Many Canadians have never seen their federal, provincial or territorial parliaments in person. As a result, when asked to picture what goes on in these buildings, the image that may come to mind is most likely what they may have seen on television or the Internet: a fiery Question Period exchange, a recorded vote on contentious legislation, or perhaps scenes from a budget address or Speech from the Throne.Continue reading “A Focus on Parliamentary Administration”
Did anyone have worldwide pandemic on their 2020 Bingo card? Yet here we are, months into an event that has profoundly affected our personal and professional lives.
Many non-essential workers were sent home to help limit the spread of COVID-19 – some were laid off completely while others transitioned into working from home. Schools were shut down and many students experienced what has probably been the longest March Break ever. And our institutions, including our parliaments, adapted to a world where public health requirements for physical distancing changed everything from seating arrangements in chambers to videoconferencing proceedings to opposition members being sworn in to cabinet committees.
In an age when information is at your finger tips, when answers to a query are a quick Google search away, and when the number of print publications and the need for physical copies of books is in decline, should we be asking the question: whither the library?
In this theme issue on parliamentary libraries, the Canadian Parliamentary Review provides some answers, and finds that while their role has shifted over the years, parliamentary libraries remain an important resource for the people and institutions they serve.
Indigenous persons have served as representatives in Canada’s federal and provincial parliaments for almost as long as the country has been in existence. However, the legacy of colonialism combined with franchise restrictions imposed on Status Indians (and women), has contributed to severely limiting the numbers of individuals who have served as parliamentarians. Following the 2015 federal election, national news media lauded results which indicated that a record number of Indigenous candidates (54) resulted in a record 10 persons of Indigenous heritage becoming MPs. Yet, this still represented only three per cent of the House of Commons seats – a little more than half of their census representation. Moreover, there is no guarantee that these gains will be sustained from one parliament to the next. Representation in the Senate and amongst the provinces varies widely (see our Infographic on pages 32-33).
In this issue, we focus on Indigenous Parliamentarians and Indigenous representation within parliaments. Inside you’ll find profiles of some Indigenous parliamentarians, including the McLeod brothers of the Northwest Territories (inside cover) and Yukon’s Sam Johnston (page 64), articles by or roundtable discussions featuring Indigenous parliamentarians, a feature on efforts to expand Indigenous art within a Parliament, and an expansive review of how Indigenous political cultural traditions can coexist and inform the Westminster parliamentary system. A single edition cannot hope to capture the diversity of Indigenous experiences or scratch but the surface of important topics or issues. Rather, we hope to use this theme issue as a springboard for additional coverage. Other articles and features which were planned for this issue, but unfortunately not ready in time for publication, will be part of this ongoing presence. We encourage suggestions for future articles or submissions.
One hundred years ago, on June 7, 1917, voters in Alberta elected Louise McKinney to the provincial legislature. McKinney, who was sworn in the following year, was not only recognized as the first woman elected to a Canadian legislature, but also the first woman elected as a parliamentarian anywhere in the British Empire.
To mark this anniversary, the Canadian Parliamentary Review is pleased to present a theme issue focusing on the women who have followed (and hope to follow) in her footsteps.
On June 7, 2016, the House of Commons created a Special Committee on Electoral Reform “to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting.” This committee’s work contributes to discussions about electoral reform that have been occurring with some frequency across the country since the turn of the millennium. It has resulted in citizen committees and assemblies, commissions, and plebiscites or referenda in provinces such as New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.
Drawing inspiration from a Canadian Study of Parliament Group conference on electoral reform held in spring 2016, in this theme issue we explore some aspects of this ongoing discussion in greater detail.
In May 2015, the Canadian Study of Parliament Group (CSPG) held a one day conference exploring parliamentary reform of procedure and practice. Noting that reform “enables an ancient institution to adapt to a changing environment, including relatively new democratic values and expectations,” the conference surveyed aspects of Canada’s parliamentary evolution and “where it needs to go in order to maximize its contribution to Canadian political life.”
The event brought together scholars, parliamentary officials and other interested observers to hear four excellent panel presentations and to discuss and debate how Canada’s Parliament might continue to adapt to meet the needs of Canadians.
In this edition of the Canadian Parliamentary Review we turn our eye to what one contributor calls “the country’s most dramatic, if accidental, parliamentary reform”: constituency offices. With well over 1,000 constituency offices at the federal, provincial and territorial levels combined, many people across the country will have at least some familiarity with these institutions – whether simply passing by on a street or actively seeking assistance from their constituency office in person, by phone or by mail.