Huffington Post Canada

Mulcair was the one out of line at Question Period

A sad spectacle occurred in Question Period this Tuesday, with an exchange between Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Paul Calandra, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary. Mulcair asked the government whether the Canadian military mission in Iraq would extend beyond thirty days. Calandra responded by questioning the NDP’s commitment to Israel by discussing inflammatory statements made by one of its fundraisers.

Mulcair, with a witty retort on Paul Calandra confusing Iraq and Israel, asked the question again, to which Calandra gave the same reply. After Mulcair tried for a third time, he used his subsequent question to challenge the Speaker’s neutrality.

According to the House of Commons Compendium of Procedure, Government Ministers (or Parliamentary Secretaries acting on their behalf), when responding to a question, may:

  1. Answer the question
  2. Defer their answers
  3. Make short explanations as to why they cannot furnish an answer at that time; or
  4. Say nothing

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The Prince Arthur Herald

Has Harper lost control of his backbench?

Last week, the National Post’s John Ivison wrote an interesting column arguing that the Conservative backbench has lost its fear of Stephen Harper. He argues that “the trained seals on the backbench are biting back and we are likely to see more unsanctioned behaviour in future, as MPs relish their new-found freedom.”

Is the Prime Minister, who for years has kept an extremely tight leash on his caucus, losing control? The answer may be more subtle than Ivison suggests. The Conservative Party of Canada is a broad coalition of interests: social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, economic libertarians, red Tories, and the like. Due to its very nature, this coalition will occasionally pit interests against interests. A successful leader will be able to reconcile differences and hold the alliance together.

The Prime Minister can enforce discipline in a variety of ways. He can promote or demote MPs based on their performance. Harper can kick an MP out of the Conservative caucus at any time. Postmedia’s Stephen Maher argues that it was easier to impose discipline prior to the 2011 election. Some MPs want to get their name in the headlines, while others will speak out when the government does something they dislike.

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