Wednesday, June 01, 2011

House of Commons 43: Pay-per-view

People like to believe that historically the House of Commons has been civil and accommodating to all views; this ties in to our beliefs about the nostalgia of 'olden days' which we picture with glassy-eyed reverence, imagining a 'simpler time' when people were so mannered and polite, as if we didn't have more motivation to be by virtue of the police's reduced ability to solve murders. They like to think that problems were solved by hearty, respectful debate, and that now the HoC is no better than a kindergarten classroom.

We are, apparently, not. The latest survey being flogged by the rags discusses the civility ratings of various MP's, based on a subjective scoring of their mannerisms during question period. The speaker rated highest at 80 out of 100, which personally I think means the scoring should only be done out of 80, considering the speaker is intended to be the most fair, impartial, and balanced out of everyone. Edmonton's nemesis Rona Ambrose rated next highest, but I will refrain from comment on why that might be. It was notable that the Ignatieff and Layton both scored quite low on the survey, especially considering their desire to "bring back civility" which prompted subdued titters from the newspaper as they pointed out the hypocrisy in bringing back something that one is unable to maintain in one's self. (This is called "The Timberlake")

I will likely draw flak for defending Layton here, but I cannot help wondering, "who the hell cares about civility?!" Many parliaments are known for their violence and disorder; the British, whom we draw our Westminster style from, are forced to keep two red lines on the floor, which MP's are not allowed to cross, simply to maintain a vague semblance of order. Their debates are, nevertheless, quite rowdy, including laughing at raunchy jokes, and occasionally hollering so loudly that all debate is stymied. Perhaps they are too established to change their ways, but the lack of decorum rarely seems to slow them down, for example one minister simply slowed parliament to insist a councillor withdraw his insult of "miserable pipsqueak" before pressing on to more important matters (interestingly, he only insisted that "pipsqueak" be withdrawn.)

As for our 'history' of civility, our very own father of the country, John A McDonald, once charged an MP.
Charged him with what?
Oh, no, literally charged him: Like a bull. Are we suggesting we should be better than the man who was our first great leader? Another member, Arther Bunster, was famous for his fist fight in parliament back in 1878. Even just watching the live broadcast of the house reveals a plethora of snide comments, witty asides, and sharp digs that rarely make the news anymore but help, I think, to make the whole dry process a little more interesting. We vilify our representatives if they are caught wasting time on distractions - why not let them make it a little more interesting, especially if it bolsters interest in the process by the average citizen?

Can't get enough of political brawls? You're welcome.

No comments: