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David Docherty Parliament Making the Case for Relevance.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 221
Rick Schultz

David Docherty, “Parliament: Making the Case for Relevance” in Bickerton and Gagnon (eds.) Canadian Politics (4 ed.)(2004) pp.163-183  People lost faith in the Parliament  Argument: legislatures in Canada do matter, but in order to properly function they require not just a strong governing party, but an equally strong opposition and government caucus to keep them in line  Legislatures are relevant only when the government allow them to be, but this is a fundamental of good and accountable government  Canadian must understand the roles and functions of parliament to understand its relevance Responsible Government in Canada *the definition of responsible government is included on the second page*  Responsible government is responsive to both the legislators and the citizens  Our emphasis on party discipline suggest that, when there is a majority government, the confidence of the House is a given  When a minority government, government is much more responsive to the opposition  The elected government must move on with its agenda the moment they are elected  Ways the legislature can keep the government accountable: question period, legislative committees, caucuses and debating legislation.  Problem for parliament is finding a balance that allows the government to pursue its mandated program while allowing those outside of Cabinet to question the executive and ensure they govern in a transparent manner  If the opposition and backbenchers do not perform their duties, the public will believe that the government is a dictatorship and it can do whatever it wants  Citizens also fear a government that avoids the legislature (ex: limiting the number of days an assembly sits), because it creates a democratic deficit  If the opposition is too obstructive, the citizens feel their government cannot pursue public good  Citizens are left wondering if the problems lie with our representative institutions or the people elected to serve them  For a parliament to work, it needs both proper rules and good representatives  The rules of legislature in Canada place to much power in the hands of the PM and the cabinet  As a result, the elected representatives place too much importance on joining the cabinet The House of Commons and the Senate  3 components of the Parliament: crown, Senate and the House of commons  Critics of the senate say that the senators slow down the work of the democratically elected House of commons  However, slowing down the House of Commons is a consequence of its functions (allows the government to reflect carefully on the policies and legislations it is pursuing)  Until the senators are elected in a democratic way, people will continue to see the Senate as a illegitimate institution (because they are appointed by PM and serve until 75 years old) Cabinet versus Private Members  3 factors that give cabinet ministers added influence and authority in the low
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