You know what’s even better than watching 48 adults argue and yell about public policy issues?
Watching 48 adults argue about the rules which govern how they’re allowed to yell at each other – all in the interest of public policy issues, of course.
This week, spectators in the House of Assembly were treated to a bizarre power struggle to determine who had the greatest master of arcane parliamentary minutia.
By all accounts, it was Government House Leader Jerome Kennedy taking a run at Liberal MHA Jim Bennet that started the whole thing off.
But more broadly, there’s a sense among the Liberal ranks that they need to prove that the government doesn’t totally run the show in the House, and that the opposition parties can call the shots sometimes too.
Quite frankly, it hasn’t been going very well.
Effectively, all of the points of order have amounted to nothing.
Kennedy hasn’t been helping the situation either. On Wednesday he accused Liberal House Leader Yvonne Jones of getting “sooky” because she wasn’t getting anywhere with her points of order.
“She is not doing very well; she is 0 for 3 or 4 yesterday,” Kennedy said. “One of these days she will win a point of order if she keeps it up, but good luck to her.”
Kennedy argues all the points of order on behalf of the government, and he’s been reminding everyone that in his former life, he was a trial lawyer.
In his free time in the House, I’ve seen him at his desk with a copy of the Standing Orders, a highlighter and a massive pile of post-it notes.
When he’s arguing his points, Kennedy also likes to accidentally/on purpose refer to the speaker as “your lordship,” a subtle reminder that he used to argue this sort of stuff in court.
On a particularly spiteful point of order, Kennedy refused to let the House of Assembly close because Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce kept talking past 5:30 – the normal end of the day.
MHAs were kept after class, and ended up “debating the issues” – I use that phrase in the loosest sense – until 10 p.m. Tuesday evening.
(Don’t worry about Joyce in all of this. The Liberals sent out a press release in the evening triumphantly taking credit for forcing the House to stay open, so they could keep debating the important matters facing the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.)
The NDP hasn’t been totally left out, but it’s definitely a Liberal-Tory showdown.
What’s funny about all of this is that no one – except the hyper-political geeks – is paying any attention to this.
My CBC counterpart, David Cochrane, posted on Twitter during one point of order exchange: “That's my last tweet on this Point of Order. Too silly to watch let alone bore my followers with it.”
The indefatigable Michael Connors at NTV was even more blunt. Covering the same exchange, he posted this succinct summary: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. #nlpoli”
For my part, the whole thing keeps reminding me of the slogan from that improv TV show, "Whose Line is it Anyway?"
“It’s the show where everything is made up, and the points don’t matter.”