NDP motion to reform QP defeated despite Tory backbench support
3 Conservative MPs break ranks to support bid to boost Speaker's powers to police question period
Despite winning the support of three Conservative MPs, the New Democrat bid to boost the power of the Speaker to police non-responsive answers in question period has gone down to defeat.
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On Tuesday night, the House voted 144-132 to quash an NDP motion that would have tweaked the House rules to give Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer the authority to shut down ministers and parliamentary secretaries for failing to stick to the topic when replying to opposition queries.
But three Conservative MPs broke ranks with their colleagues to support the motion: Michael Chong, James Rajotte and Brian Storseth.
A fourth, Susan Truppe, accidentally voted for the motion when her seatmate, Chong, rose to do so during the yeas. Immediately after the roll call had finished, she clarified that she wished to be recorded as opposed.
Hours before the vote was scheduled to take place, New Democrat MP Peter Julian has launched a last-minute campaign to convince Conservative backbenchers to back his bid to give the Speaker the power to crack down on non-responsive replies during question period.
On Tuesday morning, he sent an urgent missive to his colleagues across the aisle, imploring them to support his proposal.
"This motion is a non-partisan, modest step that would allow the Speaker to put an end to the type of embarrassing — and totally irrelevant — replies that we all had the misfortune of witnessing last week," Julian wrote.
It was, of course, a reference to the brouhaha that ensued after Conservative MP Paul Calandra responded to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's questions on Canada's military deployment in Iraq with an attack on the party's position on Israel.
Calandra later apologized for his conduct.
"The motion would simply enable the Speaker to ensure that the response has something to do with the question," Julian added.
And although he acknowledged that the move "will not cure all that ails our democracy [or] even all that ails question period," it will "ensure that ministers and parliamentary secretaries are required to at least attempt to address questions that are asked of them."
Mulcair joined the call on Tuesday afternoon with a tweet inviting supporters to sign a "Fix QP" petition:
During question period, both Julian and his caucus colleague, Megan Leslie, had challenged Government House Leader Peter Van Loan to make it a free vote, but the government House leader refused to answer.
Chong was the only Conservative to speak out in support of the motion during debate on Monday.
The full text of the Peter Julian's letter:
NDP MP Peter Julian writes to Conservative MPs seeking support for QP reform motion (PDF 100KB)
NDP MP Peter Julian writes to Conservative MPs seeking support for QP reform motion (Text 100KB)CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content