The Commons: Unsophisticated debate will not be tolerated in this place

Members of the gallery should know better than to imitate the performers below

by Aaron Wherry

The Commons: Unsophisticated debate will not be tolerated in this placeThe Scene. Ralph Goodale stood and the Conservatives, obviously quite eager to hear and consider his particular concern this day, were yapping and squawking before he’d so much as spoken a clause.

“Mr. Speaker, survey after survey about the H1N1 vaccine show a dangerous trend. Only half of Canadians are planning to get vaccinated. That is down from two-thirds in July. Too many people do not think it is safe, do not think it is necessary. That is a communications failure that could put lives at risk,” Mr. Goodale posited. “How does the Prime Minister justify an advertising tsunami of $100 million for partisan Conservative propaganda, but only a pittance for crucial information about vaccinations?”

The Prime Minister, alas, was not present. In his place, Tony Clement took a turn.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the honourable Minister of Health is doing an excellent job in communicating to Canadians about the H1N1 flu situation.

“She has said that the vaccine would be available to every Canadian who needs and wants one,” Mr. Clement reported on behalf of Leona Aglukkaq, seated perhaps 20 feet to his right. “Not only is the Minister of Health urging Canadians to get the vaccine but the Chief Public Health Officer is doing so as well. This is the best way to protect our health and the health of our loved ones. Despite the fearmongering on the other side, we are focused on protecting the health and safety of every Canadian.”

To better convey this fearmongering, the Industry Minister wiggled his fingers in the general direction of the opposition side.

The two men repeated their general points en français and then Mr. Goodale endeavoured to deal more precisely with the issue. “Mr. Speaker, probably the greatest confusion affects pregnant women,” he suggested. “They are told the unadjuvanted form of the vaccine is best but if that form is unavailable, if the infection rate is rising in their community, and if the pregnancy is over 20 weeks then they are told the adjuvanted form will be okay. It is no wonder they are worried. When are women going to get sufficient reassurance? Why is there not enough of the right vaccine for all pregnant women in Canada right now, not next week, not next month, but right now?”

Mr. Goodale jabbed the air and shouted these last two words, lest there be any confusion over the immediacy implied therein.

Mr. Clement stood and twice more accused the Liberals of undue “fearmongering,” lest there be any confusion about the government’s word of the day.

Up next was David McGuinty, another of the official opposition’s designated shouters. Why, he wondered, had the government spent $100-million advertising its own efforts? With that money, he suggested, you could buy 50 MRI machines, 34,000 hip replacements, 200 insulin pumps. With wait times still so long, why, he begged, put money into television commercials?

“Mr. Speaker, we have shown responsibility as mandated by the House to report back to Canadians on our economic action plan, and we are doing just that,” assured John Baird, another of the government’s designated responders. “When it came to health care we had a choice. We could have followed the example of the previous Liberal government and cut health care by $25 billion, which led to hospital closures and substantial reductions in services, or we could take a different path, the path that the Prime Minister has taken, showing an unprecedented commitment to public health care, something that was absent in the previous Liberal government.”

Mr. McGuinty was quite ready for this. “Says the minister, Mr. Speaker, who fired 8,500 nurses in Ontario,” he said, in reference apparently to Mr. Baird’s time in the Ontario government. “That is a bit rich.”

Once more he listed all of the things—affordable housing units, nurses, chemotherapy drugs—that one might purchase with $100-million. “In the face of so many needs, why does the Prime Minister insist with his obsession for self-promotion?” he pleaded. “Why greed before need and politics before people?”

“Mr. Speaker,” moaned Mr. Baird, solemn face and serious, “I regret the tone of the member opposite.”

“Ahh!” laughed various Liberals.

The session moved on, first to the Bloc Québécois, who were quite eager to question the Conservatives about the ethical underpinnings of a recent government contract, then to the NDP.

Jack Layton was just beginning to ask the government side about the plight of pensioners when up in the visitor’s gallery there arose quite a clatter. One young person stood and shouted. Police began to remove him from the premises, but then another started yelling. Indeed, each time police moved on one, another started up.

Soon enough nearly everyone in the north gallery was chanting call-and-response complaints about climate change and the government’s refusal to sign a UN declaration on the human rights of indigenous people. As the Speaker paused the proceedings below, and MPs gawked upward, a dozen officers cleared the entire gallery of all spectators. There are reports now of perhaps 200 protesters, arrests and even blood. One network’s footage shows a young woman being dragged through the halls of Parliament, an officer on each arm.

