CanadianHouseCommons

On Organizing House Business Sensibly

In the previous Canadian parliament, a question of privilege was raised concerning the then Government’s excessive recourse to time allocation and how these guillotine measures impacted Members from smaller parties. In the Canadian House of Commons, if a Member belongs to a party which has fewer than 12 elected members in the House, they do not have recognized party status and are treated as independents. Because virtually all procedures in the House of Commons are organized around parties (the officially recognized ones at least) rather than Members as the central agents, this means that the so-called “independent” MPs have extremely limited opportunities to participate in debates at the best of times. The recourse to time allocation on a bill more […]

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When a bill debate isn’t a bill debate

Last December, there was a flurry of excitement among Twitter followers of the UK’s Electoral Reform Society as the ERS urged its followers to watch the UK House of Commons debate a bill on proportional representation. This was picked up by Fair Votes Canada, who retweeted the ERS tweets and urged Canadians to follow this exciting bill debate. There was only one problem: there was no bill debate on proportional representation. What was transpiring in the UK House of Commons was a procedure known commonly as an 10-Minute Rule Bill, which is also rather misleading. It’s actually called a motion under Standing Order No. 23 (the “Ten Minute Rule”). Let me explain. In the UK House of Commons, there aren’t […]

David Cameron speaks during PMQs

Why a Canadian PMQs isn’t a good idea

The new Canadian Liberal Government led by Prime Minister Trudeau is exploring creating a “Prime Minister’s Question Period”. While no details are available yet — they are in the process of negotiating with the opposition parties — one assumes it would be similar to Britain’s Prime Minister’s Questions, or PMQs, that weekly half-hour where the Prime Minister alone takes questions from MPs from all sides. Much of the punditry discussion of implementing a similar procedure here in Canada tends to focus on the issue that, if he appeared in the House only once a week for questions, the Prime Minister would be less accountable to the House. Currently, for those who don’t follow Canadian politics much, all Ministers, including the […]

Cromwell, Disraeli, Churchill, Macmillan would not have allowed that. They believed in the power and supremacy not of Government, but of Parliament. It is our inheritance and our duty to take radical steps to preserve and enhance that primacy.

James Gray, MP

Winds of change? Ideas for parliamentary revival

There is much speculation and — dare I say it — hope among Canadian political observers that we might see a sort of reboot of Parliament — which wouldn’t be that difficult to achieve, given how bad things got during the 41st Parliament. Over the past few days, two articles and one report dealing with ways to make Ottawa better came to my attention, and I would like to briefly touch on each. The Public Policy Forum released a report entitled Time for a Reboot: Nine Ways to Restore Trust in Canada’s Public Institutions, which you can download from this page (PDF). Most of it does not deal with proceedings in the House of Commons, but larger governance issues, and […]

David Cameron speaks during PMQs

Clarifying PMQs

Dale Smith has an interesting post dissecting proposals for reform of Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons as put forward by the Liberal Party. He raises some valid points, but also makes a notable error, which I will endeavour to correct here. Smith writes: Part of what’s been the beauty of our QP as we have structured it is that the PM can be called upon to answer any question on any day, with no advance notice. That’s not the way it works in Westminster, where the PM is given questions in advance. This isn’t 100% accurate. Most of the time, the UK Prime Minister does not know in advance what questions will be put to him or […]

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ICYMI 16 September 2015

The National Assembly of Quebec adopted a motion to put an end to clapping in the Chamber by MNAs during the daily Oral Questions. This is, in my opinion, a very good thing, and I hope other Canadian legislatures move in a similar direction. Regular readers will remember that I am not a fan of clapping in the Chamber. New Labour Party leader and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn was front and centre for his first-ever Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Corbyn took a very different approach to PMQs. He put out a call to the general public asking them to submit questions he could ask of the Prime Minister and received over 40,000 responses. The Leader of the Opposition […]