06.03.2011 07:21 AM

Civility in the House

To wit:

Are we headed for more civilized politics as an innocent new Parliament reconvenes -respectful debate on substantive issues, witty rejoinders instead of personal abuse, pointed questions rather than extreme claims? Have they heard our plaintive cries?

There is a case for despair, but also cause for hope and, during what promises to be a brief and busy spring session, those questions will be answered -starting Friday with the note struck by the Speech from the Throne.”

Personally, I like a bit of conflict in my House of Commons-watching. I like some creative tension. I like passion. Why does everyone always seem to think “decorum” will be better?

What thinkest thou, O readers? Is “decorum” achieveable? Do we want it?

32 Comments

  1. bigcitylib says:

    I give it 3 days.

    • Kevin says:

      I think you’re right. Any question to the gov’t will be seen as an attack and dealt with accordingly. There are already issues to respond to: appointing 3 defeated candidates to the Senate, classified data stolen from TBS and Finance, and the Federal Court ruling against the censorship of Afghan documents to name just three.

  2. W.B. says:

    The Conservative distortion of Members Statements from riding issues to vicious hate filled personal attacks mainly against Michael Ignatieff, which the duped Conservative backbenchers could hardly stumble through because they had been scripted by the PMO, were the worst example of incivility and lack of respect in parliament.
    These will not likely be revved up again for about three and a half years.

    • Warren says:

      Actually, I forgot about that – which tells you how tired I am, ce matin, because I was the subject of about 40 S.O. 31 attacks. I wrote to the Speaker about ’em, and he thereafter brought down the hammer on using Parliamentary privilege for those kinds of smears on private citizens. Will be interesting to see if the new Reform-Alliance Speaker is similarly tough.

  3. Warren says:

    “The all-nighter known as Meech.” I like that. I’m going to steal that one, Tulk.

    How can I send you the you-know-what with the strike? Email?

  4. Pete says:

    Wait until the all nighters as Mr.Angry tries to coerce the premiers with his format for senate reform.
    The PET stuff is pure garbage Tulk………we have our own constitution because of his strong will power to get it done.

    • Africon says:

      QED !

    • Michael says:

      Except that Ontario or any other province would never been on the outside looking in. The premiers of day would have found, indeed did find some compromise. That is how we got the “not withstanding clause” Levesque on the other hand was not going to sign. No way no how.

      And again I ask how is Quebec on the outside looking in?

      Gord just because you keep saying our constitution is a flawed document, doesn’t make it so. How exactly is it flawed?

      • sharonapple88 says:

        Gordon, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came with the Constitution, is highly popular even now. The Charter was one of the reasons the premiers didn’t want to have a referendum on the Constitution. They were afriad they would lose because Trudeau would be selling the Charter of Rights and Freedom as part of the Constitution. In polls, people generally like the Charter, some of them have it as being the most popular in Quebec. If it was what Trudeau wanted, it turns out that it was what the public wanted too.

  5. Bob says:

    I don’t mind vigorous debate or even a little partisan shot taking… but I’d like to see it delivered with a little cleverness and style… not just yelling cheap shots at each other

    • Philip says:

      Testify. While we are about could we also ban the “Shame, Shame” heckle? It makes me, as a progressive, cringe whenever it is trotted out by our own.

  6. Parliament, like NHL hockey, should be a skills game. It ain’t. Parliament should look like Olympic hockey at its best. Skating, passing, fair checking and no fighting. Instead, Parliament looks like the current NHL. Lots of head shots, goons taking out highly skilled skaters, the lowest common denominator rules. Tough rules and consistent enforcement can clean up the NHL. The same should be true for Parliament. Zdeno Chara gets my vote for worst NHL thug. Who’ll be the worst Parliament thug?

    • The Doctor says:

      I agree that Chara is way, WAY down the list of thugs. It’s just that when Chara DOES hit someone, it often hurts – real bad. It’s like getting bodychecked by Andre the Giant.

      And Chara doesn’t try to bite peoples’ fingers off either.

      • The Doctor says:

        A good friend of mine deals with Chara frequently via his involvment in the Right to Play charity, and he has nothing but good things to say about the guy. Apparently he’s a total class act.

  7. James Bow says:

    Passion and decorum are not mutually exclusive. It’s always possible to attack the ideas rather than the person behind them. Unfortunately, I find that too often we forget about this, and go after the people rather than the policies they put forward. Not only is that unattractively negative, it gives short shrift to the actual thing being argued and ultimately, I think, dampens the passion we should be having for the vision we are advocating for this country.

