The leader of the New Democrats, Jack Layton, has promised his party will strike a more civil tone in the House of Commons. Even his MP from Manitoba, Pat Martin, a self-admitted “loudmouth,” claims to now choose civility. But how likely is the new leader of the Official Opposition to keep his pledge?
According to a report at canada.com, Layton was, in fact, the least civil Parliamentarian in past parliamentary sessions, as analyzed by researchers who monitored Question Period.
The civility index from McMaster University and a Toronto-based research firm [Cormex Research] rated all Parliamentarians who asked or answered at least 50 questions during the last sitting of Parliament. On the scale from zero to 100, Layton was at the bottom of the list at 39, while Conservative MP Rona Ambrose held the highest score for MPs.
“Coders” were trained to monitor Question Period and rank degrees of rudeness based on factors such as aggression and anger.
One researcher suggests that Layton scored low (39) because, as an opposition leader, he’s “making forceful points and trying to put forward a perspective and a point of view.” That being said, we have the case of former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, who scored a 51, which is above the civility average of all party MPs.
I believe Jack Layton’s score is indicative of the NDP leader’s tendency to give credence to that old adage of the pot calling the kettle black, or, perhaps, of the fox suggesting the rules under which the chickens will be penned.
James Cudmore, of the Inside Politics Blog, reminds us of the protesters, who in October 2009, rose in small groups in the spectator gallery of the House of Commons and loudly chanted slogans about the lack of government action on NDP private member’s Bill 311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, temporarily bringing the business of parliament to an unceremonious halt. According to Cudmore, Joe Cressy, a campaign co-chair for Olivia Chow, MP in Trinity-Spadina and Layton’s wife, was a participant in that shameful action. And not just a participant, Cressy, in fact, acted as spokesman for the protesters while still on the Hill.
This is just the sort of stunt—dirty tricks some might say—New Democrats will go for whenever they are not getting their way. They just love this sort of thing.
Fast forward to the Throne Speech earlier today, during which we witnessed an unprecedented act of civil disobedience by 21-year-old Senate page Brigette DePape/Marcelle, who was removed from the Senate chamber during the reading of the speech from the throne. DePape held up a “Stop Harper” sign, while walking out in front of Gov. Gen. David Johnston as he read the speech. Apparently, Senate security decided not to press charges. Too bad.
Any idea which party might have encouraged DePape in this well-organized bit of civil disobedience or assisted with the writing of the formal press release her friend distributed immediately following her thoughtless action? I do, but it would not be civil of me to tell.