House of unfortunate repute -

House of unfortunate repute

What’s left to say about the tragedy of the Commons?


Last night’s At Issue panel.

I’m not sure there’s anything I can add that I haven’t already written over the last two years.

Here is what I wrote in February 2011 about the state of the House. Here are seven ways to fix what’s wrong.

Here is what I wrote about civility last month. Here is what I wrote about the state of our democracy in 2012. And here is my consideration of Elizabeth May.

Here is what I wrote last week about one particularly silly question and here and here is what I wrote this week about another. Here is what I wrote this week about what Justin Trudeau says he’d do. And here and here is what I wrote about what Brent Rathgeber has had to say.


House of unfortunate repute

  1. There is one area where I think the press is unfair to the House and its members.
    Although boring if you are not interested in the topic, the regular backbench debates on various topics as they come up in legislation are usually civil, thoughtful, and quite detailed. Speeches are read and then there is some give and take on the issue.
    But boring as hell if you’re looking for vicious clashes, and or don’t care much about the issue.
    One improvement would be to force more members to attend these debates and thus become better educated and able to participate in a wider range of issues, and be forced to listen to what the opposition or government side has to say.
    How many members of the press gallery actually attend these debates?

    • Sorry … folks can’t do everything … there’s night after night of
      receptions put on by Associated This and Federated That requiring
      a punishing series of “free” canapes and bonding exercises..
      Life is tweet.

      • I should also add that you are right … the debates (that, sadly,
        lead to nothing) are usually the only part of the circus worth
        watching. Often informative and interesting, occasionally funny,
        they can give a brief burst of optimism that our MP cohort are not
        really the clowns they often behave like.

  2. The CBC’s At Issue segment- it’s all so very reactionary!

    The 12 min segment is filled up with a skimming over issues. Nothing of substance is being said. General comments about MP’s and senators doing meaningless work. But what about the panelists themselves? Mr.Coyne using up his 3 minutes of alloted time, charging $500 of public money (which works out to roughly $160 @ minute!!) for what??? For being reactionary at best………….

    If members of the press sitting in as panelist on At Issue have nothing of substance to add, other than to be reactionary to what’s going on in Parliament, then why bother??

    For instance, why did none of the panelists even mention that in order to change the senate, the provinces have to be on board? Not one mention of that. Why not?? I suggest that if public money is being spent on At Issue, then at least have some panelists who can do more than merely skim over the surface of parliamentary by-gones. If they must be critical of MP’s behaviour, and if they suggest that more mirrors be installed for MP’s to look into, what about installing some mirrors in the passage ways, there where the panelists have a good look at themselves before stepping onto the CBC set – weak in, weak out……………..

    The only none-reactionary comment was provided by Bruce when he mentioned that some exchanges in the House are meaningful. By mentioning the fact that indeed some examples of meaningful question and answer sessions are possible, MP’s may pick up on such news coverage and maybe take advice from such highlighting on At Issue.

    Other than that: CBC’s At Issue: same, same, same, lame, lame, lame as usual. Why bother paying public money for that????

    • Isn’t that what the At Issue panel is supposed to do: react to the news of the day?

      • Obviously you don’t understand the difference between being reactionary and being illuminating………………….and so it goes………….

        • Obviously. Well, interacting with you was as pleasant as it ever was, Francien, thank you for the discussion. At least you didn’t direct me to keep re-reading your comment until it was brilliant.

          • What a cop-out. Why don’t you try and comment on the difference between being reactionary and being illuminating.

            Your predictable reply to my post certainly isn’t illuminating. Try again………..

          • Nope.

          • What did I say? Predictable your replies are, as ever…………..Never a real discussion with you. Always a cop-out. So immature. No wonder this country never gets ahead by leaps and bounds. People like you just don’t want to advance anything.

          • The “difference between being reactionary and being illuminating” is all in the eye of the beholder. I’m not even sure I share the meaning of “reactionary” that you seem to be investing in that word.

          • So, within your eyes beholden, what within the segment of At Issue was so illuminating? What did Coyne say that was so illuminating? Or Hebert for that matter?

