Bob Rae on the state of Parliament

'It's all based on the premise of deep control'

From the interim Liberal leader’s exit interview with Tom Clark on Sunday.

Tom Clark: You and I have been doing interviews for a few years shall we say, yeah, more than a few years. You’re probably one of the most unscripted politicians I know. You don’t use talking points. You don’t use notes. You don’t even prepare for Question Period, it just happens. Talk to me a little bit about what you see in terms of the state of our parliamentary democracy right now, where everything seems to be read from a sheet of paper and there doesn’t seem to be that spontaneous engagement in public policy. What are your thoughts on that?

Bob Rae: I think it’s too bad, I mean yeah, I think you’re right. The only thing I’d say in my own defence is I actually do prepare for Question Period. I think there’s a big difference between being unscripted and unprepared.

Tom Clark: You make it look as if you don’t prepare which is the sign of a great actor.

Bob Rae: Well that’s what you have to do and yes there’s always time and moments for spontaneity but you have to know how to pivot. And I think there’s a whole lot to be said for that as what we look for in parliamentary committees and elsewhere. I also think that the scriptedness of it is really just the tip of the iceberg because it’s all based on the premise of deep control, of an effort to control message but also control response and muzzle people, and you know the ad campaign that you see and all this stuff, it’s all part of the same approach. And I do think it’s a terrible abuse of democracy generally and I think our whole political culture is suffering badly as a result of that. I think it’s very, very unhealthy.

Tom Clark: Give me some historical perspective because you’ve been around an awfully long time in politics; you’ve survived a long time. Was it better 30 years ago? Was it better 40 years ago?

Bob Rae: It was less scripted and it was more spontaneous, and it was more engaging. I mean you know when I first came into Parliament, Mr. Trudeau was the prime minister and I was sitting in the back row of where I’m sitting now. That corner seems to be sort of like my place. And Mr. Trudeau he would occasionally engage. He would get up and say well….sometimes a backbencher asked a question of the prime minister and now Mr. Harper will very, very rarely get up unless he’s got something he really wants to say. But sometimes Trudeau would just get up and just sort of okay buddy, let’s talk about this.

Mr. Rae and I talked at length about Parliament in 2011.