Change to question period style 'a team decision,' Mulcair says
Published Tuesday, December 17, 2013 4:33PM EST
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says “it was a team decision” to change his question period style to the widely praised short, pointed queries that he has been firing at the Conservatives on the Senate scandal.
In a sit-down interview with CTV’s Power Play, which named him one of 2013’s “Power Players,” Mulcair said he and his young staffers have fun devising his question period strategy together, “usually (with) a smile on their faces.
“Sometimes the schoolboy howlers that they write for me don’t quite make it into the House, but most of it does because it’s really well thought out,” he said.
But the decision to move from a more long-winded style to the short, sometimes-yes-or-no questions that zero in on one issue came after one of his closest advisors reminded him that as a lawyer, he should be used to asking focused, pointed questions.
“If you’re giving a long preamble, you’re essentially giving them a choice of what part of that long preamble to grab onto and answer … and then (the prime ministeris) off the hook for the rest of it,” Mulcair told Power Play host Don Martin.
“If you ask a very short question that’s basically a yes-or-no question that he knows the answer to, if he doesn’t answer or if he gives you something you’re putting aside for the next time, any contradiction in that allows you to say, ‘Well, both of those things can’t be true.’”
Mulcair says his repeated questions on the details of the still-unfolding Senate scandal have put Prime Minister Stephen Harper “on the defensive.”
But he said the opposition’s role is to hold the government to account.
“That’s part of democracy. You apply for the job of prime minster; you’re supposed to like answering questions or at least do the job of answering them, even when they’re tough,” Mulcair said.
Mulcair acknowledged that the government isn’t always answering his questions, no matter how direct they are. And he said that while voters don’t wake up each day thinking about all of the goings-on on Parliament Hill, “Canadians are judging” the government’s performance, including other actions, such as shutting down debate by invoking closure and moving parliamentary committees in camera.
“The Conservatives confuse public interest and their partisan interest. They shut them down constantly because they don’t want to look bad,” Mulcair said. “Canadians are saying ‘hold on, these are our democratic institutions, this is something that belongs to all Canadians.’ They sense that the Conservatives don’t respect that and that’s really starting to make it through.”
Mulcair figures he will have little trouble carrying his question period momentum into the New Year, with the Senate scandal sure to remain in the headlines due to ongoing police investigations.
“The average Canadian looking at this now, when they’re talking to me from coast to coast to coast…people are saying the same thing: ‘We’re very glad at the job you’re doing, you’re asking the exact questions that we would be asking of them,’ and we will continue that.”