11 May 2005

Harvey Hodder: Best before date expired (updated)

CBC Radio woke me up this morning to word that Opposition Leader Roger Grimes is writing the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to complain about Harvey Hodder. Here's a link to the web story.

If nothing else, this will embarrass the hell out of Harvey, who plans to attend the next CPA conference this summer. After all, Newfoundland was one of the charter members of what used to be the Empire Parliamentary Association when it was formed in 1911.

It is important to note, however, that the CPA has absolutely no authority to discipline or censure parliamentarians. This move by Grimes is designed solely to embarrass Hodder.

I long ago lost any vestiges of sympathy for Hodder who has demonstrated bias and incompetence in equal measures over the past six weeks. He is rapidly becoming a joke and to make things worse his behaviour is bringing the legislature itself into a state of dysfunction and disrepute.

Ed Byrne was quoted in the CBC Radio story complaining about the endless points of order from the Opposition. Surprise, surprise, Ed. The Opposition is using whatever tactics it can in order to frustrate Hodder and raw attention to his evident shortcomings. Hodder, for his part, takes forever to make a ruling on even a straightforward point. Overload him with work and the poor guy may just crack from the strain.

But more to the point, the increase in points of order on the Speaker's rulings might be a clue that Hodder is causing problems. Parliamentarians seldom complain about the Speaker. They are even less likely to question a Speaker like Hodder, who was popularly appointed. However, if Hodder isn't working out, then it is only reasonable to expect more and more complaints. The points of order cannot be simply dismissed as a case of whining or being a nuisance.

Personally, I'd go a step farther than Grimes has done. If I was in the Opposition, I'd use my next Opposition Day to debate a motion of non-confidence in the speaker. Even though the government will ultimately defend Hodder and defeat the motion, a three hour litany of his incompetence may well be enough to push him out the door. At the very least it will emphatically make the point that Hodder needs to take some corrective action on his own performance.

Does this happen very often in legislatures? Not really, but then again it is rare for a Speaker to demonstrate persistent disregard for the rules of the House or for bias. Here's a link to one speech from the Saskatchewan legislature from 1992.

Maybe the Opposition here needs to bring the matter into the House in a more direct manner.