OTTAWA—Last week’s controversial series of non-sequitur government answers prompted a renewed Opposition bid for parliamentary reform Monday — a motion the government quickly consigned to certain doom.
Even so, the New Democrat motion — designed to give the Speaker more power to block irrelevant answers — seemed to have at least a temporary impact on the Conservatives, who largely stayed on topic during the cut-and-thrust of the daily question period.
The New Democrats had been hoping to extend the Speaker’s authority in the Commons over not just the relevance of the questions being asked during question period, but also the answers provided by the government.
Speaker Andrew Scheer said last week he was powerless to intervene when Tory MP Paul Calandra answered NDP questions about Canadian soldiers in Iraq by posing his own questions about the Opposition’s Middle East policy.
“The most important part of Parliament isn’t the question, it’s the answer,” NDP House leader Peter Julian said Monday in introducing the motion.
“For the Speaker to not have the ability to intervene on the relevance, or on repetition, of answers to extremely important questions that are being asked in the House of Commons is something that I think most Canadians find aggravating.”
But the majority Conservatives argued the motion goes too far and engaged in a bit of procedural trickery Monday to all but ensure it never comes to a vote.
Government House leader Peter Van Loan said the proposal would hamper the government’s ability to defend itself or question the opposition or compare the approaches of other parties.
He called Canada’s question period the most accountable in the world.
“This NDP motion, which is a one-way street, seeks to fully constrain the government without applying any new standards at all to the opposition to elevate the level of question period,” he said.
“This is simply unfair.” […]
The NDP motion comes after all parties in the House agreed to support Conservative MP Michael Chong’s so-called Reform Act, which seeks to provide individual MPs more power to turf their leaders, and to give grassroots riding organizations more say over who represents them.
But in order to win that support, Chong was forced to make its provisions far more flexible — even suggesting that parties could vote at the start of each Parliament as to whether they’d follow the new rules.