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The Legislative Branch.docx

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Political Science
Andre Lecours

The Legislative Branch 1- The House of Commons - House for responsible government  Only the house of Commons, not the Senate can ask the question of confidence and make the government fall - Center of the legislative process  It makes law with a contribution from the Senate, the Governor General and the executive  Most bills originate from the executive but there is a fusion of the two branches  So, in the House, government sits – prime minister and cabinet sit and introduce government bills  In Canada – much more straight forward with majorities because of party discipline – what the executive wants to do will get done -  Can be opposition in the Senate but because they are unelected they have little democratic legitimacy – tend not to veto legislation from house of Commons  There can be external influences – public policy announced can incite pressures from the public, corporations, etc. but the Prime Minister has democratic legitimacy to impose his policies and has a democratic mandate to do so  MP does not have a lot of leeway – tension between party discipline and his or her personal position or the position of his or her riding  In Caucus, when parties meet, MP’s can speak their minds but when a decision is made on a position, then the MP becomes tied to this position - Committees, question period  Commitees: between second and third reading, members of parliament who have an interest in that field of work, must be proportional to the party’s representation in the house, if there is a majority government then there will be a majority presence of one party and have the power to decide what they want, there may be adjustments and amendments made to the bill, there is less partisanship, more opening, etc.  1 reading- just read to the house  Question Period- way for politicians to be seen in action by your riding, highly media- tized, logic of question period holds government into account (this is done by opposition parties)  PURPOSE OF QUESTION PERIOD – making the government defend their positions, holding them accountable, etc. - The members of Parliament: 'nobodies' away from the hill  MPs- a position of influence, not of power  Back bencher MP does not have political power (sometimes because of party discipline)  MP’s have influence – still some logic in a citizen talking to his or her MP to get things done – can try to change things as long as it doesn’t go against policy  MP’s – part of their work is in the house and part of their work is in their ridings  Elections are dangerous for MP’s and sometimes MP’s are stuck in a place politically that doesn’t resonate back house (party position in not popular in the riding) so the MP must work the riding  Social aspect to their job - The question of provincial representation  Not a House that represents provinces – represents the whole of the country but federalism dictates that there is a tension paid to provincial representation  Smaller provinces are over represented - because of federalism- because PEI is a province and therefore it is a political community  Representation is not just about population – there are historical factors as well. PEI had its own political community when it joined Canada and because it is so small, it should be a bit over represented  2011 Bill- fair representation act- Adjust provincial representation to take into account provinces whose population had been fast growing – BC, Alberta and Ontario  Quebec gets 25% of the seats , now 23.6%  15 more seats to Ontario, 6 to BC and 6 to Alberta, 2- The Senate - Government of Canada – seeking some form of Senate reform - History  1867 – most time spent discussing the Senate – it wasn’t clear what type of Senate the founding fathers wanted – one of the things that ended up emerging was a distrust of democracy – sense that having an elected senate might be too much. Having an appointed Senate could provide a necessary check to a more popular form of democracy  Classic slogan to describe the role of the Senate is to give legislation a sober second thought  Senate was created as an appointed body. It was also created to involve some form of territorial representation – has a certain number of seats for the West, the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario  Senates members are appointed by PM and the history of the Canada Senate has been that its appointment process follows a highly partisan logic – house where members are appointed because they are a prominent conservative/liberal/etc.  Problem with the Senate – unelected and bizarre to have an unelected senate in a democracy  Because it’s members are appointed, party discipline in the Senate is a bit looser (it cannot veto legislation but they can raise issues with legislation, and raise public awareness with these issues)  They have a critical eye on legislation  The Senate can create commissions that can look into a variety of things: relationship with USA, health care, etc.  Different from what HofC can do  Bone of contention in the Constitution- final result was to have an upper house appointed by the Prime Minister designed to provide sober second thought on legislation  They have a territorial component: regionally organized (representation by 24)  Prime Ministers elect senators that they know will be sympathetic to their positions but party discipline is not strong because senators do not have to face elections so the PM cannot do anything to these senators  The senators have some autonomy whereas people in the House of Commons tend not to distance themselves from the party’s positions  Not much party discipline in the senate  Senators can raise public’s attention to issues of legislation that they think are not adequate but they cannot veto things because they are unelected - Role and
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