Yesterday, Craig Scott put a question to the government side. The NDP MP from Toronto-Danforth lauded MP Michael Chong’s attempt at parliamentary reform, revealed that the NDP benches would vote freely on the matter, and wondered if backbenchers on the other side would be afforded the same opportunity. “Will the members of the Conservative Party have a free vote on this bill?” He put the question to the chief government whip, John Duncan, but another man stood in Duncan’s place.
Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform, answered Scott’s question with some of the purest sarcasm in the land. “Mr. Speaker, [the NDP] will actually have to come a day early to rehearse how to practice a free vote. The NDP never has free votes. In fact, The Globe and Mail did an extensive study behind the nearly 162,000 votes cast in this place. It found that not a single member of the NDP cast a vote against its leader in almost a two-year period,” he complained. “One hundred per cent of the time, the New Democrats do groupthink over there. They are not capable of independent thought. On this side, we have the most free votes, and we have had the most private members’ bills passed of any Parliament in 40 years.”
So there! Blah blah blah the NDP sucks!
As is occasionally the case, however, there’s something more behind Poilievre’s answer. He didn’t rule out a free vote on Chong’s bill. It’s not his call, since he’s neither whip nor headmaster of the Conservatives, but surely that was no accident. This morning, after all, Poilievre tweeted cheery things about Chong’s bill after meeting the man and talking about its merits. “This debate can only help democracy,” he said. That’s not nearly an endorsement, but to welcome a debate about a bill that could enshrine in law parliamentary powers for backbenchers is a fairly significant statement, coming from a Minister for Democratic Reform.
Meanwhile, a few people in the House of Commons will mention Chong’s bill during today’s afternoon jaw session. Expect Ben Perrin and Sen. Irving Gerstein, both of whom have combined to dominate the opening rounds in QPs of late, to continue to have their names bandied about.
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.
The Wright-Duffy affair will, once again, occupy the minds of opposition and Tory MPs. Expect to hear from many of the same characters in the House during the opening rounds of questions.