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Cardus Policy in Public - Does Power Corrupt Canadian Prime Ministers? | Cardus

Cardus Policy in Public - Does Power Corrupt Canadian Prime Ministers? | Cardus

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  1. Anonymous23 May, 2012

    What power do Canadian prime minister's have?

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    Replies
    1. Anon: They are extensive. They decide when elections are called. They can block any candidate and appoint their own nominee in any riding (like a congressional district). He determines who gets what job in government including ministers, parliamentary secretaries, deputy and assistant deputy ministers, head of the privy council, all judges to the federal and supreme court. Virtually no one can make him quit the position unless he wants to.

      That's just for starters.

      If a Canadian Prime Minister's party holds a majority in the House of Commons - he can do what he wants. He can be a democratic despot.

      Fr. Tim

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    2. Anonymous23 May, 2012

      But there are many parties and he must form a coalition, right?

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    3. Anon: No, not usually. For example, we recently went through a long period where there were five parties in Parliament, but only one had a majority for over 10 years and Jean Chrètien was Prime Minister. In his case, even when his adversaries controlled all the levers of power of the party he led, they could not force him to step down as Prime Minister.

      Today there are three parties with official status (there's one Green member too so technically there are four present) but only one holds a majority of the total seats so that any legislation they wish can be passed whenever they wish. The opposition parties can try and slow the process down - by the Prime Minister has the power to enforce closure, effectively forcing a vote he's guaranteed as a right.

      BTW, the PM also holds the power to establish commissions of inquiry (the Canadian special prosecutor of US fame). He also has the power to terminate one if he wishes, the most recent example of J. Chrètien ending the Somalia inquiry when he decided it was doing more harm than good (although, who was suffering the 'damage' is open to question).

      Like I said. He holds full legislative power because he controls legislation that passes through Parliament with a quiver full of benefices and punishments to ensure party discipline. He holds full executive power as the defacto head of state. (Actually, it's the Queen.)

      He controls who gets appointed to the Senate, the Federal courts, the head of the RCMP (police), and CSIS (Intelligence).

      Being PM in Canada isn't like being in the major leagues. Canada is at best a mid-level economic and military power. But it's fair to say that whomever holds that office in Canada is one BIG FISH, even if he reigns supreme in a lesser pond.

      Fr. Tim

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    4. One last postscript: We don't have proportional representation in our Parliament. It's a first past the post system as in Britain. This has kept the number of parties in parliament to only a few at a time. 'Coalitions' are only needed in minority parliaments of legislation. We have periods of this type of government occasionally as well, but our electoral system has quite often produced more than one majority government after another for the same party or PM.

      Delete
  2. How very true. The PM of Canada is actually more powerful than the President of the US who must,on important matter, have the backing of the House and Senate.Not so the PM of Canada (or Britain for that matter).The Canadian PM has ,like the Pope, almost absolute power in most cases granted to him by The Head of the Church of England. (...oh boy....)

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