Canadian Politics Chapter 1.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Political Science
Christopher Cochrane

Chapter 1: Approaching the Study of Politics The Political System Based on Two Factors: Emperical Beliefs: The belief about the way things are Normative Beliefs: The belief about the way things should be Examples: Should the Canadian government limit greenhouse gases? Should regulations be minimized to improve the economy—and these are only some of the political issues dealt by the Canadian Government Political Issue: Issues that involve decision on the part of a collectivity to act in a specific manner, as politics is the practice of influencing collective decisions—every issue has a degree of politics involved, even if it’s not obvious at first glance Private vs. Public Sectors: To say an issue is a private issue is to claim that it should be resolved in the private or voluntary sectors, which function separately from government, which controls the public sector. By contrast, a public isses is to express the pinion that some action be taken. How much influence should the government or the private sector have is a foundational assumption when thinking about politics Power(Context of the Discipline of Resolving Political Issues): The ability of a political actor to impose its will on another or do what it wants. According to Max Weber, this is the probility of one actor in a social relationship being in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance. There are three kinds of power in the context of political science: -Coercion: The agent is able to impose its will on others by using or threatening, physical force and other forms of punishments. People obeythis because of concequences of disobedience -Authority: Power based on legitimacy, where the agent can impose its will on another because the subject regards the decision-maker as having a right to make such a decision. This is a kind of power that we have agreed to be bound by because it comes from a respected source and the acceptance of an obligation to obey -In practice, authority and coercion are often connected, and the use of coercion by political figures is often reinforced by authority -Influence: The imposition of one’s will on another through persuasion and voluntary compliance—without either accompanying threats or deference to authority Government: Set of organizations that make, enforce, and administer collective, public decisions for society. To some extent, we obey the government because of threats and penalities if we do not(coercion), but we also obey because we accept government decisions to be binding and necessary for the general good(authority). Three Kinds of Government Power: -Legislative Power—The power to create laws and public policies -Executive Power—The power to enforce laws and administer public policies -Judicial Power—The power to interpret the law -These government powers are usually exercised by different branches of government: the legislature or Parliament, the executive or Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the courts respectively. Sometimes two or more branches must work together, such as in the formulation, passage and implementation of a new law -Governments do not exist in a vacuum; they are intimately enmeshed in the broader society of which they are a part of. How government power is exercised shapes or is shaped by conditions and pressures in the broader social environment surrounding it. For instance, imagine that a group wanted the government to enact particular laws or policies in its own financial interest, the group’s influence would be based on factors including the amount of money it has at its disposal. However, the outcome of these decisions would shape the social environment in affecting the financial resources of the group in the future. In this and other ways, patterns of inequality in the broader social environment outside of government often reproduce themselves inside the government. Political System by David Eaton: Core of the political system is a boy including the legislature, the executives, and the judiciary, as well as a number of other important components such as the bureaucracy and electoral system. It is situated in an environment where demands and inputs for the political system filters and reacts to by enacting laws and policies, which are outputs that shape the future inputs of the political system in the form of feedback effects. Example—The Official Languages Act: Pearson and Trudeau governments want Parliament to pass official laguages act. However, the act spurred reaction and feedback in two directions— demand for more official bilingualism at the provincial level vs. backlash from public unilingual servants who felt discriminated -Through a lot of demands reach to authorities, very few have any impacts, as thoses demands do not concern many people or call for action contrary to the worldviews of the figures of authority at that time. For instance, governments tend to be sensitive more to the views of businesses over aboriginal peoples -Intense conflict also exists within these demands. Thus, the essence of government is not only to making and executing decisions for society, but also to choose among competing demands to try and resolve conflict or making choices in the midst of conflict. Politics: An activity where conflicting intrests struggle for advantage or dominance in the making and execution of public policies. Voting in Elections: One way where individual Canadians are able to inject their own inputs into the political process, but there are many other ways as well such as using letter, fax, telephone call, email, tweet or face-to-face encounter with a government official or politician -Today’s governments try to seek public views for many reasons, one being that advances in technology allows for the government to solicit such views. A second is that authorities may have been left with fewer policy analyst resources of their own, or that more think tanks and policy advocacy organizations exist than before. As a result, government organisations hold public hearings on controversial issues. -In 2008, the CRTC held public hearings about whether Internet Service Providers in Canada should be allowed to slow Internet traffic of file sharing sites -In 2013, the NEB held public hearings about whether to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline across British Columbia from Alberta oil sands -Sometimes directly transmitted demands will achieve desired results, sometimes not. If not, it may be time to consider some kind of group action as governments tend to respond more to a group then an individual. -Intrest Group: An organization existeng to pursue the common intrests of its members -Advocacy Group or Pressure Group: Is an intrest group aiming to accomplish it’s objectives by trying to directly influence the government -Political Parties: Yet another type of group through which people are able to influences government and seeks to achieve its objectives through government by contesting elections and winning power. Thus, while it has certain similarities to an advocacy group, a political party is different in its attempt to win votes in elections. -People join political parties or support it financially and often try to recognize their concerns in its platforms or policies. If a political party forms the government, it can incorporate the demand into its decisions and government policy. If it is in opposition, it may be able to bring the problem to national attention through mass media coverage of parliamentary proceedings -Cleavages: Deep and persistent divisions existing in society such as those involving region, ethnicity, language and religion that become politicized. While cleavages are part of the environment of the political system, they can also beseen as the source of many of the demands expressed in day-to-day political activity -Identities: How one defines themselves, can be based on ethnicity, gender, location, religion, class, sexual orientation, etc. Our identities evolve from those characteristics and experiences that are more important to us as individuals and groups. There are many identities in Canada, be it regional, ethnic, religious, gender, etc. Whether a person articulates a demand in the political system based on identities is based on whether they are conscious of such characteristics and considers them salient. -Many contemporary political scientists point out that identities are not necessarily automatic choices, but are based on the influence of the social structures such as traditions, customs, practices, and institutions that determine how individual members of a society behave. Other people and other forms of influence such as politicians, teachers and the mass media may play a role in shaping one’s identity. From this it can be seen that our identities are socially constructed, operating within a powerful set of pre-existing social norms -Cultural Hegemony: The process where dominant beliefs and assumptions reinforce existing patterns of power in a society by taking alternative courses of action off the table. Before being able to change the way an government acts n the issue it is sometimes needed to change how society thinks, and to a large extent, this is the domain of social movement in politics -Social Movement: Informal alliance of individuals and interest groups who aim to achieve their objectives by changing the dominant belives of a society(ie: feminist movement, gay rights movement). They use petition-signing, protests, political parties and litigation as efforts to influence government policy, along with public awareness campaigns and other activities. -Agenda Setting: Summarized by Bernard Cohen, who argued that the press may not be telling people what to think, but rather, what to think about. By choosing to focus on some issues rather than others, media may influence public agenda by brigining some issues into public discourse and leaving others out. -Infotainment: Practice of using TV Shows, movies and songs to communicate points of view to the public. This is done in many moies along with our exposure to the social media, which may sometimes reinforce, create or challenge our underlying assumption about what the world is -It should be known that the Canadian political system also possesses an external or global environment consisting of a huge number of international, multinational and supranational influences including other states, international organizations and agreements, transnational corporations, and nongovernmental organizations that affect the government of Canada in making decisions -NAFTA agreement between Canada the US and Mexico is perhaps of greatest impact, through other majo
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