Thursday, December 15, 2011

Library of Parliament Publication on Question Period

The Library of Parliament recently published a document on Question Period in the Canadian Parliament and Other Legislatures:

"Question period is, for better or worse, the parliamentary proceeding that attracts the most attention from the media and the Canadian public. On each day that the House of Commons is in session, the 45-minute question period gives members of the opposition an opportunity to seek information from the government and to hold it accountable on its policies and administration of public affairs. Question period may make or end careers, unveil scandals or be used as a launching pad by the government of the day. Because there is so much at stake, the process sometimes gives rise to a lack of decorum. For this and other reasons, members of Parliament (MPs), as well as commentators on parliamentary proceedings, have been increasingly critical of question period, and possible reforms have been put forward on several occasions, including an April 2010 motion sponsored by MP Michael Chong."

"Mr. Chong’s motion, Motion M-517, instructed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study the rules and procedures relating to question period and to contemplate changes. These included consideration of the Speaker’s power to enforce decorum, the time restrictions for questions and answers, the non-obligation of ministers to respond, the selection of MPs to ask questions by a random draw, and a roster system for ministers to ensure an equitable distribution of their time in question period. The House amended Motion M-517 to call upon the committee to look into the conventions and practices of the United Kingdom (U.K.) parliament and the legislatures of other Commonwealth jurisdictions. In 2010, the committee undertook its study, but it did not report to the House before the dissolution of the 40th Parliament on 26 March 2011."

"This paper reviews the rules, conventions and practices of the Canadian Parliament in respect of question period. In addition to the House of Commons and the Senate, this paper examines processes similar to question period in other Commonwealth countries - namely, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand - as well as in Canadian provinces. All these jurisdictions share similar parliamentary and government systems; as a result, many rules in these legislatures are alike. This paper focuses on the general framework that governs question period, and does not discuss the specifics of any particular rules. As question period in some jurisdictions is intertwined with written questions, this paper also briefly reviews the rules regarding this parliamentary tool."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:58 pm


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