Some months ago, the Prime Minister spoke to the nation in sorrowful tones. Parliament, he mourned, was a disgrace. A blight upon our nation that desperately needed change. The sort of change that is only achievable through democracy.
So charged, voters promptly elected a Parliament of roughly the same standing, with each of the four party leaders (at least until May) in place. And having heard that message of change, that Parliament promptly chose the same Speaker who had presided over its previous incarnation.
Anyway. For the record, the first heckling of the 40th Parliament was heard before said Speaker had even been chosen—various Conservative members growling at Liberal Mauril Belanger, who dared during his speech to suggest that the next Speaker might limit the ability of MPs to mail out partisan flyers at public expense.
Herein, a collection of the day’s more solemn tributes to democratic responsibility.
Stephen Harper. “As members of Parliament, especially at times likes these, especially in a minority Parliament, it is our foremost duty to work for the common good.”
Stephane Dion. “At a time when Canada has a minority government and is facing economic turmoil we need to have cooperation more than ever. We need to have decorum and mutual respect. We count on you to help this House with that. It is a responsibility too that we all share and you may count on the official opposition to do everything to be sure that Canadians will have the House they deserve in these tough times.”
Jack Layton. “One thing became very clear to all of us and it was raised in this discussion. We have to do a better job on behalf of Canadians to represent the kind of dignified and respectful debate that they look for in the House of Commons. I believe there may be a new sense that we are intent on doing that. I want to encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to use the powers that you have at your disposal to make sure that happens. I want to make a commitment on behalf of New Democrats that we will do our very best to live up to the standard that was set out in the debate we have just had here. Let us hope that we can live up to the expectations of those Canadians who are counting on us to do some very important work in the months ahead.”
Mauril Belanger. “I have been here for 13 years now and I have seen a gradual decline in the level of civility, of lack of respect for each other and I believe Canadians expect more. I am not the only one who believes that.”
Joe Comartin. “I do not believe there is anybody who has been in this chamber for any period of time who believes that the decorum, the order in this chamber, has not deteriorated. I ask members to look inside their hearts and their minds and say otherwise to me. We all have a responsibility that goes with those rights and privileges to conduct ourselves with decorum in this chamber. We have not done that. I do not wish to see the Speaker abdicate responsibility, but I say to all of the members in this chamber, nor can they abdicate their individual responsibilities.”
Barry Devolin. “My riding is relatively close to here, and as a result, lots of school groups come to visit Ottawa. Obviously I want to meet with these groups while they are in town. I always try to meet with them before they attend question period because I want to prepare them. I explain to them what is going on, and what they are going to see. In fact, I make excuses for what goes on in this place, and I do not think that is reasonable. Over the last four years, I have sat in this House behaving myself, and I have looked around and seen many other members in all four caucuses doing the same thing. I do not accept the notion that what goes on here is inevitable. I do not accept the notion that there is nothing we can do about it.”
Peter Milliken. “Without the goodwill and express support of member on all sides, it is very difficult for a person occupying the Chair to in fact impose order. In my view no amount of interference or chastisement of members will impose order that does not exist, unless the members themselves wish to have order in the House, so it is important that we work together in that connection.”
Andrew Scheer. “Members have all mentioned that decorum is important, that we need to have a new sense of civility in this House. Serving in the Speaker’s Chair really helped me appreciate that. I came to understand a bit more that we all come from different political parties and have much different ideological beliefs, but what I truly came to appreciate is the fact that we all have the same goal. We all want Canada to be a better place. We disagree on how to do that, but we all genuinely want the want the quality of life for all Canadians to be the best it can possibly be. I think if we remembered that throughout the debates and throughout committee work it would make it easier to respect the rules of civility and decorum. In that capacity I do believe that there may be the need for a different approach to some of those issues.”
Merv Tweed. “Today, we as members of Parliament have an opportunity to prove to Canadians that the 40th sitting of the Parliament of Canada will be one where very much needed decorum and respect are once again the order of the day.”