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Minority Government Canada Pros and Cons

Introduction

Canadian political system is unique as it runs under a parliamentary democracy, but its system of democracy operates also through checks and balances between federal and provincial authorities. The provinces own most of the natural resources, control education, provide services to the population, and collect an equal or larger share of taxes than does the federal government. Not all provincial prerogatives are strictly defined; federal-provincial conflicts arise frequently. These can be resolved only through negotiations or in the courts. Although Canada’s political system was modeled on the British pattern of parliamentary democracy, it resembles. This paper will identify the main features of the complex and tangled system of the Federal Republic. It will demonstrate the ways in which they combine to form a system of dispersed leadership.

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Minority Government

Advantages

The main advantage of minority government is that it stipulates equal participation of all ethnic groups and social classes in political ruling. These reforms and fixed dates create a unique system of voting in Canada. Still, many critics admit that the current system of elect6ion leads to democracy deficit and low voting rates. This conventional power of the federal Parliament-which has nothing to do with the law as embodied in the Act of Confederation is not restricted by any provision of law or any convention requiring the consent of all or of a number of the provinces. In strict constitutional terms, therefore, the governments or the legislatures of the provinces have no role in the process of constitutional amendment to-day. Interpretation cannot alter the law; and a deficient constitutional position can hardly, by argument, become adequate and proper. The whole point is only to determine the true constitutional position according to law and to constitutional conventions in force. In this respect, provincial “sovereignty” alone, as flowing from the terms of the Confederation Act and from court decisions, has not been made to carry the implication that the powers of the provincial legislatures cannot be altered without the latter’s consent. It was pointed out that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is now precluded by a definite constitutional convention to interfere with the affairs of the Canadian “community.” Then, it was asked, in view of the representative government institutions existing in Canada, how that Parliament interferes with the powers, rights, or privileges of the “supreme” legislatures of the provinces without interfering with the “communities” living under them.

Canada is a pluralistic country composed of people of many different racial and cultural backgrounds. In addition to the Indians and Eskimos and the English and French founding races, there are such ethnic groups as Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Italians and many others, who collectively make up about 25 % of the population. In the United States such groups have been closely woven into the American society. In Canada ethnic groups have been more inclined to remain in geographic and cultural isolation, retaining to a far greater extent the ways of their homelands. Some spokesmen for ethnic groups argue that individual civil rights do not provide sufficient safeguards to maintain the group culture. At the present time, nominations of candidates are usually presented formally in petitions signed by twenty-five citizens in the constituency. The person nominated must deposit two hundred dollars as a proof of his serious intention to run for Parliament.

Today, in national elections every ethnic group has the franchise, or the right to vote, if he is eighteen or over, is a Canadian citizen subject who was qualified to vote in the 1968 election and has resided in Canada for twelve months before the election. Since 1970 British people must become Canadian citizens before they can vote. Such widespread suffrage is known as universal suffrage. Members of the armed forces may vote regardless of age, on the principle that a man old enough to fight for his country is old enough to vote. Disqualified are judges, those civil servants who supervise the elections, criminals, lunatics and people found guilty of dishonest practices in previous elections. The same qualifications and restrictions generally exist in the provinces, though there are minor variations in the franchise regulations. In Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island eighteen-year-olds are allowed to vote in municipal and provincial elections. In Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland nineteen-year-olds have the same right.

In these ways, it is apparent that along with the ambitions and styles of political leaders the needs of the society had an impact on the decision-making process. The democratic process cannot be divorced from the historical and social context in which it takes place. Again, though, the six country studies also indicated that the way in which the needs of the society affected the leadership process was often partly determined by the other aspect of the leadership environment, namely, institutional structures. They resulted in institutional opportunities, or constraints, which political leaders could mobilize, or which they had to overcome. Similarly, the partisan affiliation of the electorate was important not just in itself, but also by virtue of the way in which it was mediated through the system of election to the national legislature. As a result, it may be concluded that, as one aspect of the leadership environment, the needs of the society did have an impact upon the nature of the leadership process. However, it may also be concluded that the key aspect of the leadership environment was to be found under the heading of institutional structures.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of minority rule is political diversity and great differences in opinions and social needs of people. Minority rule in Canada leads to deficit of democracy and is explained by complicated decision-making process and low governmental accountability. From historical perspective, decision-making process was often remarked that the Constitution of Canada resembled much more closely that of the United States than that of the United Kingdom. The truth is that the document of 1867 largely reflects the American federal system so far as its express terms are concerned; but it also establishes or rather maintains simply by way of reference, the main political institutions of Britain, namely those contained in the conventions of the constitution. Nevertheless, we are not concerned here with the place very important, indeed! — of conventions in the whole body of Canadian constitutional law. Our concern is restricted to their part in the process of moulding the written fundamental law to changing needs. It is an unquestioned rule of law that usage, however well established, can never supersede the provisions of an act of Parliament. Law and practice, Constitution and government, are quite different matters. What is prohibited in law and cannot be recognized by the courts may well become an established practice which will never be or is not even susceptible of being submitted to the courts. This situation may happen in the internal working of government or in the relations of government with government whenever private rights are not directly involved. A situation then arises where a political stand according to the law but in violation of such practice would be faced by disapproval at the general elections, or by universal disobedience, or even by revolution. The force of things prevails over the force of law. Up to now, no amendment has been made or sought in respect to minority rights.

