Cabinet ministers often arrive at Commons hearings with their own entourage in tow. But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney surprised the immigration committee Thursday by bringing his own backdrops.
Bright Conservative blue with small maple leaf flags and the name of Mr. Kenney's new program for families spelled out in white lettering, they were erected behind the minister and in front of the visitors gallery, effectively blocking the committee proceedings from some members of the media and obscuring the view of other onlookers.
The Twitterverse immediately lit up. Colin Horgan of web news outlet iPolitics managed to send out a picture. Reporters asked each other via Twitter if anyone had ever seen anything like it before.
Liberal MP Denis Coderre, a committee member, said it was clear the Minister decided he needed props.
There are rules about using displays, exhibits or demonstrations of any kind in the House of Commons. In committees, the rules are less clear. But Mr. Coderre did not think Mr. Kenney's placards were appropriate.
"The guy was bringing his own backdrop because he was on TV," Mr. Coderre, a former immigration minister, said after the committee.
The Liberal MP said he let the Conservatives have the first round of questions, "then I raised a point of order. I said, 'It's a prop. We don't need publicity for the Conservative government.'"
Reporters and people in the visitors gallery were obviously staring at the back of these larges signs, Mr. Coderre said. "I said I would like to see the people too," he said.
David Tilson, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, agreed with Mr. Coderre and asked that the backdrop be removed.
Mr. Coderre said Mr. Kenney's people objected, saying the backdrop was to remind people about the program. "I said 'Exactly, this is publicity, take it off, it's a prop.'"
The committee continued without the backdrop. Kady O'Malley of the CBC offers proof.
Mr. Kenney's staff said some seats in the visitors gallery may have been partially obstructed but the signs were small enough that the only thing blocked was the back of Mr. Kenney's head.
"Minister Kenney has come with charts to committee on multiple occasions," spokeswoman Candice Malcolm told The Globe, "as have other ministers in this and past governments."
And it does seem that Mr. Kenney is not the only minister to have ever used a backdrop. Here is a picture of John Baird at committee from way back in 2007.