The usual suspects -

The usual suspects


A potentially interesting note from the Globe’s review of changes in Michael Ignatieff’s office.

Instead of a roll call of Liberal MPs posing queries in Question Period, expect a core group of spokespeople, perhaps five or six, to take most of the Commons limelight.

It is tempting to say this is a good idea, but perhaps only because it is any idea. Legislated reform of Question Period should still be considered. But there is probably much parties and members could do on their own. Must each party, for instance, pursue a half dozen different topics each day? Could they, instead, go repeatedly at just one or two topics? Why restrict the leader of the opposition to three questions and other members to two? The most riveting exchange of the past two years was Stephane Dion and Stephen Harper’s back-and-forth of last December. For the sake of the nation, we needn’t go through that exact sort of thing too often, but there is probably something to be said for more often deviating from the routine. Or, for that matter, doing away with much of the routine entirely.


The usual suspects

  1. "The most riveting exchange of the past two years was Stephane Dion and Stephen Harper's back-and-forth of last December."

    that was something else indeed.

  2. I think Libs should focus on the quality of questions they are asking and not worrying so much about who is asking them.

    For instance, I learned this morning that Carolyn Bennett was once a respected doctor before she entered politics. Why don't Libs have Bennett asking proper, tough, questions of the Health Minister instead of having her wring her hands about how provs have to pay for translation services and it's not fair.

    • jolyon, did you miss the time Bennett asked questions about the vaccine and its impact on pregnant women?

      I also think that QP is indeed a useful avenue that deserves good strategy development but let's all keep in mind that most Canadians don't watch it.

      I think that this new Iggy team should focus on caucus cohesion. You can take your message outside of Ottawa but it will do you little good if members of your own caucus are sabotaging you every step of the way by giving anonymous quotes to Taber and others.

      • I thought Bennett's questions about pregnant women were ok but were lost in confusion of whether the adjuvant was safe or not – our health authorities and WHO people didn't really know either.

        I think most Canadians barely pay attention to politics but what little they do see is QP. Having knowledgeable people asking proper questions would do no harm at all to Lib image.

        I think Libs worrying about what effect leaks to Taber have is overblown. Taber writes a political gossip column that some political junkies find fascinating – she has no influence at all with wider public.

        • "I think Libs worrying about what effect leaks to Taber have is overblown."

          I didn't mean to single out Taber. I'm suggesting that laying party infighting in the daily news most certainly has an impact on how Canadians view the party and its leaders. Those news stories are what discredited Dion, more so than the Tory attack ads.

          • I have long believed that Libs talking behind their leader's back is fiendishly clever way to keep Libs in newspapers. Pols bickering with one another is not a story that grabs publics attention but these so-called 'back-stabbers' do make sure that Lib issues stay in the news and so we are constantly talking about them.

  3. great articles – but it was more fun reading the comments from that time – the best part is how almost everyone had any sort of prediction way off base! although you expwect that from the harper hater crowd and hopefully this will cahnge now that Peter D. will be updated the Libbie talking points.

  4. "Their task is to settle the party down, and focus it: to whittle down the cacophony of politics to fewer messages, with fewer spokespeople, and to try to make those messages echo around the country, rather than in Ottawa's beltway"

    Great idea…now please please tell me it didn't just occur to them right now?

    • Libs seem to have completely lost the plot since Chretien quit. I was no fan of his but Chretien knew his onions and understood how to win.

      I look at the Lib party now and wonder how these guys became known as Canada's natural governing party. Libs really seemed to have lost institutional memory on how to behave/win/compete … etc.

      • Thats because they learned how to preserve a lead (being in government) rather than come from behind, to use hoary old sports metaphors.

        The Liberals were used to the trappings and advantages of govenrment, the things they are quick to complain about today. The staff that a PM has available, the information available from the bureacracy. Its just the way it is. They also forgot how to fund raise, how to stay connected to their base etc etc….when the sweet smell of power is gone you forget you have to do other things to attract.

        Dion and his cult were not cut out to be "come from behind guys" and iggy's old team wasnt either. The new team looks more like it.

        As for QP, this comes from discipline, having a strategy, having a message that extends beyond the beltway. QP is an incredible tool for the opposition if they use it correctly….but fiddling about with the number of speakers or number of questions, while good ideas, miss the point entirely. If the opposition treats it as a sideshow and a PR exercise only why are they surprised when the government does as well?

      • Yes i suppose you’re right. I pretty well took it as given that they had sent out the B team once people like Manley walked away. My theory is they just got lazy and lost what political skills they had after 12 years in power – or maybe Chretien just made them look better than they really were – same as Harper does the cons. I’d go even further and say the liberal partie’s been hollowing out ever since PET took his walk in the snow. Maybe that’s a stretch, but they need to find a new mojo. I loved Trudeau myself…but different times…different ideas and so on.

  5. What a difference since the Chrétien days indeed when MPs wanted more independence, more free votes, etc. I was reminded of that lately when they reported on the number of liberals who had voted against the creation of the gun registry – and they were in power with a majority. Even during Martin's tenure liberals were free to vote against their own government. Now we're getting small cliques controlled by strongmen.

  6. I agree with the thrust of your argument that Libs used trappings of power to remain in power.

    "the information available from the bureacracy"

    This made me laugh a bit because Corcoran had interesting article in NatPost yesterday and he made persuasive argument that Health Canada officials lied to a Senate committee about fruit-flavoured tobacco and their obfuscation might lead to a trade war.

  7. Ontario Cabinet Ministers are required by statute to be present in the legislature during Question Period on at least 2/3 of the days the legislature holds routine proceedings.

    I thought that was interesting…