Bercowelection

On helping the Speaker clean up Question Period

The CBC’s parliamentary reporter, Kady O’Malley, has put forward a few suggestions on how to encourage the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons to take on a more activist role during Question Period. Her first suggestion is that once elected Speaker, the Speaker should resign both caucus and party. Currently, the Speaker does resign from caucus, but he or she does not resign from their political party. While they do tend to stay away from purely political party events, Kady’s new rule would require that they go further, avoiding all partisan activity including attending party conferences and local federal funding announcements, which currently is not the case. In the UK, the Speaker of House of Commons resigns from his […]

In the UK, while 2-3 supplementaries is the norm, if the subject of a question is one on which the government is vulnerable, the Speaker is free to decide to allow several more supplementary questions, including often hostile ones from the government’s own side – which would never happen in Canada.

Question or Answer Period?

Recently in the Canadian House of Commons, the Leader of the Official Opposition vented his frustration over the repeated non-answers to questions he was receiving from the Government side during Question Period on the Speaker. After first pleading for the Speaker to enforce the House’s rules on relevancy and repetition, he then openly questioned the Speaker’s impartiality. This caused the Speaker to deny the Leader of the Opposition his final two questions in the rotation. The next day, before Question Period began, the Speaker delivered a statement to the House in which he explained that the rules on relevancy and repetition did not apply to Question Period, and that the numerous rulings in the past had clearly established that it […]

This tells you, Mr. Speaker, that notwithstanding the complaints and carping of the opposition, we actually have more ample debate here than they do in the British House of Commons.

Peter Van Loan, Government House Leader

Quality over Quantity

On 15 September 2014, MP Elizabeth May raised a questions of privilege in the Canadian House of Commons over the Government’s “unprecedented” use of time allocation, which she argued, has “obstructed, undermined and impeded” her rights and the rights of her colleagues, in particular those from smaller parties and independents. In his response to Ms. May’s question of privilege, the Government House Leader dismissed her concerns that the House had insufficient time to properly scrutinize legislation and hold the Government to account  by comparing the Canadian House of Commons to the UK House of Commons, which I will quote in its entirety: Contrary to the arguments of many in the opposition and media pundits, we actually have more extensive debate […]

On the origins of the Canadian Senate

A reader queried as to the origins of the Canadian Senate – why was it decided that the upper chamber should be unelected, why is it based on regional representation rather than equal provincial representation, etc. I would refer readers to an excellent paper prepared by the Senate’s own Committees and Private Legislation Directorate entitled A Legislative and Historical Overview of the Senate of Canada. I will highlight the main points made in the study. According the paper’s author(s), the upper House was critically important to those negotiating Confederation. Back in the 1800s, all of the British North American colonies, except British Columbia, were bicameral – meaning they had two chambers, a legislative assembly and a legislative council. The legislative […]

petition

How to petition Canadian legislatures

A fair number of people regularly end up on this blog looking for information about petitioning Parliament. Here is an overview of the proper way to petition the House of Commons, as well as the provincial and territorial legislatures. Number of Signatures Before looking at the various petition requirements,  I want to address one issue that regularly turns up on the keyword search statistics on this blog. Many people are looking for information about “how many signatures are required for a petition” in Canada. In general, there is no minimum number of signatures needed to validate a petition. A petition could be submitted with only one signature on it. The Parliament of Canada does require that a paper petition have […]

Inside the Canadian House of Commons

(Note: If you’re looking for information about the British House of Commons, see Inside the UK House of Commons.) I have written a number of posts explaining the role and purpose of various persons and objects in the House of Commons, but some readers want to know how the House of Commons is arranged – who sits where, who are those people at the table in the centre, etc.  The Canadian and UK Houses of Commons follow a similar lay-out, with government and opposition facing off on either side of the Chamber, while the Australian and New Zealand chambers have members seated in more of “U” lay-out. I will begin with a description of the lay-out of the Canadian House […]