(Ottawa) Experts call for a review of democratic control processes in Canada.
Professor Alex Marland, a political scientist at Memorial University in St. John’s, wants it because of the increased powers of cabinet ministers. Often, he argues, they do not even inform ministers of all their activities.
“The system was not designed for unelected, simply appointed, deeply embedded in government and well-involved people to wield authority in cabinets,” says this political communications expert.
He finds that public service has grown considerably and that society has changed a lot over the years.
“We should be better able to exercise greater control over ministerial recommendations so that the public service and the government system are as efficient as possible,” says Professor Marland.
Cabinet ministers often use social media to amplify government messages. They have become public figures who play a role in the political arena.
“They set the direction of the government, or so it seems. And in political life, perception is often reality, ”said Professor Marland. If political personnel have such power, it is only natural that their activities will be controlled in one way or another. Ministers are not always in the best position to do so.
It has become more common to see members of ministerial cabinets come and testify before the standing committees of the House of Commons, contrary to the customs of the British parliamentary system. Katie Telford, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, has appeared before, as have her predecessors from when Conservatives Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney led government.
Like Ms. Telford, members of a cabinet minister can be invited to a government caucus meeting, a practice once inaccessible to the unelected.
“Nowadays you see them everywhere. “They take notes, listen to what the deputies say and challenge what the leader says, reports Professor Marland.
“Political staff members were not present in the past. This is the perfect example of things that have changed. »
Ministers keep their office, even if they act inappropriately, laments Lori Turnbull, director of the school of public administration at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia. It is also proof that the notion of ministerial responsibility has changed.
She gives the example of the Minister of International Trade Mary Ng who contravened the rules of ethics of the federal government by not recusing herself from the decision taken by her office to hire the public relations firm co-founded by a friend of hers. .
“It is now the trend. You’re like, ‘Let’s see if we can get away with this. Let it be and it will go away,” rather than sending a signal that a minister’s mistake will result in their dismissal from the council, Ms Turnbull said. If the prime minister wants this minister in this ministry, the minister keeps his job. »
Turnbull wants a public inquiry into the integrity and state of Canadian democracy.
“The more the days pass, the more we will need to have a debate on how democracies should work. Foreign interference is only one element. »