Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 28, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta
January 28, 1975 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Improving the image of the busy MP OTTAWA "We thought it was said a friend commenting on a trip to Ot- tawa and referring to the deportment of Members of Parliament as seen from the gallery of the House of Com- mons. It was the first time she and her husband had visited the national capital and they were quite unprepared for the experience. I remember the impression I had from sitting in the gallery as a student. I found it difficult to understand why MP's were not paying atten- tion to the person speaking; why they were carrying on private conversations and passing notes back and forth with the page boys acting as couriers; and why the atten- dance was so low often down close to the quorum of 20. And I know from listening to the remarks of visitors leaving the galleries that peo- ple not just students but adults too are still asking the same questions. There are two dies to the coin and I learned from ex- perience that the "feeling" of MP's down below and the "image" presented to the world through the galleries above are worlds apart. The transition from a dis- illusioned "gallery watcher" to one of the "gang" down below takes time. As a newly elected, keen and eager young MP, I sat in the House of Com- mons 100 per cent of the time. After a few months, my atten- dance dropped to 90 per cent and then down progressively over a period of months and years until it reached an equilibrium at about 25 to 30 per cent of the actual hours the House was in session. The rationale is complex and varied. In a nutshell, MP's have more demands on their time than just atten- dance in the House. One of the most compelling diver- sions is committee work. As a freshman MP, I was ap- pointed to a single, rather un- important, committee. Later, as I became less "junior" and after I had established myself as a reliable team player, my responsibilities increased. As a member of several of the more important committees, I found myself always run- ning. I would be reluctant to argue that much was ac- complished. But the amount of time consumed was enor- mous. Often two committees would meet at the same time and I would be torn between them. Sometimes the party whip would assist by in- dicating a priority. I found that committees an essen- tial part of the system the way it is constituted were a Berry's World principal reason for absence from the House. Very often there would be far more MP's at committees than sitting in the chamber itself. To cope with the conflicting demands, MP's find that they have to be selective in their choice of subject material. This process is both natural and essential. No one could master all of the complex sub- jects discussed in the House. To keep abreast in two or three areas of major concern is challenge enough. Members from the large metropolitan cities are unlike- ly to concentrate on the cod fishery or wheat farming. They are more likely to select housing, urban transportation or pollution control. There is a natural selectivity with a few MP's especially interested and reasonably well informed in each subject. These act as "shifts" entering and leaving the Commons chamber as the subjects under discussion change. Another natural phe- nomenon affecting Mem- ber's attendance in the House is repetition. The first speaker in any debate will present the positive side of the argument in favor of the bill or resolution. The first Op- position speaker will present the contrary argument, if op- posed, or a shaded variation of "me too" if the bill has general support. Third and fourth speakers will pick up any points missed or present any variations of minor par- ties. After- that, the speeches are nearly all repetition. It is a rare moment when a com- pletely new and worthwhile point-is made. Consequently, an MP who hears the first three or four speeches has "heard it all" as far as the argument is concerned. A visitor to the gallery may be fascinated by an eloquent back-bench dis- course on "roads to resources" or some other sub- ject. He might be less fascinated if he had heard the same or a similar speech in- numerable times previously. The late John Blackmore gave his speech on monetary theory on every possible oc- casion, session after session, year after year. After hearing it a dozen times, I could have presented it from memory. Similarly, Stanley Knowles urges increased pensions on every possible occasion. It is a valid technique. