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POL214Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Constitution Act, 1982, Canada Act 1982, Liberal Democracy

Political Science
Course Code
Victoria Wohl
Study Guide

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House of Commons
What role does the House of Commons play in the election of governments?
What happens when the House of Commons withdraws its confidence in the government?
Why is the Burkean concept of the role of the MP outdated?
The House of Commons has a number of functions. Which of these does it perform well?
Which does it perform poorly? Give reasons for your answers.
“In the parliamentary system, a party can lose an election and still wind up as the government.”
Discuss the validity of this statement.
How can political parties with no realistic expectation of ever winning an election and forming
the government still exercise influence in a parliamentary democracy?
What are the three concepts of the role of the MP? Which is the dominant concept and why?
What are the perceived problems with the parliamentary system that Senate reform and free
votes for MPs are supposed to solve?
“Parliamentary government is not about giving citizens direct influence over the making of
government decisions. Instead, it is about ensuring the public gets to express an opinion about
those decisions after they have been made.” Discuss the validity of this statement.
Stephen Harper won the May 2011 election when his party captured over 50% of the seats in the
House of Commons. But he also won the 2006 and 2008 elections, even though his party failed
to take 50% of the seats in each of those elections. Why?
Explain the advantages and disadvantages of party discipline in the parliamentary system of
In a democracy the people elect the government. Using this definition of democracy, to what
extent is the parliamentary system of government democratic? To what extent does it fail to
meet this definition of democracy?
In the Canadian parliamentary democracy, our most important democratic institution is the
House of Commons. Yet the effectiveness and legitimacy of the House of Commons is regularly
questioned, by parliamentary reformers, rights advocates, and western Canadians. Why is the
House of Commons vulnerable to criticism? In your opinion, are the critiques valid?
Less than 50% of the seats in the House of Commons are held by Conservative MPs. Why then
does Stephen Harper get to be Prime Minister? [this was pre-2011 election]
How does party discipline affect the House of Commons’ representative function?
“Without party discipline, responsible government would collapse.” Discuss the validity of this
How do small parties like the NDP still play a role in government even when they don’t actually
win a federal election?
How does party discipline affect the accountability function of the House of Commons?
Parliamentary democracy in Canada is based on territorial representation. What are the strengths
and weaknesses of this system of democratic representation?

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Is it correct to say that if the Government loses a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, it
must call an election? Explain your answer.
“The parliamentary system of government is the right system for a country like Canada whose
political culture legitimizes big government activism.” Discuss the validity of this statement.
What happens when the House of Commons votes to reject the government’s budget?
Why is it possible for a government to stay in office even when it has less than 50% of the seats
in the House of Commons?
Why is a Member of Parliament (MP) who is determined to follow the constituency role of the
MP in the parliamentary system, likely to get into trouble with his/her party leader?
Are free votes the solution for rigid imposition of party discipline by party leaders?
How does the parliamentary system enable small parties such as the NDP to exercise influence
over government policy, even though they never actually win a federal election?
Role of GG
“The Queen may be Canada’s head of state, but she does not govern.” Explain.
“Even when the Governor General is exercising the reserve or personal prerogative powers,
he/she is bound by the conventions of responsible government.” Explain.
How does responsible government make the prerogative powers of the Crown accountable?
“Paradoxically, the role of the non-elected Governor General is to protect democracy.” Discuss
the validity of this statement.
Why is it difficult to spell out precisely the conditions under which the Governor-General might
choose to exercise the reserve powers of the Crown?
Why are the reserve powers of the Crown, also known as the personal prerogatives, so rarely
Why is a literal reading of the terms of the BNA Act the wrong way to understand the role
played by Canada’s head of state?
Why is it accurate to say that Canada’s constitution is both written and unwritten?
Does the Governor General have to agree when the Prime Minister asks him/her to call an
election? Explain your answer.
On December 4, 2008, Prime Minister Harper, who at that time was the head of a minority
government, met with Governor General Jean to discuss proroguing Parliament. Why did
Liberal leader Stéphane Dion publicly release the terms of the proposed coalition with the NDP
(which was supported by the Bloc Québécois), in the days before that meeting?
Is the Prime Minister the head of government or the head of state? Why isn’t s/he both?

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According to the ‘formative event’ theory of political culture, what are the two most important
‘formative’ events shaping Canadian political culture?
What is the point of studying political culture? In other words, what is it about our political
system we hope to explain by studying the Canadian political culture?
If political culture sets the outer boundaries of what is considered acceptable political behaviour,
what does the continued existence of the NDP tell us about the Canadian political culture?
What do the fragment and formative event theories of Canadian political culture try to explain?
What do conservatism and socialism have in common, in the Canadian context?
Why was the American Revolution a crucial event in the creation of Canada?
Why do we discuss Canadian political culture, by making comparisons to American political
What are the basic features of the Canadian political culture? Which of these are also
characteristic of other liberal democracies? Which are distinctively Canadian?
Why did the Canada Act, 1982 have to be passed by the British Parliament before Canada could
be legally sovereign?
Why was the amendment of the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly known as the British North
America Act) a sensitive political issue in Canada before patriation of the constitution in 1982?
Why is the constitutional process of 1981-82, culminating in the passage of the Constitution Act,
1982, known as the “patriation” of the constitution?
Canada became a country in 1867. But the British government could still change Canada’s
constitution until 1982. Why?
What was the significance of the ceremony attended by the Queen on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
on April 17, 1982?
Confederation Bargain
“Creating the Canadian federation in 1867 was as much about decentralization as it was about
centralization.” Discuss.
During the debates on Confederation, George-Etienne Cartier said that the idea of bringing the
English and French together in a “unified” or single government was “impossible.” What did he
Why were the provinces in British North America in 1867 willing to support Confederation?
“Confederation can be seen as a re-arrangement of the terms under which British North
Americans were prepared to live together.” Discuss the validity of this statement.
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