Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being slammed for a report suggesting he only attend question period in the House of Commons once a week.
The report, called “Reforming the Standing Orders of the House of Commons,” was released earlier this month. It calls for changes to the rules of the House “in order to make Parliament more relevant to Canadians.”
The report suggests taking on the British model of question period, in which one day is dedicated to questioning the prime minister.
But the report doesn’t say whether he’d be required to attend the rest of the week.
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It also recommends changing how Fridays work on Parliament Hill.
One proposed change would eliminate Friday sittings, and re-allocate the hours to other days of the week. The House of Commons could meet earlier on other days, for example.
Alternately, the report suggests making Fridays a full work day. Committees currently don’t meet on Fridays and there are only 2.5 hours available for government orders.
Fridays could be changed to look like “any other sitting day,” the report said.
However, they should still be organized so that two hours of Private Members’ Business can take place at the end of the day, so that certain MPs can leave earlier to return to their ridings.
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This week was the first day back in Parliament since the report was released. The opposition slammed it in question period.
“He, the prime minister of Canada, should be accountable to Canadians and this house more than once a week.”
Conservative MP Mark Strahl called the plan “scheming” and said the changes “diminish parliament, and greatly reduce government accountability.”
The Liberals maintained that the changes would reflect changing times, and said the matter is up for discussion.
“We are open to all sorts of discussions about how to improve the functioning of this parliament because we know Canadians expect a modern workplace,” Trudeau said on Tuesday.
But would changing the format of Parliament in this way make a difference in accountability?
Maclean’s Magazine crunched the numbers and found that a single “Prime Minister’s Question Period” could see Trudeau answering more questions than he currently does.
The magazine said that if Trudeau attends question period on an average of three days per week, he’ll answer around 27 questions.
The prime minister could face up to 40 questions during one dedicated question period.
On the other hand, it might mean that Trudeau wouldn’t be available if a serious political event happened on another day of the week.
Other proposed changes in the report include electronic voting in the House, as well as starting Parliament earlier in January and September, and having it end later in June.