How to be a Heckling MP

by Michael Schultz on April 14, 2014

I went to the launch of an important new Canadian book last week. The book – TRAGEDY IN THE COMMONS – Former Members of Parliament Speak About Canada’s Failing Democracy ( Random House Canada 2014). The authors are Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan, founders of the think tank Samara. ( previously blogged)

There appears to be more interest of politics in TV shows like House of Cards ( U.S. and British) and The Best Laid Plans ( Canada) than actually getting out to vote in the real deal. The authors manage to get 80 former MPs to open up about their trek to ‘the hill’. Perhaps the most resounding message – that not many planned to get into office as part of their career path. As a former Co-op teacher I can say I only ever placed one student in a politician’s office.

Globe and Mail journalist Elizabeth Renzetti weighed in today with an article about the book and its importance to Canadians:

I read the book. In it I discovered an interesting reference. MPs new to Ottawa ( and London) orient themselves by reading a book called How To Be An MP by a Labour MP in Britain by the name of Paul Flynn (Biteback Publishing 2012). Flynn writes in a humourous fashion giving newbie MPs an insight  to the machinations of the House. In one section called “Heckler”, Flynn describes what it takes to dish it out and take it.

Flynn says that the “essential equipment for this job (MP) is a sonorous, bellowing voice, a lively, inventive mind and intimate knowledge of the victim.” He also suggest that timing is everything and suggest waiting for that moment of silence so you can be heard. On top of that he recommends being economical with your words; ” One word is best. Four is an absolute maximum.” Heckling is a true punctuation. ( often the emphasis is on ‘pun’)

Of course there are many tactics and strategies in heckling in the House. Perhaps the greatest of these is derailing the victim’s train of thought. The heckler faces consequences. The Speaker will deal with the offender as if they had delivered an obscenity if it is boorish and cruel heckling. The funny and gentle kind tends to get swept under the carpet of the House.

Heckling becomes both effective and necessary when a member is simply wrong.

As it turns out, Flynn’s book is the most borrowed book in the Parliamentary library in Britain. Apparently Canadian MPs read it too although political ‘how to’ pamphlets are also part of the ‘welcome to Otawa’ repertoire.

Finally, here is Flynn being asked to withdraw an accusation of another member in the House regarding troops in Afghanistan. Note the light turnout in he chamber. Also note how Flynn stands his ground…a formidable presence in the House who seems to be speaking his mind and representing his constituents. A bold man.


Sing Sing B.B.

by Michael Schultz on April 8, 2014

We all know what happens when someone is booed or heckled off the stage. It can be tense, embarrassing and sometimes even funny.

But there’s a big difference between heckling the rookie and the tireless,ageless pro. Such is the case with a recent performance by famous bluesman B.B. King in St. Louis where he was apparently heckled for not delivering the goods.

I was fortunate enough to see him in 1972 at an outdoor college show in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was great. His guitar ‘Lucille’ was wailing. In that same year, he did a show with Joan Baez at Sing Sing Prison in New York. He considers that performance one of his very best. There’s even a 90 minute documentary about it. Here’s a take:

Fast forward to 2014, B.B. King is 88, troubled with diabetes but he’s still performing. But members of the audience at the St. Louis show apparently had the audacity to heckle him for what they thought was less than stellar show. One site called ‘hottytoddy’ picked up on this and writer Tad Wilkes aptly reported the heckling behaviour as “correctile dysfunction”.

We are always amazed when performers seem to still ‘have it’ at an advanced age. I mean look at McCartney. Look at the Rolling Stones. At the same time Canadian legends Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson certainly have a diminished and different range as they continue to play into their 70s.  The writer of the article has it right – if you go to a show keep in mind where the performer ( or anyone for that matter) is in their respective career and enjoy and appreciate it for what it is (or don’t go). But to heckle? Not so good.

Finally, I (we) need to go and see the B.B. King biographical movie “The Life of Riley” ( B.B.’s real first name).



House of Cards – “We Need a Bit of Order”

by Michael Schultz on April 1, 2014

It’s a lively place, the House of Commons. Politicians dish it out with their minds and tongues while the Speaker tries to keep the order.

A recent compilation from Britain is a good example.

In it we witness several examples of heckling and guffaws and rowdiness.

