Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Pollcast: Question period is back next week, so how can it be fixed?

After taking questions directly from Canadians in town halls across the country for two weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returns to Parliament Hill next week to face opposition questions in the House of Commons.

To some, the town halls seem to be a better way of holding the prime minister to account than the daily theatre of question period. So does what happens in the House of Commons — unwatched debates, pre-determined votes, unanswered questions and all the heckling — matter?

Peter Milliken was the Speaker of the House of Commons from 2001 to 2011. He joins me to discuss the importance of what happens in Canada's Parliament, the role of the Speaker and how decorum in the House might be improved by the current Speaker, Geoff Regan.

You can listen to the podcast heresubscribe to future episodes here, and listen to past episodes here.


  1. OK Today is Jan 26. On the Don Martin show Don at the end says the Libs are not going to do anything about FPTP amd it will go one. Good IMO

  2. The purpose of Question Period (to get actual information from Ministers as to what they are doing) has been largely forgotten since the era of cameras in the House, but the 45-second time limit for questions and answers drops all pretense that any meaningful information will be exchanged. Maybe more MPs can ask questions but it completely removes any possibility of staying on a subject for more than one or two sentences.

    1. But that 45 second limit is sure going to shut the likes of Mulcair down !!

  3. In regards to the debates in Parliament, I think the banning of written speeches is the exact opposite way to go.

    I would also encourage use of technological devices.

    When the M.Ps have to debate without written text except for notes, it stands to reason that many of the arguments presented will not be well thought out and even with notes many of the facts presented may not be accurate. I can see why hardly anybody watches these debates and I suspect even most M.Ps don't take them seriously.

    Of course, I realize that with the whips being so powerful that most of the debates are likely just a regurgitation of party talking points.

    While I appreciate the idea of extemporaneous debates, I think the negatives I've presented here outweigh the positives and I also think that is based on a false notion that somehow the ability to 'think on one's feet' is the only valid form of thinking or debate.

  4. So, I personally would encourage debates to be more like seminars where technology is used and the factual evidence is written down and shown on screen.

    I think, even with power of the whips, that would lead to the debates being taken more seriously (at least by some) including by the M.Ps themselves.

    Many people who watched the debates would likely find the information contained in them to be more useful if the information is shown on screen in the form of charts or graphs or whatever visual approach fits bets for the information. Many people are far more visually inclined than verbally inclined.

    I also think this would be useful in the leaders debates.

    I think there can also be a hybrid system, where the first speech and rebuttal are in this form, and the subsequent debate is extemporaneous cut and thrust.

    I think this 'thinking on your feet' notion of what constitutes a debate is long outdated.

    I'm sure my view is fairly contrarian, but can anybody say the present debate format for both the M.Ps in the Commons and in the leader's debates are taken all that seriously?


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