It was kind of bizarre. Conservative Michael Chong finally got his Private Member’s Bill to the floor of the House of Commons, but we remained unsure as to its welfare until the vote was concluded. It was a sincere attempt by a sincere Conservative to introduce the subject of reforming Question Period – the most shameful 45 minutes in any Parliamentary day. His ideas for change and progress were sound, and when it finally passed at the end of the evening, there was hope that perhaps we might turn a corner.
Michael had initially phoned me a few months ago, on a Sunday afternoon, while I was jumping on the trampoline with the kids. When he informed me of his proposal, it dawned on me I was speaking to a man of some courage – brave enough to introduce some human decency into a government demeanour that has been especially rough. When he asked that I second his motion, even though I was a Liberal, I was thrilled to accept.
Last night in the House brought the culmination of his efforts. It grew ironically difficult for him as his own party – the government – sought to introduce amendments that would significantly water-down his proposals. But his best friends at that moment were the Liberals and the NDP. In voting down the amendments, they cleared away all the rubbish that had coagulated around his initiative and opted to move on his original motion.
In the end, his own party (the PM was absent; the other party leaders were all present) had no choice but to accept defeat on the amendments and then to throw their support behind his original offering. One wonders how they could have explained voting against one of their own, who was honestly trying to clean up a significant mess. Quite simply, they couldn’t, and so they voted with him.
We had voted yea and applauded for Michael when it was over, but, alas, his toughest days are to come, as his bill gets sent to committee, where it will surely be sliced and diced. But for one brief moment, a man of some nobility rose above his peers and reminded us that a country is watching, and wanting reform. Tonight the Liberals, NDP, and finally his own party got him off to a good start. Now we must turn it around and give a more meaningful Question Period back to the country. Possible? I don’t know. But for sure such things will never happen unless good and decent people like Michael Chong challenge the system and call on the better angels of our natures to cross that line ourselves. Well done, Michael. You did it. Now it’s our turn and we could use a good dose of your fortitude.