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Forms of Government (2)

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Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Charles Jones

1 June 5, 2008 Forms of Government Cont’d Separation of Powers - Political power is divided between: • Executive o Day to day governing • Legislative o Law-making • Judiciary o Legal branch • Liberal democracies have different separations of powers Parliamentary Systems • Parliament o “Talk shop”, French = “parle” o Representative chamber, usually based on territorial “ridings” (constituencies) Evolution of British Westminster model of Parliament • Middle Ages o Power held mainly by aristocracy (lords) who force King/Queen to make concessions to them • Ex: Magna Carta of 1215 • Late Middle Ages o King/Queen has all power o Parliament is now largely advisory only • The earlier representative chambers of the aristocracy and commoners • Early Modern Period o Parliament asserts itself o Begins to challenge the monarch’s laws and decisions • 1689: “Glorious Revolution” o Parliament fully takes legislative powers from monarch • Is able to defeat monarch’s decisions • “Responsible Government” o Beginnings of independent judiciary • King/Queen becomes increasingly symbolic figures o Executive power taken over by Parliament 2 • House of Lords begins to be secondary to House of Commons • 20 Century o The creation of a party system of government based on party discipline • Fuses legislative and executive power in the governing Parliamentary party o Prime Minister begins to become almost as powerful as monarchs had been in the late Middle Ages o House of Lords becomes almost powerless in practice • More independent judiciary but subordinate to Parliament • British model exported to British Empire o Canada 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 o She 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 o Ex: Germany (not based on a constitutional monarchy) • All parliamentary regimes have in common an idea of “responsible government” o The executive who is responsible to the legislature o If 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 o The government (led by the PM and the Cabinet) almost always holds more that half the “seats” in the legislature o With party discipline, the government Members of Parliament are unlikely to lose confidence in the executive • “Majority” government o Party which holds 51%+ seats in the Parliament 3  In Canada, the House of Commons • “Minority Government” o Usually the largest party which holds less than 50% of the seats in Parliament  In Canada, the House of Commons o It needs the support of one or more minor parties to control more than half the seats o Such a government is more likely to lose the confidence of the legislature Bicameralism • Parliament is composed of two legislatures o Britain  House of Lords  House of Commons o Canada  Senate  House of Commons o In the Westminster m
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