Canada’s Parliament always involves talking — talking by the Prime Minister, talking by Cabinet ministers, and most of all talking by all its MPs. And politicians being what they are, much of this talking takes the form of speeches.
Now, there are good speeches, there are forgettable speeches, there are bad speeches. And then there are those orations that are so spectacularly bombastic and rhetorically ridiculous that they deserve some form of recognition in the blogosphere. A typical example was made on March 23, 2005, by Conservative MP Ken Epp. Here it is presented, with the requisite fisking, as recorded in the previous version of this blog:
Mr. Speaker, six minutes ago it was exactly 100,000 hours since I was first elected as a member of Parliament. What are my thoughts after 4,167 days?
For the record, Mr. Epp was elected to Parliament in 1993, when the first Chrétien government came to power, so he’s held the seat for around 12 years. Which presumably means he should know better: stating his time in office in terms of hours is a bad idea. It gives the impression that Mr. Epp spends his time counting minutes — something that is only done when the counter (usually a prisoner, a pupil in detention, or a white-collar waiting for the weekend on a Friday)wants to leave. Is being an MP that bad?
It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the people of Elk Island, and now Edmonton—Sherwood Park. It has been exciting to progress from the Reform Party, to the Canadian Alliance and now to the new exciting Conservative Party of Canada.
No, I promise you; I don’t think he’s being ironic here. Still, it does seem somewhat oxymoronic to see “exciting” and “Conservative” paired together like that.
While this corrupt, tired Liberal government is missing the mark with respect to leadership of this wonderful country, I and my party are ready to govern with vision and insight. We are ready to offer Canadians a responsible, trustworthy government, an end to mismanagement, a new respect-based relationship with our American neighbours, a justice system that does a better job of protecting law-abiding citizens, effective democracy and much more. I can hardly wait until the electorate gives us the green light at the next election.
Cheerleading. Backbench MPs do that a lot. The thing is, the above paragraph could have been said at any point during this parliamentary term (yes, there’s the excuse of the Conservative convention this past weekend). It could have been said last year, or in the term before the last election, or even after the first four years of the Chrétien administration. That’s why it’s effectively meaningless.
I anticipate with great excitement what the next six million minutes will bring.
That goes back to his “100,000 hours” statement. One gets the impression that Mr. Epp wants to warm his backbench seat for another 12 years, at which point he’d be 78 years old. (This assumes that he continues to win all elections held in that period.)
It was this supremely bombastic example of rhetorical silliness that led to the establishment of the Ken Epp Awards, to celebrate the examples of rhetorical silliness that MPs wind up indulging in despite themselves.
Here’s how a speech qualifies for an Award nomination:
1. The nominee must be a Canadian elected official. Officials from provincial, territorial and municipal jurisdictions can be nominated.
2. The nominated statement or oration must appear on the Web in an official capacity. This includes online Hansard plus speeches from the nominee’s official website. Transcriptions from a rival’s website or blog do not count as official. In any case, a link must be provided so the reader can see for him/herself and judge accordingly.
3. The statement must show a use of rhetoric that strikes people as being silly or inane, with an explanation as to why. Because rhetoric is meant to be said out loud, errors in transcription (i.e. spelling) don’t count.
Examples may be found in the “Ken Epp Awards” category on this blog.