After a few minutes interruption, the Speaker called the proceedings to order and Mr. Layton was asked to go on with his three questions. The trading of accusations began anew. Martha Hall Findlay stood to question the government about some impropriety or another, John Baird stood and responded with an insinuation of his own. The yapping and snapping continued, heckles shouted and hackles raised later when Hall Findlay rose on a point of order to answer Mr. Baird’s charges.

Not a single constable reappeared to drag away any of the more vociferous participants who are duly elected to be here.

The Stats. Pensions, nine questions. Ethics, eight questions. Government advertising, four questions. H1N1, three questions. Heritage buildings, forestry, infrastructure, taxation and credit cards, two questions each. Crime, firearms, visa requirements, the environment and energy efficiency, one question each.

Tony Clement and Jim Flaherty, nine answers each. John Baird, eight answers. Lawrence Cannon, four answers. Laurie Hawn, Denis Lebel and Peter Van Loan, two answers each. Jason Kenney, Jim Prentice and Lisa Raitt, one answer each.

The Commons: Unsophisticated debate will not be tolerated in this place

  1. “Not a single constable reappeared to drag away any of the more vociferous participants who are duly elected to be here”

    lol. If only!

    • No, all protesters summarily absconded to Milliken's wine cellar, where the days activities are fondly being remembered, as we write…purple initiation dye for Queen's alumni being improvised.

  2. With all due respect today is the one day to leave off mocking MPs. It’s quite funny most days, but when Lizzie is praising hooligans and dissing mps no need to try to one-up her fine comedy.

    • What was the word you called me before when I took a similar stance? Harridan?

    • I hav'n't heard what May had to say. Was it so bad? This is a democracy. Anyone has the right of protest, right? Hooligans! Did they actually hurl anything other than epithets from the gallery? Is it illegal to protest from there – well probably i suppose. Some of you posters sound like a bunch of reactionary fuddy duddies. I know there's a time and a place for everthing,but aren't most of these protesters just kids. I like their passion.

      • This was a well-organized protest. They were prepared with call-and-answer chants, and took turns making noise so that only a few were ejected at a time – until security figured out the whole Gallery was in on it. But no, they did not "hurl anything" – in the past protesters have dropped flyers on MPs from the Gallery, but this was bigger and better than anything I've witnessed.

      • Since we rarely agree, I will take this opportunity to agree with you. As long as no one is physically assaulted, protesters are just exercising their right to petition the government and should be left alone.

        • I'm genuinely pleased Believe it or not i believe i'm one of those old time liberal libertarians…don't know if there's many of us left.

          • I am with you there kcm. I believe the whole article is somewhat tongue in cheek in regards to the irony of it all? How it's ok for our elected officials to act like complete children, but when the children show up to throw it back at them, they flinch aghast at the audacity.

        • Eh. The accepted convention is your free speech does not constitute an obligation that the entire country pay any attention to you.

          Signboards and chats on the lawn of Parliament Hill? Cool.

          Interrupting the business of government so that we may all hear you screech and b!tch? Not cool.

          • I think right to petition government trumps your concern.

          • The right to petition government is somehow lost unless you bray about like idiots from the gallery of the House? Really?

          • Yes. If you don't bray about like idiots than you are stuck on Parliament Hill lawn where you can be comfortably ignored. Five less minutes of Question Period is a small price to pay for those people to have their voices heard. If you don't use a right, they are quickly lost.

          • Braying like idiots from the gallery is not free speech (especially since they were semi-immediately ousted, and some were assessed fines by summons). It is imposing on all the obligation to pay attention to you. Not at all the same thing.

          • Any action that portrays a political communication or meaning is free speech.

            Their 'braying like idiots from the gallery' is free speech.

          • Couldn’t agree with you more with you joylon…gulp. :)

      • No they are kids that need to get out into the real world and get a job. Then we can take them seriously after they have learned some of lifes hard lessons.

        • When I was "a kid" who went to protests, people used to shout this at us even though most of us had found some way to take time off work to be at the demonstration. You know that Archie Bunker was a parody, not a role model, eh hollinm?

  3. One of these days I'll have to do a full accounting of the verbs that Wherry uses to describe the Conservative reactions in QP. "Yapping" and "squawking" are the latest additions. I suspect that Wherry has exhausted all other options in the thesaurus. ;-)

  4. I've noticed Goodale speaking French more often lately.

    Is he gearing up for a leadership campaign?

