Parlementarisme et Francophonie, edited by Eric Montigny and Francois Gelineau, Quebec City: Presses de l'Universite Laval, 2012, 341 p.
This edited volume is a result of an international symposium on francophone parliaments, Plurielle et fiere de l'etre: la Francophonie parlementaire, organized by Laval University's Research Chair on Democracy and Parliamentary Institutions. It took place in the Legislative Council Room of the Quebec National Assembly on February 25 and 26, 2011, with over 200 in attendance.
The Francophonie (with a capital F) refers to the institutional structure governing relations among French-speaking states. The parliaments of these states and federations are eligible for membership in an interparliamentary and international cooperative assembly, the Assemblee parlementaire de la Francophonie.
The roughly 70 member parliaments are highly diverse both in how they are organized and how they conduct themselves. Until 2011, no real comparative study of this diversity had been carried out, hence the symposium in Quebec City. The aim was to catalogue the various parliamentary practices within the Francophonie, explore the differences between the parliaments and identify where they are similar.
For this summary, we first focus on Canada's various legislatures that were discussed in oral and written contributions (the Parliament of Canada, the Quebec National Assembly and the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick). We then turn our attention to the Parliament of the French Republic and to the Swiss Federal Assembly.
Chapter 1 deals with the Parliament of Canada. From the outset, author Eric Montigny states that the executive branch plays a leading role in Parliament, the government, through its House leaders, controls the legislative agenda. Then there is the prime minister, who enjoys the powers of an elected monarch. As the head of the government, he is able to make many public appointments: judges (including provincial superior court justices), senior federal public servants, senators and so forth.
In a minority parliament, the opposition parties have significant influence over the fate of the government's legislative program, obliging the government to negotiate passage of its bills one by one. Minority governments occur relatively frequently in Canada; there have been roughly a dozen since 1867.
The author argues that the principle of responsible government in Canada blurs the lines between the executive and...