Finding a silver-lining in the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult, but not impossible. The necessity of moving conferences and seminars to digital platforms has opened up new possibilities for participation. In this article, the author explains how the CSPG’s recent virtual offerings have expanded the range of presenters able to participate and created some exciting and informative events.
The Canadian Study of Parliament Group (CSPG) has begun hosting virtual events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In October, our annual conference entitled “Perspectives on Legislatures and Legislative Power: Past, Present, Future” brought together presenters from five continents to share their experiences and insights on various aspects of parliamentary institutions. It was the largest and most ambitious CSPG program yet – and the CSPG hopes to build on this with its upcoming seminar programs.
The annual conference included video presentations that attendees could watch at their leisure with live Q&A sessions with the presenters and special events. The virtual environment allowed for a wide range of participants, including hearing from persons for whom participation at a CSPG in-person event in Ottawa could be quite challenging – such as legislators from Alberta and the Yukon who were in the midst of a legislative session – and allowed participants from coast-to-coast-to-coast to pose their questions.
To say the conference subjects were varied would be a gross understatement. Presentations touched on such diverse topics as the training of new legislators and their trajectory after politics to the scrutiny of regulations by parliament, the experiences of women parliamentarians, and even scandals in Canadian parliamentary history. Provincial perspectives were featured with presentations on recent government formation and practice in New Brunswick, heckling in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the content of prayers in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. International perspectives were also present, with discussions of Indigenous language use in Australian state parliaments, the role of parliamentarians in judicial appointments in South Africa, the role of opposition legislators in Argentina, and a study of Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK … just to name a few!
The full conference program can be found on the website of the CSPG: http://cspg-gcep.ca/
At the time of this writing, the CSPG just held its November seminar, hearing from Black and Indigenous legislators. On the horizon is the CSPG’s December event – a one-on-one Q&A session with noted political scientist Donald Savoie.
Though these words will appear in print far before plans are finalized, the CSPG intends to host three seminars early in the new year. The first tackles holding government to account in the pandemic context and takes stock of virtual sittings, budget oversight and more. The second seminar focuses on parliamentary committees, which had been the focus of the CSPG’s seminar this past March that had to be cancelled. The final seminar, exploring languages in parliament, studies practices regarding minority language use in Canadian legislatures and the officers and agents of legislatures responsible for protecting language rights. Information on these seminars will be announced on the CSPG’s website.
We hope to ‘see’ you at a CSPG event soon – whether in person or, for the foreseeable future, online.