A pair of young journalists led Jack Layton’s scrum yesterday with questions about heckling in the House. They would seem to have followed up with a couple other MPs, similar exchanges showing up in the scrum transcripts. The last question posed to Jim Flaherty surely demonstrates a degree of chutzpah that bodes well for the future of this industry.
Question: Mr. Layton, did you notice a difference since you spoke out last week about sexist bullying in the House of Commons?
Jack Layton: I have noticed a difference. There were even some times when I was able to ask a complete question and nobody shouted out. I saw today the Conservative Whip got up and waved his hand at some of his members who were shouting so although still at a certain point in today’s discussions things got a bit wild but I haven’t heard the same sexist insults that we were hearing before in the last week. So let’s hope that people have turned a page on that.
Question: Do you think heckling takes away from the democratic process?
Jack Layton: I beg your pardon?
Question: Do you think it takes – heckling takes away from the democratic process of Question Period?
Jack Layton: Well, free speech is one of our fundamental principles and it’s pretty hard to speak freely when people are yelling at you when it’s your turn. That would never be allowed in a classroom or in any other kind of meeting. It only seems to be acceptable here. I think that’s why it has to stop.
Question: (Inaudible) in the House of commons, to take away from the democratic process?
Gilles Duceppe: Well, it is – I have always said that is human nature. So democracy is democracy. It is better to have that. We have to more disciplined, I admit, but on the other hand it is always funny to have such questions here, because one is very disciplined in the House, the journalists come in here and asking us “Why was there nothing debated today?” So…
Question: Have you ever noticed that (inaudible)?
Gilles Duceppe: What?
Question: Have you ever noticed (inaudible)?
Gilles Duceppe: Not recently, not from my place, but…
Question: Does heckling take away from the democratic process of question period?
Hon. Jim Flaherty: Does what?
Hon. Jim Flaherty: Heckling.
Hon. Jim Flaherty: Oh, I’m so used to that. You know I’ve been in the Ontario Legislature for more than 10 years and this one. The Ontario Legislature is sometimes more raucous than the House of Commons actually. I think the only problem you get into is when it gets so noisy that people can’t hear each other. That’s a problem and the Speaker sands up and the place calms down. It’s all right.
Moderator: Okay, we’ve got to go.
Question: Have you ever been a sexist bully?
Hon. Jim Flaherty: Have I ever done what?
Question: A sexist bully during Question Period?
Hon. Jim Flaherty: No, no, I haven’t. I had to think about that. No, I haven’t heard anything like that said in the House of Commons. Thank you. Thanks very much.