Video: Must-see QP — John Baird's direct answers

Your daily dose of political theatre

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.

The must-see moment

“Today’s QP will surely not be much more helpful an experience than any during the era that preceded Calandra’s mea culpa,” I wrote earlier today, forecasting blasé, canned, brain-meltingly frustrating exchanges during question period. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan’s insistence, earlier today, that Tories wouldn’t support new rules that force relevant answers from their side in QP, fuelled my predictable pessimism. How wrong I was, at least when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was on his feet.

Megan Leslie, an NDP deputy leader, kicked off QP in her boss’s absence. She asked if the government will eventually send fighter aircraft to Iraq with the intention of conducting air strikes. Baird said the government remained unsure, but is considering its options after its initial 30-day commitment expires. Leslie asked if the government would bring a combat mission to the House for a vote. Baird said the government would do that. In fact, he repeated the same answers several times as opposition MPs, sticking to their rehearsed plans, continued to pelt Baird with nearly identical queries about what’s happening in Iraq and what might come next.

Baird’s replies, during which he grew increasingly exasperated, were by no means bulletproof. He mentioned that the United States had asked Canada to offer more assistance in the Persian Gulf—a claim that doesn’t tell the whole truth, given that the American request came after a Canadian offer. Still, the foreign minister’s efforts gave hope to the notion that question period is not exclusively an exercise in parliamentary evasion. One small step for Baird, one giant leap for—well, at least a small step for the House of Commons.

The recap

The context

Federal politicians and the people who watch them spent much of week talking about MP Paul Calandra, a parliamentary secretary who, to put it lightly, tested the definition of a relevant intervention in Question Period. Aaron Wherry wrote a lot about each episode in that long week of parliamentary introspection, beginning at the beginning. Paul Wells reflects on Calandra’s extraordinary apology at the end of the week. This morning, the House debated relevancy, and specifically considered an NDP motion that would force the government to answer questions more directly during QP.

The Speaker or the Chair of Committees of the Whole, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or repetition, including during responses to oral questions, may direct the Member to discontinue his or her intervention, and if then the Member still continues to speak, the Speaker shall name the Member or, if in Committee of the Whole, the Chair shall report the Member to the House.

Wherry tweeted several reactions we ought to consider as QP returns this afternoon.

Everybody who sits in the House appears predictably entrenched in their positivons. Today’s QP will surely not be much more helpful an experience than any during the era that preceded Calandra’s mea culpa.