Tag Archives: Parliament

A lack of decorum in the House of Commons

Ian Capstick points out this Macleans post which points to this video of House of Commons speaker Peter Milliken reminding members of Parliament that they shouldn’t be attacking each other personally in the House.

It’s kind of sad that this video exists at all. I haven’t watched question period recently, and I don’t know what specific incident prompted this, but I’ve watched enough to say that this could be read after question period on just about every day the House is in session. Members are banging their hands against their desks, applauding, booing, yelling incoherently, and just plain heckling people on the opposing side.

Why is this?

Is it tradition? We take our parliamentary system from the British, and a look at their house shows an even worse situation when it comes to respect of honourary members. But we’ve grown past a lot of our traditions.

Is there some other reason that this background noise is necessary when people are asking others politically-loaded questions? Maybe it’s like a laugh track on a sitcom. The cheers and jeers tell us subconsciously whether we should accept or reject a particular person’s point of view, since we’re too stupid to judge the questions and answers on their own merits. But, of course, for every cheer there’s a boo, so it all kind of washes out in the end.

Is it to keep the ratings up? Nobody wants to hear politicians asking and answering questions. But when they quiz each other to the background noise equivalent of “OH NO HE DIDN’T!”, it suddenly becomes more fun to watch. The rest of parliamentary sessions, which include statements from members, petitions, or the dedication of National Honour Your Garbage Collector Day, are dreadfully boring. The yelling might just be to wake us up so we know to pay attention, the equivalent of those sound effects machines on morning radio.

Sadly, none of these explanations instill in me much pride at being represented by this government.

CBC report is a no-brainer

This week the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage came out with a report on the CBC (PDF link). In it, the group of MPs make important recommendations about the future of Canada’s national public broadcaster.And by “important,” I mean “mind-numbingly obvious.”

Reading the recommendations spread over 200 pages, it seems clear MPs were phoning this one in, wasting paper to convince the boss that they were working hard, but in essence just regurgitating what they were told without any new insight whatsoever.

After meeting with dozens of high-profile witnesses, here are some of the recommendations they’ve come up with:

  • More regional programming
  • More drama
  • More diversity
  • More Canadian content

Wow. Really? Way to go out on a limb there.
The best, though, was their recommendation about the Internet, an area that the CBC has been pioneering, not just compared to other broadcasters but most newspapers as well:

The Committee recommends that CBC/Radio-Canada continue to develop its Internet presence and to make its content accessible online for Canadians.

Scandalous, isn’t it?

There are some few nuggets of thought buried here, although they’re all vague on the detailos:

  • Encourage net neutrality, because of the “serious consequences” it might have on the CBC. (Read Geist’s take on this)
  • Force an analog TV shutoff date, like the U.S. will have next year. Their reasons: everyone else is doing it, and not having HD here has left us behind. To deal with the number of people who like to receive over-the-air analog TV (like people in Kamloops), they propose someone else come up with the solution, which might involve having the government pay for free converter boxes for everyone.
  • Develop partnerships with the National Film Board, and get the CBC involved in making feature films (a recommendation the Conservatives call “unacceptable” because it is outside the CBC’s mandate)
  • Decrease reliance on television advertising. Here, even the Conservatives agree that more government funding to make up for less advertising is the answer here.
  • More transparency in funding, including an annual report that allows people to make comparisons between the successful Radio-Canada and the sucky CBC.

What gets me most about this report is how much they drop the ball. Instead of being leaders and making tough calls or bringing forth new ideas for the CBC, this committee takes almost every major issue and asks the CBC to come up with its own solution.

I realize Members of Parliament aren’t experts in broadcasting. But if they’re too useless to come up with anything good, especially after talking to so many real experts, why are we wasting all this time and money on this report?

I don’t read many Commons committee reports. Maybe they’re all like this. If so, colour me jaded.

The least they could do is hire some copy editors. Its formatting is horrible, there are plenty of typos, and it even gets Radio-Canada’s website wrong.

I’d like to think the government is better than this.

(Strangely, the Conservative Party’s minority report makes a lot more sense to me, showing that the real policy wonks are wearing blue, not red. They argue that the report was supposed to be about public broadcasting in general, not the CBC in particular, and that making recommendations about the CRTC is outside the report’s mandate. It also points out not-so-subtly that many of the recommendations are obvious no-brainers.)

If you want more sleep-inducing word-filler, read the CBC’s brief response that says nothing.