Here’s your problem

Never mind civility, first free the backbench MP

by Aaron Wherry

An exchange between Conservative MP Harold Albrecht and Minister of State Ted Menzies from this morning’s QP.

There are at two problems here.

First, the Speaker—in this case, Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin—should have interjected to rule the question out of order. It has nothing to do with the administrative responsibility of government. (It doesn’t even pretend to have anything to do with the administrative responsibility of government. I argued on Tuesday that the moment Mr. Albrecht starts talking about the NDP, the Speaker should intervene. But even if you think it is somehow too overbearing to interject based on the preamble of a question, even the actual question here isn’t about government business—it’s about NDP policy, or at least the version of NDP that Mr. Albrecht has been sent up to read.)

Second, shouldn’t Harold Albrecht have something better to do? Mr. Albrecht is a backbench MP. He could be asking about something to do with his riding. He could be conveying a concern that has been raised with him by his constituents. He could be asking the government to account for something that he is curious about. He could be expressing a concern he has about the government’s actions in some regard. He could be anywhere else doing just about anything other than this. Mr. Albrecht is a former school board trustee, pastor and dentist who has contributed to relief efforts in Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Zambia, Nepal, India and the Dominican Republic. He has won three elections in Kitchener-Conestoga. He owns a hobby farm. He is wearing a suit. Why would we ever want such an adult, as part of their duty as an elected representative of their fellow citizens, to stand in the House of Commons, home to the 308 individuals elected to serve and represent us, and read such stuff into the record?

We shouldn’t (as, again, I wrote on Tuesday). Free Harold Albrecht, I say.




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Here’s your problem

  1. Another problem with Question Period (there are several): Terrible questions. The Conservatives rightly get criticized for obfuscation and inane talking points, but the notion the Opposition apparently needs a script to ask rhetorical questions that amount to “when will the government stop being so terrible?” is troubling. What do they expect to get in response? A Minister to get up and say “Next Wednesday”?

    • Yeah, I agree — Mr Ignatieff was the worst when it came to those rambling rhetorical questions (when will the government tell the Canadian people the truth about zzzzz … ?)

      • There are rules for what they say, and how they say it.

        Cons used the same format ‘when will this govt’ when they were in Opposition.

        • Hopefully you are not making the case that the rules force the Opposition to lead in with “When will the governmenet…”.

  2. Aren’t you being presumptuous, Aaron? Maybe Mr. Albrecht IS conveying the concerns of his constituents. I’m sure he simply got a letter from one of those good folks living in his riding, and it went a little something like this…

    Dear Mr. Albrecht,
    I’m concerned about the fact that the NDP want to destroy the Canadian economy. I fear that they don’t even believe in the Canadian economy. Can you please tell me some of the things your government is doing to thwart the devilish plans of the NDP?

    Sincerely, A concerned constituent.

    I bet he gets those letters all the time. He’s just passing those concerns along is all, like a good MP should.

    • Would that be an unsolicited letter by any chance? Or might it bear the legend…c/o the pmo?

    • It’s true, I can’t rule this out. Maybe the talking points are so persuasive that they’re now being repeated back to MPs by constituents.

  3. Look at that guy’s resume…a solid citizen all around…a credit to his community. If it can happen to him, i suppose it can happen to anyone. How do perfectly ordinary, rational citizens pass through those doors and allow them selves to be publicly humiliated so? Does the very air of Parliament cause backbones to almost immediately atrophy! What inducement did they offer; did they threaten his family? Or does he think it is the path to parliamentary sainthood within this govt? Could be he even believes the bilge? The scariest thought of all.

    • Read any of the Samara Canada material? The MP exit interviews, in particular? If not, well worth your time…

      • Yes i’ve seen some that thx. Samara does good work.

  4. I think Tony is busy today so I’ll step up:

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    “I do this real moron thing, and it’s called thinking. And apparently I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.” George Carlin

    “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

    It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.” James Baldwin

    • What, no PJ?

      I’ve seen Tony in action, and you, sir, are no Tony Adams. ;-)

  5. Those Con backbenchers need an intervention. Like many others who have been rescued from cults, they’ll thank us someday.

  6. How is this worse than the NDP and their MP’s selling out on the Clarity Act? And thus, selling out on Canada?

    • Well, the one is a bill. It is something for our house to stand up, debate, and — in all likelihood — shoot down. Whether you agree with it or not, it is an action that is being put forward because our elected officials believe it will better Canada in some way.

      Mr. Albrechts comments are a line of smear against a party that isn’t the government, and so can do basically nothing for his constituents. It’s not designed to drive our government forward or help Canadians in any way. In what way are Mr. Albrecht’s actions designed to better Canada?

    • Perhaps it is not worse, but certainly there is a higher road that could have been taken.

    • Who said it was worse? That has been written about and commented on here too, more than once, by more than one author.

  7. I think Mr. Wherry is exhorting all back-bench MPs to push back against their rapid decline into sock-puppet status. This, of course, assumes that they were not latent sock-puppets to begin with.

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