For your consideration: Lee Richardson

by Aaron Wherry

Yesterday, I emailed the offices of the seven MPs confirmed to be seeking the Speaker’s post. I sent each candidate the same set of questions with the promise that I would reprint here any and all responses in their entirety. Those questions were as follows.

1. First and foremost, why do you want this job?

2. To what degree have you been concerned about the levels of civility and decorum in the House during recent sessions? Would your approach to maintaining civility differ from Mr. Milliken’s and, if so, how?

3. Mr. Milliken objected to the use of statements by members to launch partisan and personal attacks? Do you share his concern and, if so, what could be done to deal with this matter?

4. Mr. Milliken made three closely watched rulings on privilege during the last Parliament: specifically on matters related to the opposition’s access to documents in regards to the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s dealings with the House and an opposition demand that the government comply with certain requests for information. Did you at the time, or do you now, have any objections to any part of those rulings? As Speaker, would you have handled those matters at all differently?

Responses will be posted here in the order they are received.

First up, Lee Richardson, the MP for Calgary Centre, who sends along the following.

It’s about respect. We’ll never restore decorum without first restoring respect for the Institution and for each other as Members.

I fondly remember, as a much younger man following razor sharp debate from the Opposition gallery. My boss, the Rt. Hon.John Diefenbaker and NDP Leader, David Lewis in fierce oratory. During evening sessions I sat with Sophie Lewis, often it was just the two of us, quietly cheering our respective heroes. The combatants didn’t agree on much but there was mutual respect and civility as well as eloquence.

It was a time, before excessive partisanship and 10 second TV clips, when Members practised mutual respect and earned the respect of Canadians. It was not only an honour and privilege to be a Member of Parliament but an honourable profession held in high regard. Members strove to uphold that reputation.

My goal, my reason for seeking the office of Speaker, is to restore that respect for Parliament and parliamentarians.

There are a number of ways we can regain that respect, dignity and decorum.  At the beginning of each new Session, Parties all profess to strive for civility, nothing new here. I think we have a unique opportunity this time to make it happen and stick with it.

Over the years, and more so recently, I have had discussions with former Speakers about the increasing difficulty they appear to have in preserving order and decorum in the House and why they seem reluctant to impose the discipline and sanctions they have available to them. There are many reasons given as well as possible remedies.  In speaking to my Parliamentary colleagues over the past few weeks I have found a strong willingness to work together and make the changes necessary to restore civility and respect. I will outline the specifics of my proposals to achieve this goal in my remarks to the Members on June 2nd.

Foremost I would seek by example, to establish fairly but firmly, a correct tone in the House that would encourage and reflect a probity and simply, “good manners” that the Canadian public should righly expect from their elected representatives.

I believe we have an opportunity now to turn the corner. While the House always will be combative, my clear goal will be to restore dignity and mutual respect, and again make the institution an honourable place to debate policy once again.




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For your consideration: Lee Richardson

  1. Is a politician genetically incapable of just supplying straight answers? Can’t he just list his responses as 1 through 4 and then add some rhetorical flourish at the end? I received a structurally similar e-mail from a client this week- had I answered it as Mr. Richardson had, I would have had a) and unhappy client on my hand and b) I probably would have been reprimanded. 

    • Unfortunately, when you don’t actually have any answers, that’s the best you’re going to get. Let’s be honest, he’s running for speaker because he’s been around a while and it seems like a plum job.

      • Excellent point.

    • And had I used similar grammar as my response above I would have just been taken out behind the house and shot….

  2. Non-responses.  So I gather we would still hear statements on the family dog of political opponents, or hear a prime minister get his kicks out of using the immunity provided by the HoC to attack with lies the private lives and reputations of female MPs like he did with Lucienne Robillard.  I find all this holier-than-thou pretty silly from a group of people who came to Ottawa promising to turn a federal building graciously provided by the people of Canada into a casino and fill the Senate with persons suspected of electoral fraud. I just don’t see how you can have that group promote respect of Canada’s institutions. What I expect is a speaker who will follow in his political leader’s footsteps with the press to limit the opposition from questioning the government.

  3. He’s answered 1, maybe 1 and a half, of the questions posed.

  4. I bet Denise Savoie, from the NDP, will be the only candidate to successfully answer all four questions.

    • But to be fair, the questions are far more tricky for the Conservatives in the bunch.

      Opposition parties don’t need S.O. 31s to launch partisan attacks (they have question period for that) and agreeing with Miliken’s rulings does not put an opposition member in the awkward position of disagreeing with their own leader.

      • But to be unfair. During the election campaign, several special interest groups (e.g. doctors, environmentalists, aboriginals) asked the political parties to provide responses to a questionnaire regarding a specific issue. On at least three occasions the Conservatives provided no response while the Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens all were happy to take a stance on the issues.
         
        It is necessary for the speaker to be able to treat both sides equally without feeling awkward disagreeing with the PM. The government also is able to lauch partisan attacks during question period, note how rarely the government provides substantive answers to questions.

        • I don’t disagree that Conservatives are generally more secretive. Only part of that has to do with the fact that they are in power.

          As for this particular questionaire, I agree that the Speaker should not be partisan – but the Conservative’s contesting the position also have to consider the posibility that they will lose and return to the Government backbenches.

  5. “I fondly remember, as a much younger man following razor sharp debate from the Opposition gallery. My boss, the Rt. Hon.John Diefenbaker and NDP Leader, David Lewis in fierce oratory.”  Ah old folks and their memories.  According to Wikipedia, David Lewis was the NDP’s national leader from 1971 to 1975, while Diefenbaker retired from Parliement in December 1967.

    • John Diefenbaker remained a member of the House of Commons until his death in 1979.

      To pursue in the ageist vein, young ones and their inability to read.

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