Peter Van Loan objects to name-calling, proceeds to name-call

The Government House Leader is profoundly saddened
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Peter Van Loan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday April 25, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

After Question Period yesterday, the Government House Leader rose with the defining point of order of our time.

The approach employed by the NDP not only personalizes debate, but it does so in an offensive and inflammatory fashion. Consider what we might expect to hear if the NDP position became the accepted practice in the chamber. If this kind of name-calling is allowed, it would apply not just to ministers and parliamentary secretaries, of course, but to opposition shadow ministers. For example, the hon. member for Halifax, the NDP’s environment critic, could well be referred to as the NDP spokesperson for creating a crippling carbon tax.

According to the NDP, this would be parliamentary language. I do not believe it is. Instead of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park described as the NDP finance critic, she could instead be called the NDP spokesperson for bigger government and higher taxes, or perhaps the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay could be the spokesperson for unethical interference with independent electoral boundary commissions or, since he changed his vote on the long gun registry, maybe he could be the spokesperson for betraying rural Canadians.

The complaint goes back to March 8, when the New Democrats made reference to “the minister responsible for butchering employment insurance,” which the Conservatives interpreted as an attempt to suggest that was Diane Finley’s actual title. This presents a fairly tricky parsing for the Speaker, I suspect—certainly less obvious than, say, NDP references to Tony Clement as the “Muskoka Minister.” Parsing parliamentary insults is always fun. For instance, I suspect that if the New Democrats had referred to Ms. Finley as “the minister who has been responsible for the butchering of employment insurance” or “the minister who butchered employment insurance” there probably wouldn’t be grounds for a complaint here.

I’m not sure Pierre Poilievre has apologized for referring to Charlie Angus as the “gerrymanderer-in-chief over there.” But perhaps an apology could be part of some kind of armistice agreement between the government and official opposition.

Thankfully, such rules of civility do not apply to parliamentary sketchwriters.