Cullen endorses call for question period clean-up

MPs voted 235-44 last night to clean up unruly behaviour during daily question period, almost four years after a Canada-wide program launched by Smithers high school students took politicians to task for their poor manners.

“I am thrilled to give full support to my friend Michael Chong’s private member’s bill that clearly spells out reforms to put an end to the embarrassing spectacle that has defined question period for far too long,” said MP Nathan Cullen. 

Cullen said the motion put forward by Conservative MP Michael Chong would strip much of the political grandstanding out of the daily 45-minute question period and hopefully pave the way to more respectful and productive exchanges.

In the spring of 2007, Cullen worked with Smithers Secondary School teacher Shawna Audet and a group of students upset at the boorish behaviour of parliamentarians during question period.  The students launched Order in the House, a day of action that quickly spread across the country and encouraged young people to seek a promise from their MP for better behaviour. 

“It was amazing to hear the voices of our youth ringing out from coast to coast to coast with the call for higher standards by their leaders,” Cullen said.  “Building blocks such as Order in the House are the foundation upon which Michael’s bill was built and ultimately passed.”

Chong’s proposals to reform question period include giving the Speaker more power to enforce discipline, requiring ministers to directly answer questions put to them, allocating half of each day’s questions to MPs who are randomly selected, and lengthening the 35-second time limit for questions and answers to help prevent flippant, glib exchanges.

A recent survey conducted for the Public Policy Forum found that two-thirds of Canadians believe question period has become a forum for MPs to “grandstand” for the media and score “cheap political points.”

The national poll also found strong support for reforms to improve question period.