The New Senate: Still in Transition

Article 2 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

The New Senate: Still in Transition

Over the course of the past two years, a confluence of events has dramatically altered Canada’s Senate. The upper chamber’s response to the Auditor General’s Report on Senators’ Expenses, the absence of a government caucus in the Senate at the start of the 42nd Parliament, and a new appointment process that brought in a significant number of Independent senators have all contributed to institutional change. In this article, based on his remarks to the 34th Canadian Presiding Officers Conference, Senator George J. Furey provides some observations of the impact of these events from his unique vantage point as Speaker. While acknowledging that these changes have created some tensions, he concludes that this transition can be defined by openness, flexibility, adaptability and a general willingness to move forward slowly without forcing permanent rule changes until the landscape is better defined.

After decades of reform proposals, a recent change has had a significant impact on the Senate. This change is reducing the partisan character of the Senate and making it a more independent, non-affiliated and deliberative body. What is curious about this change, is that it was achieved by non-constitutional means.

What is a Charter of Budget Honesty? The Case of Australia

Article 3 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

What is a Charter of Budget Honesty? The Case of Australia

It is now nearly 20 years since Australia introduced a prominent piece of legislation known as the Charter of Budget Honesty Act (1998) to improve the transparency and the discipline of its budget process. This article examines the success of the charter, as well as its limitations, in the context of Australian budget process, including an analysis of its most pertinent components, so as to then reflect more broadly on the impact of budget honesty mechanisms for parliaments with a similar structure and history, including Canada.

In our time, most Parliamentary democracies in the world are faced with the question of how to maintain budget discipline, particularly with respect to three overarching concerns: a long-run reliance on deficits; the ability to manage unforeseen economic shocks; and the level of transparency and accountability in the budget process. Following the economic crisis of the past decade, more parliaments are finding themselves debating questions of fiscal discipline and fiscal transparency at ever more frequent intervals. Some legislatures have tried to give a more concrete form to their beliefs in budget discipline and budget transparency by enshrining them into charters or acts.

Who Speaks for Parliament?: Hansard, the Courts and Legislative Intent

Article 4 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

Who Speaks for Parliament?: Hansard, the Courts and Legislative Intent

Two significant Supreme Court rulings from the 1990s have opened the door to using Hansard Debates to divine a parliament’s intent in court cases which challenge understandings of laws. Although the Supreme Court rulings stressed that use of Hansard as a source in legal proceedings should be strictly limited, subsequent lower courts have not always observed these limits. In this article, the author outlines these developments and explains how the more liberal use of Hansard in courts can be problematic. He concludes by cautioning parliamentarians to be mindful of how the words they use during debate may be used by the courts in the future, and urges the courts to consider how some parliamentarians might begin using their speeches in parliament to win in court what they could not in a legislature.

The 2015 Federal Election: More Visible Minority Candidates and MPs

Article 5 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

The 2015 Federal Election: More Visible Minority Candidates and MPs

The federal election of October 19, 2015 established a high water mark in the representation of racial diversity in Parliament with the election of 45 MPs with visible minority origins. Their relative presence jumped over four percentage points compared to the 2011 general election and their larger number markedly narrowed the population-based gap in representation. As an account of this improvement in the representation of visible minority MPs, the focus here is on aspects of the candidate nomination process, with an approach informed by the supposition that heightened competition among the three largest parties engendered a greater degree of vote-seeking among immigrant and minority communities.

Religion, Faith and Spirituality in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia

Article 6 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

Religion, Faith and Spirituality in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia

This article aims to further a conversation about the role of religion, faith, and spirituality in public institutions in Canada by examining the practice of prayer in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The authors provide a background of prayer in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, an overview of the differing customs in provincial and territorial legislative assemblies in Canada, and also public controversies and court cases which have arisen in response to these conventions. Following an analysis of prayers delivered at the opening of legislative sessions of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1992 to 2016, the article concludes by comparing the content of prayers delivered to self-reported rates of religiosity, spirituality, and faith amongst the general British Columbia population.

Recent Seminars on Parliamentary Practise and Procedure

Article 7 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

Recent Seminars on Parliamentary Practise and Procedure

Running out the Clock: The Strategic Use of Parliamentary Time

From the moment that a new parliament is elected and a new government is formed, the clock is ticking until the next election. While governments try to move their agenda forward and pass their legislation as quickly as possible, opposition parties often use parliamentary tools to delay the process to scrutinize, oppose, and/or secure changes to government initiatives. On January 20, 2017, the Canadian Study of Parliament Group (CSPG) held a seminar to explore the strategic use of parliamentary time by the government and the opposition and how it has evolved in recent decades, as well as proposals for reform.

CPA Activities Vol 40 No 1

Article 8 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

CPA Activities

New Yukon Speaker

On January 12, 2017, the 34th Yukon Legislative Assembly convened for the first time since the November 7, 2016 general election. The first order of business on the one-day Special Sitting was the election of a Speaker. On motion of Premier Sandy Silver, seconded by Leader of the Official Opposition Stacey Hassard and Third Party House Leader Kate White, the Assembly elected Nils Clarke, the Member for Riverdale North, as its Speaker. Mr. Clarke was the sole nominee for the role.

The Premier had announced his intention to nominate Mr. Clarke on December 3, 2016 at the swearing-in ceremony for Cabinet.