Sixteenth Parliamentary Seminar
The Sixteenth Parliamentary Seminar
of the Canadian Region, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was held in
Whitehorse, Yukon from November 14-16, 1991.
The Seminar was opened by the
Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Sam Johnston. The first
session dealt with the topic of "Public Cynicism and the Legislator of the
The opening Speaker was David
Carter, Speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly who dealt with some
examples of behaviour by politicians that had contributed to the increasing
cynicism among the population. He brought along a videotape of a few recent
unparliamentary incidents including the case of the federal member who was censured
for trying to grab the mace from the Sergeant-at-Arms to protest adjournment of
the House. A few examples of general disorder during the Senate debate on the
GST were also shown.
Other participants pointed to the
double standard of morality often applied to elected officials who are accused
of wrong-doing. Many persons felt media coverage had a lot to do with the
negative image of politicians while others suggested the parliamentary form of
government itself ought to be seriously reexamined. Others suggested it was the
members own fault if Canadians did not understand their form of government or
the role of members of legislatures.
The Second session dealt with
"National Transportation Links" which in the words of Joe Comuzzi,
MP, who led off the discussion, are the glue that keeps Canada together. He
outlined a number of problems in the trucking, airline, railway sectors but
suggested that the greatest problem was the lack of an integrated approach to
transportation planning that would bring together those responsible at the
federal, provincial and territorial levels of government. Other delegates noted
that the ability to travel easily and cheaply was vital to keeping the country
together. Our current constitutional problems would be much less if more Canadians
had an opportunity to spend time travelling in other parts of the country.
There was a general feeling that if a National Transportation Committee could
be established with representatives from all legislatures many of the
difficulties in the transportation sector could be tackled in a more rational
manner. However, in keeping with the tradition of CPA conferences no
resolutions were adopted on this or any other subject.
The third session dealt with
"The Possibilities for "Effective Representation of the First Nations
within the Parliamentary System". The opener, Margaret Joe, of the
Yukon, outlined different political traditions of aboriginals who are more at
home in a consensual rather than an adversarial context. People speak only if
they have something to say and the type of interruptions typical of
parliamentary debate are considered impolite.
Other members suggested that non
aboriginals could learn a lot about politics from the aboriginal people but,
nevertheless, parliament is based on the adversarial approach. Some saw a
parallel between aboriginal demands and the desire of Quebec to take its own
approach to politics.
The fourth session on "Direct
Democracy" brought together a number of the themes that had been discussed
in previous session. The opener, Carmen McClelland of Ontario, posed a
number of questions about the use of referenda, recall, initiative and other
forms of direct democracy. He and others pointed out that these were double
edged swords that did allow more individuals to get involved in the political
process but also opened the door to majority rule and oppression of minorities.
The final session on tourism was
opened by Ross Young of Prince Edward Island. He identified several
issues having a profound impact on tourism in Canada including the impact of
the GST, the high cost of gasoline and the increase in cross-border shopping.
Others suggested that by paying more attention to services offered and making
sure that we protect our environment, the greatest Canadian tourism attraction
would continue to be our landscape and natural resources. Once again the
necessity of all jurisdictions working together was emphasized by many
Although the conference lasted only
two days delegates from most Canadian jurisdictions were in attendance. When it
was over visitors had an opportunity to tour the Yukon Game Farm and then a
short visit to Takhini Hot Springs where a few delegates joined some of the
local residents for a mid-winter swim in the natural outdoor pool. A final
banquet with traditional Yukon entertainment brought the seminar to a close.
For most delegates it was the first trip to the Yukon and they will long
remember the warm welcome, excellent hospitality and spectacular beauty of
Canada's northern territory.