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Mark Twain, Stephen Harper leap to Peter MacKay's defence

Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Peter MacKay didn't answer the question. In fact, the Defence Minister did everything but answer the question.

He quoted Mark Twain: "The rumours of my political death are greatly exaggerated." He made a joke about the media predicting his demise. He even got Prime Minister Stephen Harper into the act.

The question? Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc asked the minister during Question Period Tuesday if he could "confirm that he's had discussions directly or indirectly with a law firm in Toronto about a job and what has the Ethics Commissioner told him about this."

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There have been numerous reports that Mr. MacKay met twice last month with officials from Bay Street law firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

That's when Mr. MacKay quoted Mark Twain and made some other jokes. He said he liked his job and would continue in it as long as the Prime Minister wanted him to.

So, Mr. LeBlanc asked him again: "We understand why the present minister wants to leave," the Liberal MP. "He was kept out of discussions about the new mission in Afghanistan, and he had to deal with the fiasco of Camp Mirage. Can he tell us directly or indirectly if he has had discussions with a law firm in Toronto or are these lawyers not telling the truth?"

Mr. LeBlanc was referring to reports Mr. MacKay was sidelined by the Prime Minister on several key files. And that's when Stephen Harper popped up - which is rare since the Prime Minister usually only answers the questions posed to him by the other party leaders.

He must have felt that Mr. MacKay needed some help - or he wanted to show there is no division in his ranks and that Mr. MacKay was not cut out of any negotiations as Mr. LeBlanc had suggested.

"I think the Minister of National Defence has answered those questions," the Prime Minister said. "What we're all delighted to find out on this side of the House is that [Mr. LeBlanc]and I presume all members of the Liberal Party have the same high opinion of the minister as all members of the government."

Mr. MacKay was given a standing ovation.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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