Canada is a large, diverse nation with regions that possess a variety of ethnic and cultural identities. The presence of this peaceful mosaic is one of the cornerstones that makes Canada unique. This article looks at the particular challenge of representing diverse cultural communities.
Much has been written about the dominance of one race and one gender in Parliament and in politics generally. But Parliament is not the only area where there are problems with equality for women. This article looks at Canadian society and argues that what we see in Parliament and in politics is a reflection of larger problems in Canadian society.
I entered adulthood with the mistaken impression that the battle for equality had already been won. More than a decade had passed since Betty Friedan wrote her famous treatise, The Feminine Mystique. Tennis star Billy Jean King had easily whipped Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes”.
The prorogation of parliament in 2008 left Canadians – politicians, academics, and the electorate alike – scrambling to figure out the constitutional role of the governor general. Across the country many questions were posed, but they were answered without a thorough historical examination of the practice of prorogation or an analysis of the development of responsible government in the Westminster system. The answers tended to analyze the quality of the prime minister’s advice – an issue entirely separate from the constitutional role of the governor general in Canada.
Of the scholarship on the Harper-Jean prorogation of 2008, Andrew Heard occupies one extreme in his support for the use of the reserve power in matters of prorogation and the argument that Governor General MichaÃ«lle Jean should have rejected Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s advice to prorogue in 2008.1 In the middle, C.E.S. Franks also acknowledges the applicability of the reserve power to prorogation but reluctantly concludes that “the governor general made the right decision.”2 Peter Hogg, Adam Dodek and Barbara Messamore accept that the reserve power still applies to prorogation but believe that the governor general wisely accepted the prime minister’s advice for various reasons more emphatic than those of Professor Franks.3 Professor Hogg, for instance, believes that an imminent vote of confidence suffices to activate the reserve power that allows a governor general to reject a prime minister’s advice.4 At the other extreme, Henri Brun argues that the governor general possessed no personal discretion because the reserve power does not apply to prorogation; he supports a more narrow interpretation of the power and would sanction it only in the gravest emergency.5 Guy Tremblay agrees with Professor Brun and believes that “the governor general must accede to a request of prorogation or dissolution.”6 Finally, based on the writings of the late Professor Robert MacGregor Dawson, the Harper-Jean prorogation of 2008 did not meet the constitutional test on the acceptable use of the reserve power.7 Of these scholars, only Professor Messamore devoted serious attention to the little-known Macdonald-Dufferin prorogation of 1873 and applied its lessons to the Harper-Jean prorogation of 2008; in contrast, Professors Franks and Russell invoked the King-Byng Affair of 1926, which involved dissolution and not prorogation, and therefore provides a bad example with respect to the Harper-Jean prorogation.
This article looks at female representation in the House of Commons. It shows that in terms of numbers, a plateau seems to have been reached over the last two decades. The paper also argues that even if demand for female candidates were to increase significantly, this factor on its own would not redress the limited supply phenomenon that originates from other sources – including stereotypic treatments of women in public life.
Since the creation in 2001 of Equal Voice, a group dedicated to increasing the numbers of women who hold public office at all levels in Canada, the issue of gender differences in political involvement has been raised with some frequency. Media stories have celebrated progress and, occasionally, what are presented as breakthroughs in female engagement. One recent example followed the fall 2010 municipal elections in Toronto, when 15 women won seats on the 45-member city council. A prominent story in Canada’s largest circulation daily explained the reason for “cheering” as follows: one-third of the new council would be female.1 The story neglected to mention that multiple borough councils in pre-amalgamation Toronto, alongside the former Metro Council, had attained roughly the same levels or higher, with Etobicoke’s borough council reaching 42% women members in 1996 – or nearly 15 years earlier.2
This article is based on a larger study that used exit interviews with former MPs to determine, among other things, how the MPs described their jobs. The study found that there is little consistency in the ways our elected members viewed the job description of an MP, and outlined five broad and overlapping categories. It also suggests certain implications that flow from the absence of any shared understanding of the MP’s job.
Sixty-five former MPs were interviewed for this project in 2009-10. They served in public life for an average of 10 years, and left during or after the 38th and 39th Parliaments, which sat from 2004 to 2008. Each MP served in at least one minority Parliament. Many came to Ottawa at a particular point in our political history: when the Bloc Québécois, the Reform Party and later the merged Conservative Party of Canada became as important players on the national stage.1
While there is an ongoing need to learn more about the position and experience of visible minorities among the federal legislative elite, one reality is very well understood: they remain underrepresented – both as candidates and, more importantly, as MPs. This paper considers the 2008 federal election as an additional observation and testing point. Its specific aim is to determine whether characterizations about the incidence of visible minority MPs based on studies of elections from 1993 to 2006 still apply when this election is taken into account. The article also discusses visible minorities as candidates in that election. This is in keeping with the focus of previous scholarship on candidacy as a necessary condition for entry into the Commons. This entails not only “counting” them but as well examining which parties they ran for and the competitive status of the constituencies that they contested – all of this in an effort to shed some light on the parties’ depth of commitment to visible minorities as serious contenders for winning Parliamentary seats.
Manitoba exhibits both classical characteristics of Canadian political life and unique developments that are strikingly Manitoban. Accordingly, the development of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly has reflected the range of divisions within Canadian political society, including east/west tensions, Francophone/Anglophone relations, struggles between Aboriginal lifestyles and European colonialism, urban/rural divisions and of course the continuing legacy of immigration – multiculturalism. While exhibiting these traditional Canadian elements of nation building, Manitoba has also developed a distinct identity. The Métis and First Nation heritages, the timing and settlement patterns of immigration waves, the small provincial population, the province’s have-not status and its difficult climate all contribute to the political environment. As the province’s principal representative institution, the Manitoba Legislative Assembly is unique and reflects both the distinctive social and political context of Prairie politics and the complexities of the modern Western world.
When one looks over the history of Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly, three distinct phases of development emerge: the province-building phase, 1870 to 1921; the non-partisan coalition phase, 1921 to 1969; and the modern era, 1969 to the present.
Against Reform, by John Pepall, University of Toronto Centre for Public Management Monograph Series, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2010.
New Speaker in Nova Scotia
On January 18, 2011 Gordie Gosse was elected Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature during a special one-day sitting of the House. The previous Speaker, Charlie Parker, resigned from the position when he was named Minister of Natural Resources and Energy.
Speaker Gosse is a life-long resident of Whitney Pier. In 2003 he became the MLA for Cape Breton Nova. He was re-elected in 2006 and again in 2009.