Canadian MP Aims to End Rude Behavior in Parliament

May 20, 2010 Updated: May 20, 2010

OTTAWA—The jeers, insults, shouting, and vague, evasive answers that take place daily during Canada’s parliamentary question period will soon be a thing of the past if Michael Chong has anything to do with it.

The backbench Conservative MP is optimistic that his motion to fix question period, which comes up for debate next Thursday, “can reform Parliament and make it relevant again.”

“I think behavior in question period currently is abhorrent. I think that the level of decorum and behavior needs to be elevated, and that’s what my motion is all about,” Chong said.

“The behavior is terrible, and as a result, the level of debate is extremely low, and the issues that matter to Canadians are not being debated,” he said of the 45-minute parliamentary session when MPs have a chance to hold the government accountable.

“So instead of talking about the economy, environmental issues, the concerns Canadians have about their jobs, question period’s turned into a place where people try to score cheap political points,” he said.

“Elevating decorum and fortifying the use of discipline by the speaker to strengthen the dignity and authority of the House” is one of six changes Mr. Chong’s private member’s motion, M-517, proposes.

M-517 also suggests lengthening the amount of time for each question and each answer. The current 35-second limit is too short for meaningful discussion, and people ask rhetorical questions and give rhetorical answers as a result, the motion states.

Ministers can refuse to answer a question or simply give the question to another minister—another problem the motion identified. M-517 seeks to revisit this convention.

In addition, currently the speaker can only allow MPs to ask a question who are on a list submitted by their party in advance. MPs can’t ask a question they think of during the discussion, and can’t ask any question unless they have approval from their party’s House leader and whip and have their name put on the list.