Canadian Politicians Just Aren’t Polite Enough

The Canadian New Democrat Party has launched The Civility Project, branded as an attempt to eliminate rude and unprofessional behavior in the House of Commons. Tabled by MP Nathan Cullen, who is also the Speaker of the House, the official petition asserts

  • that the decline of civility in the House of Commons weakens the quality of debate and degrades our democracy;
  • that MPs should treat their colleagues as any other Canadian does in the workplace—with civility and respect; and
  • that MPs who abuse their privileges should periodically lose those privileges as a consequence.

The NDP party frames this issue in terms of workplace professionalism, workplace health and safety, and harassment. Although we perhaps tend not to think of political debates or House meetings in terms of employees at a workplace, that is, in fact, exactly what it is. Of course, it’s also the place where the political process takes place, a public forum populated by our elected representatives, which, if anything, should probably suggest a greater amount of decorum is called for.

According to details Cullen gave to the CBC, this is a project intended to carry on the legacy of late NDP leader, Jack Layton, who considered political civility in the House a high priority. The tabled motion is intended to expand the powers of the House Speaker, allowing greater latitude in disciplining MPs who behave inappropriately.

At present, the Speaker can simply choose not to call on an individual whose language or tone is inappropiate (by not powering their microphone), and MPs can be kicked out from a House session. The new, expanded powers would include penalties to the party of the offending MP, such as losing time at question period.

Of course, as the opposition party, the obvious question is whether the NDPs are either jockeying for power (since one of their own is the present Speaker) or pulling off a publicity stunt, especially as they involved the electorate via their petition and a Facebook page, to what is essentially a House motion. If not, it might have been nice to see a non-partisan approach, rather than an exclusively NDP movement.

Cullen reports that MPs have been leaving the House in tears after some recent sessions, which certainly sounds ridiculous on the face of it. A bunch of middle-aged politicians can’t get into a room together and do their job without name-calling and yelling? Without making each other cry? It sounds like an elementary school recess.

But this isn’t a new thing. Heckling and name-calling in the House of Commons is like fighting in NHL hockey: in theory it shouldn’t happen, but it’s a long-standing Canadian institution.

It makes you wonder how our country is even able to function, when our politicians can’t manage to be articulate enough to give at least the outward appearance of intelligence.


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Photo credit: New Democrat Party


Sandra Dahms
Sandra D4 years ago

For the last decade I have been embarrassed by the actions of our MPs and truly feel that cooperation is impossible in such an aggressive and combative atmosphere. It makes it very difficult to imagine these same people representing Canada on an international stage when they act like rude children in their own workplace. On any given day in the House of Commons you can watch bullying, shouting, insulting, nagging, raging, sulking, grousing and all kinds of infantile behaviour that would keep your child out of kindergarten. This is not acceptable behaviour in any other workplace in Canada but in the very building that all the decisions for all Canadians are made. We really should expect more from the people that we elect to be the wise and judicious in the making of laws and the running of our country!

Sandi C.
Sandi C4 years ago


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago


heather g.
heather g4 years ago

Michael O. Your's is an excellent comment
"It makes you wonder how our country is even able to function, when our politicians can’t manage to be articulate enough to give at least the outward appearance of intelligence."

Oh dear - I live in British Columbia and thought rudeness was part of the culture, as is the habit of making up stories they appear to believe in.

Suzanne L.
Suzanne L5 years ago

Generally far too much time is spent in personal attacks on members from other parties instead of knuckling down and debating issues.

Dale O.

Jacob R...Democrats, (The Democratic Party) is an American political party and certainly is far more civilized than Teabaggers or Republicans. Canadians don't say 'Old Chap,' unless perhaps if living in horse country or on the farm... there could be references to a tattered pair of 'old chaps'.

Dorothy N...insulting the cockroach? Compared to Harper, it has far more intelligence and even believes in recycling. Harper simply recycles tired old conservative doctrine. Agree with Michael O, Linda M!

Civility in the Zoo of Parliament? An intriguing/refreshing idea from the New Democratic Party. Especially during Question Period when the TV cameras are turned on. All that desk thumping and indignation. Perhaps if we had them all drink some Valerian tea an hour beforehand?

With the demise of the Rhinoceros Party in 1993, politicians have thinner skins, especially Harper who takes umbrage at the very idea of enlightened policies.

Michael O.
Michael O5 years ago

While I agree that all political parties could stand to improve their politeness in the House of Commons, the situation has greatly deteriorated under the current Harper Regime. Politics have become much more polarized and the institution of Parliament has been demeaned by Conservative dirty tricks (constant prorogation, introduction of omnibus bills which are adopted without proper study, the appointment of people of dubious character to the Senate, and so on...)

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 years ago


Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago

This series of videos makes it very plain what Harper is up to, in burying the evidence beneath the Cone of silence he's imposed...

At industry's behest, he enacts too-familiar Republican tactics against Canada and her people.

Harper is a cockroach.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 5 years ago

Yeah Jacob, you're out of it as usual. I've never heard a Canadian say politician a "old chap". You have us mistaken for someone else.The NDP is not the equivalent of the US Democrats & there are at least a half dozen parties as opposed to the US where you have a choice of tweedle-dum & tweedle-dee, both corporate owned. A few more parties might actually give the US a choice & actual negotiations & collaborration would be necessary to the benefit of its citizens. God forbid! Furthermore, this is not an attempt at legislation but Parliamentary rules. Nothing is more disgraceful than a bunch of supposedly intelligent elected representatives pouting & acting like idiotic children, sorry, no offence kids, rather than actually DOING something. Jack Layton was polite but achieved a great deal even without ever being PM. Why? He had respect & admiration of other parliamentarians, negotiated in good faith & didn't act like an asshole. His untimely death was mourned by most if not all Canadian citizens including his political opponents because he was a gentleman & did so much for the average person including street people, AIDS sufferers, battered women (the white ribbon campaign, now worldwide), the environment... without concern for brownie points..