2.22.2007

question period

Why do so many Americans love the Canadian and British Parliamentary systems? Question Period!
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was shouted down with cries of "shame, shame" during question period Wednesday after he raised a media report that said a Liberal MP is the son-in-law of a man police allegedly interviewed in connection with the Air India bombing case.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion was asking the prime minister about judicial appointments, accusing him of stacking the committees with Conservatives and jeopardizing the independence of the judiciary.

Harper responded that the Liberals opposed the changes the Conservative government has made that give police officers a voice in the process.

But Harper then said he was "not surprised, given what I'm reading in the Vancouver Sun today when I read this is how the Liberal party makes decisions."

"The Vancouver Sun has learned that the father-in-law of the member of Parliament for Mississauga-Brampton South..."

At that point, the last two rows of Liberal benches erupted in shouts, banging on their desks and jeering, CBC's Susan Bonner reported.

"They were ready for this. They were primed and they were angry," Bonner said.

Navdeep Singh Bains, the Liberal MP Harper was referring to, sat with his head down.

House Speaker Peter Miliken tried to get the Liberals to stop. When the shouting continued, he cut off their questioning and went to the Bloc Québécois for the next question.

No matter how many times we see this sort of thing, we can never quite get over it. Is there a progressive American alive who wouldn't love to see Bush or Cheney - or any president! - treated to a round of jeering and desk-pounding? In comments recently, M@ mentioned the level of reverence with which a US President is treated compared with Canada's Prime Minister (more evidence of Americans' authoritarian tendencies). To my mind, nothing exemplifies this more than Question Period.

Last night on "The National" - which I turned on specifically to see coverage of this story - Keith Boag, CBC's Parliamentary Bureau Chief, said, "If there's ever been a nastier Question Period in a Canadian Parliament, no one I know can remember it."

After the cries of "Shame! Shame!" MP after MP called on Harper to apologize, and, as one Member said, "to do the decent thing." But as we know - Maher Arar settlement notwithstanding - apologies are not in Stephen Harper's vocabulary. And if he were going to apologize, why would he have brought it up? It made for some excellent theatre, with the Liberals shouting, Harper forced to stop speaking, and an ostentatious display of support for MP Navdeep Bains.

For non-Canadian readers, the issue itself - what Harper is referring to, what's angering the Liberals - is probably a little murky. But if Harper is making this shit up, then the Liberals are correct: this is indeed a new low.

6 comments:

James said...

As far as I'm concerned, one of the single most important aspects of a democracy is the ability (and duty) to call the guy in charge out, to his face, when he does something stupid.

That, and the ability to vote the bum out as needed, rather than on a schedule.

M@ said...

What, the Fox News Press Gallery Show, with witty and charming host Tony Snow, is not enough for some reason?

sharonapple88 said...

In my opinion, this was a low blow. Could it be possible that you oppose your methods and extending the anti-terrorism act because you think it's wrong, not because you'd benefit from it ending? This should have been a debate on ideas and policy, instead it gets down to smearing and jeering. It's sad.

But, I'll admit a bias. Bains is my MP and a rather soft spoken and polite individual. He gained a lot of my respect for voting for same sex marriage and even defended his position to a powerful Sikh religious leader.

As for his father-in-law, according to the CBC, the RCMP are interested in interviewing the man because he'd met some of the people involved in the bombing and not because he's a suspect.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/02/21/harper-house.html?ref=rss

L-girl said...

Sharonapple, I agree. An incredibly low and skeevy blow.

(Nice to see you around here, too.)

L-girl said...

And also, I remember reading about Navdeep Bains voting for SSM. I was impressed. It's another reason I feel good about Mississauga.

M@ said...

I've been wondering about Bains. I remember him being on the screen a lot during the Liberal leadership conference. Really interesting. I'm extremely happy to see he voted for SSM, too -- the right LOVES to trot out visible minorities who are against teh gay.

It will be interesting to watch him over the next few years. I think Harper's going to give up on Bains's riding for the next election, at least.