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A brief history of naughty words said in the House

By Kristen Shane      
University of Toronto researchers have digitized the debates of the House of Commons going back to 1901. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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Librarians and parliamentary nerds rejoice!

You can easily search the House of Commons debates going back to 1901 using a nifty new website painstakingly put together by University of Toronto political and computer scientists and historians.

LiPaD, also known as the Linked Parliamentary Data Project, is a searchable digital database of Canadian Hansards since 1901. By going to lipad.ca, you can use the search bar to quickly pinpoint when certain words were used in decades of parliamentary debates.

While this is available through the Library of Parliament’s Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources site for debates dating from Confederation in 1867 through to when the Canadian parliament’s parl.gc.ca site picked up the archive in 1994, the beauty of the LiPaD site is that it’s a lot easier to digest.

Search for a term on the Library of Parliament site, for instance, and you get scanned images of Hansard pages that you have to read through to find the search term you’re looking for. The LiPaD site helpfully has digitized all the written text of the scanned Hansard pages, and added in additional valuable information like the speaker’s photo and party affiliation as well as a link to their biography on the Parliament of Canada’s parlinfo site. It’s user-friendly in the same way openparliament.ca is.

The project began in 2013 when researchers from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, who were all digitizing parliamentary records, were given a grant from national granting agencies to do the work. The Canadian team at the University of Toronto got about $200,000 from the federal-government-funded Social Sciences and Humanities and Natural Sciences and Engineering research councils.

A team of about three or four students in computer and political sciences then worked full tilt for a couple years to transform the scanned Library of Parliament Hansard pages into computer-readable text. That involved clearing up lot of little snags along the way, like when the technology they were using converted all references of “honourable” to another word.

While the researchers from the other countries have yet to put their databases online, the Canadians felt it was important to do with their own data.

Tanya Whyte, a U of T PhD candidate and political scientist with a computer programming background, described putting it online as a “labour of love.”

The site launched in April but only last week received a lot of attention on Twitter, including by members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery who were keen to test it out.

“This new House of Commons Hansard search tool back to 1901 is fun. Wheee…” wrote Ottawa Citizen Hill reporter Jason Fekete, tweeting a link to the search results for “shit.” The site records 10 instances when it was used, as far back as 1919 and as recently as 2009 by former MP Massimo Pacetti, who told then-Conservative MP Paul Calandra he was “full of shit” during debate on the proposed Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act.

“Don’t pretend you’re not using the new Hansard search to look up the official use of swear words since 1901,” wrote the CBC’s Aaron Wherry in another tweet.

The researchers themselves were not immune to using the database to look up naughty language of parliaments past. One of the lead researchers, Chris Cochrane, an associate professor of political science, said he searched “fuddle duddle,” the term former prime minister Pierre Trudeau used when pressed by reporters about opposition MPs’ allegations he mouthed the words “fuck off” to them in the House of Commons in 1971.

Aside from the fun, though, the database can be used for serious—and fascinating—political research, explained Ms. Whyte, like analysis of whether Question Period is getting more or less vitriolic, or whether a particular MP normally stays on-topic in debate, or to measure the level of positive or negative emotion in debate.

The researchers’ next steps are to digitize the French parliamentary records as well as Senate debates and House records from prior to 1901. Problems with character recognition and the clarity of the early records and the French text led them to start with the English House debates from 1901 onwards.

Jeneroux gets hitched

JenerouxSM

Elizabeth Clement, a surgeon, has married Edmonton MP Matt Jeneroux. Photo courtesy of Matt Jeneroux’s office

Edmonton Riverbend MP Matt Jeneroux is now married to Elizabeth Clement. Friend and fellow Conservative MP Michael Cooper, the MP for St. Albert-Edmonton, tweeted his congratulations and a photo of the two getting hitched on Sept. 4.

Mr. Jeneroux was first elected last October. He serves as his party’s Western Economic Diversification critic.

Dr. Clement is a surgeon at the University of Alberta hospital.

Media on the move

The Hill has been busy lately with job shuffles.

While longtime CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge’s departure from The National after July 1 of next year was the most high profile of the recent moves, it tops a sizeable list.

Mr. Mansbridge announced his retirement from the CBC’s flagship nightly newscast next summer after 28 years as chief correspondent and five decades in the news business.

Also on Tuesday, CTV announced veteran news anchor Kevin Newman would taken the helm of the network’s investigative show W5 starting Oct. 1. He succeeds Lloyd Robertson, who took over as host in 2011 after leaving his national news anchor job. Mr. Newman has been a correspondent with the show for four years, and had a previous hosting gig with Global National.

On the Hill, David Akin is back with The National Post as a senior political reporter. He tweeted a statement from the Post’s executive producer of news, Jordan Timm, on Sept. 1 noting that he “was a member of the Post’s Day One staff, and has been reporting on federal and provincial politics for more than a decade.”

David_Akin

Longtime Hill reporter David Akin is now a senior political reporter with The National Post. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

Mr. Akin was most recently the Ottawa bureau chief for Sun Media, which is now owned by the Post’s parent company, Postmedia.

Mr. Akin has been around the reporting block, writing for everyone from CTV to Canwest/Global News and the Orillia Packet.

Over at the Ottawa Citizen newsroom, they’ve welcomed two new reporters, including Susana Mas, formerly a senior online writer with the CBC.

Her last day at the CBC was Aug. 19 and she joined the Citizen on Aug. 29, according to her Twitter account.

Ms. Mas had been at the CBC for nearly six years, she tweeted Aug. 15.

Many Hill and CBC colleagues gave her shoutouts before she left, including Kathleen Petty, John Paul Tasker, David Cochrane, and others.

Joining Ms. Mas and the rest of the Citizen crew is reporter Joe Lofaro, who previously worked for Metro Ottawa. He was there for almost three years.

Also leaving the Metro Ottawa ship is Lucy Scholey, a senior reporter who is off to be the paper’s managing editor in Winnipeg.

The free local daily’s managing editor is Steve Rennie, a former Hill reporter for the Canadian Press.

kshane@hilltimes.com

@kristenshane1

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to add a photo and more information about Matt Jeneroux’s wedding.

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