That is the system that we have -

That is the system that we have


A little over a year ago, the Hill Times checked up on the relationship between Stephen Harper’s government and the press gallery—a saga that has gripped the nation like nothing since the Vancouver Grizzlies. In between anecdotes of this glamourous existence, the Prime Minister’s press secretary, since departed, offered this explanation of the official view.

Mr. Teneycke said he didn’t agree that there are cabinet ministers who don’t speak to the media, and that in Canada’s Parliamentary system the 45-minute daily Question Period is the primary way in which ministers answer questions about their files. “Ministers are available in Question Period to answer questions of the elected opposition, that is the system that we have, that is the primary way by which cabinet ministers in a Parliamentary democracy are held accountable,” said Mr. Teneycke. “If media have additional questions from time to time the primary way by which ministers are held to account is via an elected opposition through the House of Commons.”

It will, of course, be another two months before cabinet ministers are held so accountable. And for those of you keeping score at home, by the time March 1 arrives, the Prime Minister—owing to international travel and a photo with the national lacrosse team—will have submitted himself to a total of six such exercises in accountability over a four month period.


That is the system that we have

  1. Given the quality and tenor of "Have you stopped beating your wife yet" zingers the opposition's been able to come up with for QP recently, I'm not sure this is the contemptuous kneecapping of purest democracy you imagine.

    • Absolutely. It should always be up to the Prime Minister and not Parliament or Canadians, when and for how long they should get a nice cozy paid vacation, and when and on what subject matters the government should be held accountable.

      As long as we are talking about a Conservative government, of course.

  2. I trust the Prime Minster will let us know when we elect MPs worthy of his time.

      • Thanks. I take some solace in the fact that even the brainless conbots aren't completely following Harper over the cliff on this one. The best defence they've rallied runs closer to "Yes, it's wrong, *but*…".

        It's a start, I suppose.

  3. Harper Hŏ'lĭday (-dā, -dĭ) n., & v.i. 1. n. month or multiple months of recreation when work remains outstanding, when no work is done; period of this, paid vacation, eg. Although the renovation was not halfway done and already behind schedule, the carpenters took a Harper Holiday anyway. 2. v.i. to avoid responsibility or accountability, eg. John had not studied enough so he Harper Holidayed his mid-term examinations. 3. n. act of avoiding or undermining fundamental democratic institutions, eg the Prime Minister saw his popularity declining and risked losing a confidence vote so he declared a Harper Holiday to avoid further investigations and accountability. [OE haarpr haligdae]

  4. “If media have additional questions from time to time the primary way by which ministers are held to account is via an elected opposition through the House of Commons.”

    I don't see how Teneycke could make this claim with a straight face when the Conservatives threw a hissy fit not too long ago after it was revealed that an opposition Member of Parliament was posing questions that originated from the media.

    • … or silenced opposition with a lawsuit, and when not available, by deciding on their own whim when to take the ball and go home (despite the ball being paid for and for the benefit of the Canadian public)… Of course, any such 'gamesmanship' shall be cheered and blindly supported by the bleeting CONbotnation, along with a harmonized 'they did it first but we did it better!'

  5. Stephen Harper, 2005: "We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish…[we want to] replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."

    Kory Teneycke, 2008: "Ministers are available in Question Period to answer questions of the elected opposition, that is the system that we have…If media have additional questions from time to time the primary way by which ministers are held to account is via an elected opposition through the House of Commons.”

    Oh, how times have changed.

    • Meh, the only thing that's changed is that what was expected has become reality.

  6. “It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they decided to prorogue Parliament… I'm sorry if I sound a little cynical. This is a government (for which) the rules of engagement don't apply. They'll move the goal post, change the boundaries and bribe the referee.”

    – Deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay commenting on unfounded rumours that the Liberal government planned to prorogue in 2005 (Nanaimo Daily News, July 18, 2005)

  7. Well, I'm just glad that we live in a country where Canadians voters ultimately decide whether or not prorogue is the end of the world as we know it, despite efforts of the likes of Aaron Wherry to influence their opinion 24/7.

