Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 39 No 3

Article 8 / 11 , Vol 39 No. 3 (Autumn)

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 3

Article 6 / 10 , Vol 38 No 3 (Autumn)

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.

Is There a Confidence Convention in Consensus Government?

Article 3 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Is There a Confidence Convention in Consensus Government?

In the Northwest Territories’ consensus system, as in the party system, a government is appointed by the formal executive and members of the executive council are accountable to the House. However, the selection of executive council members in the two systems differs significantly and perhaps consequentially for the confidence convention in responsible government. In this article, born out of a debate between the authors sponsored by the Northwest Territories Regional Group of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, David M. Brock and Alan Cash explore some of the factors to consider if and when the convention is put to the test in a consensus system. They conclude by noting that with recent changes to the Northwest Territories Act as well as emerging conventions regarding the removal of members of the Executive Council, one may now safely argue that the confidence convention could be applied in the Northwest Territories in a manner similar to the application found in party systems. However, the prerogative of the House, emphasized and codified in consensus government, limits the discretion of the first minister and mitigates the power of the executive.

Consensus government in the Northwest Territories is to be executed “in accordance with the principles of responsible government and executive accountability.”1 This does not necessarily mean that all elements of responsible government are applied in the same manner as may be in the case in a party system. One area of potential uncertainty is the confidence convention. This convention holds that if the executive no longer has the support of the majority of members of the legislature, the government must either resign or request dissolution and a general election. But, how might this work in the northern system of consensus government?