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‘It’s hard to hear anything’: Jason Kenney vows a quieter Alberta legislature if elected

The Alberta legislature, which is reportedly too darned loud.

On his first day in the Alberta legislature since becoming Progressive Conservative leader, Jason Kenney expressed annoyance at the noise.

“It’s hard to hear anything,” Kenney told a press scrum on Monday afternoon, adding that he also did not care for “the desk thumping.”

The next day, Kenney said in an interview with CBC that de-noisifying Alberta’s seat of government might even form part of his future policy for the province.

Jason Kenney on Sunday March 19, 2017, soon after his election as PC leader.

“I would like to explore whether we could turn down the volume in the Alberta legislature if I ever get elected to it,” he told Edmonton radio host Portia Clark, noting “I had a hard time hearing much of what happened.”

Monday was the first time Kenney had visited the Alberta legislature as leader of the Progressive Conservatives. As such, it was the first time he had watched Question Period from the speaker’s gallery, rather than the public gallery.

Also loud: Soldiers firing a 15 gun salutre on the Alberta legislature grounds to mark the Speech from the Throne.

Kenney is not an MLA, so he is not able to participate in legislative debates.

The experience in Edmonton was reportedly much noisier than in Kenney’s prior home turf, the House of Commons in Ottawa.

“In Ottawa in the gallery they have these little phones so you can hear what’s going on,” he said Monday.

Since the House of Commons is bilingual, both spectators and MPs are given earpieces to hear translations. Proceedings in the Alberta legislature, by contrast, are conducted entirely in English.

As for the content he could pick up, Kenney called it “typical legislative argy-bargy.” Argy-bargy, of course, is a predominantly British term meaning “lively discussion.”

Kenney said Monday that he preferred the British Westminster system for legislative proceedings, in which applause is strictly verboten.

Clapping or desk thumping of any kind is indeed banned in Westminster, although the U.K. parliament is well known for having much more heckling and shouting than its various Canadian equivalents.

Kenney is not the first to raise objections about the conduct of the Alberta legislature. In 2014, teachers from Innisfail Middle School vowed never to return to the seat of Alberta’s government after students on a field trip heard a minister accuse the opposition benches of constantly being able to “suck and blow every single day.”

In that case, however, the alleged unparliamentary language might have said more about the listener than the speaker.

While “suck and blow” can indeed be interpreted sexually, it’s also a longstanding legal phrase used to accuse an opponent of taking contradictory positions.