Ubc poli 101 Canadian Politics What is Politics? What is Political Science?

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Canadian Politics

What is Politics? What is Political Science?

Outline of this Lecture

  • What is Politics? Why Study it?

  • What does ‘Politics’ cover?

  • What is Government?

  • Social Science

  • Social Scientific Terms & Concepts

  • Political Science

  • Canadian Political Science

  • Approaches to Political Science – Non-Critical

  • Approaches to Political Science –Critical

  • Big Questions for Political Science

What is Politics? Why Study it?

Politics, Government, and Law are amazing:

  • Millions of people, huge distances; differences of values, religions, experiences, economic situations

  • Making decisions collectively that bind each other to laws

  • Fundamentally, law reduces uncertainty: about economic transactions, security, and now for health, income, etc.

  • The power to make these decisions and enforce them is immense

So… Who gets that power?

  • By force, or by agreement (law)

  • Holding and turning over that power without violence is a considerable accomplishment in such large, diverse societies

  • Doing it democratically means all citizens decide, and the most preferred group (party) takes power

What does ‘Politics’ cover?

  • Simply put: Everything

  • Governments regulate food, water, transportation, environment, economy, marriage/divorce/child custody, education, communication…

  • And they enforce all this by a monopoly on the legitimate use of force

  • Around 40% of the economy

  • “Politics is about who gets what, when, and how” (Laswell)

  • Politics is conflict (peaceful or violent) over the leadership, structure, and policies of government

  • Or, in some places, over the most powerful force (military)

  • But… Not quite everything

  • We have a liberal democracy, which implies that there is a private sphere which politics (the State) can’t intrude on

  • But what is private?
    Educating one’s children? Abortion? Marriage? Economic Dealings?

  • The limits of politics are themselves political questions!

What is Government?

  • Government is the term used to describe the institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people are ruled. We’ll study Canadian government.

  • Different forms of government are defined by who governs,
    and how much government control is permitted.

  • Forms of government defined by “who governs” include autocracy/monarchy (rule of all by one), oligarchy (rule of the few or elite), and democracy (rule of all by all).

  • Forms of government defined by the degree of government control include constitutional, authoritarian, and totalitarian governments.

  • Canada has a liberal-democratic constitutional monarchy

  • How do we understand government and politics?

  • A: We use social scientific techniques

Logistics / Announcements

  • Tutorials are on. You should be going. Next week, they will be focussed on the reading and lectures from THIS week.

  • The course now has a coursepack of 8 required readings. You should by it at the bookstore(±$17)

  • there may still be a few web readings in addition

  • More information on papers is now on the website.

  • let’s have a look

  • Tuesday, Jan. 11 from noon-1pm in the Meekinson Arts Space (Buch D140)…
    Vancouver Councillor Peter Ladner speaking on
    “What’s Happening in Vancouver Civic Politics”

  • Education in the Middle East

Social Science

  • Social science is an attempt to understand human behaviour by describing regularities in that behaviour, so that behaviour can be predicted.
    And all of that behaviour takes place in society - interpersonally.

  • economics, political science, sociology, parts of psychology, human anthropology

  • Standards and goals differ from those of the natural sciences and of the humanities

Social Scientific Terms & Concepts

  • Theory is the key element of the social scientific enterprise: “a theory is a statement linking specific instances to broader principles.” A story without proper names.

  • Empirical statements – address the way things are; descriptive. These are necessary before theory.

  • Normative statements – address the way things should be, judgmental. (relating to “norms” or expectations)

  • Theories provide explanation and prediction

  • but they need to be tested if we’re going to trust them to predict behaviour

Political Science

  • Political science: study of the political world, its institutions and behavior, in a systematic way

  • description, explanation, analysis, sometimes prediction. Particular emphasis on the state and individual interaction with the state.

  • Political science is also analysis and argument about the values, principles, and identities that form the basis for much of political behaviour and the policies of governments (e.g. national identity & unity)

  • At this point, Political Science doesn’t have overarching theories that have great success at prediction, as in the natural sciences. But understanding of behaviour and institutions has grown.

  • e.g: cooperation increases when likelihood of future interaction increases

Canadian Political Science

  • Like other ‘domestic’ political science

  • Goal is to understand, explain, and predict, and sometimes criticize how Canadian politics and government work.

  • Preoccupation with unity: Quebec and national identity, regional grievances, political parties as ‘brokers’ keeping the country together, the Charter of Rights as a unifying symbol, multiculturalism, etc.

  • But also study of citizen behaviour, party organization, elections, media, policy formation, policy effectiveness, political economy, foreign policy, equality and inequality, etc.

Approaches to Political Science – Non-Critical

  • Pluralist – Approaches to Political Science

  • groups compete for access (often through parties)

  • public involvement through interest groups

  • non-participation is voluntary, indicates satisfaction

  • elites protect democracy because they understand it

  • power is dispersed

  • policy is a result of compromise or ‘brokerage’

  • Rational Choice

  • foundation is self-interest

  • politicians simply compete for power

  • they maximize votes by appealing to the ‘median voter’

  • result is policy that satisfies the median voter

Approaches to Political Science –Critical

  • Class Analysis –

  • Often called Marxian political economy (after Marx!)

