In a recent speech, Michael Ignatieff raised some very good points about what is wrong with politics and political discourse. A lot of his points could apply to our House of Commons.
Ignatieff was right on target when he referred to politicians today regarding each other as enemies as opposed to adversaries. Unfortunately that is exactly how the Conservatives and more lately the other parties, view their opponents in the House of Commons. This comes across in Question Period, committees, and with such issues as prorogation etc. A take no prisoners approach is pretty standard practice.
As Ignatieff knows only too well, those politicians that turn the other cheek to that type of approach or attack will only get hammered on a daily basis. Your choice is to look weak or fight back. Democratic values and principles tend to get thrown out when you are fighting for your political survival or personal integrity.
Question Period tends to highlight exactly what is wrong with much that takes place in the House of Commons. Daily insults, putdowns, and factual misrepresentation are quite common. The daily rant of an opposition questioner gets more coverage than the measured intelligent question of a party leader, leading of course to more rants as MPs search for media coverage to boost their ego. If any of you have had the misfortune to watch Question Period recently you would understand exactly what I mean.
When you combine an inept opposition with a government side that shows little respect for the intelligence of Canadians, you end up with something that is so bad that you can’t even call it a gong show.
For example, the Conservatives still read out their monotonous Member’s Statements or SO 31s, on the NDP carbon Tax. Really folks, those became old after the first few days of use. Somehow I can’t envision someone like former MP Myron Thompson standing up to read out that stuff. More than likely he would have told the boys in short pants where they could stuff their SO31.
It makes one wonder at just how spineless Conservative backbench MPs are when after this length of time they are still standing up to read that nonsense into what will become their personal historic record in the House of Commons. Generations from now that will be their legacy, something I am sure their grandchildren would be proud to know they participated in. Have they no shame? Perhaps the trained seal analogy is fitting.
As for the opposition parties, please get your act together. After this length of time in opposition, one would think they could figure out how to hold the government to account. It is all very democratic for the NDP to spread their questions all over their backbench, but it simply allows the government to bat back a few questions and then treat the public to ministers reading some pretty dull talk points from their notes. Talk points that often have nothing to do with the question asked.
Unless all parties can agree to some basic Question Period reforms, this will continue long into the future. MPs continue to wonder why Canadians have little respect for politicians, yet if they want to know why, all they have to do is tape themselves in action and watch their performance once they return to their office.