View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Landing blows with a dull thud – Cornwall Ontario – September 22, 2010

Cornwall ON – The much anticipated question period rematch between the opposition parties and the government ended up being a pretty dull affair. The Prime Minister not only looked bored part way through it, but he had very little ducking and weaving to do to avoid the blows of opposition MPs.

With the economy, their jobs and pensions on the minds of Canadians, the opposition parties decided it was better to offer up a smorgasbord of questions on issues that were so stale they were well past their best before date. For the most part government ministers would be forgiven if they had to blow the dust off of their old speaking points from weeks ago in order to answer questions. No one on the opposition side landed a knock out punch or even came close to doing so.

On economic issues the Liberals at least led the way with some six questions. Ignatieff performed well and I particularly liked that he was able to ask his questions without holding a piece of paper in his hand. He looked less of the professor delivering a lecture and he was certainly more confident than I have seen him in awhile.

It’s too bad that MPs are allowed to read questions and ministers allowed to read back answers. Removing the MPs notes would eliminate a lot of the fancy over the top rhetoric as they seek to read their well crafted 10 second clip into the record. On the government side it would eliminate a lot of the push back quotes they use to smack down the opposition MPs.

Another interesting move was Ignatieff copying Harper and addressing his questions while facing towards the Speaker. Technically all questions go through the Speaker, but facing the Speaker allows you to take a breath, get your sentences ready and you are not looking at the antics taking place on the other side of the House. When this was first done with Harper in 2006, the House did not have a camera on the angle which would show a frontal view of the Prime Minister answering questions. When it became obvious that he was going to keep doing this, a camera was repositioned. This was the same problem with the Liberal leader yesterday as he was shown standing sideways addressing the Speaker. However, if he continues to do this, there is a good chance a camera will be moved to cover that angle.

In general decorum was better than it has been with all MPs making an effort to control their behaviour. We will see if that lasts beyond Wednesday as question period takes place after the caucus meetings and traditionally Wednesday has always been the noisiest and roughest day in question period.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

BugaboosElect Gary Samler


  1. Keith: Agree with you absolutely about MPs reading from notes. Good grief, if you can’t prepare well enough ahead of time to stand up and speak, you have no business being in the HOC. We are talking about Parliament (Parlement en français), not Lecturement. Have notes handy for a quick glance, just in case; but on no account read from them. Reading from notes is an insult to your audience, and that is true of any public-speaking forum.

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