          • What, in your view, was so “reactionary”? For that matter, what does that word mean to you?

          • It is reactionary to say that the PMO is trying to garner more control when, in the view of the panelist, such process is already in progress. It would be illuminating to hear the panelist speak on what grounds the PMO is considered more control-like. And how would such PMO control be compared to other controlled institutions, like media for instance. Or to the changing of times, with technological advances being made. easier and faster access to information, more difficult to get a coherent government message out, discussions beyond the sound-bites for instance, and so forth. Everything happens in unison. The world is changing and the world around the PMO is changing also. Changes in regards to power struggles are the norm. Commenting in such a way would be illuminating. Commenting in an old style of thinking is reactionary.

          • In fact, they did discuss how the PMO is more controlling (the PM no longer being selected by caucus or subject to removal by caucus, as is the case in other Westminster parliamentary governments; having the authority to sign or withhold nomination papers, etc.)

            The time constraints on the panel format limit its ability to drill down into any issue or to cover the broader range of issues you’ve mentioned. They were merely discussing the diminished relevance of Parliament. Discussions about reforming it or about the power of the press, to which you alluded above, are entirely different issues. If you think they’re worthy of consideration by this panel, why don’t you suggest them to the program’s producers? They can’t address everything in 12 minutes!

            As for whether the segment is “reactionary or illuminating”, for me it was neither. It was “reactive“, in the sense that it was responding to an issue that has currency at present. It wasn’t particularly illuminating for me because I was familiar with the story and its background. I did find that it resonated with many of my own views on the issue and, for that reason, worthy of my attention for 12 minutes of my life.

          • Funny, but before Harper became PM there were the rules to sign nomination papers and there was no rule to have the caucus select the PM, so nothing in fact has changed. So why would Coyne think that anything is different under PM Harper?????? Perhaps Coyne is just parroting hearsays, and why use taxpayer’s money to pay for that?????

            Yes, 12 minute segments aren’t long for discussing several topics. Waste of time. Why not stick to one topic and deepen it out. Therefore the panelist cannot avoid answering something besides standard reactionary fair………………

            Not illuminary. Exactly since all they say is just parroting what has been discussed by them already within column writing. Therefore, my point being that if the panelist already have an outlet for having their opinions heard, why not bring in some new and fresh voices for shaping public opinion………………………..But I guess at CBC it’s a closed shop.

          • Setting aside which politician started this trend or that trend, and which media bloviator overlooks this piece of history or that piece of history, do you think – in today’s context – that the PMO has too little power, just enough power or too much power?

          • As far as I’m concerned, power should always be seen in relation to. Does the PMO have too much, too little or just enough power in relation to what?

            Does the PMO have enough power in relation to the power of the media? I would say yes, that power relationship is just about right.

          • PMO power in relation to? Well, in relation to maximizing the democraticness of our government.

            Also, I’m having a tough time understanding how the requirement of party leader to sign-off on the results of a nomination meeting from a constituency helps the PMO counterbalance the power of the media. Can you clarify that idea?

          • Yes, but the democraticness of our government depends on the role of the media as well. And that is my point. Some people believe that the media can only play an objective role and I dispute that fact. Media can also grow in concentrated control which has an impact on how democracies work. It is not just the power of the PMO which determines the state of our democracies. So I am saying that at this point in time in Canada, I think the power of the PMO is balanced enough in relation to the powers held onto by the media. And if you care to look at my initial posts, you will find that it is important for panelist to set events into perspective with how the times are a-changing.

            Sure, the power of the PMO may have increased but when considered in a world of soundbites being more a minute than ever before, the mode of running a government has changed as well.

            In other words, if the mode under which the media operates (quick reporting without a lot of investigating) then the mode under which the government operates has changed as well. Everything works together. Nothing operates in a vacuum.

            And it is my opinion that panelists like Coyne and Hebert already give this nation their (un-investigative) opinions in weekly or bi-weekly columns. And so why not cast the net a little wider by providing different opinions on At Issue. Not only different coming from different personalities,but different coming from all corners of this country.

