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The Hamilton Spectator
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Wednesday November 19, 2008
Anyone who thinks decorum in the House of Commons is plumbing new depths should read some parliamentary history.

One Saturday night in May, 1882, a number of boisterous -- in all likelihood completely liquored -- MPs amused themselves by setting off firecrackers in the House. Sir John A. Macdonald rose to say that in his 40 years in Parliament, he'd never seen anything so disgraceful -- a remark that was greeted with another volley of crackers.

Peter Milliken, the re-elected Speaker of the House, can only thank his lucky stars that the saloon beneath the House of Commons chamber, which used to ply Honourable Members with "refreshments," was closed down when Wilfrid Laurier became Prime Minister.

MPs were back in the nation's capital yesterday after five months to elect a new Speaker. The first impression from the Press Gallery above the Speaker's chair was the devastation that had been wrought on Liberal ranks. The opposition side of the House used to seat just the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. Now there is room for most of the NDP caucus, too.

Rookies milled around the chamber, walking into desks as they gazed up at the stained-glass windows and coats of arms on the ceiling. Justin Trudeau looked slightly less awestruck on the Liberal back bench but he could be seen looking covetously at where his leader, Stephane Dion, was sitting, perhaps wondering how long he'd have to spend in the parliamentary boonies before leap-frogging a couple of rows forward. More...


The House of hooting, hollering
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