November 1, 1976 (30th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Howard Earl Johnston

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Howard Johnston (Okanagan-Kootenay):

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate the need for rule changes in this parliament. To some degree I can accept a call for greater efficiency, although a chill goes up and down my spine whenever I hear that word used in relation to the democratic process. Democracy is notoriously inefficient, but it is far better than some of the alternatives we have seen in the world which could lay a great claim to efficiency.
While I could support many aspects of the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax-East Hants (Mr. McCleave), I do not at all see that we should confuse the issue of reforming the rules of this House with the far different idea of broadcasting or televising directly the proceedings of this Chamber. I do not at all mind destroying the unanimous
Changes in Standing Orders
agreement to which the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) so fondly referred.
I do not at all mind being flatly contradictory to many of the remarks made by the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Sharp), who I know has been attached to the dream of televising this Chamber for a long, long time. Since he has been relieved of higher responsibilities it seems that he is about to devote himself to a drive to achieve that particular aim. Throughout all the speeches, particularly those of the hon. member for Eglinton and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, we find this absolutely naive faith in the powers of television somehow to improve the functioning of this Chamber. I cannot understand how people as sophisticated as these two hon. members in so many fields of endeavour can remain so totally innocent of the effect television has on the institutions it touches. I am altogether unable to comprehend that.
One would assume that the world has been improved in every way in the years since television became widespread in North America, but we can look around us and see what seems to be the opposite. Sport is not better because it is televised. The Olympics, in a sense, are not better events because they are televised. All kind of things creep into the sports world because of television.
Crime is rampant in North America. One could assume that if television could improve a situation then by televising police stories and so on we would have developed a more peaceful and pleasant society. But that is not the case, Mr. Speaker. Yet we are asked to believe that somehow televising this institution would have a salutary effect, not only on it, but that democracy would be enhanced in this land. I would say that is utter illusion; worse, it is folly, and beyond that it is dangerous to democracy itself.
One of the things at stake is the representative nature of our democratic system. I know there are people who hark back to dream of direct democracy and feel that somehow democracy which started in some small city state in Greece, where everyone could be present, was the epitome of democratic government and that everything we have had subsequently, because of larger areas and greater populations, has been a poor substitute. I do not believe that, Mr. Speaker. I believe the representative system of democracy that has been developed, particularly through the British tradition of a constitutional monarchy, is the best guarantee of democracy that the world has ever seen. This would be endangered by televising this Chamber, and it would be altered by televising this Chamber in a way that the hon. member for Eglinton and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre cannot predict.
I would remind the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and the hon. member for Halifax-East Hants of a television panel on which 1 sat some eight years ago when I was first a member of this House. This was broadcast over an Ottawa station. I would ask them to cast their minds back to it. One thing it showed was that you could not predict in advance just how television is going to work.

November 1, 1976
Changes in Standing Orders
I am not the only person who suggests this. People who know the medium well, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, that long time television personality, agree. Tie has said that the media enormously distort life.

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