Reinforcing Parliamentary Democracy: A Proposal for the Canadian Region of CPA

Article excerpt

This article proposes that the legislatures of the Canadian Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association establish working relationships with legislatures in the Commonwealth Caribbean along the lines of those undertaken between the Australian and the Pacific Regions of CPA. The purpose of the project would be to increase co-operation between Parliaments, including the sharing of ideas and best practices.

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The Canadian Region of CPA consists of ten provincial legislatures, three territorial legislatures and the federal Parliament. The Commonwealth Caribbean includes the following 18 countries some of which are fully independent while others are self governing but not yet independent.

Anguilla

Antigua and Barbuda

Bahamas

Barbados

Belize

Bermuda

British Virgin Islands

Cayman Islands

Dominica

Grenada

Guyana

Jamaica

Montserrat

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Trinidad and Tobago

Turks and Caicos

I would like to see each Canadian province "twin" with one (or more) Commonwealth Parliamentary Association branch in the Caribbean, Americas and the Atlantic Region. This "twinning" would follow the pattern set in a 1997 agreement of the Australian Region to twin the Pacific Region Branches. (1)

Informally, all Commonwealth Parliaments already work together through the secretariat and many work together at the parliamentarian, speaker or clerk level. This proposal will formalize the Parliament to Parliament relationship, and encourage the sharing of resources, knowledge and experience to a greater degree.

The Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships Program

Perhaps the best way to explain how this project might work is to look at the Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships Program which currently involves eight Pacific parliaments. It is supported by funding received from AusAID.

The CPA Australian Region secretariat in association with the United Nations Development Programme and twinned Australian parliaments coordinates the program for Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The New South Wales Parliament coordinates the program for Bougainville and Solomon Islands.

As of May 2012 eight separate twinning programs existed:

* Bougainville (twinned with New South Wales)

* Cook Islands (twinned with Western Australia)

* Kiribati (twinned with Australian Capital Territory)

* Samoa (twinned with Tasmania)

* Solomon Islands (twinned with New South Wales)

* Tonga (twinned with South Australia)

* Tuvalu (twinned with Victoria)

* Vanuatu (twinned with Queensland)

Under the terms of this agreement the parliaments agree to actively work towards developing friendly relations through:

a. Exchanges of information regarding the work of the two parliaments and on matters of common interest;

b. Training activities between the parliaments that promote parliamentary development;

c. Exchanges of visits between the two parliaments as a means of fostering links between parliamentarians and parliamentary staff; and

d. Meetings between representatives of the parliaments at conferences or seminars they may attend.

Each parliament appoints a liaison officer for the purpose of the agreement. Proposals and arrangements for exchanges are mutually agreed and coordinated through the liaison officers. The liaison officers are also responsible for keeping the Pacific and Australian Regional Secretaries of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association informed of developments in relation to the agreement.

Let me give some examples of recent programs:

* A Local Area Network has been installed in Bougainville and is in the process of being activated, with funds from the twinning project used to meet the installation and maintenance costs. …