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CA (170,000)
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2246E (30)
Chapter 4

Political Science 2246E Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Informa, Performance Measurement, Collective Responsibility

Political Science
Course Code
Political Science 2246E
Joseph Lyons

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Parliament and the Public Service
o Parliament and the public service are informal, indirect, changeable and
often characterized by mutual wariness
o The nature of the relationship derives from three main sources:
1. A set of constitutional principles which are largely unwritten
2. A limited number of statutory provisions
3. The dynamic context of the wider political system, particularly the
nature of the issues before government and the state of party
competition during a particular time period
o With limited recognition for the role of the public service in constitutional
and statutory law, its relations with parliament have been mainly based
on the changing interpretation of a series of unwritten constitutional
o Parliament found it difficult to cope with the rise of a sprawling
administrative apparatus wielding growing power
o Two issues of how public bureaucracies can be held accountable
through the parliamentary process, and how this task has been
complicated by a series of public service reforms over the past two
First, the historical and constitutional context in which parliament
developed its relations with the bureaucracy is discussed
Second, a number of interrelated functions of parliament are
o The senate is not, as its harshest critics suggest, a completely useless
The senate has conducted valuable reviews of the ongoing
policies, programs and operations of departments and non-
departmental bodies
o Under the fused cabinet-parliamentary model, the cabinet is a part of
It represents the leadership of the governing party, which usually
holds a majority of the seats in the Commons
o While the clash between the government and the opposition represents
the main division within parliament, there are also disagreements within
parties on matters of substance and process
Such disagreements are expressed mainly in the privacy of party
caucuses, which meet on a weekly basis when parliament is in
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o Provincial governments operate on the same principles of cabinet-
parliamentary government as the government of Canada and these
principles play a major part in shaping the role of provincial bureaucracies
o Each province represents a distinctive history, set of political traditions and
cultures, patterns of party competition and contemporary political
o Other important differences between the national and the provincial
political systems include:
Some provinces have experienced long periods of one party rule;
legislative sessions are typically shorter; cabinets often represent a
more domineering presence in provincial legislatures
o Accountability;
Refers to an obligation to explain and to justify how an individual or
an institution discharges its responsibilities, the origins of which may
be constitutional, political or contractual
o The starting point for an understanding of accountability is the constitution
The constitution consists of both legal rules and political conventions
Both sets of provisions are meant to be binding upon politicians and
public servants
Constitutions promote the rule of law by setting forth the
parameters of public power, describing the relationships that ought
to exist among the various institutions of government
By doing this, constitutions are meant to protect and promote
the rule of law, which means, in simple terms, that no one, no
matter how important or powerful, is above the law, and this
includes the government and the bureaucracy
Important parts of the constitution consist of unwritten
conventions that have emerged from long-standing political
Under Canadian constitutional arrangements public servants are not
directly and personally accountable to parliament
Collective responsibility and ministerial responsibility are two principles that
represent a statement of the relationships that ought to exist between
cabinets and parliaments
Collective ministerial responsibility concentrates authority for policy
formulation and for the provision of leadership to the public service
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