Before 2013, Question Period was considered the ultimate in Ottawa grandstanding. The opposition would stand up, bellow out a cynical commentary followed by a question laced with bias and contempt for the government. Then, the government representative stood up, deflected the crux of the question with a transitional phrase, pivot towards an evasive response and end with an old man zinger against the opposition. And on and on it went.
So yes, the House of Commons is and always has been considered political theatre. It isn’t Stratford, however. Hell, it isn’t even a grade school play. It’s an exhausting display of political cynicism conducted by our beloved elected leaders who used to seek comfort in the fact that hardly anyone ever tuned in.
Thanks to Thomas Mulcair, Canadians are now tuning in. And they like about half of what they see.
Mulcair has decided to do away with the traditional redundant theatre and has opted for a more prosecutorial style of quizzing the prime minister. Gone are the self serving digs and slanted PR questions, replaced with pointed, deliberate inquisitions meant to make Harper look unclothed when he answers as if the old game was still being played. That’s the rub. He’s the only one trying to cling to how Question Period was conducted before Mulcair changed the game.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hasn’t followed suit, perhaps because he does not want to appear like a rookie clinging to the coattails of his rival. But Trudeau’s lack of QP gusto only makes Mulcair’s tactics look even more impressive. Trudeau would be better served coming up with his own standout strategy while in the House, even if it does elevate Mulcair’s influence. Hell, if Trudeau really is a new kind of politician, one who is not afraid to be polite and cordial to the competition, then he would gladly join Mulcair in his quest to make Harper look like an evasive thief rather than a statesman. In fact, Trudeau should publicly tell Canadians he supports the new style of interrogation as it would reinforce his apparent puppies and rainbows strategy.
Then he should promptly drop the puppies and rainbows strategy.
Trudeau might be pleased with the polls, but Mulcair is no lightweight. He knows Canadians are watching the House closer than ever before, and he knows the reason is him. Therefore, every day that goes by where Trudeau looks like it’s his first Christmas sitting at the adult table is a day where his Liberals remain stagnant in the polls, as they have been for a month already.
If you can’t beat them, copy them…then give credit where it’s due.