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.

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