What to do about Question Period: A Roundtable

Article 1 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

Vol 33 No 3What to do about Question Period: A Roundtable

On May 7, 2010 a motion calling for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to recommend changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions governing Oral Questions was introduced by the member for Wellington–Halton Hills. Among other things the Committee would consider ways of (i) elevating decorum and fortifying the use of discipline by the Speaker, to strengthen the dignity and authority of the House, (ii) lengthening the amount of time given for each question and each answer, (iii) examining the convention that the Minister questioned need not respond, (iv) allocating half the questions each day for Members, whose names and order of recognition would be randomly selected, (v) dedicating Wednesday exclusively for questions to the Prime Minister, (vi) dedicating Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for questions to Ministers other than the Prime Minister in a way that would require Ministers be present two of the four days to answer questions concerning their portfolio, based on a published schedule that would rotate and that would ensure an equitable distribution of Ministers across the four days. The motion was debated on May 27, 2010. The following extracts are taken from that debate.

Building Better Politics

Article 2 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

Building Better Politics

In September 2011, subject to review and approval by the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies, Carleton University will admit the first students to a new graduate program in Political Management. The degree is conceived as an innovative and intensive professional undertaking, though grounded in the academic understanding and critique of existing democratic processes. It will seek to equip its graduates with an essential grasp of the professional skills appropriate to work as a political manager and strategist. It will hone, through practice, the judgment and reflection of its students, not simply with a view to short-term partisan advantage but in relation to the public interest. It will insist on ethical comportment as a guiding principle at all times. This article outlines the background to the establishment of this program.

Universities across this country prepare their graduates for careers of consequence and responsibility in a myriad of disciplines, and necessarily so. Imagine if there were no courses of study for nurses, teachers, economists, agronomists, accountants, journalists, veterinarians and all the other essential services. How would we function?

Internet Voting: The Canadian Municipal Experience

Article 3 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

Internet Voting: The Canadian Municipal Experience

On January 26, 2010 Carleton University hosted a public policy workshop addressing Internet voting and what Canada can learn from existing cases and trials both locally and abroad. It brought together academics, technical experts, parliamentarians, political party representatives, government officials, representatives from electoral administration authorities and other professionals from Canada, the United States, and Europe. A report entitled, A Comparative Assessment of Electronic Voting, was prepared by the Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue for Elections Canada leading up to the workshop. This article outlines the experiences of three Canadian municipalities that have tried Internet voting and suggests some lessons for other jurisdictions. It is drawn mainly from the report, which is available on the Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue (Strategic Knowledge Cluster) website. This slightly revised and edited extract is published with the permission of Elections Canada.

In the past decade various types of electronic voting, particularly Internet voting, have garnered considerable attention as possible additional voting methods that hold promise to make the electoral process simpler and more efficient for political parties, candidates, election administrators, and most importantly, for electors. The term electronic voting is a blanket term used to describe an array of voting methods that operate using electronic technology. There are three primary types of electronic voting, namely machine counting, computer voting and on-line or Internet voting. With respect to the last of these types, there are four kinds of electronic voting that use the Internet; these include kiosk Internet voting, polling place Internet voting, precinct Internet voting, and remote Internet voting.1

The New Kids on the Block: A Look at Rookie Members of the Ontario Provincial Parliament

Article 5 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

The New Kids on the Block: A Look at Rookie Members of the Ontario Provincial Parliament

While academics have produced a plethora of research on rookie Members of Parliament not much has not been written on the challenges and perspectives faced by rookie politicians at the provincial level. This article seeks to examine the impact and efficacy of such ‘newness’ on good governance at the provincial level. It is based primarily on interviews with rookie and veteran MPPs, legislative staff members, and others directly involved with the political process in Queen’s Park after the October 2007 provincial elections. The key questions addressed in this paper are: how much vitality and new energy do rookie MPPs inject into the provincial legislature? How are their efforts manifested and differentiated from MPPs that preceded them? Indeed, what challenges do rookie MPPs with innovative ambitions face by those veterans seeking to uphold and maintain the traditional practice and status quo?

The Partnership of Parliaments

Article 6 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

The Partnership of Parliaments

In 1983, members from each state legislature of what was then the Federal Republic of Germany founded the Partnership of Parliaments. Their goal was to create ties between the regional parliaments of Germany and America’s state legislatures. Canada was included in 1993, and the Austrian state legislatures became members in 2005. This article looks at the work of the organization and particularly its relationship with Canadian provinces and Territories.

The Partnership of Parliaments is a non-governmental, non-profit organization whose goals are to provide new contacts for its members, to promote transatlantic dialogue, and to improve relations in the fields of politics, economy, and culture. The Partnership of Parliaments does not seek to conduct foreign policy. Financing is mainly provided by its members who pay to belong. The financial support of the business sector is also possible.

Canadian Politics in 140 Characters: Party Politics in the Twitterverse

Article 7 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

Canadian Politics in 140 Characters: Party Politics in the Twitterverse

Digital technology has had profound impacts on political communication. This article focuses on one digital technology – Twitter. It is part of a broader technology trend called Web 2.0 which harnesses the Web in a more interactive and collaborative manner. Many authors have argued that Web 2.0 is closely related to e-democracy and stress the importance of enhancing the role of internet users. E-democracy strives to involve cyber-citizens in the political process, new Web 2.0 applications can augment their impact on the democratic system. This paper argues that though many Canadian politicians are using Twitter, it is mostly used to broadcast official party information. Their use of Twitter so far shows little evidence of embracing the characteristics of Web 2.0.

The 100th Anniversary of the “La Vergne Law

Article 8 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

The 100th Anniversary of the “La Vergne Law

The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the first language legislation in Quebec’s parliament. The process began in the House of Commons before moving to the Quebec legislature. In both cases the driving force behind the bill was Armand La Vergne.

The old British North America Act (now the Constitution Act, 1867) states that either the English or the French language may be used by any person in the debates and business of the Houses of the Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legislature of Quebec and in any pleading or process before the courts of Canada and Quebec.

The State of Research on Canada’s Parliament

Article 9 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

The State of Research on Canada’s Parliament

In 2009 the Library of Parliament commissioned the author to conduct a study about the state of academic research on the Parliament of Canada over the last decade. The 200 page report looked at publications on our representative institutions in books and refereed and other journals, papers presented to mainstream political science conferences, and grants to support research from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council, including the Canada Research Chairs program, and at the programs of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The goal was to locate activity centred on Parliament, casting as wide a net as feasible. This article is a selective summary of that report.

Why study Parliament? Parliament is at the centre of Canadian democracy, whether its components function well or poorly. No matter how powerful the executive may appear to be, the House of Commons remains the public face of the government and the opposition, and the site of final decisions regarding how money will be spent both domestically and internationally.

Benchmarking Our Legislatures

Article 10 / 13 , Vol 33 No 3 (Autumn)

Benchmarking Our Legislatures

Benchmarking is a helpful tool often used by organizations to compare their business processes and practices with competitors or best in class, giving them something external against which to measure performance. As the Senate Administration continues to develop its performance measurement framework, directors are encouraged to include external benchmarks in their performance indicators to provide comparative measured. Benchmarks are categorized in multiple ways, which can be further characterized as qualitative or quantitative. This article will provide examples of qualitative and quantitative benchmarks in the parliamentary context.

To establish qualitative benchmarks for improvement purposes, one must first identify what the elements of success or effectiveness look like, i.e., a profile of best practices against which to compare. Quantitative benchmarking looks mainly at the numbers or ratios of an operation. To improve a process or operation, it is best to have measures that indicate where improvements can be made, so both types of benchmarks often prove useful.