The Canadian system of government is branded as one of the most effective around the globe. This is evident from the global position held by the country going by any standards. The political system in this country is structured into three levels with each level having different responsibilities. The levels are the federal, provincial/territorial, and the municipal governments. This implies that that Canada is a quasi-federal union, which is usually characterized by different administrative units that are in the same country or unitary. Although the three levels of government are tasked with different roles, there have been contradicting opinions regarding the power structures between the federal and the provincial governments. Canada became a quasi-federal union since the world war two. Therefore, the system of governance in Canada is run in two parallel forces, which are the federal and the provincial government.
The federal government is composed of the House of Commons, which makes laws, the prime minister who is the heads of government and chooses the members of parliament to serve in the cabinet of ministers, and the senate, which reviews laws that are proposed by the House of Commons. On the other hand, the provincial governments are made up of the lieutenant governor whose mandate is to represent the queen and the legislative assembly, which makes laws at the provincial level. This structure has elicited a number of debates as to who is in charge of the country. Some people argue saying that more power in concentrated on the premier, whereas others give the opinion that seem to suggest that power is decentralized to the provincial level.
Moving from departmentalized to institutionalized cabinet: essence of power conflicts
Cabinet minister in Canada were able to run the ministries indecently without interferences from the prime minister in a system called departmentalized cabinets. However, this did not survive beyond 1960’s when the system was changed to institutionalized cabinets. This was because of increased growth of the federation thus necessitating the need to centralize decision making in order to address both social and economic issues affecting the country. This transition meant that the prime minister was in charge of supervising and coordinating ministries. His influence on cabinet decisions and the entire government sprouted from here thus denying the cabinet the space to run the ministries independently. This is the actual essence of today’s powerful prime minister who affects the operation of both the federal and provincial governments in different ways.
Although the prime minister produced with the party with the majority, he or she assumes too much power. This means that he or she, influences the federal government, and goes ahead to influence many aspects of the provincial governments. The premier can appoint of fire a cabinet minister implying that he can still influence cabinet positions. It is pertinent to note that issue such s national budgets are decided at the cabinet level. Although the provincial governments are tasked with managing such resources, the influence of the premier can trickle down to them courtesy of the cabinet decisions made by the federal government. Therefore, the issue of decentralizing power in trampled upon by such possibilities.
Still on the matter of appointment, more power is still concentrated in the Prime Minister. This results into another discrepancy between the federal and provincial governments. This is because these appointments which affect both the federal and the provincial governments. Therefore, the concept of decentralization of power is further disregarded. For instance, in his tenure, prime minister is Jean Chrétien made unusually many appointments to powerful offices. These offices have jurisdiction over the provincial government in one way or the other. Chrétien appointed chief justices of some of the top courts in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. Such abilities of the prime minister depict how power has been centered to the premiership. If the provincial government is a means of decentralizing power, then this could not be true going by such constitutional abilities of the prime minister. Although the provincial governments have an independent mandate to run their affairs in issues such as education and health, there is some certain decision from the federal governments that could influence them directly. This is because the role of the officials appointed this way will have an impact on various governance organs at the provincial levels such as the courts.
The prime minister is also mandated in the constitution to appoint the country’s representatives to other countries commonly known as ambassadors. These government officials represent the face of the country to the outer world. Therefore, their appointments should involve every organ of the administration. Giving the premier the responsibility of appointing them is politically unfair to the rest of the country. This is because the country could be affected in general if the visions of the federal government are narrow. These appointments are done without any formidable check and balances that should ensure competence in such appointments. In addition, the provincial governments are not involved in any way in making such appointment. This implies that the federal government, through the prime minister is excessively powerful.
The rules of the House of Commons have given the prime minister excessive power when it comes to appointing and firing of top government officials. This means that the prime minister controls most of the parliamentary committees. Therefore, it means that the prime minister can influence almost the entire way of running the government. Critical committees such as those in charge of the constitutional affairs and finance can be used wrongly to settle some political goals. For instance, the premier can use parliamentary committee in charge of constitutional affairs to make his chances of surviving politically better. Although there are some huddles to cross before reaching such heights, the prime minister can navigate them easily because he appoints the cabinet that is expected to control him. In addition, opposition parties may be powerless because the majority party in parliament produces the prime minister. It is thus extremely difficult to control such a powerful prime minister.
