Changes to the Conventions Affecting Democracy Works in Canada, Essay Example
The Canadian parliamentary system states that the government must be responsible for its citizens. The operations of the government must be conducted in a responsive manner, and the ministers are required to be accountable to the government. Ministers must have confidence in the house, in order for them to remain in parliament. Ministers enjoy both collective and individual responsibilities to parliament. At the individual level, ministers are required to account for their own personal actions as heads of departments as well as for the actions of those who report to them. Regarding the principle of collective responsibility for ministers, they are entitled to take responsibility and defend the decisions and actions of the government (Bourgon 9).
Majority of members in parliament must support the government. Further, the government must be supported by a majority of the political parties and coalitions that hold the majority of seats in the house. Governments based on minority can only legislate with assistance from members or parties in opposition. The majority vote of present members makes decisions on all issues arising on the house. The government is tested through the power of vote of no confidence. This is because parliamentary democracy in Canada requires that the government must have full confidence from members of the house (Lee and Flanagan 238).
Many factors in Canada have been attributed to the changes observed in the nature of governance and government over the last 100 years. It appears that the practice of responsible government in Canada is based on the British theory and not the British practice. The fundamental principles underlying the conventions of responsible government in Canada have changed over time. For example, Canadian government used to be regarded as a government defeat on a tax measure to a no confidence vote. However, following failure of the tax bill at third reading, a motion of confidence was introduced and adopted. This bill clarified that the government could not be forced to reassign (Mendelsohn 450).
Canada has not been able to withstand the fundamental principles or responsible government. As a result, the nature and context of the Canadian government has been evolving over time. Since confederation, Canada has developed political parties that are highly disciplined and this has led to greater predictability and stability in the politics of Canada. The 26 years when the Canadian union was in operation, there were only 13 ministries: since confederation, Canadian government has had 27 ministries. In 1919, political parties in Canada decided to choose their leaders through national convention. This became one of Canada’s traditions and resulted into national party leaders who derived their tenure and authority from the Canadian national convention, and not from the caucus. These developments implied that it was not likely for a majority government to be undermined by the defection of few individuals. Further, the caucus could not get the prime minister of seat as it used to happen before (Lee and Flanagan 240).
Since the Second World War and the depression, Canadian government has been increasingly showing its efforts in the intervening in the areas of socio-economic policy. This involvement by the government has made the parliament of Canada has an increased legislative workload as well as expansion of public service. The shift was more fundamental to parliament, and the legislative government built a new parliament building, which replaced the old building that had been destroyed by fire (Bourgon 12).
The first half century of Canadian confederation was characterized by recruiting public servants based on nepotism or patronage. This changed gradually paving the way to the promotion and recruitment on the ground of merit to secure tenure. Further, it ensured that Canadian public service was not a partisan. This led to resignation of over 11,000 public servants while others were removed out of office greatly on the grounds of political partisanship. Over the years, public servants have been undergoing scrutiny based on factors such as objective of equity and language requirements (Mendelsohn 456).
Public servants have been given the right to strike, to create and join unions and participate in political activities. These rights have become a challenge to ministers, and the most senior positions of public service are facing problems engaging in political activities. This is because they must remain non-partisan in their support for the future and current ministers (Simeon 243).
For the purpose of managerial autonomy and freedom from the pressures of partisanship, the government separated a number of state activities from the public service. These activities have been placed under private agencies and public corporations. Such agencies and corporations are normally not the responsibility of ministers. These agencies tables annual reports and appropriations that are scrutinized and debated upon by the parliament. The government provides funds to independent foundations so that they can invest. This is done without the approval of the ministers. Once the foundations have been established and given the funds, ministers have not been given any executive authority of these foundations. The parliament cannot hold these foundations or ministers accountable thus denying the public, democratic recourse (Russell 206).
Government activities are increasingly becoming complex thus requires the process of decision making to be horizontal. This involves several agencies and departments to interact and collaborate in order to attain national security. This collaboration is a challenge to the traditional concept whereby ministers were solely responsible for their individual departments. Ministers in Canadian government are increasingly adopting the practice of shared accountability. They have realized that most public policies and programs are emerging because of co-accountability (Lee and Flanagan 244).