It cannot be doubted that both these instances of amendment weigh heavily against the necessity of federal consultations with the provincial governments before any change in the constitutional provisions relating to parliamentary representation. On the other hand, they can hardly serve as precedents to refuse any constitutional competence to the provinces to express their opinions or even to oppose a proposed amendment, since the provincial governments may be said to have then acquiesced in the amendments. Moreover, these amendments did not alter, in absolute terms, the representation of the original provinces, but simply added to it in order to give representation on more or less the same basis to the new provinces and territories.

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The departures from certain provisions of the Confederation Act are points of substance which raise the issue of the assumed exclusive competence of the federal power. The departure respecting provincial jurisdiction over education in Newfoundland did not affect any of the powers, rights, or privileges of the other provincial communities of Canada either as self-governing political entities or as distinct geographical and social units within the federal State. Such a departure from the terms of the Confederation Act would not have afforded any ground to support a provincial claim for consultation before action by the federal Houses of Parliament. The situation as it stands to-day with respect to constitutional provisions relative to parliamentary representation, minority rights, and other rights or privileges of provincial communities as distinct geographical and social units may now be summarized in a few lines. The federal exclusive power to request amendments from Westminster a power resulting entirely from convention, and in no way from law proper is not restricted either in law or by a positive constitutional convention. Moreover, a practice of action by the federal Houses without the active co-operation of the provincial governments, and even in disregard of any opposition from that source, has been built up upon a fair variety of cases within the subject matter of representation.

Government accountability should not be regarded as lessening the need for the establishment of a definite practice of legislative action — either by an act or by a resolution. Under responsible government, the powers of a “supreme” legislature and, more generally, the fundamental law of a province, are not matters to be altered without the consent of such legislature or of the people, should there be any machinery for a direct reference to it. The power of constitutional amendment is not administrative in character and is not properly to be exercised by an executive unless expressly delegated to it. There was no middle course. No rule had ever been laid down requiring the consent of only a certain number of the provinces. This dilemma explains why many students of the Constitution who found the requirement of unanimous provincial concurrence an exceedingly difficult obstacle to constitutional changes have so tenaciously supported a theory under which the requirement of provincial consultation and consent is purely a matter of political expediency for the federal Government and Parliament to decide in each case.

The democratic process was also affected by the distribution of constitutional and procedural powers within the executive. All the same, British and German heads of government were faced with countervailing pressures from both collective and departmental interests. Moreover, the lack of collegiality within the US executive meant that Cabinet members had little incentive to be loyal to the President’s program. Finally, the dualism of the French executive meant that there was both a certain tension within the system and the potential for presidential government to be replaced by prime ministerial government. Consequently, although certain leaders enjoyed not inconsiderable powers, in no country did the principal political leader enjoy an absolute set of powers with which to exercise leadership over the executive. Finally, the international position of the country was shown to affect the leadership process. In this respect, it was significant whether or not the country in question possessed nuclear weapons. This situation increased the leader’s authority within the executive and encouraged.

Government accountability within decision-making processes affects the direction of the pressure that political actors can apply, because they help to shape political behavior. As noted above, institutions are collections of rules, procedures and standard operating practices. As such, they produce certain duties and obligations by which office-holders have to abide. This means that leaders cannot simply assume office and behave in any way they may wish. Instead, they have to play out certain roles which the institution creates for them. Leaders are obliged to behave in ways which are appropriate to these institutional roles Institutionalism helps to explain the nature of the leadership process. Political leadership consists of a process of interaction between leaders and the leadership environment in which they operate. At the same time, this interaction process takes place within the context of institutional structures, which help to determine where power lies and what roles political leaders have to play.

Conclusion

Deficit of democracy is Canada is explained by ineffective and complicated election procedures and poor government accountability. By stressing the individuality of institutions and sets of institutional structures, the institutional approach sometimes encourages too great a degree of specificity when comparing countries. It produces a misleading tendency in which each country is considered to be exceptional. This tendency results from the observations that institutions and sets of institutions do not operate in exactly the same way in any two countries. Rather, each country’s institutions are different. Each country’s leadership process is unique. However, this is a misleading tendency, because, in its most extreme form, it means that comparisons between countries become futile. If each country is different, then comparisons are trivial. In this way, the study of minority governance in Canada indicates that it is possible to make comparisons across countries. More fundamentally again, though, the study of political leadership also indicates the various respects in which the institutions and institutional structures of countries are similar. Although equivalent institutions are not exactly the same in any two countries, there are sufficient similarities in certain cases for comparisons to be made. Furthermore, although the arrangement of institutions is not precisely the same in any two countries, once again, there are sufficient similarities in certain cases for comparisons to be made.

References

Cross, W. Political Parties, Representation, and Electoral Democracy in Canada. Oxford University Press, USA; 1st Paper edition, 2001.

Dobbin, M. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization. Lorimer; 2 edition, 2003.

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Higgins, D. J. Local and urban politics in Canada. Gage Educational Pub. Co, 2003.

Nocil, E., Whalley, P. Canadian Politics Unplugged. Dundurn Press, 2003.

Olsen, G. The Politics of the Welfare State: Canada, Sweden, and the United States. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Young John and Boris DeWiel. Faith in Democracy? Religion and Politics in Canada. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Young Lisa and Keith Archer. Regionalism and Party Politics in Canada. Oxford University Press, USA, 2001.

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