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Bafflegab and Magicspeak

Web posted on May 25, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

In a world where the unexpected and the bizarre have become the new normal when it comes to politics, the voters in France bucked that trend and voted for a middle of the road candidate for president. While not totally unexpected given the choice, the margin of victory was nice to see. Of course we really don't know how many people were voting against his opponent. He has a lot of hard work ahead with all the recent problems in France. There are several more elections coming up in Europe over the next few months, we can only hope that those voters show the same moderation and restraint.

Meanwhile back in Ottawa, every Monday to Thursday when parliament is in session there is an opportunity for the opposition parties to ask the governing party questions. The party in power is supposed to respond with a suitable reply. Officially it is known as Question Period. It can be seen on CPAC (Cable Public Access Channel) every afternoon at 2:15 until 3:00. In theory it could be considered a reality show, but after a while it becomes apparent that it is less real than any of the network unreality shows. Everything is tightly scripted. There are many rules in place regarding almost every aspect of Question Period. Feel free to look them up because I won't bore you with the details. Maybe it should be narrowed down to two rules: no fisticuffs and tell the truth. Our news channels sometimes show the first few questions live. We also get to see the highlights on the evening news when the answers are outrageous enough.

Many times we even get to see politicians behaving badly as they heckle each other and act like children. Some days it is difficult for the adult supervision (the Speaker of the House of Commons) to maintain order amongst the honourable(?) members. Perhaps the Speaker should have the authority to send members to stand in the corner, or give them a "time out."

You may not realize this, but in reality we have three official languages. That third language is only spoken by the party in power and understood only by the opposition. It does not matter if the question is asked in English or French, the answer is always in what I call Magicspeak. Just like a magician, they will try to distract, deflect, confuse, bewilder and mystify the opposition. The answer may sound like one of our official languages, but then you realize that they are talking but saying nothing. A more common term that could be used is Bafflegab. If they were speaking Klingon more people might understand what the honourable members of the governing party were saying.

When a question is asked that requires a simple yes or no, the person answering the question will give an extended reply that has nothing to do with the question. The answer will probably be a rehashing of the Official Party Line, or they will point out that they were elected by the voters to do something that has nothing to do with the question. When there is an issue that the government wishes to avoid, answers become even more convoluted. Of course, the Prime Minister of the day is the worst offender when it comes to talking and saying nothing. Some are better at it than others, but Young Trudeau has raised this to an art form. His non-answers make our previous PM look like a gushing fountain of information.

As I recall Young Trudeau was promising us greater transparency as a part of his election campaign. That promise has bitten the dust like many of his other promises. I have seen brick walls with more transparency.

This brings us to the fact that they are in the process of changing the rules so that the Prime Minister has to be in the House of Commons only one day a week to answer questions. This would be similar to what they have in the British House of Commons. On the designated day he (or she at some point in the future) will be expected to answer all questions from the opposition. The theory is that he will be more forthcoming with his answers. Right now there are several unpleasant issues such as his Christmas vacation on a private island in the Bahamas, and other ethics concerns that need straight answers. Will he in reality say anything that is meaningful or even remotely related to the question asked? Based on what we have seen in the past there will be some truly amazing non-answers given. The true purpose of this change is that Young Trudeau will only be required to visit Ottawa one day a week. I wonder if his favourite song is by Willie Nelson?

Our two main opposition leaders (both temps at the moment) have been doing an excellent job of trying to hold Young Trudeau accountable for the inaction and misdeeds of his government. Unfortunately they are not getting any real straight answers. It is truly remarkable how many different ways they can ask the same question, only to get the same standard pre-scripted answer back. It is also fascinating to watch how the government cabinet ministers can keep giving those same answers with a straight face without their some of their clothing catching fire or a sudden increase in the size of their nose. The whole process reminds me of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity.

A recent case in point is the controversy surrounding our Minister of National Defence. Every question about this issue was deflected by one and all on the government side. The wise move would have been to apologize then do the honourable thing and resign. As it stands he has lost all credibility and needs to be replaced immediately. This is a critical time as the government is supposed to release their review of our defence policies after a NATO meeting at the end of the month. Given the track record of Liberal Governments over the years, this does not bode well for our cash strapped military. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few weeks.

Rona Ambrose has decided to leave politics at the end of the current session of parliament. There are very few politicians who know when it is time to move on, and to do it gracefully. She did an excellent job as interim leader of the Conservative Party. Congratulations on a job well done, and good luck with your future endeavours. We will know very shortly if the Conservatives have made a wise choice. That leader will have a daunting task ahead.

The NDP race seems to be heating up with more candidates entering the race and I am sure that it will get quite interesting over the summer.

Somewhat closer to home we have the same process unfold every day in Queen's Park. Our beloved fiberal government has a lot to answer for, but does the same thing with their scripted answers. The big difference is that the next election is just over a year away, and they are already in desperation mode with new funding announcements almost every day, and great promises for the future. Don't forget that it is our money they are trying to buy our votes with, and are writing cheques that we cannot afford to cash.

We should be able to get straight answers from our elected officials. Those who hope to advance within the government of the day will stick to the Official Party Line. Then there are the few who are in the back benches who quietly do the job they were elected to do.

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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