Tagged: House of Commons

Better know a Canadian functionary: the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel

One of the tricky things about Parliament is that it spends all its time making and changing laws, but there are plenty of people involved in that process have zero legal training. For this reason, on the staff of both the House of Commons and the Senate, there is an official known as the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, who reports to the Clerk of their respective chambers. As the name suggests, they have a dual duty: as Law Clerk, they are in charge of making sure that new bills don’t make a pig’s breakfast of the existing law; and as Parliamentary Counsel, its his job to intervene in any court case involving an MP or Senator to make sure the privileges and immunities afforded to a member of the House or Senate aren’t violated.

The position of Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to the House of Commons was established in 1867. Between 1922 and 1951, the title of Parliamentary Counsel was abolished and the position of Law Clerk of the House of Commons was held jointly by two people. The Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel was abolished again in 1991, with the workload split between a Legal Services Office reporting to the Clerk of the House and a Legislative Counsel Office reporting to the Deputy Clerk of the House. That decision was reversed in 1999 and things were put back the way they were before.

The Law Clerks and Parliamentary Counsels to the House of Commons of Canada have been:

Gustavus William Wicksteed, 1867-87.
William Wilson, 1887-89.
Frederick Augustus McCord, 1889-1908.
Arthur Henry O’Brien, 1908-13.
Francis Hernaman Gisborne, 1913-22.

(two Law Clerks appointed)

Joseph K. Foran, 1922-24.
Arthur Gordon Troop, 1922-36.
Paul Maurice Ollivier, 1924-51.
Arthur Angus Fraser, 1937-51.

(Return to a single Law Clerk)

Paul Maurice Ollivier (continued), 1951-71.
J.P. Joseph Maingot, 1971-82.
Marcel R. Pelletier, 1983-90.

(Position abolished 1991-1999)

Robert R. Walsh, 1999-2013.
Richard Fujarczuk, 2013-14.
Richard Denis (acting), 2014-15.
Philippe Dufresne, 2015-now.

Unlike the House, the position of Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to the Senate has remained unmodified since Confederation.

The Law Clerks and Parliamentary Counsels to the Senate of Canada have been:

Edward Louis Montizambert, 1867-82.
J.G. Aylwin Creighton, 1882-1930.
William F. O’Connor, 1935-42.
John Forbes MacNeill, 1942-55.
Edward Russell Hopkins, 1956-76.
Raymond L. du Plessis, 1976-96.
Mark Audcent, 1996-2014.
Michel Patrice, 2014-now.


Better know a Canadian institution: the Board of Internal Economy

If you’ve been paying attention to the news in Canada, you’d know that not too long ago, the federal NDP was told off for misallocating some funds by the “Board of Internal Economy”. Who are they? They sound scary! But they aren’t.

The Board of Internal Economy was created by Act of Parliament in 1868, and it governs the administrative regulation and fiduciary governance of the House of Commons. Unlike every other committee of Parliament, the Board continues to sit when Parliament is prorogued or dissolved.

The Speaker of the House of Commons is the chair of the Board, and the Clerk of the House is its secretary. Its membership is laid out by the Parliament of Canada Act.

There must be two Privy Councillors, which are usually the Chief Government Whip and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to sit on the Board, but that seat is usually delegated to the Opposition House Leader. There is then one member given to each “recognized” opposition party (meaning parties with more than 12 members), which usually goes to the party whip. (If there  was only one opposition party, it would get two members.) The government caucus then receives one member fewer than the total number of opposition members. Since there are currently two opposition parties, there is one sitting government caucus representative, who is currently Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, who represents Yellowhead, Alberta.

Better know a Canadian Functionary: the Dean of the House of Commons

The Dean of the House of Commons (a gender-neutral iteration of the British equivalent, the Father of the House) is the member with the longest uninterrupted tenure. The first one was created in 1896 because it took that long for there to be only one MP left from the election of 1867. The only official duty of the Dean of the House is to preside over the election of the Speaker. Of the 20 Deans to date, all but three have been members of the Cabinet.