The "$64,000 Question" was a popular television show in the mid- 1950s. The $ 6,500 answer is a daily part of the business on Parliament Hill.
Under the rules of Parliament, any MP can submit written questions on any topics whatsoever. These questions are placed on the Order Papers and require a written response back from the government within a reasonable period of time. There have been some 700 questions submitted during the current session.
Recently however, some govern- ment Members of Parliament have been submitting their own questions, seeking to find out how much all this question asking is costing tax payers.
The whole debate over the costs of questions began when Ontario Conservative Mike Wallace asked about the cost of answering a single question by a Liberal parliamentarian. The answer back was an astounding $ 117,000.
In response to that exchange, a New Democratic Member then submitted his question asking how much it cost to answer Mr Wallace’s question. The answer was just over $ 6,500.
Now another Conservative member has submitted a question requesting the costs of answering more than 380 questions.
The opposition claims that the government is trying to stifle the whole process of Order Paper Questions by labelling them a waste of tax payers money. The government says they are simply trying to be transparent about the true costs of parliamentary democracy.
Given the often raucous and almost circus-like atmosphere during oral Question Period, the ability to submit Order Paper Questions and get actual answers appears to be a valuable part of the parliamentary process.
But perhaps in future our Members of Parliament could limit themselves to asking questions worth asking and worth the cost of answering.