On stage-managed oral questions

The British daily, The Telegraph, has revealed a series of emails from the Prime Minister’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to government backbenchers suggesting questions they could ask the PM during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Luckily, most backbenchers refused to play along. Canadians are well aware that party whips fully control Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons. They not only control which members of their caucus will ask questions by providing a list to the Speaker of which members to call, and in what order, but they also control what those members will ask by providing them with the question. This is why it is extremely rare to hear any MP ask a question specific to their […]

Other reforms of Parliament are more urgently needed than electoral reform

A reader left the following comment on my post about the Reform Act’s proposals for party leader selection: While there is much to be said for the concept of MPs having more weight than the average party member in selecting a leader, this assumes that the MPs are properly representative of the party’s voters. Because of our skewed winner-take-all vopting system, this is far from the case. As Stephane Dion never tires of pointing out, our voting system “makes our major parties appear less national and our regions more politically opposed than they really are.” It “artificially amplifies the regional concentration of political party support at the federal level. This regional amplification effect benefits parties with regionally concentrated support and, […]

Contrasts in Question Periods

Today during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the UK House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron was asked a question by a Labour MP about his government’s plans to combat rising child poverty figures. Rather than explain his government’s policies, Cameron launched an attack on the previous Labour government’s financial record. This prompted the Speaker to cut Cameron off in mid-sentence and move on to another question. You can watch the incident in this clip: This is not the first time that Speaker Bercow has intervened in such a way, and while he is sometimes criticised in the British press for such actions, it was the right thing to do. The point of PMQs, and the daily questions to ministries, […]

Parliamentary reform would work

In a recent article, Don Lenihan argues that parliamentary reform won’t “force a government to engage in meaningful debate” and reverse the fact that Parliament is, in his words “broken”. Lenihan writes: MPs like Michael Chong and Nathan Cullen remain hopeful. They think that the right combination of rules and procedures can fix Parliament. Unfortunately, if “fixing” it means rekindling meaningful debate, they are wrong. House Speaker Andrew Scheer’s ruling on the F-35s last week inadvertently shows why. Scheer argues that a minister cannot be charged with misleading the House unless it can be proved that he/she intended to do so. Intentions, however, are slippery things. (…) Scheer’s point is that, when a minister declares that he/she is not lying, […]

A video is worth a thousand words

I have written many posts about various procedural measures used in the British House of Commons that I think would be welcomed additions to the Canadian House of Commons. While I have attempted to describe these measures in detail, viewing them in action would probably be far more enlightening. The BBC’s Democracy Live website makes available clips of specific proceedings from the UK House of Commons (and Lords), making it quite easy for me to provide readers with clips of urgent questions, ministerial statements and other proceedings. Note – I don’t expect anyone to watch any of these in their entirely, but even if you watch them for only 10-15 minutes, you will gain a better sense of what is […]

Thoughts on “Saving the House of Commons”

Aaron Wherry of Canada’s Maclean’s magazine recently wrote a blog post proposing a series of reforms to “save” the House of Commons. Some I have previously discussed on this blog, such as changes to Question Period. Readers proposed other reforms and ideas the comments. I thought I would offer my own thoughts on some of what was proposed. 1. Wherry proposed amending section 67 of the Elections Act “to remove the requirement that any candidate wishing to run for a party must have the signature of that party’s leader to do so”. This is not something I have looked at or considered to any extensive degree, but on the surface, I don’t have any issues with it. I think it […]