Valu­able an­swers

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - OPINION - Frank Likely

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.

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