Senate Question Period: Oh, you'll soon have an audience, senator ...

… an audience of one, at the very least, that is — just as soon as ITQ is able to persuade the Senate Speaker to allow journalists to bring BlackBerries into the gallery.

From yesterday’s statements (emphasis added):

Hon. Bert Brown: Honourable senators, I rise today to support the recent comments of Senator Stephen Greene concerning the purpose and usefulness of the Senate Question Period.

I concur with Senator Greene that Question Period in this chamber appears to be of little value since all or the majority of all questions directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate take a form that can only be viewed as severely partisan and in opposition to present or past policies of the government in the other place. There are already three opposition parties in the other place that have the constitutional obligation to oppose the government in session. I cannot find any words in the Constitution that require the Senate to function as a fourth opposition party to the government.

I agree with Senator Greene that Question Period has no audience and, therefore, no real purpose beyond demonstrating partisanship. This partisanship takes a form by which we witness up to 58 senators opposite questioning the single Leader of the Government, not once, but again and again with supplementary questions already answered.

I hope Senator Greene’s comments will lead to some consideration of using Question Period for committee work, reports or debates on future legislation. It is worthy to note that since the recent appointment of 18 senators, an increased number of senators speak in the chamber and committee hearings for the interests of their home provinces. That is interesting because the Constitution states that senators shall represent the provinces.

Just because we’re not in the Chamber doesn’t mean we aren’t paying attention to what’s going on, senators. I know for a fact that I’m not the only journalist who makes a habit of reading Senate debates, and I promise you that when I’m able to drop into the Chamber without dropping off the face of the earth as far as silent communication with the outside world, you’ll see my face in the gallery on a regular basis — and not just during  QP, either.

As for the “partisanship” of having opposition senators lining up to question “the single Leader of the Government”, it would behoove all and sundry to remind themselves that someday – maybe sooner, maybe a long time into the future, but someday – the situation will be reversed, and it will be Conservatives asking the questions. Shouldn’t that future Senate opposition have the right to hold the government of the day accountable?

(Just a note: As promised, I’ll be posting excerpts from the debate over C-10 later today, but if you can’t wait, you can read the whole thing starting here.)

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