Is the Prime Minister Too Powerful?

Topics: Westminster system, Prime minister, Presidential system Pages: 6 (2075 words) Published: March 26, 2012
Topic: Is the Prime Minister Too Powerful?

In this essay, I will demonstrate that the Prime Minister is powerful and can cause many potential dangers by analyzing different elements inside and outside of our government over the period of different Prime Ministers throughout the Canadian political history. In theory, the Parliament is the most important institution in the Canadian government and all members of the parliament are equal. The Prime Minister is supposed to be primus inter pares, meaning first among equals. But over the years, the cabinet has become more institutionalized and less departmentalized. Hence the Prime Minister’s power has increased over the years. Canada is the one of the most decentralized federations in the World. Power is swung away from the parliament and is more concentrated in the executive branch (Courtney, 1984: p. 241). The Prime Ministers is not too powerful in a global scale but it has substantial power within Canada. However the power of the Prime Minister can also be affected by many different factors. . Canada is a fusion of the British parliamentary system with the American federalism. The Prime Minister is the highest role in the government. He can appoint or remove individual from the cabinet and patriotic appointments. Lloyd Axworthy was hired as a cabinet minister by both Trudeau and Chrétien (Cook & Belanger, 2007: p. 401). The PM controls all justices of the Supreme Court of Justice, vacant seats in the senate, all heads of Canadian Crown Corporations and many more. The Prime Minister’s powers extend beyond the level of federal government. The effects of the powerful Prime Minister do not necessarily exhibit from the PM itself by other actors in the government. Provincial premiers and territorial leaders are allowed to communicate directly to the PM without the going thought the web of ministers. Former premier of News Brunswick, Frank McKenna organized a one-on-one meeting with former PM Jean Chrétien during a golf game. The outcome of this informal meeting was a conference on the economic future of Atlantic Canada, as well as improved infrastructure with regards to a cost-sharing agreement on the Trans Canada Highway (Savoie, 1999:p. 75). The PM did not need ask the central agencies to prepare a proposal and then submit it to for consideration in the government decision making process. The political power is only in the hands of the Prime Minister and a small group or carefully selected couriers rather than the Prime Minister acting in concert with elected Cabinet colleagues (Savoie, 1999b: p. 635). However some argue that the PM does not hold all the power supposedly associated with such a position. Premiers could be manipulating the Prime Minister. An example would be how McKenna used an informal meeting to achieve what’s best for the province. There is a strong case based on the fact that he would fire trade ministers if they didn’t agree to the deal. Other ministers also compete against the Prime Minister and could endanger the PM’s executive power. A clear example would be how Paul Martin overthrew Chrétien in 2004 (Malloy, 2004: p. 214). Over the past 20 years, the Prime Minister has been able to execute more power than before. Traditionally the Cabinet is seen as a collective decision-making body. Prior to the 1960s, individual Cabinet Ministers had significantly more power and autonomy and developed their own policy and program with less regard for central coordination with only minimal prime ministerial interference. After 1960s, this was replaced by the institutionalized cabinet. As the society and issues became more complex, individual ministers and departments could not make decisions without the taking consideration of others. Polices from one department inevitably affect others. As a result there were more collective decision-making through consultation and coordination between Cabinet Ministers. After 1984, the Cabinet became even more...
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