The Irony in Law Making
Provincial governments have enjoyed the freedom of designing and making the laws that govern a province. This is because the constitution of the country has given them the mandate to pass legislation within their own territory under their heads. These laws are only used to govern these units only, meaning that they do not touch on any other province. However, it is ironical that the federal government makes laws that dictate how some affairs in all provinces are run. According to this provision, a province may run its affairs in a certain preferred manner. However, the federal government may influence how these states use the laws in one way or the other. If it happens that certain legislation is utterly incompatible with those of the federal government, it may be rendered redundant. This ability by the federal government means that decentralization may not be effective as intended. In other words, these provinces are sometimes compelled to run according to some certain federal preferences.
Although the provinces seem to be achieving greater political advantage relative to Ottawa, this could be more apparent that real, if such legislative abilities of the federal government are anything to go by. This is evident that still, the powers are concentrated to the premiership because he can influence legislative processes, given that his party has the majority in the House of Commons. However, it is worth noting that the ability of the federal government to influence provincial legislative powers is limited by the constitution. The constitution recognizes these units as being constitutionally autonomous and thus independent constitution wise. This implies that the federal government cannot alter either unilaterally or in any other way, the constitutions of the provincial constitutions. Therefore, the powers of the federal government are limited to some extent, perhaps an evidence of political leverage enjoyed by the provincial administration.
More power is also dedicated to the prime minister when it comes to making the laws of the entire country, which affects the provincial governments. It is common knowledge that a majority of laws in Canada emanate from the cabinet. This is perfectly true in bills that are sponsored by the government. Although the laws requires that the proposed bills be supported and approved by the majority of the cabinet, political affiliations of the cabinet members can influence their decisions on these laws. This is because the prime minister has both of his hands in appointing and dismissing. Therefore, the cabinet member may agree with what the prime minister suggests just because they share political grounds. Therefore, the unanimous consent witnessed in the cabinet could be politically motivated. This means that the prime minister affects the entire legislation process. In this regard, the provincial governments are subject to the prime minister indirectly through the federal government. Thus, the constitutional provision identifying the provincial government as autonomous is disregarded though indirectly.
The process of making laws in Canada exposes the autocratic powers allocated to the position of the prime minister. A member of parliament outside the ruling party may decide to table a bill in parliament. Such bills are commonly known as private members bills. Outcomes in such bills of the Canadian parliament suggest that no law can be passed without passing through the prime minister. If the minister has any reservations to such bills, then they are destined to fall belly up at the parliamentary level. For instance, in the second session of the 37th parliament, only four, of the four hundred and seventy one private member bills received the royal ascent. This was despite the fact that some of them had made it through the House of Commons. This proves further that the prime minister is immensely powerful in running the country compared to provincial lieutenant governor.
Division of power between the federal and provincial governments
Jurisdiction between the two governments is divided into three. Each group of jurisdictions is allocated to either of the governments. Exclusive federal jurisdiction provides certain areas where the federal government can make decisions. This means that the provincial government cannot enact any legislation in these areas. Similarly, there are exclusive provincial jurisdictions where only the provincial government can enact laws. In addition, there is another category of jurisdiction known as joint power. Here, the two governments are expected to make collective legislative contributions. Despite the fact that these provisions are envisage in the constitution, there is a large bias because the most influential jurisdictions are left upon the federal government. The provincial government is mainly left to run local affairs such as taxation, public services, civil rights, municipalities, welfare, among others. On the other hand, the federal government is also involved in tax management, international affairs, military actions, banking, and naturalization among others. Immigration, agriculture, and pensions form part of joint federal and provincial powers.
These provisions imply that the federal government, which is led by the prime minister, possesses more powers. For instance, the provincial government is responsible for collecting taxes at the provincial level after which a significant proportion of these taxes that are sent to the federal government for distribution. This means that the federal government could influence this sharing of national resources despite the fact they most of the revenue is collected from the provincial level. This is because the constitution grants the federal government the jurisdiction on public policies. Such policies are associated with the most critical issues such as fiscal planning, criminal law, and national defense. This exclusive authority means that the prime minister can use the House of Commons and the cabinet to influence some weighty issues affecting the provincial governments. For examples, the federal government could influence priorities of different provincial governments by altering some issue on the national budget. In such incident, decentralization is jeopardized because one side is oppresses by the other.
The manner in which the Exclusive federal jurisdiction is designed allows the prime minister to make certain decisions that require a consensus between both governments. In addition, when the powers allocated to the federal government reach the top leadership, the prime minister holds an influential position. For instance, the power to declare war is held by the premier. Such ventures can be extremely expensive at times meaning that the country’s financial structures are likely to be affected negatively by such projects, thus affect running of both governments. This is because money expected to fund such engagements is derived from the national budget, which is controlled by the executive. The prime minister controls the executive through appointments and his political party, which has the majority. This means that parliament can be influenced politically to back the prime minister along party lines. This lives the provincial governments with extremely little to do to salvage any favors because they have no ability to influence decisions at the executive level.
