Democratic Deficit Analysis

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The purpose of this paper is to analyze and assess the arguments and normative framework posited by White in his article “The ‘Centre’ of the Democratic Deficit: Power and Influence in Canadian Political Executives”. Furthermore, the reformative solutions put forth by White will be examined and weighed to determine their viability. White’s argument is that there is no means of identifying the democratic deficit produced by the centralization of power within the top tiers of the executive branch of Canadian government. In order to evaluate White’s argument, it important to understand the definitions central to his argument. White sets out specific terminology to define issues within a democratic framework. He uses the economic terms deficit …show more content…
According to White (2012) the democratic deficit arises in the implementation of these views through autocratic means of legislating (p. 227). In a majority government, the executive gains tremendous power; for example, the constitutionally protected right for ministers of the governing party to introduce bills relating to public finance in Parliament – barring any non-cabinet members of any party from bringing a bill on the subject (p. 231). White (2012) provides two measures to quantify the power of first ministers: their length of tenure and probability of being removed from office (p. 240). In comparison to other Westminster countries, Canadian prime ministers have the longest tenure, and not a single time has a prime minister has been removed from office (p. 240). Although these practices may seem arbitrary – they are democratic in essence.
Democratic power can only be maintained through accountability, decisions made by ministers and their cabinet are traced directly back to them. Moreover, the very power they exercise to make decisions is only held through majority support of the publicly elected members of Parliament. Another factor that limits the power of executives is maintaining the confidence of voters, who will ultimately remove the majority party in the next election if they are unsatisfied (White, 2012, p.
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First-past-the-post encourages majority governments, which vests too much power in the governing executives that do not have the popular vote – otherwise known as a false majority. White (2012) believes that transitioning to a system of proportional representation in order to ensure minority governments is the best option for avoiding these false majorities that have too much power (p. 242). Once again this argument is under the normative lens that power centralization is negative – however White has not provided much historical substance to buttress the argument that centralization of power has been an issue in Canada. White’s arguments could benefit from historical examples of first ministers making executive decisions that have had a substantial negative impact. It is worth noting that this article could be related to recent events discussed in class, such as bill C-51, and its relation to majority governments and executive power. Bill C-51 is meant to proactively combat terrorism by extending the powers of Canada’s intelligence agency, CSIS, and the police (Merolli, 2016). Aspects of the bill have vague terminology such as the prosecution of acts that “promote” terrorism, which has problematic implications. Bill C-51 transfers more power to executive institutions without clear mechanisms for ensuring their accountability

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