Peter Milliken, now the longest-standing speaker in Parliament’s history, reflects on the state of the House.
Although many complain that the House has become a bedlam in recent years, Milliken remembers sitting in the galleries as a student in the 1960s, when the boom of fists slammed on desk tops could be deafening. “There was a lot of yelling and desk thumping. … It was so loud it drowned out anything,” he said. “You couldn’t hear a thing when people were pounding their desks and that’s exactly what they did. It would start in the middle of an answer or the middle of a question.”
Today, desk thumping is out of style on the House, replaced by booing or cheers and ovations. “I don’t think it’s that much worse than it was,” Milliken says. “It’s bigger – then there were 265 (MPs) now it’s 308 – so it is bigger. … But I don’t think the noise is particularly worse.”
What has changed is that more people see the question period uproar. “Because it’s on television, people see it more than they did before. I think they’re thinking: ‘Boy! Look at this.’ You can see what they’re doing and they are making a lot of noise.”