Let the people ask

Michael Ignatieff’s relating yesterday of a question from a young man named Derek harkens somewhat to a program the Reform party attempted upon arriving in Ottawa in 1994.

In ye olden days, during those dreary days before electronic mail, Preston Manning’s side set up phone and fax lines to receive questions from average Canadians that could then be put to the government of the day during QP. Manning’s second question of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, in fact, was asked on behalf of Dr. Dean P. Eyre of Ottawa.

A week later, Reform MP Randy White attempted to relate a question from Raymond Watts of Surrey, but was admonished by the speaker of the day, Gilbert Parent, on procedural grounds. It’s unclear, at least to me, how much longer the program lasted. Its existence was still being boasted about a month later, but by the end of that year, the Reform side had more or less abandoned its larger goal of turning QP into a genteel exchange of relevant information.

The general notion though of constituent questions is quite central to Michael Chong’s hopes for QP reform.

“I don’t think that the behaviour is a result of the fact that we have a somehow lesser group of Canadians representing us in the House of Commons. I think this is entirely driven by the format,” Chong told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday evening.

“It used to be the case that up until the 1980s, members of Parliament had the right to rise in the House, catch the eye of the Speaker and ask questions of the government, questions that were driven by the concerns they heard from their constituents in the previous weekend when they returned home to their ridings. That is no longer the case.”

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