Opposition Motion – Changes to Standing Orders

That Standing Order 11(2) be replaced with the following: The Speaker or the Chair of Committees of the Whole, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or repetition, including during responses to oral questions, may direct the Member to discontinue his or her intervention, and if then the Member still continues to speak, the Speaker shall name the Member or, if in Committee of the Whole, the Chair shall report the Member to the House.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I do not think I am alone in feeling a fair degree of shock in the approach taken by the hon. government House leader in his response to an opposition day motion. I am afraid, as much as I could agree with him about partisanship on the part of the official opposition on many matters, that I do not see that as the primary motive here.

Turning the response to a suggestion about how we govern ourselves in question period to produce more respect in the House by once again using it as a partisan platform to attack the official opposition was disappointing. I had expected more, not moving that the question now be put to further reduce our opportunities to discuss this critical matter, taken in the interest of Canadians, in a non-partisan way.

I do not include all the other backbenchers, because, as the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert has pointed out in his new book and as I point out in my book, this place is about holding the Privy Council, the executive, to account. That is responsible government.

What we have is really bad high school theatre masquerading as Parliament. To put an end to that, we should hold ourselves to account and not heckle. We should hold ourselves to account and ask respectful questions, and we should hold the executive to account by expecting responsible, respectful, factual answers. That is not too much to hope for, but the government House leader has once again shown that his party wants to keep us in the gutter.

Hon. Peter Van Loan: On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, I would say that in the time I have been in the House, the one thing I have noticed most of all is that the tone of question period is set by the questions. Almost always, the tone of question period is set by the questions. I know certainly that when I have answered them, I have always answered in kind to the tone of the question that was asked. That is something all should reflect on when there is a motion before the House that is very one-sided and only seeks to affect what the government can do.

I will provide an example. Suppose there was a question, as we have had, on the government’s policy on its recent EI job credit. It is a legitimate question to debate the alternatives. Is the opposition now saying suddenly that the government should not in response compare our policy with the policy, practice, or record of another party and what it did on the same issue in government? Is it saying that this kind of debate is no longer to be allowed? That is what this would do. They are saying that question period is only there for the government to lie prone while opposition members jump at the gun and beat it.

Government would no longer be allowed to respond with the record, statements, or positions of the other side. In fact, debate would no longer be debate. Debate would merely be an attack by the opposition, with no opportunity for the government to respond with comparisons of policies, track records, or approaches. Then we will be spending every day after question period with lengthy points of order debating whether what I said was responsive or was debate on something else to do with their separate policy on the same file and whether it was on topic or not on topic. We could see that this place would grind to a halt.

Debate should be debate. It should be free-ranging. People should be able to have an exchange of views and not a one-sided exchange.