Roundup: Space to socialize

Amidst the growing buzz of MPs’ bad behaviour, whether it’s ejections from the House of Commons during QP, or the allegations of inappropriate comments at events as with James Bezan and Sherry Romanado, Kady O’Malley says that the presence of cameras hasn’t been a guarantor of good behaviour. And that’s fair enough. So what does she propose? Not to do away with the cameras, particularly in the Chamber itself, but rather creating the conditions by which MPs can spend more time together outside of the strictly partisan work situations.

More to the point, O’Malley suggests that MPs start sharing meal breaks, whether it’s in the cafeteria, or has been proposed earlier this session with a common space behind the Commons chamber where they can eat together rather than having the usual food services delivered to their respective lobbies on either side of the Chamber. It’s not a novel idea, given the fact that it was shared meals used to be a feature of how our parliament operated. Evening sittings happened three nights a week, and at the appointed hour, they would suspend debate, head upstairs to the Parliamentary Restaurant for a couple of hours and there was cross-pollination of socializing between the different parties. And lo and behold, when evening sittings were abolished in the name of being “family friendly,” collegiality between MPs took a hit.

The problem with simply creating a space behind the Commons for MPs to have that meal together is that it’s pretty much restricted to those who are stuck with House Duty, so the numbers at any given time would be pretty small, and I’m not sure that it’s enough to get a big the requisite sea change happening. Maybe the answer is to bring back evening sittings – it’s not like there’s a lack of legislation that could use the added time – but even there, part of what kept MPs at the parliamentary restaurant is that there was a dearth of other options in the area, which isn’t the case any longer. So while I don’t dispute that more opportunities for MPs to socialize is a good and necessary thing, I’m not sure that the conditions to make this a broader issue are really there any longer.

Good reads:

  • At a rally in Florida, Donald Trump made up a bunch of numbers about the trade balance between the US and Canada (and Mexico, for that matter).
  • The CRA is backing down and will review the files of those diabetics whose tax credits they rejected. The new disability advisory committee was also announced.
  • Mélanie Joly says that it’s not her job to tax Netflix, but Bill Morneau’s – she’s only responsible for culture.
  • Despite the Liberals cancelling plans for new Super Hornets, Boeing isn’t backing away from their trade complaint against Bombardier.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that in some situations, text messages can still be considered private, even when on the receiver’s phone.
  • The Lobbying Commissioner nominee told the Senate that she’s open to tweaking the lobbying Code of Conduct, but it won’t be her first priority.
  • Susan Delacourt reflects on the career of outgoing Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
  • Chantal Hébert looks at the possibility that the next Chief Justice will be Richard Wagner, a Harper appointee.
  • Martin Patriquin looks at how changing attitudes in Quebec are letting the Liberals get away with things that would have been anathema a few years ago.
  • Colby Cosh walks us through how hardening attitudes in China led to a lack of cooperation with Trudeau on starting trade talks.
  • My weekend column looks at the sticky question of who should be sponsoring bills in the Senate (and wonders just what Senator Harder is doing with his budget).

Odds and ends:

A new Senate Ethics Officer has been nominated – Pierre Legault, who has been doing the job on an interim basis since June.

2 thoughts on “Roundup: Space to socialize

  1. I’d add that, even after the abolition of evening sittings, there were lunch breaks in the House calendar until 1994. You wouldn’t have to bring back evenings in order to provide opportunities for cross-party meals.

    I think you’re right, though, that such a strategy would have little chance of success. Almost all provincial legislatures have lunch or dinner breaks built into their sitting schedules (I think Nova Scotia is the only exception), and I see no evidence of greater collegiality there than in Ottawa. Also, remember that when the Reform Party came to town, they announced that they were boycotting the Parliamentary Restaurant because it was “subsidized by the taxpayer”!

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