The clap

Our MPs need to stop applauding each other

Adam Chapnick claims MPs spend a half hour each week clapping for each other.

In early May, a colleague agreed to the painful task of recording every moment of Question Period that was lost while members waited for the needless applause that follows virtually every comment – a behaviour better suited to a drunken pub rally than to serious debate – to cease.

The experiment suggested that Canadian MPs spend close to 30 minutes per week congratulating themselves for their often obnoxious conduct. Without the cheering, in other words, members could potentially ask and receive answers to 5 additional questions every day.

This seems entirely plausible and quantifies one of the worst aspects of Question Period. Every question from a New Democrat, Liberal or Conservative is applauded and Conservatives applaud every response from the government side. Including applause from their respective caucuses when Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau stand up, that’s somewhere between 75 and 80 rounds of applause per 45 minutes.

There are those who would tell you that desk-thumping is somehow a preferable, or more noble, option. It is actually only a louder option and 75 to 80 rounds of desk-thumping would likely only be even more annoying. Here is evidence from the first session of QP to be televised. Joe Clark is greeted with nearly 30 seconds of noise and then Pierre Trudeau has to stand there for 20 seconds of same. It’s ridiculous. (The Progressive Conservatives do at least seem to refrain from thumping their desks at the conclusion of every question.)

It would be better for everyone to decide that MPs needn’t be treated like six-year-olds, their every utterance and contribution met with supportive applause from their classmates. You’ll notice that British MPs somehow manage to carry on without regular applause. We should hope that our MPs might have sufficient self-esteem to do likewise.

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