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Political Science 1G06 2013 II lecture 3a overhead parliament.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 II 2013 Lecture 3a – Parliament 15/01/2013 18:19:00 ← Parliament: ← Technically speaking, Parliament refers to the Crown, the House of Commons, and the Senate ← Any law must be approved by all three elements ← House of Commons ← We made the case last class that under present conditions real political power over legislation lies with the Cabinet and in particular with the Prime Minister ← Two reasons: ← 1. Cabinet initiates all major legislation and therefore controls the agenda of the House (rarely private members are able to bring to debate but usually initiated by the cabinet) ← 2. Party Discipline means that most of the policies that Cabinet decides upon will be passed (MPs are party voters party control is necessary if an MP goes against the party line in parliament they will get kicked out of the party itself therefore less likely to be voted back in election) ← Viewed as necessary due to the principle of Responsible government ← The failure to pass a piece of legislation initiated by the Cabinet can result in the defeat of the government ← Nevertheless, the House of Commons does have an important place in the overall political system and a degree of power in turn ← Determines if the governing party has the right to still govern ← 1. In the first place, it determines whether the government will continue to lead or whether it will fall ← The government must maintain the confidence of the House If government losses confidence ← The potential ability to expel the executive at any time gives the House a crucial check against Prime Ministerial Power ← 2. The House of Commons has the power of the purse All has to have the approval of the house and ability for public to see Question period/ engagement 3. The House of Commons provides continual oversight/challenge to government policy in the interim between elections ← Opposition parties can question and challenge the government ← If you want to make the HOC more democratic allowing more free votes will be able to do so and not every issue being a confidence issues. ← Confidence issues can: 1. Government decision: were committed to this policy and so committed that we consider this to be a confidence issue 2. Opposition days and these days opposition day takes control over government and they tend to take a vote in the governments confidence and if fail they are instructed to resign. And yet some argue that the House of Commons is not as meaningful as it could be ← That mechanisms like party discipline make the system too top down ← That the House should be re-structured to make it more genuinely democratic and representative ← Should the House of Commons be reformed? ← Can the system be restructured to allow for more free votes even while protecting the principle of responsible government? According to defenders, the current system does have its advantages: ← 1. It is argued by some that executive domination of the legislature has permitted the Canadian political system to be more welfare oriented than the American system In our system it is much more possible for them to achieve because PM and legislator are combined as 1 whereas in the states they have a separation (president and congress) – party control in the US is much weaker than in Canada which has much more power ← If a PM wants a policy agenda pushed through the legislature, he/she (especially in situations of majority government) will in all likelihood be successful ← 2. Since Party members vote along Party lines it is (arguably) more difficult for single interest lobbyists to capture the policy-making process ← The party says how you vote on an issue (US congress members is able to input on bill) ← 3. Collective discipline means that the Party cannot pass the buck for legislative failure ← If the Prime Minister has a majority and does not deliver on his promises to pass a piece of legislation If they do not pass the legislation (US hope and change Obama and things do not change much and make a creditable case that they attempted changes were stopped by congress whereas this cannot be blamed in Canada) ← He can’t blame obstruction in the House for the failure ← Senate ← All Bills must have Senate approval before they can become law ← In fact, “in theory the Senate has almost exactly the same legislative power as the House of Commons” ← On paper, the Senate is (almost) as powerful as the House of Commons (although this is not the case in practice) 2 ← Equally as important as the House of Commons and bills must be passed through the houssenate Govern General ← What role does the Senate play in the Canadian political system? ← The Senate was established as a check on Democracy ← It was established to be a House of “Sober Second Thought” ← There are two main characteristics of the
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