  • The ‘State’ and ‘Capital(ism)’ are co-dependent

  • Welfare, public health care, etc, are ways to keep the “working masses” quiescent (also called ‘legitimation’)

  • Now, transnational corporations dictate a “race to the bottom” – governments forced to intervene less in the market

  • State-Centred Approach –

  • Other three see the State responding to society

  • State-Centred analysis sees the state as a big, autonomous, self-aggrandizing ‘actor’

  • Little democratic input; politicians and bureaucrats do what they like

  • Authorities manipulate information for power

Big Questions for Political Science

  • Which political institutions best contribute to happiness, prosperity, equality, individual development, community cohesion?

  • Can political equality coexist with economic inequality?
    Is equal citizenship possible?

  • Does democracy work better if citizens are informed, participate in politics, and debate collective decisions in a rational, critical way?

  • Is the structure of the state inevitably hierarchical?
    Is that good because it enhances accountability or bad because it reduces popular input into decisions?

  • How much cultural diversity is optimal in a political community?
    How much is enough to break up the community?

Canadian Politics

The Development of Canada

What is the Canadian Political Community?

Coursepack and Assignments

  • Sorry about not telling you that the coursepack will be ready on Friday or Monday

  • Please try to get it and read the
    Reference Re: Secession of Quebec

  • point is about constitutions and democracy,
    not so much about Quebec

  • Another feature of the papers you write:
    you are required to find one other source relevant to your topic

  • must be an appropriate academic source

  • citation style is not important; what is important is to avoid plagiarism, so read the department’s statement on plagiarism, which is in the coursepack

Canada: Size, Population, Geography

  • Canada is BIG: but why does it matter?

  • Diverse regional communities with regional attachments

  • regional patterns of settlement by different groups

  • Canada is BIG in the sense that it is DIVERSE

  • Understanding of other regions limited by distance

  • Economy is regionalized so policy has regional effects

  • This week’s reading!

  • Canada is small: but why does it matter?

  • USA next door, 10X our population

  • Only ½% of world pop. (1 in 200 people are Canadian!)

  • Much ‘uninhabited’ land, controversy over use

  • Canada is medium-sized: but why does it matter?

  • Some economies of scale, but not as much as USA

  • Economy – price-takers and trade-takers dependency

  • Foreign policy – we have to ‘fit in’, play ‘honest broker’

  • Immigration – obligation(?) to accept immigration?

Indigenous Peoples, European Settlement

  • Before European contact, over 50 distinct cultures/languages with well-defined territory. The result of gradual movement from Asia between 20,000 and 1,500 years ago.

  • Early contact was genuinely between nations, but European values denigrated indigenous, non-Christian cultures.

  • British Royal Proclamation (1763) recognized land rights

  • First French, then English settlement pushed westward. Displacement of aboriginal peoples became extensive in the early 1800s.

  • Massive depopulation, mainly through disease:
    aboriginal population fell from 500,000 to 140,000

  • Very uneven coverage of treaties between the Cdn Gov’t and Indian Nations. Most negotiated unfairly.

Quebec Act (1774), Constitutional Act (1791), 4/5 Colonies

  • After the British Conquest of Canada, the Quebec Act solidified the French presence in Canada – recognized civil law, Catholic church, signeurial landholding

  • But NO representative assembly, unlike other colonies

  • 1791, two colonies: Upper & Lower Canada
    Representative Assemblies, but no power


  • The government is responsible to the people…
    If the people don’t like it, they can remove the government

  • Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI separate colonies

  • Influx of Loyalists from American colonies

  • 1837 rebellions against lack of responsible, popular gov’t

  • Lord Durham’s Report (1838):

  • Assimilation of French population

  • Re-unification of the Canadas – one assembly

  • Responsible government (came slowly – 1848)

Confederation - Why

  • Economic Reasons: Britain cancelled preferential access and Americans cancelled reciprocity (free trade), so a need for an ‘intercolonial’ market and therefore an intercolonial railway

  • Political Reasons: Union of Canadas = stalemate:

  • Two parties: reformers and conservatives

  • Two groups: French and English (Lower & Upper)

  • Military Reasons:

  • Threat of US annexation after US civil war

  • Worry about western border (BC gold rush)

  • Britain didn’t have money to defend Canada

Confederation - What

  • British North America (BNA) Act (1867)

  • Canada West (Ont.), Canada East (Quebec), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick (PEI & NF rejected it)

  • Defined governmental structures:

  • “with a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom”

  • House of Commons & Senate

  • Judicial system (courts)

  • “Peace, Order, and Good Government” (POGG)

  • Powers of taxation

  • Elections and qualifications of citizenship

  • BUT… Federal arrangement: national & provincial gov’ts

That was then, this is now…

  • Political culture is the sum of all values, beliefs, attitudes, and orientations of a society

  • It is more than “public opinion”

