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US President Vs. the Canadian Prime Minister Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2020

The US president wields a lot of power both domestically and in the international scene. These powers are granted by a number of statutes, amendments, the Constitution, powers granted through congressional acts, and numerous influence and soft power by virtue of his position as the leader. On the other hand, Canada does not have a president and is instead led by a prime minister. Although the two countries are almost equal in size, their leaders exhibit vast differences in the amount of power they hold domestically (Dickerson, Flanagan, and O’Neill 58; Neustadt 47). General knowledge alone appears to affirm that the US president is the most powerful person among the world’s democratically ruled nations as he is the commander-in-chief of the world’s most modern and most powerful military by any standards and also heads the world’s largest economy. But does he exert the same level of power domestically? The Canadian Prime Minister, on the other hand, is not easily recognizable due to the little role Canada plays on international affairs. Even though the role of the PM is not explained by any legislation or legal document, it is easily the most influential position in Canada’s political system.

The President of the US makes several appointments by virtue of his position (Charlton 22). Prior to being sworn in, the elected President is mandated with making more than 6,000 appointments ranging from top officials at national agencies, senior employees at the White House, and top-level ambassadors. In a number of these appointments, he consults with the US Senate. The President is also accorded the power to nominate judges at all levels of the judiciary system. However, the nominees must first be confirmed by Senate, and this can be an obstacle if the Presidents want to work with officials he thinks will share his ideologies. For instance, in January 2012, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey objected to President Obama’s nomination of judge Patty Shwartz to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. However, an agreement was later reached, and the nomination sailed through (Zernike, par. 2). As the leader of the executive, the President must appoint the top officials in all of the major federal agencies such as the CIA, NASA, and the Federal Reserve Board. Previously, the President was mandated to appoint all members of the US civil service. However, the officers are now appointed on merit (Dahl 12).

The Canadian Prime Minister, similar to his American counterpart equivalent, also holds several appointment powers. Besides holding the highest role in the Canadian government, the PM has the power to appoint or remove officials from the cabinet and other positions. He holds power to appoint, without review, persons to fill important positions in the country’s parliament, judiciary, diplomatic corps, and a large number of crown corporations (Bickerton 63). As an example, Jean Chrétien, the immediate former holder of this position, made more than 50 percent of all appointments in the Senate, a majority of judges at all levels of the judiciary, and the chief justices in various courts around the country. The PM also appoints the governor and the entire board of major corporate organizations, including the CBC and the Bank of Canada, and in addition, he appoints top diplomatic heads, the head of the Constitution (the Governor-General) and even sets a date for the next election. Unlike the US president’s appointments that sometimes require consultation or approval of the Senate. These appointments are made without any official consultation with the Senate or the monarchy. Since the PM picks the entire cabinet, he automatically becomes the head of the cabinet, decides on its size, chairs its meetings, and controls the agenda.

In America, becoming the President gives one a great deal of power, authority and receives much protection from Congress. When Clinton faced accusations during the Lewinsky scandal, he was supposed to take charge of his own irresponsibility. However, the Senate failed to effect an impeachment which had so widely been discussed; this move was undertaken to protect the presidency from being tarnished (Neustadt 8). Similar reasoning can be applied in the case of President Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. However, in Canada, parliament checks on the PM’s conduct, and it may withdraw its confidence in the PM. Cabinet or regional revolts can quickly bring down a PM, and even mere threats of such action can influence the post-holder to step down, as happened with Jean Chrétien (Bickerton 78). In fact, the monarch is superior to the position of the PM that holds full executive power.

The US President’s hands are tied on matters pertaining to the passage of laws. The Constitution dictates that the President can only formulate domestic laws, but the ultimate decision on whether to accept or reject the proposals is made by Congress. However, the President can use his pocket veto to increase his power, but its overuse might degrade not only his position but also that of the entire American political system. However, the President still has power over Congress in that he must put his signature to all legislation before they become law. The same applies to the budget: the President only prepares the budget, but its passage rests entirely on Congress. Since the President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States, he makes a lot of decisions, especially during a war or national emergency. During such times, Congress may give him additional power to manage the economy and undertake any move aimed at protecting the US and its interests. However, these powers are not granted by the Constitution as the President must seek Congress’ approval on major warfare decisions. Similarly, the Canadian PM is bound by the Senate and the monarch that functions as the head of state. Consequently, the Senate may block legislation forwarded by the cabinet. The PM is appointed by the monarchy and is free to hold this position until death or until parliament is dissolved. Since the PM is appointed by the monarch, every decision made by the PM is subject to scrutiny by the Crown (Savoie 260; Charlton 204). The PM’s power is also curtailed by Congress in times of War.

It is quite evident that Canada’s Prime Minister enjoys more power when it comes to making appointments. Apart from having the power to make numerous powerful appointments, he does not have to make any formal consultations or seek the approval of his cabinet. The input of the PM into the judiciary further surpasses that of the President. The US President also has a limited number of decisions that he can make without going through Congress. The PM also has checks placed on it both by the monarchy and Congress. However, the PM is seen to have more power than the President. Consequently, the Canadian PM is more powerful than the US President domestically.

Works Cited

Bickerton, James. Canadian politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Print.

Charlton, Paul Barker. Contemporary Political Issues, 6th ed. (Edited By Mark Charlton and Paul Barker), Toronto: Thompson- Nelson, 1998. Print.

Dahl, Robert Allan. Who governs?: Democracy and power in an American city, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

Dickerson, Mark O., Flanagan, Thomas, and O‘Neill, Brenda. An Introduction to Government and Politics: A Conceptual Approach, 8th ed., Toronto: Thompson- Nelson, 2009. Print.

Neustadt, Richard E. Presidential power and the modern presidents: the politics of leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan, NY: Free Press, 1991. Print.

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

Zernike, Kate. The New York Times. 2012. Web.

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