A Twitter friend of mine, best known as @ManitobAlex, posted a view that I share with him, but requires more than 140 characters to explain. I’ll share this tweet later, but suffice it to say it refers to the decorum of the Alberta Legislature, most specifically Question Period.
The behavior in the Legislature has been appalling. Insults, innuendo, and accusations are viewed as the norm.
Just ask Wildrose MLA Pat Stier of Livingstone-Macleod. In an article printed in the Gateway Grassroots on November 26, Stier explains that even though it looks like the Opposition is “lashing out” or “attacking” the government, that it should be expected in order to hold the government to account.
But what is happening in Question Period is not “lashing out” or “attacking”. It is daily slander and libel. And it’s on record.
When it is acceptable for MLAs to interject out of turn, and shout and scoff at other members who already have the floor, or even for an MLA to charge that a Minister is “full of you-know-what” (Heather Forsyth, November 26, 2012, Hansard Page 989), then the party of MLAs represented by such comments lose all their credibility.
When it is acceptable for an MLA to table tweets of citizens neither present nor informed (Richard Starke, November 26, 2012, Hansard Page 993), or to even consider calling other members “bottom-feeders” (Thomas Lukaszuk, November 19, 2012, Hansard Page 698), then the party of MLAs represented by that unprofessional conduct lose their credibility.
Any MLA who chooses to participate in such behavior loses their “Honourable” distinction, and that such a title becomes nothing more than ink on a page.
The common view seems to be that in order to hold either the government or the Opposition to account, you must use such inflammatory language. However, if you review the number of changes in behavior or policy on either side of the House that have occurred, you will find a whopping zero.
So obviously holding each other to account in this way is either ineffective, or a colossal waste of tax-payer money.
I believe this too, but not because the Alberta Party would bring butterflies and puppies into the legislature (thanks for the idea, @JoeAlbertan, but we would both agree how useless that would be). I believe this because the Alberta Party, whether on the government side or on the Opposition side, would ask tough questions without the accusations or insults. You can get tough on election finance without calling each other criminals. You can get tough on senior’s care without calling into question another person’s grooming habits. You can discuss difficult budget questions without dropping F-bombs (Premier Alison Redford today).
The way it should look is an MLA would question a Minister on a particular aspect of governance, and get a well-reasoned non-insulting response. The MLA would then ask if the Minister would consider their alternative, and the Minister would say yes or no with reasoning. What happens following this should only be for clarity, or to provide avenues for solutions to be implemented.
This would mean that any particular issue of governance would come to Question Period once. But it requires appropriate input from both the government side AND the Opposition side.
You can scoff at this idea, saying that it would be a pie-in-the-sky, supremely ideological concept. Perhaps it would be. But if you try to argue that it would be ineffective, you should keep in mind that it would be no moreso than what currently exists.
Why don’t MLAs of today try this Alberta Party concept? The worst that could happen is that something could actually get done.