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POLI 101- October 19.docx

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University of British Columbia
Political Science
POLI 101

PARLIAMENT Wednesday, October 19, 2011 * Midterm includes information provided in today‟s lecture How Accountability is Assured in Parliament (1) Question Period - Best example of “visible” accountability - High profile - The attention paid to this portion of Parliamentary debate has increased, as media has been able to provide coverage to the public - Government can be called to account directly by the opposition - Everything recorded in Hansard - This included any debate in Parliament and during Question Period - Taxpayer dollars pay for this information to be available to the public - “Scrum” - A quasi press conference that occurs outside of parliamentary procedure - Generally a high profile individual (such as a minister or PM) will be asked questions and be given the opportunity to address the media regarding particular issues (2) Scrutiny of Spending - No money can be spent on anything without the prior and explicit consent of the HOC (House of Commons) - Procedure that guarantees government spending is done according to rules - Before any money is spent: - Government departments present their estimates - After the money is spent - Public Accounts Committee is assisted by the Auditor General (a third party) to oversee that government business is done according to regulation - Assures that estimates are accurate The Senate - A “Chamber of Sober Second Thought” - Scrutinizes, strengthens legislation passed by the house before it is passed into law - The Senate traditionally represented colonial interests - When the body was established, the British government wanted a more conservative type of representation in government - Desire to keep any radical change manageable or not too revolutionary - $4 000 rule stated that all senator must possess at least this amount in assets in order to be granted membership in the Senate - This caused the Senate to be populated by a more aristocratic class - It was believed that these people would have a different set of goals than the commoner, and as previously stated, represent a conservative view - This $4 000 rule exists to this day, despite the fact it is a relative low bar/standard for most to achieve - Currently in order to become a senator, you must be at least 30 years of age - Originally, this was a lifelong position, however now Senators serve until the age of 75 - Know as the „political retirement home‟ - Many senators are previous MPs, or members of the Civil Service - Position is secure, as senators cannot be fired Senate Representation - Regional Equality - 24 senators per region - Regions are: Ontario, Maritimes, Quebec, West, plus 6 for Newfoundland, and 1 for each territory (105 seats in total, with the possibility for an upper limit of 113* see notes on the add 8 rule) - At the time of confederation, there were 24 seats for each of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, however with the addition of provinces, this has been altered - Demand for senate reform: - Number of seats per region doesn‟t reflect Canada‟s current population - BC and Alberta are only given 6 each, yet they are the largest provinces after Ontario and Quebec - Maritimes are overrepresented according to population, yet are unwilling to give up their extra seats and voice in the Senate Feisty Senate - Senate checks the power of the executive - EG. The Free Trade Agreement of 1988 - Mulroney took power after a substantial period of Liberal majority rule in the HOC - During this period of Liberal rule, Trudeau appointed many senators, and therefore the Senate had a liberal majority - Despite having the largest majority government in history (over 200 seats) Mulroney was unable to pass a Free Trade agreement bill through the Senate due to the Liberal opposition - Eventually an election was called, essentially over this issue, and once again Mulroney gained a large majority- signaling that the population was largely in favor of the Free Trade bill - At this point, the Senate acknowledged that passing the bill was the will of the people, and could no longer stall it‟s passing into law without huge backlash - EG. The GST debate - When Mulroney introduced the GST bill, it was hugely unpopular with the population who saw it as a tax increase - Once again with a Liberal majority in the Senate, Mulroney was unable to force the bill through, despite his person belief that it would benefit the nation - At this point he invoked a little used provision of CA,1867 which stated that in the case of a „deadlock‟ in the Senate, 4 or 8 additional senators (one or two from each of Ontario, Quebec, t
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