Independents are those elected members who are not recognized as having official party affiliation. They may have run under the independent label at election time, or have defected from a recognized political party during the life of a parliament, or belong to a political party that does not have at least four elected members. This article looks at the challenges of serving as an independent member in a system where the vast majority of people belong to political parties and the rules and conventions have been designed for parties.
In July 2010, twenty-six participants from fourteen Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Branches, participated in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Whips Network in Hunter Valley, New South Wales. The idea came from Australia and the workshop was developed in consultation with the Whips from the Australian Parliament. In this article one of the Canadian participants outlines the topics discussed and the recommendations of the workshop.
At the outset let me note that the role of whip is as diverse as the people and the countries in the Commonwealth. There are whips that do the job of both caucus chair and whips. Some of them also do the job as House leader or parts of the House leader job, and even some of the jobs that our leader would do is left up to the whip. When I refer to whips, I am referring to the general term of whip because the job description varies from legislature to legislature, from country to country. In our system in Saskatchewan our caucus chair attends cabinet meetings and I do not. But in Great Britain, they do not have a caucus chair and their whip fulfills both those roles. That individual attends cabinet meetings.
This article outlines four steps that could be taken to modernize the supply process. It also looks at the upcoming Strategic and Operating Review and the problems it presents to parliamentarians attempting to understand the government’s deficit fighting program.
The most important function of the House of Commons, and its members, is to review and approve the government’s requests for supply and the ways and means by which they will pay for it. That is the very reason the first British Parliaments were assembled hundreds of years ago. Our role as Members of Parliament is simple: before the Crown can tax Canadians and spend their money, they must listen to the concerns of the people and act on them in a satisfactory manner. Until the House is satisfied, we can withhold supply from the Crown.
New Brunswick entered Confederation in 1867 with the rudiments of the Westminster model of legislative democracy – representative and responsible government – already in place. These particular institutions were typical of those in other British colonies at the time, which were characterized by a relatively small electorate, a limited scope for governmental activity, and elitist decision-making practices. But while the parliamentary institutions and political culture in other former British colonies developed and matured over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, New Brunswick seemed caught in a time trap. Until the 1960s which were characterised by sweeping changes in governance, social services, education and income redistribution, all under the visionary programme known as Equal Opportunity shepherded by Liberal Premier Louis Robichaud. Since then, a parade of premiers and party leaders have tried to put their own stamp on the province. When the Liberals were defeated in 2010, it marked the first time a New Brunswick Government had been defeated after just one term. This paper portrays legislative democracy in New Brunswick as it has evolved from its 18th-century origins into the early years of the 21st century.
The final session of the 33rd Canadian Regional Seminar held in Fredericton on November 4, 2011, was devoted to the issue of financial restraint. The following extracts are based on the transcript. Dale Graham is Speaker of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly, Bill Barisoff is Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Alfie MacLeod is Deputy Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, Steve Peters is a former Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, David Smith is a member of the Senate of Canada, Gordie Gosse is Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, Fatima Houda Pepin is Deputy Speaker of the Quebec National Assembly, Hunter Tootoo is Speaker of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
Dale Graham (New Brunswick): Fiscal management during difficult economic times is becoming a common theme in many jurisdictions. As Speakers, it is important that we gain an understanding of the financial workings of our respective parliaments to ensure that we can continue to deliver core services. In New Brunswick, we have been through a number of cost-cutting exercises since the early nineties, and we anticipate more cost-cutting in the next few years. We know that difficult times are ahead, and, while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, some common considerations can be applied to our respective Legislatures.
For more than a decade the British Columbia Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has conducted pre-budget consultations to gather the opinions of groups and individuals on the content of the upcoming provincial budget. Committee members travel to various communities across the province to hear witnesses during public hearings, and to receive submissions (written or video), responses to a survey (sent to every household in the province and available online), as well as letters and emails. At the end of the process, the Committee presents its recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. This article looks at lessons to be drawn from these consultations. It is based upon a survey of some 253 individuals who appeared before the Committee between September 15 and October 15, 2010.
On December 16, 2011 Bill C-20 An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act received Royal Assent (now Chapter 26 of the Statutes of Canada, 2011). It increased the number of seats in the House of Commons from 308 to 338 by giving extra seats to Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. While representation in the House of Commons is now settled for at least a decade the issue of representation by population will arise again as mandated in section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and protected in section 42 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This article makes a number of suggestions for the next time rep by pop is debated in Canada. Among other things it calls for improved provisions for the smaller provinces, a new mechanism for adjusting the Electoral Quotient and future constitutional negotiations to deal with problems that have developed over the years.
Section 51 of the Constitution Act 1867 provides that the number of members of the House of Commons and the representation of the provinces therein shall be readjusted on the completion of each decennial census, according to a number of rules. Rule 1 calculates the initial seat allocation for all the provinces strictly according to representation by population. Rule 2 adds seats to the provincial numbers based on two minimums: the “Senate Floor” (no less than the number of senators) and the “Grandfather Clause” (no less than the 1976 numbers). Rules 3 and 4 add seats to any province that was previously overrepresented such that it will not become underrepresented. Rule 5 provides that more accurate provincial population estimates are to be used in the calculation rather than the actual census figures. And rule 6 sets out an electoral quotient (constituency size) for rule 1 and provides for a specific method of recalculation every ten years.
In October 2011 a symposium on on Democracy, Parliamentarians and the Media was held to mark the 125th anniversary of the Parliament Building and the 140th anniversary of the Québec Parliament Press Gallery. Over 400 participants attended the event including Jacques Attali, special adviser to former French President François Mitterrand, and Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico wo gave the opening and closing addresses. Three ex-journalists who are now Members of the National Assembly shared their insights during a round-table discussion. The following is a summary of the topics broached and the thoughts expressed during the symposium.
Media convergence, the development of new technologies and the expansion of online social networks and are all drivers of change that are fuelling the identity crisis journalism is currently going through. This upheaval is having an impact on both the balance between hard news and opinion and the relationship between the media and political institutions.
New Speakers in Yukon and Saskatchewan
On December 1, 2011 David Laxton, MLA for Porter Creek Centre, was elected as the 23rd Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. He was first elected to the legislature on October 11, 2011.
Mr. Laxton has lived in Whitehorse since moving to Yukon in 1998. During his time in Yukon, he has been employed by the federal and territorial governments doing geomatics work and website development. Prior to arriving in Yukon, he served 22 years with the Canadian Armed Forces, primarily with the Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians) and the Mapping and Charting Establishment. His military service included three United Nations postings, one in Egypt and two in Bosnia. He also carried out major survey work in the High Arctic and regional gravity surveys across Yukon.