In the 40th General Election on October 14, 2008, national voter turnout fell to an all-time low of 58.8% of registered electors. This was a decrease of 5.9 percentage points from the 39th General Election and consistent with the long-term trend. Likewise, voter turnout in the riding of Scarborough-Rouge River dropped to an unprecedented low of 47.5%, the lowest in Toronto and seventeenth lowest in the country. For the first time in the history of the riding more than 50 percent of registered electors did not vote. This paper discusses possible causes of poor voter turnout using ScarboroughRouge River as a case study. A number of suggestions are put forth to explain the decline.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the largest United Nations agency providing more than $5 billion annually in support to member nations of the UN. This support primarily comes in the form of technical advice, knowledge transfer and capacity building. The mandate of UNDP is to provide the necessary assistance to over 166 countries and governments throughout the world so they can create sustainable programmes that reduce poverty, respect human rights, promote a key role for women in society and protect the environment. This article looks specifically at the UNDP’s support of parliamentary institutions.
The most stable, thriving democracies share at least one common trait: A free and independent news media and journalists who enjoy decent salaries, basic job stability and a recognized and respected place in the political business of the nation. Not so in much of the developing world. This article looks at the experience of one Canadian journalist who has participated in training programmes for journalists in various developing countries, particularly those who cover parliamentary institutions.
Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, received royal assent on May 3, 2007. It provided that a general election would be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the preceding general election, thereby setting up a system of fixed election dates. It provided for the first such election to be held on Monday, October 19, 2009. However, the amended Act also stipulated that the powers of the Governor General were to be unaffected, in particular the power to dissolve Parliament at her discretion. In 2008, the Prime Minister asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament, and the first general election following the amendment of the Act was held on October 14, 2008. That prompted an outcry from a number of observers, some going so far as to suggest that the new law had been infringed. An application was made to the Federal Court challenging the government’s action. The Court’s judgment refusing the application was handed down on September 17, 2009. This article looks at the issues raised by the parties and the decision of the Court.
The Office of Commissioner of Lobbying was established under the Federal Accountability Act in 2006 although the Lobbying Act itself has only been in force for about one year. This article provides a brief history of Canadian lobbying legislation in order to focus upon the changes to the federal lobbying regime contained in the Lobbying Act and how those changes have been implemented to date. It also identifies challenges in the legislation and how they have been addressed.
An Ottawa based Lobbyist reflects on how changes to the Federal Accountability Act have affected the day to day work of lobbyists. Lobbyists have a series of regulatory filings that are mandatory. The interaction between the regulatory and the regulated can often slow the Act’s cited goal of transparency.
On September 1, 1909 the Legislative Library of Ontario was destroyed when a fire gutted the West Wing of the Legislative Building. In the fall of 2009, the Legislative Library published a book, From Ashes to Steel: Rebuilding the Library and its Collection, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the fire. The book tells the story of the fire and its legacy and features reproductions of selected letters and photographs from the time of the fire. It is available for purchase at the Legislative Assembly’s Gift Shop http://www.ontla.on.ca.
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.