Speaker urged to stem partisan vitriol
OTTAWA—Opposition parties—and even some Tories—are urging the Speaker to stem the tide of partisan vitriol in the House of Commons before it becomes an all-party war of mutual rhetorical annihilation.
They want Andrew Scheer to clamp down on the trash talk that’s turning members’ statements—the 15-minute interval preceding Question Period each day—into little more than a series of nasty partisan attack ads.
Partisan shots always have been part of the mix, but for the past few years the Conservatives have been systematic in using member’s statements to orchestrate repeated, scripted verbal broadsides against the leader of the Opposition.
They did it to Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, despite repeated rebukes by former Speaker Peter Milliken, and now they’re doing it to NDP leader Tom Mulcair.
But the NDP now is starting to respond in kind and Nathan Cullen, the party’s House leader, is worried the partisan sniping only will escalate if Scheer doesn’t put a stop to it.
“The problem is that when you see it day after day after day, there’s a tendency to want to retaliate and bring the tone of debate even lower than it is now,” Cullen said in an interview.
Cullen has told Scheer the NDP would fully support him were he to cut off MPs who abuse members’ statements and he intends to speak to him again this week to say, “I think this is getting worse, not better.”
“If the Speaker doesn’t clamp down, then it’s hard for me to hold off my attack dogs because they say, ‘They’re punching our party or leader in the nose every day, we need to respond.’”
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae also is urging Scheer to step in.
“He could rule them out of order, very simply,” Rae said last week.
“[Members’ statements] were not intended to be partisan rants that are written by 25-year-old enthusiasts in the Prime Minister’s Office.”
Cullen said even some Tory backbenchers privately have told him they’re embarrassed by the sophomoric scripts and have refused to read them.