Unveiling the Green Carpet in the Saskatchewan Legislature

Article 1 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Vol 36 No 1Unveiling the Green Carpet in the Saskatchewan Legislature

On October 10, 2012 the Speaker officially unveiled a new carpet in the Saskatchewan Legislative Chamber. The worn-out red carpet was replaced with a new green carpet in keeping with the original intent of the building’s design. A formal ceremony was held with invitations to former Speakers, Premiers, Clerks, MLAs and sitting Members, schools and members of the public.

Two Private Member’s Bills that made Canadian History

Article 2 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Two Private Member’s Bills that made Canadian History

Bill C-268, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), was only the fifteenth Private Member’s Bill to change the Criminal Code since 1867 and the sponsor of the Bill made history with Bill C-310, becoming the first MP in history to change the Criminal Code twice. This article looks at the background and content of these two Bills.

I was first drawn to the issue of human trafficking in Canada through the work of my son, who was a member of the RCMP and served in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE). Overnight, I noticed a huge change in him; his hair turned grey and I could tell things weighed heavily on him. I was appalled to find out that children in Canada were being bought and sold in exchange for sex and money and even more horrified that this issue was completely off the public’s radar screen. As I became more aware of the magnitude of the problem, I realized this exploitation was happening in communities all across our nation. Gradually I began working with victims of human trafficking and not only saw, but felt their pain and humiliation. Perpetrators used coercion and manipulation to gain control of these innocent victims. The victims were and are subjected to every imaginable sexual, physical and mental abuse, involuntary drug use and even threats against their victim’s families.

Government Involvement in Sport for Youth

Article 3 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Government Involvement in Sport for Youth

With youth obesity rates at an all-time high in Canada and daily youth physical exercise at an all-time low, government involvement in youth sport has become desperately needed for Canadian families. Without a strong set of core changes made by government to youth sport, Canadian families will continue to struggle with pressures such as; good nutrition, consistent meals, increasing cost barriers for sport registration fees, aged facilities, the decline of volunteerism, a lack of early age athletic development, a lack of programming for inner city youth, and the continuation of poor showings during international competitions. These growing problems require a change in culture and with obesity costing the country over $7 billion a year, the issue is a significant concern. This article looks at some possible solutions including successful models implemented in Europe.

The cost of government funded health care is spiraling out of control and room must be made for the health of youth. Top heavy and unwieldy with issues that affect the whole country, the Canadian health care system is based on the concept that after a citizen contracts an illness or becomes injured, the system is accessed to attempt to deal with and mitigate the consequences as best as possible. For some larger issues such as the rampant child obesity problem throughout the country, the health care system has a tendency of normalizing the issue.1 With more than 50% of the parents of obese children overweight themselves, this combination of busy lifestyle, reliance on convenience foods that are high in fat and calories, and too little physical activity all contribute to an issue that stems from the household.2

Is There Such a Thing as a Women’s Agenda in Parliament?

Article 4 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Is There Such a Thing as a Women’s Agenda in Parliament?

At most CPA conferences at least one topic on the agenda deals with women in politics. This article considers some strategies needed to get more women elected but says women must go beyond the idea of a separate women’s agenda.

The subject of women in politics is a critical area of importance which has evolved since the day women were granted the right to vote. In Canada my province of Manitoba was the first in our country to grant women the right to vote in 1916. It was a hard fought battle. At the forefront was a woman by the name of Nellie McClung. She was a feisty woman who challenged the Premier of the day who felt that a woman’s role was to stay at home and fetch their man his slippers when he came home after a hard day’s work.

Omnibus Bills in Theory and Practice

Article 5 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Omnibus Bills in Theory and Practice

There is no concise definition of what is an Omnibus Bill. O’Brien and Bosc (2009) state that an omnibus bill seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts, and is characterized by the fact that it has a number of related but separate “initiatives”. The latter word is an improvement over the previous edition, by Marleau and Montpetit, that spoke of separate “parts” – plenty of bills are divided into Parts, without being omnibus bills at all. This article looks at the use of omnibus bills in Canadian provinces, the United States and in the House of Commons, particularly Bill C-38 the Budget Implementation Bill. It argues that the extensive use of omnibus bills is detrimental to the health of our parliamentary institutions.

Anybody looking for a detailed statistical compendium showing how many omnibus bills were introduced and passed in the Canadian Parliament and in provincial legislatures would search in vain. Comparable figures are easily available if you are searching for the number of public bills, private bills, appropriation bills, taxation bills, private members’ public bills and the like. They can be found, for example, in the marvellous work of former Senator Stewart, who met the challenge of making parliamentary procedure intelligible for those I would call the “middle-informed”, those whose knowledge on the topic is higher than among the public at large without exceeding that of the practitioners of Parliament.

“Harper’s New Rules” for Government Formation: Fact or Fiction?

Article 6 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

“Harper’s New Rules” for Government Formation: Fact or Fiction?