          • OK, I see where you are coming from, but I am having a tough time buying into this idea that because the media is not objective enough, because we seem to be living in a soundbite world, that those are good enough reasons to curtail some of the elements of our democracy. Seems to me that democratic principles should be so important that we would not give them up so easily.

          • But why would some of the elements of our democracy be curtailed when the PMO is more controlled in message? Every four years we can vote them out if we don’t like their style of governing.

            On the other hand, we have no direct say in how the media undermines the well being of our democracy by being heavy on opinion making but being very thin on objective investigating.

          • Depends on your definition of democracy, I suppose. Seems to me that maximizing democraticness is achieved by maximizing the control that citizens have in the way they are governed. In my view, allowing party leaders to have a veto over nominations (which helps the PMO achieve better message control) does not maximize citizen control of how they are governed.

            Wrt our control of the media, seems to me that not subscribing, not viewing, not listening to the product that the media produces gives the medai some very direct feedback.

          • From the Francien Verhoeven Dictionary: illuminating = praising government. reactionary = criticizing government

          • You are so out of your dept. You cannot offer anything but condescending comments. Nothing new to offer. Same, same, lame, lame

          • May I also suggest:

            Francien Verhoeven = Troll ?

            Perhaps Webster could include a picture of Verhoevan alongside their definition.

  3. At Issue panel: the continuous story about the decline of press coverage. Pick any week, Not a segment where any serious debate happens. Not a segment in which the press is held to account. The panelists opinions are almost always foregone conclusions.

    Mr.Coyne is of the opinion that more and more power is being claimed by the PMO. But what about the power of the press? When panelist such as Hebert and Coyne alread have a bi-weekly soapbox to stand on in the form of national newspaper columnists, why then is it necessary to listen to them again on national tv during At Issue?

    Why is it ok for a few national commentators to be representing this country? Coyne and Hebert already have a national avenue for making their views known.

    Why concentrate so much power in the hands of so very few, when those concentrated voices also represent most of central Canada? Why not let go of some of that concentrated power and find some other media representatives to sit in on At Issue? What about some western and eastern representations?

    Weekly we can read in print about Hebert’s and Coyne’s opinions. Why concentrate THEIR power even further by given them airtime on top of that?? Canada needs to hear some different voices. Voices which are hopefully a bit more diverse than the opinions held onto by the three amigos now doing the ongoing rounds at At Issue.

    Why don’t Hebert and Coyne want to practice what they preach???

    • Well it’s better than the Business Panel: financial advice for the one percent. Better to put your excess money in TFSA or RRSP?

      • What does that have to do with the subject at hand?

    • Hint: Broadcast time != power.

      I can shut off the CBC. I can’t shut off what the PMO does.

      • In fact, you personally can shut off CBC but you can also shut off QP. Both happen whether you watch it or not and both happen whether you like it or not…AND both are financed by taxpayer’s money.

        So what is your point? That it’s ok to concentrate the power of a few press members?????

        • Because the PMO doesn’t act outside of QP? Is that what you’re trying to argue now? Surely you’re not *that* stupid.

          Press members have no “concentration of power” because they have no actual “power”.

          The PMO, on the other hand, controls the gov’t. Which controls legislation. Which controls police. Which IS actual power.

          • So it seems we can at least agree on one thing: power.

            What is the meaning of power? Why would the concentrated power of media be any less of importance when considering the power held onto by the PMO?

            You think the concentrated power of media personalities holds no control over how this country finds direction? You are really that naive???

          • So you’re arguing that people are too stupid to make up their own minds when shown broadcast media, that even you agree they can turn off?

            Fer chrissakes.. stop projecting.

          • So you think the media has no power at all to control the message as they see fit? Therefore it is ok with you to have a selected few repeat the same opinions over and over again. Stay happy with the CBC not offering up some diverging views. No wonder this country cannot move ahead on anything.

          • If you were able to choose the At Issue panelists for the next broadcast, who would you select?

