My friend James Bowden has written a wonderful piece on a vital part of our parliamentary system. The role Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is vital. James explains the origins of this part of our system and why loyalty is essential in this role. Loyalty to the Crown is loyalty to Canada. The Crown is the living embodiment of Canada.
I contend that the Bloc Quebecois should never have taken on the role or title of “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” in the 35th Parliament simply because it became the second largest party with 54 seats, compared to the Reform Party’s 52. This is not an argument against the presence of the Bloc quebecois in parliament (they were duly elected representatives), but a rebuke of the parliamentary injustice that allowed such a party to become Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition during the 35th Parliament. I base this argument on an interpretation of both British and Canadian sources, because the Canadian traditions developed directly from its British tradition, and on the nature of convention. I refuse to elevate the custom to that the party with the second largest number of seats becomes the Official Opposition to a constitutional convention. Certainly, the presence of an Official Opposition is a constitutional requirement and practical necessity in order that parliament effectively hold the government to account – but the presence of such a function is distinct from the determination of which party takes on the role. I will also examine Speaker Gilles Parent’s ruling from 1996 (the second session of the 35th Parliament) on the status of the Official Opposition and point out some bizarre inconsistencies and mistakes therein.