The Cullen plan for civility

The NDP tries to improve decorum

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen has now released his proposal for improving decorum in the House. Here is the motion he hopes to put before the House.

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to recommend changes to the Standing Orders, procedures and practices to increase the authority of the Speaker in order to impose disciplinary measures against Members who use harassment, threats, personal attacks, or extreme misrepresentation of facts or position in the House, particularly regarding Statements by Members and Oral Questions, including:

i.  Revoking questions during Oral Questions from parties whose Members have been disruptive
ii. Issuing a warning to Members for a first offense
iii. Suspending Members from the service of the House for one sitting day for a second offense; five days for a third offense; and twenty days for a fourth offense
iv. Suspending Members’ sessional allowance for the duration of their suspension from the service of the House

And that the Committee report its findings to the House within six months of the adoption of this order.

The penalties are an interesting touch, but ultimately this will come down to a discussion of where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and that gets tricky very quickly (what constitutes an “extreme misrepresentation of the facts” and who will judge that?). Which is not to say that discussion shouldn’t be had. It should be and it will be valuable and I look forward to hearing it.

This is similar, in method, to what Michael Chong proposed for QP reform: charging a committee with studying the issue around certain parameters and suggesting changes. To get the sort of debate, consideration and buy-in from other MPs that is going to be necessary to make changes to the standing orders, this is probably a reasonable way to go about it (as opposed to simply using a private member’s bill to propose changes).