The 1867 as Year Zero School of Canadian History Meets the War of 1812

President Trump has not only killed thirty years of free trade between Canada and the United States but also set off a bizarre firestorm about the War of 1812, of all things. In what has been reported to be a tense conversation over the telephone with Prime Minister Trudeau, who questioned Trump’s bogus rationale of imposing a tariff on Canadian steel and aluminium on the grounds of “national security,” the President asked — and “I would suggest […] if you know the president, that was probably a facetious remark” — whether Canada had burned down the White House in 1814.

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Posted in History of British North America | 1 Comment

Will Wade MacLauchlan Become the First Premier to Ignore a Fixed-Date Election Law Twice?

Not quite as handsome as New Brunswick’s Legislative Assembly.

The CBC recently ran an interesting article about electoral speculation — the political journalist’s favourite pastime — in Prince Edward Island when Premier Wade MacLauchlan refused to answer a simple question from an Opposition MLA on when the next general election will take place. This follows on the CBC’s earlier electoral speculation in January 2018.

Perhaps we can excuse MacLauchlan for having maintained a politician’s coyness on the issue, because overlapping fixed-date election laws have made that question more convoluted.

Prince Edward Island adopted its fixed-date election law in 2008 as part of its Election Act, which schedules the province’s general elections for the first Monday in October every four years starting in October 2011. The second fixed-date election should therefore have taken place in October 2015 — but it did not.

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Posted in Fixed-Date Elections, Reform | 1 Comment

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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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