Rudeness in Ottawa

Setup for that implausible-sounding title:

Legislators in governments based on the Westminster system enjoy parliamentary privilege, which means that, while in the House, they can speak their minds without the fear of being sued for slander. But to retain some modicum of decorum during debates, the Speaker of the House has the authority to rein in politicians who use language deemed unparliamentary, asking foul-mouthed lawmakers to withdraw their comments or face discipline.

Canadians, by reputation anyway, are generally big on decorum. But this exchange in Parliament in 2004 suggests that they’re also not given to mealy-mouthedness:

Betty Hinton (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys): I would ask hon. members to please remain calm. I realize that this is an emotional issue. I would ask the hon. member to try to stay within the confines of parliamentary language.

David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands): Madam Speaker, I have a question. Was the unparliamentary language the word “incompetent” or was it the word “corrupt”?

I note purely in passing that Mrs Hinton and Mr Anderson, both of whom represented ridings in British Columbia, have since left Parliament, though not over whatever incident precipitated that exchange.


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