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Canada (509,738)
POLSCI 1G06 (280)
Todd Alway (280)

Political Science Lecture 3a Jan 15 2013.doc

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Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 II 2013 Lecture 3a – Parliament 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 - 2. Party Discipline means that most of the policies that Cabinet decides upon will be passed - 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 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 - 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 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 - 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 1 - 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 - 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 - 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 o 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) - 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 Senate which differentiate it from the House of Commons: 2 1. The formally elite compos
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