Reinforcing Parliamentary Democracy: A Project for the Canadian Region of CPA

Article 1 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Vol 35 No 3Reinforcing Parliamentary Democracy: A Project for the Canadian Region of CPA

This article proposes that the legislatures of the Canadian Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association establish working relationships with legislatures in the Commonwealth Caribbean along the lines of those undertaken between the Australian and the Pacific Regions of CPA. The purpose of the project would be to increase co-operation between Parliaments, including the sharing of ideas and best practices.

The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians’ Conference in Canada

Article 2 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians’ Conference in Canada

The CWP, as part of the larger Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, works for better representation for women in legislatures throughout Canada and the Commonwealth. In July the 2012 Conference of the CWP was held in Quebec City. This article looks at the agenda of the Conference and future projects for the CWP (Canada).

The CWP-Canadian Region is governed by a steering committee that promotes the views and concerns of women parliamentarians throughout the region and is responsible for developing programs to further the aims of the CWP within the region. It is composed of one representative from each province and territory and one representative from the federal parliament . Each member serves a three-year term. Its operations are overseen by a Chair, who also represents Canada on the CWP Steering Committee – International.

Women’s Participation in Politics: A View from the Caribbean

Article 3 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Women’s Participation in Politics: A View from the Caribbean

Historically, the traditional role of women was thought to be one of domestic ingenuity; managing the household with the greatest proficiency without any prospect of upward mobility. This article looks at the recent progress women have made in politics, particularly in Caribbean Parliaments.

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, an American Medical Physicist, co-winner of the 1977 Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine stated that “we still live in a world in which a significant fraction of people, including women, believe that a woman belongs and wants to belong exclusively in the home.”

Remembering the War of 1812

Article 4 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Remembering the War of 1812

This year, the Canadian government has decided to commemorate the War of 1812 bicentennial by recognizing key battles and heroes in re-enactments and other events, restoring various heritage sites pertinent to the war, and honouring a number of military regiments with connections to the militias of the war era. This article looks at the history of the War and how it has been perceived by the various parties who participated.

Two hundred years ago, an anxious American president reluctantly signed a declaration of war on Great Britain. Indeed, on the face of it, James Madison was sensible to be concerned. His new nation was in a state of political and financial disarray. Its army and navy was miniscule in comparison to the British war machine, which was in high gear fighting against Napoleon and the French. But in the nearly thirty years since the conclusion of the American War of Independence, British authorities had never fully reconciled themselves to the loss of thirteen of their colonies in North America and had been pursuing policies that angered raw, youthful American sensitivities.

Parliamentary Tradition and the Legacy of 1812

Article 5 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Parliamentary Tradition and the Legacy of 1812

This year, for the bicentennial of the War of 1812, many Canadians will be celebrating Canada’s military tradition. Our parliamentary traditions go back more than two hundred years and we tend to take them for granted. Had the outcome of the war with the United States been different, we may have had another governance system. The parliamentary debt that is owed for those who fought in that struggle should never be forgotten. This article suggests we should spend a bit of time reflecting on our parliamentary traditions as well as our military ones.

Our parliamentary tradition developed from two basic sources: the backwoods legislature of Upper Canada whose first sitting on September 17, 1792 near Niagara Falls was held, according to historian W.C. Croften, “under a tree, a large stone serving for the Clerk’s Table,” and the much larger provincial parliament of Lower Canada which met in Quebec City in a seventeenth century church. At least five major characteristics of the modern Canadian Parliament can be traced to the procedures and practices that these assemblies developed before 1812.

Alternate and Write-In Ballots: Constitutional and Policy Considerations

Article 6 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Alternate and Write-In Ballots: Constitutional and Policy Considerations

The most reported statistic on election night, apart from the vote count, is the percentage of eligible citizens who cast a ballot. Voter turnout is frequently cited as a measure of the health of our democracy. In recent years policy makers and Chief Electoral Officers have dedicated themselves to creating multiple ‘voting opportunities’ in order to make voting more accessible to the electorate. Since 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador has allowed an elector to vote up to four weeks before an election is called and to do so by writing into a blank space, on an absentee ballot, his or her party of choice. This practice of pre-writ voting, and voting-by-party, is currently the subject of a constitutional challenge before the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. The ultimate decision could have an impact for election law in all Canadian jurisdictions. This article looks at the situation across Canada as well as the specifics of the Newfoundland case.

The Morning After a General Election: The Vice-Regal Perspective

Article 7 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

The Morning After a General Election: The Vice-Regal Perspective

Everywhere in Canada, election night now produces a television extravaganza, with the commentariat out in full force. The next day newspapers chime in with their reporting, as the country wakes up to further analysis of what has happened and what the future might bring. From the vice-regal perspective, however, the path to be followed after every election is always clear and always the same: the conventions of responsible government must be respected and politics eschewed. The vice-regal representative is the protector of the Constitution and not a political actor: the job is to follow convention, stay away from party strife, and maintain the legitimacy of the office. This article looks at the conventions and how they have worked in various examples over the years.

When Courts Decide Elections

Article 8 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

When Courts Decide Elections

Investigations into voter irregularities in the 2011 federal election have led to some court challenges. While it is unusual for courts to overturn the result of an election and order a new one, it is even more rare for a judge to declare one candidate elected in place of another. However, this did occur in three cases discussed in this article.

In 1872, Quebec’s legislators made the courts responsible for ruling on the validity of Legislative Assembly elections. The Superior Court and subsequently the Magistrate’s Court, the Provincial Court and the Court of Quebec each had the task of deciding contested elections.1

In Defense of Political Staff

Article 9 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

In Defense of Political Staff

The work of political staffers in Canadian politics is often maligned. This article argues that aides, or ‘exempt staff’, do essential work in Ottawa and other capitals. Far from being shadowy forces operating outside the law, political aides are in fact closely regulated and contribute to the democratic accountability of governments. Improving the quality of political staff will require better attention to their training and more stable career paths over longer periods of time.

Ministers in the Government of Canada have political aides or political staffers. They are employees whose salaries and benefits are paid from government revenues, but who, are not part of the regular public service. They are hired and fired by the minister, or the prime minister, and are permitted to be explicitly political. In the federal government they are called “exempt staff” in recognition that they are exempt from the provisions of the Public Service Employment Act. They are not recruited by competitive processes. They have none of the guarantees given to public servants and they are free from the strictures of strict non-partisanship.

How India Chooses its Head of State

Article 10 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

How India Chooses its Head of State

On July 19, 2012, India, the world’s largest democracy, elected its 13th President, Pranab Mukherjee. This article outlines the history of the Indian presidency and the powers of the office. It explains the indirect election process whereby members of the national and state legislatures choose a Head of State.

The Office of the President is a symbol of the Indian Republic. The office has been a source of advice, counseling and guidance to the Governments of the day, especially in times of difficulty and crises. Such a role is particularly crucial in a country like India with its vast size, large populace and enormous diversities.