Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The thing about MP attendance

I think Member of Parliament attendance records should be public. I also think their expense information should be public and audited by the auditor general, and that not getting out in front and leading on that issue was a significant missed opportunity by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. But I’m digressing.

Attendance records seem to potentially be the next media hobby-horse. I always find it interesting what they choose to care about. I’ll agree with them though that the records should be made public, but with one big caveat: the media needs to report on the information accurately, and in context.

If politicians are balking at releasing attendance information, I’m willing to bet there’s one big reason why: the inevitable short-sighted, ill-informed media coverage that will result decrying lazy MPs taking long vacations on the public dime, when nothing could (in most cases) be further from the truth.

The fact is, there is a lot more to being a Member of Parliament than sitting in your seat in the House of Commons chamber. There are many hours of committee work, office and constituency work both in Ottawa and back in the riding, and many public events. It’s far from a Monday to Friday, nine to five job.

Yet to many media organizations, if they can’t see you in your seat from their perch in the gallery, you must not be doing your job. It’s like the misguided bosses who believe in management by seeing you at your desk, not what you're doing. And it leads to stories of missing leaders when, rather than taking part in the empty spectacle of question period, they’re actually out meeting actual Canadians.

Whenever I see dismissive comments by pundits about all the “vacation time” MPs get I cringe, because, besides from the fact they’re not “vacationing” when the House isn’t sitting but instead are doing constituency work, research, or many other things, such ill-informed commentary only serves to further undermine public confidence in institutions already sorely lacking it.

So sure, release MP attendance information. There’s absolutely no reason for it to be secret. But I hope the media will resist the urge to just tally the numbers for easy headlines, and will instead look at the why behind the numbers, and put them into context.

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Proud Canadian said...

On one of the rare occasions I totally agree with you that Mps attendance records should be public. Simply because we are their bosses! We hire them to represent us. If I don't show for work today I would have to answer to my boss why I didn't come in tomorrow. I don't see why it shouldn't be the same for our Mps.

On another subject if Mps can't call each other by their names in question period,they also shouldn't be allowed to use the names of peoples who are not members of parliament. I find this hypocritical on their part! What do you think about this?

ChrisInKW said...

I recall the inflammatory flyers put out during writ period by the CPC candidate contesting the seat of Borys Wrzesnewskyj in Etobicoke Centre that eventually saw a judge roused from his home to grant an injunction. They complained of Mr. Wrzesnewskyj's poor attendance to committees, many of which were fictitious. Would publishing this information help?

wilson said...

''Whenever I see dismissive comments by pundits about all the “vacation time” MPs get I cringe, because, besides from the fact they’re not “vacationing” when the House isn’t sitting but instead are doing constituency work....''

So then why the big uproar over prorogation?

Annie... said...

Jeff, who runs Proressive Bloggers as there is an error only

Jeff Jedras said...


Probably some kind of parliamentary tradition. You also need to refer to the senate as "the other place" and you can't call someone a liar.


The potential for information to be misused doesn't override the right for the public to have it. If (and when) it's misused, we should pounce on it, but that potential isn't grounds for not releasing it.


Because Harper prorogued the first time to avoid a confidence vote he knew he'd lose, and the second time to avoid parliamentary scrutiny on detainees.

Jeff Jedras said...


Scott Tribe, but I think it's fixed.

McLea said...

So then why the big uproar over prorogation?

Whoa, whoa. It's tough enough to be an unapologetic political hack, now you want intellectual consistency?

Jeff Jedras said...

I know you are, but what am I?

Proud Canadian said...


"Probably some kind of parliamentary tradition. You also need to refer to the senate as "the other place" and you can't call someone a liar."

I agree with you! Here is the problem! Mps can distroy peoples reputation when they are reading their statements just before question period. With the press in the pressgalary and being live on TV it doesn't take much for an Mp to destroy someones reputation.

I'll give you an example. An Mp stands in the house and says person "A" who is a businessman is sleeping with person "B" wife who is also a businessman! Reputation is everything in business. Person "A" and "B" can't sue the Mp in question because the are protected and thats the problem!

ChrisInKW said...

Jeff: I agree. In this case, I think having such information available to the public would be more of a help than a hindrance.

ProudC: Members who abuse SO-31s have had their mics cut by the Speaker in recent times for just this reason. I'm sure Jeff or another observant blogger has a tally of the MPs cut off and their party affiliation.

siobhan63 said...

@ Proud Canadian:

MPs are not supposed to refer by name to anyone who is not a member. Many Speakers have ruled to this effect.

RuralSandi said...

I agree about attendance records, but - explanations should be included. If they are at meeting or ill and recorded as absent it may look like they're neglectful.

Wilson - exactly what constituency work do they do? They all have staff that do most of the work. Most so-called constitency work is fundraising and schmoozing events. My Con MP never does town halls (in the fall he goes elk hunting) and simply does "photo-ops".

ridenrain said...

While it's not a total, "" does keep track of who missed what votes in the house. It shows Iggy as the most absent Liberal so maybe that's the "context" that you need to spin.

RuralSandi said...

Nice try Ridenrain - but it's common for the leader of the official opposition to be on the road.

See what I mean folks - a reason is perhaps called for so that Con controlled trolls by order of the PM can't twist a point