In the Canadian parliamentary system of government, the Crown (i.e., the executive branch) is solely responsible for the management of public monies and only the Crown may initiate a request to the House of Commons for new or increased taxation or spending. This is known as the financial initiative of the Crown and is entrenched in section 54 of the Constitution Act 1867. The Act also states in section 53 that any legislation for the appropriation of public revenue or for the imposition of a tax must originate in the House of Commons. On the surface, it would seem a relatively straightforward matter to determine if spending or taxation is being contemplated. However, the House is often presented with many complex and creative manners in which an authorization for spending or taxation may be expressed. When a point of order is raised concerning an infringement of the financial initiative of the Crown, the Speaker must closely scrutinize the bill, or the amendment, and rule on its admissibility. This article examines about 80 rulings since 1969 which deal with spending initiatives and the need for a royal recommendation.
Calls for the democratization of the Canadian Senate began before the ink was dry on the British North America Act, and have intensified as Canada’s democratic standards have evolved. In recent decades, a multitude of commissions and committees have recommended every conceivable means of selecting Senators. The current federal government has introduced legislation “to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate,” and to limit Senator’s terms of office to eight years. This article examines some recent proposals and suggests that the best means of selecting Senators would be by election using the Single Transferable Vote.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd Edition, by Audrey O’Brien and Marc Bosc, House of Commons, Ottawa and Éditions Yvon Blais, Montreal.
Presiding Officers Conference
Approximately fifty delegates and observers attended the 27th Conference of Presiding Officers which took place in Whitehorse, Yukon from January 21-24, 2010. Every jurisdiction except New Brunswick was represented.
The host of the Conference was Speaker Ted Staffen of Yukon. Among the other Speakers in attendance were: George Hickes (Manitoba), Roger Fitzgerald (Newfoundland and Labrador). Steve Peters (Ontario) Kathleen Casey (Prince Edward Island), Paul Delorey (Northwest Territories), Bill Barisoff (British Columbia), Don Toth (Saskatchewan), Charlie Parker (Nova Scotia), James Arreak (Nunavut), Peter Milliken (House of Commons), and Rose-Marie Losier-Cool (Speaker pro tempore, Senate).
In “Time to Move Beyond Electoral Reform Proposals” (Review, Winter 2009), W. Scott Thurlow raises several questions about representation and the voting system and concludes that electoral reform is less important and more problematic than other possible reforms. I would suggest that proportional representation (PR) is both a pragmatic and necessary reform for the future of democracy in Canada.
It is true that no electoral system counts 100 per cent of the votes. However, in comparing our current system which regularly leaves about half of the votes uncounted to a proportional system that counts all but (depending on the type of PR) maybe five per cent, it is clear that PR is a much fairer system of representation.