The third installment in my behind-the-scenes look at a top-secret guidebook given to all 105 rookie MPs on Parliament Hill.
Today, some highlights from the guide’s rules of appropriate behaviour in the House of Commons:
As you first set foot in the House of Commons, you will notice the plush, green carpet under your feet. Please treat it with great care, as it is only steam-cleaned once per day (twice, if Stephane Dion’s Parliament Hill Fight Club has met). Proper footwear is required at all times. Going barefoot is not allowed and has not been since Pierre Trudeau had the carpet replaced with a deep, luxurious shag, for one session in 1974.
When you take your seat, you will notice a few things: There are 3 headset jacks. One is for English translation, the second is for french translation and the third is hardwired into the Galaxie Music Network. Be careful not to get too involved in enjoying the music when the opposition is speaking as nodding your head to the beat may be falsely construed as you being in total agreement with the member. Those listening to the heavy metal channel are asked to refrain from smacking their heads on their desk. Again, this may be misconstrued as support for the member who has the floor.
The Speakers’ Chair is OFF-LIMITS. We do not believe we have to explain that any further. But in case it’s not clear, please refer to the “Inappropriate Behaviour” section, subsection: “After Hours Visitors”, sub-sub-section: “Maxime Bernier.”
House of Commons Pages are there to assist you. They may relay messages, research precedent and refill water glasses. They may not “go for smokes,” throw rose petals at your feet as you enter, or sit in for you “for this lame-ass vote on amendments to the Parks Canada procedural guide.”
At the request of the Prime Minister, trap doors have been installed under the seats of all MPs. They are connected to a switch at his desk. Do not be alarmed by a sudden free-fall out of the chamber. Stay calm, curl tightly into a ball and attempt to roll as you land. You will be greeted by a Party Whip, who will inform you as to your House re-admittance time, or escort you to the Parliamentary Library, where you will spend the rest of the session with a rag and a can of “Pledge.”
“Hear, hear,” accompanied by a pounding of your desktop is an acceptable utterance of agreement. “Eat it, Bee-atch!” accompanied by “Double-gunning” of “Devil’s hands” is not. NOTE: One exception to this rule is if John Baird makes a righteous smackdown of an opposition MP.
“Shame,” or “outrageous” are acceptable forms of derision in the House. Giving “the raspberry” is not, unless you are in the front row, where your spittle will not affect the member seated directly in front of you, and can be effectively removed by the carpet cleaners that evening.
When the Speaker adjourns for the lunch session, leave in a calm, orderly fashion. Do not push or run. The shortage of fajitas in the Parliament Hill Cafeteria has been addressed. There will be plenty for all.
In answer to the most frequently asked question we’ve had from rookie MPs: Yes. When you rise for your first question, ever, in the House, you may take out your iphone and snap a self-portrait of yourself. Be aware, however, that Marc Garneau is quite adept at “photo bombing” new members at this moment.
Finally, no “tweeting” while you are in session, unless it is a blurb about official government business. “OMG, this place smells like old people! #boring” is not official government business.
Enjoy the House Of Commons. It’s like being in a class you really hate, but don’t even have to listen, because some nerd (CPAC) is taking notes for you.
[box type=”info” border=”full”]Previously: Handling The Media[/box]