In a united front, Conservatives and New Democrats demanded to know what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would have done if Stephen Harper proposed to change Parliament the way that Liberals are now considering.
And in an extremely rowdy question period Wednesday, Trudeau responded by asking his colleagues to think of the children.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question in the House of Commons on March 22, 2017. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose kicked things off by again accusing Trudeau of seeking to silence the opposition and duck accountability by only showing up to question period once a week.
Liberals are mulling reforms to the House of Commons, including eliminating Friday sittings and having one day set aside each week for the prime minister to field all queries in question period, as is done in the United Kingdom.
Trudeau said the ideas are just part of a “broad discussion paper” focused on making Parliament more efficient and striking a better work-life balance for MPs with young families.
Ambrose charged that Trudeau is really aiming to restrict debate, shorten the work week, and limit his own attendance in the Commons.
"I’d like to ask him a simple question: what would he have done if prime minister Stephen Harper proposed the same thing?"
— Rona Ambrose
“No one has ever attempted gutting accountability like this,” Ambrose said. “I’d like to ask him a simple question: what would he have done if prime minister Stephen Harper proposed the same thing?”
Trudeau said the last government would not have engaged the opposition about improving things in the House or propose “months of discussions” in committee on improving Parliament.
The prime minister said it was a conversation that “apparently the members opposite really don’t want to have.”
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was evidently unhappy with Trudeau’s answer to Ambrose.
“As is often the case, we didn’t actually get an answer to the question from the leader of the Opposition,” he said, sparking applause from Conservatives.
Mulcair assists Ambrose
“This prime minister is going further than Stephen Harper would have dared to do by telling Canadians he only wants to show up in question period once a week.
“So I’m going to ask the question again. What would the prime minister’s reaction had been if Stephen Harper had dared to propose what he’s proposing?”
Trudeau attempted to respond by saying the government was merely seeking to open a discussion with MPs on the other side of the House. He stopped once the heckling made it difficult for him to be heard.
“I wonder about the schoolchildren in the gallery who are wondering how effective this Parliament actually is right now,” Trudeau offered, sparking even more commotion. Trudeau said all the shouting was “not worthy of this Parliament.”
'We really could replace him with a cardboard cut-out'
The response yielded sustained applause from Liberal MPs who, not so long ago, committed to stop clapping for each other in question period in order to improve decorum.
“We really could replace him with a cardboard cut-out, Mr. Speaker,” Muclair shot back, a jab at how diplomatic missions in the United States were using life-size images of Trudeau to promote Canada.
“And his peanut gallery would never notice the difference!”
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