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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Job-sharing PMQs

As expected, Jeremy Corbyn easily won the Labour leadership vote. As part of his plan to “shake up politics”, we also learned that Corbyn plans to step aside during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and let other MPs question the PM. I have written frequently about how oral Questions work in the UK House of Commons. PMQs differs from the other departmental questions in one important way: it is the only oral questions session where two specific Members are allotted a fixed quota of questions. The two members in question are the Leader of the Opposition, who gets to ask six questions of the Prime Minister, and, since 1997, the leader of the next largest party, who is allocated two questions. In […]

To ensure effective governance in the transition period, it is essential that the Prime Minister and government do not resign until the next regular government has been formed.

Dr Petra Schleiter and Valerie Belu

Remedial Tutorial on Government Formation

Quite dishearteningly, the leaders of the three main federal political parties have made erroneous statements regarding government formation following a hung parliament result. All three have stated that the party with a plurality of the seats gets to form the government: In an interview with the CBC, Conservative Party leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following comments: Q: HERE’S THE QUESTION THOUGH. UM IS IT A CORRECT ASSUMPTION TO MAKE THAT WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP, IF WE’RE IN A MINORITY SITUATION, WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP WITH THE MOST SEATS SHOULD FORM THE GOVERNMENT? A: Yeah that’s my – that’s I think how conventionally our system works and for good reason and that’s – that’s my position. Obviously […]