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POL112H5 (65)

Parliament Lecture

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Political Science
Graham White

PARLIAMENT: OUR MAIN INSTITUTION OF: REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY (FOCUS ON HOUSE OF COMMONS, NOT SENATE) BASIC STRUCTURE OF HofC:  308 MPs, ELECTED ON A ‘REP BY POP’ BASIS (MORE OR LESS) (called ridings)– 338 IN 2015  FIVE POLITICAL PARTIES (C, L, ,N, G, B)  MINIMAL NUMBER OF INDEPENDENT MPs (FOUR AS OF OCT/2013; NONE elected as independent) (SMALL NUMBER of independently elected MPs, rarely occurs, usually elected MPs leave their parties once in parliament- independent MPs are irrelevant)  CABINET OF 26 26 MPs (including PM) (all have to be members of parliament/ chosen by the PM) NO SENATOR (usually is one)  PLUS 13 ‘MINISTERS OF STATE’ (JUNIOR MINISTERS) (influence stronger then MPs) MPs AS REPRESENTATIVES Different concepts of representation  bring forward and promote views/concerns of the public  serve as advocate for individuals/ groups („OMBUDSMAN FUNCTION‟)  mirror social composition of population (social characteristics- are they representatives, do they mirror what the population looks like)  are MPs/MPPs//MLAs SOCIALLY REPRESENTATIVE – (YES AND NO- Geography- yes, MPs from every part of the country, pretty representative of both the English and French population. Typical Profile of MP- white, male, middle class, middle age- relatively few women, visible minorities, NO poor people, no seriously disabled, very few young people (almost no one under 35), etc. Not representing the country. (CAUSES disengagement, citizens do not believe that they are being represented in parliament) (they don‟t look like me, they don‟t understand my circumstances, so I‟m less convinced about laws they pass that affect me) Characteristics of Westminster Parliaments (what we have, means any parliamentary institution that has evolved from British tradition) Some constitutional principles; some political practices  Strongly collective  Dominated by parties  Strong party discipline [key number is not 308 MP (party discipline causes all members of the party to act as one), it‟s 4 (political parties) , or 1 (one PM in power, gets to call the shots)]  Highly adversarial  Cabinet has extensive resources  Staff (political and bureaucratic)  Legal-constitutional authority  MPs have limited resources power is concentrated in PM and CABINET; MPs have little power  both government and opposition MPs  individual MPs and committees  Illustration: ‘DELEGATED LEGISLATION”  can‟t change the bill, but you can make regulations  regulation can be drafted, has to be physically signed by the ministers,  the PM can remove a lot of regulations with very little consequence. …. But it does have SOME power  publicity/embarrassment (look at what happens in parliament, question why individuals are acting like children: One reason- bc MP‟s have so little power, they have to do thing informally. The try to generate publicity, causes media coverage, and the government is embarrassed. This causes the PM to either stand firm and not change their mind, but if they realize that there is a strong public opinion something will change)  minority vs. majority government (majority- a single party has more then half the seats in the house of commons- they will win all the votes. Minority- no single party has more then half- in order to pass anything they need support of other political parties. THUS, in a minority government there are more opportunities for equality and various parties to have a voice- opposition has way more power in minority)  accountability mechanisms (every day question period- the PM and Cabinet have to be there to answer questions from their toughest opponents on more serious matters. Must be prepared to answer any question, at any time. They need to prepare for these question periods. Opposition yells accusations at PMs and Cabinet members, the questions are not properly answered, just diverged). THE PRIME MINISTER: ELECTED DICTATOR? PM HAS TREMENDOUS POWER ARE THERE EFFECTIVE CONSTRAINTS ON THIS POWER?  CAN‟T REMOVE PM A DEMOCRATIC PARADOX: CANADIAN PARTY LEADERS ARE CHOSEN BY THOUSANDS/TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PARTY MEMBERS, UNLIKE IN OTHER ANGLO-CELTIC WESTMINSTER SYSTEMS LIKE THE UK, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND. THIS MAKES CANADA MORE DEMOCRATIC ... DOESN‟T IT? A) FORMAL  APPOINTS, SHUFFLES, DISMISSES MINISTERS  ADVISES G-G ON DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT (call an election, the Governor General only has to listen to the PM)  APPOI
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