I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and
agree with me, that's not their job. -- Margaret Thatcher
During tonight's debate, in response to a question about the lack of civility in the House of Commons, Jack Layton and Paul Martin concurred that if you want parliament to be more civilised, the answer is to elect more women.
Maybe we could make Question Period one big coffee klatch. We could all bring our knitting, and when things are going bad we'll share cheesecake or ice cream and when we're done for the day we can do the group hug thing. We could discuss movies or books instead of politics, because in politics people disagree and that would be mean. We can't have mean. No, not with ladies present. --What a shockingly sexist attitude.
Some of the nicest people I've ever met were men and many of the nastiest were women. Rude comes in both genders and is irrelevant to an ability to govern. Polite people would elevate the tone of the house -- not just polite women.
Paul Martin actually suggested that women he's met have said to him that they would consider running for politics except for the behaviour in the House of Commons at Question Period.
Most women I've seen in action in the House could hold their own -- and anyone who can't doesn't deserve to be there. Diane Albonzy, Rona Ambrose, Sheila Copps, Elsie Wayne, Libby Davies, Deborah Grey, and even Carolyn Parrish -- strong women have served this country without fretting over the verbal sparring that occurs when the government has to face its critics during QP.
Too many people have a misguided notion of what QP is all about. It's all theatrics. The questions are submitted ahead of time and the answers are well-scripted by research teams. It's raucous and generally unproductive -- but it isn't what 'makes this government work'. All the work is done behind the scenes in committees etc.
The suggestion that women would elevate the tone might have been an attempt at flattery, but it reeks of paternalism and condescension. It stereotypes woman as gracious and sweet -- virtues yes, but hardly universal to the gender and the implication by two political leaders, that these qualities are exclusive to women and might somehow transform the workings of the House, does a great disservice to the gentlemen and strong women who already participate in the governance of this country and manage to do so with good manners.
The most shocking thing about this, is that while Jack Layton and his members do seem to try to maintain dignity and decorum in the House, the most vilely offensive comments most often come from the Liberal side -- and more often than not they are directed at women on the Conservative side.
Women, though perfectly capable of all aspects of governing -- are not the answer to changing the timbre of the House. If we want members of parliament to be respectful to one another, they must first be respectable. With our current governing party, this is not the case.
Scott Brison for one, has proved to be as uncivilised out in the real world as he is in the House. It isn't a matter of gender, it's about manners. I'd much prefer the antics during question period to having a sitting MP tell a member of his constituency that she could kiss his ass. Politics is a dirty game but it's this sort of trash talk outside of the House the Liberals should be worried about -- and if he's so concerned about the sensibilities of women -- why has Martin remained quiet about this ignorant remark made to a woman by one of his Cabinet Ministers? Why has there been no apology forthcoming?
And while we're at it, why was it a woman (Jean Augustine) who was asked to step aside in favour of Michael Ignatieff?
Women don't need a patronising attitude from two liberal political leaders in order to be confident about our abilities to serve in government -- we need to be given strong roles where our voices will be heard. The NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives all realise this and have given women significant and prominent roles. Of all the parties, the one severely lacking in that department is the Liberal Party.
More talk, less action -- the Liberal way of governing.