The capacity of the Canadian government has been restricted by a large number of legal and constitutional constraints. This has restricted the actions of the ministers. This includes access to privacy and information, legislation and legal respect for official language. The adoption of e-government system has made citizens have access to vast quantities of information. As a result, research institutions, interest groups, and citizens can send their responses to the government. This means that communication has become a two way street and not one way anymore (Russell 208).
Members of parliament Canada are profoundly concerned with certain processes that are questioning the traditional assumption. The government intends to conduct consultations with business interests groups and financial groups before preparing the budget. The government can also consider the role of focus groups before creating the national budget (Mendelsohn 459). This has posed enormous challenges to the members of parliament because they are the link between the public and the government. On the other hand, the role of ministers has been questions because of the government’s practice of engaging in negotiations with provinces. This has made the government present constitutional resolutions and bills to parliament that cannot be amended. The parliament works under fears of cancelling the agreement between the government and the provincial. This has put the parliament under doubts regarding its role of disposing its business and raising questions over the responsibility and accountability of ministers (Lee and Flanagan 252).
Institutional changes such as expansion of the office of Privy Council and the development of the office of the Prime Minister have reinforced the powers of the Canadian prime minister. These changes have also been reflected in the parliamentary system of Canada. Since then, ministers and members of parliament have become critical of what they view as an extraordinary manner of decentralizing power (Bourgon 14).
The new public management has posed a challenge to Canada’s public administration. Canada’s public administration is based on democracy and political processes that pay attention to the processes of making decisions, institutions, accountability, and responsibility. The government has embraced a public management system that aims to understand and can improve some elements of public organizations. These changes have been made on features such as service quality, innovation, strategic management, organizational climate performance, and satisfaction of clients. These elements are modified concerning the political environment of Canada (Lee and Flanagan 256).
Canadian government has been vigorously debating upon the merits of each change. The changes have not been mutually exclusive but have ensured that Canada achieves a responsible parliamentary system of government. The political perspective of the government has been able to incorporate the elements of public management (Simeon 248). This means that the practice of public administration must begin and end with political institutions, most notably the cabinet and parliament. The effects of government expenditure on the economy of Canada have resulted into vigorous lobby group activities. These activities aim at influencing public servants, parliament, and cabinet. These lobby groups are conducting their activities at a heightened level so that they can increase awareness on the necessity of increasing probity on the non-elected and elected government officials. Further, it seeks to heighten awareness of the need to develop rules for ethical behavior within the parliament (Mendelsohn 462).
By adopting the institution of accounting from Britain, Canada appears to have solved some problems. First, Canada has been able to abolish its current practice of giving the deputy minister the right and freedom of seeking intervention from the Privy Council thus averting improper action. Otherwise, if Canada were not successful in convincing minister to take new actions, Canada would not have been successful in convincing the Privy Council, as well. The new system appears to be working in tandem because there have been enormous and acceptable roles for cabinet members, unlike previous confusions (Russell 212). Confidence in the cabinet and its operation is based on formal, conventional and formal rather than just public scrutiny. Furthermore, Canada has been able to reform the atmosphere in which their public account operates fully. It would be beneficial to adopt the institutional arrangements in Britain because Canada has been able to make radical reforms in the environment in which its committee operates. Canada has been able to strike a balance by adopting the accounting institution of Britain (Bourgon 17).
Bourgon, Jocelyne. Responsive, Responsible, and Respected Government: Towards a New Public Administration Theory. International Review of Administrative Sciences, ISSN 0020- 8523, 03/2007, Volume 73, Issue 1, pp. 7 – 26
Lee, Aie-Rie and Flanagan, Scott C. The New Politics, Culture Wars, and the Authoritarian- Libertarian Value Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies. Journal of Comparative Political Studies, ISSN 0010-4140, 04/2003, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp. 235 – 270
Mendelsohn, Matthew. Introducing deliberative direct democracy in Canada: learning from the American experience. The American Review of Canadian Studies, ISSN 0272-2011, 1996, Volume 26, Issue 3, p. 449-68
Russell Peter H. The Need for Agreement on Fundamental Conventions of Parliamentary Democracy. National Journal of Constitutional Law, ISSN 1181-9340, 04/2009, Volume 27, p. 205-216
Simeon, Richard. Constitutional Design and Change in Federal Systems: Issues and Questions. The Journal of Federalism, ISSN 0048-5950, 2009, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp. 241 – 261
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