Planted questions

In addition to the questions posed by opposition MPs each afternoon, a few spots are set aside each day for government MPs to ask questions. In theory, Conservative backbenchers might use these opportunities to perform their duty of holding the government to account. Instead they are generally used by the government side to lob friendly requests that ministers stand and expound on the greatness of the government’s efforts in some regard or another.

Yesterday though, the government side abandoned even that pretence and sent up Rob Merrifield to mouth the following on behalf of the people of Yellowhead.

Mr. Speaker, our government is defending Canada’s interests around the world, and why would we not? That is what we were elected to do and that is what Canadians expect us to do. Meanwhile, the NDP consistently tries to undermine Canada’s interests, whether that is in Europe or whether that is in the United States. Would the Minister of Natural Resources update the House on the latest ridiculous NDP anti-trade mission?

The Speaker didn’t intervene and Joe Oliver duly stood and proceeded to complain about the NDP.

By the conventions of Parliament set out in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, members should “ask a question that is within the administrative responsibility of the government or of the individual Minister addressed.” What responsibility Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has for the NDP is unclear.

A year ago, the Conservatives sent Royal Galipeau up to ask a similar query about a Liberal critic, but Speaker Peter Milliken ruled it out of order. Similarly, Speaker Milliken ruled out of order a Conservative question about what the Liberals thought of a Conservative candidate.