Rick Mercer fell off the wagon and slid back into a shameful habit he quit “cold turkey” five years ago — watching Question Period.
The CBC comedian took to the airwaves Tuesday night to discuss a recent trip to the House of Commons, where he saw, first-hand, how our elected representatives treat one another.
“I was left feeling angry, bitter, depressed and empty on the inside,” he said. “And that was just the first five minutes.”
Though he was first thankful there were no children present, because he wants Canadian kids to think politics is an “honourable thing to do,” Mercer then said the spectacle may work well as a “scared straight program” for troubled youth. Sort of like when misbehaving kids are dragged to a maximum security prison to learn about consequences.
“The place is filled with not very nice people who have nothing to lose because they could never survive on the outside world,” he said. “And their behaviour is completely unacceptable in a civilized society. And I’m talking about the House of Commons now, not a federal prison."
Mercer mocked all parties for potential hypocrisy when it comes to transparency.
“When you attend Question Period live, where the nation’s business is being conducted on the public’s dime, the very first thing that happens is they confiscate your cell phone and not because they don’t want you talking on your cell phone,” he said. “They are terrified that someone might roll video and if that happens, the people at home might find out what’s really going on.”
Then Mercer threw perhaps the most effective dig in his rant.
“In fact, keeping us in the dark is the only thing all the parties actually agree on,” he said. “Which is reason number one for that to change.”
The lack of civility in the House of Commons, especially during raucous debates, is a problem NDP House leader Nathan Cullen brought to the forefront in January.
The B.C. MP proposed a series of penalties — including suspension and lack of pay — for MPs who cross the line with personal attacks.
“There is no workplace in the country that would accept that kind of behaviour,” he said. “So why do we accept it in the House of Commons?”
In December, a verbal melee between Cullen and Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan nearly became a bench-clearing brawl when Van Loan crossed the floor to speak to his rival in a heated manner.
That didn’t sit well with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.
Last September, Green party leader Elizabeth May took to Twitter to attack the NDP for heckling her into silence during Question Period. May wanted to ask Mulcair if his party intended to do something to combat climate change, but says she could not finish her question due to a barrage of jeers.
"There's a first,” she later tweeted. “I couldn't finish my question due to heckling from the NDP. So much for Jack Layton's call for civility.”
And in perhaps the most famous House jeer in recent memory, Liberal leadership frontrunner Justin Trudeau called Environment Minister a “piece of shit” during a heated 2011 debate over the Kyoto Protocol.
“I lost my temper and used language that was most decidedly unparliamentary and for that I unreservedly apologize and withdraw my remark,” Trudeau said after Question Period.