Yesterday, in the legislature, New Democrat Opposition leader Joy MacPhail questioned Shirley Bond over the Campbell administration's failure to provide 5,000 promised intermediate and long-term care beds for seniors by 2006. At times though, it appeared Ms. MacPhail was actually debating Labour Minister and House Leader Graham Bruce, so heated were their unofficial exchanges.
When the bell terminated question period, Ms. MacPhail received candy from Liberal backbencher Ted Nebbeling for her feisty performance. Then she left the chamber to answer reporters' questions. The media expected Minister Bond, who took responsibility for health services and planning in December, to do the same.
But instead, it was Minister Bruce who sallied forth from the house to defended the government's record on care beds. When asked why he was responding to those questions, rather than his seemingly scrum-skitish colleague, Minister Bruce said he was acting in his role as house leader.
But reporters weren't satisified with just talking to Minister Bruce. Camping outside the house, they waited for the health minister to exit the chamber. Minutes ticked away. But the minister seemed somewhat reluctant to come out, busily highlighting pages in her binder and signing letters. She even went so far as to avoid eye contact with the salivating press pack.
When she finally did emerge from the chamber, she said she had "house duty" - an explanation for not coming out sooner. So it was somewhat surprising Minister Bond didn't go directly back into the chambers when the scrum was over. Instead, with the media having left the scene, she scooted down a nearby corridor, up the stairs and into her third floor office. One must suppose leave was granted.