Following the initial flurry of activity and uncertainty, as institutions responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world has settled into a new normal in which the disease – and actions to prevent its spread such as travel restrictions and physical/social distancing – will remain part of life for the foreseeable future. Building on a previous article that examined the early actions of Canada’s federal parliament as the world confronted outbreaks of this novel coronavirus, the author now explores how to identify best practices that ensure the health and safety of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff while respecting parliamentary privilege and constitutional requirements. The author suggests that hybrid sittings (a mix of in-person and virtual participation) combined with a greater role for committee work could become a workable medium-term solution for parliaments during a pandemic. He cautions, however, that it must be parliament and not the government that decides how to fulfill the functions that underpin the Westminster system, maintain notions of parliamentary confidence in government and ensure adequate opportunity for opposition review to ensure accountability. Moreover, he notes that any additional authority granted by parliament to the government or self-restrictions imposed in light of pandemic conditions must be temporary and limited to the duration of the pandemic.
In May 2020, the Canadian Parliamentary Review surveyed table clerks at all Canadian legislatures, with support from the Samara Centre for Democracy. In this article, the author summarizes the responses (and adds updates) to provide a rich account of the state of parliamentary democracy in Canada during the early pandemic and into the late spring and early summer. The picture that emerges is one of rapid adaptation in some cases, stasis in others, and legislative staff everywhere working hard to accommodate a new logistical and political reality. Most striking is the deep variance between legislatures in Canada—from those that have not met at all since the pandemic arrived, to those that have carried on with only minimal changes, to those that have radically adapted to incorporate remote and virtual proceedings.
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.
Since the establishment of the Province of Saskatchewan in 1905, there have been 20 known instances of familial relationships among Members of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. Table 1 presents a full list of kinship ties. Types of kinship have included: fathers and sons, a mother and son, husbands and wives, brothers, a father and daughter, a brother and sister, a grandmother and grandson, a grandfather and grandson, and an uncle and nephew. Other interesting observations of the kinship ties include:
- In 1919 Sarah K. Ramsland not only became the first female to be elected to the Legislative Assembly, but she also became the first and only wife to immediately succeed her husband, as her husband Magnus died in office as the Member for Pelly and she won the subsequent by-election in that constituency. Though re-elected in the General Election of 1921, she was defeated in her bid for re-election in 1925.
- The Ramslands do not represent the only occasion of one family member immediately succeeding another. Benjamin Heppner was elected to the constituency of Rosthern in 1995 and 1999, and then to the new constituency of Martensville in 2003. After his death in September 2006, his daughter Nancy ran in and won the subsequent Martensville by-election in March 2007. She was re-elected in the following three General Elections.
- On three separate occasions family members have served concurrently in the Legislative Assembly. Fathers and sons Oakland W. Valleau and Delmar S. Valleau served together as MLAs from 1944-48; John H. Brockelbank and John E. Brockelbank from 1964-67, and brothers Edward H. Walker and Robert A. Walker from 1951-56.
- The political leanings of related members have differed only three times. Dennis M. Ham was elected in 1975 as a Progressive Conservative while his sister Lynda M. Haverstock was elected 1991 as a Liberal, later sitting as an Independent. William M. Martin was elected in 1916 as a Liberal while his nephew Gordon B. Martin (1986) was Progressive Conservative. Finally, W. Ross Thatcher was elected as a Liberal in 1960 as was his son Colin in 1975, though Colin was re-elected in 1977 as a Progressive Conservative.
- There has been one known instance of three generations of a family serving in the Legislative Assembly. Tony Merchant was an MLA from 1975-1978, his mother Sally Merchant from 1964–1967, and his grandfather Vincent Smith from 1934–1938.
- In addition to kinship relationships in the Saskatchewan Legislature, there are also cases of kinship between elected officials at the provincial level and the federal level, as outlined in Table 2.
- Joseph W. Burton was elected as the MLA for Humboldt in 1938-1943, then as the Member of Parliament for Humboldt from 1943-1949 (returning to provincial politics as the representative for the same constituency from 1952-1956). His son John S. Burton was elected to the House of Commons as the member for the Regina East electoral district in 1968 and served as such until his defeat in the 1972 federal election.
- Pana P. Merchant was the second woman to represent Saskatchewan in the Senate, serving from 2002-2017; her husband is Tony Merchant, the member for the provincial constituency of Regina Wascana from 1975-1978.
High atop the Manitoba Legislative Building, 250 feet above ground, the statue called “Eternal Youth and the Spirit of Enterprise” (or as it as come to be affectionately known by Manitobans, the “Golden Boy”), stands proudly facing north. A symbol so important and full of meaning for our province’s past, present and future, on November 21, 2019, the statue marked 100 years of looking down upon us, a witness to many of the most important events in Manitoba history.
As part of the construction of Manitoba’s third Legislative Building, which started in 1913, the Manitoba Government commissioned French sculptor Georges Gardet to create a set of five bronze statues that would be featured prominently in and on the building. The most notable of these statues, the Golden Boy, was created with the intent of resting in a place of honour at the very peak of the building which would become the centre of the province’s political life. During World War I the statue was cast in bronze in a French foundry and then placed in a ship’s hold for transport to Canada. However, it took a year of travel to make its way to North America; the ship was commandeered to transport Allied troops and supplies across the Atlantic Ocean and within the Mediterranean Sea, its precious cargo used as ballast. Despite the dangerous missions, both the ship and the Golden Boy made it at last to New York. The statue was then shipped by train to Winnipeg and placed atop the Legislative Building on November 21, 1919. With this installation, the tip of its torch was the tallest point in Winnipeg in 1919.
Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia, Fifth Edition. Editor: Kate Ryan-Lloyd, Acting Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Assistant Editors: Artour Sogomonian, Procedural Clerk; Susan Sourial, Clerk Assistant, Committees and Interparliamentary Relations; and Ron Wall, Manager, Committee Research Services.
Appointment of Clerk of the Legislative Assembly
On March 2, the Legislative Assembly unanimously appointed Kate Ryan-Lloyd Clerk of the Legislative Assembly following the recommendation of a special committee. Since that time, there have been two additions to the newly-established Clerk’s Leadership Group. They are S. Suzie Seo, who assumed the functions of Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel on a permanent basis in April 2020, and Artour Sogomonian, who was appointed to the new position of Clerk Assistant, Parliamentary Services in May 2020.
Ms. Ryan-Lloyd has served the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for many years, beginning in the Legislative Library, then the Parliamentary Committees Office and had served as Acting Clerk since November 2018.