By tradition, members of the 44th Canadian Parliament took their seats in the House of Commons last week with the Usher of the Black Rod banging on the chamber’s door three times with his trademark ebony staff. This simple 671-year-old ceremony served to notify the 338 newly-elected MPs that their attendance was immediately required in the Senate Chamber to witness the Speech From The Throne.
The Usher, the Queen’s messenger, had to rap really hard on the door in order to wake up the Senators who are really old, mostly white, fairly rich and prone to nodding off at the drop of a gavel.
Normally the Members of the House would walk over to the Senate Chambers but with ongoing renovations on Parliament Hill, this time they had to take a shuttle bus. Once they arrived at the upper chambers, by tradition, they were rebuffed by the Speaker of the Senate and told to return to their own chamber to elect their own Speaker of the House of Commons and only then, return to the Senate for the reading of the Throne Speech.
Yeah, you wonder why nothing ever gets done in Ottawa? Because the opening ceremony resembles a bunch of revellers arriving for a surprise party at the wrong residence. This Usher of the Black Rod ceremony could only be more comical if the door rapper was played by Kanye West.
I would expand his powers to not only using that black staff to knock on doors but also to conk the heads of those MPs who fought against getting vaccinated.
So the rejected new MPs got back on the bus and returned to Parliament where they again named Anthony Rota as their Speaker. His job is to maintain order in the chamber without the benefit of dunce hats, after-hours detentions or time outs in the corner.
By tradition the new Speaker is ‘dragged’ to his chair by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole. This bit of slapstick was probably funny the first couple of times but after 154 years it’s starting to get old. Knock him out cold with that black rod and use a wheelbarrow to get him to his seat, just to freshen it up.
This kicking and screaming grand entrance dates back to the first English parliaments in which the speaker had to report government goings-on back to the monarch and if the king did not like the message, the speaker was beheaded. Mistakenly, former Governor General Julie Payette thought she had that power over her staff.
So that was Day One of the opening of parliament — a stage play titled Much Ado About Nothing starring a guy with a big stick who gets a standing ovation from a bunch of silly buggers with new offices and old scores to settle.
Day Two — the usher again knocks three times and MPs proceed to the Senate Chamber led by a bus driver who’s now having second thoughts about voting in federal elections and… the Sergeant-at-Arms carrying a massive gold mace.
I know what you’re thinking — why not have the guy with the black rod cage fight the guy with the ten carat club for the longest limo in the federal fleet. But no, that would be wrong and somewhat entertaining.
Now the new Governor General of Canada, Mary Simon, reads the Throne Speech thereby revealing the Liberals’ upcoming agenda in which they will make good on their easy election promises and leave the rest to the next parliament led by Chrystia Freeland, the Minister Who Actually Gets Things Done.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote the speech but didn’t read it because when it all goes south he can honestly say he didn’t promise anything… Mary did.
The speaker then declares parliament in session with “The role has fallen upon me”, once again claiming he is only accepting his job under duress. The speaker’s position comes with an annual salary of $274,500.00 and a country estate in the Gatineau Hills. I get the same skeptical look from people when I tell them that the only reason I drink Scotch is to kill the taste of the pretzels.
By tradition, two “pro forma” bills are introduced which mean nothing and are not debated or acted upon. A sad but telling sign of things to come.
By tradition, a rookie backbencher then delivered a 20-minute speech declaring his or her support for the government’s agenda because unlike Speakers of yore, they would like to return home at the end of the day with their head still attached to their shoulders.
Now officially open, off and running our parliamentarians go and the first order of business seems to be a relaxed dress code. Yeah, after almost two years of doing the government’s business wearing pyjamas, they now want to wear them to work. A new dress code: sweatpants, sneakers and ugly Christmas sweaters all year round.
Like most Canadians, if it inspires MPs to actually work together to accomplish something I don’t care if they show up in the commons as dressed or rather as undressed as former MP William “Starkers” Amos. But what I think we really need is a new code of behaviour.
As I’m writing this the British parliament has its collective knickers in a twist because an MP was told she was not allowed to bring her three-month-old baby into the House of Commons. Which stands to reason because both parliaments, theirs and ours, have become a daycare forum where members behave like four-year-olds having sugar fits. You just cannot expect a three-month old toddler to function at this much higher level that we’ve all come to watch with horror and disbelief.
For a comment or a signed copy of The Dog Rules – Damn Near Everything email: firstname.lastname@example.org