"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


From time to time, the exasperate Speaker of the Bow-Wow Parliament has had to try and cajole the Bows and the Wows into respecting the convention — for some reason it has never graduated to the status of a Standing Order — that Question Period questions, and their answers, be kept brief:

The Chair notes that - I will not take any time from Question Period - these last exchanges have been averaging about one minute and twenty seconds, one minute and thirty seconds, on both sides the House. I ask members if they could keep their questions shorter and also keep their answers shorter.
On Monday, the Premier sought to throw that already dishonoured convention out the window:

PREMIER WILLIAMS: First of all, Mr. Speaker, if I might ask yourself, and Opposition, if there are going to be several questions here, if we can have some extended time for answers and extended time for questions, if necessary, because of the importance of this matter, I would ask if that is okay?

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier has asked for extra time to answer questions, and I guess the same can be said for asking the questions. The Speaker, as a servant of the House, will take guidance from the House. If that is agreeable to all members present, then we can allow for the questions to be asked and ample time given without trying to stay within the forty-five second time limit. I seek guidance.
Quid. Pro. Quo. The Opposition tried...

MR. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we certainly have no question with anyone on the other side taking an extended period to give an answer. In view of such importance, as well, we have extensive questions. So maybe the government would consider extending Question Period if we need to ask our questions.
... and failed:

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, in terms of an extension to Question Period, that is another issue which we can deal with at the appropriate time. For now, I think there is an understanding that if questions are a bit longer than normal and if answers are a bit longer than normal, then there is an agreement that Your Honour will take under advisement, I guess, the fact that both sides of the House have concurred in that happening.
So, despite the Premier’s protestations, even on Monday:

The other thing is my preference would be, quite frankly, not to discuss this matter at all because it is before the inquiry, but because of the importance to the patients, their families, and the issues, then I am certainly quite prepared to discuss them, as far as I can go.
it turned out to be, with over 4,500 words attributed to him by the Hansard editors, the ninth-most prolix day he’s ever spent in the House of Assembly, and the fourth-most verbose he’s had as Premier; and all of it on the one topic.

Yes, that one.

Then, as if to conclusively prove how much he really didn’t want to talk about a matter before a judicial inquiry, and then having bent the rule-like things of the House of Assembly in order to be able to talk, lots, about a matter before a judicial inquiry, he even scrummed (scram? scrim? scrome?) outside the House in order to talk, even more, and without benefit of privelege, about the thing that he doesn’t think anyone outside the inquiry room should be talking about:

Outside the House, Williams stressed to reporters that officials believed the testing issue was "under control" during the 18-month period in question.
Fast-forward a day. Suddenly, the Great Lawyer™ But Lousy Parliamentarian™ rediscovers that legislatures, like courts, have these weird things called rules:

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that we will now seriously consider, as a government, whether we will continue to answer questions on that inquiry. We are going to go to the inquiry now and we are going to seek direction. I ask the Minister of Justice to go to the inquiry and seek direction as to how far we can go in this House with regard to the details of the inquiry and subpoenas and what is proper procedure and what is right and what is wrong because, as I said yesterday, there is a process that is going on here. So I qualify my answer to you on tabling subpoenas. We will take direction from the inquiry on this.

This is about letting this inquiry go its full process. We cannot usurp the authority of that commissioner down there and we cannot start to try and make decisions here in this House of Assembly as a result of this kind of questioning as to what people in the civil service have received subpoenas. I will get a directory out tonight and I will phone everybody in the civil service and I will ask them if they haven’t, and if I am allowed to give you the information, then I will.

Tip #1: he should remember to use a hands-free device.

Tip #2: the phrase he’s looking for is sub judice. As in the sub judice convention.

Look it up in Beauchesne or Marleau and Montpetit.

Monday, he bent the rules and conventions of Parliament in order to talk about It.

Tuesday, he summoned the rules and conventions of Parliament in order not to talk about It.

Forget a week – what a difference 24 hours can make.

And there are two more sitting days to go this week alone; many more between now and the May long weekend.

Is it too late to call a 2.5-week St. George’s Day break?


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