Baby steps on parliamentary reform

The Liberal Party of Canada released a plan for political and parliamentary reform this week and many, if not most political commentators seemed quite enthusiastic about much of what the party proposed. I must admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed. The proposals for parliamentary reform were at best minor tinkering. Maclean’s Aaron Wherry provides a much more comprehensive overview of parliamentary and political reforms that have been, or could be, proposed. It’s much more interesting. The Liberals’ proposals for parliamentary reform address Question Period, Committees, prorogation and omnibus bills, free votes and changes to financial procedures. I’m going to focus on only on the first four. Question Period The Liberals propose to restore relevance to Question Period by establishing a […]

On Speeches from the Throne and Prorogation

As is often the case – if you follow the right people! – a very interesting discussion transpired on Twitter over the matter of Speeches from the Throne and prorogation. For the uninitiated, prorogation is, normally, a very mundane parliamentary procedure used to bring to an end one session of a Parliament so that a new session can begin. If you read my post explaining the differences between a parliament, a session and a sitting, you will recall that a parliament lasts from one election until it is dissolved for a new election. In Canada, this tends to be about four years, with a constitutional maximum duration of five years. After an election, the new parliament begins with a Speech from […]

Sittings, sessions and parliaments

This post will explain what is meant by the terms “a parliament”, “a session” and “a sitting”. A parliament can refer to an institution, e.g. the Parliament of Canada, but it also refers to the period of time during which the institution of Parliament exercises its powers. A parliament, at least in the UK and Canada, does not exceed five years. A parliament begins with the proclamation of the Sovereign (UK) or Governor General (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) calling for the formation of a new Parliament and setting the dates for a new election and the day the new Parliament will first meet. A Parliament ends with the proclamation announcing its dissolution. As stated, traditionally and constitutionally, a Parliament […]

Prorogation Ceremony

Canadians are used to thinking of prorogation of Parliament as something rather secretive, done behind closed doors. Because of this, it might be of interest to some to actually watch a prorogation ceremony as it recently unfolded in the UK House of Lords. Prorogation is the formal ending of a session of Parliament, either by a special ceremony held in the upper chamber or by the Queen’s or a Governor General’s proclamation to that effect. Prorogation also refers to the period of time a Parliament stands prorogued. Prorogation is a routine procedure. Some legislatures prorogue every year, others more infrequently. The UK Parliament prorogues in May because in 2010, following the general election held in May of that year, the […]