Decry 1,000 questions that will not be asked…
by John Symon
Three local Members of Parliament (MPs) spoke out this week against the prorogation (suspending) of the House of Commons until October 16. The three are all opposition New Democrats: Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe (Pierrefonds-Dollard); Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Lachine); and Jamie Nicholls (Vaudreuil-Soulanges). Parliament was supposed to have resumed for the fall session on September 16, but Prime Minister Harper decided to keep the House shut for another month.
“The Conservative government’s decision to shut down Parliament will impact the lives of Quebecers,” noted Morin at the September 22 press conference. “On top of pushing back much-needed upgrades to railway safety, prorogation … prevents members of the Opposition from asking the government some 1,000 questions.”
“On the heels of Lac-Mégantic, the urgent debate on railway safety we need to be having will unfortunately have to wait. Many trains carrying dangerous products cross our riding each day… Not only is this one example of the many negative effects of prorogation, but it also shows the extent to which the Prime Minister is avoiding his responsibilities,” she continued. Both Morin and Nicholls noted that the train which tragically crashed in Lac-Mégantic passed through their respective ridings hours before the July 6 derailment and explosion.
Apart from not asking questions about railroad safety, the three MPs lamented they were also not able to advance such dossiers as: correcting a budget mistake which means credit unions have their taxes more than doubled to 28% while environmental studies on habitat conservation, etc are on hold. Meanwhile, a bill against transgender discrimination is once again delayed; and a special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women will be shut down.
Blanchette-Lamothe, who is now the critic for the Immigration portfolio, also described how there is currently a strike by Foreign Service workers that threatens to cripple the visa process for tens of thousands of would-be visitors, international students, temporary foreign workers and immigrants.
The NDP shadow cabinet and MPs will be holding a “virtual question period” each day through Twitter, directly challenging Conservative ministers to answer. The people of Quebec are invited to send their questions directly to the Conservative ministers via social media outlets. Such Tweets are made at 2:15 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11:15 a.m. Fridays with the hashtag #QPQ.
“Of course, a real question period in Parliament is much better than Twitter questions” noted Blanchette-Lamothe. “The only Conservative Minister to answer our Tweets so far is James Moore, Minister of Industry. And his only response to date was a terse, ‘I’m driving’.”
The Question Period occurs daily in the Canadian House of Commons according to Wikipedia and is an important part of the Canadian democratic tradition. Citing the House of Commons Compendium, “The primary purpose of Question Period is to seek information from the Government and to call it to account for its actions.”
Picture on top: MPs Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe; Isabelle Morin; and Jamie Nicholls speak out
Photo: ©John Symon