The prime minister obtains his right to rule from the parliament. The parliament is made up of elected members who are sponsored by various political parties. This implies that the political party with the majority produces the prime minister. This implies that most maneuvers at the top leadership are controlled by the country’s politics. In addition, the prime minister's authority is further strengthened by the unwritten constitution. This includes power awarded by the royal prerogatives such as dissolving or suspending the parliament. Therefore, leaving such matters in the hand of a few can cost a country in different ways. This can paralyze the entire operations of both governments. Despite the fact that the constitution gives provincial governments autonomy, it does not shield them from dangers of such actions by the premier. Although the operations of provincial governments can continue operating in the event of such decisions, there are issues like budgetary allocations that can inhibit operations
Checks and Balances
It is evident from the capabilities of the prime minister that an autocratic prime minister who not only affects matters of the federal, but also of the provincial governments runs Canada. The ability of the prime minister to suspend or dissolve the parliament is one of the powers subject to checks and balances. This is because such powers allow him to call for elections whenever he feels comfortable or when chances are there to retain the powers. This ability can be used strategically to retain power by the prime minister's party simply because elections could be called and get the opposition unawares. Therefore, introducing control mechanisms like those in the United States could mean well for Canada. For instance, the president of the United States cannot take on powerful decision like calling for elections single-mindedly. He or she may have to consult with his party before taking such actions. This means that incase his or her proposals are rejected, the subject is dropped. This is not the case in Canada because the prime minister is given the sole mandate of dissolving or suspending parliament. Therefore, establishing mechanisms to cut on such powers will be essential if Canada is going to be governed democratically.
More checks and balances are still necessary in parliament to contain the monster mandate that the prime minister has over the parliament. This will deter the premier from making selfish decisions that would benefit his politically. The most prominent event of a similar nature is the December 4, 2008 request by the Prime Minister Stephen Joseph Harper to the governor-generals seeking to prorogue parliament. This step was strategically taken to avoid a vote of no confidence scheduled against the prime minister the following Monday. If this would have gone through, Harper was certain that his government was going to be replaced by the liberal-LDP that was led by Stephane Dion. Harper was the first prime minister to do so, meaning that the premiership in Canada is progressively gaining ground in dictating the way forward for the nation. Such moves can only be described properly using the term dictatorship. This is because the prime minister refused to vacate office when he knew jolly well that he was unwelcome. In addition, the granting of this request by the governor general is an indication of how politics influence the entire top leadership of the country. Therefore, introducing control measures against such system is necessary because the premier went ahead to successfully doing the same in 2010.
Much of the Prime Minister Powers are vested on his ability to appoint and fire. Furthermore, the premier has the right to appoint people even to represent provinces in the senate. This is an indicator that the premier has a direct influence on the provincial governments. For instance, the prime minister filled five senate seats in the senate using his own party members after replacing others from the opposition. This action changed the party standings in the senate whereby the conservatives became the majority (51) and the liberals were instead turned to be the minority (49). This means that the prime minister party had a say in the senate compared to the opposition, which was mainly from the liberals. The unquestionable appointments by the prime minister are other candidates of checks and balances. There have been many debates as to how these powers should be reduced or even better, controlled. Much of the proposals have been to delegate the duties to the members of parliament who are elected by the people. If anything, the prime minister is not elected by every citizen. This means that he or she may represent a few or even personal views. However, the best way to take care of this is to delegate appointment approvals to the parliament, whose members are answerable to the people rather than the prime minister.
In conclusion, although the Canadian system of governance is split into three operational units, it is evident that the federal government runs most of the nation’s affairs. This means that the prime minister is an all-powerful figure in Canada, thus influencing most if not all decisions made by the country in general. The ability to appoint and fire is the most powerful tool the prime minister uses in influencing how the country runs. Politicization of this role is an indicator that the prime minister has the sole responsibility if determining the way the government runs. Similarly, the prime minister is favored by his ability to influence the process of making laws of the country. This means that he influences the provincial governments indirectly especially if the laws are federal exclusive. The powers possessed by the prime minister over the parliament are also an asset in running the country as a monarchy. These abilities have created a room for the prime minister to hang onto power by strategizing using election dates. In addition, the ability to prorogue the parliament also allows the premier to stay in power, which is against democracy. In conclusion, there is the need to introduce checks and balances within the Canadian system if the powers of the prime minster are to be controlled. Otherwise, power will continue resting upon the prime minster, thus demeaning the constitutional provisions that give provincial governments autonomy.