Call it a tempest in a teapot. Pat Martin accused Rahim Jaffer last week of having "lied his ass off" to a parliamentary committee; now a parliamentary committee is accusing the salty-tongued NDP MP of "steeping his ass off."
Mr. Martin, known for his sometimes over-the-top questions at the committee investigating with the Guergis/Jaffer affair, has some secrets of his own. It seems he steals tea - green tea, no less - from the House of Commons natural resources committee, which meets next door to his third-floor West Block office.
At least one Tory does not appreciate the light-fingered socialist tea drinker. Here's an exchange from committee this morning (the chairman is Conservative MP Leon Benoit):
The Chair: There's a point of order, Mr. Harris.
Mr. Richard Harris (Cariboo-Prince George, CPC): Mr. Chairman, Nathan may not appreciate this, but ever since I've been on the committee there's been a shortage of green tea, and I had to think that somebody has been taking tea.
Now, we just saw the phantom tea-snatcher walk in and take a bunch back to his office next door.
Could I ask the clerk, with the agreement of the committee, to send him a letter, tell him to buy his own bloody tea?
Some honourable member: Hear, hear!
Mr. Richard Harris: I like green tea and he takes it every time we're here.
The Chair: I'm not sure this is a point of order, Mr. Harris, but I think it's been noted. Your comment has been noted.
Another honourable member: I beg to disagree, he's not a phantom, he's very obvious.
The Chair: We have another motion on the floor, so if you wish to...
Mr. Richard Harris: He's steeping his ass off.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Harris.
Okay, back to the issue. If you'd like to deal with that, we could deal with it later.
The Winnipeg New Democrat, however, was more forthcoming than Mr. Jaffer after he was busted.
"I will confess to a proclivity towards green tea, and even to grazing the committee rooms in search of complimentary beverages," Mr. Martin told The Globe in an email. "But it's almost matter of tradition...
"I represent the riding of Stanley Knowles who in his latter years survived almost exclusively on a diet of Arrowroot biscuits and tea bags that he pilfered from committee rooms and the opposition lobby. Legend has it his suit pockets were always stuffed with complimentary tea bags, so there is good parliamentary precedent for the pursuit of complimentary beverages."
He added: "In fact I'm told the Algonquin word 'Ottawa' actually means 'complimentary beverages.'"