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. But requiring people to listen every time is something else. When Stanley Knowles first tried to increase the quorum of the House from 20 its present precarious limit as experience just prior to the Christmas recess has shown Mr. St. Laurent opposed the move with the sage and knowledgeable advice that in his opinion "it often requires a great deal of goodwill on the part of one's colleagues to maintain even the present quorum." "Uncle Louis" knew that MP's, too, are human and that there is a limit to their endurance. Correspondence is part of the ever increasing workload. Letters must be acknowledg- ed and often they require a certain amount of research or perhaps a visit to a departmental official. Good staff can relieve an MP of much of his work but there are some problems that can- not be delegated: Some mail is read and signed in the House, giving the impression of lack of interest as seen from the gallery. An MP has competing demands on his time from the constituency. Cutting ribbons, opening bazaars, attending 50th anniversary celebrations and making speeches are all part of the business. Requests come from the constituency and from other parts of the country as well. One must accept a fair share of the burden. Time is required for visitors too, constituents expect their MP to act as guide, counsellor and, sometimes, host. Some give advance warning. Others just arrive with a cheery "guess A tour, of the buildings and a pass to gallery are standard fare. Often coffee or a meal is thrc-.vr. in. A young MP from Western Canada was confronted by a group of constituents on budget night. They were friends and he was anxious to entertain them but there was no way they could have dinner Attention Lethbridge Catholic Property Owners The City of Lethbridge has mailed property owners their 1975 Assessment Notice Please check to make sure your property's School Allocation Is shown In the Separate School Supporter column, marked S. This will guarantee that your Education Tax dollars go to the Catholic School District, If your School Allocation is shown under the Public School Supporter column you can change it. nGlG S Complete the form on the reverse side of the Assessment Notice and mail it to the Assessor of the City of Lethbridge. Final date of appeal 14 February, 1975. together. The parliamentary dining room was overcrowded and the pressure of getting into the chamber by eight o'clock to hear the speech from the beginning was too great. It took two full days of telephone calls and pleadings to make amends. Public life, in a situation like that, can be very complicated. The major part'ies, recognizing the impossibility for MP's to be in the House constantly, but also aware of the negative impression given to visitors, have introduced the "duty day" system. In ad- dition to the question period at the beginning of the day when everyone is present, MP's are expected to sit continuously one day of each week. Sub- stitution is allowed but it is the MP's responsibility to be on hand in person or by proxy. The roster system keeps 20 to 30 members on each side of the House most of the time. But mere attendance doesn't mean paying attention ex- cept in a casual way. A capacity for "sifting" develops. If speeches are bor- ing or repetitious few listen. On occasion, however, and without warning, visitors to the gallery may see the news- papers go down and members begin to pay attention. This can happen when the speaker has something original or special to say. Or some senior person like the prime minister, a cabinet minister or senior party spokesman takes the floor. Tradition allows them a wider hearing. If they say something provocative or highly par- tisan, cheers of approval or hoots of derision will follow. Members bang their desks in applause. This hooting and hollering is unnerving to the casual observer. "They are acting like a bunch of kids; they should be are com- mon observations from above. These harsh judgment reflect a lack of understanding of the gamesmanship of politics. The House of Commons is like an arena. The MP's are comparable to hockey or foot- ball fans. They often respect members of the opposing team but one would never know it from the bleachers. If a leading member of their team a point, they shout their approval. If someone on the other side scores, their spirits fall. The Speaker of the House is "the referee" if he seems to favor one team over the other tempers flare. The reaction from the public when television is final- ly introduced in the House of Commons is impossible to predict. For awhile, naturally, attendance in the House will improve. Members of Parliament will be on their best behavior. After a while, unconscious of the cameras, they will revert to type and the "game" will go-on very much as before. To prevent further deterioration of the esteem in which politicians are held, MP's will really have to do something about their PR. They will have to let the general public in on the secrets of the gamesmanship of politics. Perhaps when the Liberals and Conservatives are perceived as the Canadiens and the Leafs, or the Lions and the Tiger Cats, the "image" of the hard work- ing and dedicated majority of players on all the teams will improve. For Further Information Contact: MtMat DMMt it 321-2341 irN. L. 327-4133 LilfctrUp, Books in brief "Albert's Toothache" by Bar- bara Williams, illustrated by Kay Chorac (Clarke, Irwin and Company Limited, A perfect story hour or bed- time reading tale in which the author has captured with humor and compassion the problem of making oneself un- derstood while Kay Chorac, using soft pencil tones, has ex- tended these feelings in her warmth filled drawings. The turtle with a toothache, though appearing ridiculous to his toothless family, was indeed very ill and bed ridden, despite the fact no one believed he was really in pain. How could a turtle have a toothache? It wasn't until Grandma Turtle arrived with chewing gum for all