New Democrats are promising a more disciplined Parliament as they return from the Easter break with new leader Thomas Mulcair and a shadow cabinet that incorporates the men and women he defeated to take charge of the Official Opposition.
It is a pledge that has been made repeatedly by previous oppositions, only to have decorum quickly give way to a rancorous cacophony of barbs and insults.
But Nathan Cullen, the British Columbia MP who earned the job of House Leader for his strong showing NDP leadership race, told reporters Monday that things are going to be different under his watch.
“As House Leader, I will not allow this session to devolve into the antics that so often accompany the final days of the parliamentary calendar, the so-called silly season,” Mr. Cullen said.
“My goal is to ensure that, even if our opponents are misbehaving and distracted in Parliament, our team remains steady and dignified,” he said. “The NDP will not shy away from the hard questions but first and foremost we will be a serious, substantive and well-disciplined team.”
Reasoned debate in which serious questions are met with direct and substantive answers is a rare phenomenon in the House of Commons. But the spring session, when acrimony has built throughout the year and politicians are yearning for their summer break, tends to be worse than the fall or winter.
And the promise for more decorum in the House did not preclude Mr. Cullen from taking some hard shots at the Conservative government, which he says has been distracted by scandals, ethical lapses and profound mismanagement.
“As the scandals pile up, one of our challenges is which one to focus on. Because when you lock into one like election fraud, up pops the F-35 [fighter jets] And when you get into that you find out they are lying about something else,” he said. But “you can run a string through these pearls and that is a government that has lost its capacity to make commitments to Canadians about being truthful, about being accountable.”
Mr. Mulcair named his new shadow cabinet last week, giving Mr. Cullen the plum House Leader’s job. Former House leader Joe Comartin is now in charge of the democratic reform portfolio.
British Columbia MP Libby Davies will remain as deputy leader but she will be joined in that role by Hamilton MP David Christopherson and Megan Leslie from Halifax.
Former interim leader Nycole Turmel was named Chief Opposition Whip and two other leadership contestants were returned to the senior roles they held before the race began: Peggy Nash to finance and Paul Dewar to foreign affairs critic. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton was named women’s critic, Quebec MP Romeo Saganash was given the international development job, and Robert Chisholm is the fisheries critic.