Friday, February 5, 2010

Question Period, in America?


It has come to my attention that there is a movement afoot to get Question Period, or Question Time in the United States. The movement, called Demand Question Time is pushing for the President, and possibly his cabinet, to face legislators questions.

I had this idea myself quite a while ago. My idea was that every second Tuesday of the month, the President would sit down with Congress and answer questions. Like here in Canada, each member would get a supplementary question, so that they may ask their primary question, and one follow up. This would allow them to counter any evasive answers. There would, like here, be time limits on Questions and Answers to ensure that one side or the other does not ramble on to run out the clock.

My idea would see a 90 minute Question Period. The first two questions would go to the Majority Leader in the Senate, followed by the Minority Leader in the senate. The next two, to the Majority Leader of the house, and then the Minority leader of the house. The following questions would keep this pattern. Maj-Sen, Min-Sen, Maj-Hou, Min-Hou. This would split the questions between the two chambers, and between the two parties. There have been suggestions to have the questioners randomly picked, I'd not be opposed to this so long as the leaders get the first round of questions. Another way to counter having trained seals ask questions is to limit the number of questions a single member can ask to one (and its follow up) every 3 months or so.

Questions should be limited to 45 seconds, and answers to 2 minutes. IIRC this is what they do here in Canada. In reality, the entire time is not always used. Normally you want 'bad' questions done away with as soon as possible, and normally a 'good' question is asked very quickly. An simplistic answer is "Why do you suck as president?" being followed by "I don't". Short questions and answers also have a much better chance of making it onto the repeating news cycle, so a short quick jab followed by a short effective defense helps both sides 'win'. Normally an entire question and it's supplementary will be done in 3 minutes. At least that is how things work here. This would allow for a full cycle of 12 minutes, allowing 7 questions from each half of each house in each session. This may not sound like much, and it is not, but the point of modern question period is less getting real answers, and more of drawing the pubilc's attention to problems so that they demand real answers.

Americans curious about how we do Question Period need only to check You Tube for "Question Period Canada". I personally recommend the "Big Gas" clip :)

Sorry, no extra data today!