    • You notice he is reading French not speaking it naturally as other bilingual politicians do. He couldn't carry on a French conversation if his life depended on it. No leadership for Ralphy boy. Thank God. He along with Marlene Jennings are the reason Quesition Period has deteriorated. Listen, you can hear the two of them yapping away.

      • Right. Spoken like a real Pierre Poliervere fan club member — did you get the plaid swatch with that?

      • You are right on the money! I wish Jennings or Goodale would become leader that way Harper could beat their — everyday in QP!

    • He's said before he wasn't interested in running the Liberal party, I doubt he's changed his mind.

  5. I should add – a good example of nonviolent methods of protest. These guys have read their Gene Sharp.

  6. The filthy,great unwashed need to stay away from proceedings and behave in civilized manner.Parliament is not barn.My God they annoy me.They spend their time worrying about tree and bear they ahve never come close to.Oh these idiots need to get back to their empty lives.Fotrgiove them everyone,the great unwashed hardly know the difference between a toilet and living room,for they relieve themselves everywhere.Police need to guard parliament and keep our parliament and leaders safe from these children in adult bodies.Somebody should fumigate that place,the great unwashed just made it unsanitary.

    • Something stinks here, but i don't think it's the protesters.

      • Actually, they looked pretty clean cut for protesters. Hey, at least parliament had some excitement for a change. Those kids are probably mostly university students.

        "Parliament is not a barn"? Watch QP much?

    • Are they also wrong to worry about the rights of indigenous peoples?

    • I was really struggling with my opinion on this one. Thanks for clearing up that "respect of institutions" vs. "peaceful act of protest" thing for me.

      Parliament is the place where The People conduct their business. Parliament, as such, should be respected. However, it is not a place for the elite power players to behave however they like, i.e., disrespectful of The People, then get all upset when some of The People behave in the same manner.

      In fact, while I know this isn't what these particular protesters were protesting, I think it would be awesome if every question period that deteriorates into catcalls, heckling and questions that can have no answers, or answers to everything except the question–the gallery did this same thing. Throw it back at them until respect is restored.

  7. Well, it's good to know that, despite their posturing to score points on the subject, both sides of parliament believe people should be getting their flu shots. The Conservative message on the H1N1 vaccinations, while a bit half-hearted, has been adequate – even if they gave it their all, there would still be plenty of people wearing their tinfoil hats.

    And since the subject was brought up, we could really use 50 more MRI machines…

  8. Aaron, I think your description of the exchange between Baird and MHF is pretty selective. He actually took down Hall Findlay quite hard – he tabled an email from her parliamentary office sent to all MPs offices to solicit funds for Martha's leadership dept – they said they wanted to “shamelessly” raise funds through the Liberal Party's website. This is the kind of thing that is the subject of a Conservative complaint about the Liberals to the Ethics Commissioner. She admitted she screwed up…but as Baird said… “when Liberals do it, it is always a mistake and an error. When the Tories do it, it is always a conspiracy.

    • She admitted she screwed up. See the difference?

  9. Same ole' granola crunching nut jobs who want western civilization shut down. Thet want the energy sector completely shut down because they think it doesn't affect them. They don't work there(or anywhere else) and they think the power to run their laptops that daddy bought them appears magically out of a hole in the wall. What a pathetic useless bunch. If they object to a modern western civilization I suggest they might like Albania, I understand the lights are hardly ever on, there is no industry and people leave no carbon footprint whatsoever. Somehow I don't think any of them will be signing up for that anytime soon. Truth is they like a nice warm bed in the morning so they will be well rested to get up at the crack of noon and go protest things they expect others to provide for them for nothing. Cheers

    • What a woefully ignorant post. Ill-informed stereotypes are wonderful for debate where you live perhaps, but today's youth have much higher standards than you do.

  10. To say the least I am suprised that some person has not taken a gun to parliament to make a point instead of using verbal abuse. Is the attack on the WCB office a sign of things to come. Are Canadains getting so fed up and frustrated that we are going to see third world type answers, guns and bombs. I can see why political leaders want more gun control. i would be afraid too.

  11. I think the NDP organised it.It wa nothing more than an unruly mob.I noted now that one of them complaining about being hurt, is covered with blood at 5.30 pm, and yet after security threw him out at 2.30pm, there is no blood on his face at all. Hooligans, nothing more nothing less.Of course they have no money, and they have no jobs.

  12. My experience dealing with protesters is that many of them are there because they are being paid! I know several unverisity students who would work protest events because they would get $100 dollars for the day!

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