the children (which Albert was forbidden because of his sore tooth) that she discovered the ache wasn't really in Albert's mouth, but in his left toe, bitten by a gopher when he stepped into a hole. But at it's a pretty costly tale. CHRIS STEWART The five Ws of solar energy COUTTS Many people in Alberta perhaps because it is the "Sunshine Province" of Canada have asked me lately to tell them about Israel's advanced research into, and practical application of, solar energy and about Israelis' use of the sun to heat water. The teasers posed ranged from requests for general information to "how do solar heaters and from "how large are solar water heaters and are they un- to "do they require a flat The question asked most frequently is: "Does Israel manufacture them for export and, if so, at what While I am no technical expert, I have made it my business to find out the five Ws of solar heating in an attempt to answer these enquiries. Israel has several firms which manufac- ture solar heating units for both domestic and export markets. The size of the unit depends on the purpose it is to be used for. And, because of widely fluctuating prices, the Israel Trade Commissioner in Toronto could not give me an accurate price quotation. On his advice, I contacted the two main marketing firms in Tel Aviv. One of them, which has manufactured solar water heaters since 1955, claims to have found the answer to the problem of trapping the sun's energy in usable amounts. Their basic problem, initially, was the one of concentrating the sun's rays and preventing the heat from radiating back into the atmosphere. They have solved this by inventing and patenting a selective black coated heat absorber. Solar heating systems consist of only two elements the heat collector and a hot water storage tank placed in such a way that the whole unit acts as a thermo siphon. The collector is designed to trap energy from the sun's rays and convert it into heat to produce hot water. It consists of a metal case with a sealed glass top. The selective black absorber plate is'under the glass, with a network of pipes bonded to it. Through these pipes, cold water from the storage tank circulates and is heated to return again to the tank. Circula- tion is automatic because cooler water gravitates to the collector while the hot water, being less dense, rises to the top of the tank where it remains until drawn off for use. The tank is connected to the mains so that the supply of water is maintained: Once in- stalled, it functions automatically and never needs attention or maintenance again because there are no moving parts, so that nothing can break down or wear out. And, since the solar heater draws all its energy from .the sun, with no running costs, hot water supply is free. The manufacturer says that the cost of in- stallation will be covered by savings on fuel or electricity in 18 months to three years depending on the climate you live in, because, in colder areas with harder winters, auxiliary heating may be necessary for the spells when there is not sufficient solar radiation. But, they claim, even then the savings on current will still be at least 75 per cent. An average household of four persons would use about 120 litres of hot water a day for all requirements which, in many countries constitutes a heavy expenditure in fuel bills. In these areas solar water heaters are worth installing for purely economic con- siderations. However, there are, under all circumstances, additional advantages of convenience, cleanliness, safety and com- pletely automatic functioning which make the system a boon to every housewife. The firm further suggests that solar water heaters provide the ideal solution for isolated farm houses or weekend cottages without electricity since hot water would be available at all times without the bother of heating stoves and boilers which are often a fire hazard and always a nuisance. The system in Israel has been expanded by installation of banks of collectors which func- tion in parallel and so provide hospitals, hotels, motels and factories with a virtually unlimited amount of hot water. These in- stitutions thus supplement their conventional fuel requirements which may be oil, gas or electricity. Even swimming pools are heated in this way and their temperature can be rais- ed by between nine and 27 degrees Fahrenheit to extend the swimming season when the weather is fine and warm enough to swim if the water was just a bit warmer. Finally, these heaters can be installed anywhere and do not require a flat roof. Considering the apparent simplicity and economy of the system, there must be a very good reason why we hear so little about research into solar energy. Perhaps we don't get enough sunshine in our part of the world to make exploration worth while. If that is so, why not inform the public? Instead, when I asked why oil companies don't spend some of their surplus, so generously squandered on advertisements, on research into this alter- native source of energy, the reply was: "Why should Such response from leaders of the industry makes one wonder whether there really is go- ing to be a shortage of conventional fuels in the foreseeable future or whether constant predictions of doom and gloom are not mere- ly a ruse to push up oil prices. However, until