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Chapter 6

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Political Science
POLS 2300
Tamara Small

POLS 2300: Canadian Politics and Government Chapter 6: Parliament - Pierre Trudeau said that Liberal backbenchers were “trained seats”, political power has shifted from Parliament to the executive, does this mean that the House of Commons is an irrelevant sideshow that only provides the illusion of democracy? The General Functions of Parliament - Parliaments are expected to carry out a variety of functions such as: o Representation – voicing concerns and interests o Conferring legitimacy – widely accepted rules and procedures must be followed o Scrutiny – Members of parliament examine the proposals and actions of the executive o Recruitment – PM chooses Cabinet from governing party’s Members of Parliament o Law making – Examining legislative proposals and developing modifications to improve proposals o Financing government – Money bills must start in H of C and be approved in both Houses o Political education – Informs public, question period, committee hearings, reports, budget debates o Accountability – Government obligated to submit its program to Parliament, defend it, and resign if the H of C lacks confidence in it The Canadian Parliament - Canada’s Parliament consists of three elements: o The House of Commons  Citizens of each electoral district elect the members o The Senate  Senators are appointed on the recommendation of the PM, hold office until the age of retirement at 75 o The Queen  GG represents Queen - Parliament can be described as bicameral legislature: two chambers, each which meets separately, each chamber has the authority to initiate most legislation British Roots - The British Parlithent is called “Mother of Parliaments” because of its age, having started in the 13 century, some attribute this honour to proto-legislatures earlier in history - Three parts to parliament because over time 3 great estates (Crown, the nobility, and the common people) - In British history, effective power has passed from the Crown, to the Lords, to the Commons, and from the Commons to the executive - Such was the origin of the two houses of parliament: the barons and bishops meeting in one place, and the commoners, the knights from the shires and the burgesses – the leading citizens from the boroughs - The subordinate status of the early Commons is evident in today’s rituals, which the Speech from the Throne is read in the upper house, with the Commons assembled silently at the bar - Glorious Revolution: The series of events that led to the removal of James 2 from the throne in 1688, his replacement by William and Mary and their acceptance of the Bill of Rights, 1689 - Bill of Rights, 1689: The bill that followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which added protections for parliamentary free speech, regular session and other protections, and is generally regarded as the stage of British history when the Crown accepted the supremacy of Parliament The Evolution of Parliament in Canada - At least 9 ministries after 1848 had to resign, advise dissolution, or change their leadership and other personnel when they faced the possible loss of support of the Assembly - Gradually parliamentary influence become more restricted - It amounted to the right of the opposition to demand answers from the government and significant time allowed by the rules of the House for the opposition to criticize the governments - The US Congress differs much more dramatically from the Canadian Parliament and the parliamentary system The House of Commons “Lower House” - The House of Commons is the more important of the two because: o The H of C is a confidence chamber: meaning that the life of the government of the day rests on the continued support of majority of the members of the Commons o The Commons members are elected so it offers a representative government o The House holds the government accountable for its actions o The House is where grievances and problems are usually raised and brought to the attention of the public and media Representation in the House of Commons - H of C hinges primarily on the concept of representation by population - Each province is entitled to a share of seats in the Commons, qualifications to this principle to protect the smaller provinces - Ontario and Quebec have 62% of the pop in Canada, comprise 59% of Commons membership, Ontario is 35% of Commons - Western provinces have 31% of population and 30% of seats - Atlantic has 7% of population and 10% of seats - Territories have 0.3% of population and 1% of seats Styles of Representation - Three different styles of representation that an elected member might adopt: o Delegates: act according to the wishes of their constituents o Trustees: use their own judgment in acting in best interest o Politicos: combine these delegate and trustee roles - In the closed-door meetings their party’s caucus: parliamentary members who belong to a particular party, MPs may alert their colleagues to the interests and viewpoints of people in their district and try to persuade their caucus to adopt certain policies and positions Party Discipline - Party Discipline: expectation that parliamentary members will vote in keeping with the position that their party has adopted in caucus, party discipline very strict in H of C - MP’s are expected to vote in keeping with their position even if it clashes with the views and interests of their constituents - All of the members of the governing party almost always support legislation proposed by the Cabinet - Although individual representative is not irrelevant, representation is primarily by political parties rather than by individuals acting as delegates or trustees of their constituents - Party discipline does have advantages: the positions of each party are clearer, individual MP’s are not pressured, each national party can try to develop a position on what it views as being in the interests of the country as a whole Executive Domination - Legislatures often do not have significant influence in policy and budget making, and parties and members of the legislature may not have enough funding to perform their roles effectively - Four factors encourage executive domination: o High rate of turnover in the national legislature o Workload, relatively short sessions are the hallmark of H of C o Selectivity of the parliamentary press gallery o Tendency toward “Executive federalism” - If the House loses confidence in the executive, so the theory goes, the legislature can support a new ministry or a general election can be imposed, as decided by the GG - Executive dominance offers some positive features: o The fact of centring so much power in the hands of a few individuals makes for decisive, purposeful action on pressing policy issues o Relatively swift action and quick responses to emergencies Minority and Majority Government - Executive dominance is particularly strong when one party holds a majority of seats in the H of C – Majority government - The PM and Cabinet can be almost certain that the House will pass legislation and financial measures they propose - If the governing party does not hold a majority of seats in the House and forms a minority government - The PM normally has to bargain and negotiate with one or more of the other parties in the House for support or risk losing power on a vote of non-confidence The Organization and Operations of the House - Speaker: The presiding officer of the House of Commons, who is responsible for applying the rules and procedures, maintaining order in debate, and overseeing the administration of the Commons, also has the responsibility to see that parliamentary privilege is protected, that the rights and prerogatives of both the majority and the minority are recognized and upheld and that order in debate Is maintained - The Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is more than a consolation prize, it is a key position in Canada’s parliamentary system - This is the person who leads the (usually but not always) second-largest party in the House and who is considered the most likely to be PM in the event of a change in government - House Leaders: Members of each party who are responsible for their party’s strategy in the House of Commons, including negotiating the parliamentary timetable with other House Leaders - Party Whips: Members of each party who maintain party discipline and ensure that members attend votes The Parliamentary Schedule - The life of a parliament is subdivided into smaller periods: o Sessions  Periods in which parliaments are split o Sittings  Meetings of the House as directed by the Standing Orders of the House, don’t necessarily have to correspond to days o Adjournments  The periods, generally short, between sittings o Prorogations  Parliament is ended o Recess  Period of time between sessions is referred to as a recess - The first session sees some events that are not repeated in l
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