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POLS 2250 (89)
Chapter 13

Chapter 13

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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 2250
Nanita Mohan

CHAPTER 13: The Legislature and the Bureaucracy - interactions between public servants and the legislative branch are unlike any other relationship involving appointed officials and other actors in the political process - when public servants deal with senior politicians in the cabinet decision making process or with appointed officials from other departments the relationship is usually direct - constitutional conventions require that elected officials in the executive assume responsibility of the government and that appointed officials remain invisible – if they wish to discuss a mistake in the administration of a program, they are unable to interact with the officially, thus they must go to the minister in charge of the department (remedies are than applied) Ministerial Responsibility 1. individual ministerial responsibility: the responsibility of the minister, as the political head if the department to answer to the legislature and through the legislature to the public both for his/her personal acts and for those of departmental subordinates - the minister is accountable for Parliament for all the administrative errors of his/her department - the minister is answerable to Parliament in that he/she must explain and defend the actions of his/her department before Parliament 2. collective responsibility: the responsibility if ministers as a group (ex. as members of the cabinet), for the policies and management of the government as a whole Political Neutrality - a constitutional doctrine or convention according to which public servants should not engage in activities that are likely impair or appear to impair their impartiality of the public service - all activities are carried out “in the name of the minister” and appointed officials are for all intents and purposes invisible to the public - public servants neither promote or defend the policies and decisions of government - public servants must also refrain from engaging in any overt political activities that may detract from their ability to serve a minister - public servants remain anonymous - institutional change and not the wishes of a few ministers to escape responsibility: 1. public servants now appear before legislative committees to provide answers of elected representatives (however every effort is made to refrain from attempt to justify/defend actions of the minister) 2. access to information legislation allows any interested party an opportunity to gain access to documents that may reveal the role of administrative officials 3. there now exists a number of officers or agents of Parliament whose task is to help elected representatives to examine the actions of public servants (ex. Office of the Auditor General) 4. the media has become more aggressive in their efforts to tell their readers about government activities, and public servants are more involved in media - the declining anonymity of public servants have serious implications for the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility – no one is now found responsible for wrong doings “The Bargain” - another way to think of the doctrines of individual ministerial responsibility and political neutrality if that together they amount to a bargain between the minister and the appointed officials - public servants give the minister their loyalty and non-partisanship in exchange for security and protection from political attacks - both parties benefit from this arrangement (makes for good government) The Resignation of Ministers - a minister must resign if a serious administrative error is committed by their department is exposed - however it is now accepted that is it unreasonable to hold a minister personally responsible - when errors are committed by an official under their direction, ministers are responsible for promptly taking the necessary remedial steps for providing assurances to the Parliament that correct the action - however some misdoings can be tracked back to a single minister (ex. a failed policy initiative) The Answerability of Ministers - ministers do explain and defend their department’s policies and administration before Parliament (especially during Question Period) - opposition may seek answers and explanations - a minister may suffer political consequences if they don’t do so - experienced ministers tend to be artful dodgers who often bob and weave to avoid direct hits from the Opposition’s inquiries and allegations Legislative Control and Influence - elected representatives in the legisl
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