it has been proved that we are being taken for a ride, we have no option but to believe that our natural resources will soon be exhausted. If governments and corporations are reluc- tant to look into new and cheaper sources of energy, it is up to individuals to take the in- itiative. As far as Canada and solar energy are concerned, there are still a lot of questions to be answered but as soon as I get the necessary information from Israeli manufacturers of solar heaters, I shall pass it on, hopefully, to the right quarters who will not let political considerations or greed stand in the way of progress and the common good: REPORT TO READERS DOUG WALKER An unfinished agenda When a group begins explorations together without an agenda it is apt to end with a sense of having an agenda still to be completed. That was the experience of those who par- ticipated in a recent two-day symposium, Contemporary Church and Contemporary Media, at a lodge near Lacombe. The experiment of bringing church people and media people together for informal dis- cussion was sponsored by the Division of Communication of the United Church in Alberta. As a consequence, with the excep- tion of a Roman Catholic priest, the 16 church participants were all of the United Church and were mostly clergymen. The media representatives, of diverse or no religious af- filiation, included three journalists, three radio persons, two news directors, a freelance and Mr. Ralph Milton, director of broadcasting for the United Church in Alberta. As could be expected of such a gathering, some criticisms of each other were aired, renewing in me the conviction that there is a need for just such explaining of ourselves as has been attempted from time to time under the boxed head above. Media operations are mysterious to outsiders. They arouse feelings of intimidation, suspicion and resentment. Almost all fears of the existence of a con- spiracy to distort the news by the artifices of suppression, misquotation, invention, slanting and so on .are groundless. The appearance of such, is almost always the result of accident rather than of design. To be sure there have been news operations in which the truth was less important than the promotion of the views of the owners but there is very little of this sort of thing ex- isting today. News gathering is beset with its quota of in- competent and dishonest performers, as in most other fields of endeavor including the ministry. These people cause distress to the rest. One media representative expressed the view that there ought to be some means of disciplining the bad ones in the business. In the absence of any machinery for this other than the usual dismissal procedures followed by individual companies a sugges- tion was made by a churchman that a com- mittee of churchmen (or might make it their business to hand out bouquets and brickbats on a regular basis. The pros and cons of the proposal were not considered so that became part of the unfinished agenda. Near the end of the symposium a media representative, who is also a church person, commented that she was getting the feeling that the church people wanted the media to do the church's job. She strongly objected to this. The media, in the minds of some par- ticipants, merely mirrors the world while others see it being in the value creating business along with the church. What the ob- jector seemed to be getting at is that the media is not obligated to be the servants of the church, promoting its values. Yet, in proceeding according to its own precepts and not giving attention to the deeper dimensions of religious news, the media can fail to even be a mirror and could falsify. This was strongly argued by one of the ministers following an astonishingly good impromptu interview of the Rev. Tom Harding by man Ed interview dealt with Tom's social action ministry in Calgary and his subsequent withdrawal to an island for reflection. It was argued that the interview, by failing to focus on Tom's motivation for being in the ministry, did not dp justice to him as a person and so gave the viewers less than the truth. There's a big issue here that is part of the un- finished agenda. By and large it appears that religion is not getting the kind of coverage in the media that it deserves, considering the large part it plays in the lives of individuals and in com- munities. Blame for this state of affairs was accepted by the representatives of both the church and the media. Churchmen have, all too often, been unco operative when con- tacted by the media while media people have not prepared themselves to do an adequate job of seeking church news or been persistent about it. Several useful suggestions emerged for the improvement of this situation. Obviously the perspectives gained in the exchange of views at the symposium benefited only those who were participants. How to get others in the church and in the media to have similar broadening and useful experiences was also part of the unfinished agenda. Maybe, as was suggested, such gatherings could be held on a community level. That raises the question of why if media people meet with church people they shouldn't also meet with educators, agriculturalists, business people the whole gamut. Truly, that would create an agenda that might never get finished.