    • I'm just glad that we live in a country where through the media and the elected members of parliament a government can't stonewall and avoid accountability… oh, right. That's some other country. If Dennis-F's acceptable rules of play had existed pre-Harper I dare say there'd be no sponsorship scandal, no airbus, no pacific scandal. We'd be all blithely pleased with ourselves like the cheshire cats in the CON war room, burying the secrets and scandals away from prying eyes.

  8. Disgusting. If QP is the government’s attempt at accountability, for shame.

    And now we only deserve accountability in the form of 30 second non-answers, for a third of a year when Parliament sits, in response to questions asked by narrowly-interested partisans.

  9. The funniest(?!) part of this, as you well know Aaron, is that cabinet ministers rarely answer the questions on their own files. If you are asking about Heritage, for example, you will likely get your answer from Transport. If you want to discuss Foreign Affairs, perhaps Industry will deign to answer.

    Accountability. Obviously a word with far too many syllables.

  10. Conservative Party: Our principles don't apply to us.

  11. So, Liberals are supposed to determine what issues are relevant to a question, and who should answer them?

    I'd also love to have someone point out to me examples of how the 13 years in which the Liberals were in power recently represented some sort of golden era of government accountability.

    Harper may not be exponentially better, but I don't remember the yelling and screaming back then from the current yellers and screamers.

    • No, not Liberals., but maybe tradition, expectations and responsibility?

      • You mean tradition of……Liberals being in power? The expectations they set?

        • So, you're saying that Conservatives don't understand these values?

          • The values of hanging onto power set by Liberals? I don't understand.

          • The wit gap is growing.

    • ”Ministers are available in Question Period to answer questions of the elected opposition, that is the system that we have, that is the primary way by which cabinet ministers in a Parliamentary democracy are held accountable,” said Mr. Teneycke.

      If you have a problem with it, I suggest you take it up with Mr. Teneycke. And it may be that answers back then were more like answers, rather than irrelevant digs at the opposition, and it may be that the response came from the minister the question was directed at. That could explain less yelling and screaming.

  12. Harper is definitely not 'exponentially better' – he's exponentially worse. Debate is essential – and it's non-existent because Harper would rather shut the doors of parliament than participate in a parliamentary democracy.

    • Give me a break. Harper has been PM for years now, and has engaged in more than his share of debate in Parliament. In fact, many of you complain about that, too, when he does it.

      • I’m hard pressed to remember any real debate. The things that stick out in my mind are shouted accusations of treason (a capital–that is, execution-worthy–offense) and incitements to rebellion against the Crown.

        • Say what?

          • Dense much, _F?

  13. Debate…what debating was happening in Parliament?
    What ideas were the Liberals debating?
    There was no debate…just a media led smear job on our military.
    What proposals of change did the Liberals 'debate'?
    nothing, zip.

    Prorogation gives the media and opps something new to nag and grumble about.

    • The LPC were not criticizing the military, and it is disingenuous to do so. The military by all accounts has been acting in good faith and in accordance with policy set by Ottawa.

      However, apparently the only accountability we deserve is the occasional chance for Liberal, Dipper and BQ MPs to shout accusations at the government. That’s straight from the horse’s former mouth, Mr. Teneyke.

    • So the conservatives are the sole decision makers on what constitutes a real debate and a real issue?

      I find this line of defence from conservative supporters confusing and dishonest. What smear job on the military? It seems as though people like wilson think that asserting something makes it so.

      Why don't you just admit Harper found himself backed into a corner and so took the easiest way out. Only cowards blame the media for their own mistakes.

  14. Jolly decent of Mr. Harper to "give the media and opps something new to nag and grumble about." He's such a giver.

    • Harper is always happy to oblige his opposition and his favourite people in the media.

