The Rise of Partisanship and How it Paralyses Parliaments

The Rise of Partisanship and How it Paralyses Parliaments

Partisanship permits groups of like-minded people who share similar ideas to organize themselves efficiently in politics. It’s an accepted and acceptable part of parliamentary democracy. But when hyper-partisanship takes hold in politics it can be detrimental to the way parliamentarians serve their constituents and severely diminish how they see their representatives. In this article, the author reflects on his experiences in Alberta’s Assembly and suggests three ways he, his colleagues, and other parliamentarians across the country can reverse the trend towards hyper-partisanship. First, he suggests parliamentarians treat our political adversaries as colleagues, and seek opportunities to get to know them away from the legislature. Second, he urges parliamentarians to seek options for dealing with legislation in a less partisan, more collaborative environment in committee. Finally, he recommends making a conscious effort to elevate the level of debate, discussion, and decorum in each of our respective Legislatures. This article was originally presented to the 39th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Canadian Regional Seminar in Charlottetown, on October 11, 2017.

A Parallel Chamber for Canada’s House of Commons?

A Parallel Chamber for Canada’s House of Commons?

The most valuable and perishable commodity one has, as a Member of Parliament (MP), is time. How we use our time in Ottawa and in the riding speaks to the value we bring to the people who elect us. The efficiency of Members’ time is an integral principle throughout our Parliamentary procedures and conventions. Making efficient and effective use the Member’s time in Ottawa is paramount. In this article, the author explores how the creation of parallel chambers in two sister Westminster Parliaments has provided ways to make maximum use of the time MPs have during a parliament to engage in debate and discussion. In addition to streamlining the legislative process and reducing the need and/or use of closure and time allocation, the concurrent chambers have been used to test new proposals for procedures that eventually have been adopted by the main chamber.

Commonwealth Parliamentarians With Disabilities Conference

Commonwealth Parliamentarians With Disabilities Conference

A founding organizational conference for a proposed Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities was held in Halifax from August 30 to September 2, 2017. Following this successful gathering of 24 delegates, a proposal to establish this group under the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was accepted by the CPA’s executive committee for further review and discussion at the association’s upcoming meeting in Mauritius.

For a democracy to adequately represent and serve its people, it stands to reason that the elected officials within that democracy would need to be as diverse in background as the people they serve. When done correctly, this allows for the wide range of experiences and expertise found within a community to have a place at the table where policy is made, leading to the development of policy that better reflects the needs of the community. Through my experiences as a person with a disability, both as a private citizen and as an elected official, I have witnessed firsthand how a diverse government can have a significant impact not only on what policy is put forward, but on the procedures and practises of government itself, leading it to become more inclusive.

Democratic Reform on the Menu in Newfoundland and Labrador

Democratic Reform on the Menu in Newfoundland and Labrador

What should democratic reform look like in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador? In advance of the provincial government’s plan to strike an all-party committee to study this question, two Memorial University professors used a public engagement grant to create a first-of-its kind, independent grassroots initiative in hopes of supporting this committee’s work. The Democracy Cookbook explores many options for better democratic governance in a way that is accessible to the public and in a manner that promotes greater public awareness of the committee’s mandate. In this article, the authors inform readers about how this initiative was designed, why it may be an effective model for other small jurisdictions, and some of what people will find in the open-source publication that resulted.

Conversations about democratic reform are stirring in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2015, the provincial Liberal Party’s election platform made the following commitment:

Canadian Universities: Emerging Hubs for International Parliamentary Research and Training

Canadian Universities: Emerging Hubs for International Parliamentary Research and Training

Canadian universities have recently emerged as important centres in applied parliamentary research and training, joining universities in Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This article reviews the growth of these research and training programs at three institutions – McGill University, Université Laval and the University of Ottawa – over the past five years. It also points to possible future areas of work, which will allow parliaments elsewhere to learn from Canada’s experience, and vice versa.

Parliamentary Privilege? Kinship in Canada’s Parliament

Parliamentary Privilege? Kinship in Canada’s Parliament

In the Canadian parliamentary context, there are numerous contemporary and historical examples of dynastic politicians, but there has been curiously little academic study of this phenomenon. Many questions pertaining to kinship in parliaments remain unanswered. What is the rate of kinship in the Canadian parliament? What has been the rate of change in political kinship over time and can this change be explained? What advantages may dynastic politicians possess and what constraints do they face? This article measures the prevalence of kinship within the lower house in Canada’s federal parliament and presents data on kinship since Canada’s first parliament. After looking at economic and electoral data, it argues that change to make the electoral system more open and socially inclusive offers an explanation for the observable drop in rates of kinship over time. Finally, the paper will conclude with suggested courses for future research.

