UK Houses of Parliament

On Brexit and parliamentary power plays

Following the victory of the “Leave” side in the referendum on the UK’s status in the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would resign as PM and leader of the Tory party in October — to give the party time to choose a new leader in time for their October Party Conference. For Canadians, if that seems like a really fast time frame in which to have a leadership change, they do party leadership properly — it’s largely in the hands of the party caucus. The party’s 1922 committee, a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs that meets weekly when the Commons is sitting,  will oversee the contest, most likely using the same rules used in the 2005 leadership […]

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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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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 […]

So if FPTP isn't really the problem here in Canada, what is?How do we explain why two countries with very similar parliamentary systems and identical voting systems differ so much in how well their parliament functions and in their approach to government formation?

Everyone may love PR, but FPTP isn’t the problem

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s latest piece argues that Canada’s voting system, commonly referred to as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is increasingly inadequate for our multi-party political system. He points out how almost everyone else uses some form of proportional representation (PR), which forces parties to work together and form coalitions since PR rarely results in a single party winning enough seats to form a government on its own, and also provides more checks and balances on the head of government. Simpson writes: In contrast to many other systems, the Canadian provides very few checks and balances on a prime minister with a majority. The unelected Senate is a wet noodle; the government backbenchers are yes-men; the cabinet members are appointed […]

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A few thoughts on House sittings

There has been a lot of discussion around making the Canadian House of Commons more “family friendly” for MPs. A number of ideas have been put forward by MPs and others as to how this might be achieved. One of the more popular ideas seems to be doing away with the Friday sitting since it already is very sparsely attended and mostly dedicated to private members’ business. Others aren’t too keen on that idea, arguing that the time lost by cancelling the Friday sitting would have to be made up somewhere else. Dale Smith, a freelance journalist in the parliamentary press gallery, argues this point: The first suggestion tends to be doing away with Friday sittings, which seems easy enough […]

The question we should all be asking is why? Why should it matter at all how many MPs get elected under a particular banner, and why are parliamentary proceedings organized around parties rather than MPs?

The oddity of “officially recognized parties”

Maclean’s Aaron Wherry’s recent post touches on the question of the rights and privileges of “independent” MPs in the Canadian House of Commons. The issue is that almost all proceedings in the Canadian House of Commons are organized around political parties rather than Members. While this in itself is troubling, to compound matters is the very odd concept of an “officially recognized party” in the House of Commons. To be “officially” recognized as a party in the House of Commons, the party must have a minimum of 12 MPs. Consequently, if only 11 MPs (or fewer) get elected under one party banner in a general election, those MPs will be considered “independents”. The consequences of that non-recognition of their party […]