Elections in Canada: Are We Voting in a Parliamentary Democracy or an Elected Monarchy?


Pollsters tell us many Canadians are unhappy with their government. Not just the  federal government, but governments at all levels. They report a sense of disappointment.  Candidates over-promise and then after the election, under deliver. That’s because the system concentrates power in the hands of a select few at the top. 

One pollster’s trust index suggests cratering trust in governments, with only 22 per cent saying they trust governments or politicians, compared with 40 per cent (even then, less than half) in the early days of the pandemic in May 2020.

Be an Informed Voter

How should you vote in the next election to get the kind of government you want?  Be an informed voter. Understand how your government— federal, provincial or municipal— really works in practice, not just in theory.  The sooner you understand what you are really choosing by voting for or against one of the names on your ballot the sooner you will understand how to use your one vote to try to achieve what you want it to achieve. In this post I will focus on the federal government.

The Theory

The way Canada is governed today is much more like a monarchy with courtiers than a traditional parliamentary democracy. The temporary monarch, the Prime Minister, is elected until renewed or replaced in the next election. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is the modern version of the king’s court.

Canada also has a Senate, the “chamber of sober second thought” as it has been called.  But as senators aren’t elected you can’t vote for or against them, which is why I won’t discuss the Senate here. 

In the traditional Westminster Parliamentary model theory, the House of Commons has Members of Parliament, who enact laws by majority vote.  These Members, also in theory, select the Prime Minister, who in turn appoints the members of the Cabinet.  Canada currently has 338 Members of Parliament, 39 Cabinet Ministers and, of course, only one Prime Minister.  But this theory doesn’t tell us how things actually work. Who does what?

Continue reading “Elections in Canada: Are We Voting in a Parliamentary Democracy or an Elected Monarchy?”