It’s an ambitious plan that rivals the landing of the Mars Rover. It promises to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Of course, I’m talking about NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen’s call for more civility in the House of Commons this week.
Now the call for more civility among the people who are representing us is a tired old refrain. And it’s one that all politicians pound their desks in agreement with when it’s first mentioned – especially at this time of year.
After a six-week break to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s, there’s no doubt the mood will be lighter, more jovial and cordial as they returned to work on Monday. I can only imagine how happy and relaxed I’d be if I had six weeks off with pay over the holidays.
Now where Cullen’s proposal for civility differs from the usual “give-peace-a-chance” mantra used by every politician since confederation is that he’s offering up a series of penalties for the breaching that civility.
Most politicians will simply put that idea on the backburner just like pension reform, government transparency and legitimate expense accounting.
He suggests suspension and, heaven forbid, loss of pay, for those that continue the tired tradition of interrupting, insulting and insinuating that goes on just about every day on Parliament Hill.
“There is no workplace in this country that would accept that kind of behaviour,” Cullen told reporters this week. “So why do we accept it in the House of Commons?”
Probably because the House isn’t like any real workplace in Canada. You can sleep at your desk, shout down suggestions, ignore questions, lie and even threaten a member of the other party like Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan did to Cullen just before Christmas.
So to compare the House of Commons to a “real” workplace is an insult to everyone that works for a living in this country.
However, the idea of penalties for un-civil behaviour is an interesting one. Of course, just like anything in Parliament, it would take a committee to decide what penalties would be imposed and who gets them. I can see the civility theme getting tossed out the window at the first meeting of that probably-partisan committee.
It’s too bad that it has come to this, especially when politicians are rallying against bullying in schools yet they can’t even control the decorum in their own workplace.
If only it was as easy as saying “more civility is needed,” to solve the problem.
Just imagine how that power could be used for good in our area.
No more disputes over sewers and such. Politicians would only need one or two meetings to come up with a reasonable solution to some of these issues. Perhaps the penalty for un-civil behaviour in that surrounding it to get some hands on experience in dealing with the amount of sewage each community produces.
Imagine our local hockey teams working together for a common goal. No rivalry or animosity but shared ideas and common solutions. The penalty for un-civil behaviour in hockey (is that an oxymoron of some sort) would be similar to penalties imposed on soccer teams, which are forced to play their games in an empty stadium. If nobody is watching, is there really anything to fight about?
It seems the Silver City Days committee and the city’s liaison are often at odds and bordering on un-civil behaviour. The penalty would be for the parties involved to take a horde of sugar-charged kids to the midway and shell out the piles of cash needed to go on every ride.
I’m hopeful that even the slightest hint of civility from our national leaders will have a ripple effect throughout the country.
It can be done and has been done locally.
It came to the forefront during the recent meeting regarding the future of Rossland schools earlier this month.
There was a civil discourse for the most part, some interesting back-and-forth between trustees and parents and a general feeling that everyone had an opportunity to speak without being drowned out by an opposing view.
Does that mean the same can be done on a much larger scale on Parliament Hill?
Those people have let us down before with promises of change for the better.
A similar motion was brought up just a couple of years ago but, as always, somehow it falls off the radar for more partisan politicking.
A Canadian Press story explained the rules of Parliament already allow the House Speaker to penalize un-civil behaviours. Yet despite all the antics we’ve seen on Parliament Hill from sleeping to finger-jabbing nobody has been expelled in the last decade.
Former House Speaker Peter Milliken told CP it doesn’t work
“That isn’t much of a punishment. Most members are glad to take off.”
Remember this is a place where an MP can change documents and deny it and still walk away with a pat on the back and a juicy pension. Where a cabinet minister can say that Canadians are on the side of child pornographers if they don’t agree with him.
With those types of attitudes I won’t hold my breath for any lessons in common sense or civility from the house on the hill.