Parliament has risen for the summer and while the web-site claims they will be back in September, we all know that an election will intervene and neither Chamber will return until at least early December. If there is a change in government – which so many of us wish for – Parliament won’t resume until January. When it does, there will be many new MPs and the same old Senators. But you have to wonder what else might change.
After nearly 15 years on the Hill, I’ll be honest – I’m just as glad to see them all away for six months. The level of animosity has never been higher and partisan motivations colors even the best work being done by individual MPs and Senators as well as committees. Make no mistake – many of the people who serve in Parliament are, by nature and instinct, collegial, but those impulses are crushed and thwarted at every turn by people who frankly couldn’t be elected dog-catcher, that is. the party apparatchiks who operate in every caucus and, most especially, in the Prime Minister’s Office. The boys (and girls) in short pants, one observer has called them.
One of the oddest things to watch – which I did this year – is the final formal day of debate in the House. This is not necessarily the last day they sit but the last day they really do any serious business. The various house leaders get up and tell each other what fine work they do and how pleased they are to work with members of every other party. It is all smiles and glad-handing. Ten minutes later they are back calling each other liars and decrying the worst government that ever existed – except maybe the last one.
It is to some extent a game but increasingly it is also serious. While MPs and Senators have always jousted, there are those today that take it a step farther. They don’t see their opponents as rivals but as bitter enemies; not as people with alternative views but as people who represent and promote evil. It has gone from being ‘just business,’ in the words of the Godfather, to ‘personal.’ This will be nothing new to my US readers but is shocking for us in Canada.
One might hope that the next crop of MPS will come from a more cooperative background. Perhaps if more women are elected that will be the case – they do bring a different tenor to debate. Women can, of course, be as viciously partisan as men but they don’t tend to revel in it in quite the same way. And they don’t get sucked in as often by the antics of men. Just an observation – not a generalization of gender.
And, of course, if, as seems likely, we return to minority government or even a coalition, MPs and Senators will have to work more closely, compromise more and treat each other with a little more respect. If the new Prime Minister is less controlling, individual MPs and Senators may also feel more empowered to do real work for the good of the public and be less inclined to spend their time in partisan bickering.
Let’s hope so. Most of the people who come to Parliament do so with the best of intentions; a fresh atmosphere may let them put those intentions into practice.
And that’s ten minutes.