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Lecture

Political Science 1020E Lecture Notes - Westminster System, Party System, Responsible Government


Department
Political Science
Course Code
Political Science 1020E
Professor
Charles Jones

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June 5, 2008
Forms of Government Cont’d
Separation of Powers - Political power is divided between:
Executive
oDay to day governing
Legislative
oLaw-making
Judiciary
oLegal branch
Liberal democracies have different separations of powers
Parliamentary Systems
Parliament
o“Talk shop”, French = “parle”
oRepresentative chamber, usually based on territorial “ridings”
(constituencies)
Evolution of British Westminster model of Parliament
Middle Ages
oPower held mainly by aristocracy (lords) who force King/Queen to make
concessions to them
Ex: Magna Carta of 1215
Late Middle Ages
oKing/Queen has all power
oParliament is now largely advisory only
The earlier representative chambers of the aristocracy and
commoners
Early Modern Period
oParliament asserts itself
oBegins to challenge the monarch’s laws and decisions
1689: “Glorious Revolution”
oParliament fully takes legislative powers from monarch
Is able to defeat monarch’s decisions
“Responsible Government”
oBeginnings of independent judiciary
King/Queen becomes increasingly symbolic figures
oExecutive power taken over by Parliament
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House of Lords begins to be secondary to House of Commons
20th Century
oThe creation of a party system of government based on party discipline
Fuses legislative and executive power in the governing
Parliamentary party
oPrime Minister begins to become almost as powerful as monarchs had
been in the late Middle Ages
oHouse of Lords becomes almost powerless in practice
More independent judiciary but subordinate to Parliament
British model exported to British Empire
oCanada has a parliamentary system based on the Westminster model
With an appointed Senate instead of an aristocratic House of Lords
**NOTE**
Canada is still a constitutional monarchy
The Queen is s till officially our Head of State
oShe still rules the country (in theory) through her agent, the Governor-
General
Ex: The Governor-General must sign all bills for them to become
law. He/She must approve all government appointments. However,
the Governor-General’s approval is a “rubber stamp”
There are parliamentary systems not based on the Westminster model which are
similar to it but are different
oEx: Germany (not based on a constitutional monarchy)
All parliamentary regimes have in common an idea of “responsible government”
oThe executive who is responsible to the legislature
oIf those who hold the executive power lose the confidence of the
legislature (51%+), the executive must resign and a new one chosen from
an existing Parliament or new elections called to create a new Parliament
The problem is that a responsible government is largely a dead letter in Canada
oThe government (led by the PM and the Cabinet) almost always holds
more that half the “seats” in the legislature
oWith party discipline, the government Members of Parliament are unlikely
to lose confidence in the executive
“Majority” government
oParty which holds 51%+ seats in the Parliament
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