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Chapter 3

PO263 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation, General Idea, Minority Government


Department
Political Science
Course Code
PO263
Professor
Christopher Anderson
Chapter
3

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CHAPTER 3
MONDAY OCTOBER 3RD
Canada has a constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom.
This means that the legislative and executive power are to be organized in accordance with a set of principle that
bay be summarized with the term “responsible government”.
3.1 The Emergence of Responsible Government
In the early stages of the British regime, the crown help both legislative and executive power. (They made laws
and administrated them).
This power of unelected (and thus unaccountable) monarchs led to abuse of the power.
English nobles were gradual abel to compel the crown and turn legislative power over to their assemble, which
they called parliament.
By mid 18th century, British regime was an example of serration of powers: legislative and executive powers are
assigned to different people or bodies. Playing powers in different hands would minimize the abuse of political
power.
Americans adopted Montesquieu’s idea of separation of powers. Legislative powers to the congress and the
executive powers to the President.
Because both branches are elected democratically, and in “competition” for public favour, it was thought that this
rivalry would further reduce the changes of tyrannical collusion.
In early years of British rule, Canada was ruled by imperial governors by the British Crown. In 1758 Nova Scotia
had power to elect legislative. Other areas (like ontario and Quebec) received the right in the 18th century.
Because the power remained in the hands of the governors, our constitution was based on a separation of powers.
This constitution was unworkable because of the separation between legislative and executive powers. Friction
between these two branches is inevitable.
After rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada, it led to appropriate measures.
The colonial constitutions were amended so as to replace the separation of powers by the principle of responsible
government.
The fundamental feature of responsible government is that it makes the executive branch responsible for its
actions to a democratically elected legislative body. Instead of choosing his advisor he likes, the Governor would
have to choose them from among those who had been elected to a legislative assembly.
By the time of Confederation, responsible government was a well established as a fundamental principle of
Canadian political life.
3.2 The Conventions of Responsible Government
In the British and Canadian Regimes, responsible government makes the executive accountable to the House of
Commons.
Therefore, demands of those exercising executive power must obtain the approval of the House for their use of
power.
The Five conventions of responsible government:
1. The crown will use that power only on “the advice of” its ministers. (It is the ministers themselves who exercise
executive power) Their “advice” to the crown, is really a command. Crown is a mere figurehead.
2. The Crown normally points as ministers or advisers only persons who are Member of Parliament. Rule is
intended facilitate executive accountability.
3. The Ministers will act together as a team or “ministry” led by the PM, with each minister sharing the
responsibility for all policy decisions made by any member of the ministry. (Known as the convention of
collective responsibility).
4. The Crown will appoint and maintain as ministers only people who “have the confidence” of the House of
Commons (the support of a majority of the members of the House).
5. When the ministry loses confidence of the House, the prime minister must either resign (entails resignation of
entire ministry) or request a new election.
These five conventions create a political order that makes those who exercise executive power fully accountable to
the elected representatives and the people and thus, indirectly accountable to the people themselves.
3.3 Responsible Government as “Cabinet Government”
Responsible government is often refer to as parliamentary government. In theory, responsible government makes
the House of Commons (the dominant chamber of parliament) the ultimate authority for both legislative and
executive actions.
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