The federal government devolved responsibility formerly held by the Northern Affairs Program for public lands, water, forestry, mineral resources and environmental assessment to the Yukon Government on April 1, 2003 by way of the Devolution Transfer Agreement. Since then, self-government agreements have changed the face of governance in the Yukon and altered the relationship between the governments of First Nations, Yukon and Canada. Eleven of the fourteen First Nations in Yukon have settled their land claims. This article looks at recent developments in this area.
In November 2008, barely six weeks after a federal general election returned another Conservative minority Parliament, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave a fall fiscal update. It contained contentious provisions to curtail government spending, such as the suspension of federal servants’ right to strike until 2011 and the elimination of the $1.95 per vote subsidy to support political parties. Despite the global economic recession the update did not include a stimulus package which the opposition parties thought was essential to minimize the effects of the global downturn. The result was a non confidence motion, the drafting of an opposition coalition agreement to replace the government and the prorogation of Parliament by the Governor General until January 2009. This paper examines these events and argues that while the attempted coalition was compatible with Canadian parliamentary democracy, it failed largely because of a competing vision of democracy held by many Canadians.
Four years of minority government have introduced serious strains on Canada’s parliamentary institutions. This article suggests what needs to be done to strengthen parliamentary institutions whether the electorate returns a minority or a majority parliament.
In January 2010 the United Kingdom’s Institute for Government issued a report entitled, Making Minority Government Work. The report aims at preparing the United Kingdom for a minority government that may well result from an election due later this year. The research team who wrote the report visited Westminster parliamentary jurisdictions that have had experience with minority government in recent years: namely Canada, New Zealand and Scotland. Its chapter on Canada is headed “Canada’s Dysfunctional Minority Parliament.” Its message to British parliamentarians is that if you want to learn how not to operate a minority parliament take a good look at Canada.1
Many people feel that Prime Minister Harper’s second minority government abused its power to prorogue Parliament in order to shut down embarrassing activities. The prorogation of December 4, 2008 circumvented a vote of censure scheduled for the following week that might have led to a coalition government taking power. The prorogation of December 30, 2009 dissolved the parliamentary committees. One of these committees was hounding the government about the fate of Afghans taken prisoner by the Canadian military. After the second prorogation, the opposition parties in the Commons suggested limiting the government’s powers of prorogation to prevent future abuses. This article explores how the power to prorogue Parliament could be circumscribed—it would still exist, but with limits on its frequency and the circumstances surrounding its use.
This article looks at the Royal prerogative to prorogue Parliament. It, first, looks at the British experience and places the personal prerogatives that govern Parliament in their historical context and, within that context, identifies the legislative precedents for Parliament placing limits on these prerogatives. Second, it looks at the Canadian experience, where prime ministers have deviated from their British colleagues in being adversarial with the head of state over the use of these powers. It suggests that the difference in political behaviour is the result of a combination of temporal, cultural and political factors, which have also resulted in the Canadian Parliament being disinclined to legislate remedies in the manner the British Parliament did when these powers were abused by the Crown centuries years ago.
The 40th Parliament of Canada was summoned by Governor General Michaëlle Jean for November 18, 2008. Just two weeks after she opened the first session, facing imminent defeat on a motion of non-confidence, the Prime Minister asked that she prorogue Parliament. This request was granted and defeat on a motion of non-confidence was avoided.
Voter turnout among the general population in Canadian federal elections has declined over the past twenty years. This problem is particularly acute among young people. Recognizing the need to more effectively address this issue at the federal level, several federal entities responsible for youth programmes including the Department of Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Department of Justice, Elections Canada, the Governor General’s Office, the Library of Parliament, and the National Capital Commission, began discussing opportunities for greater collaboration on the topic of youth civic and democratic engagement. On September 25, 2009 the Library of Parliament invited leading figures from these federal entities, and from the private and nongovernmental sectors to participate in a day-long session on the topic of youth civic and democratic participation. This article looks at some of the themes that emerged from the workshop as well as the recommendations.
Since the 1970s scholars estimate that youth turnout is twenty per cent lower than turnout amongst baby boomers born between 1945 and 1950. Kids these days are not forming the habits that their parents did. They are not becoming civically engaged once they become eligible to vote and they are not voting or even moving towards voting as they grow older. This article looks at a project by the British Columbia Legislative Interns to address the problem of voter turnout among youth.
The Canadian House of Commons in 2009 included sixty-nine female Members of Parliament, (roughly 22% of the seats). Canada is ranked next to Mauritania in 48th place for the number of women in its national assembly in a Inter-Parliamentary Union study. Some countries have proven that states can raise the number of female legislators virtually overnight. This process of rapidly increasing female representation in only one election has been described as a “watershed”. This paper will discuss the possibility of implementing viable policies to create a gender watershed in Canada. It discusses the philosophical and ethical questions related to women’s representation, explores various determinants of women’s election to office as put forward in the literature, and finally argues that if certain conditions hold a gender watershed is possible in Canada.
A watershed will almost certainly come in the form of a gender quota, which still raises ethical issues in Canada. For this reason, it is necessary to explore the issue of women’s representation more broadly going back to the writings of one of the most influential thinkers about parliamentary government.
The House of Commons Advisory Panel on the Funding and Oversight of Officers of Parliament was established in the fall of 2005 as a two-year pilot project that, more recently, has continued on an ad hoc basis. Centrally, it provides the Treasury Board with recommendations from Parliament concerning the budget requests of officers of Parliament. The expectation was that this could make Parliament the de facto decision-maker about officers of Parliament budgets, and free the officers from concerns about budgetary retribution should their actions antagonize a government. This article provides background on the Panel, an overview of how it works, and an examination of noteworthy developments. It concludes by exploring potential issues and some relevant options.
It is the exclusive prerogative of the Crown to place recommendations for spending before Parliament. Strict adherence to this principle underlies what has remained the central formal limitation upon the independence of the officers of Parliament in Canada at the national level. With the exception of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the estimates of the officers of Parliament have been developed in the same way as those for government departments.1Increases to spending authorities (in effect, organizational budgets) are achieved by submissions to the Treasury Board, developed through a process involving scrutiny by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) officials and discussions between them and officer of Parliament staff. Ultimately, submissions are considered by the Board along with TBS recommendations. Treasury Board decisions determine the spending estimates that are subsequently placed before Parliament by the President of the Treasury Board for approval.
Lobbying is a legal activity and indeed an important part of the democratic right of individual Canadians to petition the government. In so doing, Canadians inform debate from many different perspectives and this should lead to better public policy. Concerns about the influence of lobbyists have led to considerable regulation of lobbying including changes stemming from the Federal Accountability Act. This article looks at some of the issues facing lobbyists and those who regulate lobbying.