          • Bruce Anderson is fine for central Canada and I would pick one columnist living in the west and one living in the east, alternating with one from Quebec every now and then. They don’t always have to be the very same persons. Give us some variety of views.

          • Paula Simons from the West would be OK?

            If not, who from the west?

          • She’s dying to suggest Ezra Levant.

          • I wonder if that is true….

            Ezra definitely has the smarts, and based on that I would be interested to hear his opinions.

            But FV did mention that she is looking for serious debate, and on that score Ezra fails to measure up.

          • Actually Levant did not enter my mind when thinking about which person from the west should be replacing Coyne or Hebert, because Levant lives in Toronto, and as far as I know, Toronto is not in the west.

          • Good point about Ezra and Toronto – I wasn’t actually aware that he had relocated.
            We are still short two At Issue panelists though. Suggestions?

          • It doesn’t matter to me who will be on the panel from western or eastern Canada, as long as the country as a whole is more represented, rather than hearing the same opinions repeated everywhere.

            Perhaps a good suggestion would be someone from the general public who has a general understanding of politics in this country. It could be a good blogger.

          • Given that it doesn’t matter to you who represents western or eastern Canada, why do you have a preference who represents central Canada?

          • I have no preference for central Canada either but Bruce Anderson is not a columnist who appears in print every week, so his view is not available elsewhere. It could be anyone who is not so regularly heard of. My preference would be to not hear the same opinions over and over again. Specially not if those repeated opinions cost us taxpayers another $75.000 @ year. For what? For hearing the same, same, lame, lame repeated?

          • Would you happen to know how much overlap there is between the audience that Hebert gets through her column and the audience that she gets through the At Issue panel? Same for Coyne?

            In one of your other posts here you characterized Coyne and Hebert as un-investigative. Does that mean that you consider Anderson to be investigative?

          • The changes of overlap are greater when one writes for the national newspapers such as the NP and TS then when one would write for a more regional paper or blog, for instance.

            But let me ask you: Within the clip, do you find Hebert’s answers of any use? Or do you find Coyne’s answers to be illuminating? At least Anderson did some thinking about the conduct in the House when he specifically highlighted the exchange between two party members and such exchange was a very good one. At least Anderson tried to step out of the same lame answer giving.

          • I’ve re-watched the At Issue segment a couple of times, trying to pick out the differences that I gather you have noticed.

            In terms of usefulness, I would say that none of the answers from any of the three of them were particularly useful – certainly no one stood out as significantly better on that measure.

            In terms of illuminating, I only noted one illuminating answer, which was presented by Coyne – the information about cabinet ministers (historically) having to resign to run in a byelection.

            For the most part all three of them were sharing their observations about our parliament. The only difference, in this episode at least, is that all of Coyne’s observations happen to cast the government in a bad light, Hebert’s observations were mostly negative with a few positives for the government, and Anderson’s observations were more neutral to positive.

            Bottom line is that I can see a lot of merit in each one of those observations – some aspects of parliament today are better than 4 months ago, but there is still a long way to go.

          • Your are always thinking for me. How absurd for you to assume that you could be doing the thinking for me if you aren’t even capable of thinking for yourself.

          • You know that little box that comes with the TV? Perhaps you should try hitting some of the buttons on it once in a while. You might be amazed by what happens.

            Tell me. How, exactly, do I change the channel from the PMO?

          • No, she’s actually way past that stupid.

          • Whereas you aren’t even willing to add anything of substance to this discussion. Empty commenting is what you are doing.

  4. A lot of people covering something that those same people seem to have deemed irrelevant.

    • A lot of people covering something? I’m quite sure it is always the same list of panelists. Three central Canadians saying not much on anything…………..for $1,500 @ week combined. $1,500 for three media members speaking about 3 minutes each, saying nothing in particular……………………That adds up to about @75,000 @ year paid for by public money. And those three are supposed to comment on senate mismanagement of funds…..???

      What if we would follow Mr.Coyne into a restaurant to ask him why he finds it acceptable to receive $25.000 of public monies annually, all the while insisting that the CBC should be weaned of the public tit? Why should men like Coyne not be scrutinized for the double standards they employ?