Stamp, re­peat

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - This ed­i­to­rial orig­i­nally ap­peared in The Tele­gram

It’s time changes were made. The House of Assem­bly wound up its fall ses­sion Tues­day night.

You can be for­given if you didn’t no­tice the go­ings-on. Af­ter all, some­times the play­ers them­selves don’t even pay at­ten­tion.

Here’s the Speaker of the House on Nov. 15: “I ask mem­bers to keep their con­ver­sa­tions down or take them out­side. Thank you for your co­op­er­a­tion.”

On an­other day: “I ask hon­ourable mem­bers to lower the vol­ume of their con­ver­sa­tions, please. I’m hav­ing trou­ble hear­ing.”

And still an­other day: “I re­mind all mem­bers to keep the noise level down in the Cham­ber and maybe take your con­ver­sa­tions out­side.”

It’s a con­stant. In one case this ses­sion, Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce was asked a ques­tion dur­ing de­bate. His an­swer? “I’ll just ask: can you re­peat that be­cause I was just speak­ing to some­one.”

If a min­is­ter can’t be both­ered to pay at­ten­tion to the process of his own leg­is­la­tion, why should we give the process much cre­dence? That’s es­pe­cially true when de­bate is self-serv­ing.

Here’s Lib­eral MHA Carol Anne Ha­ley (Burin-Grand Bank), fawn­ing over the gov­ern­ment’s ten­der­ing leg­is­la­tion: “It’s a priv­i­lege to rise and speak in sup­port of this leg­is­la­tion here to­day… One of the best as­pects of the leg­is­la­tion is… An­other great thing about this leg­is­la­tion is… I am also very happy to note that the leg­is­la­tion… I’m very glad we’re able to bring this in… I’m very happy to speak in favour of this leg­isla-

It’s as if the gov­ern­ment views chang­ing a law in process as an ad­mis­sion of fail­ure, rather than an ef­fort to make bet­ter law.

tion…”

Dys­func­tional isn’t the word. The process oc­curs and re­oc­curs by rote. Leg­is­la­tion is in­tro­duced, de­bate hap­pens, amend­ments — if there are any — are de­feated, and the leg­is­la­tion comes out of the House of Assem­bly the same way it went in, only it’s be­come law. This ses­sion, some 26 pieces of leg­is­la­tion, 18 days of de­bate, and not one change.

It’s as if the gov­ern­ment views chang­ing a law in process as an ad­mis­sion of fail­ure, rather than an ef­fort to make bet­ter law.

This is a bet­ter way: take the re­view of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion into less-com­bat­ive leg­isla­tive com­mit­tees, where a small group of gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion MHAs can find a bet­ter, more in­for­mal bal­ance.

It’s some­thing the gov­ern­ment has promised — here’s gov­ern­ment House leader An­drew Par­sons: “That, Mr. Speaker, I can prom­ise you right now as sure as I stand here, we are go­ing to have leg­isla­tive com­mit­tees back in this House of Assem­bly dur­ing our man­date. I can guar­an­tee you that. … I think it’s go­ing to al­low for bet­ter de­bate and bet­ter leg­is­la­tion.”

Bring it on. The sug­ges­tion now seems to be that all leg­is­la­tion is es­sen­tially per­fect as pre­sented. And 18 days of sit­tings is a lot of time to stamp a rub­ber-stamp on new laws that are un­changed from the mo­ment they go into the House of Assem­bly un­til they come out.

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