In Social Media Content is King

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

Vol 36 No 2In Social Media Content is King

Marshall McLuhan famously observed in the 1960s that the “Medium is the Message” with different media having their own way of impacting the viewer, listener or reader. This article argues that when it comes to social media and its impact on the political process and public policy we need to pay more attention to content rather than conclude that the medium itself is transformational.

Reaching Out to Canadian Women and Youth

Article 2 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

Reaching Out to Canadian Women and Youth

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) have come together to work for better representation of women in legislatures throughout Canada and the Commonwealth. Created in 2005, the CWP-Canadian Region is comprised of women parliamentarians of the provincial and territorial Canadian legislatures and the Federal parliament. Its aims and objectives are: To provide opportunities for strategic discussion and development for future and present parliamentarians; To increase female representation in our Parliaments; To foster closer relationships between Canadian women parliamentarians; To foster relations with other countries having close parliamentary ties with Canada; and To discuss, strategize and act on gender-related issues in Canada and internationally. The CWP pursues its objectives by means of annual Commonwealth parliamentary conferences and regional conferences, outreach programs and participation in many campaign schools across the country. This article looks at the 2013 Outreach Program held in Québec.

The importance of creating awareness and sharing information with women and girls about the role of parliamentarians, the parliamentary system and the political process is key to increasing engagement of women in politics. Outreach programs provide an invaluable opportunity to encourage involvement and to de-mystify the political world.

Changing the Line of Succession to the Crown

Article 3 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

Changing the Line of Succession to the Crown

On October 28, 2011, representatives of the Commonwealth countries for which Her Majesty the Queen is the sovereign head of state, including Canada, agreed to support changes to the rules on royal succession. Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled Canada’s support to end the practice of placing younger brothers before their elder sisters in the line of succession. Second, he signalled support to end the prohibition against heirs marrying Roman Catholics. In December 2012, the government of the United Kingdom introduced legislation to amend the laws governing succession along these lines. The bill has been passed by the United Kingdom House of Commons and the House of Lords. This article outlines the provisions of Canadian Bill C-53 intended to indicate Canada’s agreement with the principles in the United Kingdom legislation.

The purpose of Bill C-53 is to provide the Parliament of Canada’s assent to the changes to the law governing the succession to the throne that are proposed in the United Kingdom bill. The laws governing succession are United Kingdom laws. It is wholly within the legislative authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to alter the body of United Kingdom laws relating to royal succession, including the English Bill of Rights of 1688 and the Act of Settlement of 1700.

More is Needed to Change the Rules of Succession for Canada

Article 4 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

More is Needed to Change the Rules of Succession for Canada

This article argues that, since the 1931 Statute of Westminster, Canada has developed its own distinct process for amending its constitution. Altering the rules of succession to the Throne, which are fundamental to our constitution, are part of that process. The Succession to the Throne Act, 2013, is an important first step, but one that does not satisfy our current constitutional requirements.

The intent behind the Succession to the Throne Act, 2013, passed by the Parliament of Canada is not at issue. Canadians generally agree with the citizens of the Queen’s other realms in supporting the changes to the laws of succession, hence the unanimous support in the House of Commons and the Senate.

A New Participatory Policy Model: The Edmonton Citizens’ Jury on Internet Voting

Article 5 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

A New Participatory Policy Model: The Edmonton Citizens’ Jury on Internet Voting

The weekend of November 23 to 25, 2012, seventeen Edmonton citizens took part in a Citizens’ Jury, which deliberated on whether to introduce Internet voting as an alternative voting method in future municipal elections. This unique public engagement process was modeled by the University of Alberta’s Centre for Public Involvement and is the first of its kind in Canada. The Jury heard testimony from expert witnesses, evaluated the evidence presented and, after extensive deliberation, delivered a verdict in favour of Internet voting. This article summarizes the Jury process, analyzes its outcomes, and discusses lessons learned from this approach to participatory policy development and decision-making.

Assessing the Potential of New Social Media

Article 6 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

Assessing the Potential of New Social Media

The Internet and social media are almost universally assumed to be essential to election campaigns and the work of parliamentarians, as well as being centrally important to how individual Canadians engage with politics. Indeed, it is regularly assumed that new information and communications technologies have transformed politics in ways that enhance the quality of democracy by connecting and engaging citizens with political processes that are more transparent and interactive than in the past. This article offers a partial assessment of the impact of the Internet, social networking and related information and communications technologies on politics, campaigning and parliamentarians. The perspective offered is rooted in a desire to avoid unfounded enthusiasm and unsubstantiated assumptions about the extent to which potentially interactive information and communications technologies have actually transformed politics.

Thirty years ago before widespread access to high speed Internet, user-friendly e-mail programs, political weblogs, and social networking sites, the political theorist Benjamin Barber speculated that new information technologies had the potential to strengthen democracy by increasing public access to information that would enhance civic awareness and facilitating participatory dialogue and deliberation across great distances.1 During the 1990s, as popular access to new information and communications technologies and the Internet became increasingly common, optimistic democrats believed we were on the cusp of a new era social and political democratization. Cyber-utopians believed computer-based information sharing and interaction would transform democratic politics.

