far he’d go to uphold law and order.
The exchange went viral in social and conventional media circles. Trudeau has been dogged about his pedigree ever since throwing his hat into the ring. The slightest paternal reference always stirs up a whirlwind.
Of course, Trudeau Jr. is quite light on policy, either his or his father’s. Making a little crack to a fellow passenger hardly constitutes a predilection for invoking the War Measures Act.
At least Harper’s communications boss seemed to recognize the fleeting nature of the mini-scandal.
Andrew MacDougall posted his own hand-written note on Twitter, in which he’s asked what he thought of Trudeau’s comment.
His answer? “Fuddle duddle.”