Monday brings the return of Parliament in Ottawa. The what, you say?
You know, the House of Commons? Question Period? The Senate?
Perhaps you’ve forgotten. After all, it has been a long time since Parliament operated normally, for reasons that are all too well known.
By our count, the House has sat for just 169 days since it rose two years and five months ago, in advance of the 2019 general election.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau liked that election so much that he did it again this year, procuring himself another minority government on Sept. 20. And now, a full two months later, he is finally recalling Parliament.
Given the paucity of regular activity since the hazy prepandemic days of 2019, this page has undertaken to provide a refresher on the workings of Parliament.
The action starts with the Speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber. Presuming he can still find the place, Mr. Trudeau will sit next to Governor-General Mary Simon as she reads aloud the words prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office, and which lay out the government’s priorities for the new session.
Typical Trudeau government Throne Speeches focus on the middle class, those trying to join the middle class, middle-class prosperity and the concerns of people whose household incomes place them in the middle of the pack.
Another focus is alliteration. Expect the Governor-General to have to say “build back” in the same sentence as “better” at least a dozen times.
Watch also for words calling for co-operation and the finding of common ground in Parliament, so that MPs can work hard in the interests of all Canadians – words likely to be uttered in another Throne Speech in the fall of 2023, after Mr. Trudeau has called a snap election on the grounds there is a lack of co-operation and willingness to find common ground in Parliament, and shuts the thing down again.
Start a workplace pool on whether this will occur in 18 months or 24 months.
Once the ceremony of the Throne Speech is over, the normal rhythms of the House of Commons will resume. The highlight, of course, is Question Period, the daily 45 minutes set aside for opposition members to grill cabinet ministers about their decisions and their conduct.
The questions are directed not to the member opposite but to the Speaker. The first one goes to the leader of the opposition. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole will rise, face the Speaker and ask why the Prime Minister chooses to continue to be unethical and/or incompetent, further ask as to when the PM will stop being unethical and/or incompetent, and above all, Mr. Speaker, demand to know the precise timing of the moment Mr. Trudeau will finally come clean to Canadians and admit his government is a total failure.
Having seen the PM so effectively cornered, the Conservative members in attendance (the vaccinated ones) will be unable to refrain from jumping out of their seats to deliver Mr. O’Toole a completely unplanned standing ovation.
Often in these moments, the shaken PM, so thoroughly skewered, will rise once the applause has died down and resign on the spot – but only if by “often” you mean “never.”
The traditional response involves Mr. Trudeau addressing the Speaker and explaining that, in fact, the government is as competent as it is ethical, and that it is doing things that Canadians asked it to do, and expect it to do, and which is why, Mr. Speaker, the government will always continue to do the things that it does.
Excited yet? Us, too.
Other routine business will recommence, such as committee hearings, shocked outrage, theatrical indignation, Liberal ethical lapses, and the wonders of the unbroken uniformity of thought found in Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers.
Barring an unforeseen calamity, the House will sit for four whole weeks before rising for the Christmas break on Dec. 17. And it could even sit for all 129 days scheduled for 2022.
It really needs to do that. It’s easy to become cynical about Parliament when it can be so easily sidelined by a prime minister who’d rather not be there.
Parliament is not always pretty, but even its most theatrical and scripted parts are far better than having it sit empty, waiting for Mr. Trudeau to allow it to get back to work.
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