Don Martin: Liberals try to rush rule changes to benefit themselves
Published Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:52PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 23, 2017 9:03PM EDT
Conservative bellyaching which insists the Trudeau government gets a coddled ride from an adoring media is invariably baseless and increasingly tiresome.
But there are exceptions.
Had the Harper government pushed to radically change the way the House of Commons operates in the same full-throttle way Liberals are rushing it forward now, thundering newspaper editorials would’ve condemned the former prime minister for being on a control freak rampage.
It’s a revolutionary step on many fronts and the only support comes from the majority Liberals, whose leader stands to gain the most.
Yet so far in the media…..crickets.
The proposed plan would limit the prime minister’s difficult exposure to opposition questions to just one hour per week.
It would also eliminate the half-day Friday sitting to give MPs more time in their ridings.
And it would replace the historic, but time-consuming, standing vote by MPs in favor of an electronic button push.
I’ll spare you the other inside-baseball initiatives, but it’s fair to say most ideas have successful precedent elsewhere, or merit, and may well have quiet opposition support.
But this isn’t a routine vote on just any old snoozy budget which will quickly be forgotten, and by that I mean yesterday’s yawn-inducing budget in particular.
It’s a revolutionary change to alter the way MPs have worked in Ottawa for 150 years.
That makes it personal to all 338 MPs. And they’re taking the heavy-handed treatment personally, at least on the opposition benches.
Their fury in Question Period on Wednesday was as toxic as anything unleashed during the Harper era.
The budget speech was delayed by half an hour as MPs seethed and a committee studying the plan sat late into the night to prevent a Liberal-ramming vote.
Now, acting unilaterally out of selfie-interest isn’t entirely out of character for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
After all, he killed his signature promise to change the way Canadians vote, partly because it didn’t offer his party any electoral advantage.
Now Trudeau’s pushing to change the way the Commons votes, partly because it limits him to one question period of opposition attack per week.
But to rush ahead on Liberal-only proposals without obtaining all-party agreement or allowing MPs to vote freely on changing their working conditions is unfair.
It suggests parliamentary democracy is being modelled more for elite Liberal advantage than general Commons efficiency.
That’s the Last Word.