Roundtable: Disability in Parliamentary Politics Vol 38 No 1

Article 3 / 12 , Vol 38 No 1 (Spring)

Roundtable: Disability in Parliamentary Politics

Although parliamentarians and public figures with disabilities have attained a heightened profile in Canada over the past decade, new research suggests that people who identify as having a disability are not seeking public office in numbers representative of their place in the general population. In this roundtable the Canadian Parliamentary Review gathered scholars, parliamentarians and public officer holders who have an interest in disability and politics to discuss the state of parliamentary politics for persons with disabilities and strategies for making political life more accessible to Canadians.

CPR: Prof. Levesque, your recent research suggests persons with disabilities are not seeking elected office in numbers representative of their place in the general population. Why is participation in elected politics among persons with disabilities so low?

Perspectives on the Election of Committee Chairs

Article 3 / 10 , Vol 37 No 1 (Spring)

Perspectives on the Election of Committee Chairs

The following is a revised and abridged version of the October 21, 2013 debate on MP Brad Trost’s private member’s motion (Motion No. 431) which proposes to instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to: (a) consider the election of committee chairs by means of a preferential ballot system by all the members of House of Commons, at the beginning of each session and prior to the establishment of the membership of the standing committees; (b) study the practices of other Westminster-style Parliaments in relation to the election of Committee Chairs; (c) propose any necessary modifications to the Standing Orders and practices of the House; and (d) report its findings to the House no later than six months following the adoption of this order.

Brad Trost (Saskatoon—Humboldt, CPC):

Electronic Petitions: A Proposal to Enhance Democratic Participation

Article 3 / 11 , Vol 36 No 3 (Autumn)

Electronic Petitions: A Proposal to Enhance Democratic Participation

Declining rates of political participation demand practical reforms to enhance citizen engagement in our democratic institutions. Tabled in the House of Commons on February 13, 2013, Motion 428 aims to modernize and improve Canada’s antiquated paper-based petitioning process by establishing a system for electronic petitions. It further proposes allowing petitions to trigger short debates in Parliament if they receive a certain threshold of signatures from the public and are sponsored by at least five Members of Parliament. After providing comparative information on similar reforms implemented in other jurisdictions, this article argues that empowering citizens to initiate and sign petitions online will make our democracy more accessible, participatory, and responsive. It concludes with a brief discussion of the prospects of success for a motion submitted by an opposition Member during a period of majority government.

Changing the Line of Succession to the Crown

Article 3 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

Changing the Line of Succession to the Crown

On October 28, 2011, representatives of the Commonwealth countries for which Her Majesty the Queen is the sovereign head of state, including Canada, agreed to support changes to the rules on royal succession. Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled Canada’s support to end the practice of placing younger brothers before their elder sisters in the line of succession. Second, he signalled support to end the prohibition against heirs marrying Roman Catholics. In December 2012, the government of the United Kingdom introduced legislation to amend the laws governing succession along these lines. The bill has been passed by the United Kingdom House of Commons and the House of Lords. This article outlines the provisions of Canadian Bill C-53 intended to indicate Canada’s agreement with the principles in the United Kingdom legislation.

The purpose of Bill C-53 is to provide the Parliament of Canada’s assent to the changes to the law governing the succession to the throne that are proposed in the United Kingdom bill. The laws governing succession are United Kingdom laws. It is wholly within the legislative authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to alter the body of United Kingdom laws relating to royal succession, including the English Bill of Rights of 1688 and the Act of Settlement of 1700.

Two Private Member’s Bills that made Canadian History

Article 2 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Two Private Member’s Bills that made Canadian History

Bill C-268, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), was only the fifteenth Private Member’s Bill to change the Criminal Code since 1867 and the sponsor of the Bill made history with Bill C-310, becoming the first MP in history to change the Criminal Code twice. This article looks at the background and content of these two Bills.

I was first drawn to the issue of human trafficking in Canada through the work of my son, who was a member of the RCMP and served in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE). Overnight, I noticed a huge change in him; his hair turned grey and I could tell things weighed heavily on him. I was appalled to find out that children in Canada were being bought and sold in exchange for sex and money and even more horrified that this issue was completely off the public’s radar screen. As I became more aware of the magnitude of the problem, I realized this exploitation was happening in communities all across our nation. Gradually I began working with victims of human trafficking and not only saw, but felt their pain and humiliation. Perpetrators used coercion and manipulation to gain control of these innocent victims. The victims were and are subjected to every imaginable sexual, physical and mental abuse, involuntary drug use and even threats against their victim’s families.

Rethinking House of Lords Reform

Article 4 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Rethinking House of Lords Reform

Throughout its life, like all parliamentary institutions, the House of Lords has been in a state of flux. The road to reform has been a long and rocky one. Ironically, Canada has been facing the same questions over the Senate for almost the same period of time. This article looks at the recent attempt to reform the Upper House.

On September 3, 2012, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg made a statement to the House of Commons that the House of Lords Reform Bill (HCB 52) had been withdrawn. To shouts of hooray, the Deputy Prime Minister, who led the charge for reform, explained why the process had collapsed after only getting as far as its Second Reading. Oddly enough, the Second Reading had resulted in 462 members voting in favour of the Bill to 124 against.1

Bicameralism in South Africa

Article 5 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Bicameralism in South Africa

During the transition following Apartheid, South Africa completely redesigned its constitution and its political institutions. This article looks at how bicameralism operates in that country.

Both the South African and Canadian Parliaments subscribe to a system of bicameralism but I must hasten to point out that our system of bicameralism is firmly rooted within the unitary state system of governance whilst the Canadian one functions within the federal State system where provinces are regarded as autonomous. This actually differs from our system where provincial legislatures take their cue from the national parliament through a system of cooperative governance.

Reinforcing Parliamentary Democracy: A Project for the Canadian Region of CPA

Article 1 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Vol 35 No 3Reinforcing Parliamentary Democracy: A Project for the Canadian Region of CPA

This article proposes that the legislatures of the Canadian Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association establish working relationships with legislatures in the Commonwealth Caribbean along the lines of those undertaken between the Australian and the Pacific Regions of CPA. The purpose of the project would be to increase co-operation between Parliaments, including the sharing of ideas and best practices.

Thoughts on a Charter of the Commonwealth

Article 1 / 9 , Vol 35 No 2 (Summer)

Vol 35 No 2Thoughts on a Charter of the Commonwealth

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia in October 2011, the leaders agreed to study the possibility of a Commonwealth Charter. The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, subsequently asked the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to do a consultation and report on the feasibility and advisability of the proposed Charter. The following article is an extract from the Senate hearings.

Prime Minister’s Questions in the United Kingdom

Article 3 / 9 , Vol 35 No 2 (Summer)

Prime Minister’s Questions in the United Kingdom

At Westminster every Wednesday when the House in session the Prime Minister responds to questions for about thirty minutes. In recent years there has been some discussion in Canada about the pros and cons of instituting a similar practice. This article outlines the history of the British procedure and some problems that have developed with it over the years.

For most of the public Prime Minister’s Questions is the shop window of the House of Commons. The media coverage of that thirty minute slot dominates all other proceedings in Parliament during the rest of the week. If the country comes to an adverse conclusion about the House because of what it witnesses in those exchanges, then the noble work of a dozen Select Committees will pale into insignificance by comparison. If we are serious about enhancing the standing of the House in the eyes of those whom we serve then we cannot ignore the seriously impaired impression which PMQs has been and is leaving on the electorate. It is the elephant in the green room.