Friday, February 05, 2010

Bread And Circuses

In true bread and circuses fashion, Prime Minister Harper asked that Parliament be prorogued, in part, because he didn’t want Canadians to be distracted during the upcoming Winter Olympics. But since most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, Mr. Harper may want to reconsider and reconvene Parliament in February so we can continue to also view Ottawa’s own political winter games featuring unique events like these:

It sounds like hockey but it’s not. It’s hooky, the ongoing sport of Canadian federal parliamentarians. Whether it’s skipping out on House debates, passing up committee hearings or proroguing Parliament to avoid working at all, members of all parties know how to play this game. If not doing one’s job were an Olympic sport, Canada’s legislators would be perennial gold medal winners.

speed talking
If there’s one thing Canadian parliamentarians excel at, it’s talking and our MPs are especially adept at speaking quickly and from both sides of their mouths. The very best can combine those skills while also avoiding any meaningful statements. Long-winded MPs tend to compete in the one-on-one long track event while those who specialize in quips, insults and putdowns prefer the more raucous short track event also known as Question Period.

Whether it’s the half-truth, the coverup or the flat-out lie, parliamentary snowjobbers are skilled at a multitude of deceptive moves. Like snowboarders, snowjobbers manage to twist, slide and turn themselves inside out while still somehow maintaining their position. But snowjobbers do have one advantage over their outdoor counterparts: when the competition gets tough, they don’t bail; they just ask for a do-over which they call "proroguing it, dude ."

party jumping
Definitely the most dangerous of parliamentary sports, party jumping is politics performed without a net. Also known as floor crossing, this event symbolizes both the agony and the ecstasy of political sport. The successful party jumper can end up with a government gold medal known as a "cabinet position." But, as in ski jumping, if the competitor doesn’t hit the take off just right, his career may nosedive in one spectacular tumbling crash.

bicameral reform
Like the biathlon, bicameral reform involves two sports in one. Members of Parliament perform their ongoing legislative duties while at the same time suggesting various reforms to the Senate. Like the biathlon’s rifle-shooting skiers, it takes nerves of steel for MPs to stop legislating and intermittently propose any one of a dozen impossible changes to the Red Chamber. From the triple-E spouting participants to the outright abolitionists, it’s unlikely anyone will ever finish this race.

It sounds like the daring winter sledding event called the luge and the similarities are striking. Parliamentarians compete to see how fast they can take an economy already flat on its back completely downhill. Like lugers, stooges can’t see where they’re going or where they’ve been and can’t stop the downhill trend. Unlike their Olympic counterparts, however, they make sure they’re well rewarded no matter how poorly they perform.

Curling may be the roaring game but Parliamentary debates are the boring game as they go round and round and ultimately nowhere. With MPs trying to sweep issues under the rug and looking to empty the House, everyone wants to skip the current session and no one seems capable of taking the lead. If you think curling is an instant cure for insomnia, try an hour of whirling debates in the House of Commons for a truly remarkable soporific.

No comments: