Peter Van Loan is a freedom fighter.
The Conservative government's House Leader on Monday offered a spirited defence of the right to dodge legitimate questions with off-topic answers during debate of an NDP motion to empower the Speaker to clamp down on irrelevant answers during Question Period.
"This change would affect responses to oral questions, but it would not touch the actual questions," Van Loan complained.
What he didn't say is questions are already covered by rules intended to keep them relevant and on point.
"Of course, that the NDP didn't include questions in its proposal might be because questions are already subject to a standard of relevancy -- a standard that does not currently apply to responses," Maclean Magazine's Aaron Wherry explains, pointing to this explanation offered up by Speaker Andrew Scheer on January 28, 2014:
"I will continue to rule questions out of order that do not establish a direct link to the administrative responsibilities of the government. In the same sense, so-called hybrid questions will also continue to risk being ruled out of order when this link is not quickly demonstrated. Members should take care when formulating their questions and establish this link as soon as possible in posing their questions to ensure that the Chair does not rule what may be a legitimate question out of order."
But Van Loan's bigger problem seems to be that he thinks it's the government's duty to hold the opposition to account during Question Period.
"The Leader of the Opposition would prefer to make question period a one-way street," Van Loan protested. "He wants the rules changed to keep him from facing any tough questions or cold facts."
Because that's exactly the point of Question Period -- 45 minutes set aside each day for the government to grill the opposition parties?
Unfortunately for Van Loan, the Speaker also said this in his January ruling:
"The speaker must adhere to the longstanding principle that question period is intended to hold the government to account."
Watch Van Loan's courageous defence of his right to be irrelevant: