The nickname of Queen’s Park is “The Pink Palace,” even though it used to be a former jail. In many ways, it still feels like one.
I went down to Queen’s Park today to watch the Second Reading of Bill 181, which proposes to amend the Municipal Elections Act to allow ranked choice voting in municipal elections, to change campaign financing rules, and to shorten the campaign period. I will elaborate a little more on my thoughts on these reforms, but I want to talk about Queen’s Park’s procedures at the moment.
What seems archaic to me is that in 2016, citizens who come to view the proceedings in the public gallery are allowed to take literally nothing with them up there. No phones, no notepads, no electronic devices of any kind. No bags either; are they afraid of angry people perhaps being tempted to throw things at the MPPs during debate?
I think there was some BS being spread around today. Both the security at the door and the coat checkers said no phones up there; and that even the MPPs themselves can’t have phones in the Legislature. However, when I got inside, literally every MPP was checking their phones while debate was going on.
Speaking of watching what MPPs actually do while one of their colleagues is speaking, it was quite revealing. You have to realize, this is a workplace like any other, and while it seems rude that members are talking to each other while one is speaking, from the workplace perspective one set of workers doing something while another is doing something else is rather commonplace. But it was rather disingenuous to see the Minister who introduced the Bill responding to an opposition member’s question, and that member wasn’t really paying attention; he actually started another conversation with a colleague sitting behind him. And with the acoustics in that chamber, you can hear two or three conversations going on at once if you listen really carefully.
The architecture inside the chamber was breathtaking, you could see the history of the place and what the building has been through in the history of Ontario. But it seems in 2016 the place needs to upgrade some of it’s procedures to better accommodate the way citizens wish to engage live in this place of democracy. I hope at some point the people down there realize that.