August 30, 2015


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Capital Chronicles

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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