03/22/2018 23:07 EDT | Updated 03/23/2018 12:05 EDT

MPs Have Clever Tricks To Last 40 Hours Of Round-The-Clock Voting

It's Survivor: House of Commons edition.

Liberal MPs Omar Alghabra, Andy Fillmore, and Pam Goldsmith-Jones wave at the camera during a procedural vote on March 22, 2018.
Liberal MPs Omar Alghabra, Andy Fillmore, and Pam Goldsmith-Jones wave at the camera during a procedural vote on March 22, 2018.

OTTAWA — As MPs braced for some 40 hours of round-the-clock voting Thursday evening, they found clever ways of passing the time.

HuffPost Canada found B.C. Conservative MP Dan Albas watching what looked like Ultimate Fighting Championship on his iPad. Liberal MP Matt DeCourcey watched basketball.

Tory MP Cheryl Gallant shopped online for boots. Several members had headphones in their ears and seemed to be streaming movies. Others were watching themselves on CPAC.

Liberals stand during a procedural vote in the House of Commons on March 22, 2018.

Manitoba Tory MP James Bezan boasted that he'd fueled up on two full bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs and his colleague, Alex Nuttall, sent a House of Commons' page up to the journalists' gallery with a full bag for the reporters overseeing the marathon votes.

MPs passed the hours on their phones: texting, reading Twitter, responding to emails. Some pulled out reading materials: Liberal Andy Leslie flipped through the pages of MacLean's magazine, fellow Liberal Robert Morrissey read The Hill Times, Conservative Gérard Deltell took out the Liberals' 2015 election platform. Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly entertained herself with last week's Time Magazine with Greta Gerwig on the cover. Liberal Pam Damoff brought Crayola coloured pencils.

Four hours and 29 votes later, Liberal Pam Goldsmith-Jones stopped listening to CBC radio, pulled out a pillow and started reading Sharon Bala's The Boat People.

Liberal MP Marc Miller tweeted that he was spending the time working on his Kanien'kéha, a Mohawk language, while his seatmate Terry Duguid was learning French.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not in the House. Most of his cabinet ministers spent their time looking busy. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland barely let go of her Blackberry, furiously typing. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan seemed to be reviewing briefing notes. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale squinted over his iPad.

"We are going to get permission to go on washroom break," one male MP told his colleague about 9 p.m. Thursday.

"Now?" the female MP responded.

"Very soon."

Liberals block Tory motion

MPs have organized themselves in shifts in what is expected to be back-to-back votes until as late as Saturday.

The Conservatives called for the 250 or so budget votes in an effort to draw attention to what they say is the government's lack of transparency on the Jaspal Atwal matter.

Atwal is the former Sikh separatist convicted of attempted murder who was allowed to attend two events with Trudeau and senior cabinet ministers in India. Initially, Trudeau blamed Atwal's presence on British Columbia MP Randeep Sarai. Sarai accepted responsibility, telling reporters Atwal had asked to be placed on the Canadian High Commission's guest list and he'd passed along his name.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press
Jaspal Atwal, right, speaks to his lawyer Rishi T. Gill during a news conference in downtown Vancouver on March, 8, 2018.

Later, however, the government suggested, through a senior government source that Atwal had been placed at the Canadian government events by factions of the Indian government in an effort to embarrass Trudeau.

That source was outed as Daniel Jean, the prime minister's national security adviser. Opposition MPs demanded to hear from Jean in a public forum, but the Liberals denied the request.

Thursday, the Conservatives tried again, bringing forward a motion calling on Jean to appear before the public safety committee. The Tories, NDP, Bloc Québécois, Quebec Parliamentary Group (the seven ex-Bloc MPs) and the Green Party leader all supported the attempt to get Jean to explain publicly what he told reporters about the Indian government's involvement.

But the majority Liberals again blocked the effort. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has held that only the super-secret national intelligence committee could hear from Jean.

So, the Tories unleashed the budget votes in an effort to, as Tory MP Erin O'Toole put it: "We're trying to draw attention to this story."

Alberta MP Blaine Calkins did his part to raise awareness by penning a song about the issue that he posted on Facebook.

Holding the Liberals to account

We're voting, 338 MPs, 268 times, over 10,000 'peoplekind' hours, all so the Prime Minister can deny democratically elected MPs from questioning the National Security Advisor, one individual, for one hour at committee. What on earth is Trudeau hiding? His trip to India failed. His explanations as to the presence of a convicted attempted murderer have failed, and now his attempt to cover it all up should fail too. The incompetence is staggering. Like and share if you agree

Posted by Blaine Calkins on Thursday, 22 March 2018

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