I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (minors in French and History) at Carleton University in June 2011. I am now an M.A. candidate at the University of Ottawa, where I research Westminster parliamentarism in the core Commonwealth (The UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). I focus on the uncodified constitution; the powers of the Crown; the relationship between the Queen, Governor General, and Prime Minister; and the evolution of the Crown, Crown-in-Council, and Crown-in-Parliament as institutions. I’m writing my thesis, The Making of a Constitutional Monarch: The Powers of the Crown Under Responsible Government, under the supervision of Professor Philippe Lagassé. Before earning my BA at Carleton, I lived in the United States for five years. Parliamentum therefore also reflects my affinity for American history and will show how the United States fits into the history of Westminster parliamentarism – no doubt much to the chagrin of both Canadian Tories and American Patriots alike.
Parliamentarism denotes the institution of parliament and, in the modern context, responsible parliamentary government. It connotes something far more significant: the history and evolution of Westminster that have occurred over the course of 1,000 years. The infusion of this history, of vital importance, into the political science scholarship on parliament contextualizes and renders the later more meaningful. In contrast to most Canadian political scientists, I devote a significant part of my research to the history and evolution of the institutions in order to explain and better understand their current forms and functions. I fall under the traditional “historical institutionalist” school in Canadian political science, founded by Robert MacGregor Dawson. I consider myself a Burkean Whig, a constitutional monarchist, a realist, and an historical institutionist.
The prorogation-coalition controversy of December 2008, which could have developed into a full-scale constitutional crisis, exposed my superficial understanding of the Westminster system and sparked a keen interest in parliamentarism. I slowly immersed myself in Westminster parliamentarism over the next two years. While researching for my first article (which became “No Discretion: On Prorogation and the Governor General“), I discovered an intriguing essay languishing in the obscurity of microfiche. The author, using the Latinization of parliament “Parliamentum” as a pseudonym, described the parliamentary precedents relating to the Pacific Scandal, which precipitated the first controversial prorogation in Canadian history in 1873 and the defeat of first Macdonald government. It seemed only fitting that Parliamentum, which I uncovered shortly after entering this constitutional labyrinth, should serve as the official record of my parliamentary odyssey – with all the trial, error, re-evaluation, and constant learning and discovery that this journey entails. I hope that you enjoy following this chronicle along the course of my scholarly travels.
Parliamentum‘s logo depicts a parliamentary mace adorned with the Crown of Saint Edward, like that of the Senate of Canada. (For purely aesthetic reasons, I prefer the Crown of Saint Edward to the Imperial Crown that the mace of the House of Commons depicts).
I’ve also designed Parliamentum as a hub of research designed to encourage informal networks of peer review on Westminster parliamentarism. As such, I’ve created tabs for the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that link to various constitutional and parliamentary documents, as well as the websites of the Queen and her vice-regal representatives, and those of all the parliaments and legislative assemblies in those four Commonwealth Realms. Finally, I provided links to the websites of established scholars and practitioners who write on Westminster parliamentarism.
James W.J. Bowden
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.