The Importance of Debating Major Social Issues in Parliament: The Example of Québec’s Act respecting end-of-life care

Article 1 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Vol 37 No 3The Importance of Debating Major Social Issues in Parliament: The Example of Québec’s Act respecting end-of-life care

In an age when parliaments are often criticized for being too partisan in nature, it is still possible for legislatures to serve as exceptional forums to conduct in-depth examination of major social issues and foster broad-based consensus. Using the process employed when considering Quebec’s recent Act respecting end-of-life care as an example, the author shows how important and contentious social matters can be debated and examined in a constructive way by legislators, along with extensive participation from civil society. He concludes by proposing that Canadian parliaments may want to investigate whether to follow the examples of Finland and France by creating special committees to review such issues.

Women Parliamentarians in the Post-2015 Development Era Agenda

Article 2 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Women Parliamentarians in the Post-2015 Development Era Agenda

The Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) – Canada Region reports on the activities of a CWP Pan-Commonwealth Conference in London, England. The conference, which addressed “Women in the Post Millennium Development Goal Era,” explored how women parliamentarians could use their positions to help the fight against global poverty in its many forms, including how it manifests in gender inequality.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emanated from United Nations’ Summits and Conferences in the 1990s. The MDGs represent the world’s commitment to deal with global poverty in its many dimensions. This commitment is supported by a global partnership, which calls for country-led strategies and support from developed countries in the areas of trade, official development assistance, debt sustainability and access to medicine and technologies.

Is There a Confidence Convention in Consensus Government?

Article 3 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Is There a Confidence Convention in Consensus Government?

In the Northwest Territories’ consensus system, as in the party system, a government is appointed by the formal executive and members of the executive council are accountable to the House. However, the selection of executive council members in the two systems differs significantly and perhaps consequentially for the confidence convention in responsible government. In this article, born out of a debate between the authors sponsored by the Northwest Territories Regional Group of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, David M. Brock and Alan Cash explore some of the factors to consider if and when the convention is put to the test in a consensus system. They conclude by noting that with recent changes to the Northwest Territories Act as well as emerging conventions regarding the removal of members of the Executive Council, one may now safely argue that the confidence convention could be applied in the Northwest Territories in a manner similar to the application found in party systems. However, the prerogative of the House, emphasized and codified in consensus government, limits the discretion of the first minister and mitigates the power of the executive.

Consensus government in the Northwest Territories is to be executed “in accordance with the principles of responsible government and executive accountability.”1 This does not necessarily mean that all elements of responsible government are applied in the same manner as may be in the case in a party system. One area of potential uncertainty is the confidence convention. This convention holds that if the executive no longer has the support of the majority of members of the legislature, the government must either resign or request dissolution and a general election. But, how might this work in the northern system of consensus government?

Executive Decision-Making: Challenges, Strategies, and Resources

Article 4 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Executive Decision-Making: Challenges, Strategies, and Resources

Executive branches of government are exercising increased control over decision-making, using a wide range of strategies to develop policy preferences and oversee their implementation. Canada, for instance, has seen a steady presidentialization of its parliamentary system, characterized by a heightened centralization of decision-making in the Prime Minister’s Office. The first part of this paper identifies a number of the cognitive biases that impede sound decision-making by the executive and examines two demanding, yet effective, strategies – multiple advocacy and the use of honest brokers – for mitigating subsequent distortions. The second part of the paper discusses challenges to effective policy implementation in light of the systematic disconnections between the executive and the public service. Finally, the merits of political patronage appointments as a means of mitigating these challenges are discussed.

Executive branches of government are exercising increased control over decision-making, using a wide range of strategies to develop policy preferences and oversee their implementation. Canada, for instance, has seen a steady presidentialization of its parliamentary system, characterized by a heightened centralization of decision-making in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).1 In a democracy, decisions are not made in a vacuum, and the executive must work to overcome numerous political and institutional challenges in order for decisions to be fully and properly implemented. As decisions are increasingly attributed to a single elected official, it is more important than ever to identify, and develop ways to mitigate, the cognitive biases and distortions that are likely to influence heads of governments by sheer virtue of their human fallibility. Absent some form of intentional intervention, democratic systems do not naturally allow for the exact implementation of executive decisions due to communication breakdowns – familiar to anyone who has ever played a game of ‘telephone’ – and indirect reporting structures between elected officials and bureaucrats. This paper will address the challenges presented by decision-making biases, particularly with respect to the implementation of executive decisions, and will enumerate potential strategies for resolving these challenges.

“Tremendous Assets”: Co-op students at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Article 5 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

“Tremendous Assets”: Co-op students at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Canadian legislatures provide paid employment for students in a variety of programs that benefit both students and legislatures. Hired as pages, interns, tour guides, summer staff, and in co-op programs, students assist regular staff in providing services to Members, other legislative staff, and the public. Through these programs young people earn money to help finance their education while learning first-hand about the institution at the heart of democratic government in their jurisdiction. This paper looks briefly at co-op programs in selected jurisdictions across the country and explores the Legislative Learner program in Ontario in some depth.1

Same But Different: The 2013 Liberal Intra-Party Transition in Ontario

Article 6 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Same But Different: The 2013 Liberal Intra-Party Transition in Ontario

Kathleen Wynne’s ascension to the head of the Ontario Liberal party in January, 2013 automatically made her the province’s newest premier. Although the Liberals’ status as governing party remained unchanged, her victory necessitated the planning and execution of a transfer of power from old party leadership to new. Scholarly studies of transition in Canada and Ontario have generally focused on instances where one party takes power from another. This paper examines the Wynne transition and traces how its intra-party characteristics shaped its features and evolution. It is based on research conducted between February and May 2013 and primarily reflects 15 not-for‐attribution interviews with public servants and political figures.

Observations on Youth Engagement in Parliamentary Politics

Article 7 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Observations on Youth Engagement in Parliamentary Politics

Low levels of youth voter turnout in recent elections have caused public concern about the disengagement of young people’s interest in parliamentary politics. In this article, the authors argue that legislative internship programmes and the presence of young legislators are both counter-examples to the trend of youth disengagement and evidence that some young people are actively involved in parliamentary politics. Drawing upon their experience as legislative interns in British Columbia, they offer a few strategies for youth engagement.

In recent years, parliamentarians and the public alike have decried the decline of youth engagement in parliamentary politics. This disengagement is most clearly evident in low youth voter turnout for provincial and federal elections.1 For example, in the 2011 federal election 38.8 per cent of eligible voters aged 18-24 years cast a ballot.2 In the 2009 British Columbia provincial election, only 26.9 per cent of eligible voters aged 18-24 years voted and 33.69 per cent of eligible voters aged 25-34 voted.3 Many young people are not voting which threatens the representative nature of our democratic institutions.

Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 37 No 3

Article 8 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Conservatism in Canada, edited by James Farney and David Rayside, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2013, 400 pp.

Following three consecutive Liberal Party majority victories in 1993, 1997, and 2000, there was a sense among many that the Liberal domination of Canadian politics might be indefinite. Sure, Jean Chrétien may not have been beloved exactly, but when his superstar Finance Minister Paul Martin inevitably took over the party’s leadership, its majority would only expand.

CPA Activities: The Canadian Scene Vol 37 No 3

Article 9 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

CPA Activities: The Canadian Scene

More than 120 delegates and accompanying persons enjoyed some balmy New Brunswick weather and legendary East Coast hospitality as the 52nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – Canadian Region Conference was held in Fredericton from July 20-26.

Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians’ (CWP) Meeting