I was bored the other day, so I sat down in front of my computer to watch the passing of Canada’s $82 billion COVID-19 stimulus package being passed on CPAC. (Yes, I was that bored.) And what I saw was quite shocking.
We’ve all heard about the normal kindergarten-aged behaviour of our Honourable Members of Parliament when in the process of representing their constituents. Usually they treat each other with insults, boos, moans, pounding on desks, catcalls, and every other type of disruptive behaviour, but their demeanour that day was truly unbelievable.
They were reasonably polite. They argued their points like human beings. Then they adjourned to hash out an agreement, upon which they returned the next day to pass the amended bill. All very civilized, polite and effective.
How did this happen?
Part of the answer has to be that only 32 of Canada’s 338 MPs were invited to be there for this emergency session. Apparently only 20 are required for quorum (the minimum attendance required to validate business), although Robert’s Rules of Order (or Rules of Parliamentary Procedure) normally requires one plus half of all members. There’s likely a reason for that, although I don’t at the moment know what that is. But in this case, 32 was the number required to give the parties representation according to their proportion of members.
Still awake? Good. Better than I expected seeing that not many are the political and procedural nerds that are writing this.
Procedure also requires that the vote to accept the bill be unanimous. If even one MP votes no, the bill has to go through the entire Parliamentary process. That means study and debate in committee and three readings of the bill in the House, with debates after each reading. If the bill is defeated in the House, it would have been considered a matter of confidence, possibly leading to an election, which is the last thing we all need right now.
Fortunately for all of us, our pols played nice, settled their differences in negotiation, and passed the bill unanimously in less than two days.
It seems Canada’s politicians can act like actual adult human beings and play nice when the chips are down. There has even been reasonably good cooperation between the Feds and the Provincial Premiers, with a minimum of political posturing, although there was a bit. (You didn’t think they’d reached perfection, did you?) This is in contrast to the name-calling and blame-peddling going on in our neighbour to the south, where they all seem to continue to play pass the electoral buck no matter what.
It’s good to know. Whether you agree with the bill or how it’s apportioned, it’s good to see that we’re playing on the same team in these trying times and that they can play nice when the chips are down. That in itself creates a certain level of security.