This article looks at what has been accomplished in the area of democratic reform prior to the 2011 general election and discusses recent initiatives in three areas – Senate reform, strengthening the political financing regime, and restoring fair representation in the House of Commons.
Two major themes have become apparent since the Progressive Conservative took office on October 12, 2010. One is that the province is facing a major fiscal challenge and New Brunswickers recognize the need to address that. Secondly, the public wants to be consulted on important decisions. This article looks at steps that have been taken to deal with these issues.
The New Brunswick Public Accounts indicate the province reported six years of balanced budgets between 1999-2000 and 2007-2008. From 2007-2008 to 2009-2010, government expenses increased 12.5% while revenue was essentially unchanged. Significant deficits were incurred as a result. Fiscal year 2008-2009 reported a deficit of $192.3 million which rose to $737.9 million in 2009-2010. Provincial net debt, which was under $6.6 billion for 2006-2007, grew to $8.4 billion as of December 31, 2010. For 2010-2011, the deficit, estimated at $740 million, will bring the debt to well over $9 billion. The provincial credit rating has been downgraded and the cost to service the public debt for the year ending March 31, 2010, was $616.6 million.
This article looks at an important issue facing new Canadians – the recognition of their foreign credentials.
I have always said that whether you were born here, flew here or sailed here, Canada opens her arms to those who work hard and play by the rules. It is vitally important for our newcomers to integrate – but integration is a two way street. The ones who are here before must open their hearts to welcome newcomers as full partners in our society by addressing the issues like foreign qualifications recognition and tearing down barriers to success. And at the same time it also the newcomers’ obligation to strive to be a part of society – whether it comes to wholeheartedly accepting Canadian values or getting involved in community work.
This article proposes creation of a new institution for the training of future legislators and as a laboratory for experimenting with parliamentary reform.
After retiring from active politics I founded the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. Its goal is to raise the knowledge and skill level of practitioners in the political arena. You may be familiar with a couple of our projects. We worked with Carleton University in Ottawa to establish Canada’s first master’s program in political management designed especially for political staffers. We also have a facility in Calgary that we use for training political volunteers. Their work is so important to the operation of our democracy.
Due to elections and retirements half of the Canadian provincial and territorial Speakers have changed since October 2011. While there are differences in the role and standing orders of each jurisdiction there are many more similarities across Canada and indeed throughout the Commonwealth rules. This article looks at how question period, points of order and other issues are dealt within the New Zealand House of Representatives.
The role of the Speaker is inextricably entwined with the evolution of parliamentary democracy, which was so hard fought for over so many centuries in England. King John did not affix his seal to the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 because he had some great vision of democracy. He desperately needed extra taxes for his failed military campaigns and the Barons had had enough. They were not going to pay any more without something in return.
The territory of Nunavut came into existence on April 1, 1999 when the Northwest Territories was divided. Among the structures inherited by Nunavut were a consensus-style legislature and a set of legislation, including the NWT’s Official Languages Act, a Languages Commissioner and language services reflecting the needs of the public, government and parliamentarians alike. This article looks at the use of the Inuit language in Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly including the challenge of developing terminology within the parliamentary context.
Language is one of the most prominent and critical issues when it comes to politics and public administration in the north. It affects all areas of service delivery, from health and social services, to education and the expectations of our educational system, to the composition of our labour force and the way business is conducted in the workplace.
For Canada’s parliamentary democracy to function properly, it is integral that key political actors agree on the fundamentals of our constitution. However, with the recent prevalence of minority governments, this agreement has been called into question. During both the December 2008 ‘parliamentary crisis’ and the 2011 federal election campaign, the Conservative Party of Canada, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appeared to hold markedly different views on key constitutional conventions than those espoused by opposition leaders and constitutional experts. This lack of consensus led some to fear that a situation may arise in the near future in which lack of agreement on conventions governing the Governor General’s reserve powers could plunge Canada into a serious constitutional crisis.
In order to discuss the lack of consensus on Canada’s constitutional conventions and argue why they ought to be codified, it is first necessary to define what conventions are and explain how they fit into our constitutional framework. The difficulty in understanding and interpreting constitutional conventions comes from the fact that they:
The Parliament of Canada has traditionally deferred to the government on matters relating to national security although parliamentarians have, on occasion, vied for the task of being actively involved in holding the government to account on these matters. In 1991, parliament conducted a five-year review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act where the Solicitor General of Canada and his officials presented classified summaries to parliamentarians to assist them in their review of the effectiveness of the legislation. In 2004, a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians was proposed in Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy. The Speaker’s ruling on the provision of documents of April 27, 2010 also dealt with this issue. This paper examines a number of issues and concerns that have arisen in the past on this issue, and it examines parliamentary review of national security matters in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. It concludes that there are no reasonable barriers to the involvement of parliamentarians in reviewing matters of national security in Canada.
The notion of parliamentary review of national security matters is not unique to Canada. The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand all have well developed systems to involve parliamentarians in holding the government to account on matters of national security; Canada does not.
Tony Blair, A Journey, London, Arrow Books, paperback edition, 2011, p. 718.
This book continues the tradition of British prime ministers reminiscing at the end of their careers about their lives and legacy. John Major, Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Ramsay MacDonald, Lloyd George, Arthur James Balfour, not to mention Winston Churchill, Robert Peel and Robert Walpole, all wrote memoirs.
A Regional Seats system of election was outlined in a spring 2001 article in this publication. Some recent general elections show the usefulness of the system. In particular, an RS system would provide more diverse party representation in certain areas now dominated by one party or another. One need only consider metropolitan Toronto-Mississauga to see the truth of this.
In the recent Ontario provincial general election, the Progressive Conservatives won no seats in metro Toronto-Mississauga, which was a repeat of their performance in 2007. Of the 28 seats available, the Liberals took 23 in 2011 and 24 in 2007. The same electoral districts are used federally, and the Liberals took 25 or more of the seats in the elections of 2004, 2006 and 2008. Only in the most recent federal election was the outcome any different.