How to make QP worth your time -

How to make QP worth your time

It’s easy. Just don’t expect normal human behaviour in the House.


Adrian Wyld/CP

“I have noticed, obviously, NDP members’ instant opposition to the Canada-Europe trade deal.” —Prime Minister Stephen Harper, during yesterday’s Question Period

Hang around too close to someone who watches Question Period every day, and you’ll notice their unique brand of cynicism. They lament that government benches produce few answers. They don’t appreciate the various half-truths that fly across the floor. They can’t stand the rhetorical pretzels, or hyperbolic gems, or mumbled talking points. They keep watching, fascinated by politicians at work, but always turn it off in a huff—or just deflated, incensed that democracy has it so bad.

For those cynical addicts, there is but one solution: appreciate the madness. Parliamentary privilege allows our elected representatives to say all kinds of things they can’t say outside the chamber. They all know that. Many exploit that. Truth is no longer a prerequisite, and politics is never really about truth. Throw out those expectations and the House of Commons is bearable.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and his backbench army repeatedly frowned about the NDP’s apparent opposition to free trade with Europe. Strictly speaking, the NDP doesn’t oppose free trade with Europe. The Conservatives cherry-picked the words of a single New Democrat in Newfoundland, and selectively quoted NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s opinion of free trade’s potential effect on dairy farmers. Officially, the NDP just wants to see the text of the deal—a request that may or may not be fair, but certainly isn’t opposition.

Except in the House of Commons, anything that’s not explicit support is opposition.

Paul Calandra, the new parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, is a bit of a hot dog. As such, he’ll be a star in the House. Yesterday, he was asked about details of Sen. Mike Duffy’s conduct related to a Deloitte audit into his Senate expenses. Some government somewhere might have answered that question.

Except in the House of Commons, any statement must explicitly serve a party’s interests.

Duffy? Ew. Calandra would much rather talk about Senate reform. “Mr. Speaker, we have put on the table many reforms to the Senate. We think that the Senate should be reformed or abolished. It is something we restated in our throne speech.”

The government believes the Senate should be reformed or abolished. Get it? Never mind that no one on the government side seriously considered abolition for most of the last eight years. Never mind that the government side sometimes criticized the NDP’s demand to abolish the Senate as unrealistic. The government now thinks the Senate might need to vanish. Some government somewhere might have remained consistent on an issue so fundamental to democratic institutions.

Except in the House of Commons, history is irrelevant until it’s convenient. What matters today, and possibly tomorrow, is that the government might want to abolish the Senate. The government needs you to know that, and only that.

When politicians take their seats, they require explicit support for their beliefs, are unable to serve anything but their own interests, and often don’t care what they said yesterday. So be it. Let them embarrass themselves. And pass the popcorn.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Mike Duffy‘s lawyer claims the PM’s Office forced Duffy to repay expenses.
National Post Duffy’s lawyer claims the PMO also wrote Duffy’s media lines on expenses.
Toronto Star Duffy’s lawyer claims the PMO initially approved Duffy’s residency.
Ottawa Citizen Conservatives in Ottawa worried Duffy might go on the offensive.
CBC News Members of a Greek Roma community are charged with abducting a girl.
CTV News The PMO hoped it could avoid political embarrassment on the Duffy file.
National Newswatch Duffy’s eligibility to sit as a PEI senator remains a matter of debate.

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