The first face-to-face confrontation between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and newly minted Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre will take place this week. But while Political fireworks are expectedSome MPs are hoping to bring the temperature down on Parliament Hill this fall.
During the summer, CBC Radio’s House spoke to several MPs during their home tour. A common theme that emerged from many conversations was the level of partisan tension and division that sometimes plague Ottawa.
The high intensity of partisanship can sometimes erupt as a high-pitched debate during the Question Stage.
“We need to do a better job as politicians at pointing out that bad behavior; we’re not going to let a five-year-old say whatever they want while someone else is talking. , so why do we let one adult speak to another?” said Laila Goodridge, Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake.
‘It’s a vicious cycle’
Liberal Leader Mark Holland urges all MPs to adopt a more respectful tone earlier this week.
“I don’t think this is the time for games. This is not the time to try to be clever or use rhetorical tricks or try to pretend things or solutions aren’t. I think Canadians will see that clearly.” he said at a press conference setting out the government’s priorities this fall.
As deputy speaker, Conservative MP Chris d’Entremont is often tasked with regulating when things get particularly acrimonious.
LISTEN | Conservative MP Chris d’Entremont speaking to The House:
CBC News: The House14:20Backbenchers Backyard: CPC Congressman Chris d’Entremont
“We have a very aggressive opposition. We have a government that doesn’t like answering questions. So of course people will be disappointed,” he said. House on his West Nova riding tour earlier this summer.
“It’s a vicious cycle that we really, as adults, as MPs, need to face. We can’t keep doing the same thing.”
D’Entremont credits Speaker Anthony Rota – a Liberal – as a mentor on this difficult undertaking. Much of that, he says, comes from fostering the simplest of relationships: getting to know each other better.
“I think between me and Anthony, what we really need to do is bring these … members of the government together, [to] get to know each other,” he said.
“The better they know themselves – what their spouse’s name is, what their kids’ names are, what they care about – the more it will make a difference to what happens in the House of Commons.”
Voter opinion on mixed tone
Quebecois Bloc MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné says whoever takes the Speaker’s seat should do more to shut down the shouting matches that sometimes erupt. But she said she believes some MPs may feel compelled to have a ruckus, so to speak, because their party’s most ardent supporters love to watch it.
“In the long run, the public will no longer recognize such behaviors,” she said.
Meanwhile, Green MP Mike Morrice has heard voters’ displeasure with the level of rhetoric they typically see in the House of Commons. But he also worries that some other Canadians have chosen to use the same belligerent language they saw in Ottawa.
Morrice has been outspoken about the “infighting” between politicians not only on televised Question Period, but within his own party.
According to Sinclair-Desgagné, the tone is more collective in committee meetings. “Of course we disagree on some issues, the fundamental ones, but we tend to work together,” said Sinclair-Desgagnes, who among other roles is vice-chair of the Commission. directly on public accounts said.
However, she noted that it would be much easier to maintain comfort among a dozen or so MPs than House clashes involving hundreds of members.
LISTEN | Quebecois Bloc MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné speaking to The House:
CBC News: The House14:05Backbenchers’ backyard: Bloc MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné
Is the pandemic making things worse?
Bonita Zarrillo, NDP MP for Port Moody — Coquitlam, says it is possible that tensions have increased during the pandemic, as virtual sessions have necessarily eliminated much of the face-to-face interactions between members in Ottawa.
However, she says that doesn’t allow everyone to participate.
“I’m struggling with that because some of that, I feel, is completely unacceptable,” she said.
She noted that having more women involved in politics could make a difference. “We have zero tolerance for that kind of joke, that kind of praise in the dressing room,” she said.
Michael Coteau, the Liberal MP for Don Valley East equestrianism in Toronto, recalls having a discussion at a local restaurant with two Conservatives from Alberta. Their political opinions and values, he said, felt “day and night” relative to his own.
“For me, it’s almost like we speak two different languages,” he said. “I just can’t understand where that’s coming from… but this is where they are.”
LISTEN | Liberal MP Michael Coteau speaking to The House:
CBC News: The House15:10Backbenchers Backyard: LPC MP Michael Coteau
He asserts that, as Canadians, MPs can share certain “universal” beliefs that cross party lines or geographical boundaries – such as access to education and healthcare. Health are universal rights. He says he sees part of his job as maintaining the conversation between different points of view and acting as a “table setter”.
But he worries that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find common ground on many important issues – and the problem is not limited to Parliament Hill.
“I see that being eroded every day in politics, not just in Canada, but around the world. You know, that’s to our disadvantage as a country.”