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Lecture 3

POLSCI 1G06 Lecture 3: Political Science L3 Jan 13 Parliament

Political Science
Course Code
Todd Alway

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Political Science Tutorial January 13
This semester will be spent largely on presenting research papers, starting mid-February.
Thursday 12:25-1:25 Office Hours (same as last semester) KTH 705
Lecture 3 Parliament (Jan 13)
(Continuation of Note two)
The Prime minister is in charge of the cabinet making process; leader of the Government party meaning
it is difficult to get the PM replaced if need be
>Leader of party elected by general membership (Party as a whole)
PM has a direct relationship with Governor General
>advise GG
>PM’s prerogative
>PM can watch the polls, can go to Governor general/dissolve parliament
Another point based upon intangible advantage
>political vision and too much power to the PM and what they can do
>only maintain power with the House of Commons’ support
>power of appointment
Technically speaking, Parliament refers to the Crown, the House of Commons, and the Senate
-every piece of legislation begins with the same proclamation “Her Majesty…”
-no bill can become a law without all three institutions signing off on it
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 (rather than the House of Commons itself)
-where do the bills come from? (That come from the House of Commons?) It is the cabinet. The House
of Commons are not responsible for initiating legislation
-some private members bills can make it through (sometimes a member of the opposing party)
Two reasons:
1. Cabinet initiates most major legislation and therefore controls the agenda of the House
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2. Party Discipline means that most of the policies that Cabinet decides upon will be passed (at least
in situations of majority government)
-Viewed as necessary due to the principle of Responsible government
-MP’s controlling membership, influencing votes
-Threat of non-confidence (if Government fails to pass a bill)
-USA president has a fixed term (unless assassinated or leave office for another reason) In Canada,
you only have a seat for the time the government has the Confidence of the House
-if defeated on a budget, the Government is done
-On rare occasion, opposition can get a vote of confidence
-The failure to pass a piece of legislation initiated by the Cabinet can result
in the defeat of the government
-MP can be kicked out of party (still a member of House of Commons but no longer a
liberal/conservative/NDP for example; you would then be “independent” and not belong to a party,
making reelection extremely unlikely and challenging.
-MP’s mostly vote for their party because they want too
Nevertheless, the House of Commons does have an important place in the overall political system and a
degree of power in turn
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
1. The House of Commons has control over revenue
-any spending and taxing must go through House
2. The House of Commons provides continual oversight/challenge to government action in the
interim between elections
-Opposition parties can question and challenge the government
-a forum to hold government to account
-there have been reform calls and defenders of the status quo
-one argument has to do with the issue of executive control
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
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