Thursday, June 7, 2012

A DAY IN THE HOUSE

The opposition parties have been getting too much speaking time in the House of Assembly.

The government has intervened to curb that!

First they started tabling and answering written answers to Order Paper questions. That chewed up a lot of time, but not enough to prevent the petitions from getting through.

Today the Speaker announced significant changes to rules about the certification of petitions, changes that will go a long way toward shutting down opposition members' opportunities to speak in the House of Assembly.

When the Speaker rose to speak about petitions, I thought he was going to name St. John's North MHA Dale Kirby again. Instead, he outlined new rules regarding what could and could not be presented as a petition in the house.

It turns out that the Speaker is a bit of a Luddite. It might be alright for M.H.A's and government to adopt paperless offices, OCR, on-line payments for all sorts of government services but when it comes to petitions only original papers will do. No more photocopies or faxes from far flung outports. The House of Assembly will only accept original signatures on the original pages they were signed on.

What brought about this sudden change?

A wave of disapproval over government policies from the development of the Lower Churchill to busing.

The not-so-independent Speaker showed how orchestrated the management of the legislature was yesterday afternoon, when he was asking for an apology from Kirby. You might have noticed that M.H.A's address the speaker, not fellow members of the house. Yesterday, the keen observer might have noticed that the Speaker appeared to be taking his cues from the Government Deputy House Leader, who seemed to know to know what was coming down and was growing impatient with Kirby's stretching things out. Body language and eye contact told the tale.

Another observation: the Government has changed tactics. Instead of long winded answers in an attempt to run down the clock, they have elected to go with short, one word answers. Today might have been a record for the number of questions asked in a single question period. I thought, as I am sure the government desired, that the NDP might be caught unprepared and run out of questions.

I wonder if the Speaker will use his "authority" to drag citizens that criticize him before the bar.

It would not surprise me.


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