Parliament in an Age of Reform

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22 Apr 2012

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Parliament in an Age of Reform. Topic 4: House of Commons
Four essential functions of parliament:
o 1) to make a government. Establish a legitimate government
through the electoral process
o 2) Make a government work. Give it the authority, funds and
resources for governing the country.
o 3) Make a government behave. Be a watchdog over the
o 4) Make an alternative government. Enable the opposition to
present its case to the public and become a credible choice for
replacing the party in power.
Two other essentials
o The function of parliament as a recruiting and training ground for
political leaders
o Function of political communication, where the processes of
parliamentary discussion express the mind of the people, teach
society and inform both government and citizen of grievances and
Parliament is not simply a technical matter of making parliament moer
effective and efficient.
It has two modes of operation, the adversarial and the consensual
o Adversarial is most prominent in question period and debates
o Consensual, in committee work.
There’s a severe problem in the role and position of the member in
parliament in Canada. The underlying problem is that the processes of
representation, of parties, electoral attitude and behaviour all contribute to
creating a House of Commons composed of amateurs ask to perform a very
difficult and underappreciated job.
There is a paradox the parties are so influential and powerful within
parliament that they’re weak outside it – both in terms of gaining consistent
strong allegiances within the electorate and in terms of generating ideas and
policy proposals.
It’s under severe stress because of the growth of government. Two systems
(parliament and a government with a cabinet as a link) have become three;
an autonomous bureaucracy.
Parliamentary systems means government in and wit, but not by, parliament.
o “Responsible government”: ministers and the cabinet have power and
are responsible for its use. The government is expected to be a
trustworthy steward of the nation’s affairs. Responsible for the use of
powers and are responsible and accountable to parliament.
Cabinet has centralized powers which are more like those
normally associated with an autocratic dictatorship.
o Representative: MP’s represent every citizen in Canada.
Media, television and newspapers are crucial part.
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