  • The frame that constrains political discourse and action

  • The norms and mores of the society

  • It is what is understood as the values of a society produced through the interaction between political parties, the mass media, civil society, and mass opinion, mediated by a community’s history & self-understanding

  • Assumptions, often unconscious, that guide political life

  • It is enduring, stable and cross-generational

  • It does help us explain national differences

  • And it helps us predict broad patterns of political outcomes

  • Pol Culture changes through replacement, conversion, new experiences

Canadian Political Culture: Historical Basis

  • Counter-revolutionary society

  • Anti-democratic/ anti-populist / elitist

  • Economically dependent (UK, then US)

  • Reliant on collective provision of well-being: a “Tory Touch”

  • National projects important to national political & economic development

  • No “one unified national and cultural tradition” –French/English divide etc.

  • Patterns of settlement:

  • French Catholics to Quebec

  • United Empire Loyalists coming north from American Revolution

  • Americans in Alberta

  • working class Brits (to Manit and Sask) with roots in Labour

  • Southern/Eastern European immigration to Prairies then cities

  • Later immigration from Caribbean, East Asia, South Asia mostly to big cities

  • Is any of this still relevant? Differences from the USA due to history?

Regime Principles: Liberty and Equality

  • Textbook calls these Canada’s “regime principles”

  • Most political theory/philosophy thesedays involves debate over the relative weight of these two values in cases where liberty and equality clash

  • For example: what the leaders were talking about:

  • same-sex marriage

  • child pornography

  • abortion

  • How do we make public decisions on these matters?

  • leave it to people to do what they want

  • parliament (representatives) make laws

  • Courts say what laws are in line with the Constitution – particularly the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canadian Political Culture and Value Change

  • Evidence in Nevitte and Kanji from World Values Survey

  • Canada’s Values have changed
    ‘Decline of Deference’ – more challenging of authority

  • media and public expect more information – justification of means

  • wider range of goals/values from new roles/experiences

  • greater acceptance of group politics / and from more diverse groups

  • Rising Democratic Expectations – expecting more from authority

  • governments more open – transparency in public service

  • change in instruments of democracy – direct democracy?

  • Social Permissiveness – increasing liberalism / libertarianism

  • liberalizing platforms – shift ‘left’ on social issues (abortion, no intolerant appeals, broader appeals, divorce)

  • Cosmopolitanism – becoming ‘global citizens’

  • less self/national-interest in foreign policyl

  • support for multilateralism? independent foreign policy? anti-protectionism?

  • Increasing Tolerance / Acceptance of Diversity

  • programs to reduce intolerance? diversity in representation? Acceptance of limited government / market solutions / meritocracy

  • privatization = efficiency , less government

  • global economic liberalization – less acceptance of protectionism

  • less redistribution? lower support for unions? privatization?

Important Facts - Immigration

Employment in Canada

Canadian Politics

Foundational Principles
of the Canadian Constitution


  • This weeks’ tutorials are on Canada’s regime principles

  • what does ‘democracy’ mean?

  • VERY useful website: http://polisci.nelson.com/canpol.html

  • New week inserted for Feb 7, called…
    National Unity and Mega-Constitutional Politics

What are these guys fighting over?

  • Not just what government should do

  • Instead: which part of government should do what

  • And: which part makes the final decision

Q: What is Canada? What are its Political Institutions?
A: A Constitutional Liberal Democracy

The Canadian political system is defined by the


So… What is a Constitution?

  • The Master Institution

  • gives form (constitutes) the component instutions of government

  • A set of rules and norms that define:

  • the powers legitimately exercised by political authorities

  • and the legitimate means for determining who those authorities are

  • The “supreme law” that provides the basis for the making, enforcement, & adjudication of regular law.
    And which cannot be changed as easily as regular law.

What do Constitutions look like?

  • Written versus Unwritten

  • US Constitution was drawn up at a Constitutional Convention and changed by formal Amendments

  • British Constitution is mainly unwritten:
    it is a set of laws and conventions

  • Canada’s is now (post 1982) in between!

  • Constitutions Define:

  • Legislative branch (law-making / approval),

  • Executive branch (enaction and enforcement of law)

  • Judical branch (interpretation and adjudication of law)

  • Federal division of powers

  • Term of legislative office (when elections must be held)

  • Limits of Government: Bill of Rights (Canadian Charter)

  • Other stuff! (e.g. Canada has provisions on religious education)

  • Contains an amendment formula for the constitution itself

  • Often a statement of values the community endorses:
    “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law” (texbook p. 250)

Logistics / Announcements

I apologize for the confusion and changes to deadlines, etc.

I have updated information on the website now

1) Changes to paper due dates: week of Feb 7th for first one

submit to turn-it-in AND paper copy to TA in tutorial

2) The turn-it-in course ID is 1234743, password is Canada

3) TA office hours are listed on the tutorials page

4) The schedule has been updated to show topics for all weeks

5) lecture notes for last week AND this week are up

Plus, the coursepack is available. It's about $15.

Example: Charlottetown Accord text on VALUES
This DIDN’T make it into the Constitution!

