The Frustration of Legislature
2018-Pat did not keep a close an eye on politics. I had very little knowledge of how Legislature was run, and never in my life did I foresee 2019-Pat trying to catch a few minutes of Question Period in between patients at work, or refreshing the Legislative website to try and find the latest Hansard Transcripts to see what I missed from the day.
I try and watch QP when I can, because as a parent of children with autism, I’m starved for information. Considering we’re already several days into the new OAP, it’s startling to think about how few details we actually have about this program, how it works, and what we can expect going forward. What’s worse is that we’re now in a strange new limbo, where all details could change at any minute. Even if we feel like we’re finally starting to get a handle on how one piece may work, it very well could be temporary, subject to more “enhancements” on a whim.
For anyone else who has subjected themselves to watching QP, you know it can be incredibly frustrating. The concept of Question Period sounds great — Opposing members ask the sitting government a question, and the Minister responsible responds. In theory, that sounds amazing. A place where MPPs can bring forward questions and concerns from their constituents directly to the people with the answers. This would be amazing … if it was actually how things worked. Take this example from today’s QP:
Miss Monique Taylor: My question is for the Premier. Last night, a recording of the Premier surfaced in which, when asked about job losses of providers of autism therapy, he claims, “There’s never been one employee been laid off in the — front-line employee that has been laid off in the province” — I’d love to fix it, but it’s the Premier’s grammar.
But that doesn’t jive with the 19 staff laid off across northern Ontario in child and community resources or the 17 autism workers laid off by the McGivney centre in Windsor. Is the Premier still willing to claim that there have been no job losses because of his callous changes to the Ontario Autism Program?
Hon. Doug Ford: Through you, Mr. Speaker: I’m glad that’s proof in the pudding. I’m at my office until midnight every night, talking to families with children with autism. I think that was at about 10:30 last night, actually listening to people. As we say, we are listening to the parents. We’re listening to stakeholders right across the province. We’re doubling the amount of money that the NDP cut with the Liberals, at $235 million. We’re putting over $600 million towards this program, making sure that we get everyone involved and listen to the parents, listen to the stakeholders, making sure we take care of the children
MPP Taylor asked a straightforward question, but did not receive an answer. Instead, the Premier chose to answer with content that in no way relates to the question asked. This happens ALL THE TIME. I’ll hear a great question, one that I’d love to get an answer to, but instead be met with talking points, spin, and general avoidance. Is it just that they know the answer will look poorly on them? Do they even KNOW the answer? Wouldn’t it be great if a Minister was asked a difficult question, and instead of dancing around an answer they don’t have, they say: “That’s a great question, let me have my staff look into it for you, and in the interest of full transparency I will have the answer made publicly available, with opportunity for follow-up questions and clarification.”
Then there are the rage-inducing moments when the PC MPPs are permitted to ask members of their own Party a question, taking up valuable time in QP with self-congratulatory rhetoric that does nothing but irritate the people hoping for real answers. Pardon my language … but that really steams my clams.
I’ve taken to following media Bureau Chiefs on twitter to try and get the story behind the story. Take this tweet from CTV chief Colin D’Mello from 5 weeks ago:
You won’t see that recorded in Hansard, but it was maybe the most important thing to come out of QP that day.
Watching Question Period is not enjoyable, and rarely informative, but every once in a while something happens. Maybe it’s a slip from the rehearsed talking points, or a simple gesture with a powerful message. I soldier on, and hope for bread crumbs when really, I’m desperate for bread.
In a perfect world, maybe some day QP will be given some “enhancements” of its own. I suggest something closer to ‘Question and Mandatory Answer Period.’