On Petitions

All authorities agree that the right of petitioning parliament for redress of grievances is acknowledged as a fundamental principle of the constitution. It has been uninterruptedly exercised from very early times and has had a profound effect in determining the main forms of parliamentary procedure. – Speaker Gaspard Fauteux (Debates, June 18, 1947, pp. 4278-9) The right of citizens to petition Parliament for redress of grievance well entrenched, based as it is on tradition that dates back centuries and established precedent. The following historical overview is taken from the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd edition 2009. Petitioning the Crown (and later Parliament) for redress of a grievance originated in the 13th century, during the reign of Edward I. […]

The UK deficit and the Canadian model

As a Canadian following the UK election campaign, it was very frustrating that Canada was never mentioned. As it became more and more certain that the vote would result in a hung parliament, the UK media repeatedly looked to other European countries as examples of how to deal with such a result, ignoring the fact that such results were the norm in these countries, not anomalies, because they all used some form of proportional representation, not FPTP. I got really excited one evening, when, on BBC World News America, they hinted that they would look at another Commonwealth country and how it dealt with hung parliaments. Finally, I thought, they were going to talk about Canada! But no. The country […]

Investigative inquiries and sensitive information: two approaches

The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War was launched in July 2009 by the UK Government to consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath, to consider the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. The inquiry was set up by the Labour Government, with the members appointed by the Prime Minister, after consulting the opposition parties. A detailed protocol was agreed to for dealing with sensitive information, including the release of, or making public references to, […]

The Coalition and Canada’s deficit cutting model

When the coalition’s programme was unveiled in May, one item under the Communities and Local Government section caught my eye: We will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a review of local government finance. Given the critical deficit situation facing the UK, the above goal immediately reminded me of the downloading of federal costs to the provinces undertaken by Paul Martin when he was finance minister and fighting Canada’s massive deficit in the 1990s. I may not be wrong about that. I recently learned that in 2009, David Cameron and his top team attended a seminar where former ministers and officials from the Chrétien government explained how […]

Forming governments in Westminster parliamentary systems

“The verdict of public opinion was pretty clear. Losers don’t get to form coalitions. Winners are the ones who form governments. The coalition in Britain — it is important to point out it was formed by the party that won the election.” – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 3 June 2010 The formation of a government following a general election in a Westminster parliamentary system (in particular, one using First-Past-the-Post) follows certain conventions. It is important to understand that voters in countries such as the UK and Canada do not vote to elect a government, much less a prime minister. They each vote in their individual constituencies or ridings to elect a Member of Parliament (MP), who will represent them […]

Political Realignment, Pt 2: Are big tent politics obsolete?

In an earlier post, I looked at possible political realignment in the United Kingdom, something a few journalists have speculated about following the formation of the coalition government there. In this post, I will look at political realignment at the federal level in Canada. The two biggest political parties in Canada, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, are big tent parties, the Liberals more so than the current incarnation of the Conservatives, and both more so, I think, than are the two main parties in the UK (Labour and the Conservatives). The big tent approach argues against any sort of single-issue litmus tests or ideological rigidity, and advocates multiple ideologies and views within a party. Advocates of a big […]