  15. Honestly, who in the world are some of you trying to kid? Liberals NEVER answered questions asked in Parliament. Chretien was famous for shrugging his shoulders. Paul Martin stood up and accused the Alliance of being racists when asking about Tamil Tigers at a fundraiser. When Stockwell Day got up to ask questions as new opposition leader, he was drowned out by Liberal heckling. Chretien made fun of CCRAP in the house, too, and on and on it goes. Geez.

    But I guess it was all done in the name of liberalism, so there's no limit to its usefulness.

    • I didn't say the answers were answers, if you'll read it again. I said they were more LIKE answers than digs, and they were responses. And of course there were some complete non-answers and changing the subject, like we have today, but I can honestly only think of one time in the past year where I heard an answer to a question during Question Period.

      • Then you're more hopeless than I thought, since QP has always been notorious for governments providing non-answers to questions asked. But one of the reasons I come here to defend the government is because it seems always be held to a ridiculous standard, one which Liberals never have to come even close to achieving.

        • But the times that you are comparing today to never existed. When the government of the day and its players obfuscated around important points there was always the media to take up the torch. But that's been removed from the playing field by a control freak who deems cabinet meetings as secret government affairs, that questions are only answerable when it meets the government's prerequisites, and questioners are prescreened by an always prying government.
          If you really think your Conservatives* are providing enough opportunities for accountability and responding to the duties of Canadians, I dare say you need to get out more. This is not what our forefathers imagined when they began building our democracy.

  16. Question Period has become a joke but the media feels that the official opposition were putting the heat on the government. So much so that Canadians stopped listening a long time ago. An extra couple of weeks is hardly the end of democracy as we know it. Particularly when the government is coming back with a throne speech and a budget. Seems pretty democratice to me. Problem is the opposition will have to either defeat the throne speech and/or the budget or put their money where their mouths are. Shut up and force an election. I suspect more than a few on the opposition benches will be in the EI line.

    • Question period became a joke a long time ago; however, the committee system has been sabotaged just recently. The media has only been blocked out of the game just recently; the independent observers placed in important positions have only been stonewalled recently.
      Your idea of democracy is the kind of solution for men who lack courage and integrity, who today doesn't want to answer elected officials questions; tomorrow they'll want to filter the questions you need to know.

      • My idea of democracy is one where the opposition parties in a minority government work with the government to effect legislation that benefits the country rather than trying to win partisan points which might advance their political agendas.
        You threw out some talking points but lets get real. If as you allege the media is being blocked, independent observers are being stonewalled put forward examples and I would be happy to challenge your assertions. If you don't then they are simply talking points and not worth the bandwith required to write them.
        Your last point appears to be referring to the detainee issue. The fact is there is nothing new but nobody is stopping the committee from continuing their examination once the house returns. Trouble is the opposition are concerned that the issue will die down and maximum political damage will be lost. Sorry too late Canadians moved on after the first week.

    • Too bad conservatives can't seem to think and .. well.. anything else.. at the same time.

      I remember a time when a government could come up with a budget without any extra holidays.

      • Of course that is all that is left for the anti Harper crowd. Simply call people names.

        Trouble with you guys is that Iffy is going to have to make a decision about whether to support the throne speech and the budget. You don't like it one little bit because no matter what decision he makes he is a dead man walking.

        However, you and the rest of you buddies on this board can keep ranting and raving but nobody is listening.

  17. hollinm continued…..

    I repeat you are being overly dramatic as Libs are want to be. How is it being anti democratic to adjourn the House which is the prorogative of the PM for an extra 5 days (after break for Olympics) and come back with a throne speech and a budget.
    You guys need to give your heads a shake. No wonder seriously ordinary Canadians have stopped listening to the ranting.
    Harper is kicking your asses and you don't like it one little bit. Tough…get used to it.

  18. If nobody is listening, then assuredly you're wasting your time here, which would be foolish.

    So are you a fool, wrong, or a liar?