  8. Ted says:

    Decorum is one thing. Abuse of Parliamentary privilege is another.

    Heckling, even vigorous heckling, is juvenile but part of it. And uniquely Canadian in that even the Brits don’t go as far as we do with heckling.

    But the abuse of Members statements to attack individual citizens, the name calling (Tories calling Liberals traitors and criminals), 10%ers to lie to Canadians, hiding facts and data from Parliament, contempt for Parliamentary orders, ignoring subpoenas, deliberately trying to make Parliament and committees dysfunctional… in these they have gone too far. And in these kinds of things it is Harper who has pushed the limits to breaking. And we just rewarded him for it.

  9. Transplanted Doerite says:

    Fuck you

    jk

  10. Winston Higgs says:

    I agree with you, Warren!

    Think of it as a 45 minute recess for those new Quebec kids. Being cooped-up all morning in the Institute is no picnic.

    I would go a bit further…why not set up 3 octagon cages between the benches and allow beer sales in the gallery?

    Mental picture time: John Baird and Libby Davies in a Figure Four leg-lock to the death! The horror, the horror….

  11. Sean says:

    Fuck decorum

    • Hear, hear!

      I could care less if proceedings are civil. More important is that they be effective.

      • The Doctor says:

        But that’s the thing — do you think Parliament immediately prior to dissolution was effective? All I know is I found it irritating and inane in the extreme. I agree with those critics who say that we in Canada have not found a way to make minority Parliaments work well. And the result in the last Parliament was the “permanent campaign mode/permanent election footing” problem. I think that led to excessive histrionics on the part of a lot of the members, especially the more partisan ones (e.g., Baird, Holland, Pat Martin).

        • No, I don’t. With very few exceptions I’ve not found the Liberal led opposition (when they weren’t the third party) to be effective.

          That said, being less than civil has nothing to do with effectiveness.

          But did not the minority parliament work? From the average Canadian’s perspective, it worked. The govt bills got paid on time, stuff got done, the country rolled on. We could have gone through more minority parliaments with no detrimental impact to the country. Through parliaments 39 and 40 the government of the day even managed to do a lot of what it wanted to do, unfettered by a strong opposition.

          I don’t believe in either the “minority parliaments don’t work” or “Teflon Stephen Harper” theories.

    • Dave says:

      Fuck decorum!

  12. Patrick Hamilton says:

    Best line I ever heard in parliamentary debate was Liberal cabinet minister Allan J. MacEachen’s response to a question by the leader of the NDP at the time, Ed Broadbent. Mr Broadbent had commented earlier that he had been in consultation with prominent business leaders across the nation. Mr. MacEachen’s response was: “It seems the corporate welfare bums have become the corporate welfare chums!”….the effect on Mr. Broadbent was withering, as the whole house erupted in laughter….
    Dont see that kind of repartee much anymore…..

    • TofKW says:

      Mr Tulk, you’re being way too hard on MacEachen. Yes he is as dry as toast, but he does have a good wit about him.

      Good lines are few are far between on the Hill these days, but I’ll actually give credit to Harper for one good one he delivered to Gilles Duceppe a couple of years ago.

      To give some background, this spawned from when president Sarkozy gave premier Charest the French legion of honour. Sarkozy later gave a speech where he said something to the effect that unity was required in the face of hateful, narrow-minded, sectarianism. He never mentioned Quebec separatists specifically, but they knew what Sarkozy meant and promptly denounced him for it.

      Weeks later Gilles Duceppe was standing in the commons going on and on about how the budget did little for Quebec. After he finished, Harper stood up and said “That’s the sectarianism Mr. Sarkozy is talking about”, and when on about specific budget details that he felt did in fact help Quebec, and all Canadians.

      Now whether the budget details listed did any good or not is debatable, but that was THE best line I ever heard Stephen Harper deliver – I mean in terms of being clever and nasty, without being personal. He does have it in him, but the partisan-blows and personal attacks are easier.

  13. Northbaytrapper says:

    I miss personality. I miss wit. I miss spontaniety. I’m sick of members reading their questions from a sheet. I sick of them answering in the same. I miss the humour. The true humour, not the stupid and inane puns and catch phrases thought of three hours before session. I miss a cleverer retort.
    ….sigh

  14. Patrick says:

    Surely there is a difference between passion and high school name calling.

  15. Patrick Hamilton says:

    Kudos to Ms. DePape/Marcelle!………that took guts……http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/06/03/throne-speech-protest-senate-stop-harper_n_871114.html

    If Mr. Harper can run roughshod over the rules and conventions of Parliament, why not a page?……..

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