Economic Statements

I’ve briefly talked about the Budget and economic statements in the tutorial on the legislative branch, but given that the federal finance minister, Joe Oliver, gave an update this afternoon, and other Canadian jurisdictions have or will be giving their own, I thought it would be a good idea to have a post to distinguish between the budget and economic statements. Continue reading

Mandate Letters

Well, hello there. It’s been a while. I’m sorry about that. I am hoping to be more active on the site. While I haven’t been posting too much, I have been tweeting and retweeting @FromEhtoZ and on the Facebook fan page of the same name.

At any rate, stay tuned for a tutorial on the senate coming soon. In the meantime, check out the below post:


Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced earlier this week that her government would release Ministers’ Mandate Letters for all 30 ministries. This is part of the government’s overall commitment to accountability and transparency and is part of the Open Government initiative. Thursday’s news release issued after a Cabinet meeting in Sudbury officially made those letters public.

These documents are typically held in confidence in the Cabinet convention and are not usually released, or at least not for a long period of time (by tradition, Cabinet records are released after thirty years, though some may be accessed through a Freedom of Information requests after twenty for a charge of $5.00 each).

But what is a mandate letter and what is its purpose? A mandate letter is, well, a letter, from the premier (or prime minister at the federal level) to his or her minister. The letter outlines what the premier wants to the minister to do or accomplish over a set period of time (over a four year term, for example), though the exact timing is not always made clear. It is the official authority to do something: create a policy, develop a program, form a strategy, consult stakeholders, make changes to legislation or regulation, establish a board, agency or commission and so on. Each minister (and associate ministers in the case of Ontario) will get one.

In some cases, ministers may ask their boss to include something that the minister is interested in pursuing, a pet project or a personal focus, to their mandate letter.

Ontario is not the first province to publicize and post Cabinet mandate letters. It follows British Columbia, Saskatchewan and most recently Alberta in releasing these usually confidential documents. At the moment, federal mandate letters remain unavailable.

These letters will flow from the priorities and agenda the premier sets for a province, from her concerns and even prescribes the ways in which she would like the minister to work (eg. Work with stakeholders, municipalities and the public).

These documents are important, because they are like instruction manuals for how the minister will work in the coming years, how he or she will give direction to public servants in his or her ministry and the tone and ways in which the ministry will fulfil the mandate.

The minister will work with his or her deputy minister (the senior pubic servant in the ministry) to ensure that policy direction, priorities and flow down throughout the ministry and that public servants can begin working on various projects, initiatives, programs and policies which will help to fulfil this mandate.

It is important to note that mandate letters do not, and cannot cover everything. For instance, they do not cover “business as usual”- the day-to-day minutia, tasks and duties public servants carry-out to fulfil the administrative mandate of ministries.

Senate scandal Update – November 3rd

A few weeks ago, I wrote, a post outlining the Senate expense scandal. There, I briefly outlined the issue by stating that the problem was essentially about senators making inappropriate claims for housing allowances and other expenses.

Since then, the situation has escalated with the Conservatives (Tories) in the senate introducing a motion to suspend senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin without pay and without access to benefits. This debate of the motion has played out over the past week and a half with intense media coverage and is expected to continue into the week of November 4th,.  The situation has hung over the Conservative party convention that took place this past weekend.  (As an aside, this convention was originally scheduled back in June in Calgary but was cancelled due to the floods, which ravaged much of Alberta.).

Why is this significant? Continue reading

Throne Speeches and Prorogation

For an interesting look at opinions on the purpose of Throne Speeches and the different traditions around Throne Speeches and Prorogation in other Westminster system, I invite you to check out On Procedure and Politics post here. This blog is always a great source of information on the nuances of parliamentary procedure.

The “Bully” Pulpit

Disclaimer:

As part of my vow to be as impartial as possible with the content of this site, I am going to start this post by coming right out and saying that I am about to express my opinion on something: you have been warned.

I hate attack ads. In fact, I despise them. They are deplorable. If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, then attack ads are the lowest form of political communications. Continue reading

Whips and Member Priviledge

An interesting article on a (brief) history of government whips. I’ll get into more detail on  party whips, backbenchers and other positions within the legislature in a up-coming tutorial on the Legislative branch.

Another article by John Ivison at the National Post on an upcoming Speaker’s ruling on the question of whether MP, Mark Waraw’s parliamentary privilege to speak freely in the House of Commons has been violated.

Dump the Leader?

A week and a half ago, there were reports that something of a mutiny was afoot in the BC Liberal caucus with cabinet members and MLAs alike from the governing Liberals calling for the Premier Christy Clark, to resign. This in light of the scandal which emerged involving the leak of memos which put forth a strategy to woo the vote of British Columbians of certain ethnicities.

This week however, it would appear that the premier has managed to quell any public dissent from her caucus. But lets, for a moment, consider the possibility of ousting a sitting premier. Continue reading