How to ask a question, government MLA edition.

Legislature, day 4:

Hello, would-be politicos. Today, for those of you considering becoming a Progressive Conservative MLA, I present two examples of PC MLAs in “action” from the Leg on Wednesday. One is the right way to be a government MLA, the other is the wrong way.

First, the right way. This happens so rarely, I thought it should go first.

George VanderBurg is the long-time MLA for Whitecourt-Ste. Anne. VanderBurg sets an example for his spineless seatmates in how to ask your own government worthwhile questions. Here are parts of an exchange between VanderBurg and Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner.

“Within Whitecourt-Ste. Anne my constituents are concerned about the challenges facing home-schooled students as they seek admittance to Alberta’s postsecondary institutions. While government approves and even regulates home-schooling, my constituents find that postsecondary institutions are less open to the idea and lack consistent policies for accepting home-schooled students. My questions are to the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. Minister, it’s easy for every foreign student across the world to come to Alberta; there are policies. When are you going to create a policy for our own Alberta students, for our own home-schooled students?”

See how it’s done, future MLAs? Raise a legitimate issue of concern to your constituents, and ask with some authority.

After Horner’s typical non-answer, VanderBurg came back with this zinger:

“Well, I think, Minister, that you’ve missed my point. You’re the big wheel here, and the home-schooled students are watching you. What are you going to do to help them prepare for postsecondary institutions?”

Good one, George. After Horner again tap danced around the answer, VanderBurg redirected his last question to the Minister of Education, because he said Horner was “passing the buck”.

See, future MLAs? That’s the way it’s done. Now, here’s how you don’t do it.

The MLA for Calgary-Montrose, Manmeet Bhullar, participated in a shameless display of ass-kissing with buffoonish Infrastructure Minister Luc Ouelette.

After praising himself for “two years of lobbying”, Bhullar asked when an access road from 84th Street to 100th Street  in Calgary would be completed.

Ouellette lumbered to his feet, and said: “I’ve got to say that those constituents in that area should be very, very thankful for having an MLA that just gets out there. I still have the scars from all the lobbying he does. I have to tell you that I have very good news for this member. The road is under construction as we speak …”

Bhullar, who of course knew the road was under construction, called it  “wonderful news, Mr. Speaker. Wonderful news.” He later referred to Ouellette as a “wonderful minister”.

Sheesh, boys. Get a room.

See what I mean, future MLAs? VanderBurg asked a real question, going to bat for his constituents, and refused to accept a non-answer. Bhullar asked a non-question designed only to promote himself as a great hero to his constituents, someone who almost single-handedly got a road built. Basically, he wasted the Legislature’s time, and wasted an opportunity to ask a real question.

That’s how it’s not done.

And finally, once again the amazing Wildrose Alliance MLA Guy Boutilier caught my attention with a truly Donald Rumsfeldesque question. Rumsfeld, you may recall, was the former Secretary of Defence for George W. Bush, who once said:  “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Here’s Boutilier’s Rumsfeld moment from Wednesday. He was asking Stelmach about a letter sent two years ago warning about the emergency room crisis. Stelmach was trying to say that it didn’t go to the current minister, or something like that. It all got very confusing, resulting in Boutilier asking this poser:

“He refers to the minister. Is that the minister who really wasn’t the minister or the minister who wasn’t the minister then? We need to know. Given that and the non-answer that he just provided – and all the folks in emergency rooms watching Access television are watching for the answer – do you know, do you not know, or do you not know what you don’t know?”

Does anybody know what this means?

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One thought on “How to ask a question, government MLA edition.

  1. As Ken Kowalski so aptly put it, “It’s Question Period, not answer period.”

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