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Canadian Government, Ministers, and Cabinet Essay

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2021


Canada basically falls under federal government; the country is made up of diverse societies. Political institutions were created to reflect the British traditions. The concept of social interest confers powers to individuals for the benefit of the whole community. This is because power is central to the core social needs within the society. This justifies the reason as to why some people use power for the advancement of personal interests rather than for the benefit of the society. It could be realized within environments where majority react in competitive manner for their own benefits which ultimately build lots of mistrust amongst individuals making it difficult for prevalence of unity (Savoe 1-26).

The Prime Minister and ministers

Within the Canadian government, the prime minister is usually known to be the leader of the political party having majority seats within the House of Commons after general election. The role of the prime minister is known to be one of the most powerful in Canadian politics. As the Head of government, the prime minister is charged with the responsibility of being the head of the executive branch of the Canadian federal government.

The prime minister has the responsibility of providing solutions to the government through leadership (Prince 1-13). This is made possible by the necessary support from the cabinet appointed by the prime minister, political staff within the office as well as the Privy Council comprising of non-partisan public servants representing the public service (Whittington).

The prime minister as the chair of the cabinet selects cabinet ministers and makes decisions concerning the size of the cabinet. He assigns the ministers various responsibilities and portfolios regarding their departments. The selection of the cabinet ministers places into consideration regional, gender and ethnic balance ensuring fair representation. All the cabinet meetings are under the chair of the prime minister who controls the agendas.

The prime minister is also a party leader since he represents a political party. He or she is charged with the responsibility of explaining party policies and programs to members and ensuring that they are implemented. The prime minister as the Member of Parliament is responsible for leading and directing parliamentary proceedings and activities together with the ministers. He participates only in the debates considered important within the House of Commons as well as defending government and its policies (Whittington).

Power of the Prime Minister

The powers of the prime minister are dependent on the circumstances, context under which they are applied and the electoral directives. This implies that the powers are not in any way fixed to certain policies and rules; they depend on agency and structural constraints. Dominance of power by premier is fully dependent on the level of discharge on informal resources and the level of management on the dependency relationships alongside structural resources within the formal line. Prime minister is also accountable to some degree of personal power resources comprising of reputation, skills; the level of relation with the actual political success, the level of his popularity amongst the public and at the same time within his own political party (Prince 1-13).

The Prime minister also has got the institutional power which makes him or her be recognized as the legal head of the government, he has got the powers to set the agenda through the leadership of the cabinet committee and at the same time set the agenda through the management of the news through government media (Whittington). The prime minister has got the formal powers to appoint and demote ministers, the powers to appoint as well as regulate the civil service, powers to organize portfolios and direct government businesses. He has formal powers to create cabinet committees and reorganize central government.

Relationship between the Prime minister and the ministers

Formal relationship between the Prime Minister and ministers are those that are constitutionally defined. He has all the powers to choose whom to appoint and give position within the cabinet as well as non-cabinet ministers and some junior members holding various positions within the government. The prime minister has got the formal power to reshuffle those ministers serving within the cabinet and at the same time decides on their specific portfolios (Johnson 190).

Ministers are expected to bear full responsibility for all the administrative decisions and policies used by those working within the various departments of their ministries. They need to be aware of both the standard and routine guideline operations within their various departments. Ministers run and oversee their ministry departments with the help of assistant ministers who work closely with heads of departments especially on issues concerning policy and operational matters (Johnson 190).

Despite the fact that deputy ministers are solely responsible for the processes involving actual running of the ministry, they work at the pleasure of the appointing authority who is the Prime Minister. The prime minister works closely with the Clerk of the Privy Council for the purposes of coordinating ministerial portfolio, as well as overseeing the work within various ministries. The Prime minister is also endowed with the responsibility of working closely with the deputy ministers.

The prime minister and the cabinet in general are informed on the performance of the department minister’s overall performance administratively and economically. The deputy minister gives the assurance to the Prime minister on the professional soundness and capability of the department to advance and protect the interests, policies and agenda of the government (Johnson 193).

The relationship between the Prime minister, ministers and their deputies is of great concern and importance in the power relations within the governments. In collaboration with the Prime minister all ministers bear the responsibility on the final approval and support of government policies. They are also required to support, defend and support government legislation as well as its policies in Parliament and in public respectively (Johnson 153).

Ministers stand to be key players within ministerial boundaries; he or she serves as the political head of the department. The minister also have vital hand in the development of new policies as well as program initiatives which supports and at the same time promotes government interests in conjunction with his or her own policy initiatives (Savoie 240-248).

