Thomas Mulcair is not a wide-eyed new member of Parliament gawking at the Peace Tower for the first time. He is the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party and an obvious candidate to replace Jack Layton as leader if and when the time comes.
So Ottawa-watchers were especially surprised when he said Wednesday that he does not believe the White House has pictures of Osama bin Laden's corpse.
"I don't think from what I've heard that those pictures exist," Mr. Mulcair declared on CBC's Power and Politics.
He also seemed to suggest that legal issues might surround the decision to kill the al-Qaeda leader, citing reports that he was not armed when American special forces burst into his compound.
"I think that if there is something that went on there, it requires a full analysis, and we have to understand whether or not there was an action … in self-defence or whether it was something that is more in the style of a direct killing," Mr. Mulcair said. "And that has to do with American law and international law as well."
The party quickly released a statement saying it had no reason to doubt that the photos existed.
The White House said it was not releasing the photos because they could be used in some quarters to inflame anti-American sentiment. The Obama administration maintains it acted within American and international law in killing the architect of the attacks of Sept. 11.
Minutes later on CBC, incoming Conservative MP Chris Alexander, who served as Canada's ambassador in Afghanistan, characterized the comments as "an insult to everyone's intelligence to propagate that kind of conspiracy."
As an issue, this is several thousand kilometres from where the NDP wanted to be on Wednesday, as the party prepared to take on its role of Official Opposition in the House of Commons.