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Lecture 2

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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 1400
Nanita Mohan

PARLIAMENT, THE EXECUTIVE AND BUREAUCRACY Introduction In this unit we will continue our discussion by studying the context of the Parliamentary System (including more on the Cabinet and the Executive) and the Bureaucracy. We will explore the ways in which an original bill makes its way through the House of Commons, and review the functions and powers of the House of Commons, the Executive, cabinet solidarity and minority and majority governments. We will also discuss governmental organizations, particularly government departments, crown corporations, and other types of administrative agencies such as regulatory agencies. The main theme of this chapter is to evaluate the various government agencies and their lines of accountability. Learning Objectives Upon successful completion of this unit you will be able to: • Describe the Canadian parliamentary system. • Differentiate between the three levels of government, executive, legislative and judicial branches. • Explain the stages involved in the passing of a bill. • Understand the responsibilities and accountabilities of politicians and bureaucrats. • Compare and contrast the various governmental institutions such as government departments, crown corporations, and regulatory agencies. • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the various governmental institutions. • Discuss how the legislature, executive and bureaucracy handle austerity measures in relation to the country’s political economy. Important Themes and Concepts to Remember • Parliamentary system – executive and the legislature • Head of Government – the Prime Minister • Head of State – Governor General and the Crown (R v. John Doe) • Responsible Government and Cabinet Solidarity • How to Pass a Bill • Functions and Powers of the House of Commons, Committees and the Senate • Minority and Majority Governments • Individual Ministerial Responsibility • Collective Ministerial Responsibility • Government Departments • Crown Corporations • Regulatory Agencies Unit Overview The Parliamentary System The three branches of Canadian government consist of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judicial systems. In this unit, we will focus on the executive and the legislature. However, it is also important to note that the government can also be categorized into the political executive and the administrative. In Canada, the term Crown refers to the composite symbols of the institutions of the state. The Crown may also be involved in court proceedings and other duties, for e.g. certain government properties may be held in the name of the crown. The Administration on the other hand refers to government departments and are known to assist the executive branch in handling policy and decision making processes. These include departments that provide services such as health, education, social welfare, justice etc. Central agencies such as the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council have a special responsibility to support the prime minister, the cabinet and the ministry in various different ways. We will discuss the role of central agencies in a later unit. The Executive The Executive Branch of government consists of the head of state and the head of government. We will begin with the head of government, the Prime Minister and the significant role that he/she plays as the leader of Canada. The Prime Minister of Canada is one of the most powerful leaders in the world. Although the Governor General is the head of state, his/her powers are more limited in comparison to the powers of the Prime Ministers. For specific powers and responsibilities of the Prime Minister and Governor General, please consult the previous week’s notes. The Legislature The best way to define legislatures is that it is a “multi-member representative body which considers public issues” or in other words the legislature is the country’s main law making body. It contains the House of Commons, the senate, and is a part of the judicial branch o Bicameral Government In Canada, parliament is known as bicameral because it consists of an appointed upper house that includes the senate and the elected lower house that includes the House of Commons. These two chambers in Canada have equal legislative powers which mean that bills must be passed in its entirety through both houses. However, there has been a lot of debate regarding the validity of an appointed upper house as it presents a different kind of representation, based on territory and class rather than representation by the people. House of Commons the House of Commons, also known as the lower house; it is a middle sized legislature currently consisting of 308 members directly elected by the people. The members are elected using the First Past the Post Electoral system. They consist of the ruling party, the opposition, back benchers and executive. Ontario – 106 Quebec – 75 BC – 36 Alberta – 28 Manitoba – 14 Saskatchewan – 14 Nova Scotia – 11 New Brunswick – 10 N & L –7 PEI – 4 North west territories, Nunavut, Yukon – 1 Senate The Canadian Senate (or the upper house) consists of 105 senators appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Senate is based on the concept of equal regional representation and, unlike the members of the House of Commons; the senate represents the country’s interests as a whole rather than a party interest. You can see by the following the importance of these houses as they are involved in the passing of Bills: How a Bill is Passed Majority and Minority Governments Majority government is a type of government based on a majority (50+1%) of the governing party’s Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Alternatively, minority government is a type of government that emerges from an election that has less than a majority (50%) of members of the House of Commons. Majority governments are more common in Canada; however, we have had 11 minority governments thus far. Below is a list of all 10 minority governments: • 1921-1925 Liberal Minority, William Lyon Mackenzie King • 1925 Liberal Minority, William Lyon Mackenzie King • 1957-1958 PC Minority, John Diefenbaker • 1962-1963 PC Minority, John Diefenbaker • 1963-1965 Liberal Minority, Lester B Pearson • 1965-1968 Liberal Minority, Lester B Pearson • 1972-1974 Liberal Minority , Pierre Trudeau • 1979-1980 PC Minority, Joe Clark • 2004- 2006 Liberal Minority, Paul Martin • 2006-2008 Conservative Minority, Steve Harper • 2008-2011 Conservative Minority, Steve Harper Accountability The concept of accountability can be defined as: those who hold government power must be answerable and be responsive to the people for the way in which that power is exercised. There are four basic components of accountability: 1. assignment of responsibilities; 2. obligation to