For most Canadians who pay any attention, Question Period is the only part of the parliamentary process they see; unfortunately, it is probably Parliament's least important activity and the one that shows politicians in their worst light
Question Period is I rooted in the centuries-old British parliamentary system A parliamentary system, also known as parliamentarianism (and parliamentarism in U.S. English), is distinguished by the executive branch of government being dependent on the direct or indirect support of the parliament, often expressed through a vote of confidence. . It is designed to make sure that government is accountable to the people. All questions and answers are formally addressed to the Speaker of the House. The process gives MPs a chance to question the government on matters of state.
While some say Question Period is the essence of accountability in our democracy, others describe it as very bad theatre; a show that is about making speeches, not about seeking information.
"Question Period has always brought out the juvenile in MPs," writes Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson Jeffrey Carl Simpson (born 1949 in New York City, New York), is a renowned and successful Canadian journalist. For the past 23 years he has been The Globe and Mail . "...it is the sheer intellectual emptiness of the whole affair that leaves such a bitter aftertaste aftertaste /af·ter·taste/ (-tast?) a taste continuing after the substance producing it has been removed.
n. ...It's rough-and-tumble stuff at the best of times, the continuation of the election campaign by other means, the opposition's best platform... questions (are) designed exclusively to catch the media's attention...(and) you wonder why we in the media get sucked into playing the game every time."
An editorial in the same newspaper expresses another view: "Parliamentary debate Parliamentary Debate is an academic debate event. Most university level institutions in English speaking nations sponsor parliamentary debate teams, but the format is currently spreading to the high school level as well. ...is a form of combat -- the combat of ideas. At its best, the combat is governed by the rules of chivalry chivalry (shĭv`əlrē), system of ethical ideals that arose from feudalism and had its highest development in the 12th and 13th cent. : no shooting the wounded, no dumdum bullets Dum´dum bul´let
1. (Mil.) A kind of man-stopping bullet, designed to fragment inside the body and thus inflict a severed and painful wound; - so named from
"Trying to make it otherwise is both futile and destructive...It is vital that different views should be exposed to the most thorough, intense, and rigorous debate. It is inevitable, and in fact desirable, that the debate should be passionate, open, and unrestrained.
"...Nor should we quiver at the sound of invective or sarcasm, properly used...(to effectively make a point)
"Like it or not democracy is a noisy business."
The Question Period broadcast began in 1977. If politicians were previously putting on a show for their colleagues, their audience multiplied dramatically when the cameras started to roll. It may not be primetime TV, but the "political theatre" starts at 2:15 every afternoon (11:15 a.m. on Fridays). For 45 minutes members of the federal government respond to carefully drafted questions, mostly from the opposition. The otherwise quiet House of Commons House of Commons: see Parliament. swells with politicians, press-gallery members, and crowds of spectators.
The curtain rises and the stage is set for politicians to try to get their message across.
Here's a typical exchange from April 1997.
Chuck Strahl Charles Strahl, PC, MP (born February 25, 1957 in New Westminster, British Columbia) is a politician in British Columbia, Canada. He is a Member of Parliament in the governing Conservative Party of Canada, and is the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. , Reform MP for Fraser Valley East Fraser Valley East was a federal electoral district in British Columbia, Canada, that was represented in the Canadian House of Commons from1968 to 1997.
This riding was created in 1966 from parts of Fraser Valley, Kamloops and Okanagan Boundary ridings. rises to ask a question about employment. Mr. Strahl prefaces his question with a pungent pun·gent
1. Affecting the organs of taste or smell with a sharp acrid sensation.
a. Penetrating, biting, or caustic: pungent satire.
b. attack on Liberal Party patronage appointments. This is a frequently used strategy and is tolerated by the Speaker, up to a point. If the partisan attack goes on too long the Speaker will direct the Member to ask the question. In this case, Mr. Strahl limits his statement to three or four sentences before asking his question: "Will the Prime Minister drop the Liberal agenda and come down to the people's agenda of jobs for ordinary Canadians, not just highly placed Liberal
Of course, Chuck Strahl is not really expecting a meaningful answer to so loaded a question. Deputy Prime Minister A Deputy Prime Minister or Vice Prime Minister is, in some countries, a government minister who can take the position of acting Prime Minister when the real Prime Minister is temporarily absent. Sheila Copps Sheila Maureen Copps, PC, HBA, LL.D (hc), (born November 27, 1952) is a Canadian journalist and former politician.
Copps is a second-generation member of a political family that has dominated Hamilton-area politics on the municipal, provincial and federal , sitting in for the Prime Minister, gives a typically meaningless response: "Mr. Speaker, I find it slightly hypocritical hyp·o·crit·i·cal
1. Characterized by hypocrisy: hypocritical praise.
2. Being a hypocrite: a hypocritical rogue. on the part of the Reform Party --"
Oops. Ms. Copps has gone too far and the Speaker stops her. Members are not allowed to call each other hypocrites, or liars, or a number of other things. So, the Speaker warns Ms. Copps to watch her language. Unaffected by the reprimand REPRIMAND, punishment. The censure which in some cases a public office pronounces against an offender.
