What is this House for?

With the last intervention of Question Period yesterday, Elizabeth May asked the government to clarify its general attitude toward parliamentary democracy.

Mr. Speaker, from 1913 to 1956, a period of over 40 years, time limits on debates were used 10 times. In the last 40 days, a time limit has been used seven times, making a new historical record. What used to be the exception to the rule appears to now be the rule. Mr. Speaker, my question is for the government House leader. Can we again restore a parliamentary tradition that limits on debates occur when matters are urgent or otherwise justified and do not become routine?

In a response to Ms. May, and later in a response to Joe Comartin on the same issue, Peter Van Loan lamented that the opposition was not duly deferential.




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What is this House for?

  1. Why don’t they just shut the place down? Our Glorious Leader seems to feel it’s an impediment to good management.

  2. Power corrupts. It corrupted the Liberals, it corrupts the Conservatives, and it will corrupt the next group too.

  3. If it isn’t Harpers message, then it’s not valid, so sayeth most exalted One.

  4. Power corrupts. ABSOLUTE POWER corrupts absolutely.

  5. These artheholes are wearing out their welcome pretty quick. 2015, you can’t come soon enough.

  6. Apparently head-in-the-cloud May doesn’t realize we are in a financial crisis, worldwide, and we don’t have the luxury of time for opposition filibusters and dawdling.  Likewise, we have just endured 7 years of minority government which slowed movement on a whole range of issues.  The government recognizes that and is working to get rid of the backlog expeditiously.  That’s obvious from outside of Ottawa.  Maybe May should move back to Vancouver Island, Halifax, London or wherever she now claims she’s from.  Then she’ll understand there’s a country out here that wants efficient government and is happy to see bills passed, our laws brought up-to-date, and a steady hand on the financial tiller.

    • Do you even realize why the opposition parties are “dawdling” as you put it? They are not simply wasting time, they are doing their jobs the point of parliament is to discuss these bills, the reason why the conservatives tell you the other parties are wasting their time is the exact same reason you will think I’m wasting your time, The conservative government has their view of what they think needs to be done and believes they are right and there can’t be any other side to the story, the conservatives have done a wonderful job of convincing the conservative voting public that they can be trusted and are the only thing that can save Canada. However this omnibus crime bill that they are trying to push through with out proper discussion is dangerous and will lead Canada down a dark path, the bill consists of too many things to be passed in one bill as certain parts of the bill are good while others are bad. You need do some research on this bill, it will cost Canadians hugely in tax dollars and personal freedoms, while doing nothing to make the streets safer, in fact it will make more people into criminals and will fill prisons with people not deserving to be there, the crime rate in this country is at the lowest its been in decades, this tough on crime idea doesn’t work. 

    • have some more koolaid. What exactly do you expect the opposition to be doing? They’re not hired to flap around with Harper’s pompoms.

    • Then you’ll, no doubt, be pleased when Harper finally disposes of all this democratic apparatus and just declares himself Emperor for life.

    • The job of the opposition members is NOT to rubber stamp whatever legislation the governing party brings forward.  Do you understand that there is a country out here which expects opposition members to question government actions.  That’s how a democracy works – everybody’s views are supposed to be considered.  You call it “working to get rid of the backlog expeditiously”.  I call itr ramming their legislative agenda through & the hell with anyone who doesn’t agree with that agenda.

  7. Why those dates? Why those dates specifically? Did the numbers for “Since Confederation” or “The whole of the 20th century” or “In the last fifty years” come up embarrassingly non-embarrassing, for May’s staff?

    • Ah, the old “The Liberals used to do this too” defence.

      That one’s a classic right there.

      • There is no defense required whatsoever.

        There’s nothing to talk about unless the usage is truly out of the ordinary.  By failing to inform us about the last 60 years, May has not managed to show us that there is anything unusual going on.

        • Why not dispense with parliament altogether? This is just another step along the path of nullifying the legislative branch. Pretty soon we will reach the point where we might dispense with the assembly and just treat Parliament as an electoral college for the president.

          • Has Parliament ever been done away with before?  ’Cause if it’s not “out of the ordinary” it can’t possibly be “wrong”, lol.

          • Here’s a lesson in logic for you.

            Suppose person A claims act X is out of the ordinary, and therefore wrong.

            Then person B says that we don’t know if X is out of the ordinary.

            At that point, idiotic person C has no basis for saying whether B has claimed, or disputed, that something out of the ordinary is wrong, or right.  It is person A that did so.

            This concept is not difficult.

