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Julian, NDP take question period to Twitter
Brevity isn't Peter Julian's strong suit.
The Burnaby-New Westminster MP once filibustered in the House of Commons for 13 hours.
A non-profit research group that strives to improve political participation said he uttered 226,027 words in Parliament last year.
But now Julian's been forced to limit his questions and criticisms to 140 characters or less.
That's because the Conservative government has decided to prorogue Parliament, shuttering the House of Commons for an extra month until Oct. 16.
To keep alive the debate that normally happens during the daily question period when members of the government answer questions from the opposition, the federal New Democratic Party launched a virtual question period on Monday, posing their questions to ministers via Twitter.
Julian said distilling his thoughts to 140-character bursts isn't easy.
"The challenge is getting the essentials," said Julian at a press conference Tuesday at his constituency office. "With any issue you take the root, the really important core of what you're trying to ask. I can get my message down to 140 characters when I need to."
The virtual question period runs at the same time, and in the same manner as the real deal, explained Julian. The leader of the NDP and the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, poses the first questions, followed by those from other NDP MPs.
On the initiative's first day, 26 questions were posed but very few were answered, said Julian. Although one minister, James Moore, said he was busy driving and didn't want to risk a traffic ticket.
Julian said the virtual question period has the potential to reach more people than view the live broadcasts of question period. He has more than 6,500 followers while Mulcair has almost 46,000. Add up all the followers of all the opposition MPs, multiply the number of times their questions might get retweeted and the digits get bigger exponentially.
"That's a significant number," said Julian. "Not too many people have the time in the middle of the day to watch question period live."
While the Twitter queries might be more political showmanship than a serious call to accountability, Julian said they may be a new way to get people involved in the democratic process.
"That brevity means people can follow a debate in just a few minutes," said Julian. "We're hoping it will become something people are seized with."
To follow the virtual question period on Twitter that begins at 11:15 a.m. PDT every weekday, use the hashtag #qpq