During the election campaign I asked then Conservative candidate David Wilks about the tone in Parliament. Over the past while question period had degraded to little more than a partisan shouting match and heckling. Here’s what he said:
“The decorum in Parliament, from someone that has been in municipal government for nine years, is disturbing.”
“I don’t know how we’re going to get back to that because it seems that’s how they play in Ottawa. There needs to be some civility brought back to it because people see it and they go, ‘Oh my God!’”
They were encouraging words from the man who is now our Member of Parliament. Encouraging but short lived. Here’s what he had to say about the opposition NDP in the House of Commons last week, taken verbatim from Hansard:
Mr. Speaker, the NDP of the radical hard left do not know the first thing about governing. Ask a British Columbian or Ontarian who had to put up with its members in power.
While Canadians remain concerned about jobs and the economy, the NDP is having a gut-wrenching debate about whether or not it should remain committed to its reckless, hard left, high tax, socialist principles.
The NDP radical left remains committed to pro-drug policies and anti-trade policies. The NDP opposes Canada’s leadership as a clean energy superpower. It even questions its commitment to federalism, with calls to repeal the Clarity Act.
The NDP proposed child care from birth to age 12, a 45-day work year and a 50% hike in the pension plan, policies that would cost billions.
The radical hard left NDPers should stop and think about the real priorities of Canadians: jobs and the economy.
That doesn’t seem like the best way to bring back “civility” to the House of Commons. Of course, partisan attacks like that are nothing new in parliament but normally they come during debates or question period when the opposition has a chance to respond tit-for-tat.
Wilks’ attack came during the “Statement by Members” portion of Parliament – a period during the day where MPs can say what they want without anyone else being able to respond. According to Aaron Wherry of Maclean’s magazine, the period is normally where MPs pay their respects to recently passed constituents or champion important causes and events.
In fact, during the day where Wilks made his statement, several MPs used the period to thank their volunteers and constituents for their support; Conservative Paul Calandra spoke of the opening of a new branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, his colleague Michael Chong said the government needed to work to block a massive gravel pit and the NDP’s Claude Gravelle paid respect to two dead miners in his riding. Several MPs made partisan statements touting their own party’s policies.
Only Wilks, who spoke last, used the opportunity to make a scripted partisan attack. Granted, as a backbencher he was most likely told to do so and handed a script by Conservative party officials. Still, if he was serious about “civility” and “decorum,” surely he could have found another backbencher to recite those words.
The time would have been better spent touting the need for upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway – after all, he did say he would make that his priority once in Ottawa.
On a side note, I will give credit to Wilks for arranging a meeting with the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District. He did say he would make an effort to meet with local governments so it’s nice to see him doing that.