From the House - Week of August 3 to 10, 2012 - Did you know???
It may be quiet in Ottawa, but our crack New Democrat researchers have been hard at work. While they are uncovering some information about key government programs, they have also put together some interesting facts about the outcome of the last federal election and the current parliament.
Many critics believe that the introduction of televised House proceedings in 1977 had a negative impact on the conduct of Members during Question Period. In the 40th Parliament (Oct 2008 – March 2011), the conduct of Members (New Democrats included of course) reached an all-time low during Question Period as heckling and other disruptive behaviour became so bad that the Speaker routinely had to cut the last few questions off the list in order to conclude QP in the allotted 45-minutes.
When New Democrats became the Official Opposition in May 2011 we made a serious commitment to restoring decorum in the House. While some elements of the House continue the bad habits of old, the professionalism of most MPs in QP has improved dramatically in this parliament. In fact, since the beginning of the 41st parliament, the Speaker has virtually never had to cut questions from his QP list to finish in the allotted time.
The dramatic results of the 2011 general election that established the current parliament broke some long standing records. It obviously changed our party by thrusting us into the role of Official Opposition for the first time, but it also changed the face of the House of Commons, making it more representative of Canada’s population than ever before.
Following the 2011 federal election, the number of women Members of Parliament reached an all-time high. The 41st Parliament includes the largest percentage of women in Canadian history and exactly 24.6% of MPs in the House are women. New Democrats also broke the previous high-water marks for the most women elected by one party in a single election (40) and the most female candidates (124). We still have a way to go, but progress was certainly made on this front in 2011.
The 41st Parliament also benefits from the enthusiasm and energy of youthful MPs and records were broken in this area as well. New Democrat Pierre-Luc Dusseault, elected in the riding of Sherbrooke at age 19, is the youngest MP ever elected to the House of Commons. He has shown that age is no barrier to success with his confident Chairing of the Ethics committee. There was also a record number of MPs who were aged 30 and under on Election Day (5.8%). Young people across Canada seem to be awakening to the fact that this country and the future is theirs.
Another major first for New Democrats came early on in this Parliament. Because we now have a number of MPs serving as committee chairs, New Democrats have been called to answer questions in Question Period for the first time in our history. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo Cowichen) had the honour of being the first New Democrat to rise in response to a question on November 2, 2011 about the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which she chaired at the time. Two other NDP MPs have since answered questions in the House of Commons: David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre) rose on May 29, 2012 and Pierre-Luc Dusseault (Sherbrooke) rose on June 21, 2012.
The current Conservative government has also set a record, but one of a different sort. The Conservative Cabinet, elected largely on a commitment to “Change Ottawa,” has 39 members which equals the record for the largest Cabinet in Canadian history. Since 1867, the average Cabinet has had just 23 members. I’m not sure if the Harper Conservatives are proud of that record, but I know my New Democrat colleagues are proud of ours.