Perceptions of parliamentary procedure: is the grass really greener?

Last week’s appearance by Rupert and James Murdoch before the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport (which you can view here if you missed it) as well as Prime Minister David Cameron’s ministerial statement in the House of Commons the following day (viewable here) received global media attention. Many Canadian journalists who normally report on proceedings in the Canadian House of Commons seemed enthralled by the often small, yet significant differences in how the UK and Canadian Houses of Commons function – the very same differences which I have been writing about here for over a year now. CBC reporter Kady O’Malley, who regularly liveblogs proceedings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, has since written two […]

Opening of Parliament: Electing the Speaker (Canada)

The 41st Parliament of Canada will open on Thursday, 2 June 2011. The opening of a Parliament is also the opening of the first session of that Parliament. Two procedures distinguish it from the opening of subsequent sessions. These are the taking and subscribing of the oath of allegiance by Members and the election of a Speaker. The general practice is for Members to be sworn in prior to opening day, after the Clerk has received the certificates of election returns from the Chief Electoral Officer. The first real order of business is the election of the Speaker. The Constitution Act, 1867 requires that a Speaker be elected at the beginning of a Parliament and at any other time when […]

Who’s who in Parliament: the Speaker

The term Speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer (chair) of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The Speaker’s official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The Speaker decides who may speak and has the powers to discipline members who break the procedures of the house. The Speaker often also represents the body in person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations. In most Westminster-style chambers, the Speaker does not have a deliberative vote, but only a tiebreaker, called the casting vote. The Speaker is also expected to remove him or herself from politics, and remain as neutral as possible. […]

On report stage debate

I have already discussed the casting vote of the Speaker, albeit not in detail. It is worth revisiting the matter in light of the debate surrounding a pending vote in the Canadian House of Commons expected later this month. Background I will not debate the pros and cons of Bill C-391, nor get into any of the partisan debate surrounding what has become a very contentious issue in Canada. There are plenty of bloggers writing about the issue and a quick Google or visit to Progressive Bloggers will provide any interested parties with a taste of how the debate is being framed. I will, however, provide some context to the debate. Bill C-391 is ostensibly a Private Member’s bill aimed […]

Mr. Speaker

Peter Milliken announced recently that he won’t seek re-election. Mr. Milliken has been an MP for 22 years, but more importantly, he has been the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons for the past nine years. During that time, Milliken has figured in some rather momentous events in Canadian politics.  He is the longest serving Speaker in Canadian history, elected to the post three times and acclaimed once. There have been only 10 tie-breaking votes cast by the 34 Speakers who have presided over the Commons since Confederation. Mr. Milliken has cast half of them. He is also the only Speaker in Canadian history to decide a confidence vote. There is often some confusion among the general public regarding […]