The Liberals say the proposed 60/40 split of Question Period with the NDP will enable them to get the first crack at the new stories of the day. The new arrangement reflects the NDP's new numbers in the House of Assembly but it entrenches their third party position.
The two opposition parties have agreed to divide the current 30 minute daily allocation for questions to the government. The Official Opposition will get the first 18 minutes and the third party New Democrats will get 12 minutes. The parties would like to see question period extended by fifteen minutes daily.
Liberal leader Dwight Ball says the new arrangement reflects the New Democrats showing in the last election where they picked up four new seats for a total of five, one less the the Liberals.
Ideally, an extended question period with sequential questions might be more favorable for the New Democrats, who will not have much of an opportunity to be the first to raise the burning issues of the day with government. Instead, they will have to pick over the carcass of many issues after the Liberals have fed.
I would have expected an arrangement where the Liberal Leader might lead off with three questions, followed by two from the Leader of the NDP. This back and forth might have given the the NDP a better opportunity to raise issues, as opposed to be seen to be following the Liberal's lead.
In effect we will now have two mini-question periods. One that lasts 18 minutes - a show down between the Liberals and the government and another that lasts 12 minutes featuring sparing between the NDP and the government.
I would have much preferred sequential questioning and perhaps the addition of a late show, a second question period in the last half hour of the day. Considering the relatively short sittings of the House of Assembly, the truncated timing of Question period and the lack of a committee system, the twin question periods would provide the government with more of an opportunity to be transparent and accountable.
The final decision on the composition,and length, of Question Period will rest with the speaker.