'There may be some exceptions in those African dictatorships' - Macleans.ca

‘There may be some exceptions in those African dictatorships’

How about less party discipline and a stricter Speaker?


The Globe consults academics who suggest party discipline is stricter in Canada than almost anywhere else.

“There may be some exceptions in those African dictatorships that are part of the Commonwealth and so on,” says Leslie Seidle, a research director with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, “but in the advanced parliamentary democracies, there is nowhere that has heavier, tighter party discipline than the Canadian House of Commons. People are kicked out of their party temporarily for what are really very minor matters.”

Richard Simeon, a professor emeritus of political science and law at the University of Toronto and a member of the university’s School of Public Policy and Governance, agrees. “We are worse than the Australians, and much worse than the British, in terms of giving MPs the ability to act and to somehow make a difference,” said Dr. Simeon.

The Globe also notes a recent intervention of the Speaker in New Zealand.

During a recent debate in that country’s legislature, Prime Minister John Key was asked by an opposition leader to explain why he had said the filming of the movie The Hobbit would create 3,000 jobs. When Mr. Key asserted that the film had increased tourism, the opposition leader objected and the Speaker stopped the Prime Minister from going further. “I appreciate the member’s concern,” he said. “He asked a question, but he did not ask for that information.” That’s a far cry from Canada, where responses from the government go unchecked even though they often have little bearing on what was asked.

I suggested something similar a week ago: the Speaker should have the authority to cut off a response that strays off topic. Here, for another example, is the Speaker in Britain both cutting off and admonishing Prime Minister David Cameron during a session of Prime Minister’s Question in June 2011.