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Raucous times in the House of Commons

['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']
['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']

Commentary with Geoff deGannes

When Halifax MP Geoff Regan became Speaker of the House of Commons in late 2015, he put all members of parliament on notice, telling them in his acceptance speech that he would not tolerate a lack of decorum in the House of Commons. 

His efforts to bring about more civility in the house has certainly been tested. I can recall then Conservative Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose pledging that the Speaker could count on the co-operation of her party “at all times and in all situations.” 

In the two years since then, the behaviour of our elected representatives has shown little improvement. One thing that has changed is that the Speaker is calling out delinquent MPs for their bad behaviour which has included heckling and name calling.

Not surprisingly, matters came to a head last week which resulted in Regan taking the rare move of tossing a Conservative MP from the House of Commons. It was the first such expulsion in 15 years. 

Alberta MP Blake Richards has had a reputation for being rather unruly on occasion during question period and in this instance the Speaker had obviously had enough of his antics.

During a raucous daily Question Period that saw Finance Minister Bill Morneau face more questions about his ethics and financial dealings, Regan ordered the sergeant-at-arms to remove Richards from the chamber. 

He first offered Richards a choice to come to order, to step outside, or to be "helped outside." Normally, the Speaker would refer to a member by his or her riding, but in this case he specifically called out Mr. Richards. 

"Naming" is the term for a disciplinary measure invoked against an MP who persistently disregards the authority of the chair, and is considered a "coercive measure of last resort," according to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice book. 

I was surprised to learn MPs are not required to apologize or retract the remark in order to resume their seat on the day after removal from the House.

Unfortunately the Trudeau Government, much like the former Harper Conservative government, has had a propensity to stonewall and its reluctance to give straight answers to the questions being posed by opposition members is creating a great deal of frustration for opposition MPs. However, that doesn’t give MPs the right to subvert house rules and decorum. 

It might be time for parliament to consider allowing the use of wide-angle cameras in the Commons so Canadians can be exposed to complete video coverage and the antics of our six-figure salaried elected representatives. Such transparency might force them to clean up their act and bring about the kind of behaviour befitting representatives of the people. 

In the meantime, Speaker Regan might have to exercise his authority to expel more MPs so that they get the message that such behaviour just isn’t acceptable.

 

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.

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