Paul Calandra's behaviour this week -- first preening arrogance, then blubbering self pity -- is symptomatic of our sick politics. Andrew Coyne writes:
There is no useful distinction to be made between sincerity and pretence in this tableau. Mr. Calandra’s self-pity was undoubtedly genuine, his manipulativeness admirably unforced. And the House’s empathetic response? We know you have no intention of changing anything. Neither do we. Indeed, your non-answers weren’t a great deal different than the non-answers we are normally given, or the ones we’d give ourselves, in the same position, just more obvious. Our chagrin was as feigned as your contrition.
Mind you, in a way being obvious does make it worse. Though the non-answer is as frequent a feature of Question Period as the non-question, it is ordinarily bounded by the time-hallowed conventions of hypocrisy. The minister who takes the trouble of pretending to answer does Parliament the courtesy of dissembling; by his efforts at concealment, he implicitly acknowledges there is a standard expected of him, even if he declines to meet it. He’s still not answering the question. But by observing the proper rituals, custom is respected, and a certain equilibrium between the parties is maintained. The Mafia operates on much the same lines.
Coyn'e analogy to the mafia goes straight to the point. There is nothing of national interest any more in the House of Commons. Everything is now about self interest. And, therefore, everyday we see nothing but complete contempt for the fundamental institution of our democracy:
Calandra’s overtly nonsensical answers, by contrast, represented a deliberate flouting of convention. He was not just refusing to answer the question: he was rejecting the whole concept of question-answering. He was not only taking no care to conceal his refusal: he was going out of his way to make it obvious. It was a calculated snub to the Opposition, offered up, what is worse, in full view of the public. No wonder they were so filled with fake indignation.
Coyne rightly points out that the Harperites don't have a monopoly on contempt for Parliament. But the Conservatives have raised that contempt to a new high. Consider the parade of Harper's parliamentary secretaries -- Pierre Poilievre, Dean del Maestro and now Calandra. What does that collection of blubbering boobs say about the man who appointed them?
It says that the Prime Minister doesn't care a whit about getting things right. He cares only about getting it -- (power) and them. (the opposition)