One member of the house rises to call another a ‘miserable pipsqueak’ only to have to retract the comment…which he does after getting his digs in.

Another member cites the PMs transition over the course of the week as one from “Stalin to Mr. Bean”. Only in the UK.

While PM Gordon Brown natters on, another member plays air guitar on a newspaper – watch for it.

Here in Canada, there is a similar focus and concern for the state of our politicians behaviour in the house. However, there is something positive to be said for this open discourse and debate even when it goes into Yuk Yuk mode. Humour is better than bloodshed.


Hose Job in Turkey

by Michael Schultz on March 29, 2014

Bans on Twitter and You Tube have occurred in Turkey where the government is trying to shut down social media sites.

Internet users in Turkey are using protest in the form of humour to lampoon and satirize the action. One image showed Twitter birds covering the head of Prime Minister Erdogan in droppings. There’s even a twist on the Obama slogan which says”Yes we ban.” Internet bans and censorship have grown over the past few years. But criticism of the government ( including humorous) is prevalent where once it was something to shy away from.

Here’s one Turkish journalist’s view:

Protests on the street have been met with government water cannons…soap is not provided:

Now I feel subversive for presenting this.

A Snicker and A Heckle

by Michael Schultz on March 28, 2014

Some time ago I dealt with the issue of ‘cat calls’ – those lecherous and unwanted comments from people like male construction workers.

Something new just came across the transom.Now Mars in Australia has put together a commercial ( or as they say an ‘advert’) depicting a bunch of male construction workers shouting positive and empowering remarks to women passing by. The commercial leads us to believe that this activity was brought on by hunger and that only a Snickers bar might remedy the situation.

Here’s an example….one worker yells out, ‘ You wanna know a filthy word? Gender bias.’ When I started viewing the advert, I really thought this commercial was something concocted by a government agency to bring attention to this sometimes rampant form of personal abuse and bullying in public. The central message certainly focuses on misogyny or the hatred and dislike of girls.

Here’s the clip:

What it does reinforce, particularly in a male-oriented country like Australia, is that this type of behaviour is bullying not heckling.


Don’t Trade Spezza!

by Michael Schultz on March 27, 2014

Philanthropic Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk stood to be recognized in the House of Commons viewing gallery recently. I’ve been there…but haven’t done that.

Melnyk was there to urge Canadian action in the Ukraine. Seems Melnyk is cozy with House Speaker Andrew Scheer. Melnyk has hosted Scheer in his private box at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Prime Minister Harper has been nudged by more than one Ukrainian living in Canada to stand up to Putin. Let’s face it – Canada has a strong tradition of Ukrainian settlement and involvement going way back.

The side story on this,in a heckling capacity, was that when Melnyk was introduced in the gallery by Scheer, there were shouts of “Hear, hear!”. Then, a member in the house (John Baird – Foreign Affairs Minister) shouted “Don’t trade (Jason) Spezza!”. Spezza is the captain of the team rumoured to have been on the trade table chopping block. Here is a classic merge of heckling in both sports and politics. Melnyk countered with “No chance.”

Here’s Spezza doing what he does best:

Those Heckling Muppets

by Michael Schultz on March 17, 2014

I am pleased to say that in my second year of blogs at this site I have now surpassed 300 entries – a further testament that heckling is in fine form out there.

The great thing about cartoon characters and puppets is that they can live forever…for generations to enjoy. Speaking of puppets, the new Muppet movie is just out and it might be fun to take the grandkids…it’s called Muppets Most Wanted.

Lo and behold Muppet characters Statler and Waldorf do a little (negative) plugging and heckling of the film from their roost in the balcony.


Hitler Explains the Ukraine Situation

by Michael Schultz on March 15, 2014

I’m glad someone could explain the post Olympics brew ha ha about what’s happening in the Ukraine.

While I think talk about the return of the Cold War is over- exaggerated, it is comforting to know that one man can lead us to the promised land:

These Hitler rants, while a little overdone by now ( mind you the Miley Cyrus one was stupendous), hit the mark…they are ‘jig jag’ in a Nazi fashion.

The power and humour of the Internet might save humanity yet. Take a chill pill Putin et al.

