Cabinets and First Ministers – White

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22 Apr 2012
Course
Professor
Cabinets and First Ministers White
First Minister
Singularly powerful but publicly held to account for their actions through
Question Period, in the media and by the people come elections.
o Fall short of autocracy.
Savoie’s argument: rest on substantial expansion in the size, scope and
influence of the political-bureaucratic apparatus supporting the PM, the PMO
and the PCO.
o Clerk of the PCO has now essentially become deputy minister to the
PM
o Not only the PMO large but senior staff positions are held exclusively
by partisans
o PM can and does impose his will on the cabinet can dominate
Cabinet deliberations and its decision making.
PM’s Power
Thomas: the constraints on PMial power are substantial and that power in
the core executive is relational primarily, but not exclusively, the first
minister and the cabinet.
Cabinet is doing much less to suggest PM Chretien shifted power from
cabinet to individual minister rather than himself.
Various central agencies constitute a formidable, monolithic administrative
machine backing the first minister.
Finance Minister typically powerful, another weakness in the first minister
as autocrat thesis. Rarely less than a formidable force in Canadian cabinet.
Firmly established principle in Canadian governments that although the first
minister may influence its overall direction and occasionally prescribe
specific provisions, the budget is essentially the finance minister’s preserve.
The PM’s network of media advisors and pollstors derives from the supine
nature of the parliamentary caucus.
Demands of media are relentless not only is media more intrusive and
aggressive, but they expect immediate responses from political leader 24/7
therefore first minister require far more extensive media staff than their
predecessors just to keep from losing ground.
It’s unthinkable that a Canadian caucus might depose a sitting PM. Canadian
caucuses lack both the formal power and the process for deposing party
leaders, but may be able to make their life sufficiently difficult that leaders
quit of their own accord.
Provincial Government
Premier enjoys authority significantly greater than that of his federal
counterpart. This renders control by one person even with the support of an
extensive political-bureaucratic apparatus
Position of the Premier is notably stronger than in the federal cabinet. Since
regional representation was less pronounced in provincial cabinets,
provincial premier encountered less diffusion of power in their cabinets.
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