(1) The Constitution of Canada, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the following characteristics:

(a) Canada is a democracy committed to a parliamentary and federal system of government and to the rule of law;

(b) the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, being the first peoples to govern this land, have the right to promote their languages, cultures and traditions and to ensure the integrity of their societies, and their governments constitute one of the three orders of government in Canada;

(c) Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society, which includes a French-speaking majority, a unique culture and a civil law tradition;

(d) Canadians and their governments are committed to the vitality and development of official language minority communities throughout Canada;

(e) Canadians are committed to racial and ethnic equality in a society that includes citizens from many lands who have contributed, continue to contribute, to the building of a strong Canada that reflects its cultural and racial diversity;

(f) Canadians are committed to a respect for individual and collective human rights and freedoms of all people;

(g) Canadians are committed to the equality of female and male persons; and

(h) Canadians confirm the principal of the equality of the provinces at the same time as recognizing their diverse characteristics.

(2) The role of the legislature and government of Quebec to preserve and promote the distinct society of Quebec is affirmed.

The Canadian Constitution –
Constitutional Development

“The Living Canadian Constitution”

  • British North America Act (1867)

  • Parliament of Canada Act (1875)

  • Statue of Westminster (1931)

  • BNA Amendment re: Supreme Court (1949)

  • Constitution Act (1982)

  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms

  • Indian Treaties and Aboriginal Land Claims

  • Conventions such as Responsible Government
    (e.g the Cabinet resigns on a loss of confidence)

  • Judicial Interpretation of Constitution

  • Organic Statutes: Like the Federal Government’s ‘regional veto’ legislation (Constitutional Amendments Act)

Elements of the Canadian Political System
The TOTAL Constitution: Written and Unwritten
“A Richer Conception of Democracy”

  • The Crown (the Head of State)

  • Federalism

  • Representative Democracy

  • Rule of Law

  • Supremacy of the Legislature / Responsible Gov’t

  • Rights and Freedoms

  • Independent Judiciary / Judicial Review

  • Amending Formula

Rule of Law

  • What is the opposite of the rule of law?

  • The arbitrary decisions of a person or group of persons

  • Decisions about rules after the fact

  • So the Rule of Law involves “Procedural Justice”

  • Power exercised according to rules

  • But… law approved by the legislature can’t do everything

  • For example, it can’t make the determination of whether a person has been trying to find a job while receiving employment insurance

  • Or whether a business is complying with employment standards

  • Real people are authorized by law to make regulations, determine procedures, make case-by-case decisions. In Canada: Ministers of the Crown.

  • e.g. How much alcohol in blood is safe for driving

  • whether the value of a bottle of wine donated to charity is reasonable

  • So the “rule of law” also means that these decisions, too,
    are to be done equally, fairly, with evidence, and with procedures for appeal

The Crown

  • Canada is a constitutional monarchy

  • The Queen is the Head of State

  • the ultimate authority to choose who exercises power

  • The collective power of the political community is represented in The Crown

  • So we have Governor General, Crown Attorneys, Crown Land, Royal Commissions, Throne Speech, etc.

  • The power of the Crown has to be directed by some set of people: The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
    (and the provinces’ Privy Councils)

  • In practice this means the Prime Minister & Cabinet

  • The independent judiciary is also part of the Crown


  • Union of four separate colonies

  • Two governments, each sovereign in its own sphere

  • Constitution defines their powers:

  • Federal Government in Sec. 91 of the BNA Act

  • Provincial Governments in Sec. 92

  • ‘residual power’ held by the federal government

  • Courts interpret the division of powers and can invalidate laws that violate it

  • Strong potential to define political conflict as national vs. provincial governments

Representative Democracy

  • Popular Sovereignty – The People Rule

  • Their voice is through a representative

  • Laws made in/by a representative assembly

  • in Parliament, a limited number of citizens speak for all

  • Representation based on geography

  • Members of Parliament represent people in a place

  • Political Equality: One Person, One Vote

  • MPs are ‘answerable’ to their constituents

In the Parliament of Canada, MPs represent between 30,000 and 125,000 people

In the provinces the population of electoral constituencies can be as low as 3,000


  • The Constitution also contains the
    Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

  • So there is a lot the government can’t do

  • Democratic rights

  • Legal Rights

  • Mobility Rights

  • Aboriginal Rights

  • Equality Rights

  • Lauguage Rights

  • But the government can do what it wants, anyway!
    By invoking the “notwithstanding” clause of the very same Charter (sec. 33)

  • but the political cost of this may be too high

Separate Judiciary / Judicial Review

  • The BNA Act establishes a judicial system by authorizing the establishment of courts and the appointment of judges

  • Judges are technically removable by the legislature, but it is a Constitutional convention that this only be used in extreme cases of misconduct

  • So the judiciary is independent, even though appointments are under the full control of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

  • The Charter empowers judges to enforce it. But judges have gone further than their explicit powers

Amending Formula

  • A way to change this so-called “supreme law”

  • it has to be at least somewhat flexible to respond to changing circumstances and changing preferences

  • Ours is federal – it involves the consent of provinces

  • Consensus seems natural, but this gives veto power to sometimes very small players (PEI, pop. 130,000)

  • Canada’s General Formula:
    7 provinces with at least 50% of Cdn population


  • reason it took so long to get the Constitution patriated

  • so much subtlety: more than 5 different formulas!

