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July 3: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Question Period: Be warned

Preston Manning's opinion about somehow bringing back a level of civility and credibility to Question Period is spot on ( It's Time For A Fresh Start - July 2). Whether it can be accomplished is another matter. When Canadians and visitors see the clips from the House's daily proceedings and the antics of our elected officials, we are left with the impression this unruly lot accomplishes little else than hurling insults, seeking a moment in the limelight, looking to score a direct hit. This is grandstanding to its max.

Of course, the media don't help as they look for the most sensational, controversial and embarrassing moments that will catch the most attention. This overlooks the good things that come out of our Parliament from hard-working MPs who are, by the way, the same clowns we just saw cavorting in the House.

Imagine the impression on youngsters, many of whom might make a great MP, or even PM, but will give that career second thoughts. If we can't achieve what Mr. Manning suggests, maybe it's time to at least post a warning: The following program contains violence and coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised.

Gary Fabian, Mount Royal, Que.

............

Preston Manning tries to appear visionary by quoting Ecclesiastes, "There is a time for everything." While some of his remedies to improve decorum during Question Period are fine, his time frame is small and his vision narrow. He mentions "economic recovery" but not the environment, forgetting that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.

Surely it's time for a greater vision, one that includes aboriginals, farmers, fishermen, other species and future Canadians (yes, Albertans too; the tar sands project wouldn't go ahead if their needs were considered.)

More than interparty co-operation is needed to make democracy work, given the seriousness of the eco-crisis, which was never anticipated by our Constitution or other laws. We need to recognize responsibilities for the environment, not merely rights to use resources.

Lynn McDonald, former MP and NDP environment critic, Toronto

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Canadians have no reason to believe that, under Stephen Harper, they should expect anything other than a continuing diet of corrosive partisanship, regardless of efforts to make nice during Question Period.

Warranting public policy in scripture is generally a dangerous practice. But perhaps Mr. Manning has a point in turning to Ecclesiastes for guidance, a book that offers the following helpful reminder with respect to partisanship: "that which is crooked cannot be made straight."

Andy Bowman, Ottawa

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Few debates on bills attract more than a smattering of ministers, the Prime Minister rarely attends.

In contrast, their attendance for Question Period is mandatory (proposed absences must be cleared with the PMO). The thrust of questions isn't known in advance, which encourages ministers to be on top of their files. This is the only time the executive is truly accountable to the legislature for their management of government business.

If we really wanted to improve Question Period, we should extend it from the current 45 minutes (which allows a total of seven sets of questions distributed among the three opposition parties) to 90 minutes. This would double the questions that could be asked of ministers.

A longer Question Period might temper the need to rely on histrionics to make a point and would reduce the ability of ministers to stonewall. If they can only rely on insults or nonsense, voters will have plenty of opportunity to judge them at election time. Remember, one person's hysterical tirade may be another person's passionate critique. On this latter question, we should let the voter decide rather than tinker with an essential and unique feature of our democratic system.

Chris Baker, Fredericton

Open doors to the displaced

With a relatively small population and a resource-rich land, Canada could play host to many of the young internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Pakistan ( Exodus Of Refugees Crowds Into Strangers' Homes - July 2). It would be a great humanitarian gesture, of which Canada could rightfully feel proud.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain, Brossard, Que.

T.O. strike's many costs

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