A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Parliamentary committees.

Recently our PM and the opposition leader have “agreed” to form a committee to study changes to the EI system in Canada in order to save us from a vote of confidence and an election. So as I understand it they have simply agreed to (at least on this issue) operate under normal parliamentary procedures, would that they go back to such established methods for other issues also! For the record there is already a private member’s bill, C-280 containing at least some proposed changes to EI at the committee stage having recently passed 2nd reading in the House.

This committee stage is quite normal for a bill, as is the forming of committees for the investigation of special issues both within the HoC and the Senate. The question then becomes why it is such a big deal with both sides trumpeting on about how they are “consulting” and will make “recommendations” in the fall. This is simply a normal parliamentary process, or at least was until recent times.

There are a couple of things we should be aware of about parliamentary committees both
Standing committees and Other committees, they can only recommend to the government upon changes to the bill before them or possible new legislation on any particular issue. They have no power to effect change but must try and come to consensus between the Partys represented and hope that the majority of parliamentarians agree with them when the issue is put before the House. Unfortunately it has become the norm for various Partys to instruct their committee members to obstruct the process of finding consensus when they disagree with the direction the discussions are taking. This is clearly unproductive, an abuse of the committee system and in my view bordering on undemocratic. One wonders how the EI committee will fair in that regard and also how democratic it can be considered if it does not have representatives of all Partys in the House participate.

The committee process in the HoC (and the Senate) should be where bills and proposed legislation is fine tuned, unintended consequences examined and poorly or incorrectly worded bills corrected. In many cases this is exactly what happens, however there seems to be an increasing effort by SOME parliamentarians to force their view through the process without true consultation or compromise, this makes a mockery of the democratic process. We elect a variety of representatives from across the country to govern us, unfortunately there are far to many who think that we elect a PM and his Party to run the Country as they see fit until the next election. That is not Democracy that is an Oligarchy!

It is important to also note that “Much of Canada’s parliamentary system, however, is also governed by unwritten constitutional conventions and customs. These are rules and practices regarding the operation of the Parliament, which have been developed incrementally over time, and have never been formally codified in writing. This does not mean they are any less binding – only that they are based upon historical practice instead of explicitly written principles.” Therein lays the problem for much of our recent problems, the “debate” as to who is right and who is wrong when it comes to procedures and traditions. A good overview, from which the above was extracted can be found here.


For more about Parliamentary committees see the Index to the practical Guide to committees on the Parliament of Canada web site. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

1 comment:

janfromthebruce said...

That is the NDP Ms. Hughes. And it was put forth obviously by the NDP, and not a Liberal party MP.
You are right about both the Conservatives and Liberals trying to upsurge our parliamentary system, almost like they see it as a republican system with presidential powers.
Excellent info you provided - bravo!