POLI 321 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Arthur Meighen, From Then On, Hung Parliament

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[Topic 3: The Formal Executive]
2008 Context (the powers of the Governor General)
The Canadian October 2008 election occurred during the start of the global financial
crisis. It resulted in a minority government (hung parliament). The finance minister
provides a fiscal update (via legislation in the House of Commons) in response to the
1.Women employed in the civil service could not challenge employment equity in
2.Eliminate the right for civil servants to strike
3.Ended a particular form of public finance for political parties (that every party
except the conservative party used)
Heavy backlash in response to this legislation. The house believed it had very little to do
with handling the crisis. The Liberals, NDP, and the Bloq think that they have no
confidence in the government. They have a conference, wanting to hold the government
accountable. But before the opposition can do anything, Harper asks the GG for a
prorogation (everything that happened before the prorogation vanishes). By convention,
the GG grants that request. This was considered by many as an undemocratic act.
Opposition parties believe the GG (who is not democratically elected) should
exercise her power. Which is less democratic?
The governor general grants the prorogation, on 3 conditions:
1.The Conservative must return promptly after the prorogation
2.The government returns to parliament that will pass (NO PARTISANSHIP)
The Queen
Powers of the Queen
The Queen holds executive power.
The Queen holds legislative power: no law can be passed unless it receives Royal Assent
from the Queen (or the GG).
The convention is that the Queen must give Royal Assent to a passed bill
Governor General
Colonial role was to ensure that colonials stay in line. The powers of the modern
governor general are "spent powers". They are not formally used, but they do
technically exist. The GG, on paper, has power; but in reality, the GG is just a rubber
1.Reservation: delaying legislation
2.Disallowance: not signing legislation
Lieutenant generals use these powers much more often, because this is how they block
legislation that conflict with federal legislation.
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