Strangers yelling at each other


Speaker Peter Milliken talks to the Globe and considers the House he has presided over longer than anyone else.

Q: How much has the Hill changed, or what’s changed the most?

A: I think the biggest change has been in the increased partisanship in the House. When I was first elected we had morning sittings and a lunch time break, then evening sittings after a dinner break. Members would go up to the restaurant to eat and mix and mingle there. The chances for mixing and mingling these days are much, much less. And so you have members who barely know each other sitting on opposite sides of the House yelling at each other. It makes it much harder, I think, for members to be as friendly and polite, maybe is the word, as when I was first elected here.


Strangers yelling at each other

  1. "The chances for mixing and mingling these days are much, much less. "

    That surprises me. What, with M Raphael's photos, there seems to be plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle while getting free food and booze from lobbyists. Have they closed this unique restaurant where partisanship was left behind at the door?

  2. Milliken…he's always so mystified by what's happening in Parliament.

  3. Indeed, you'd almost think he was Minister of Defence.

    I like Milliken as an individual, but his excuse here is just rubbish.

  4. If only our parliament had someone responsible for policing the behaviour of MPs during times like Question Period.

  5. Masterfully understated.

  6. Yes, indeed, Milliken has been an impotent useless pushover of a bumbling good-for-nothing dope in the Speaker's Chair. But.

    MP behaviour is also the responsibility of the MPs themselves, with oversight by House Leaders and party leaders. It seems to be that NOBODY in that pit wants to be better behaved, else they might have elected somebody more effective in seeing to exactly that.

  7. I'm having a déjà parlé moment. Hasn't this topic come up before, here at Blog Central?

  8. Did previous speakers do a better job?

  9. Yes, and the general conclusion was that we need more old-school boozing opportunities to lubricate the gears of parliamentary civility.

  10. Must they be funded by sleazy lobbyists eager to wrest more and more of Canadians' wealth to their own petty fiefdom?

  11. Agreed. But once again, we have a Conservative unwilling to accept even a shred of responsibility when talking about a problem. They seem pathologically unable to shake the victim mentality, as a rule.

  12. And one more thing. At what point did it become acceptable, or at least excusable, to behave like an a**hole toward 'strangers'?

  13. If the Opposition will bury their own pathological insults into every question "holding them to account," the ugly tone clearly arises from both shores of the cesspool.

    Ignatieff had a small stretch where he was indeed employing language that simply and fairly asked questions about relevant issues, without resorting to gutter vocabulary. And the Tories looked, frankly, stupid for avoiding the question with insults of their own. If only he continued in that manner, alas. And if only others on the opposition benches learned from that example.

  14. I'm not pinning the lack of civility on the Conservatives alone. I've noticed too that the Libs have been acting with equal a**hattery, of late. It would just be nice to see the freakin' Speaker show a tiny bit of contrition, and at least allow that he might have had a role in letting things get out of hand. Or that it was something he'd given a shot at reining in., but unsuccessfully. Instead, we get the all too familiar Conservative obfuscation and dodging of *any* responsibility.

  15. Who else?

    Certainly you don't want the hardworking taxpayer to fund their debauchery. We can barely afford to fund our own.

  16. Keep up, S. I believe the term you're looking for is "Honourable."

  17. You are suggesting they can't pay for their own tray of cafeteria slop like the rest of us hardworking Canadians?

  18. I wonder how many more Canadians would be engaged in our politics if we had the Question Period drinking game.

  19. Out of their own money, you mean?!?!

    Are you some kind of radical? True civility can only come from sharing FREE food & liquor. That way there are no financial concerns to impair the feelings of good fellowship.

  20. "Must they be funded by sleazy lobbyists eager to wrest more and more of Canadians' wealth to their own petty fiefdom?"

    Can't say for certain but I am mostly convinced that these lobbyists are funded by government. So taxpayers get to foot the bill for lobbyists corrupting pols. It is a very cushy system the elite have implemented for their own benefit.

  21. "At what point did it become acceptable, or at least excusable, to behave like an a**hole toward 'strangers'? "

    Shortly after the advent of the World Wide Web.

  22. OK, everyone to Darcy McGee's for a pint and a group hug!

    Oh right, the PMO has banned Conservatives from going to Darcy McGee's.

    Can they at least be Facebook friends with members of other parties? It's a start…

  23. Milliken is a Liberal…

  24. Good question. Bosley, Mulroney's first Speaker before Fraser, tried being "tough on crime" and lost the House – and his job.

  25. Well. Don't I look stupid. Very stupid.

    Tempting though it is to delete that away, I shall leave my brain fade for all to see!


  26. This was an interesting thread. All the usual partisans were here (not trolls), yet I can't think of a thread where there has been more basic agreement.

  27. An independent that the government could arbitrarily choke funding to?
    I hear Kevin Page is looking for work

  28. Curse you, Al Gore!

  29. How do we know he wasn't considering crossing the floor? Now THERE would be a rumor…

  30. This isn't just a Canada thing. There is an argument (I forget where) that two basic "advances" destroyed the legacy of collegiality in the US Senate as well: the jet and health consciousness. When representatives are in Ottawa or DC year round, or almost year-round, they have a much greater incentive to get along. Nowadays, they fly home to do constituency work whenever the house/parliament is not in session. Health consciousness also inhibits the kind of social activities that best endear people to each other (drinking bourbon and smoking cigars). The rise in the number of female MP's may also play a part in this as well because cross-gender socializing is more difficult.

    I am not sure I entirely buy that explanation, however, as there are other factors at play. The data suggests that a good predictor of polarization is income inequality (http://voteview.ucsd.edu/images/MPR_Figure_1_1.jp… In Canada regional inequality might offer a similar prediction. Increasingly democratic nomination procedures make MP's beholden to ideologically extremist party activists (in the US, primaries make this a huge problem). Additionally, in Canada, our current parties are the remains of the pizza parliament of the 90's – when most parties were centered around regional grievances (and even the one exception, the Liberals, only stayed in power by winning nearly every seat in Ontario). Throw in changes in how we get news – news aggregators can put an ideological spin on things, and a greater number of news stations encourages stations to be biased, so as to win over a niche market (it is certainly working out for Fox News in the US). Finally the nature of media coverage of parliament encourages rowdiness (and overstates it). We usually get question period (heck it is the only thing Wherry talks about), which is the most acrimonious part of the day. This decision tends to favour politicians capable of summoning the holy fires of outrage – so guys like Lucien Bouchard or John Baird outshine quieter sorts like Jim Prentices or Alexa McDonoughs.

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