Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio's The House, reflects on the debate over the lack of decorum during Question Period, as heard in his weekly radio essay on Feb. 2, 2013.
It's a zoo that needs a strict zoo keeper.
Well, that's what you might think about Question Period if you listen to Cullen. After all, he's put forward a motion to deal with members who use "harassment, threats, and personal attacks."
He's also proposing new punishments like suspending a member's sessional allowance.
The decorum debate has very deep roots.
During the early years of Confederation, historians talk about "throwing of paper, books and other missiles, including firecrackers."
You don't get a lot of firecrackers these days, you're lucky to even get verbal firecrackers.
Cullen is right. Sometimes MPs from all sides do go too far. But isn't that the exception, not the rule?
'When we fail to do our jobs with respect and civility, MPs should lose that privilege' — NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen
And MPs are usually quick to apologize.
And doesn't the Speaker already have tools to deal with those who don't?
In 1987, Speaker John Allen Fraser refused to recognize MP Jim Fulton for three weeks until he finally withdrew his offending remarks.
Is Question Period really worse today?
Compare that to, say, what it sounds like in the UK Parliament.
In the UK, there are rapid fire exchanges, no notes, no reading, heckling, and it's well... riveting.
It makes you wonder, is the problem with QP in Canada really bad behaviour or is it boring behaviour?
I mean MPs here are not supposed to read from prepared notes but they do it all the time.
Does it turn the cut and thrust of debate, which is the point of QP, into a slow swapping of talking points?
Committee meetings are there for more considered debate.
John F. Kennedy once said Winston Churchill marshaled the English language and sent it into battle.
Language is a weapon of politics. Why muzzle it in its best arena?
After all, people do love going to zoo but not if the lions are never allowed to roar.