POLS 2250 Chapter Notes - Chapter 13: Canadian Human Rights Commission, Federal Accountability Act, Elections Canada

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Published on 27 Jan 2013
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Chapter 13: The Legislature and the Bureaucracy
Ministerial Responsibility and Political Neutrality
- Collective Responsibility: Prescribes that the prime minister and the cabinet must resign or ask the
governor general for dissolution of Parliament if the HOC passes a vote of non-confidence in the
government
Prescribes that a minister must support government decisions in public, or at least suppress any
public criticism of them
If ministers find a particular decision unacceptable but stifle objections or submit resignation
- Individual ministerial responsibility: Minister is responsible for everything done in the department
Minister is accountable to Parliament for all the administrative errors of his/her departmental
subordinates; therefore they must resign in the event of a serious error by subordinates
Minister is answerable to Parliament in that he/she must explain and defend the actions of his/her
department before Parliament
- Political neutrality and anonymity: Help in shaping relations between the legislature and the public
service; 2 propositions:
All activities of public servants are carried out “in the name of the minister” and that appointed
officials are for all intents and purposes invisible in the public sphere
Public servants neither promote nor defend the policies and decisions of government
The Resignation of Ministers
- If a serious error is committed by the government the minister is supposed to resign but it’s not almost
universally accepted that it’s unreasonable to hold ministers responsible, in the form of resignation for
the administrative failings of their subordinates
- Ministers are however responsible for promptly taking the necessary remedial steps and for providing
assurances to Parliament that appropriate corrective action has been taken to prevent reoccurrence
Involves an internal investigation of the matter and make changes to minimize the error from
reoccurring
May also involve disciplinary action against one or more appointed officials
- When there is a violation of personal conduct by a minister that embarrasses the government or a
failed policy initiative intimately connected to minister may result in resignation
- Parliament itself has no authority to unseat the minister; only the head of government has that power
But, if the minister under attack is an unpopular member of the cabinet, and if the electorate is
unusually enraged or if the government is a minority then the PM may attempt to seek
resignation of ministers
Over the past 10 years, there have only been a few due to behaviour allegations
The Answerability of Ministers
- Ministers do explain and defend their department’s policies and administration before Parliament,
especially during the Question Period
Ministers almost always responds to questions in their sphere of reasonability, although they can
be obliged neither to answer nor to give reasons for refusing to answer but may suffer adverse
political consequences for declining
- Speaker of the House of Commons has observed that he is not in the position to compel an answer; it
is the public opinion that does
A minister who refuses to answer/give reasons why, receives severe criticism from the media and
Opposition
- The willingness of ministers to answer questions in the legislature does not ensure that their responses
are informative, plausible or even comprehensive
More experienced ministers tend to be good at dodging and avoiding hits from the Opposition
inquiries and allegations
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