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The power of the institutions of democracy

I thought I’d share few thoughts about the latest polling results released yesterday by Nanos Research – a firm that I consider to be second to none in Canadian political public opinion research.

Respondents were read a list of the “institutions of democracy” and asked to rate the degree of power that each of them had. The results were not all that surprising with the PMO being rated as the institution pointed to having too much power.

Not surprising because I am quite certain that respondents were hearing “PM” instead of the PMO as a whole.

But what I did find surprising were the choices that were read to the respondents:

The PMO, The House of Commons, The Federal Cabinet, The Senate, The Supreme Court, The Federal Civil Service

Institutions two through four are undoubtedly institutions of our Canadian democracy. Their existence is enshrined in the Constitution. Canadians know them and trust them to be the prime decision makers at the federal level.

But the PMO and the Public Service?I don’t really consider them to be “institutions of our democracy”. They are very important components of it – but not institutions in the Constitutional sense.

I wonder why Nanos included them? I can only suspect that the reason for doing so was to gauge the feeling about the relative power of the PMO and the PS to the HoC, Supreme Court, etc. It is true that there has been a lot of (justifiable) media attention about the amount of power that is wielded by the PMO. And in the past there have been questions about how much power should be granted to the PS.

In any case, the results are interesting and pretty much confirm what Canadians have thought about Harper and his autocratic rule – too much power for Harpy and not enough in the House. And Cauncks are pretty sure of themselves as only 8.7% of respondents indicated that they were unsure about the appropriateness of the degree of power used by the PMO – the lowest rate of “unsureness”  among all of the listed institutions.


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One Comment

  1. I would think the PMO was included because the people who made the poll believed that Canadians would think, or would want to report, that the Prime Minister actually functions as some kind of dictator.

    The public service is an interesting one to include. Certainly it has been my impression over the years that the PS oft-times appears to operate on its own, with insufficient direction and oversight. That’s probably not true, but it *seems* that way at time. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with an example sitting here right now, but you can bet every scandal that isn’t directly trackable to a participating politician contributes to that uneasiness.

    Personally, I think the Supreme Court has too much power, and the Senate not enough power. The House of Commons has been ineffective at wielding its power for many years. Cabinet probably has too much power generally, although their power is tied to the HoC and PMO.

    I find it fascinating that the GG was left off the list, given all the bollocks about proroguation lately.

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