Governing from the Centre - Savoie

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22 Apr 2012

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Governing from the Centre
Donald Savoie
PM’s pursue initiatives without consulting their Cabinets*** has been
happening for years.
PM’s have become the spokespersons for the cabinets: they are the focal
point of the government and the administration and they clearly dominate
inside government. Provide leadership, style and coherence of government.
No single cabinet minister can have the same impact as the PM.
With a majority govt, PMs have all the important levers of power.
Any PM weaknesses, real or imagined, once exposed will stimulate the
opposition and media, and will make everything more difficult to govern.
At the Cabinet table, the PM sits at the middle and decides which ministers sit
where. The pm is the only government member to occupy an official
The Canadian PM’s power extends beyond the federal government. Deals
regularly with provincial premiers and territorial leaders
Premiers are first ministers too enables them to deal directly with the PM.
Contact between first ministers will inevitably draw the pm and his advisers
into specific files and in government departments in search of info.
Federal political parties are not much more than partisan political machines
providing the fund-raising capacity and poll worker needed to fight an
election campaign.
Red Book: Liberal in 1993 election. Did not take root in a conference of party
members from across the country drawn together to hammer out a political
manifesto or an election platform. Purpose: was to draw attention away from
the negative press coverage over Chrétien’s alleged inability to articulate a
vision for the country, to present new ideas and to dispel the charge often
heard in the early 1990s that he was yesterday’s man.
The media and public in Canada will focus on the clash of party leaders
their debates will impact the election campaign.
The local candidate isn’t much of a factor anymore and shouldn’t be too upset
if he loses.
PMs bring their own style to managing their Cabinets
o Trudeau was more tolerant of interventions from his ministers at
Cabinet meetings than Chretien.
o “Canadian PMs were usually powerful but patient”
o The PM has access to virtually all the necessary levers in Cabinet to
ensure that he’s the “boss” – he can dominate Cabinet deliberations
and its decision making.
o PM’s are convinced that they need to manage their Cabinet, to have a
firm hand in shaping its discussions and decisions for their
government to function properly
o Transition planning is the first sign that the PM has the upper hand*
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