Canadian Influences on the British Speakership

Article 7 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

Canadian Influences on the British Speakership

The office of Speaker of the United Kingdom House of Commons can trace its origins to 1258 when Peter de Montfort presided over ‘The Mad Parliament’ of that year. In 1376, Peter de la Mare was elected as Parliament’s first official spokesman but it was the following year, in 1377, that Sir Thomas Hungerford was the first person to be given the title of Speaker. It is during much more recent history, the period since 1945, however, that this ancient office has undergone its greatest evolution. This article will chart that post-war development and look at how examples from the Canadian Speakership have played a part in shaping its counterpart at Westminster.

Despite the fact that the Canadian Speakership has yet to achieve the same level of independence and impartiality as the much older and more established British one, in many ways it has been one step ahead of its counterpart at Westminster. One province, British Columbia, had the first woman to hold the office of Speaker anywhere in the Commonwealth. The Canadian House had a Speaker from the Opposition benches nearly seventy years before this took place in the United Kingdom and its method of electing the Chair would be copied when the previous system used at Westminster could not cope with more than two candidates for the post.

Leadership Selection in Alberta, 1992-2011: A Personal Perspective

Article 8 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

Leadership Selection in Alberta, 1992-2011: A Personal Perspective

In 1991, the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta changed its rules for selecting its party leader. They abandoned their traditional method of a leadership convention (with delegates drawn from each constituency), and instituted a new one-member, one-vote system. Under this new system, the Alberta PCs have elected three new party leaders: Ralph Klein in 1992; Ed Stelmach in 2006; and Alison Redford in 2011. In each of these leadership contests the winner immediately became the Premier of Alberta. This article looks at the impact of the new selection procedure for politics in Alberta.

The 1991 leadership reforms can best be described as creating what the Americans call an “open primary.” Not only is it based on the one-member, one-vote principle, but the membership requirement is essentially “open”. That is, there are no pre-requisites such as prior party membership or cut-off dates for purchasing a membership. Memberships can be bought at the door of the polling station on the day of the vote for $5. The system allows for two rounds of voting. If no candidate receives an absolute majority (50% +1) on the first voting-day, then the top three1 go on to a second vote one week later.2 Membership sales remain open right up until the polling stations close on this second day of voting. Finally, in the second round, the vote is by preferential ballot.3 For the three remaining candidates, voters indicate their first and second choice. If no candidate receives a simple majority, the third place finisher is dropped, and his supporters’ second preferences are redistributed to the top two finishers. This guarantees that one will then have a majority. Taken together, these new rules gave the Alberta PC’s the “most democratic” (i.e. open and transparent) leadership selection process of any political party in Canada., perhaps in the entire Parliamentary world.

For and Against Lowering the Voting Age: A Round Table

Article 9 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

For and Against Lowering the Voting Age: A Round Table

Under the Edinburgh Agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government for a referendum on independence of Scotland it was agreed that the franchise could be extended to 16 and 17 year-olds for this vote. On January 24, 2013, the British House of Commons voted by 119 to 46 for a motion to rationalise the extension of the franchise in this respect throughout the United Kingdom. A month later the House of Lords debated the issue of voting age, a topic of interest to legislators in Canada and elsewhere who are concerned about ways to engage youth in politics. The following is an abridged version of some of the interventions for and against lowering the voting age. For the full text of all speeches see Debates of the House of Lords, February 27, 2013.

Lord Tyler: It would be patently inequitable, irrational and absurd to limit this reform of the franchise to one part of the country for one occasion only. As things stand, the same cohort of the Scottish population that will be added to the register for the referendum will then be refused a vote in the general election a few months later. That makes no sense. What if a Westminster, Holyrood or local government by-election poll takes place in Scotland on the same day as the referendum? Are 16 and 17 year-olds to be issued with only one ballot paper for the referendum, but excluded from choosing their representative? Would 16 and 17 year-olds be refused a vote in any subsequent referendum, such as on our continuing membership of the European Union? Quite apart from the issues of principle, let us imagine the complex bureaucratic nightmare of such markedly different registers for different purposes if these inequities are allowed to continue.

The “Partners in Service” Exhibit in Alberta

Article 10 / 12 , Vol 36 No 2 (Summer)

The “Partners in Service” Exhibit in Alberta

On May 9, 2012 the Alberta Speaker unveiled the Partners in Service Exhibit honouring contributions made by the partners of Alberta’s former Premiers. The exhibit noted that while the Premiers hold a demanding and highly visible position and their lives have become part of the Alberta’s documented history, little is known about their spouses all of whom made a significant contribution to the success of their partners. This article contains extracts from the biographical information about the thirteen partners in service featured in the exhibit located on the fifth floor of the Legislature Building.

In one of his last formal duties, retiring Speaker Ken Kowalski hosted the official unveiling of the exhibit honouring the spouses of Alberta’s Premiers since 1905. Speaker Kowalski was inspired to pay tribute to the spouses of Premiers after visits to Washington and California where First Ladies of Presidents and Governors respectively are recognized for their role. The exhibit adds a new dimension to the understanding of Alberta’s legislative history and features the strength of character required by those individuals who, although they did not serve as elected Members of the Legislative Assembly nonetheless supported and helped shape Alberta as it is today. This permanent exhibit is the first of its kind in Canada.