Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews

Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews

Representation in Action: Canadian MPs in the Constituencies, by Royce Koop, Heather Bastedo and Kelly Blidook, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018), 235 pp.

There is no doubt that Canadians take the work of their Members of Parliament for granted and there is a reason for this: almost all MPs are elected because of the label they represent, not because of their personal qualities or politics. Parliamentary representation has rarely worked out in practice the way it was supposed to in theory. The democratic ideal was that electoral districts would choose one of their own to represent the region without compromise within a unifying assembly. Instead, political parties have used their own organizing and ideation powers and quickly overcame whatever an individual might offer (exceptions do exist, but they are extremely rare). Members of Parliament are seen as practically anonymous and interchangeable, utterly dependent on the party and programme they represented during the previous electoral contest.

Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews

Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews

The Senate and the People of Canada – A Counterintuitive Approach to Reform of the Senate of Canada, James T. McHugh, Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland, 2017, 296 p.

James McHugh’s addition to the parliamentary bookshelf is extremely ambitious in scope. It undertakes to provide a comprehensive survey and assessment of historical, philosophical, methodological, constitutional, institutional and political considerations relevant to Senate reform – and that’s just in Part I. In Part II, McHugh proposes a Senate closely modelled on the British House of Lords. He provides draft constitutional amendments that would accomplish this along with detailed supportive argument. Part III examines non-constitutional options and recent history, including the Trudeau reforms of 2016, and concludes by calling for reform that would enable Canada’s appointed upper House to achieve its full potential.

Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews

Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews

Religion and Canadian Party Politics, David Rayside, Jerald Sabin and Paul E.J. Thomas, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2017, 429 pp.

In this monograph, the authors demonstrate that religious faith continues to be a relevant factor in Canadian party politics. They identify three major axes of religious contention: the historic division between Protestants and Catholics (especially English-speaking Protestants and French-speaking Catholics); the more recent division between moral conservatives and political and social progressives (especially over the issues of LGBT rights and the legality of abortion); and finally, the division between those willing to recognize minority religious practices and institutions in Canada (especially those of Canada’s growing Muslim population) and those who fear that such recognition would undermine Canadian values. The authors then provide multiple case studies – federal, provincial and territorial – to illustrate how these axes of contention are evident in Canadian party politics, primarily over the past 30 years.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 39 No 4

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Le Canada français et la Confédération: Fondements et bilan critique. Jean-François Caron and Marcel Martel, eds, University of Laval Press, Québec, 2016, 174 p.

With the 150th anniversary of Confederation fast approaching, a wave of scholarship is encouraging us to reflect on this formative period of Canada’s history, and the evolution of the country over the past century and a half. In Le Canada français et la Confédération, edited by historian Marcel Martel and political scientist Jean-François Caron, a group of six scholars interrogate what the original Confederation deal was supposed to mean in terms of linguistic and cultural duality, and how this dynamic has evolved since the 1860s. While in many respects this collection represents a synthesis of existing scholarship, it provides a useful primer on French-speaking Canadians’ relationship to Confederation, and their varied experiences of the system of federalism. At the same time, it inadvertently exposes the ongoing gap between Canada’s English and French scholarly communities, as many of the findings discussed here echo those of historian Arthur Silver’s excellent 1982 book, The French-Canadian Idea of Confederation.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 39 No 3

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Made in Nunavut: An Experiment in Decentralized Government, Jack Hicks and Graham White, University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 2015, 375 p.

When Jack Anawak publicly spoke out in 2003 against a Cabinet decision to transfer public service positions from his community of Rankin Inlet to Baker Lake, he was a minister in the Government of Nunavut (GN). His statement was a clear breach of the convention of Cabinet solidarity; Anawak was subsequently stripped of his ministerial portfolios and removed from the Executive Council. I was then in my first professional job, working in the GN’s Cabinet office. The incident remains, for me, a live example of Canadian constitutional conventions applied and debated in public. It is also a striking example of two decades of political quarrels in Nunavut over the policy of ‘decentralization’.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 38 No 4

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Ces constitutions qui nous ont façonnés : anthologie historique des lois constitutionnelles antérieures à 1867 Guy Laforest, Eugénie Brouillet, Alain-G. Gagnon et Yves Tanguay, Presses de l’Université Laval, Québec, 2014, 372 pp.

Guy Laforest Eugénie Brouillet, Alain-G. Gagnon and Yves Tanguay. The Constitutions that Shaped Us: A Historical Anthology of Pre-1867 Canadian Constitutions, McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal, 2015, 360 pp.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 38 No 3

Parliamentary Bookshelf

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.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 38 No 2

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Les surveillants de l’État démocratique : mise en contexte, edited by Jean Crête, Presses de l’Université Laval, Montreal, 216 p.

Les surveillants de l’État démocratique, edited by Jean Crête, provides an analysis of democratic accountability. More specifically, this collective work explores how institutions and mechanisms are needed to: first, ensure that leaders of democratic states do not exploit their powers, and second, identify and prevent abuse. Through empirical studies, the authors demonstrate that while constraints are an essential element of democracy, they are not without cost. The book contains seven chapters divided into two parts. The first part consists of three chapters that address the auditing of public accounts. The four chapters in the second part revolve around the theme of structural constraints associated with oversight mechanisms. Although the majority of chapters focus on the Canadian context, two take a look beyond our borders.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 38 No 1

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Remaining Loyal: Social Democracy in Quebec and Saskatchewan, by David McGrane, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, 373p.

David McGrane has written an ambitious book about social democracy in Saskatchewan and Quebec. His thesis is that the CCF-NDP and PQ governments were social democratic in a traditional sense under premiers such as Tommy Douglas and Allan Blakeney in Saskatchewan, as well as René Levesque and Jacques Parizeau in Quebec. McGrane believes that later governments evolved into third way social democracy under other premiers, including Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert in Saskatchewan and Bernard Landry and Pauline Marois in Quebec.