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PSCI 2003 Lecture Notes - Parliamentary Budget Officer, Blood Sport, Office Of The Commissioner Of Official Languages

Political Science
Course Code
PSCI 2003
J Malloy

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The idea that parliament is meant to drive representation vs the idea that parliament is meant
to hold the government accountable for its decisions.
Should Mps be more like Elizabeth May? Acting indepedently and autonomously?
On the other hand, the government has to make decisions at the end of the day, while the
opposition bears very little real responsibility.
Passing a bill:
First reading
Second reading, some debate
A vote (Which generally passes in a majority)
Committee stage (About 15 standing committees exist)
Report stage, back to HoC
Third Reading, more debate
Vote (Once again generally passes)
Goes to Senate to repeat all stages
Then goes to GG for Royal Assent and Proclamation
All dictated by a majority government, timetable, content, etc.
The question is, if it's so predictable and controllable, then what is the point of this entire
process? By the logic of representation, it's just a rubber stamp, but, by the logic of
Well, even in a majority, if a bill is too controversial, like Toews Internet Security bill, it will be
highly criticized and stopped.
In this way, the process provides scrutiny to improve bills or catch horrible ones through the
mobilization of consent rather than working to change peoples' minds.
If the government did decide to go through with a controversial bill and push it through, they
would very clearly be taking responsibility for it.
Question Period
Unique process to Canada
PM doesn't necessarily know what questions he will get, though he can guess and has a
staff whose job it is to guess
“Not answer period” Don't get real answers
Questions controlled by parties, backbenchers don't have freedom to make their own
Heckling, too much yelling, too much back and forth
QP in Britain has a little more autonomy and is a little more civil
Representation:QP is insubstantive, futile
Governance: QP acts as a deterrent to bad policies, because governments know they have
to be ready to answer questions
Committees and Scrutiny
Committees consider bills, amendments
Also initiate studies, inquiries
Committees became more autonomous under Chretien and Mulroney, working together
behind party lines and occasionally causing trouble for the government
Not so much these days, paralyzed by partisanship?
Logics of rep. And gov. Arguements apply here as well.
Party Discipline
Role of individual MP
Representing party?
Representing constituency?
Example, NDP want gun control, but rural MPs didn't want to comply.
Representing themselves? Aren't they meant to look at bills and use their critical
Should MPs be free to represent themselves and their constituents or does party
discipline ensure that things get done with clear accountability?
Will technology change parliament?
Will social media engagement enhance or surpass parliamentary reprsentation
By the logic of representation, it allows more communication and dialogue and is therefore a
good thing
By the logic of governance, party discipline and the need for accountability will still prevail
In fact, Malloy sees social media as strengthening party lines rather than cutting across them
Used to enforce party discipline by keeping tabs on MPs and giving orders, even in committees
Ministers' offices are way more controlled by the PMO through technology like cell phones
The Senate
Book “Protecting Canadian Democracy The Senate You Never Knew”
Book “Nice Work The Continuing Scandal of Canada's Senate”
“Sober Second Thought” and Regional representation
You have to have $4000 in property assets to be a Senator
Regional distribution:
NS 10, NB 10, PEI 4, Nfld+Lab 6, Quebec 24, Ontario 24, BC 6, Alberta 6, Sask 6, Manitoba 6,
Territories 1 each
Senators appointed by the prime minister, almost always strong party supporters
Logic of Representation
Lifetime appointments, lack of accountability
Gross regional imbalances
But, more women (38%) and more diversity
A counterweight to dominant governments
Logic of governance
Potential and sometimes real obstacle to elected government and HoC
Example, Liberal dominated Senate vs Mulroney government on Free Trade and GST
But, better at scrutiny; less petty partisanship
Senate Reform options
1. No major reforms needed
2. Triple E Elected, effective, equal representation for provinces
3. Abolish it
4. Incremental Change
Fixed Terms
Optional provincial elections
Harper Government has attempted #4 since 2006
May happen, but no guarantee
Officers of Parliament The Watchdogs
Independent officials, meant to keep the whole shebang accountable
Auditor General, Privacy Commissioner, Information Commissioner, Official Languages
Commissioner... several others...
Independent appointed by Parliament, difficult to remove
Fearless watchdogs or unaccountable crusaders?
Parliamentary Budget Officer (Kevin Page)
Created in 2006 by Conservative Government
Not appointed as independent officer of Parliament... but acts as one
No one expected that he would be so outspoken and critical of the government