The Interparliamentary Conference on the Diversity of Cultural Expression

Article 1 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

The Interparliamentary Conference on the Diversity of Cultural ExpressionVol 34 No 3

Forums and parliamentary associations exercise a growing influence on the international scene, as demonstrated by the “Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie were among the first to demand, as early as the year 2000, an international legal instrument dedicated to promoting dialogue among cultures, an initiative that led to the adoption of the Convention on October 20, 2005. With this in mind the APF and the National Assembly of Québec jointly organized the Interparliamentary Conference on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CIDEC), which was held on February 2-3, 2011 in Québec City, with the support of the International Organization of La Francophonie and the collaboration of UNESCO. This Conference brought together some two hundred and fifty participants, parliamentarians from the French-speaking world, experts from the cultural sectors and observers hailing from interparliamentary organizations and civil society.

A Blueprint for Parliamentary Reform in British Columbia

Article 2 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

A Blueprint for Parliamentary Reform in British Columbia

Several years have passed since institutional reforms were last undertaken in British Columbia. Most recently, changes were made in 2005 to lengthen question period from 15 to 30 minutes, allow more Private Members’ Statements, and create an Opposition-held position of Assistant Deputy Speaker. Before that, notable changes were made in 2001. These included the establishment of set dates for general elections and budget day, a legislative calendar, and the introduction of Private Members’ Statements. This article looks at other areas for potential reform in BC and other legislatures. It focuses on legislation, estimates and parliamentary committees.

Reflections on the Speakership

Article 3 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

Reflections on the Speakership

The effectiveness of the Speaker rests to a large extent on his or her perceived impartiality. The Speaker must be prepared to function as an adjudicator and even as a peacemaker. He or she must vigorously defend the rights and privileges of all Members, individually and collectively, without exception. He or she must listen actively and ensure that any decision is manifestly well-founded on the merits of the particular case and on the rules, jurisprudence and conventions. The rules must be applied to everyone, without exception. This article reflects on the key themes of a successful Speakership, particularly during a period of minority government.

The Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly

Article 4 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

The Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly to increase public awareness of its procedural functions and provide the basis for a comparative analysis with other legislatures. The article includes a history of the legislature; the socio-demographics of MHAs; the resources of MHAs and party caucuses; and the relationship between government and opposition. The analysis includes the role of the Speaker, legislative committees, the procedure for bills, and the difficulties of mounting an effective opposition amidst lopsided majority governments.

Elementary Kinship Structures in Parliament since 1867

Article 5 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

Elementary Kinship Structures in Parliament since 1867

The title of this study is a nod to the distinguished ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009) who demonstrated that multiple family structures (monogamous, polyandrous or polygynous; patrilineal, matrilineal or bilateral, extended or restricted) all serve the same social functions to varying degrees. Since 2000, the Library of Parliament’s PARLINFO service has made available on its website kinship ties of senators and MPs from 1867 to the present on its website. This database is the source for this article. It allows us to look at the considerable number of parliamentarians who are spouses, brothers, sons or daughters of other parliamentarians.

A Declaration of Ethics for Presiding Officers?

Article 6 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

A Declaration of Ethics for Presiding Officers?

Speakers have a particular interest in reinforcing proper ethical behaviour. All presiding chairs are cognizant that a respectful and courteous demeanor on the part of members can take the poison out of the atmosphere, can calm a stormy house, and facilitate the restoring of parliament to its ideal state where the fiercest controversies can take place within an ambit of mutual respect, personal honour, and regular procedure for the protection of all opinions, even those of the smallest minority. Other professions, including Judges, have attempted to apply ethical theory to real-life situations and to establish standards for ethical conduct. Since 2000, the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy together with the Conference Board of Canada has been holding a Business Summit to talk about the challenges and potential for business ethics in Canada. Many federal government departments have established the position of Officer of Public Service Values and Ethics for their employees, while smaller departments and agencies assigned additional responsibility for values and ethics to existing executives. This article suggests that Speakers could adopt a Declaration of Ethics for Presiding Officers to outline the importance of ethics in parliamentary institutions.

Private Members’ Bills in Recent Minority and Majority Parliaments

Article 7 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

Private Members’ Bills in Recent Minority and Majority Parliaments

This article compares the use of Private Members’ Bills (PMB) during the 40th Parliament with the four previous Parliaments, two of which were minorities and two were majorities. Among other things it compares the number of bills, the bills introduced by party and the few bills that eventually receive Royal Assent. The article shows how Private Members’ Bills have been effected by the shift from majority governments (1997-2004) to minority ones (2004-2011) and suggests some reforms for consideration as we head back to a period of majority government.

Heckling in the House of Commons

Article 8 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

Heckling in the House of Commons

Visitors and observers of the House of Commons have long remarked on the prevalence of heckling in the Chamber. But what are the consequences or benefits of this behaviour? This study offers an analysis of an original set of quantitative and qualitative data gathered in an anonymous survey completed by Members of Parliament near the end of the 40th Parliament. The survey addressed perceptions of heckling in the House of Commons as well as the impact MPs believe heckling has on their work. A significant number of MPs reported that heckling causes them to participate far less frequently, or not at all, in the work of the House. In addition, many of the words used against fellow MPs in heckles are contrary to Charter values. These words include racism, ageism, sexism, religious discrimination, discrimination against physical disabilities and homophobia.

The Transformation of Question Period

Article 9 / 12 , Vol 34 No 3 (Autumn)

The Transformation of Question Period

This article provides descriptive data on the number of prime ministerial interventions in Question Period from the 35th to the 40th Parliaments, including the ministries of Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and Stephen Harper. Cataloguing a total of 7,227 questions, this study classifies prime ministers’ answers by policy area and controls for the number of responses that relate to ethics and scandals across both majority and minority governments. The study underscores the stunning growth of prime ministerial interventions from a comparative, historical perspective with the advent of four-party politics in the House of Commons. The analysis suggests that while scandal was a central component in Question Period during the Chrétien and Martin ministries, and to a lesser degree in the last Harper minority government, allegations of wrongdoing typically comprised fewer than a third of all questions answered by the Prime Minister from 1994-2011.