The Cullen plan for civility

The NDP tries to improve decorum

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen has now released his proposal for improving decorum in the House. Here is the motion he hopes to put before the House.

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to recommend changes to the Standing Orders, procedures and practices to increase the authority of the Speaker in order to impose disciplinary measures against Members who use harassment, threats, personal attacks, or extreme misrepresentation of facts or position in the House, particularly regarding Statements by Members and Oral Questions, including:

i.  Revoking questions during Oral Questions from parties whose Members have been disruptive
ii. Issuing a warning to Members for a first offense
iii. Suspending Members from the service of the House for one sitting day for a second offense; five days for a third offense; and twenty days for a fourth offense
iv. Suspending Members’ sessional allowance for the duration of their suspension from the service of the House

And that the Committee report its findings to the House within six months of the adoption of this order.

The penalties are an interesting touch, but ultimately this will come down to a discussion of where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and that gets tricky very quickly (what constitutes an “extreme misrepresentation of the facts” and who will judge that?). Which is not to say that discussion shouldn’t be had. It should be and it will be valuable and I look forward to hearing it.

This is similar, in method, to what Michael Chong proposed for QP reform: charging a committee with studying the issue around certain parameters and suggesting changes. To get the sort of debate, consideration and buy-in from other MPs that is going to be necessary to make changes to the standing orders, this is probably a reasonable way to go about it (as opposed to simply using a private member’s bill to propose changes).




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The Cullen plan for civility

  1. I find this whole thing ridiculous. The NDP are the last party that should be ‘tsk tsking’ anyone about this (the NDP seemed to have taken passive agressive to a whole new level)…..perhaps if Cullen was REALLY interested he would approach this as a multi-party excercise instead of trying to score poltical points. The NDP are really proving to be a party of populist tastes and this is yet another example of this. There is no doubt that we could use more powers for the speaker to compel response and compel civility, but trying to score points off of this for poltical gain is wrong. There is a reason why more and more Canadians are cynical and apathetic and this is just one more.

    • He brought it up with the other House Leaders on Question Period on CTV this weekend. Dominque Leblanc for the Liberals agreed something needs to be done but Peter Van Loan said that parliament should focus on creating jobs and delivering result sinstead.

      Elizabeth May and the other independents have been quite well behaved and the Bloc members have historically been quite parliamentary in their behaviour. I can’t see either opposing this, so there you have it.

      Really it’s just one party, the governing party that doesn’t want to address civility and that’s because they have a partisan strategy, devised in the PMO, to attack, frustrate and refuse to reply to any and all Opposition questions, requests, amendments, and ideas. It’s only one House Leader that, after winning yet another of the petty process battles that have taken the place of actual consideration of legislation, who stomped across the floor to threaten the Opposition House Leader and had to be physically restrained by his own party colleagues.

      The Conservatives are behaving undemocratically and hyper-partisan on every issue, attacking anyone who dares to contradict them and it’s just ridiculous for you to blame the NDP for public cynicism and apathy when the government party is an obvious parliamentary disgrace.

      • TOBY IS A SOCIALIST POOPYHEAD WHO SUPPORTS CHILD PORNOGRAPHERS AND HATES THE TROOPS!

        • AND WANTS A CARBON TAX!!!!!

  2. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again, the common denominator is Stephen Harper. Remove him and it gets better by half right away. Get rid of his minions (Kennedy. Bard, Clement, Van Loan etc,) than we would be at a level we could probably live with.

    These siths have debased our political institutions like no one else and its about time the media stops playing false equivalency games.

    • Brilliant idea, bad all the democratically elected members who you don’t like. Heck, why don’t we just let you appoint all of our democratically elected officials? That’d be the best democracy of them all!

  3. I resent the fact that these extremely well-paid “leaders” need to spend their time – and our money – trying to puzzle out something that the rest of us have learned as a normal part of growing up: that is, how to behave like responsible adults. They are struggling mightily – nay valiantly! – to achieve the high personal standards required of a Wal-Mart Greeter, and they are failing.
    Why does such a great country produce such piss-poor political leadership?

  4. I’d be curious to know how much influence NDP MP Pat Martin had in crafting this. He being the poster boy for civility and tempered discourse, after all.

    • So you agree something needs to be done then? Enforcement by the speaker with penalties?

      • I think that decorum in the house could improve, for sure. I just don’t think that limiting members’ free speech or banning members who are supposed to be representing constituents is the way to go. I think it would be much better if there were some type of gentleman’s agreement, and if people would stop electing guys like Pat Martin… but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

        • From where I sit, the behaviour of most members in the HoC does not remotely resemble the concept of “representing constituents”. Constituents expect behaviour of a level somewhat more mature than their two-year-old. They expect questions in QP to be answered. They expect Parliament to seriously consider the bills being presented.

          None of these things are actually happening. And while all parties are somewhat responsible, the government side seems particularly determined to abuse the process.

  5. How about appointing a Parliamentary Civility Officer who can be a ‘sounding board’ for what is or is not acceptable asshattery?

  6. Somehow, what was once a forum for witty, occasionally brilliant, repartee has degenerated into a schoolyard for taunting, bullying, and infantile name-calling. And where QP was once an opportunity for the Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to hold the Government of the day to account, it is now a platform for simplistic sloganeering and partisan propaganda aimed at denigrating opponents. Paradoxically, the introduction of cameras exposing the whole tawdry performance has only made the situation worse.

    I don’t believe the culture of the place will change until/unless some government (it matters not which political stripe) shows genuine leadership by conducting itself with basic civility,
    some decorum, and respect for its opponents. In that situation, the opposition party that continues to behave like a bunch of adolescent buffoons will only be prolonging its tenure on the wrong side of the House.

    I know, I know, this being “political theater”, my wish is naive.

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