            Here’s an example:
            Person A says it’s cold because it’s winter time.
            Person B says it’s not winter time.
            Idiotic person C claims that B says that it’s never cold.

            Got it?

            Secondly, idiotic person C has no basis to make the general claim that anything out of the ordinary is being discussed, when something in particular, act X, is the subject of discussion.

            Here’s an example:
            Person A says that bird is blue because it’s a blue jay.
            Person B says that’s not a blue jay.
            Idiotic person C claims that person B says there is no such thing as a blue bird.

            Obviously person B was talking about a particular bird. And here’s the kicker – person B made no argument about whether he liked the color of that particular bird, or he didn’t. Got it?

            This is basic logic, taught in grade school, but to most people it comes naturally. I am trying to make up for the failing of your elementary education. But I fear it may be too late.

          • Well, that was patronizing and condescending.

            Thanks for that. I learned a lot there.

          • Your condescending and patronizing misrepresentation of what I said was worse. At least what I said was true. You deliberately and intentionally joined in with a ridiculous statement in order to further peddle a falsehood by misrepresenting my words (with the use of quotes, no less, to try to give it an air of legitimacy), in part because you’re a ridiculous partisan, in part because you like to twist peoples’ words and in part because you don’t even understand a basic argument. lol.

            There’s only so much BS that I will stomach from the likes of you.

            I don’t think you learned anything.

          • @s_c_f:disqus 

            I don’t know.  I feel like I’m still learning.  

            Just so I understand, am I wrong that you think both that a) the Tories limiting debate like this is perfectly acceptable, not based on precedent per se, but simply because limiting debate this way is objectively the right thing to do, and also (separately, I suppose) b) that May hasn’t shown that this is at all unprecedented, merely that it is unprecedented wrt a particular 43 year span?

            ‘Cause I suppose I arguably misrepresented your point a bit by suggesting that you think that this is not wrong because it’s been done before, but frankly, personally, if that’s because you actually think it’s not wrong simply because it’s expedient, or not wrong just purely on the merits of limiting debate, I actually think that’s WORSE.

            So, apologies for suggesting that your reasoning was “it’s not wrong because the Liberals used to do it too”, but if your argument is actually really that it’s not wrong because we’ve already wasted too much time debating these bills, then I’m afraid that I actually find that argument MORE difficult to stomach than the “the Liberals used to do this too” argument, not less.

          • Put on your tinfoil hat.

        • There’s nothing to talk about unless the usage is truly out of the ordinary.  By failing to inform us about the last 60 years, May has not managed to show us that there is anything unusual going on.

          Wait, so you’re literally saying “It can’t be wrong if it’s been done before???”
          This opens up a whole WORLD of possibilities for the Tories!!!

          I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I preferred the pre-2006 Tories who used to use Liberal arrogance as an example of what not to do to the post-2006 Tories, who seem more than happy to use Liberal arrogance as a template.

          • I actually didn’t mean that as a LIBERALS DID IT, but only that – when someone presents a data set with exceptionally precise and unexplained boundaries – I tend to wonder how they’re massaging the results to make their point, which undermines the impact of the argument.

            If you can say “X times in the last Y years,” that’s a better rhetorical value than “X times in a 43-year period that covers from no particular significant event during Borden’s government to no particular significant event during St-Laurent’s.”

          • Fair enough.

            That said, I’d take issue a bit with the “no significant event” characterization, though of course one can argue that the St. Laurent and Borden periods of that 43 years had few significant events. Still, while maybe it’s not what she’s referring to, it’s possible that the 1913-1956 era was chosen to make reference to the fact that debate in parliament was cut short this way only 10 times during the entire period that went from the beginning of First World War, through the Second World War, through the Korean War, and through to the end of the Suez Crisis. Perhaps it’s cherry-picking, but it’s not insignificant.

          • OK, so now you want to ignore the precedent argument, even though that’s the argument May was using.

            If you want to talk about the substance of the matter and ignore the history, then here’s the facts:  these bills have already been debated at length in the house on previous occasions.  The gun registry bill was previously put through months of debate in the previous parliaments.  The CWB bill was put through months of debate in previous parliaments.  There is nothing more to debate, everything has been said by both sides, there is absolutely nothing new.  If there were something new, the limited today this time around gave people ample time to bring it up.  There is absolutely no need to continue debating issues that have been debated for years, now we need action. Following the never-ending debates in the past 5 years of minority parliaments, the people elected the Conservatives to a majority, so all of those previous debates have been put to an election, and the people have spoken. There is absolutely no need to repeat the same debates all over again.

