On secession

The May 5 elections for the Scottish Parliament returned a majority Scottish Nationalist Party government. Party leader Alex Salmond quickly announced that a referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom would be held during the SNP’s term in office, and recently clarified that it would be held in 2015. For a Canadian, this immediately brings to mind the province of Quebec’s repeated attempts to gain independence. To date, two referendums have been held, one in 1980, the most recent in 1995. Both were defeated, though the last one was extremely close, with the No side winning 50.58% to the Yes side’s 49.42%. Following the second referendum, the Government of Canada initiated a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada […]

Who’s who in Parliament: the Speaker

The term Speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer (chair) of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The Speaker’s official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The Speaker decides who may speak and has the powers to discipline members who break the procedures of the house. The Speaker often also represents the body in person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations. In most Westminster-style chambers, the Speaker does not have a deliberative vote, but only a tiebreaker, called the casting vote. The Speaker is also expected to remove him or herself from politics, and remain as neutral as possible. […]

Keyword Post: MPs Indemnities, salaries and allowances

This is another post in response to recent keyword search activity on this blog. The information contained herein is very easily accessible here, on the Parliament of Canada website, which should always be your first stop when trying to find anything having to do with the Parliament of Canada, MPs, Senators, etc. (See this post for more useful resources you might want to bookmark for future reference). If you are looking for information about the salaries and allowances for UK MPs, please consult this fact sheet from the UK Parliament website. The salaries and allowances of Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) are adjusted on April 1 each year. Increases to the salaries of MPs are based on an index of […]

Privilege, the press, the law and the Internet

A recent Guardian editorial on the matter of balancing parliamentary privilege and responsible behaviour concluded thusly: When parliament last examined the question of privilege, the internet was still in its infancy. Social media were embryonic. And the ink on the Human Rights Act was barely dry. The possibility that parliamentary privilege might intersect with the online world and the role of the press in all its complexity was not even imagined. At the very least, a new select committee examination is now required. And so, inescapably, are some clearer new responsibilities to go with MPs’ ancient rights. This was in response to the recent naming in Parliament of a prominent footballer by MP John Hemmings in defiance of a super-injunction […]

Keyword Post: Types of Government

There have been various queries in my keyword search activity from people looking for explanations of minority vs. coalition vs majority government, and so I decided to write a brief post explaining the different types of government. In parliamentary systems, such as the UK and Canada and many other countries, the head of state and the head of government are two separate offices. Often, the head of state is a mostly ceremonial position. In parliamentary systems, the people do not elect the head of government directly. He or she is the leader of the party which ends up forming the government following an election. Different types of government can emerge in a parliamentary system. Majority government occurs when a single […]

The honourable member

One of the more curious aspects of debate in the House of Commons is that Members do not refer to each other by name, but by title, position or constituency name. This is done to guard against the tendency to personalize debate. Any Member who offends this tradition – either accidentally or on purpose – is quickly brought to order, often by other Members, as we can see in this exchange: Mr. Ken Boshcoff (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion. My comments today will focus on the heart of the issue, ensuring that the government uses our taxpayer dollars to support Canadian industry. (…) All these cuts are hurting […]