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NDP seeks crackdown on 'schoolyard bullying' in the Commons

Speaker Andrew Scheer addresses the House of Commons on Dec. 15, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

The New Democrats say Speaker Andrew Scheer should take direct steps to elevate decorum in Parliament by denying MPs who create disruptions through catcalls and personal insults the opportunity to ask questions in the House of Commons.

The NDP promised during the election last year that it would work to fix Ottawa, Nathan Cullen, the party's House Leader, told reporters on Monday. Some progress has been made, he said, but clearly the work is not done.

"Canadians cannot yell and scream and heckle and harass and behave like a schoolyard bully at their place of work. Why, in the cornerstone of our democracy, do so many MPs continue to behave as though that is normal?" asked Mr. Cullen.

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The Speaker already has the ability to sanction politicians who misbehave the House but what is lacking is the political will, he said. "We are suggesting to the Speaker and to the other Leaders in the House that those MPs who continue to ignore the Speaker's calls for decorum will have questions taken away from them or their parties if they refuse to fall in line."

The lack of decorum in the House is a perennial problem and has been since the days of Confederation. But the conduct of politicians does seem to have deteriorated in recent years.

There are two types of disruptions that are of particular concern, said Mr. Cullen. The first is what Canadians can hear through the microphones "when the parties get themselves into a right lather and make it impossible for other MPs to ask their questions or hear their questions." The second, he said, are the "under-tone, under-breath insults" and demeaning behaviour.

New Democrats do not want to stop passionate debate, said Mr. Cullen. But there is a way to do it and a way not to do it, he said.

"The Official Opposition is saying, if we are a problem, you can punish us and I will defend the Speaker's actions on that," said Mr. Cullen. "If he has warned an MP or a group of MPs that they are disrupting the House and they refuse to come in line or to calm down, then he begins to take questions away from that political party.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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