Not any more

MPs bring curtain down on Parliament’s ‘kabuki theatre’ – The Globe and Mail

In Canada on October 7, 2010 at 09:41

1. In search of decorum. Glen Pearson, the thoughtful Liberal MP from London, Ont., calls it the “most shameful 45 minutes in any parliamentary day.” He voted Wednesday night to do something about it – throwing his support behind Conservative MP Michael Chong’s private member’s bill to reform Question Period.

In fact, Mr. Pearson seconded Mr. Chong’s motion – a Liberal supporting a Tory as a way of showing the bill has cross-party appeal. It passed 235 to 44 with support from all parties and from the Tory front bench, although Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not there to vote.

The daily question and answer session – described by some as “kabuki theatre” – has become the face of Parliament for Canada. But bad behaviour, antics and mud-throwing is turning Canadians off politics.

Mr. Chong is trying to fix this. “His idea for change and progress were sound, and when it finally passed at the end of the evening there was hope that perhaps we might turn a corner,” Mr. Pearson wrote on his blog.

Mr. Chong’s bill is now off to committee where it will be, as Mr. Pearson says, “sliced and diced.”

Here’s what Mr. Chong’s bill is calling for: giving the Speaker a formal mandate to be more of an enforcer on MPs who behave badly; giving MPs and ministers more than the 35 seconds they are given now to ask and answer questions; and designating one day for the prime minister to field questions.

Mr. Pearson noted that even Mr. Chong’s own party tried to push through amendments Wednesday night that would water down his proposals. “But his best friends at that moment were Liberals and the NDP. In voting down the amendments, they cleared away all the rubbish that had coagulated around his initiative and opted to move his original motion.”

2. Read it first. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are accusing Michael Ignatieff of “opportunism and self-interest” after a report his Liberals are planning to force an election over next year’s budget.

One problem: there isn’t a budget yet.

“That Michael Ignatieff is rejecting the Budget before it is written is another example of his opportunism and self-interest,” the Tories say in a memo circulated Wednesday night to supporters and MPs. “The next Budget will be the next step in Canada’s economic recovery. An unnecessary, opportunistic election would put that recovery at risk.”

The strategists were reacting to a column by La Presse’s Vincent Marissal in which he quotes a “source close to Michael Ignatieff” saying that “it’s pretty clear to everyone that we cannot support the next Budget, and we will launch an election campaign this spring.”

Indeed, speculation on the Hill is that the Harper minority government will not last long after next year’s budget. Many observers think the Liberals would look weak if they continued to support this government.

But even a week in politics is an eternity. And right now Mr. Ignatieff’s office is playing down any election speculation. Still, the Liberals are pretty bullish, believing things are turning around especially after Mr. Ignatieff’s pledge this week to boost support for caregivers of sick relatives and loved ones.

Says a senior Ignatieff official: “The Conservatives are so desperate to change the channel off ethics investigations and RCMP probes that they have apparently taken to reading tea leaves.”

The official suggests, too, that rather than accusing Liberals of spouting off before having all the information that “Mr. Harper and his Ministers should read our Liberal Family Care Plan before loudly protesting their opposition to new support for family caregivers.”

3. Parliament, Pisa and NYC. Laureen Harper turns Parliament Hill pink Thursday night.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and turning the Centre Block pink is part of a campaign by Estée Lauder. It is the 11th anniversary of the cosmetics company’s Global Landmark Illumination Initiative.

Mrs. Harper is the company’s Pink Ribbon Ambassador and she’ll flip the switch that will set the Cenre Block ablaze in pink. And when that happens the Parliament buildings join Niagara Falls, the leaning tower of Pisa and the Empire State building as some of the famous landmarks that have been turned pink.

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