The Chatter Box: An Insider's Account of the Irrelevance of Parliament in the Making of Canadian Foreign and Defence Policy


246 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55002-425-6
DDC 328.71






Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, and Chile and the Nazis, and the coauthor of Invisible and
Inaudible in Washington: American Policies To


Roy Rempel has assembled a well-researched, easy-to-read diatribe on
behalf of the Reform Party of Canada, now the Canadian Alliance. He
laments that Parliament has become a “chatter box” of little
relevance in dealing with the world’s major issues, and that Canada is
no longer a major player the way it was in the 1950s. He even admits
that factors beyond the control of Canadians, such as the recovery of
Germany and Japan, made Canada less important than it had been.

Rempel argues that most members of Parliament are not particularly
interested in foreign affairs, and that members of parties other than
his own waste time asking irrelevant questions. Whether that is correct
is another matter. Rempel and the Reformers/Canadian Alliance have a
certain perspective, but arguably other MPs have equally valid or even
better reasons for theirs.

Parliament was not irrelevant, as Rempel says, when the Korean War
began; almost unanimously the MPs supported the St. Laurent
government’s policies. The week of the Cuban Missile Crisis is another
example of when MPs were very interested in foreign affairs. As Rempel
points out, President George W. Bush did not thank Canada in his address
to Congress following the events of September 11th, but that omission
reflected bad manners on Bush’s part, not a Canadian failure. Canada
shut down its commercial aviation for days in order to accommodate
aircraft excluded from U.S. air space, and Canadian volunteers did
yeoman’s service in providing hospitality. Canada played no role in
the Battle of Bagdad, a decision of which the Canadian Alliance
disapproved, but polls indicated that most Canadians did not support the
U.S. invasion of Iraq. Liberal Party associations advised their MPs not
to participate in such a war unless the United Nations approved. Prime
Minister Chrétien acted in accordance with his MPs’ wishes. He
probably agreed with his MPs, but their opinions were hardly irrelevant.


Rempel, Roy., “The Chatter Box: An Insider's Account of the Irrelevance of Parliament in the Making of Canadian Foreign and Defence Policy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,