Say it Again, Sam!

by Michael Schultz on March 14, 2014

I was at the Balance Plus store in Barrie, Ontario a few weeks back and picked up some new curling gear. I also happened to pick up a copy of the 1999 book  SAY IT AGAIN, SAM- Life in and beyond the Richardson curling dynasty (Future Marketing). It’s a wonderful romp through many decades of the life of one of Canada’s curling greats, Sam Richardson. Sam was a member of the famous ‘Richardson’ rink that won 4 world titles in a span of 5 years starting in 1959. I didn’t start curling myself until about 1963-64 at the age of 13-14 but I think curling popularity received a major shot in the arm from this dynamic curling dynasty from Saskatchewan. They helped change the game.

Sam’s brother, Ernie, was a cool customer on the ice and off and skipped the team. These guys had only curled about 4 years when they went off to their first world title after claiming the treasured Canadian crown at the Brier! Amazing. Of course, the old standard was, what else are you going to do in Saskatchewan in February? Here are the highlights from the 1963 Brier in Brandon Manitoba where they make it # 4 ( Mel Perry is in for Wes Richardson at lead, Sam is at second and Arnold is third). The ice looks really slow – watch how these guys pump the rock for a draw.

They achieved fame in and out of Canada. I still have an Ernie Richardson sports card from a box of Wheaties ( still have Maurice Richard and Barbara Ann Scott too!…).

Ernie even made it on To Tell the Truth, a popular U.S. show in the early 60s:

Sam took a shot at political office during the Mulroney era. He was unsuccessful and found it to be a ruthless pursuit where 5% of the people he called on knocked the stuffing out of him. As a conservative in a strong NDP constituency he had his worked cut out for him. As Sam says about meeting the public; ” Even if you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean you still can’t be polite.”

As an outspoken guy and a regular at the podium (unlike a more introverted Ernie), Sam was comfortable talking about just about anything. He references drinking in several places and even says ” A fondness for the grape, it must be noted, is not essential. Neither, however, is it frowned upon.”

No one has beaten the Richardson record. It will likely stand for a long time to come.

Here’s a look at a cool website put together by the family. Have fun!



The Attack of 30-Metre Mother Canada – All You’re Going to See is Her Arse!

by Michael Schultz on March 10, 2014

I opened the paper last weekend and this story jumped out. A Toronto guy named Tony Trigiani(who along with Parks Canada) wants to erect a rather large monument ( 30 metres tall or 10- storey high) on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.

Cape Breton is one of my favourite parts of the world – not just Canada. The statue, called “Mother Canada” and referred to as the “Never Forgotten National Memorial”, is being proposed for one of the most picturesque sites in the Highland National Park called Green Cove. They even have their own website even though the project isn’t even approved yet.

It is not being received very warmly by local residents in Cape Breton. In fact, one local has said that “the thing with this war memorial – it’s starting a war” It is proving to be very divisive. The plan touts the benefits of tourism and employment, something that might well be welcomed in Cape Breton.

While it may be hard to dispute the value of a war memorial, those opposed cite the following disadvantages and ask a few questions about such a project:

1. Is it wise to pour concrete over a pristine  arm of pink granite that extends into the ocean?

2. Is this really fitting in terms of Parks Canada’s mandate?

3. Does this project smack of a staunch support of military symbols, further glorifying war but also creating another legacy for Canada’s Conservatives who are in favour of it?

If it gets the go-ahead, it would be unveiled July 1st, 2017, commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday ( let’s hope Quebec is still with us).

Local folks met at the Ingonish fire hall recently and provided plenty of jeers and cheers. There’s a feeling that they are not be listened to or consulted.

The statue features a rather large female statue. Perhaps the heckle of the hour goes to a resident named Hector Murphy who, while he sees some benefit for the local economy, is not a fan of putting it at Green Cove. Says Mr. Murphy, “If they put it down at Green Cove…all you’re going to see is her arse.” Good one.

I called up my old friend Jim Morrow, who is the editor and publisher of The Victoria Standard in Baddeck. Jim says that the issue is creating quite a stir – in fact, he confirmed that it is generating more debate than any other subject in the past 22 years.

Perhaps more Canadians and folks globally need to know the story of Cape Breton residents like Alexander Graham Bell, aviator McCurdy and others before this project gets any sort of light of day.

Those involved in promoting this thing should watch this 1958 classic trailer on The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I see some parallels.