Let’s save Question Period

Here, again, is Frances Ryan’s look at Question Period reform. Here is the longer essay from which that article is derived. Lots in there, but the discussed changes are essentially as follows:

1. Extend the amount of time allotted to each question and answer.
2. Switch to a “roster” system, whereby the Prime Minister is available once a week, with separate ministers assigned to each day.
3. Limit the ability of party whips to determine who gets to ask questions and the use of supplementary questions.
4. Broaden the ability of government backbenchers to ask actual questions of minister.

Some of this mirrors what our Paul Wells proposed in June. Some of it refers directly to what Conservative MP Michael Chong argued in a previous issue of the CPR.

Now then, here, as an amalgam of all that plus a suggestion of my own, is what I think I’d do.

1. Keep QP to 45 minutes, but move it to 11am each day.
2. Allow a minute for each question and each answer.
3. Adopt the “roster” system. The Prime Minister will be made available each Wednesday. Each other day will be assigned a minister or set of ministers—divided such as national finance, social issues, industry and infrastructure, and international affairs.
4. Eliminate Members’ Statements entirely. Or at least move them to a different time of day. MPs have so many other outlets these days that surely they don’t need those 15 minutes each afternoon. If they insist, put the allotted time somewhere else. It has become a convenient and easily abused extension of QP. It needn’t be.

Whether party whips or the Speaker should decide the order of speakers seems not to matter terribly much. If anything, I’d suggest it’s better to leave the members in the House in control of said House. As for the role of government backbenchers, that would seem to have everything to do with the philosophy and attitude of the governing party and beyond the realm of legislated change.