Rates of Kinship since Canada’s First Parliament

CSPG Seminar: Regulating Lobbying in Canada

CSPG Seminar: Regulating Lobbying in Canada

Lobbying is a legitimate activity within a democratic society. But lobbyists, like politicians, are quite aware that their profession is not always held in high regard by the general population. As one consultant lobbyist joked during her presentation at a recent seminar of the Canadian Study of Parliament Group, “I am the root of all evil.” A recent Canadian Study of Parliament Group seminar explored attitudes toward lobbying in Canada, explained how lobbying legislation and regulations have influenced its development since the 1980s, and asked whether the current system is effective. A final panel of lobbyists discussed how their job is often misunderstood and why their much-maligned reputation is based on outdated notions of influence-peddling and the unethical actions of a few practitioners.

Regulation of Lobbying in Canada

CPA Activities

CPA Activities

New Saskatchewan Speaker

On March 12, Saskatchewan Party MLA Mark Docherty was elected Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly. Speaker Docherty replaces Corey Tochor who resigned in January to seek the federal Conservative Party’s nomination in the Saskatoon-University riding.

Seven MLAs (including Glen HartDelbert KirschWarren MichelsonEric Olauson and Colleen Young of the Saskatchewan Party, and Danielle Chartier of the NDP) sought the Speaker’s role. Docherty, who represents Regina Coronation Park, won on the fifth ballot.

Remembering our founding editor: A tribute to Gary Levy

Remembering our founding editor: A tribute to Gary Levy

The Canadian Parliamentary Review is very sad to report the passing of its founding editor, Gary Levy, 71, after a brief battle with cancer. Born in Saskatoon, he was an avid football player in his youth. He excelled in school and eventually completed degrees at the University of Saskatchewan and Carleton University, before earning a Ph.D. in Political Science at Université Laval. Before settling into his career with the Government of Canada, Levy spent an exciting year in Paris that coincided with the student riots in 1968 (where he learned the sting of a French gendarme baton). Returning to Canada, he started work at the newly created Research Branch of the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa. Soon, he took on the editorship of the Canadian Parliamentary Review, which he grew from a simple newsletter into a leading Canadian journal on parliamentary practice. Transitioning from a civil servant to a contractor permitted Levy the freedom to explore many other interests, including: being a clerk to Senate of Canada committees, organizing seminars, accepting various university teaching assignments, and studying desktop publishing in New York (where he later returned for a year as the resident Canadian Fellow at the Americas Society). In his retirement, Levy was an avid cross-country skier and cyclist who loved exploring the Gatineau Park. He even found time to contribute pieces to the Canadian Parliamentary Review, including a book review published in our previous issue. The editorial board of the Canadian Parliamentary Review is deeply grateful to Gary Levy for his decades of work with the journal and for the opportunity many of us had to work with him and to get to know him personally. In this tribute, Gary William O’Brien, a former Clerk of the Senate, Clerk of the Parliaments, and editorial board member of the CPR, reflects on his friend’s career and legacy.

I first met Gary in the late 1970s when he worked under Philip Laundy in the Research Branch of the Library of Parliament and I was with the House of Commons Journals. I immediately recognized him as someone who truly understood the workways of parliament. If we could compare him to others in our parliamentary history, who not only had an insider’s view but also increased our understanding through their writings, Arthur Beauchesne would come to mind. In fact, Gary was much attracted to Beauchesne (Beauchesne was a former Clerk of the Canadian House of Commons and author of the eponymous procedural manual) and wrote a four part mini-biography of him in the Canadian Parliamentary Review in 1985-86. Gary described Beauchesne as “an outstanding student,” “a prolific writer on parliamentary topics,” “a sought after public speaker,” who “participated in the great political debates of his time” and who “from the beginning saw parliament from the perspective of a presiding officer.” Many of these same attribues could be applied to Gary himself. If there is a difference, it was that Gary was more a scholar than a journalist. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be Alpheus Todd (a pre-and-post Confederation librarian, author and constitutional historian) or Sir John George Bourinot (the first Clerk of the Canadian House of Commons and author of an important early Canadian work on parliamentary procedure). Regardless, Gary’s place is among the giant intellectuals of Canadian parliamentary history.

Know Your Mace: Prince Edward Island

Know Your Mace: Prince Edward Island

On September 10, 1964, in Charlottetown, those in attendants at the Canadian Area Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association unanimously resolved to mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the meeting of the Fathers of Confederation by presenting, on behalf of the provincial and federal branches of the CPA, a Mace to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island. To that end, a committee composed of the Speakers of the Senate, House of Commons, Ontario and Quebec was appointed to make arrangements for the design and presentation of a suitable Mace.