Do Parliamentarians know how to ask questions?

[ ED NOTE: Jesse Ferreras was kind enough to let me crosspost this item from his blog. You can read the original here. ]

The committee work of Parliamentarians has made clear to me their general inability to ask questions – with very few exceptions.

I was first awakened to this while watching the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and their inquisition of Karlheinz Schreiber. With the scant exceptions of Serge Menard and Russ Hiebert, the MP’s couldn’t formulate questions to save their lives.

NDP MP Pat Martin took up the bulk of his question time mounting a partisan attack on Schreiber, as did a number of others questioning the man.

We see something similar on the Justice Committee investigating the application of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Aside from solid performances from Menard and NDP MP Joe Comartin, MP’s seem to spend most of their time stacking question upon question before getting out a single one. Liberal MP Marlene Jennings was a good example. I simply lost patience with her question and stopped listening and she tried to probe Jennifer Lynch with… something about taking complaints away from the general public and giving them to the CHRC. And Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, though I admire his defence of freedom of speech, also took too long formulating questions.

What I want to know is, what do MP’s expect to gain when building mountains out of their questions? Do they really believe it will aid their understanding of a complex issue? Or do they simply want to take up valuable committee time listening to their own voices?

Canada needs more MP’s like Serge Menard and Joe Comartin. Neither took a partisan track and both asked tough questions of Jennifer Lynch. If there’s any hope of Canadians seeing what’s wrong with Section 13, it lies solely with them.


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