On April 1, 1999, the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut sat for the first time. Six artists collaborated on the design and creation of Nunavut’s Heritage Mace and Working Mace: the late Mariano Aupilardjuk (Rankin Inlet), Inuk Charlie (Cambridge Bay), Paul Malliki (Naujaat), Mathew Nuqingaq (Iqaluit), the late Simata Pitsualak (Kimmirut) and Joseph Suqslaq (Gjoa Haven). The Heritage Mace is kept on permanent display in the Legislative Assembly Precinct. The Working Mace sees daily service during sittings of the House and other occasions requiring its presence. Both Maces are 150cm in length. A narwhal tusk forms the shaft of the Heritage Mace. A synthetic material forms the shaft of the Working Mace. A quartz crystal is set into the tip of the Heritage Mace. A 2.25-carat diamond is set into the tip of the Working Mace. Materials that are common to both Maces include amethyst, black quartz, citrine, garnet, granite, lapis lazuli, silver, soapstone, quartz and white marble. One of the ongoing outreach initiatives of the Office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is the biennial Mace Tour, during which the Speaker visits schools and other facilities across Nunavut’s 25 communities to display the Mace and to discuss the work of the institution that it helps to safeguard. Earlier this year, the Speaker and the Mace paid visits to the communities of Baker Lake and Gjoa Haven.
The Community Outreach program offered by the Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations Branch of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario brings the experience of Queen’s Park to communities and schools in a way that transcends financial and distance barriers. Participants get a hands-on experience learning about how Ontario’s parliament works, the responsibilities of the three levels of government, and civic engagement.
Learning the responsibilities of government and how the electoral and legislative process works is something every Ontarian should be familiar with. Unfortunately, travel costs preclude every resident from travelling to their federal, provincial and territorial assemblies to get a first-hand look at legislatures in action. To bridge this distance, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has created the Community Outreach Program. Groups of children, young adults and ESL (English as a second language) learners have all gained an opportunity to learn the basics of parliamentary processes through this service. Shaped around the participating group’s existing knowledge, the program aims to fill the gaps of what they don’t know in an informative and entertaining way.
At some point in time every current parliamentarian will become a former parliamentarian. In recent decades associations representing former parliamentarians have formed to provide transitional assistance to and maintain and foster social links that developed among these men and women during their time in legislatures. In this roundtable the Canadian Parliamentary Review brought together members of several provincial associations of former members who spoke of their organizations’ work and how they might be able to offer their wealth of parliamentary experience to assist current research and outreach projects of legislatures.
Although constitutional barriers to major Senate reform make the task appear daunting, significant change can be achieved through deliberate evolution which is shaped by consistent objectives. In this article the author identifies an incoherence about the defining purpose of the Senate as a central reason for the failure of past reform initiatives. Outlining the incremental reform option, he suggests practical steps, notably introducing a “job description” and particular qualifications required of Senate appointees. This could improve both appointments and accountability, and also support future nomination committees or other mechanisms.
Canada is once again experiencing a cycle of media attention to alleged Senate scandals and opinion polls showing wide support for change. Unless public emotion about the Senate can be connected to practical solutions and action, however, history suggests that today’s intensity will merely be the prelude to tomorrow’s fatigue and collective indifference. This article explores an approach to reform that does not rely upon constitutional change and could thus be initiated immediately. The Senate today is a very different institution from the Upper House created in 1867 and will continue to evolve, either by default or as a result of deliberate effort. If its evolution is shaped by consistent objectives, significant reform of the Senate can be accomplished incrementally.
Cabinet size has fluctuated in Canadian legislatures over the past century. Beginning in 1993, two federal governments introduced “roll back” cabinets which sought to significantly reduce the number of ministers. The author, focusing especially on the years 1993 to 2014, asks if Canadian governments have a “cabinet size problem.” He notes that since 1993 two trends have emerged: 1) cabinets are more likely to expand during government and more likely to consolidate between governments and 2) cabinet size is more likely to increase during government under centre-left parties than centre or centre-right parties. Although arguments for a reduction of cabinet size tend to focus on financial costs, the author highlights the political cost of having a large cabinet relative to the size of the legislature, as there are fewer private members to keep the government accountable.
Following a January 2014 cabinet shuffle, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 40-member federal ministry tied Brian Mulroney’s 1984 cabinet as the largest in Canadian history.1 Compared to other Westminster systems, Canadian cabinets have been noted for their large membership.2 Does Canada have a cabinet size problem? As Graham White wrote in 1990, “foreign visitors to Canada are frequently bewildered by the size of Canadian cabinets”.3 Beyond the institutional differences identified by political scientists between Westminster states, the size of the ministries in Canadian federal and provincial governments is subject to domestic scrutiny after each cabinet shuffle. On occasions of cabinet expansion, critics express austerity-themed worries of the cost of government and populist-based concerns of “too many politicians”. On occasions of cabinet reduction, first ministers are praised for “streamlining government” or “doing more with less”. Not surprisingly, Canadian politicians have been quick to pursue the positive responses to cabinet reduction, promising to appoint fewer ministers to cabinet.
Joseph Tassé, Lord Beaconsfield and Sir John A. Macdonald: A Personal and Political Parallel (Montreal, 1891) Translated from the original in French by James Penny. Edited by Michel W. Pharand, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015, 85 p.
This is a welcome addition to the small production of books published in this year of Sir John A. Macdonald’s 200th anniversary. Michel W. Pharand, the long-time director of the Disraeli project at Queen’s University, brings together both the original version of Tassé’s pamphlet, first published in 1880, as well as the translation produced by James Penny in 1891. Pharand brings a rigorous scholar’s attention to the original text and the translation and alerts the reader to his numerous corrections. He also provides an admirably complete set of notes to establish context as well as enlightening explanations.
A selection of recent publications relating to parliamentary studies prepared with the assistance of the Library of Parliament (June 2015 -August 2015)
Caldwell, Gary Gordon. “Québec’s Republican Temptation.” Dorchester Review, Spring/Summer 2015: 61-9.
53rd Canadian Regional Conference
More than 100 delegates were welcomed to Victoria by host jurisdiction British Columbia for the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Canadian Regional Conference from July 19-25, 2015. The conference theme focused on parliamentary security.
This article examines how the proceedings of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Council became open to the public and provides answers to a well-known legend in Province House.