The basic institutional structures of government

Canada country is constitutionally part of British monarchy. The overall structure of the court system, as well as the judicial branch is modeled as a two-tiered but basically reflecting a unitary pyramid. The base is characterized by the provincial court systems and the Supreme Court at the top of the pyramid. The Supreme Court of Canada generally acts as the court of appeal. Federal Court deals with matters concerning administrative law and provincial legal disputes while the Supreme Court of Canada deals with the appeals from provincial as well as Federal Court. The lower house and the upper house are used basically for legislative purposes. The upper house comprises 105 senators appointed by the Prime Minister (Simeon and Robinson).

Concerning the Federal executive in Canada, governance originates from a set of concentric circles. This comprises of the prime minister and Privy Council Office at the very core working alongside senior cabinet ministers followed by junior ministers and finally parliamentary backbenchers. The parliament in Canada is considered to serve as a debating zone; real decisions concerning the country are made by the executive with formal backing of the majority from the parliament. The head of state is the governor general appointed by the monarch, he or she conducts ceremonial functions within the government (Simeon and Robinson).

On the issues of administration, the federal government works with several institutions such as military and the Royal Canadian Police. Those working within the administration are appointed with the approval of the Public Service Commission. The Federal administration comprises of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office. The government also relies on bodies such as Crown corporations, agencies concerned with regulatory issues as well as advisory bodies for administrative purposes. Crown corporations are considered semi-autonomous since they discharge duties not directly linked to market competition (Prince 1-13).

The cabinet forms the heart of all decision-making process concerning governance. The cabinet is chaired by the premier and assumes the responsibility of giving necessary direction to the government, enforcement of laws as well as administrative responsibilities. Approving of bills and draft regulations as well as deciding on financial frameworks all lies with the cabinet. In addition the cabinet establishes policies, coordinates departmental and agencies activities, appoints senior departmental officials and heads of agencies.

The cabinet committees are formed for the purposes of enhancing planning and coordination efforts of the government. This enables the government to be more efficient in discharging its duties. The committee is more concerned with the preparation of major strategies and at the same time debate important policies and the overall country’s budgetary issues. The Central Agencies have the responsibility of assisting the Premier and the Cabinet in the management of the state issues and affairs (Simeon and Robinson).

Role of the departments and the differences between departments and crown agencies

Departments assist ministers in the process of discharging their responsibilities, this is since the departments acts as an agent used by the minister. The departments are expected to have up-to-date information which enables timely advice on the performances of the chair, board and the whole entity within the ministry. They also offer necessary advice to ministers concerning change in policy regarding the ministry and the associated legislative directives.

In addition to these, departments’ key functions involve promotion of the various departmental research and analysis of policies, maintenance of clear records and financial transactions, promotion of good communication links within and across departments as well as offering training to employees (Johnson 161).

Crown Agencies are federal organizations endowed to carry out duties such as regulatory, advisory, and administrative as well as issues concerning finances and provision of goods and services. They differ from departments since they are free from direct political control from the government ministers. While departments enjoy full and direct ministerial control, Crown Agencies are not in any way subject to budgetary systems or direct control from the minister. All commercial activities of the government within Crown Agencies are protected from frequent government interference as well as legislative supervision (Marsha).

Cabinet committee is a body endowed with the responsibility of acting as the lead voice in the process of establishing and engineering the general policies and agendas of the government. The committee is set based on either social or economic development background. There are as well some other cabinet committees endowed with the task of dealing with the issues concerning restoration of order within council appointments.

The committee enhances the abilities of the government in the use of time and resources in a more professional way resulting in more efficiently coordinated decision making process. The committee gives the cabinet commanding position where they can assess various channels towards informed approaches concerning government agendas. They as well provide ground for discussion concerning ministerial complementary portfolios where ministers are able to meet together and assess as well as evaluate the nature of progress within various departmental organizations (Johnson 206).

Creation of central agencies separate as well as independent from the government departments provides ministers with vast sources of information and intelligence enabling them to avoid operating on narrow self-serving views of various department officials. Central agencies are endowed with the duties of advising ministers on the various performances of the Public Sector Management system. They check critically and advice on the manner in which various departments undertake their monitoring functions (Marsha).

Internal and external factors contributed to the overhaul of the cabinet process

Various factors contributed to the overhaul of the processes within the government, departments as well as public offices. This could be traced back to the power of cabinet ministers which was considered to be in constant change due to various reasons and crises within the government. These included such actions as shuffles, scandals and other challenges. Policy development based on rigid foundations which could not address the needs of ministers within various government departments led to complexity within the various environments where they were applied.

Policy analysis and the processes on policy-making had for quite some time been opened to many stakeholders who ultimately introduced so many issues cutting across ministerial responsibilities (Savoie 1-26). The collapsing of the boundaries could well be attributed to the inability of the federal government to critically analyze policies on long and medium term basis. This prevented the anticipated systematic and rigorous ways of stability restoration since the policies were not free from government operations and interference.

