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Time to Reform Question Period

May 10, 2010

If one thing has been made abundantly clear to me during my time as a Member of Parliament, it is that ordinary Canadians are disappointed with the behaviour in Question Period and want to see their Parliamentarians focus on the issues that really matter, instead of cheap political point scoring.

Question Period is the 45 minute period each day where Members of Parliament ask questions of the government in order to hold it to account. Question Period is televised and each day its proceedings are relayed to millions of Canadians by the national media. The centre of our democracy is Parliament, and the centre to Parliament is Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons.

Over the years the level of debate in Question Period has eroded. This concern has been voiced by teachers and by truck drivers. It has been voiced by Grade 5 students and by boardroom executives. In fact, teachers have told me that the level of behaviour is such that they will not take another class to see Question Period. This is the surest sign that Question Period must be reformed.

As a result, there is a growing divide between Canadians who are turning away from politics, and a Parliament that is more and more partisan. We need to bridge that gap by reforming Parliament and re-gaining the respect of Canadians.

That is why, on May 27th, I will move a motion in the House of Commons to reform Question Period. My motion contains six specific proposals to focus Question Period on the issues that really matter to Canadians. The six specific proposals would:

• elevate decorum and fortify the use of discipline by the Speaker,
• lengthen the amount of time given for each question and answer,
• require that Ministers respond to questions directed at them,
• allocate half the questions each day for backbench Members,
• dedicate Wednesday exclusively for questions to the Prime Minister, and
• dedicate the rest of the week for questions to Ministers other than the Prime Minister.

If the motion is adopted, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will be ordered to consider these reforms to Question Period and report back recommended changes to the House within six months.
Colleagues of mine in the House from both sides of the aisle have been enthusiastic about this motion. In fact, it has been seconded by 20 members from three different parties, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Canadians are hungry for change and for reform. I’m optimistic that Parliamentary reform can re-connect Canadians who feel disengaged by behaviour that would not be tolerated around the kitchen table. I’m optimistic that we can reform Parliament and make it relevant once again.

Canadians want Parliament reformed. They want their democratic institutions fixed and they want the level of debate elevated. This motion is a first, but important, step toward Parliamentary reform.

If you wish to find out more about this motion please contact me at chongm@parl.gc.ca or at (866) 878 5556.


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