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 […]

In our proceedings every Member should be heard courteously, whatever views he or she is expressing. Members of this House have a duty to behave with civility and fairness in all their dealings.

Speaker Bercow

The duties and responsibilities of honourable Members

The UK House of Commons directs the Speaker to make a statement at the beginning of each Session about the duties and responsibilities of honourable Members. This is what Speaker Bercow said: I begin by reminding Members of their duty to observe the code of conduct agreed by the House and to uphold the seven principles of public life that underpin it: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The House asserts its privilege of freedom of speech. It is there to ensure that our constituents can be represented by us without fear or favour. It is an obligation on us all to exercise that privilege responsibly. It is enjoyed by Members of Parliament only in their work in […]

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 […]

Fix That House?

Two of the CBC’s politics programmes – CBC Radio’s The House and Newsworld’s Power and Politics – are exploring ways to “fix” Parliament. The series is called “Fix that House” and people are being invited to send in via email or Twitter their ideas to improve Parliament. I have been reading through the list of at least some of the suggestions submitted thus far and have found a few recurring themes, as well as an unfortunate lack of understanding concerning how Parliament works and why some things are done the way they are. Consequently, I thought I would comment on some of the suggestions put forward. First of all, there are a fair number of calls for electoral reform – […]

Faint signs of democratic awakenings

I have written a number of posts on how whipped Canadian backbench MPs are when compared to their counterparts in other parliaments. In recent weeks, it would seem that some backbenchers have maybe had enough of this situation. One MP raised a point of privilege to argue that prevented by his party whip from delivering a statement in the House during “Statements by Members”, a 15-min period each day during which backbenchers can deliver one-minute statements on matters of international, national or local concern. As per the Standing Orders, any MP can be recognized by the Speaker to speak during this time, but, in practice, the Speaker is guided by lists provided by the respective party whips. The Member, Mr. […]

The real problem is MP irrelevancy

Recently, Canada’s federal Official Opposition proposed measures for improving decorum in the House of Commons. These measures would require changes to the Standing Orders in order to increase the Speaker’s authority to discipline unruly MPs: who use harassment, threats, personal attacks, or extreme misrepresentation of facts or position in the House, particularly regarding Statements by Members and Oral Questions, including: i.  Revoking questions during Oral Questions from parties whose Members have been disruptive ii. Issuing a warning to Members for a first offense iii. Suspending Members from the service of the House for one sitting day for a second offense; five days for a third offense; and twenty days for a fourth offense iv. Suspending Members’ sessional allowance for the […]