When the minority government of Stephen Harper faced a non-confidence motion and likely defeat by an opposition coalition shortly after the 2008 election the Prime Minister argued that a coalition could not legitimately take power without an election. The impending defeat was staved off by prorogation and subsequent events but the so called “New Rules” of the Prime Minister were criticized by constitutional experts who saw them as infringing the established principles of responsible government which allow the Governor General to appoint a new government following an early vote of non-confidence. The Prime Minister’s later claim that the 2011 election was a choice between a Conservative majority or coalition – seemed to reject his own “New Rules” and was seen as evidence of his political expediency. This paper considers the constitutional politics concerning coalition governments that arose, first in 2008 and then again in 2011. It focuses on the question whether, and if so under what circumstances, a coalition can displace a minority government without holding new elections. It surveys the work of both critics and supporters of the “New Rules” and argues that Mr. Harper’s 2008 and 2011 positions are not inconsistent or contradictory.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to have taken a new and constitutionally suspect approach to government formation in 2008, insisting that only new elections could change parliamentary governments. “Harper’s New Rules,”1 generated an outpouring of criticism from constitutional scholars.

The Curtailment of Debate in the House of Commons: An Historical Perspective

Article 7 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

The Curtailment of Debate in the House of Commons: An Historical Perspective

Time is certainly one of Parliament’s most precious resources. Since a happy medium must be found between the right to debate as long as is desirable and the right of Parliament to make a decision, House of Commons procedure has evolved to enable the government, when it sees fit, to limit the time available for debate. This article presents a historical analysis of the creation and use of the time management tools provided in the Standing Orders. These tools are closure, time allocation, the previous question, the motion to suspend certain Standing Orders for matters of an urgent nature and the routine motion by a Minister. Although debate in the 41st Parliament (2011–) has been curtailed more often than in previous parliaments, the use of time management tools has been on the rise since the mid1970s. Various factors such as the larger number of tools available to the government, the adoption of a fixed schedule and calendar and the systematic increase in opposition obstructionism likely explain this trend.

Balancing Family and Work: Challenges Facing Canadian MPs

Article 8 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Balancing Family and Work: Challenges Facing Canadian MPs

Many Canadians struggle to balance their families and careers. A 2011 Harris/Decima poll, reports that 47% of Canadians struggle to achieve a work-life balance, and family is often an important aspect of that balance. Certain professions, including that of MP, make achieving such a balance more difficult than others. This article looks at the overall nature of the strain on MPs the two strategies that MPs employ to adapt the challenges of the job, and potential reforms that might work to assuage some of the strain placed on MPs and their families. The data for this paper comes from a series of semi-structured interviews conducted by Samara, an independent charitable organization that improves political and democratic participation in Canada, as part of its MP Exit Interview Project. This paper used transcripts from the interviews of 65 former MPs who left public life during or after the 38th and 39th Parliaments. These men and women served, on average, 10.5 years, and together represented all political parties and regions of the country. The group included 21 cabinet ministers and one prime minister.

In his penetrating exploration of “the dark side” of political life in Canada, Steve Paikin saves the family for his book’s penultimate chapter. Paikin’s narrative stands as a stark warning to those entering politics and hoping to maintain a healthy family life. He tells the story of Christine Stewart, a Liberal MP elected in 1993, who attended an orientation session for rookies. “Look around this room,” warned the session’s guide. “Because by the end of your political careers, 70 percent of you will either be divorced or have done serious damage to your marriages.” Paikin reports that Stewart felt she would be the exception to the rule; instead, her seventeen-year marriage came to an end during her time as MP.

The Office of Premier of Ontario 1945-2010: Who Really Advises?

Article 9 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

The Office of Premier of Ontario 1945-2010: Who Really Advises?

This article focuses on the composition of the Ontario Premier’s office and uses an institutionalist approach to put the influence of advisors in context. It looks at expenditures attributed in the Public Accounts to the Premier’s Office and staffing. It assumes that the number of advisors and their placement in the decision-making hierarchy should have a material impact on the quantity and quality of the advice being received by the Premier. Among other things the articles shows that the classic policy/administration divide was not clearly defined in Ontario. Instead it exhibits a back-and-forth habit of experimentation that depended on the personality of the prime minister, the capacities of political and bureaucratic advisors, and the stages of the governmental cycle. There have been discernible cycles in the hiring of political staff and in the growth of expenditures that would indicate the Premier’s Office was more concerned with campaign preparations and externalities than it was in rivaling bureaucratic influence. Compared to Ottawa, where the structures of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office have been far more distinct in this similar time frame, the Ontario experience reveals itself as one of constant experimentation.

For almost two generations, observers of all sorts have almost unanimously lamented the growth in influence of prime ministerial advisors. Members of parliament and public servants have complained that brash young advisors have been presumptive in claiming to speak on behalf of “the power” and in holding that their “spoken truths” had more relevance and importance than any other advice. Scholars have chimed in with the conclusion that the strength of the PM’s advisors are indicative of a will to “steer from the centre.” In Canada, the most distinguished advocate of this model has been Donald Savoie who diagnosed a growing tendency to “govern from the centre” and the emergence of a new form of “court government” that required an important cadre of advisors.1

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 36 No1

Article 10 / 12 , Vol 36 No 1 (Spring)

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Challenges of Minority Governments in Canada, by Marc Gervais, Ottawa, Invenire Books, 2012.

Canadian academic literature on minority government is sparse considering there have been nine such instances at the federal level since 1957 and many more in the provinces. Peter Russell (Two Cheers for Minority Government, 2008) painted a rosy picture of possible benefits while others have taken a more critical view in light of recent experience.