CPA Activities: The Canadian Scene

Article excerpt

Twenty-fourth Annual Canadian Presiding Officers' Conference

Greg Deighan, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island was host to the 24th Annual Canadian Presiding Officers' Conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island from January 18-21, 2007. It was the first opportunity for PEI to host the Conference since 1992. Speaker Deighan was delighted with the turnout and participation in the program with forty-two delegates and eleven Partners from every jurisdiction in Canada in attendance. Business sessions were held at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel on January 19th and 20th with presentations and discussion on the following topics:

* Dr. David McNeil, Clerk, Legislative Assembly of Alberta presented on Alberta's online 'Virtual Visit'. He demonstrated to delegates how this interactive web based application is navigated and how it was designed to enable students from areas remote to the capital city of Edmonton (and others) to experience the beautiful Legislative Assembly Building of Alberta and learn more about their parliament.

* Tim Mercer, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories presented a paper on "Language Rights in the Northwest Territories". This very informative session on the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories' decision which led to the suspension of the production of Hansard on October 26, 2006 (presently under appeal) generated a great deal of interest.

* Michel Bonsaint, Director General of Parliamentary Affairs of the National Assembly of Quebec and Francois Gendron, MNA, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly presented on the "Michaud Affair" which concerns the important matter of parliamentary privilege and the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to legislative assemblies.

* Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons lead those assembled in a round table discussion on decorum in the Chamber. This session proved to be very informative and entertaining--often illustrating the different approaches taken by Canadian jurisdictions in dealing with the thorny and delicate matter of decorum in the Chamber.

* Dr. David Docherty, Dean of Arts and Professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University and author of Legislatures (part of the Canadian Democratic Audit series) presented on "Effectiveness in Legislatures: Getting the message out". Delegates were treated to a learned presentation on the state of our legislative assemblies, the matter of compensation for members of Canadian Parliaments, the role of legislative assemblies and the general regard with which Canadians hold their parliamentary institutions.

Speakers George Hickes (Manitoba), Bill Barisoff (British Columbia), Harvey Hodder (Newfoundland and Labrador), Myron Kowalsky (Saskatchewan), Cecil Clarke (Nova Scotia) and Eugene McGinley (Deputy Speaker designate, New Brunswick) kindly agreed to serve as session chairs and did an excellent job of facilitating discussion and encouraging participation.

Aside from the business sessions there were opportunities for some social activities and friendship. After registration on the first day of the Conference, an "Island Welcome" Reception was held, providing an opportunity for delegates to meet new friends and get reacquainted with their colleagues from across Canada. The Manorfield String Quartette provided beautiful background music and Island oyster shucker Mike Pendergast commanded the attention of those gathered as he offered exquisite Colville Bay oysters on the half shell from his well stocked dory! The next evening, delegates took a short bus ride through the rain to Province House for a reception, an opportunity see the Legislative Assembly Chamber up close and to walk the same halls as the Fathers of Confederation did in 1864. In fact delegates and guests received a special greeting by George Coles, Father of Confederation, as he descended the staircase of Province House to welcome those assembled! …