Thursday, May 26, 2011

NDP Take High Ground

A shrewd little move by the NPD on "decorum" in the House of Commons, which denotes an accurate read of the public mood. The NDP will voluntarily establish a sort of code of ethics, no heckling:
Jack Layton and his fellow 102 NDP MPs will not heckle or behave badly in the House of Commons. The new Opposition Leader made this commitment Thursday as he unveiled a 43-member shadow cabinet that will go toe-to-toe with Stephen Harper’s 39-member front bench.

Mr. Layton says Canadians sent him back to the Hill – with a much bigger team – to fix Ottawa. Hence, the no-heckling decree

The above is the kind of symbolic gesture that the NDP excels at. It projects a party trying to operate differently, trying to change the toxic tone in Ottawa that EVERYONE agrees is unattractive. It's sort of a no brainer pledge to be honest. What I find frustrating as a Liberal, how we continually give up this sort of messaging, particularly when there is absolutely no downside to speak of. If only we had thought of this idea first. Oh wait, we did, well some poor sap did anyways:
November 2008:

Canadians aren't watching Question Period, a combination of past disgust and present apathy, the daily proceedings of Parliament, mostly inside the beltway stuff, with little resonance in the real world. That plain reality means all the back and forth is irrelevant, which then means, a party which defers doesn't lose anything, they don't suffer, in fact they could potentially gain. What if the Liberals just remained silent when people like Baird hurl the invective? Would it matter with the Canadian public? Absolutely not, so you then conclude, there is nothing to be gained politically from engaging in low road rhetoric in Parliament.

However, there just might be something to be gained, if Liberals came out with their own code of ethical conduct, a template for how Liberal MP's will act, respond and conduct themselves, with the general thesis, a respect and reverence for their place of work, a signal to Canadians that Liberals want to rise out of the gutter. Let the Conservatives act like clowns, Liberals merely sit on their hands, act respectful, ignore, patiently proceed, it really could be a public relations coup.

The reason nobody cares about Parliament, anybody who has viewed proceeding is quickly put off, die hard junkies aside. If Liberals developed a code of conduct, it would be a small gesture to express a desire to operate differently, endorsing the view that Parliament can do better, the institution has lost the public confidence. What do the Liberals have to lose? You lose the small satisfaction in telling Flaherty what a cad he is, or making jokes, or moaning, but again, all that crap gets you nowhere with the public, so what does it matter? Turning the other chin however, in deliberate fashion, might just get some traction, if there is knowledge that the conduct isn't random, but part of a more overarching theme of a Liberal standard.

MP's have already alienated the public, so to continue with the nonsense simply reinforces the irrelevance. Never mind the Speaker of the House, Liberals would be wise to voluntarily develop a different approach, that brings no political risk, and just might project something attractive to people, who are otherwise indifferent.

Someone should hire that clown ;)


susansmith said...

It was a super suggestion Steve back in 08 and glad it is happening now. I remember when Broadbent came back to parliament, sat one term in office, and didn't run again, saying that the place had changed greatly when he was there before - he too was disgusted with how adults acted towards one another.

And you are not a poor sap!

Steve V said...

But a clown :)

CK said...

Not impressed.

I was at a CAPP Montreal meeting a few weeks before the writ was dropped. Con MP Michael Chong was the guest speaker. He, of the private members' bill M-517, to reform Question Period. Now, Steve, you know that there are not too many people out there who have as much disdain for the Cons as much as I do, so if I'm actually saying something somewhat positive about one of them...anyway, Chong told us that his M-517 did not get any support from ANY of the leaders; not Harper; not Iggy; not Duceppe and not Layton. Just sayin'.

Steve V said...

That is disappointing, but I think this move by the NDP is a good one, the optics feed the narrative of bringing something different to the table.

Anonymous said...

I am personally glad that Jack made this statement, if only for completely political purposes. This is because I simply do not believe he will be able to keep it. I think the NDP are so self-righteous in the belief of their cause that once those public service job cuts begin, they will have a caucus stroke opposing them at question period. What I think does not come across to many Canadians is how good the Conservatives are at question period. They are good at heckling, but they are artists at the subtle verbal jab when answering questions. In the face of this, I see the NDP becoming partisan hacks of the first order within a year. Who wants to put money on it?!

sharonapple88 said...

What I think does not come across to many Canadians is how good the Conservatives are at question period. They are good at heckling, but they are artists at the subtle verbal jab when answering questions.

That an interesting point: the NDP made the promise to be more civil, but the Conservatives haven't. There are some MPs you know the Conservatives might try and break like Pat Martin. It'll be interesting to keep a civility watch.

Tof KW said...

I don't think it will last, but at least the beginning of the 41st parliament stands a chance to be more civil. With a majority now, the CPC may finally break out of campaign-mode for the first time since 2004. And if our 308 MPs begin acting like adults again, then the NDP can crow about 'changing' parliament.

But if Harper's loudmouths can't help themselves and continue to act like frat-boys, then Layton just says they tried and no one can fault them.

It is a shrewd move, they don't lose either way.

Steve V said...


I have to admit Pat Martin is hilarious in Committee.

sharonapple88 said...

I have to admit Pat Martin is hilarious in Committee.

Personally, I hope he's on a few of them and that they give him plenty of pencils. ;)

ricky said...

I know all party's in the house are to blame for the way it operates. I do however believe that Layton means it this time.

Pat Martin is an entertaining MP for sure, he will however have to keep it to the committees as QP will see him smacked down by Layton should he get out of hand.