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How to make QP worth your time

It’s easy. Just don’t expect normal human behaviour in the House.


 

Adrian Wyld/CP

“I have noticed, obviously, NDP members’ instant opposition to the Canada-Europe trade deal.” —Prime Minister Stephen Harper, during yesterday’s Question Period

Hang around too close to someone who watches Question Period every day, and you’ll notice their unique brand of cynicism. They lament that government benches produce few answers. They don’t appreciate the various half-truths that fly across the floor. They can’t stand the rhetorical pretzels, or hyperbolic gems, or mumbled talking points. They keep watching, fascinated by politicians at work, but always turn it off in a huff—or just deflated, incensed that democracy has it so bad.

For those cynical addicts, there is but one solution: appreciate the madness. Parliamentary privilege allows our elected representatives to say all kinds of things they can’t say outside the chamber. They all know that. Many exploit that. Truth is no longer a prerequisite, and politics is never really about truth. Throw out those expectations and the House of Commons is bearable.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and his backbench army repeatedly frowned about the NDP’s apparent opposition to free trade with Europe. Strictly speaking, the NDP doesn’t oppose free trade with Europe. The Conservatives cherry-picked the words of a single New Democrat in Newfoundland, and selectively quoted NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s opinion of free trade’s potential effect on dairy farmers. Officially, the NDP just wants to see the text of the deal—a request that may or may not be fair, but certainly isn’t opposition.

Except in the House of Commons, anything that’s not explicit support is opposition.

Paul Calandra, the new parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, is a bit of a hot dog. As such, he’ll be a star in the House. Yesterday, he was asked about details of Sen. Mike Duffy’s conduct related to a Deloitte audit into his Senate expenses. Some government somewhere might have answered that question.

Except in the House of Commons, any statement must explicitly serve a party’s interests.

Duffy? Ew. Calandra would much rather talk about Senate reform. “Mr. Speaker, we have put on the table many reforms to the Senate. We think that the Senate should be reformed or abolished. It is something we restated in our throne speech.”

The government believes the Senate should be reformed or abolished. Get it? Never mind that no one on the government side seriously considered abolition for most of the last eight years. Never mind that the government side sometimes criticized the NDP’s demand to abolish the Senate as unrealistic. The government now thinks the Senate might need to vanish. Some government somewhere might have remained consistent on an issue so fundamental to democratic institutions.

Except in the House of Commons, history is irrelevant until it’s convenient. What matters today, and possibly tomorrow, is that the government might want to abolish the Senate. The government needs you to know that, and only that.

When politicians take their seats, they require explicit support for their beliefs, are unable to serve anything but their own interests, and often don’t care what they said yesterday. So be it. Let them embarrass themselves. And pass the popcorn.

 

What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Mike Duffy‘s lawyer claims the PM’s Office forced Duffy to repay expenses.
National Post Duffy’s lawyer claims the PMO also wrote Duffy’s media lines on expenses.
Toronto Star Duffy’s lawyer claims the PMO initially approved Duffy’s residency.
Ottawa Citizen Conservatives in Ottawa worried Duffy might go on the offensive.
CBC News Members of a Greek Roma community are charged with abducting a girl.
CTV News The PMO hoped it could avoid political embarrassment on the Duffy file.
National Newswatch Duffy’s eligibility to sit as a PEI senator remains a matter of debate.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Omar Khadr. Brig.-Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a retired general in the U.S. Army, was well known for his unpopular belief that army medics should avoid any participation in torture. Xenakis also spent over 200 hours with Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay. He insists the imprisoned Canadian is no security threat, calling Khadr “civil, thoughtful and not a danger to society.”
THE GLOBAL Global. A female suicide bomber from the North Caucasus was suspected of blowing up a bus in Volgograd, killing six on board and injuring another 30. Russia’s federal Investigative Committee named the suspect as Naida Asiyalova, 30. She was apparently married to an Islamic militant, Dmitry Sokolov, she met at university in Moscow.
THE QUIRKY Coffee defence. A Port Hope man on the run from police in Peterborough, Ont., decided that the best way to slow down a cop in pursuit was to impair their movement with whatever he was holding in his hand; namely, a cup of hot coffee he splashed in the officer’s face. The officer did not require medical attention, and police apprehended the perpetrator.


 

How to make QP worth your time

  1. I suppose if, as part of my paid employment, I was required to watch
    QP I would try to find a reason to justify it. It’s not, so I don’t.
    OTOH, some of the evening debates are worthwhile.

  2. “Except in the House of Commons, history is irrelevant until it’s
    convenient. What matters today, and possibly tomorrow, is that the
    government might want to abolish the Senate. The government needs you to
    know that, and only that.”

    Something Orwell might well have endorsed. But i hope you aren’t saying this:

    “Except in the House of Commons, anything that’s not explicit support is opposition”.

    And this:

    “Except in the House of Commons, any statement must explicitly serve a party’s interests.”

    Have always been the case or as bad. I’m pretty sure the QP of 20 maybe even 15 years ago weren’t. But maybe it’s me with the rose coloured glasses on. So saying i think you’re giving in to the dark side Nick. But it’s your sanity on the line not mine.

  3. The blatant, and highly annoying, routine of the government providing answers to questions that haven’t been asked, and ignoring the ones that have, is nothing short of contempt for Parliament. This has, of course, been done by successive governments both red and blue for decades, but seems to be reaching a new low. Brent Rathgeber’s opinion about MP’s being trained seals is validated every Question Period. Shame, shame.

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