The Monarch, the Legislature, and the House of Commons are the three institutions that form the Canadian government structure. The House of Commons follows the Westminster model, with the organization’s aim being to keep the executive responsible for the laws and services enacted by the government. The Queen is the head of the executive government, which includes the Cabinet and the Prime Minister (LeDuc & Pammett, 2014). In progressive democracy, such as the United States of America, the US Congress criticizes the executive’s decisions and draft legislation, with the president being required by the US Congress to obey the rule of law without coercion. However, the case of the Canadian House of Commons is different owing to the high level of influence that the government has in the House of Commons. This paper discusses the question of the reform of the Canadian House of Commons.
Understanding the Canadian Parliamentary System
The Canadian parliamentary system is one of the less efficient parliaments within the progressive democracies in the world. The institution is under control of the liberal government with the executive having the option of interfering with some of the house procedures that are instituted by the house. According to LeDuc & Pammett (2014) the executive has the discretion of determining the time that it may take to debate a given bill where the parties in the house may not agree. In the progressive democracies, Parliament houses the representatives of the electorate and offers checks and balances to the government including playing a crucial role in the determination of the set of decisions to be made and implemented by the government.
The Canadian parliamentary system comprises of the Senate and the House of Commons. The members of the Senate are appointees of the prime minister with the premier being the leader of the party with a majority of seats in parliaments. The main political parties that compete for seats in the House of Commons are the Conservatives, NDP, and the Liberals. According to the standing orders of the Canadian parliamentary system, the prime minister heads the executive wing of government and plays a crucial role in the governance of the country. Notably, the prime minister is not voted directly with the electorate and has a higher control of the parliament by him, or her being the head of the party with the majority of seats in parliament (LeDuc & Pammett, 2014).
Why Reform in the Canadian Parliamentary System is Needed
The major improvement that must be made to the Canadian governance system involves a constitutional referendum. Notably, there is need to ensure that the executive and the parliamentary system are different with the Parliament playing the oversight role to the executive. As such, the position of the Prime Minister needs to be re modeled with the electorate being able to elect the Prime Minister directly. In the current system, the Prime Minister is only answerable to the political party that has sponsored him or her into Parliament and tended to have his or her way since he or she leads the majority party in parliament (LeDuc & Pammett, 2014). The election of the Prime Minister needs to be made as is the case in democracies such as that of the United States with the Prime Minister being the head of parliament.
The parliamentary system also needs to be reformed with the intent of empowering the House of Commons to enforce its oversight roles. According to Chohan & Jacobs (2016), there is a need to ensure that the House of Commons has adequate oversight powers regarding the passing of legislation. For example, there is need to establish a threshold of votes to pass laws that affect the formulation of policies and legislation to ensure that the parliament does not have an adverse effect in the formulation of policies and legislation that guide government operations. For example, in the United States of America, three-thirds of the total members of the Senate need to vote for an important legislation to be passed, for instance, the health insurance bills. Such grants the Senate the powers to critique the actions of the government and ensure that the government policies are not only populist but meet the existent needs that the voters may be facing or which they may present.
How to Reform the Canadian Parliamentary System
The major change that must be made to the Canadian House of Commons is to ensure that the work of the members of parliament takes into consideration both the legislative and constituency. The legal work is always affirmed by the five-day sittings in the House of Commons (Chohan & Jacobs, 2016). The five-day sittings serve to hamper the need of the legislators to make time with their constituents. Therefore, there is a need to reapportion the Friday sessions and reorganize the other four days to take care of the members’ private business and the questioning time for the government. Granting the lawmakers’ time to have with their constituents enables them to have more touch with the electorate and equip them better in the formulation of laws and debating of the issues that are affecting the Canadian populace. The debating of the rules needs not to be made exclusive to the members of parliament but needs to be informed of the views of the public through interaction with their legislators (Chohan & Jacobs, 2016). However, the reapportioning of the Friday time, as is the case in other mature democracies, need to be granted to the Canadian legislators with the members of parliament expected to sit in the constituency offices and identify the existent needs that their constituents may be having and establish feedback.
Reform needed in the Canadian House of Commons also relates to the general rules on the floor of the house. For example, the mechanism of voting over the outstanding bills that are on the floor needs reform. The Canadian House of Commons needs to emulate the US and Welsh parliaments in the voting system that is used by the legislators. Unlike the Canadian House of Commons that still prefers the ringing of bells during the voting process, the American Parliament has an electronic voting system that tends to save time for the legislative work and grants the parliamentarian time to do their constituency work. Additionally, the type of balloting system that is used in parliament also serves to enhance the autonomy of the individual legislators. In the Canadian parliamentary system, the voting of the government bills tends to take a partisan approach with many lawmakers striving to maintain the position of the party that sponsored them into Parliament (Marchildon, 2013). Therefore, concealing the identity of the legislator during the voting system, through simultaneous electronic voting would enable the legislators to be more autonomous in their work and vote for or against the government bills based on their merits.
Empowering the house committees is also a crucial step in enabling the legislature to have a significant say in the decisions that are being made by the government. The committees need to set the budgets of the ministries and monitor how the departments spend the allocations that have been received by the relevant ministers. As such, the ministers need to be more answerable to the parliaments and the appropriate committees, unlike the current case where the ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister with the Prime Minister, in turn, being answerable to the Parliament. The oversight role of the House of Commons needs to be strengthened with the objective of enabling the House of Commons to critique the position of the government on several issues that are affecting the electorate and deliberate on what could be undertaken to make the legislation better (Marchildon, 2013). The Prime Minister is also the head of government. Questioning the Prime Minister on the all the government business, through the two hours weekly Friday sessions do not offer sufficient amount of time to probe on the government actions and answer to the issues that are raised by the parliamentarians. Making the Cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister all being accountable to the House committees and the House of Commons serves to empower the House of Commons.
