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The Parliament of Canada

The Parliament of Canada

Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 305
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  • Book Info
    The Parliament of Canada
    Book Description:

    In this provocative study C.E.S Franks explores the nature of Canada's parliamentary system and the roots of current dissatisfaction with its institutions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7826-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Parliament in an Age of Reform
    (pp. 3-9)

    Ours is an age of reform. In 1979 the privy council office, in its submission to the royal commission on financial management and accountability, claimed that ‘during the last twenty years ... more change has occurred in the way the government orders its machinery for getting things done, and in the variety and pervasiveness of the programs it delivers, than in any comparable period in our administrative and social history.’¹ Parliament underwent more reform in those twenty years than in any previous period, and arguably more than in its entire previous existence. And the process of reform did not stop...

  5. 2 Approaches to Parliamentary Government
    (pp. 10-34)

    There is room within the Westminster model of parliamentary government for many different configurations of power. The key actors are the government, the House of Commons, and the nation as electorate and as groups and organizations interested in and affected by government. At some periods in the evolution of the British parliament, the Crown and government were dominant, at other times the Commons. Sometimes both were controlled by powerful interests and influential individuals. Two basic principles emerged, however, which structure the broad relationships between government, parliament, and the people. These are that parliamentary government is ‘responsible’ and ‘representative.’ This chapter...

  6. 3 Parliament and the Party System
    (pp. 35-55)

    The most important determinants of the control and use of power in the Canadian parliamentary system are the political parties. Elections are more a matter of voters choosing between parties and party leaders than between individual candidates. The winning party becomes the government, with a monopoly over executive power and domination of parliament. Within the House of Commons, the basic structure of proceedings is the adversarial format of contest and debate between the government and opposition parties. Issues, representation, elections, and proceedings are all structured around, and dependent for their functioning on, the existence and strength of the political parties....

  7. 4 The Honourable Members
    (pp. 56-79)

    In our parliamentary system the people elect members of parliament to sit in the House of Commons and serve as representatives. This appears straightforward, but the closer one looks, the less obvious and simple the processes of representation become. Between the calling of an election and the decisions and actions of government is a long, involved, complicated, and tortuous route, in which the links between electoral choice and policy outcomes are not only complex, far from clear, and poorly understood, but also of the loosest sort indeed. This chapter focuses on the member of parliament as a representative. After a...

  8. 5 The Workworld of Parliament
    (pp. 80-115)

    In 1957, Senator C.G. (Chubby) Power, a long-time member of parliament and holder of several cabinet portfolios between 1935 and 1944, wrote that ‘not only has the position of the member of parliament altered in the last half century but he is being metamorphosed into another species’.¹ From confederation down into the first decade of this century, Senator Power stated, ‘the representative of the people achieved his position, as such, because he was a distinguished citizen of his locality upon whom his fellow-citizens wished to confer an honour or distinction. In rural parts, he was often a country merchant or...

  9. 6 Procedure
    (pp. 116-142)

    Procedure, like most other aspects of parliament, is about power and about the terms and conditions of discussion of its uses. Procedure is a means of reaching decisions on when and how power shall be used, and a process for considering and evaluating proposals for its future use and for criticizing and defending the present use. Procedure ensures that the parliamentary processes create a continuous dialogue between government and populace as represented by members of parliament. At some point the discussion of government proposals ends and parliament grants government the necessary legislative authority and funds; at a later stage discussion...

  10. 7 Debate and Question Period
    (pp. 143-160)

    Regardless of whether politics is ‘the authoritative allocation of value,’ or ‘who gets what, when and how,’ the process of reaching a decision in a democracy involves an enormous amount of talk. The success of a political system, in truth, can be roughly measured by the degree to which conclusions are reached through talk rather than force or other instruments of coercion. The central forum for political discussion and arguments in a liberal democracy is the elected representative assembly, Congress in the United States, parliament, and more particularly the House of Commons, in Britain and Canada. The main modes of...

  11. 8 Committees
    (pp. 161-185)

    Committees are near the top on any short list of reforms to parliament. Not the least of the reasons for this emphasis is the inescapable example of the United States, where committees of Congress are active and highly visible and give elected senators and representatives a strong voice in the management of the nation’s affairs. Committees offer the beguiling prospect of a stronger, more independent role for parliament. Committees can do things which the House itself cannot. They can make investigations, during which they interrogate ministers and public servants, call expert witnesses, travel, and hire research staff; they can prepare...

  12. 9 The Senate and Its Reform
    (pp. 186-201)

    The Canadian Senate is a frustrating puzzle. It is the most criticized institution of government in Canada and proposals for its reform, including its abolition, abound and have been part of political analysis and discussion for at least sixty years.¹ Its outstanding characteristic is not what it does, for that is not impressive, but that it has survived, and despite continuous criticism has been substantially unchanged since confederation. Proposals for Senate reform divide into two distinct groups. The first, smaller group consists of those concerned with improving the existing Senate. The second consists of reforms tied in with questions of...

  13. 10 Parliament and Policy-Making
    (pp. 202-226)

    Nowhere else do all the contradictions and problems of Canadian parliamentary government come together so powerfully as they do in policy-making. The parliament-centred rhetoric of reform demands a strong role for the House of Commons, while the executive-centred reality puts parliament on the sidelines. The transformation during the last century from laissez-faire to the positive state has caused a huge growth in the public service, so that there are now more than a thousand civil servants for every member of parliament. Government now intrudes into most nooks and crannies of the economy, culture, and society. Rapid changes in the economy,...

  14. 11 Accountability
    (pp. 227-256)

    Nothing could be simpler than the theory of parliamentary accountability. Its essence is ministerial responsibility, which means that ‘each minister is responsible to Parliament for the conduct of his Department. The act of every civil servant is by convention regarded as the act of his minister.’¹ This responsibility includes political accountability for policies and other political acts and decisions, administrative accountability for management and administration, and financial accountability for the use of funds. One of the great strengths of the theory of the parliamentary cabinet system is that it locates responsibility in the ministry, so that a small, clearly identifiable...

  15. 12 The Question of Reform
    (pp. 257-270)

    In studying the Canadian parliament not one but two subjects require attention: the parliamentary system itself and the literature about parliament. The two have gone in different directions. The parliamentary system has retained the executive-centred characteristics it developed during its early years. In modern times it has become the vehicle for the creation of collectivist policies, and the development of these policies, and strong government intervention in culture and the economy, are directly related to the strength of this executive-centredness. Its central mode of operation is adversarial combat between government and opposition. The literature about parliament argues, with a few...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 271-292)
  17. Index
    (pp. 293-305)