Amending Formula: Example

  • Meech Lake agreement to recognize Quebec failed because it wanted to change the amending formula

  • Quebec wanted ‘distinct society’

  • But it also wanted veto power over (section 42):

  • (a) the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces in the House of Commons prescribed by the Constitution of Canada;

  • (b) the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators;

  • (c) the number of members by which a province is entitled to be represented in the Senate and the residence qualifications of Senators;

  • (d) subject to paragraph 41(d), the Supreme Court of Canada;

  • (e) the extension of existing provinces into the territories; and

  • (f) notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces;

  • So that meant the Meech Lake agreement needed UNANIMOUS CONSENT FROM ALL PROVINCES

  • That’s where it met it’s downfall

Supremacy of Legislature / Responsible Gov’t

  • The legislatures can make any law they choose

  • … But that means they are responsible for everything government does

  • In practice, this means the members of the governing political party

  • and especially the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who are collectively responsible to the legislature

  • Cabinet Ministers are responsible for the actions of everyone in their department

Amending Formula

  • A way to change this so-called “supreme law”

  • it has to be at least somewhat flexible to respond to changing circumstances and changing preferences

  • trade-off is flexibility versus unanimity/consensus

  • Ours is federal – it involves the consent of provinces

  • Consensus seems natural, but this gives veto power to sometimes very small players (PEI, pop. 130,000)

  • So… Canada’s General Formula:
    7 provinces with at least 50% of Cdn population


  • one reason it took so long to get the Constitution patriated

  • so much subtlety: more than 5 different formulas!

Amending Formula: Example

  • Meech Lake agreement to recognize Quebec failed because it wanted to change the amending formula

  • Quebec wanted ‘distinct society’

  • But it also wanted veto power over (section 42):

  • (a) the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces in the House of Commons prescribed by the Constitution of Canada;

  • (b) the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators;

  • (c) the number of members by which a province is entitled to be represented in the Senate and the residence qualifications of Senators;

  • (d) subject to paragraph 41(d), the Supreme Court of Canada;

  • (e) the extension of existing provinces into the territories; and

  • (f) notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces;

  • So that meant the Meech Lake agreement needed UNANIMOUS CONSENT FROM ALL PROVINCES

  • That’s where it met it’s downfall

Canadian Politics

Responsible Government

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

James Madison, 1788

Constitutional Principle:
Responsible Gov’t / Supremacy of Legislature

  • The legislatures can make any law they choose

  • But that means they are responsible for everything government does or does not do

  • But how can we hold 308 separate people responsible?

  • We don’t. Instead, we select a government from these 308

  • the US does not have a government in the same sense! More later.

  • Government in practice means the members of the governing political party

  • but even that’s too many separate people

  • So the government is the Queen’s Privy Council:
    the Cabinet and especially the Prime Minister

  • It’s these characters who are collectively responsible to the legislature

  • Cabinet Ministers are individually responsible for the actions of everyone in their department – in a more legal sense

Canada’s ‘Fusion of Powers’

  • Theoretically, executive and legislative branches are distinct

  • Executive: power to propose and then implement and enforce law

  • Legislative: power to accept (pass), change (amend), or reject laws proposed by the executive

  • and to oversee what the executive does as it implements laws
    e.g. US system and the Auditor General of Canada

  • In Canada:

  • the executive is the Cabinet (Queen’s Privy Council),

  • the legislative is the House of Commons AND Senate


  • or, at least, the members of the executive are drawn from the legislature

Canada’s ‘Fusion of Powers’ – Cabinet in Parliament

  • In Canada’s Westminster System, the executive (Cabinet) is always part of the legislative – it is selected from the legislature by the Crown

  • The identity of the Cabinet is determined by the legislative:
    Cabinet is responsible to the Members of Parliament

  • technically, if MPs don’t like the Cabinet, they can throw them out

  • but really the other way around: PM gets to pick Cabinet Ministers because…

  • In practice, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party getting the most seats. The Governor General “asks him/her to form a government”


  • Reading for this week is on the website

  • it focusses on accountability of Ministers and Public Servants

  • 4 paper topics up

  • 1st paper due week of Feb 7th
    Can be on either the Constitution questions or
    the Responsible Government questions

Paper Guidelines

  • Answer the question, but in a balanced way:

  • Take a position, but consider the other side

  • Or, just take a compromise position!

  • The real content, the way you should answer,
    should be exploring and analyzing the:

  • concepts involved

  • behaviour of the actors involved (parties, individuals, governments, civil servants, citizens, non-governmental organizations, interest groups, etc.)

