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2013-09-30 The Canadian and US Political Systems.docx

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Political Science
Political Science 2211E
Adam Harmes

The Canadian and US Political Systems September 30, 2013 Today’s Topics 1. Key Institutions of Canadian and U.S. Political Systems 2. Recent Trends in Canadian Political System (e.g. rise of courts in government) 3 Components of Political Systems 1. Legislature: Legislates by passing policy/laws 2. Executive: Governs by initiating and enforcing policy/laws 3. Judiciary: Interprets policy and laws to settle disputes The Legislature in Canada -Canada’s legislature is the Parliament of Canada -Bi-cameral (two house) institution Parliament -House of Commons (Lower House) -elected Members of Parliament (MPs) -308 ridings -Senate (Upper House) -Senators appointed by Prime Minister -provide regional representation -105 senators (24 in Ontario, Quebec; 24 for the Maritime region; 6 for Newfoundland, 1 for Territories) U.S. Congress -House of Representatives -Congressmen/women elected every 2 years -state divided by 435 districts (each one represented by a Congressman/Congresswoman) -Senate -Senators elected for 6 years terms -1/3 elected every 2 years -there are 100 Senators (2 per state) -sometimes coincide with presidential election; sometimes coincide with midterm elections Functions of the Legislature -Passes laws and policy based on majority votes -Majority vs minority government -Whipped votes, confidence votes and free votes 1 -whipped vote: party whip is an individual who will go around and make sure MPs will vote for a certain side (yes or no); party discipline -MPs aren’t dependent on their party -but if they want to be cabinet minister, you usually have to vote with the leader -if not, leader can kick you out of caucus and you have to sit in the independent caucus -confidence votes: if at any point MPs vote against PM, there would be an election for a new PM -due to party discipline, it almost never happens -even on a confidence vote, Kathleen Wynne would most likely lose because the Liberal Party is a minority government -e.g. confidence votes: budget (need to negotiate with other parties to avoid election) -free votes: PM thinks it’s a controversial issue and let members vote their conscience or what their constituents want; MPs won’t be punished -majority government: your party wins more than half the seats in the House of Commons -party discipline: leader has MPs vote to pass laws -minority government: your party wins more seats than any other parties; they have to cut a deal with another party and form a coalition -Senate: in theory, they can stop laws from passing -they don’t have legitimacy to prevent certain laws to pass; they usually pass them Functions of the Legislature -Have input on legislation through parliamentary committees -Review legislation, hold hearings, recommend changes -Question Period to question the executive -questioning PM, yelling and criticizing -in theory, that’s how you hold the PM and the party accountable -committees include MPs on cabinet The Executive in Canada -Initiates and enforces policies and laws -Includes: -Crown -Prime Minister -Cabinet -Bureaucracy (or civil servant) Crown -Queen is official head of state Represented by the Governor General 2 -Appointed by PM -Queen is a figurehead -GG mostly ceremonial position -Reads through speech The Prime Minister -Leader of the party with the most seats -Elected leader by the party -Initiates policy and laws -Appoint ministers, senators, ambassadors, judges, etc. -Is assisted by political staff in the PMO -made up of political staff (not bureaucracy) -primarily party people (people associated with the party) -caucus wouldn’t immediately vote to kick out leader; they would have leadership elections -different for UK andAustralia; can oust leader (e.g. Kevin Rudd) The Cabinet -Ministers responsible for a “portfolio” i.e. department -Ministers are elected MPs appointed to Cabinet by the PM -PM can’t appoint all the MPs from a specific province to Cabinet positions -PM would appoint at least one MP from the provinces and territories to the positions -Assisted by Parliamentary Secretaries The Bureaucracy -Civil servants employed by the government -Led by deputy ministers -Provides technical advice and implements policy -in initiating and implementing policies -implement regulations The Executive in the US -Separate from the legislature -White House vs Congress -President is elected directly -Cabinet is non-elected and appointed by the President -e.g. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc. (can be politicians, academics, etc.) -can be chosen based on merit, not really regional representation -Obama cannot pass laws unless it passes both houses of Congress -gridlock: different parties controlling executive/both houses of Congress 3 -today: Obama as President; Republicans control House of Rep; Democrats control Senate -Presidents weaker than PMs due to separation of power US Ele
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