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Liberal Democracy?

The key to understanding the difference between the way the machinery of democratic government works in Canada as compared to the United States has to do with the different distribution of the powers of the state (legislative and executive in particular but also judicial) in the two countries. In Canada these powers are FUSED. In the US they are SEPARATED.

What are the pros and cons of this difference?

Which one of the two varieties of liberal democracy in action do you think works best?

2 Answers

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  • ?
    Lv 7
    6 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    I happen to prefer the Canadian system, but perhaps I'm biased. I'm British and ours is virtually the same (guess where Canada got it from!)

    In Canada, the executive is a by-product of electing the legislature. So the two are always on the same side and you're more likely to get effective government. If there is a minority government that is having trouble getting anything done because Parliament keeps voting against it, it's possible for the Prime Minister to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. This may or may not resolve the problem, but at least the people can see what's going on and get another chance to vote as they see fit. Whoever is the largest party this time can have another go at forming a government.

    An early election is not possible in the USA. Because the President is both head of state and head of government, to give him the power to call one would give him almost dictatorial powers, so the US constitution doesn't allow for it. To make matters worse, you may well find that in a presidential election year, Congress may well end up with a majority on the same side as the President, but there is another election two years later and Presidents tend to be unpopular in mid-term. Most of the time the people then elect a Congress that is opposed to the President, and the President has to work with that for the next two years. It's almost as if someone designed the system to stop effective government. Electing the House of Representatives for the same four-year term as the President would deal with that, though.

    Separation of powers is all very well as a theory, but a parliamentary system where there is fusion is just more flexible, and works well in practice. The fact that members of the executive are EXPECTED to also be members of the legislature results in opportunities for questioning, and at any rate in the UK, it is considered that while the legislature is there to legislate, it is also there to question and scrutinise the executive. This doesn't seem to happen in the US, and can't without special arrangements such as some kind of investigative committee, because the executive is banned from sitting in the legislature. In a parliamentary system such as Canada has, it can be routine procedure.

    Certainly in the British Parliament, every sitting day starts with Question Time. There is a roughly monthly rota for Ministers to face this, and the Prime Minister gets half an hour of this every week. He has no notice of the questions, because nearly everyone uses the device of asking the question "To ask the Prime Minister his engagements for today". This is done because the supplementary question (and any MP who puts down a question and gets called to ask it is allowed a supplementary) to this question can be about anything. MPs from his own party may well send him a note beforehand to say what their supplementary will be, so he has the chance to prepare an answer, or even suggest asking a planted question - "what would you like me to ask, Prime Minister?"

    The Opposition certainly won't, though, so the Prime Minister can expect half the questions to be hostile. He also needs to think quickly on his feet. And the current Speaker of the British House of Commons runs PMQs very tightly, with an emphasis on short snappy questions and answers so as many MPs as possible get to ask one in the time. I've heard him say to an MP who is asking a long question "yes, yes, Mr X, I think we get the idea - Prime Minister!" It's a good test of the Prime Minister, and also of the Leader of the Opposition, who gets the special privilege of being allowed at least three supplementaries.

    There are plenty of examples of PMQs on youtube if you're interested.

  • 6 years ago

    Ours is good and works in theory. When you have a dishonest, corrupt President and Congress coupled with an activist SCOTUS, it doesn't work as designed.

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