This week in fixing Parliament

Kady O’Malley suggests the time allotted for statements by members be moved (in my opinion, if members’ statements are to be reformed they’ll either have to be moved or eliminated entirely).

Conservative MP Dan Albas suggests the government side needs more time in QP to respond.

The biggest challenge to question period that many in the public are unaware of is that questions and answers are time limited, currently the amount of time a Member of Parliament is allowed to ask  a question is 35 seconds. Likewise for a member on the Government side of the house, 35 seconds is also the time limit for a response. Members can at times ask a supplemental however it is again subject to the same 35 seconds as is the response from Government.

While it is possible to ask a meaningful question in 35 seconds, I am certain most would agree that when it comes to governance, very few answers can be given in such a short timeframe. As a result often questions become comments or statements and the responses follow a similar pattern, all of course with a very political theme. Typically the thirty five seconds in many cases ends up being utilized as an effort to score political points often with quickly delivered commentary that often is more frequently evaluated by the performance of the orator then the actual content.

Of course, no matter how much time is available, the quality of the response still depends primarily on the responder’s willingness to engage the question asked, but let’s go along with both Kady’s proposal and Mr. Albas’ complaint.

At present, the House is getting through 39 questions and responses in about 45 minutes each day. If members’ statements were moved and those 15 minutes between 2pm and 2:15pm given to Question Period, each of the 39 questions and 39 responses could be given about 45 seconds. Still not enough time? If the House went with 35 questions per day, each question and each response would get 50 seconds. Cut it back to 30 questions per day and each side gets a full minute for every question and every response.

Personally, I’d be happy to cover an hour-long QP that covered 30 questions and responses.




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This week in fixing Parliament

  1. I say we switch to the “Alo Presidente” format of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela: a Sunday show that lasts an indeterminate amount of time where citizens ask questions to government and if the “Presidente” is faced with a truly shameful problem, he shifts the blame to the minister. The Minister then has 2 options: refuse responsibility by pointing out the lack of funds / point out he was following a directive straight from Chavez (which gets him fired on the air) or say “I will strive to do better” and receives applauses and they move on to another topic.

    Democracy in a talk-show format!

  2. Shorter Albas: There’s just not enough time to both insult the opposition *and* answer the question, so of course we drop the answer.

  3. Ought to be easy enough to check out Albas’s assertion. A quick check back over those 15 mins for oh, the last 10 or 15 years, in order to sample the general quality should do it. Sorry Aaron, but i’m busy this afternoon. What’s Kady up to? I’m going to go out on a limb and maybe save some time and effort, by asserting it has gotten much, much, worse under SH’s watch. Call it instinct; or call it intuition.

  4. Members statements are just an abuse at this point – sure, some still stand and say nice things about organizations and individuals in their riding, but many just use it to further partisan myths with no merit. It’s shameful that my so-called ‘functioning’ democracy blithely allows such house-sanctified slander. It should just be eliminated, really.

    The time-savings it provides could be used for Mr. Wherry’s idea of 30 minute-long answer/responses. I also know that while this all hinges on a minister actually wanting to ENGAGE a question, I also agree with Albas’ suggestion of longer response times than questions – Maybe forty-second questions with a response of a minute and twenty seconds? I know it gives more on-air time to the Government side, but I think they’d have less of an excuse getting zippy, partisan answers across if they didn’t have 35-second time-slots to blame. If they spend the entire time denouncing the opposition, the media gets a better chance to rip them a new one!

    • I say we look at the MPs who give a rats a$$ about the goings on in their riding, and call them out on it. Aaron might do us the favour of giving us a thread to record those MPs who prefer to stand to insult someone rather than praise a deserving member of their community. I do not like the idea of removing an MPs ability to highlight the good things going on in the wider Canada, just because some people are talking point puppets. I’m fine with moving this time, though.

      • Love the phrase “talking point puppets” :-)

  5. I can’t see any workable solution as long as all parties continue to show contempt for the intent of the process. All of them try use the exchanges for crass partisan advantage, rather than for soberly conducting affairs of the nation.

    Some improvement might come about if the whole event were no longer televised daily. We are occasionally led to believe that, “back stage”, there is often genuine collegial respect among members of various parties. If so, then the toxic effect of playing to the camera is contributing to much of their collective idiocy.

  6. Totally wrong headed to say lets drop statements because the Conservatives totally sabotaged them. The bully wins! What do they go after next? Then we change that?
    There was a good worthwhile purpose for members statements and they deserved a popular time. They were just hi jacked.. Over to you Mr. Speaker.

  7. I don’t think that giving the government more time to not actually answer the questions being asked is a good solution.

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