  • changes to the system and its institutions that would alter behaviour and thus alter the results or consequences of that behaviour

  • the desirability of certain goals and values

  • Define your terms clearly, but don’t waste a whole lot of space on this

  • Don’t waste a page on intro and a page on conclusion

  • write the paper as an answer to the question and then write a one-paragraph intro and one-paragraph conclusion when you’re done!

  • Look at the style in section 3.7 of the texbook…
    Try to write like that, except with a bit more of an argument/answer


  • Question: Is the Prime Minister too powerful? What can be done about it?
    … Within the federal government, the PM defines the agenda and ultimately makes the important policy decisions. The fact that he/she controls appointments in his/her party means that other members of the governing party will try to please the PM, keeping their mouths shut if they disagree…
    The federal system in Canada, however, provides a check against the power of the Prime Minister. …

Contrast with the USA: Separation of Powers

  • The Americans wanted to keep the executive and legislature from getting together and using their combined power to oppress the people

  • So they set them up in competition with one another

  • President directly elected; bureaucracy under his thumb

  • Congress is elected independently

  • They have to agree for laws to be passed

  • The legislature (Congress) then has to monitor the bureaucracy to make sure that it enforces those laws

  • EPA example

  • Responsibility is harder to pin on either

  • parties make this a lot easier,
    but not if there’s divided government

The Logic of Responsible Government:
Delegation and Accountability

  • We need to delegate decision-making and enforcement to a small group (law-makers, law-enforcers)

  • We want that group to always do what we would do if we were all making the decision

  • So we must make it in their self-interest to do what we would do (what we want done) – we create incentives for them

  • First, we make it worth their while to do it (income)

  • Then we hold them accountable:
    We threaten to take their power away if they

  • do stuff in their interest rather than in our interest

  • or let the people the get to do the work (civil servants) get out of hand

  • doing what they themselves prefer

  • or just “shirking” – not doing their jobs, performing services we pay for

  • We delegate this power to our representatives

  • a. Our representatives can stop them before they do that stuff
    b. Our representatives can remove them afterwards

  • If our representatives don’t do this for us, we can remove the representatives themselves!

Diagram of Delegation and Accountability

  • We could bend this into a circle

  • The key here is information

  • how much effort should/can each one spend in monitoring the people it is supposed to monitor

  • might each one try to keep real information about its activities away from the authorities that are supposed to monitor it

  • might they all decide to blur the responsibility so they can all get away with things

Example: APEC Demonstrations HERE at UBC!

  • Police used too much force against protestors

  • Who is responsible? Who do we punish?

  • RCMP individuals

  • Minister responsible: Solicitor General

  • Prime Minister

  • Political apointees in the Prime Minister’s Office

  • Later? Our representatives for not watching the PM or the minister closely enough?

  • Problems at each step with information and identities

In 1991 Jean Chretien told the Commons: "I would like to tell the people of Canada that there will be one thing: when we form a government, that every one Minister in the Cabinet that I will be presiding; will have to take the full responsibility of what's going on in his office. And if there's some bungling in the department, nobody will be singled out, but the Minister will have to take the responsibility.

"And if there are errors, some might be moved. But the people who cannot defend themselves [civil servants] will not be singled out, hanging out there in front of the public. It is shameful. It is an indignity that we have not seen in Canada since a long time and it's why I stood today. Because if the system of Ministerial responsibility and integrity is not respected; if Ministers cannot anymore go home and look at themselves in the mirror and say do I have the trust of my employees; do I have the trust of the people of Canada; if they cannot do that because they want to keep their little jobs, people will never -- have never anymore confidence in public service in Canada.“

"I think one of the major changes over the last decade or more has been the extent to which basically Prime Minister Chretien has got contempt for parliament itself and for the parliamentary committees," Robinson says. "At least Mulroney -- and I never thought I'd say this -- but at least Mulroney understood and respected the fact that we had a role, as members of parliament; as opposition members of parliament and government members of parliament, to try and get at the truth.“ – Svend Robinson, NDP MP for Burnaby Douglas

The Government of Canada

The Federal System

(not Constitutional Mega-Politics)


  • Separate “orders of government” defined by the Constitution

  • But not Confederalism: where the higher-level assembly is made up of representatives of governments not representatives of the people

  • US Senate, originally

  • Division of Powers - Constitutionalized

  • Neither can change this unilaterally

  • Disputes go to a third party – the Supreme Court

  • General support in the political culture for the existence of multiple levels of government …

Canadians Like Co-operation – But They’re Confused

Why Federalism? (but Vernon reading doesn’t buy them!)

  • Prevention of tyranny

  • Division of sovereignty – tempers Parliamentary Supremacy

  • “Multiplication of factions” – Madison

  • Efficiency

  • Information about citizens’ preferences more reliable

  • Service delivery more cost-effective

  • Representation closer to the people (more democratic)

  • Citizens shop for ‘bundles of services’

  • Geographical variation in preferences

  • In Canada: the accomodation of ethno-cultural difference

  • Recruitment of leaders through the levels of gov’t

  • Policy Experimentation / Borrowing Ideas & Success

Why NOT Federalism?