Effects on Roles

Variations of policy capacity within institutions proved to be essential for Prime Ministers and ministers, and other institutions as well as structures within the government. This reveals that policy capacity affects most relationships inside and outside the government. The effects are experienced as far as within societal groups. The breach affects the effectiveness of policy work and power dynamics vested upon ministers and public servants within some period of time. Policy analysis and advice giving are an amalgam of relations of authority and influence marked by alliances and struggles, information and uncertainties, effects and counter-effects (Prince 1-13).

The government views policy capacity and policy advising as negotiable practices. They also are complex and contested processes featuring numerous tensions and trade-offs. In order to avoid this, every government institution has to undertake certain balancing as may be possible amongst the complicated and diverse factors which require decision-making (Prince 1-13). Within the parliamentary system of cabinet government, one of the main tasks involves managing the relationship between overall government policies as well as institutional organization on one side, and the dire addition of departmental interests (Prince 1-13).

Cabinet composition having numerous ministers with strong views about policy calls for major balance instituted by the prime minister. The other problem arises from balancing concerning maintenance within the line of duty; the tension is normally felt between two kinds of staff and policy advice. There is normally public service that appears partisan while others are neutral. All these kind of people make some considerable contribution or interferes with power, some contribute creativity and others the required perspective. The political arm of the government ensures that things move and at the same time other arms provide bureaucratic routines (Prince 1-13)

Implications for policy development and accountability

Some trade-offs and tensions find their way on analyzing policies and giving advice to the government based on the same policies. Federal officials found out some familiar crises within the public servants in government institutions most of it involving relations in communication and policy analyst roles. There exists also tension on policies between program managers from the various institutional departments this also happens between departments with dissimilar mandates and worldviews sharing a policy area. There are also various misunderstandings between government officials and other private groups differing over the purpose and intended outcome of consultations (Johnson 187-217).

Research done on experienced senior public servants revealed that policy capacity within governments, found tensions between the central agencies, cabinet committees and departments. The policy units used within departments includes to some extent operational considerations and also between private institutions input and the requirement for prompt government action. This leads to some level of frustrations concerning some issues due to the existence of some departmental fanatics.

Policy development led to rising of a number of policy advisory groups within the federal bureaucracy. This helped in rationalizing the government’s policy process enabling departments to integrate in a better way their internal activities without interference from the cabinet and the central agencies (Prince 1-13) Policies led to development of certain tensions which acts as hindrances to departmental and program implementation process. There is some existence of strain within organizational relations as well as creating multiple stereotypes of government agencies and other institutions. Developments within the federal government and bureaucracy could be directly linked to the truth based on policy advising.

Shared or co-accountability

The emerging environment within Canadian politics and policy making encourages the art of shared responsibilities. The art of sharing policy advisory space encourages implementation of truths leading to sharing of influence. The processes undertaken in analysis of policies and sharing of ideas allow for the flow of truth from the cabinet ministers down to various departmental sectors and agencies. Co-accountability led to uni-dimensional governance reinforcing most of the endangered relationships. There existed equal share of mandate between ministers and public servants. Shared responsibility developed the idea that of power never operate in vacuum but within multiple sectors, people and government institutions (Prince 1-13).

Co-accountability on the other hand reinforces the emerging model of policy advising. This is the situation where senior public servants works in apposition which enables him or her to fulfill advisory role rather than career both within and outside the government, federal departments, central agencies as well as external stakeholders. Shared responsibilities enable senior officials to give general efficient advices which enables empowerment towards work commitments (Prince 1-13).


The issues on executive, governance and politics are of great importance since they determine to a great extent the quality of leadership within any given territory. The knowledge on the roles and responsibilities of each government official is important since it makes it easier to hold them accountability for any consequential results of their every action. This also assists in the processes of policy implementation within respective departments for the benefit of the citizens.

Works Cited

Johnson, David. “Thinking Government: Ideas, Policies, Institutions, and Public Sector Management in Canada”. (2nd Ed.).Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004.

Marsha, Gordon. “Government in Business.” Allan Tupper and G.B. Doern, eds, Public Corporations and Public Policy in Canada. Montreal, Macmillan, 1981.

Prince, Michael. “Soft Craft, Hard Choices, Altered Context: Reflections On 25 Years of Policy Advice in Canada.” Toronto; Macmillan, 2004.

Savoie, Donald. “Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics.” Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Savoie, Donald, “Searching For Accountability in a Government Without Boundaries” Canadian Public Administration, 47(2004): 1-26.

Simeon, Richard and Ian Robinson. “State, Society and the development of Canadian Federation”. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Whittington, Michael. “The Prime Minister, Cabinet, and the Executive Power in Canada”, in Canadian Politics in the 21st Century (7th Ed.). Eds. Michael Whittington and Glen Williams. Toronto: Nelson Thomson Canada.

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