Suspending The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick

New Brunswick sports the handsomest legislative assembly chamber in Canada, the walls adorned with portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte and the floor covered with that blue-green carpet

New Brunswick provides an interesting case study in novel interpretations of how parliamentary government works and now in matters of the separation of powers between the executive and legislature. Liberal Premier Brian Gallant recently announced that he, as Liberal leader, had suspended fellow Liberal MLA Chris Collins from the parliamentary party, an authority which he certainly possesses. However, Chris Collins also serves as the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Premier has called for his “suspension” from that post as well; whatever that means — perhaps a censure, or outright removal — remains unclear.

The government will ask the Legislative Administration Committee, also known as LAC, to suspend the speaker from his administrative position pending an investigation,” said Premier Gallant.

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Posted in Parliament, Parliamentary Privilege | 2 Comments

Montreal: The Capital of the Province of Canada

The Canadian Parliamentary Review recently published an interesting article by two archaeologists, Louise Pothier and Hendrik Van Gijseghem, who have worked on the excavation of the charred ruins of the Parliament of the Province of Canada in Old Montreal. The Province of Canada’s largest city and the financial hub of British North America, Montreal served as the rotating capital from 1844 until English-speaking Loyalist and Orangemen rioters burned it in 1849 over the Rebellion Losses Bill.

I’ve often wondered whether Montreal would have remained the capital of the Province of Canada if the Parliament there had survived the great civil strife and communal violence of the late 1840s — and if Montreal had remained the capital of the Province of Canada, it would also certainly have become the capital of the Dominion of Canada, too, on 1 July 1867. How Canadian history could have unfolded differently! The Province of Canada — and all future political historians who rely upon primary sources — suffered another terrible loss when the next Parliament in the next capital, Quebec City, also burned to the ground in 1854, though this time by accident rather than by arson.

But Pothier, Van Gijseghem, and their colleagues have done us all great service in uncovering some artefacts from the former Parliament of the Province of Canada and bringing our forgotten and buried history to the fore.

You can find more about the old parliament at the Place d’Youville on the website of the Montreal Archeology and History Complex, and watch a short video of the dig. 

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Posted in History of British North America | Leave a comment

The Nature of the “Democratic Deficit” and Executive Federalism in Canada


The “Democratic Deficit” first referred to a critique from the late 1970s on how the European Economic Community ran its Parliament vis-a-vis its executive-like Commission. Canadian scholars took up the term in the 1980s and applied it here.

In the Canadian context, the “Democratic Deficit” refers to the perceived lack of democratic accountability within the legislative process, due in large part to the role of the political executive enforcing party discipline, and it has also become bound up in discussions of executive federalism.

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Posted in Parliamentarism v Presidentialism, Responsible Government | 1 Comment

The Borders between Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador

Since at least the premiership of Rene Levesque, the provincial state of Quebec has refused to accept the facts of Quebec’s border with Labrador. Even under the Liberal governments of Jean Charest and Philippe Couillard, the website of the Government of Quebec and its official map of the Province of Quebec insist that “This border is not definitive.” Of course, this is a bit of a tautology; in legal-constitutional reality, this inter-provincial border most certainly is definitive; only Quebec contests it, without a good argument, so only in that flimsy sense is the border “contested” or somehow “not definitive.” But no other provinces within Canada, nor the federal order of government itself, would recognize this territory as in dispute; all acknowledge that it by rights belongs to Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Posted in History of British North America | 3 Comments

Germany Is The New Belgium: Of Continental Parliamentarism and Caretaker Government

Black, Red, and Yellow Are the New Black, Yellow, and Red.


Germany has become the new Belgium now that the Merkel III Ministry, a Grand Coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats that should only have lasted from 2013 to 2017, has become a Belgian-style long-term caretaker government. Caretaker Chancellor Merkel affirmed her commitment in an address on New Year’s Eve to “quickly building a stable government for Germany in the new year” — but this is, of course, not entirely within her control.

Worse still, instead of hastening the demise of this caretaker ministry, Germany’s  Basic Law, its codified constitution has, in fact, entrenched and enabled this Belgian-style sclerosis. The constitutional conventions which apply to any Westminster Parliament would have rectified Germany`s peculiar problem, outlined below, months ago, but Continental Parliamentarism depends upon codified constitutions and a civil law tradition. In short, Continental parliaments are prone to litigious absurdity, sometimes because codified constitutions can never cover every contingency, or sometimes because — as in this case — the codified constitution enables deadlock.

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Codification of Convention, Comparative, Constructive Non-Confidence, Government Formation in Germany, Officialization of Convention | Leave a comment