Now you see it, now you…won’t!: The growing porticoes, disappearing wings, and secret attics of PEI’s Province House
Prince Edward Island’s Province House was very much a work-in-progress as it was being built – with budgets and popular opinion changing the scope of the project several times and leaving some quirky architectural features. But it has stood the test of time for over 170 years and ongoing renovations mean it will be preserved for many more.
Continue reading “Sketches of Parliaments and Parliamentarians Past”
Partisanship permits groups of like-minded people who share similar ideas to organize themselves efficiently in politics. It’s an accepted and acceptable part of parliamentary democracy. But when hyper-partisanship takes hold in politics it can be detrimental to the way parliamentarians serve their constituents and severely diminish how they see their representatives. In this article, the author reflects on his experiences in Alberta’s Assembly and suggests three ways he, his colleagues, and other parliamentarians across the country can reverse the trend towards hyper-partisanship. First, he suggests parliamentarians treat our political adversaries as colleagues, and seek opportunities to get to know them away from the legislature. Second, he urges parliamentarians to seek options for dealing with legislation in a less partisan, more collaborative environment in committee. Finally, he recommends making a conscious effort to elevate the level of debate, discussion, and decorum in each of our respective Legislatures. This article was originally presented to the 39th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Canadian Regional Seminar in Charlottetown, on October 11, 2017.
Continue reading “The Rise of Partisanship and How it Paralyses Parliaments”
The origins of the Senate mace are not precisely known. There is some evidence that this mace was used by the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada from 1841 to 1867. It was probably used even earlier by the Legislative Council of Lower Canada. Portions of the mace seem to date from the early nineteenth century, while other parts are almost certainly of later date.
Continue reading “Know Your Mace – Senate”
The most valuable and perishable commodity one has, as a Member of Parliament (MP), is time. How we use our time in Ottawa and in the riding speaks to the value we bring to the people who elect us. The efficiency of Members’ time is an integral principle throughout our Parliamentary procedures and conventions. Making efficient and effective use the Member’s time in Ottawa is paramount. In this article, the author explores how the creation of parallel chambers in two sister Westminster Parliaments has provided ways to make maximum use of the time MPs have during a parliament to engage in debate and discussion. In addition to streamlining the legislative process and reducing the need and/or use of closure and time allocation, the concurrent chambers have been used to test new proposals for procedures that eventually have been adopted by the main chamber.
Continue reading “A Parallel Chamber for Canada’s House of Commons?”
Representation in Action: Canadian MPs in the Constituencies, by Royce Koop, Heather Bastedo and Kelly Blidook, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018), 235 pp.
There is no doubt that Canadians take the work of their Members of Parliament for granted and there is a reason for this: almost all MPs are elected because of the label they represent, not because of their personal qualities or politics. Parliamentary representation has rarely worked out in practice the way it was supposed to in theory. The democratic ideal was that electoral districts would choose one of their own to represent the region without compromise within a unifying assembly. Instead, political parties have used their own organizing and ideation powers and quickly overcame whatever an individual might offer (exceptions do exist, but they are extremely rare). Members of Parliament are seen as practically anonymous and interchangeable, utterly dependent on the party and programme they represented during the previous electoral contest.
Continue reading “Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews”
One in five Canadians will experience symptoms relating to mental illness in their lifetime. Yet, despite strides to destigmatise mental health conditions, people experiencing acute symptoms or episodes often feel as though they must struggle through alone and in silence. High-stress occupations, including those in parliamentary politics, are often places where these conditions first manifest or reappear due to certain triggers. The very public nature of the job and the continuing need to seek re-election tend to make politicians reluctant to disclose their mental health issues. In recent years, however, more parliamentarians appear to be coming forward, while in office, to speak openly about managing their mental health on the job. In this roundtable, three parliamentarians who have publicly disclosed their mental health conditions came together to talk about their experiences serving as parliamentarians while dealing with mental health conditions. With astonishing candour, they shared their stories and took the opportunity to talk to others in the same unique position about how they’ve persevered during trying times. The participants, while acknowledging the challenges of managing the conditions while in office also spoke of its positive effects in terms of giving them compassion, realism, and great perspective that can be used to excel at aspects of their jobs.
This roundtable was held in November 2017.
Continue reading “Parliamentarians and Mental Health: A Candid Conversation”
Every Member of Parliament represents a constituency. Yet the amount of attention paid to the Member-constituency relationship by scholars is quite small compared to its importance in our democratic system. Members must spend time building connections to their constituencies, understanding concerns, and mediating these tensions within a party caucus if party policy conflicts with what an MP is hearing locally. Additional responsibilities such as being in cabinet or having a constituency far from Ottawa where travel is difficult can create other challenges. The Canadian Study of Parliament Group organized a seminar on March 16, 2018 which brought parliamentarians, academics, parliamentary staff and journalists together to explore ideas of constituency representation and engagement. This article summarizes the seminar’s sessions and provides some insight into how these various groups of stakeholders think about the nature of constituencies.
Connecting with Constituents: Observations on how MPs engage at home
Continue reading “Seminar: Members and Their Constituency”
Tour guides at federal, provincial and territorial parliaments serve an important role as educators; sometimes, they are the first point of contact for Canadians, newcomers and tourists who are seeking to learn more about Canada’s political system. In this roundtable discussion, chaired by Canadian Parliamentary Review intern Mariya-Kvitlana Tsap, seven tour guides and tour officers from British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and the Parliament of Canada shared insights into their typical day on the job, some memorable personal anecdotes and their take on the most intriguing facts about their respective building and programming that might be of interest to visitors.
CPR: How would you describe a regular day at your job?
Continue reading “Parliamentary Tour Guiding Around Canada”