Mulcair questions House Speaker's neutrality
Published Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3:13PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3:50PM EDT
Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair questioned House Speaker Andrew Scheer’s neutrality Tuesday after his questions about Canada’s mission in Iraq went unanswered by the government during daily question period.
Mulcair opened question period with three questions about the Canadian advisory mission in Iraq. Paul Calandra, Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, replied by questioning whether an NDP fundraiser’s criticism of the Israeli Defence Forces represented the party’s position on Israel.
Mulcair countered Calandra the first time by saying that he was “talking about Iraq,” and asked a second question about the number of Canadian soldiers that had been deployed as part of the mission.
Calandra followed with the same answer about Israel.
Mulcair reminded Scheer that there are “rules in the book” about question period. “You are our arbiter. We ask you to enforce the rules,” he said, before asking another question about Iraq.
After Calandra repeated his remarks about Israel, Mulcair stood up, looked at Scheer and said: “Well Mr. Speaker, that does not speak very favourably about your neutrality in this House.”
Mulcair’s comments were met with both applause and catcalls in the House. Scheer revoked the rest of Mulcair’s questions, and recognized Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, allowing him to ask his first question.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May immediately tweeted her surprise at the exchange, as did numerous journalists sitting in the public gallery.
Wow. Mulcair just attacked the Speaker's neutrality. That's really shocking. We have to rely on the his neutrality. Even as a principle.#GPC— Elizabeth May MP (@ElizabethMay) September 23, 2014
After question period, Mulcair said he asked “straight-up questions” that “required straight-up answers.”
Calandra’s replies had “nothing to do with the questions,” Mulcair told reporters outside the House.
He vowed to continue to “defend the importance of question period as part of parliamentary life” and ask questions on issues of national importance.
“All we can do is hope that the rules of Parliament will be enforced and respected,” Mulcair said.
Trudeau said the exchange between Mulcair and Calandra was indicative of the “degradation of the integrity of parliamentary discourse,” and a “statement on how parliamentary activities have become debased and partisan.”
He added: “I look forward to the Speaker continuing to behave in a responsible and impartial manner.”
This was not the first time Mulcair has criticized Scheer for how he has performed his duties as Speaker.
In February, Mulcair got up in question period and accused the Conservative government of cheating as he asked questions about the Fair Elections Act.
Scheer asked that the word “cheating” not be used during question period, but Mulcair continued to do so.
At the time, Scheer also took away Mulcair’s questions.
In January, Scheer scolded Mulcair for his questions about an RCMP investigation into former senator Mac Harb, which Scheer said had nothing to do with government business.