1. First and foremost, why do you want this job?
My decision to run for speaker stems from my concern over declining opinions of the institution of Parliament, which bodes ill for our democracy. My goal is to help raise the tone of debate to a level that restores the trust that Canadians deserve to have in their democratic institutions. I’d like to continue the work I initiated when I was Assistant Deputy speaker ( see below in #2)
2. To what degree have you been concerned about the levels of civility and decorum in the House during recent sessions? Would your approach to maintaining civility differ from Mr. Milliken’s and, if so, how?
Very Concerned- This is the reason why in the last session, I initiated a multi-party process to explore solutions to address the need for greater political literacy skills amongst MPs; civility being part of those skills. After several meetings, participating members unanimously supported the idea of piloting an MP training program to improve their interactions in parliamentary debate. The idea was being considered by the Standing Cte of Procedure and House Affairs for all party buy-in when the Government was defeated. Should I be Speaker, I would want to continue to work with party officials to have them consider such a process. I would also like to continue to foster a positive multi-party environment where members can appreciate the interests they hold in common through discussions such as those I spearheaded on climate change with noted scientists and weekly meeting on the arts.
I will ask for the support of members only if they are willing to do their part to improve decorum and civility in the House and to work with me toward improving the way we conduct our interactions. I am offering to facilitate a process by which each member and party commits to imposing a higher standard on ourselves, a formal mechanism to monitor our conduct in the House and to make procedural changes that support those goals.
3. Mr. Milliken objected to the use of statements by members to launch partisan and personal attacks? Do you share his concern and, if so, what could be done to deal with this matter?
I share this concern. Allowing Members’ statements to be turned into personal attacks creates an unfair environment where the person being attacked cannot respond; it doesn’t seem in keeping with the reasons S31s were established. I would ask the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to consider tightening up the rules and procedures.
4. Mr. Milliken made three closely watched rulings on privilege during the last Parliament: specifically on matters related to the opposition’s access to documents in regards to the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s dealings with the House and an opposition demand that the government comply with certain requests for information. Did you at the time, or do you now, have any objections to any part of those rulings? As Speaker, would you have handled those matters at all differently?
I agree with his rulings. A primary role of Parliament is to hold the Government to account especially on financial matters. These rulings all helped protect that historical role.
Beyond The Commons
Aaron Wherry covers all the goings-on in and around Parliament Hill. Follow Aaron on Twitter: @aaronwherry