  • Inequality

  • different revenue bases mean different levels of service

  • equalization is inefficient

  • Confusion undermines responsible government

  • voters may not be able to hold governments accountable

  • legislatures may not be able to hold Cabinets accountable

  • Destructive competition (Race to the Bottom)

  • A bidding war to attract industry undermines revenue

  • Entrenchment / exacerbation of geographical conflict Diversion from more important concerns

  • Cost

  • Duplication / Overlap

  • Lack of economies of scale

Intrastate (within) and Interstate (between) Federalism

  • Intrastate Federalism:
    The representation of the units of the federation within the national government (e.g. US Senate – 2 Senators from each State)

  • Constitution ensures Provincial Representation in Senate and House of Commons

  • Convention of regional balance in Cabinet

  • Can be interpreted in centralist or decentralist ways

  • Senate Reform in Canada?

  • Interstate Federalism:
    Interactions between Federal and Provincial gov’ts

  • Joint programs

  • Bureaucratic linkages and consultations

  • Integration of Tax system

  • First Ministers’ Conferences

  • Interstate federalism functions more smoothly, or there is simply less need for it, if intrastate mechanisms are legitimate and effective.

Features of Modern Canadian Federalism

  • Executive Federalism: Intergovernmentalism

  • First Ministers’ Conferences (FMCs): e.g. Health Care Aug. 2004

  • Ministers’ Meetings, Premiers’ Meetings: multi or bi-lateral

  • over 500 semi-permanent ‘working groups’ of officials

  • Equalization Payments (Constitutionally Guaranteed)


36. (1) Without altering the legislative authority of Parliament or of the provincial legislatures, or the rights of any of them with respect to the exercise of their legislative authority, Parliament and the legislatures, together with the government of Canada and the provincial governments, are committed to

(a) promoting equal opportunities for the well-being of Canadians;

(b) furthering the economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities; and

(c) providing essential public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians.

(2) Parliament and the government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.(19)

  • Block Grants (federal $ to provinces)

  • replace federal spending power

  • lets provinces set relative priority of health, educ, welfare

Development of Canadian Federalism 1 – Confederation +

  • Reasons for Federalism in 1867:

  • Deadlock of United Canada’s – “Double Majority” stalemate

  • Quebec – desire for constitutional guarantee of control over language, education, culture, civil law, religion

  • Martimes – wanted self-government, feeling of distinct political culture, different economic interests

  • Logistics – Communication/Transportation slow & costly

  • promise to build railroad in constitution

  • But… the shadow of US Civil War

  • So strong central government with residual power, disallowance, primary power to tax

  • The objective was independent governments, able to function on their own in ‘watertight compartments’

  • “we have avoided all conflict of jurisdiction and authority”
    – Sir John A. Macdonald

Constitutional Division of Powers


  • Remember, federalism is a situation where neither government can infringe on the other’s powers

  • But in Canada, at the beginning…

  • Paramountcy – federal gov’t laws stand in case of conflict

  • Reservation and Disallowance

  • Residual Power of the federal government

  • Declaratory Power (public works for national benefit)

  • Unequal power of taxation Federal Spending Power

  • Federal appointment of judges

  • First PM John A. Macdonald thought of the provinces as colonies

Development of Canadian Federalism 2 – to 1949

  • Post-1867 Empowerment of Provinces

  • Provinces’ Rights, Strong Premiers – Compact Theory

  • Judicial decisions undermined residual power

  • Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in Britain

  • Limited federal powers to those enumerated in s.91

  • POGG limited to matters not covered in s. 91&92 (Local Prohibition case - 1896) and to an “emergency power” (Fort Frances case - 1922)

  • Generous interpretation of provincial “property and civil rights” and “all matters of a merely local or private nature in the prov”; with a limited interpretation of federal “trade and commerce” power (unlike USA)

  • Swing back to centralization, but against JCPC resistance

  • WWI – federal War Measures Act, temporary centraliztion

  • Depression: JCPC says not an emergency, so POGG can’t justify federal ‘New Deal’ social programs: welfare, unemployment insurance, pensions, etc.

  • WWII intervenes and provides the emergency the federal government needs, as well as an economic solution

  • Quebec opts-out of Canada Pension Plan and Tax Sharing

  • start of ‘asymmetrical federalism’

Development of Canadian Federalism 3 – Post-War

  • Centralization:

  • 1940 amendment adding unemployment insurance to fed.

