Monday, December 05, 2011

On pertinent questions

I'll add one additional follow-up note from yesterday's NDP leadership debate. In principle the opportunity for candidates to ask questions of one another looks to have been an ideal chance to test one of the major roles of an opposition leader. And while most of the contenders decided to lob softballs for the first debate, I have to wonder whether some of them (particularly those looking to pitch a fundamental change to politics generally) might want to shift tactics in future debates.

After all, the normal opportunity for an opposition leader to influence the public debate by asking questions comes in the House of Commons' question period - which by all accounts has degenerated into farce, with at least some of the issue seen to come from opposition benches (even if the utter lack of anything approaching answers obviously serves as the bulk of the problem).

That doesn't figure to change in question period anytime soon. But what if some of the NDP's leadership candidates started using their debate questions to establish a precedent as to what question period queries should look like? Those wouldn't necessarily need to be adversarial so much as thoughtful and philosophical - encouraging a substantive response rather than a talking point from the candidate on the receiving end, and allowing the questioner to go further down that road in the follow-up within the debate.

At the very least, that strategy would set a higher tone for the NDP's own debates. And if enough of the media covering the NDP's race begins to ask why we shouldn't expect the same out of our democratic institutions, then it could well be an important step toward rendering obsolete the Harper brand of politics.


  1. Anonymous3:09 p.m.

    It's really rare that I think one of your posts doesn't make sense.  It doesn't matter what questions get asked in question period, the responses will be roughly the same.  This government doesn't do thoughtful and philosophical, and if any government member doing a response tried any such thing they would be smacked down for it right quick by the PMO and wouldn't try anything so heretical again.
    Which isn't to say the opposition shouldn't ask such questions at least some of the time, but I think there's still plenty of room for questions that metaphorically ask the government whether it's stopped beating its wife.  It's all very fine to fear being mean-spirited, but after all, when you know someone *has* been beating their wife, it actually does become important to know if they've stopped.

  2. Purple Library Guy3:10 p.m.

    Augh!  That last one was me--forgot to fill in the name.