Roundup: Your quarterly QP hand-wringing

After QP started getting rowdy and loud again in the past week, both in the feigned outrage over the calculated overblowing of the Sajjan situation and Trudeau’s Wednesday proto-PMQs that have given the opposition the chance to be extra vocal in expressing their displeasure of him, we have seen the return of the navel-gazing about what to do about QP. Aaron Wherry muses about the lack of answers despite more questions directed to the PM, while Penny Collenette compares the QP flaying of Sajjan to Senator Don Meredith hiding from the public eye to prove the point about how QP is better because it’s public.

Lagassé raises an important point here – Sajjan is a minister and QP is a forum to hold him to account. Meredith is a senator and not a representative of the government in that chamber. Just as we don’t hold backbenchers up to scrutiny in QP, we also don’t hold individual senators up to the same scrutiny in that Chamber’s version, which is an important distinction. As well, the process around Meredith has been quite public, from the release of the Ethics Officer’s report, to the Ethics Committee’s response and their own report recommending his expulsion (including the legal advice of the Senate Law Clerk). While Sajjan has been exposed to questions about his apparent self-aggrandisement (which, I will remind you, is not actually “stolen valour” as the Conservatives would term it, as that is largely reserved for those who put on a uniform or medals that they didn’t earn – something Sajjan certainly has earned), there has been nothing public in the way of an explanation from Sajjan – only a series of apologies (which, I will grant you, have taken personal responsibility, which not everyone in politics does). While I have a great deal of respect for Collenette, she is comparing apples to hedgehogs.

As for the latest bout of hand-wringing about the state of QP and the terrible decorum in the place, I will point to something that John Ibbitson said on CBC News Network’s Sunday Scrum yesterday – that while MPs could certainly empower the Speaker to crack down harder on it and have him start naming MPs and expelling them from the chamber for their behaviour, MPs don’t actually want to do that. QP is the way it is because that’s what MPs want. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing either – politics needs some theatre, but what we need in this country is some good theatre, rather than this scripted junior high gymnasium play that the history teacher wrote. There are changes that need to happen to make QP better, like eliminating scripts and speaking lists, loosening the clock, and empowering the Speaker to police answers, but so far, MPs have been deaf to those suggestions. So long as they remain so, things will continue in their sad state.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau visited some of the areas of Quebec affected by flooding, and helped fill sandbags. Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to help with the flooding.
  • Only 17 government bills have passed so far this session. Somebody panic and try to change the Standing Orders to ram bills through!
  • Marc Garneau (on the defence procurement cabinet committee) says that “significant” defence spending is coming with the Defence Policy Review.
  • The legal community is starting to get impatient for promised changes that include tackling mandatory minimum sentences.
  • The Commons heritage committee is struggling to finish their report on how to help the news industry.
  • It costs money for upkeep at the official residence at Harrington Lake. OH NOES!
  • Michael Chong talks about how his party is getting in the way of a debate on the environment, and how he’s rejecting the xenophobic impulse others are embracing.
  • Paul Wells gives his assessment of the French election, while Nicholas Köhler talks to the residents of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon about it.