Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
A whole new world
Newly elected speaker Andrew Scheer proved he wasn’t all talk about improving decorum during the first "real" question period of the new Parliament.
(There was a QP Monday but Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t there).
Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin stood to ask a question about the government’s plans for the Canadian Wheat Board and why they weren’t going to have a vote among prairie farmers to determine what they want. Saskatchewan MP and parliamentary secretary for agriculture David Anderson’s response to the first question was above board. He said farmers weren’t given a vote when they were forced into the CWB monopoly.
But when Martin went for a second question, asking what research the government had done on the potential impact of ending the CWB monopoly, Anderson laid bare with an insult.
"Mr. Speaker, we can see why the member has been moved off the portfolio that he had before, because he made as much of a fool of himself on that as he is on this issue.
"We have a letter—"
And with that Scheer stood up, cutting Anderson off from the rest of his answer and called for the next question.
After QP, Anderson stood to apologize, although he didn’t really seem too apologetic, since he said he was sorry but adding if he wanted to he could "give an explanation why I said it."
After QP, Martin said this was the first time in the 14 years he’s been an MP that he remembers a speaker cutting off an MP in mid-sentence like that.
"There has been times where Peter Milliken asked somebody after question period to withdraw remarks they made during question period. It’s the first time I remember where they stood up and cut the mic off because you know, as soon as the Speaker stands, the microphones go dead. So I was very impressed. You can be civil without — you can be passionate and still be civil and you can be civil without being timid and you can be aggressive. You know, I will still go into the corners, I just won’t have my elbows up and I expect the same from the other side."
Martin has been one of the worst offenders for raising the heat of debates, but he recently pledged to lead the way to a more civil Parliament. He printed up buttons and received permission from Scheer to wear them in the house. (In Latin, they say "I choose civility.")
Martin has said if he can be more civil, anyone can.
For the most part QP has been far quieter. There is still a bit of heckling from the Liberal benches. Apparently the decades of experience in the House have created some tough habits to break for the Grits. So far, Jack Layton’s edict to his crew to refrain from heckling seems to be holding.
If Scheer continues to lay down the law against insults, this Parliament really does have a fighting chance at being better behaved.
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About Mia Rabson
Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.
Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.
She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.
Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.
Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.
In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.
She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.
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