2. This species of punishment is used by legislative bodies to punish their members or others who have been guilty of some impropriety of conduct towards them. , Sheila Copps carries on: "Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party is publicly decrying the government for making investments in very important job creation issues. However, just before Question Period the Member for Edmonton Southwest Edmonton Southwest was a federal electoral district in Alberta, Canada, that was represented in the Canadian House of Commons from 1988 to 2003. Demographics
Population, 2000 102,210
Population density (people per km²) (the Reform Party's Ian McClelland Ian G. McClelland (born 22 June 1942 in Trail, British Columbia) was a member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2000.
McClelland studied Photographic Technology at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and graduated from there in 1965, then began a business ) slipped me a note asking if he could get a $40,000 government grant for someone in his constituency."
Chuck Strahl expresses outrage: "Mr. Speaker, I will let the member from Edmonton deal with this issue of funding for a centre for the handicapped. She can deal with that herself. It is interesting: once a rat packer, always a rat packer."
At this point, Ian McClelland, angrily yelled at Ms. Copps using a couple of swear words for which he was later hauled on the carpet.
Mr. Strahl launches into another attack: "Day after day the papers are revealing more about the avalanche of pre-election goodies being poured out by Liberals for Liberals...
And, so it goes, as insults are traded back and forth. Notice that at no point does anybody, questioner or questioned, address the issue of employment for Canadians.
The media compounds the problem. When Question Period is over the reporters pounce on Ian McClelland and grill him about the obscenities he used in the House.
While Question Period has been described as a relatively fact-free and low-fibre show, it's also seen as a primary way for everyone to learn what issues and politicians are hot.
Members want to give messages to their voters when they speak, up in Question Period. They're telling their constituents at home their Member of Parliament is on top of a particular issue.
If substance is not a top priority, style, and performance are. Cabinet ministers huddle with their staffs each morning to prepare for Question Period. They try to anticipate what questions will come up and rehearse their "answers." But, however well prepared, ministers must still be able to think on their feet and deal with the unexpected. Those that can't do this are likely to be savaged brutally. The whole process can be very intimidating even to experienced lawyers (which many MPs are).
It's a tough act which one observer says Prime Minister Jean Chretien handles well: "When he sits down after he's [been] asked a question, he'll glance our way and smile and kind of indicate that it is a bit of a game. I think he's quite good at fuzzifying and putting across this image of just a regular guy."
Those who can play the role are "rewarded" immediately after Question Period in the lobby outside the House of Commons. That's where journalists and politicians "serum," a term derived from rugby. (Oxford Dictionary defines the word as tussle, confused struggle, brawl.)
Watching reporters question MPs as they leave the House of Commons after Question Period might give the impression that it's the politician's who are under fire. In fact, the politicians control the game. In spite of seeming to be under siege, they can choose which questions to answer and when to move on.
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney avoided the serum but sometimes spoke from a side stairway stairway
Series or flight of steps that provides a means of moving from one level to another. The earliest stairways seem to have been built with walls on both sides, as in Egyptian pylons dating from the 2nd millennium BC. , always making sure he was physically several steps higher than the hordes Hordes may refer to:
(2) Posting derogatory messages about sensitive subjects on newsgroups and chat rooms to bait users into responding.
(3) Hanging around in a chat room without saying anything, like a "peeping tom." for quotes," as both sides call it.
Not all MPs leaving the Commons are of interest to the waiting journalists. As the big stars leave, one of the serum explains that they "form around lesser lights, like moths This is an incomplete list of species of Lepidoptera that are commonly known as moths. Large and dramatic moth species
"Some opposition members stroll through several times, [looking] for microphones, occasionally getting nibbles, often being ignored."
In 1994, MPs pledged to make the House of Commons Question Period a more civilized forum for high-minded debate. But within an hour, it returned to "what it has always been -- a chance to try to score political points in the guise of soliciting information from government ministers."
1. "Question Period is that important high profile that (MPs) ignore at their own peril." Do you agree or disagree with Verb 1. disagree with - not be very easily digestible; "Spicy food disagrees with some people"
hurt - give trouble or pain to; "This exercise will hurt your back" this statement. Why? Discuss ways in which Question Period could be improved.
2. Have students watch Question Period which is broadcast daily on the Parliamentary Channel C-Plan when the House of Commons is in session. Ask students to discuss what they've seen and what it tells them about the democratic process.
In 1991, it cost an average of $8,000 to research a question placed on the written order paper for Question Period.