Alberta’s First Speaker: Felled By The Flu

Article 14 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

Alberta’s First Speaker: Felled By The Flu

One hundred years ago, the world was gripped by an influenza pandemic. Many Canadians succumbed to the disease, including Alberta’s first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. In this article, the author traces his political career and explains how a virulent and novel strain of the flu cost him his life.

Charles Wellington Fisher, the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, was eminently suited for this historic role both by temperament and because of his prior service in the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories. Fisher presided over the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for over 13 years as this new province shaped what was to become its legislative legacy. During Fisher’s tenure as Speaker, the number of Members in the Legislative Assembly more than doubled from 25 in 1906 to 61 in 1919.

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New and Notable Titles

Article 12 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

New and Notable Titles

A selection of recent publications relating to parliamentary studies prepared with the assistance of the Library of Parliament (June 2020 – August 2020)

Cameron, Scott. “Policy Forum – Independent platform costing—Balancing the interests of the public and parties.” Canadian Tax Journal / Revue fiscale canadienne 68 (2): 491-504, 2020.

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How the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Responded To The COVID-19 Pandemic

Article 11 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

How the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Responded To The COVID-19 Pandemic

Unplanned business interruptions can occur at any time. Having a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) helped the Legislative Assembly of Ontario ensure that it had the resources and information required to mitigate and respond to the COVID-19 emergency and to enable resilience and resumption of on-site service delivery. In this article, the author(s) explain how the Assembly’s business continuity planning helped staff navigate the challenging circumstances around the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic and how resumption planning is being used to return to more normal operations.

Hugh McGreechan, William Short and Wendy Reynolds

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Canada’s Library of Parliament: Serving Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Article 10 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

Canada’s Library of Parliament: Serving Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

When the pandemic was declared, the Library of Parliament reacted quickly to identify ways to serve clients and contribute to parliamentary democracy, while respecting public health guidelines and safeguarding employees’ health. With the strategic priorities of relevance, agility and a healthy workplace, and a strong foundation when the pandemic started, the Library launched new and enhanced products while continuing to deliver most existing services. In this article, the authors note the institution’s success mainly reflects three factors: committed, adaptable and resilient employees; collaboration with Parliament Hill partners; and a workforce largely equipped to telework.

They explain that the Library continues to evaluate what has worked well and what has not, and where additional investments would help ensure and enhance its ability to serve clients, regardless of their – or the Library staff’s – work location or of public health or other conditions. They conclude that the Library is confident that the innovation, creativity and flexibility engendered by this crisis will be a lasting legacy.

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The National Assembly in the Time of COVID-19

Article 9 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

The National Assembly in the Time of COVID-19

The National Assembly of Quebec was one of many Canadian parliaments that had to confront the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, the author outlines the steps taken to ensure parliamentary activities could continue and what temporary – and longer-term – changes were made to respond to the directives of public health officials.

François Paradis
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External Shocks and Westminster Executive Governance: New Brunswick’s All-Party Cabinet Committee on COVID-19

Article 8 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

External Shocks and Westminster Executive Governance: New Brunswick’s All-Party Cabinet Committee on COVID-19

This research note compares the responses of Canadian provincial cabinet governments to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic health crisis with a focus on New Brunswick’s unique and somewhat exceptional formation of an all party cabinet committee on COVID-19 in March 2020. The article reviews the responses of provincial cabinets to the pandemic with special attention to their relationship to opposition parties and leaders. While the Savoie thesis has dominated Canadian understanding of cabinet governance, we suggest that centralization of power is only one likely feature and not the dominant feature of cabinet government. With our findings of the current cases, we argue that the defining characteristic of cabinet government in Westminster systems is its “flexibility of method”1
and “capacity for change”.2

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New Frontiers in Committees – Using Videoconferencing Technology

Article 7 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

New Frontiers in Committees – Using Videoconferencing Technology

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many workplaces shut down. Some parliamentary committees didn’t or couldn’t. With physical distancing measures in place, some committees opted to use videoconferencing platforms to help continue operations. In this roundtable discussion, parliamentarians and committee clerks explain how the system has worked, where there have been issues that needed to be addressed, and what this technology may mean for the future of their work.

Participants: Richard Gotfried, MLA, Laura Mae Lindo, MPP, Valerie Quioc Lim, Shannon Philips, MLA, Aaron Roth

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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Parliamentary Political Staffers

Article 6 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Parliamentary Political Staffers

Like so many other Canadians, political staffers working for MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill and in constituency offices navigated some dramatic changes in their jobs in the early months of the global pandemic. In this article, the author reports on survey responses from 175 of these staffers and individual interviews with 10 MP staffers (representing all officially recognized parties in the House of Commons) and one Senate assistant. He notes that many staffers reported working longer hours and experiencing challenging work-life balance when working from home, frustration from the lack of information they received about government programs relating to the pandemic, and stress from the effects of isolation and fears about their health and safety when working from their offices. He concludes first by reiterating the important role political staffers, and particular frontline constituency office staff, play in assisting Canadians navigate the federal bureaucracy and, second, by cautioning parties and the parliamentary administration that counselling and services for staffers may be needed to minimize the harmful effects of this unprecedented period.

R. Paul Wilson
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Making a Bad Thing Worse: Parenting MPs and the Pandemic

Article 5 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

Making a Bad Thing Worse: Parenting MPs and the Pandemic

Canadian MPs have only very recently had access to paid maternity and parental leave. Yet there is an absence in related rules and arrangements that would allow them to continue representing constituents while being granted leave from the House of Commons. In this article, the authors contrast parenting leave in the Canadian House of Commons with the arrangements now permitted in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons. In light of the experiments with virtual proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors suggest a future where a hybrid parliament that combines in-person and virtual participation or one that permits features like proxy voting would be desirable for not only MPs on parenting leave, but also for any MP who could not be present during a sitting for medical necessity, bereavement, inclement weather, geographic distance, or many other reasons.

Amanda Bittner and Melanee Thomas
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