Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The decline of parliamentary civility

In Canada's House of Commons, that is. The latest row between the ruling Conservatives and the opposition parties involved an obscene hand gesture made by Conservative MP Jacques Gourde in response to opposition heckling. And thus began the "uproar," according to the CP, with more such gestures from fellow Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre and even Justice Minister Vic Toews.

Gourde later apologized, but only for being misinterpreted. Poilievre may or may not have mocked the Speaker with "a silly dance". Then a translator referred to the gesture, translating the French phrase "bras d'honneur," as an "Italian salute". More uproar. Conservative House Leader Bob Nicholson accused two Liberals, the two whose words had been wrongly translated, of insulting "Canadians of Italian heritage". The two Liberals, Marlene Jennings and interim Leader Bill Graham, defended themselves and demanded an apology. None came.

And, finally, Speaker Peter Milliken moved on.

This all seems to have been Gourde's fault. And Nicholson was far too quick to accuse the two Liberal MPs of insulting Italians. The Conservatives aren't solely responsible for the decline of parliamentary civility, but they kicked it down a notch with this pointless incident of misbehaviour.

Obviously, our elected representatives in Ottawa have nothing better to do.

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