          • Well, I guess I’m ignoring the precedent argument a bit, cause I feel that limiting debate in Parliament like this is objectively wrong regardless of precedent.  To me, whether it was never done during the whole span through WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Suez Crisis, and/or was done every other day by the Liberals from 1993-2006 is, to my mind, beside the point.  With the exception of emergencies and a truly pressing need for rapid action, I don’t think limiting debate should be done like this EVER.

            As for more recent precedent though, this article from the Globe and Mail is a useful read.  

            Apparently, the Chretien Liberals set their personal record for limiting debate by limiting debate on 6 bills over the course of 212 sitting days over 20 months (between Jan. 29, 2001 and October 1, 2002).  The Tories have used their majority to limit debate on 5 bills over the course of 35 sitting days over 5 months (between July 2, 2011 and November 4th, 2011).

          • only 10 times during the entire period that went from the beginning of First World War, through the Second World War, through the Korean War, and through to the end of the Suez Crisis

            LKO, I didn’t think of it that way. That puts a different spin on the discussion altogether…

            I find it unusual, because (if I remember my university history classes), the war measures act was in place during WWII (probably WWI as well), and at the very least, C D Howe in particular was given extraordinary powers during the Korean war (again, I’m going on memory here. Feel free to fact-check and refute that).

            Which makes May’s argument a bit duplicitous. Perhaps time limits on debates were used 10 times, but wouldn’t other debate-limiting tactics have been used, considering that the freakin’ war-measures act — the debate-ending tactic to end all debate-ending tactics (if you follow…) – was in place during at least part of that time?

            Anyway, it’s an interesting point you bring up, and makes me think about whether debate was actually cut off only 10 times during that period, or if May is glossing over other debate-ending tactics…

          • That’s a good point too, as is the notion that it’s conceivable that during the war debate took on a bit of a different tenor, i.e. that (one might hope) debate was taken more seriously, and wouldn’t have been used to delay. Also, however, there was a little thing called the Great Depression between those two Wars, and the War Measures Act wasn’t in place then I don’t think. I think even leaving aside the wars, it’s still noteworthy that Parliament apparently got through the Winnipeg General Strike, the Great Depression, and the Suez crisis with less frequent limiting of debate than the Tories have instituted in a little over a month. I’d say the Tories are limiting debate because they’re frustrated with debate from their experience in a minority. Which is understandable, but hardly, imho, a proper “excuse” for limiting more debate.

            Of course, the conservative notion that this stuff has all been debated to death isn’t exactly unimpeachable either. A lot of separate legislation has been bundled together into omnibus bills by the Tories, so while some of those pieces have been debated quite a bit, others, not as much. And, of course, the crime bills, which apparently must be passed without a moment’s more delay, are largely the same bills that the Tories themselves killed THREE TIMES when they allowed them to die on the order paper when they prorogued Parliament.

    • Way to miss the point entirely. Just try “in a really, really long time”, if that works better for you.

      • That’s not true.  Since nobody knows the frequency of the practice for the last 60 years, nobody has shown us there is anything unusual going on.

    • Well, wouldn’t it be pretty stupid for her to pick dates that didn’t back up her point – the point you seem to have missed.

  8. There are those that fight for freedom and fairness.  Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mandella.  They are few and far between.  But there are also lesser heroes that accomplish much good in politics, like Tommy Douglas.  And I believe that time will shine good light on Elizabeth May in our House of Commons, as well.  Her walk of life since a teenager is a good indicator of showing where she is heading and with her determination, I am hopeful she can take us there.

  9. Since nobody knows the comparable statistics for the last 60 years, nor has anyone provided any comparisons with other periods immediately following minority governments, it seems as though there is nothing unusual going on, and there is nothing here to talk about.

    Until someone manages to do that, we should simply conclude that Elisabeth May is full of hot air (as usual).

    • Nobody is stopping you from looking it up on your own and see what the statistics were for the last 60 years.

  10. The Conservative Party of Canada.  Doing things differently, by doing things pretty much the same, since 2006.

  11. Obviously May already did it, which is why she chose to ignore those years and choose some other time period, so there is no need. 

    And frankly, I don’t care.  If I did care, I would have done it. You pretend that you care, but in reality you don’t, because you would have done it otherwise.

    There’s nothing to debate on these bills, there were debated for months in previous parliaments and nothing has changed other than the fact that the Conservatives were elected to a majority. They were elected to a majority so that they could pass these bills this time around.

  12. Implicit in May’s question is the assumption that having longer debates would make any difference to this majority gov’t.

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