Is the Canadian Prime Minister Too Powerful  Research Paper
- Length: 6 pages
- Sources: 7
- Subject: Government
- Type: Research Paper
- Paper: #55202134
Excerpt from Research Paper :
Canadian Prime Minister too Powerful?
Stephen Harper, the acting PM, has determined through his action a political direction that is not in accordance with the political tradition of the Canadian state and, moreover, has pushed his country on the international scene without view of the traditional means of conducting politics in Canada. The present research focuses on several key aspects concerning the political practices of the Prime Minister. They include the different approach undertaken by the PM in terms of foreign affairs and foreign politics, the different considerations related to internal politics and the relation with the Parliament and the other political parties. Finally, in order to prove that indeed the PM at this moment has too much power for its function and the traditional way in which politics is conducted in Canada, it is important to view the relationship the PM has with the Head of State, the Queen of Great Britain.
In terms of foreign policy, Stephen Harper took a completely new approach in the sense that it reoriented the relations between Canada and the rest of the world. This is not to say that the change is in total opposition with the way in which Canada viewed its role in the world, but rather through the administration of his function, the PM gave a much stronger voice in terms of foreign policy. More precisely, "Harper has engineered an even more significant turnaround in the diplomatic arena -- important because Canada, as a modestly sized country, counts on its ability to exert soft power. Since the end of World War II, Canada's wealth, location, and history have allowed it to punch above its weight in international forums. Multilateralism -- especially the United Nations -- has been a sacrosanct commitment for previous Canadian governments. But in Harper's first speech to the United Nations, in September 2006, he signaled a dramatic shift by questioning the international body's relevance (…). He said that Afghanistan's security was crucial not only to that country but "to the health and future of this organization." He criticized the pace of UN reform, and was skeptical about the organization's effectiveness in Haiti, Sudan, and Lebanon, and about the new Human Rights Council. "I must tell you, the early signals suggest that too little has changed, that the page has not yet been turned," he said. Harper has since repeatedly challenged the UN on its perdurable hostility toward Israel." (Smith, 2012)
This approach bears several points to make. Firstly, it must be stressed that, by default, Canada has always been the type of country that would not be in the first line of combat in provoking or supporting. Throughout its history, Canada has proven itself as the type of state that would clearly uphold the universal values of humanity, peace and security, and would always follow a diplomatic approach. At the same time though, given the fact that it is neighboring the United States that have always been considered as being part of the world police, the approaches undertaken by Canada have traditionally been in line with the U.S., yet more peace -- oriented. The change in perspective in regards to this aspect proposed and enacted by Harper is obvious. The diplomatic "attacks" at the efficiency of the United Nations as the world peace governing body have led to believe that in fact Canada, through the voice of its PM, considers the flaws of the system and acts on it bilaterally. This conclusion can be drawn taking into account the other approaches in terms of foreign policy, in particular the one to Israel, for which currently Canada is the strongest supporter.
The approach the PM has over Israel is, in essence, not different from the one Canada has had traditionally. However, the PM has now been voicing the support for Israel in a much stronger language, which in turn, for the international political scene, may appear to reveal a change in the tone with which Canada is conducting politics. In this sense, "Simply put, Canada is now the single most supportive nation of Israeli policy, exceeding even the United States, Israel's traditional senior partner. Change began early. In March of 2006, right after he took office, Harper pushed Canada to become the first country to cut off financial aid and diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority after Hamas took power following Palestinian elections." (Smith, 2012).
The relationship vs. The Israeli party is just an example of the way in which Harper is seen to be conducting international politics. Others include the active involvement in Afghanistan, in the missions in Libya, and other regions of the Middle East. This change in perspective and obvious active involvement in the way in which international affairs are treated at this point is reflected in the military spending Canada and the government assumed in times that would otherwise be considered to be of limited economic development. More precisely, "Under his reign, Canada's military spending has reached its highest levels since World War II. The country spent $14.8 billion (Canadian) per year on its military when Harper first took office; that figure now stands at $21.8 billion, sixth highest in NATO. Budget deficits for this fiscal year stand at $37.3 billion, showing that Harper's commitment to beefing up the military has pride of place in a realm of hard choices" (Smith, 2012).
The example of the change Canada has made in relation to international politics demanded a strong hand in internal politics as well, a strength that at this point is too much for a single individual and institution to have. The view that the PM is too strong for the Canadian traditional means of interaction is official at the level of the population. In this sense, "Two-thirds of Canadians believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is too secretive and has failed to govern with high ethical standards, a new poll has found. The national survey conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global Television by Ipsos Reid also finds that after seven years in office, half of the country still believes that Harper has a "hidden agenda." (Kennedy, 2013) This poll is important for the image that is created by the PM at the level of the society because it points out that the way in which politics is conducted by the PM is not sufficiently accessible for the population and obviously lacking transparency. Furthermore, a different poll suggested that the PM, instead of considering the power of the Parliament to be reduced, it should take into account that of the Executive. In other words, "With the Commons shut from December to March because Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament, a new poll suggests 42 per cent of Canadians think the power of the PMO should be trimmed. The poll, conducted by Nanos Research, shows Canadians still feel the Senate has more power than it deserves but they are more concerned about the PMO." (Clark, 2012) In a system that is based on the strongest democratic principles and considerations that have been in effect since the 19th century, the power of the government at this point in Canada is too big.
In this regard there is also the point to be made related to the actual system of government, which allows for this political power. More precisely, it must be pointed out that currently the Conservative PM has a parliamentary majority which allows him to pass the legislation that bests suits his purposes and political agenda. In theory, this is the way the system functions and such a majority should be the reflection of a popular majority and satisfaction with the political agenda of the leadership voted in elections. In practice however, the power of the PM has become so great, that he is even seen by the international voices and media to be the strongest executive body Canada has ever had. More precisely, "With power centralized more than ever, with complete dominance of Parliament, with absolute control of his party, Stephen Harper is the most powerful prime minister in Canadian history" (Gardner, 2011). Therefore, it can be argued that indeed, it is the system that made Harper powerful and thus the institution is in essence more powerful that it used to be, but, at the same time, it is the person that gathered the support of his party, the majority in Parliament, and the charisma of world leaders.
The power of the PM is not visible solely on the international stage, as mentioned above, or in the political relations with the Liberal Party or other political opponents. The power is also reflected in the everyday life of the society. In 2011, several legislative initiatives became laws under the PM's guidance and strong suggestions that in fact infringe the liberties and rights of the individual and which are, to a certain extent, similar to the ones being passed constantly in the United States as a result of the War on Terror approach that Canada is part of. However, the actions being taken…