POLI 221 Lecture Notes - Lecture 23: Premiership Of Stephen Harper, Leadership Review, Unintended Consequences

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Topic 6: The Political Executive-
PM/CABINET/CENTRAL AGENCIES 13:39
-Few checks/ they are limited/inaffective.
-How are the power relationships structured?
-The house was supposed to be a check, cabinet makes up the collective
government.
Cabinet was an original check on the PM, who has always been the most
powerful person in cabinet. It was supposed to be a collective
government/collegial government. This meant they were a check on one
another, to what extent do they act as a check between one another/on the
pm?
-We’ve moved to prime ministerial government rather than cabinet
government.
-We have presidential government- The PM has become a president
-Has more power than the president in the USA
-Refered to as an elected dictator
-Loss of power in terms of checks- British government was a check through
the governor general but her powers have increasingly gone to the PM
-House of commons lost power in its way to check on the PM
-Senate was supposed to be equal and a check but it is inferior house within
parliament.
-Federal system and the courts- Power has shifted to the PM but maybe
power could be reversed. The division of powers was created to be a check.
-Loss of power/shifts of power that are not fixed and may sometimes be
subtle.
-The unchallenged centre of power in the government of Canada is the
Cabinet- Shows the structure of power of executive government has
changed.
-Notion that cabinet is a collectivity- collective government.
The PM and cabinet are positioned at the pinnacle of power within our
system of parliamentrary government. Both are constitutionally and
politically.- Not cabinet collectively, the center of power is the PM and
cabinet
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-Cabinet is a mini caucus, not a decision making body.- It is now just
another group to give prime ministers advice.
-Cabinet is a focus group for the PM. – Not at the center of gravity/not a
decision making body/ advises PM that he does not necessarily have to take.
-These quotes are very different. Throughout time, shows the subtle
changes of power.*****
-Has the center of gravity shifted? Where? To whom?
-Cabinet government vs. PM government
-PM in a parliamentary system, where checks on the PM are increasingly
weakened.
-Cabinet:
Members of parliament that are :
1)Assigned direct management and control over an administrative unit-
usually a department(could be a unit/section within a larger unit)
2)Who occupy a significant executive position(e.g house leader in HoC)
-No senator in cabinet
-President of Privy Council: ***** Used to be saved for the PM since they
didn’t have official positions as PM
*******Section 11 of CA 1867: There shall be a council to aid and advise in
the government of Canada, to be styled the queens privy council for Canada
and the persons who are members of that council shall be from time to time
chosen and summoned by the G.G and sworn in as privy councilors.
-Only part that sort of mentions Cabinet.
-Made up of all past cabinet ministers- and as a cabinet minister you are a
privy councilor for life.
-Closest thing in the constitution to cabinet
-Pm only one thing that kind of makes reference to the PM- says he has a
conference to aboriginal affairs
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-References to the PM are rare-
-PM is conventional so that’s why the power lacks structure and grows
-
-*****-Section that says similar to that of UK
-On occasion they will recommend appointment of somebody else to Privy
Council.
-Governor in Council- Operating arm that is closest to the cabinet
-The privy council is not the cabinet!
-Collective responsibility- This flows from the idea of responsible
government. Cabinet is collectively responsible for government policy. All
decisions are the responsibility of them collectively, even if they are not part
of the decision making or didn’t play a role, they have to collectively be
responsible. Government policy is the policy of the government of the day
collectively not individuals(not just each separate minister).
-This was the origins of the fact that cabinet ministers were responsible to
one another and were originally a check on each other. If you do not agree
with the policy, you must resign.
-Unlike the UK, where there is often resignations over policy differences for
ministers, in Canada there is very few occasions over ministers resign over
questions of policy.
-The central convention is ministerial responsibility and responsible
government.
-Why?
-When cabinet was emerging, they were in a political tug of war with the
monarch of the day, and the monarch tried to divide and conquer the
cabinet so they could get policys they wanted and get more political support.
-This collective responsibility emerged to protect the cabinets individually
from the monarch, it now protects them from the house of commons.
-You can’t criticize them
-Contemporary reality- To protect the house from undermining cabinet
security.
-Party discipline is so significant/few independent members of parliament-
Consequence: You must keep your mouth shut.
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