Additionally, the Canadian Senate needs to be reformed with the electorate having a say on how becomes their senators. Currently, the Canadian Senate serves to play an advisory work with some members of the senate having special relationships with the ruling party members. Having the Senate members being directly elected serves to grant them more independence, unlike the current state (Blake, 2016). Taking the case of the US Congress, both the Senate, House representatives and the President are all elected directly by the electorate and are firms answerable to the people who have chosen them. The Senate has few members unlike the House of Commons and needs to evaluate the laws that are passed that are adopted by the Congress that have a direct influence on the provinces and natural resources of the country. Blake (2016) asserts that making the Congress more objective, by being directly elected could enable them to have a bipartisan approach to the legislative process and veto the bad laws that could be formulated by the partisan House of Commons. In the Canadian parliamentary system, the House of Commons serves to perpetuate the will of the majority party and does not reflect the independence that they ought to have equal power with the executive. In the progressive democracies, such as that of the United States of America, the Executive, Judicial and legislative arms of the government are all independent institutions that all offer checks and balanced to each other with the intent of improving the governance system of the country.
In the Canadian system, the executive has members from the legislature with the Prime Minister, who is also the head of government, sitting in the House of Commons and the Cabinet members also have seats in the House. Therefore, there is no clear separation of powers as the government can introduce bills in parliament and use the tyranny of numbers to ensure that such bills are passed through by the Parliament. Such needs to be revised by granting more autonomy to the parliament by having cabinet members being out of the House of Commons and being technocrats that are appointed by the head of government. The Prime Minister also does not need to sit in the House of Commons to ensure that he or she has a minimal influence on the work of the Congress. The major setback that is existent in the Canadian parliamentary system is the government having the exclusive discretion of introducing the government bills (Potter, Weinstock & Loewen, 2017). Additionally, the legislature is subordinate to the government as feuds between the national government and the legislature could offer a basis for calling for a fresh election, having a new administration or having a new house of commons. The work of the House of Commons is further watered down by not having constitutionally set timelines in which the committee can operate or be in existence at any given time (Potter, Weinstock & Loewen, 2017). Such calls for reforms that could only lead to a referendum in Canada. The enforcement of field deadlines for both the Senate and the House of Commons serves to ensure that they have independence in the formulation of laws that are affecting the country or state.
Reducing the excess powers that are in possession of the Prime Minister are further crucial to the advancement of democracy in Canada. Notably, there is need to reduce the credentials of the Prime Minister. In the current system, the Prime Minister has the powers to dissolve and summon the House of Commons, thus, making him or her appear being bigger than the legislature of the country (Potter, Weinstock & Loewen, 2017). Therefore, downscaling the powers of the Prime Minister would make the occupier of the office to be more accountable to the public and take a lead role in fronting reforms related to the legislative framework. The influence that the Prime Minister currently has in the house operations and tracking of the bills in the house are detrimental to any effective democracy. In the current system, the Prime Minister can postpone the opposition days and strive to be seen as being a real head of government by running away from questioning by the opposition members of parliament (Malcolmson, Myers, Baier & Bateman, 2016). Additionally, the existent powers of the prime minister overrule the powers of the house committee. With the discretion of the Prime Minister to take government bills to the house committee after the second reading, the House committee cannot issue any amendment to the bills, thus, watering down the powers that the house committee needs to possess. As such, the Prime Minister needs to have roles that are limited to the supervision of the executive, with his or her role being exclusive to the setting of the government policy and striving to ensure that the government policy is implemented by the cabinet minister with the rule of law being followed. Furthermore, all bills, including the government bills need to pass through the relevant house committees and vetted before they go for any reading in the house (Malcolmson, Myers, Baier & Bateman, 2016). Such enables the house committee to establish the appropriate amendments to the laws to entrench effective governance framework.
Selection of the timeline needed to summon Parliament after every general election is crucial in ensuring that the legislative work of the House of Commons is not affected by the will of the Prime Minister. According to the current political state of Canada, the Prime Minister is a position that is held by a partisan politician who serves self and part interests. Therefore, the summoning of the House of Commons needs not to depend on the personal will of the Prime Minister. The constitutional framework of the country also needs to be enhanced to ensure that there are fixed election dates in the country. Such would serve to water down the powers of the Prime Minister is calling for snap elections to serve his or her political interests.
The Canadian House of Commons is controlled by the excessive powers of the Prime Minister. The excess powers of the Prime Ministers serve to compromise the democratic capabilities of the elected members of parliament. Therefore, there is need to institute reforms in the democratic governance and parliamentary system of the country. First, there is need to cut down the powers of the Prime Ministers to ensure that he or she does not have the powers to call for a general election or the powers to set the limits for the committee members (Grace, 2016). Additionally, the Senate needs to be granted more oversight authorities. The senate needs to be directly elected and have the power to veto some of the government bills. In the recommendation, Canada needs to have a constitutional referendum to entrench reforms in its legislative framework to give powers to the Senate and water down the excess powers of the Prime Minister, including having the Prime Minister is elected and not sitting in any of the houses. Furthermore, the ministers should not be elected officials but technocrats appointed by the Prime minister and answerable to the House of Commons.
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