  • 1949 Elimination of Appeals to the JCPC in Britain

  • Growth of the Spending Power – Shared Cost Programs

  • Problems with Shared Cost Programs:

  • undermines provincial independence
  • Encourages spending
  • Reduces accountability
  • Growth of both levels of government, so less conflict

  • Tax sharing, tax ‘rental’

  • But… Equalization allowed provinces to provide similar services

  • Co-operative federalism: so many problems and opportunities were new and not provided for in the constitution – so negotiation became the rule

  • Intergovernmental Relations are a key feature of Canada
    (1000 committees, 500 federal-provincial programs)

  • Illustration: Post-Secondary Funding

  • Provincial: Operating grants, salaries, scholarships

  • Federal: Block funding for education, research funds, scholarships

  • As governments stopped growing, conflict increased

Current Canadian Federalism

  • Federal cuts

  • Diminishing federal role and use of spending power

  • Provinces can be more aggressive against the fed gov

  • Federal gov’t less able to enforce national standards

  • SUFA – The Social Union Framework Agreement (1999)

  • Feds agree to get provincial consent for new programs

  • Reduce barriers to mobility and equality – no residence requirements

  • Collaborative policy development and data collection

  • Enhance accountability by identifying sources of funding

  • Funding predictability


  • Next week’s readings up on the website Schedule

Case Study: Health Care

  • Universal Health Care (actually Medical Insurance) emerges from federal experimentation: Sask 1960 Fed 1962-72

  • Federal government uses spending power to do it and this is still the way they enforce national standards

  • Canada Health Act (1984) clarifies this:

  • Federal contribution was 50%, but declined dramatically

  • Problem of one level funding; other level managing

  • So 2004 Election Campaign Promise by Liberal PM Paul Martin: First Ministers Meeting televised for all to see

  • Lead-up

  • Initial Moves

  • Private Talks

  • Deal

Consequences of Federalism

  • Cairns: Solidifies provincial societies and encourages provincial politicians to play to provincial identities
    so… Federal Institutions create Federal Societies!

  • federal competition crowds out other conflicts

  • Larger Government?

  • Competition for citizen satisfaction leads both to compete or cooperate to deliver more programs than are wanted

  • Smaller Government?

  • Race to the bottom – competition for investment

Canadian Politics

Mega(?)-Constitutional Politics: In Search of Unity
Quebec Nationalism, Aboriginal Self-Determination, Regionalism

All the usual Canadian preoccupations!

Background to Mega-Constitutional Politics

  • Nationalism: Links membership in a cultural or ethnic community to the legitimate existence, recognition, and independence of a political community

  • Can Canadians “consent to form a single people”?

  • Canadian Nationalism? Weak?

  • British / Imperial Connection – English Canada was British!

  • Development of Provincial identities – dual fed & prov identities

  • Pull of / Push against the USA – defining ourseves in opposition to US

  • Competing Identities:

  • Quebec Nationalism

  • Aboriginal Nations

  • Provincial Communities / Regionalism

Context: Repatriation of the Constitution

  • Bringing the constitution back to Canada began a process of mega-constitutional politics

  • re-fashioning, re-imagination of the political community

  • So the question is defining the nation and putting that into practice through the constitution:
    Russell asks: “Can Canadians become a sovereign people”

  • Canada begins to tackle this question as the Quiet Revolution develops in Quebec (around 1960)

  • Initially involves provinces – especially Quebec

  • But expands in the late 1970s to include

  • aboriginal people,

  • women’s groups,

  • ethnic/multicultural associations:

  • Everyone wants a say in re-defining the political community
    As they should!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Visions of Canada

Grounding ‘visions’ of the community provide stories that justify and legitimize different constitutional outcomes:

  • Two Nations

  • French and English (non-territorial)

  • Quebec and Rest of Canada

  • Equal Provinces (confederation)

  • Push for intrastate federalism – Senate Reform

  • And restriction of federal spending power

  • Some opposition to Charter because decisions apply nationally

  • Three Nations

  • Aboriginal peoples as founding nations

  • Requires a “third order of government”

  • Multiculturalist

  • Founding contributions of many ethno-cultural groups, none superior

  • Individualist – Community of Equal Individuals

  • All equal members of the political community – no ‘group rights’

Society and Nationalism in Quebec

  • French (Catholic) society in Quebec is 400+ years old

  • Politics a compromise between the Catholic Church, English Economic Interests, and a minimal Quebec State… lasted until the 1950s!

  • Lots of Grievances:

  • Riel Rebellion(s) – symbol of Protestant-Catholic conflict

  • Manitoba Schools Question – provincial rights vs. guarantees of minority language education

  • Conscription Crises – Quebecois didn’t want to fight Britain’s wars

  • Federal government and civil service English dominated

  • Federal incursions into provincial jurisdiction

  • Most Québecois see their community as a ‘people’, distinct from France and English Canada

  • Desire for la survivance of a distinct, french-speaking community

  • So… What is the best means to preserve French language & culture?

  • So it’s a small step to a ‘nation’, with a right of self-determination

The Quiet Revolution and the Two Nations Vision

  • Quebec had fought the federal government since the election of Maurice Duplessis’ Union Nationale in 1936

  • But this was to resist involvement of the state in general

  • The Quiet Revolution meant…

  • Acceptance of government programs, coupled with a desire for made-in-Quebec policies, led to Quebec opting out of federal programs (CPP, univ. grants, etc.) that other provinces accepted

  • Professionalization of Quebec civil service, convincing many that they had the ability to operate the full machinery of government

  • Constitutional result was a push for changes to the constitution giving Quebec expanded powers (not “power”!)

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