Consensus Government in Nunavut

Article 1 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Vol 35 No 4Consensus Government in Nunavut

This article provides an introduction to the territory of Nunavut and its place in the Canadian federation. It also offers an overview of the Legislative Assembly’s structure and operations. It concludes with a discussion of some emerging challenges and opportunities.

Are Private Members’ Bills A Useful Tool in Today’s Legislatures?

Article 2 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Are Private Members’ Bills A Useful Tool in Today’s Legislatures?

Private Members’ Bills are ones presented by members who are not part of cabinet. They may be opposition members or private members on the government side. This article argues that private members’ bills are useful mechanisms to serve citizens regardless of whether the bill passes or not. They can serve as a catalyst for generating the discussion and motivation required to achieve the policy end.

Engaging Youth Through Social Media

Article 3 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Engaging Youth Through Social Media

The last two decades have witnessed a decline in voter turnout, most noticeably among young voters. During this same period, the use of cell phones and digital and social media has increased dramatically. Effective use of social media tools has the exciting potential to connect young voters with political decision-makers and to help rebuild the relationship between citizens, elected officials and parliamentary democracy. This article offers some new ideas about how to engage with young people.

Before turning to how a variety of social media tools can be used to engage voters, I would like to quickly sketch out the challenges we face engaging young people and getting them out to vote.

Rethinking House of Lords Reform

Article 4 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Rethinking House of Lords Reform

Throughout its life, like all parliamentary institutions, the House of Lords has been in a state of flux. The road to reform has been a long and rocky one. Ironically, Canada has been facing the same questions over the Senate for almost the same period of time. This article looks at the recent attempt to reform the Upper House.

On September 3, 2012, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg made a statement to the House of Commons that the House of Lords Reform Bill (HCB 52) had been withdrawn. To shouts of hooray, the Deputy Prime Minister, who led the charge for reform, explained why the process had collapsed after only getting as far as its Second Reading. Oddly enough, the Second Reading had resulted in 462 members voting in favour of the Bill to 124 against.1

Bicameralism in South Africa

Article 5 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Bicameralism in South Africa

During the transition following Apartheid, South Africa completely redesigned its constitution and its political institutions. This article looks at how bicameralism operates in that country.

Both the South African and Canadian Parliaments subscribe to a system of bicameralism but I must hasten to point out that our system of bicameralism is firmly rooted within the unitary state system of governance whilst the Canadian one functions within the federal State system where provinces are regarded as autonomous. This actually differs from our system where provincial legislatures take their cue from the national parliament through a system of cooperative governance.

From Coalition Government to Parliamentary Privilege: Lessons in Democracy from Australia

Article 6 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

From Coalition Government to Parliamentary Privilege: Lessons in Democracy from Australia

This paper examines Australian developments with respect to the Westminster-model of responsible parliamentary government. Australia has adopted preferential voting and compulsory voting; and it has a long history of governments that are coalitions or that negotiate support from smaller parties and independents, or both. Australia began making its previously ‘secret’ cabinet handbook available to the public in 1982, and followed this up with release of the Executive Council Handbook and ‘caretaker conventions’ to prevent a government from making major commitments during an election. And recently it has reduced parliamentary privileges and codified them in statute. Each offers lessons for Canada. To that end, this paper traces the Australian developments and practices beginning with its electoral system and compulsory voting, government formation (including changing governments mid-term), popular understanding of the powers of the Governor General, the unclassified cabinet and executive council handbooks, caretaker conventions and parliamentary privileges. There are lessons on each for other Commonwealth countries to learn, as several countries including the United Kingdom have begun to realize.

An Innovation in Parliamentary Staff Training

Article 7 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

An Innovation in Parliamentary Staff Training

In June 2012 the pilot session of a global first – an International Executive Parliamentary Staff Training Program – was hosted by McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development. Organized as a collaborative venture between ISID, the World Bank Institute, the Canadian Parliamentary Centre, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the State University of New York, with support from other organizations around the globe. The program brought together participants from 11 countries.

Assistance to parliaments has historically included activities intended to improve the skills of Members of Parliament. And, more recently, to help improve the infrastructure, such as libraries and information technology, within parliaments. However, experience has shown that focusing on these areas alone yields limited results. The effectiveness of parliaments depends on more than structure and capacity of their premises, equipment and technical services and of the skill-sets of MPs, important as these are. Over the past decade, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of enhancing the institutional memory of parliament and thus combating the problem of skills loss at election times, when in some countries the turnover of MPs is 80% or higher. Building institutional memory in parliament requires a focus on training of parliamentary staff.

Social Media, Free Speech and Parliamentary Service

Article 8 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Social Media, Free Speech and Parliamentary Service

The Senate Administration has, in the last few years, adopted a Statement of Values and Ethics, a Code of Conduct for Staff of the Senate Administration and, very recently, a set of Social Media Guidelines for Staff of the Senate Administration. This article looks at certain provisions of these documents and related issues involving parliamentary service.

Modern technology has been getting employees into trouble for years, decades even. Social media can be seen as simply the latest challenge evolving technology has introduced to the workplace. In their early stages of adoption, photocopiers, fax machines and email all provided avenues for inappropriate expressions and behaviour, or were used for non work-related matters. Internal guidelines and processes had to be put in place to address issues that arose.

Strengthening Parliamentary Scrutiny of the Estimates

Article 9 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

Strengthening Parliamentary Scrutiny of the Estimates

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates has a mandate, amongst other matters, to review and report on the process for considering the estimates and supply. The Committee began a review of this issue in February 2012. It held 13 meetings and heard from 31 witnesses, including knowledge observers, academics, departmental officials, and international experts. On June 20, 2012, the Committee presented its report to the House of Commons. The report made 16 recommendations to improve the procedures, structure, and support related to parliamentary scrutiny of the estimates. The government presented its response to the report on October 18, 2012. This article summarizes the report’s observations and recommendations, as well as the government’s response.

One of the fundamental roles of Parliament is to review and authorize the government’s expenditure of public funds. To this end, the government presents its spending plans to Parliament in the form of “estimates,” which are then referred to and scrutinized by the appropriate standing committee. In this way, Parliament can hold the government to account for its spending. However, it has long been acknowledged that Parliament does not effectively fulfill its role and standing committees are at best making a cursory review of the government’s spending plans.

The Ontario Legislative Library Marks 100 Years in the North Wing

Article 10 / 13 , Vol 35 No 4 (Winter)

The Ontario Legislative Library Marks 100 Years in the North Wing

In May 2012 the Ontario Legislative Library published an illustrated book, Built to Last, to tell the story of the planning, construction and evolution of the Library in the North Wing and provides a snapshot of the facility in its 100th year. The book draws on the Library’s photo collection, original architectural drawings, archival materials of former Legislative Librarians, interviews with staff and contemporary photographs.