answer for their fulfillment; 3. evaluation of the performance of the responsibilities; 4. sanctions/rewards based on the evaluation. Responsibility • Individual Ministerial Responsibility - the principle that individual ministers are responsible for the actions of their departments • Collective Ministerial Responsibility – the principle that members of the cabinet (the executive branch of government) are collectively responsible for the policies and management of government as a whole Now, we will look at the concept of administrative responsibility and public interest. The main characteristics of two hypothetically extreme types of bureaucrats - the objectively responsible and the subjectively responsible official are suggested here: • Objectively Responsible Bureaucrats feel responsible primarily to the legal or formal locus of authority and take a passive approach to the determination of public interest. Their most prominent characteristic and value is accountability to those who have the power to promote, displace, or replace them. The controls and influences, which they internalize in the form of administrative values, are those expressed by their hierarchical superiors. In making and recommending decisions, they anticipate and reflect the desires of their superiors. Bureaucrats of this type do not actively seek the views of policy actors other than their superiors unless they are required to do so • Subjectively Responsible Bureaucrats feel responsible to a broad range of policy participants and are active in the pursuit of the public interest. Their most outstanding characteristic and value is commitment to what they perceive to be the goals of their department or program. Since they view the expectations of a variety of policy actors as legitimate, the sources of their administrative values are numerous and diverse. Subjectively responsible public servants are frequently in conflict with their superiors, but they are not influenced much by the threat of negative sanctions. They seek the views of interests affected by their decisions and recommendations in the absence of, and even in violation of, any legal or formal obligation to do so. Their primary administrative values include responsiveness and effectiveness. They are innovative, take risks, and bend the rules to achieve their objectives. They urge their superiors to follow certain courses of action and are prepared to resolve by themselves the value dilemmas they encounter in their search for the public interest. Institutions of Departments 1. Government Departments: The textbook defines government departments as “an organization that is headed by a minister who is politically accountable for its operation and a deputy minister who is in charge of its hierarchical administrative apparatus” (Dyck, 2006). Government departments are the formal structure of government that Canadians have the most direct contact with. Although a government department is headed by a cabinet minister, the Deputy Ministers usually conducts the administrative and managerial issues. They usually consist of a large staff to handle various issues within the department. A department can be categorized into three types: horizontal policy coordinative, administrative coordinative and vertical constituency. o Horizontal Policy Coordinative types of departments tend to be the most politically influential. For example Department of Finance and Privy Council Office. Horizontal Administrative Coordinative departments are usually felt to be the least influential. For example, Department of National Revenue. o Vertical Constituency Departments are generally involved in providing services directly to the public. Department of Defense, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Department of Human Resources Development, Industry Canada. 2. Crown Corporations: The main purpose of Crown Corporations is to provide goods and services to citizens. Crown Corporations are quite similar to private companies, but the main difference is that they are set up by the government (both federal and provincial governments). One of their many important roles includes controlling the distribution and pricing of certain goods and services that are essential to the public. The Prime Minister usually appoints the heads of Crown Corporations and the corporations are usually independent of any government control. Some examples of Crown corporations include: LCBO (under provincial government), Via Rail, CBC, Farm Credit Canada, Royal Canadian Mint (they print money), Bank of Canada (regulates the supply of money). Recently, Crown corporations have been criticized for being less efficient, being an unfair competition to the private sector, increasing financial power, weak accountability, and a bordering between gaining profits or upholding public interest? 3. Regulatory Agencies: Unlike Crown Corporations, regulatory agencies produce regulations rather than providing goods and services to the public. The textbook defines it as a government agency that regulates an area of public policy (Dyck, 2006). Their focus can be environmental, social or mostly economical. It is important to note that regulatory agencies make decisions based on policy considerations rather than acting in a judiciary context. In addition, regulatory agencies also conduct research and perform advisory roles. Examples of regulatory include immigration and Appeal Board, Canadian Pension Commission, Canadian Radio- TV and Telecommunications Commission (which produces rules and regulations for the CBC which is a crown corporation). Readings – Week 2, Chapters 22 & 23 THE BUREAUCRACY The function of a bureaucracy is policy implication – administering policies established by the prime minister, cabinet and parliament • Seeking out views of the public and transmitting the government’s response • Once politicians decide to take an issue further the public service will usually be asked to provide them with additional information and advice • The implementation of a new lay may thus see bureaucracy making decisions that constitute the quasi-legislative outputs that involve time-consuming negotiations with the provinces or with relevant interest groups • Once the policy, program of law has received political authorization implementation is almost exclusively a bureaucratic responsibility • Once the date is set for the start of a new program arrives, it is the bureaucracy that actually provides the service, does the regulating or performs whatever activities are necessary to apply to the law. • The bureaucrats advise on almost every decision that is made by the PM but the ministers and prime minister actually MAKE the decision Government departments (Ministers department) • The PM and minsters determine the internal structure of the government departments • The departments are created and reorganized by Acts of Parliament which also set out their responsibilities
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