In May 2015, the Canadian Study of Parliament Group held a conference in Ottawa to discuss parliamentary reform initiatives of the past, present and future. In this roundtable, some of the presenters from that conference discuss reforms from recent history and the prospects for change in parliament in the near term and whether they are optimistic or pessimistic that positive change will occur.
CPR: The Canadian Study of Parliament Group’s conference programme was loosely structured on where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going, and I’d like to adopt a similar structure here. Can you tell us a bit about how parliament has changed and evolved over the past 20 to 30 years?
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The Voice of the Backbenchers: The 1922 Committee By Philip Norton, Conservative History Group, London, 2013, 86 p.
Canada and the United Kingdom supposedly share a similar form of government known as the Westminster Model but the argument can be made that we follow it in name only. The reason is not our federal constitution or the limits on parliamentary sovereignty imposed by the Canadian Charter and the Supreme Court or any other obvious constitutional distinction.
Continue reading “Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 36 No 4”
Across the Aisle: Opposition in Canadian Politics by David E. Smith
Not satisfied with a Triple Crown for his previous three works on the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons, David Smith has gone for the Grand Slam with this work on parliamentary opposition. In some ways this is his most important work partly because so little has been written about the subject but mainly because of the insight it offers not only into the murky waters of opposition and also the ongoing constitutional struggle betweem advocates of classical Westminster style responsible government and those who are more radical democrats.
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Challenges of Minority Governments in Canada, by Marc Gervais, Ottawa, Invenire Books, 2012.
Canadian academic literature on minority government is sparse considering there have been nine such instances at the federal level since 1957 and many more in the provinces. Peter Russell (Two Cheers for Minority Government, 2008) painted a rosy picture of possible benefits while others have taken a more critical view in light of recent experience.
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Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 13th Edition, edited by Harry Evens and Rosemary Laing, Canberra: Department of the Senate, 2012, 942 p.
The publication of Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 13th edition is a wonderful tribute to James Rowland Odgers, Clerk of the Australian Senate from 1965 to 1979, and to Harry Evens, also Clerk of the Senate from 1988 to 2009. Odgers, who began compiling this parliamentary authority in 1953, edited five versions of the book with the sixth being produced in 1991 following his death but based on material he had prepared. Evens, the longest serving Senate Clerk, wrote all subsequent editions, co-editing the thirteenth with the current Senate Clerk, Dr. Rosemary Laing who has had twenty-two years’ experience working in the Senate. The book will undoubtedly prove invaluable to their President and committee chairs, assisting them to resolve questions on how their legislature should proceed on the business before them as well as to students of constitutionalism who monitor the Senate as to how well it fulfills its constitutional functions vis-à-vis the executive, the House of Representatives and the judiciary.
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The Fiftieth Conference of the Canadian Region, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association takes place in Québec City July 15-21, 2012. This article traces the evolution of the Canadian Region with particular emphasis on previous conferences organized by the Québec Branch.
According to Ian Imrie, former Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Region, the rationale for a meeting of Canadian representatives within the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was partly to help legislators develop an understanding of the parliamentary process. Also,
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Democratizing the Constitution, Reforming Responsible Government by Peter Aucoin, Mark D. Jarvis, and Lori Turnbull, Emond Montgomery Publications, Toronto, 2011.
Against Reform, by John Pepall, University of Toronto Centre for Public Management Monograph Series, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2010.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd Edition, by Audrey O’Brien and Marc Bosc, House of Commons, Ottawa and Éditions Yvon Blais, Montreal.