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Keith Beardsley

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Calm Down, Conservatives, You Have a Majority

Posted: 11/09/11 09:05 AM ET

Anyone watching the House of Commons in action over the past few weeks could be excused for thinking that we were back in the days of a minority Conservative government. Certainly behavior back then from both the NDP and Conservatives wasn't much different from now.

The Conservatives haven't yet figured out that a majority government doesn't need to be constantly on the attack. It's time for them to take a deep breath, pause, shift gears and be the best majority government they can be. They have an opportunity to expand their base and solidify their brand. They have an opportunity to make sure that those swing voters and those who voted for them for the first time realize that they made the right choice. After all, you want those voters to align with you, not just this once, but for years down the road too. There are lots of ways to highlight the left-right split in the House and in the country without doing it every day at full volume and in full attack mode in the House.

You won't keep those voters on your side, if you act like a bunch of school kids fighting over a sandbox. It won't hurt the Conservatives to show some maturity in Question Period and to bring back some of the civility we saw at the beginning of the session. There is no need to have ministers and parliamentary secretaries verbally smash back at every opposition question as though the life of the government depended on it. The House is not the WWF, nor is every match up and question a do-or-die moment for the government. You can put down an opposition questioner just as effectively with a bit of humour -- something John Baird has done a few times recently.

If Harper's aim is to highlight the split between left and right and flag the NDPs lack of maturity to govern, there is no better way than to respond to a shouted question with a calm professional answer. Slugging back in like manner cheapens the Conservatives answer and they come across as being angry all the time. Leave that for the NDP to do. The same holds true in committees. Relax, you have the majority.

While most Canadians can understand the Conservatives wishing to move old agenda items along as quickly as possible, there is no need for "time allocation" or "closure" unless you have a specific deadline to meet or the situation is urgent. Van Loan's answer last Thursday to the NDP appears to indicate that the Conservatives will be using "time allocation" quite a bit. Most Canadians don't understand all the intricacies of House rules. They go on what they see or on what is reported. Right now they perceive an undemocratic government that is unnecessarily stifling debate, not exactly the image the Conservatives should want ingrained in voters' minds. Time for the Conservatives to calm down, relax and breathe a little, you have a majority.

It is the duty of the Opposition to oppose. That is what they do in a democracy. They have a right to slow down government legislation; they have a right to filibuster a bill. It's no different than what we did in opposition. Allowing the opposition parties to thoroughly debate a bill won't stop that bill from being passed. But it will allow those opposed to at least feel they were listened too. No one party is always 100 per cent right on every issue. You never know once in a while the opposition might have a few valid points that could lead to a beneficial amendment.

It is also time to rein in the pettiness and nastiness. Del Mastro's comment about Trudeau's religious beliefs was completely uncalled for. The same goes for preventing Elizabeth May and a Bloc member from offering a tribute to our veterans. One would think that all MPs could put aside their partisanship in order to show support to our veterans and honour their sacrifices. It was ridiculous that the Conservatives chose to prevent a couple of tributes honouring the brave men and women of our armed forces, many of whom died so democracy could flourish here.

It's time for the Conservatives to start acting like a mature, responsible government, which is why people elected them in the first place. They have an opportunity to solidify their brand and expand their base; it would be a shame to throw that away because of some unnecessary and damaging partisanship.

 

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