Canada: Executive Dominance Canada: Executive Dominance and Presidentialization

Herman Bakvis and Steven B. Wolinetz

in The Presidentialization of Politics

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199252015
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602375 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

Canada: Executive Dominance Canada: Executive Dominance and Presidentialization

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A parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model, Canada does not qualify formally as a presidential system: The prime minister and other members of the political executive are responsible to a popularly elected House of Commons. Nonetheless, the Canadian prime minister enjoys wide-ranging powers that in practice are far more extensive than those enjoyed by prime ministers in other Westminster systems. The nature of the leadership selection process, strict party discipline and a fragmented opposition, help ensure prime ministerial dominance over both parliament and cabinet. So too do strong central agencies. While personalization and popularization of prime ministerial leadership is not as pronounced in Canada as in the UK, it is nevertheless an important factor. Prime ministers are beholden to very few interests in their parties, which they dominate. In the Canadian system, one finds many of the characteristics of presidentialization without any of the formal attributes. Federalism and the strength of the provinces act as the major constraint on prime ministerial power. In important respects, Canadian prime ministers are more powerful than presidents in some presidential systems.

Keywords: Canada; federalism; personalization; presidentialism; presidentialization; prime minister; Westminster model

Chapter.  9720 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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