Monday, March 15, 2010

Guergis prepped for committee

How many days and hours does it take to prep a Harper minister for a parliamentary committee hearing? In light of Minister of State Helena Guergis' appearance before the Status of Women Commons Committee today, it's a thought that came to mind. My guess is that they spent at least three and a half days prepping Guergis for today's hearing. The circumstantial evidence please...

Guergis, under fire for her recent airport incident and other matters, missed a scheduled appearance at a Conservative conference on Friday afternoon. Then we had the intervening weekend. Then we had Guergis absent from Question Period today:
On Monday, Guergis did not attend question period in the House of Commons, but did appear before a committee meeting on the status of women.
John Baird and Chuck Strahl answered the questions pertaining to her portfolio. Why a minister of the Crown can't both attend a committee hearing and answer questions in the House of Commons pertaining to her ministry and her own actions is deserving of scrutiny.

Then we have a PMO Communications staffer on hand to witness the Guergis appearance. Innocent enough, right? Likely not. As we are suggesting, Guergis was probably prepped for her appearance today, to no end, and they wanted to see how it went. Recall the reporting about Gary Lunn hiring consulting help to prep him for his Natural Resources Committee hearings at the height of the first Chalk River shutdown:

Taxpayers shelled out to pay a private image consultant to coach Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn for his televised appearance before a Commons committee in Ottawa yesterday.

Does anyone believe that the communications aspect of such hearings is not front and center for Conservatives? That similar efforts were not expended for Guergis today? Circumstances suggest it was.

Not that the appearance was substantive enough for anyone looking for any hard answers on the impact of the Economic Action Plan on women's economic fortunes, for example. No such answers. With a bland, statistics filled opening statement combined with some assisted softballs from Conservative colleagues ("Please tell us about..."), in an hour long appearance, there's only so much in the way of questioning and cross-examination that can take place.

Guergis probably did enough today to satisfy the PMO for now, as prepped as she likely was. That's probably all this government wants out of a Status of Women minister in any event. A scripted bare pass, not maintaining eye contact for a chunk of it, that's what today was and they're likely just fine with that.