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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

A Vigilant Parliament: Building Competence for Effective Parliamentary Oversight of National Defence

Policy Matters by Douglas Bland, Roy Rempel

Douglas L. Bland and Roy Rempel express grave concerns over the lack of interest the Canada’s Parliament has shown in defence policy and foreign affairs since the post-Cold War era began. They suggest that perhaps this tendency towards disengagement is the product of British tradition, in which defence decisions were left in the hands of the Crown. As Bland and Rempel explain, there has been little debate in the House of Commons around these issues over the years, and a clear direction still has yet to be truly established for those who are required to make decisions today (generally senior military officials). As far as Bland and Rempel are concerned, change is absolutely required; Parliament, they argue, has not used Parliamentary Committees as effectively as possible, and they are really too divided along party lines to debate in a real or useful fashion.

At a time when concerns over terrorism prevail, the authors suggest that the Government of Canada cannot afford to ignore security concerns with the hope or understanding that they will be looked after by others. According to the authors, despite potential threats to Canada’s security, little has been said about defence in the House of Commons. Bland and Rempel further argue that the federal government has largely ignored suggestions presented by informed military officials, and is making what they view as irresponsible decisions in this arena. Further to this latter point, they suggest the deployment of Canadian Forces to Afghanistan serves as one such example.

Bland and Rempel then examine the Westminster system and how defence decisions are made more closely, the role of Parliamentary Committees and debates, and how money designated for military spending is allocated. They compare the Westminster system to the Norwegian and German Parliamentary systems, and how defence-related affairs are overseen in each of these traditions.

Finally, the authors make explicit suggestions to Canadian Parliamentarians. Many of Bland and Rempel’s prescriptions reference the use of Parliamentary Committees, and the resources allocated to them. According to the authors, there are clear steps which, if taken, will introduce the appropriate level of stewardship to Canadian defence policy.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): Douglas Bland; Roy Rempel;
Publisher: Institute for Research on Public Policy [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2004; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: National;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Military & Defence / Spending
Policy Articles / Military & Defence / National Security
Policy Articles / Military & Defence / Spending / 2004
Policy Articles / Military & Defence / National Security / 2004

Keywords / Tags:

Parliamentary oversight; Westminster system; defence policy; foreign affairs; terrorism; national security; committees; debate process; defence spending; parliamentary reform; post-Cold War; comparative defence policy.;