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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail (Brian Gable)
Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail (Brian Gable)

Parliamentary Decorum

Does 'Kabuki theatre' diminish the Commons? Add to ...

Most Canadians believe politicians use Question Period to get their faces on TV and score cheap political points, according to a new public opinion poll.

More than that, the Pollara survey conducted for the Public Policy Forum notes that most Canadians - 56 per cent - think less of our system of government when they watch Question Period.

And, not surprisingly, 65 per cent of Canadians say the 45-minute daily session - sometimes described as "Kabuki theatre" - needs to be reformed and improved.

Although, it was 66 per cent of respondents who said that QP was "just a forum for politicians to grandstand for the media and try to score cheap, short-term political points," a majority (61 per cent) still believe the session is a way of holding the government accountable.

Pollara's Craig Worden says the poll shows him Canadians "are far more concerned about function than form."

The survey of 2,262 people was conducted between Aug. 26 to Aug. 30. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

It was commissioned by the Public Policy Forum as part of its conference, which begins Thursday, dealing with Question Period and the effectiveness of Parliament.

Mr. Worden says Canadians are sick of excuses from politicians, such as the difficulty of operating in a minority government, and just want their MPs to get their work done.

"They've hired them to represent them. They wanted to see elected representatives work within whatever system there is and serve them well," he says.

In fact, only 40 per cent of those surveyed said they preferred majority government; 22 per cent said they preferred a minority government compared to 11 per cent who said it didn't matter.

The Pollara data comes just days after a poll by Nanos Research that found 23.8 per cent of Canadians were dissatisfied with the effectiveness of the House of Commons. And 64.6 per cent believed that having politicians be more polite in Question Period would have a positive impact.

Pollster Nik Nanos, however, believed his numbers pointed to a frustration with the minority governments we have had since 2004.

The Commons returns Monday after a summer recess. But with Conservative provocateur John Baird and pugnacious Liberal David McGuinty now calling the shots as government and opposition House leaders, concerned Canadians might not see any immediate improvements in tone.



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