Parliament of Singapore
2 min

Tinkering with the standing orders

MPs are going to be looking at the standing orders to see if things need to change with regard to time allocation,
committees going in camera, and changes to question period, lest our democracy
be further undermined. And sure, okay – so we maybe change the rules to
ostensibly limit the powers of the prime minister to dictate these things, but
need I remind you that one needs to tread very carefully when one starts poking
about the standing orders, because things tend to get worse instead of better.
Abolish evening sittings to make the Commons more “family-friendly?” Well,
there was a corresponding decrease in civility and an increase in hyper-partisanship
because MPs stopped having dinner together in the parliamentary restaurant
during the dinner break. Eliminating the Speaker’s power to determine who gets
to ask a question in QP in favour of a list? So long disciplinary device for
unruly MPs now that the Speaker can no longer choose to not recognize them
without a lot more hassle. Tighter camera angles and no reaction shots? A
distorted view of what goes on in the chamber, and no impetus for MPs to be
present, either physically or mentally, and house duty consists of making canned
speeches and being room meat to maintain quorum. So you take my meaning when we
wonder about the unintended consequences of further tinkering with the standing orders.

To that effect, I sincerely doubt that we really
need to start making a bunch of rule changes, when the problem is that MPs aren’t
taking their own jobs seriously – likely because most of them don’t know what
their jobs actually entail. You know, how their first duty is to hold the
government to account, and this goes especially for government backbenchers.
Yeah, that duty. But until we get MPs who are civically literate to know what
it is they’re supposed to be doing, do we really want to change the rules again
so that the next batch of unintended consequences makes the situation even
worse than it is now? Let’s treat the underlying disease and not merely the
symptoms.

Elsewhere, the RCMP has been called in over the threats to Vic Toews made by hacker group Anonymous, but it is
still deciding whether to investigate.

The BC Civil Liberties
Association says that lawful access legislation has had no measurable impact on
crime fighting in the US or the UK.

What’s that? The Department of Finance
won’t turn over its long-term projections to the parliamentary budget officer? You don’t say!

What’s that? Another federal agency set up
by this government – this time to mediate complaints about Canadian mining
companies abroad – hasn’t actually done any work in two years? You don’t say!

And the veterans' ombudsman says that too
many veterans are being denied benefits without adequate explanation, which can
mean a loss of a chance for appeal if said veterans don’t even know what grounds
their claim was denied on.

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