Democratic deficit refers to the marginalization and diminishing of the role of the legislature as a result of too much concentration of power around the cabinet and the prime minister. There is a democratic deficit in Canada. This is mainly because of the political executives’ big role in enforcing party discipline, the power to fire and hire ministers, the power to appoint heads of boards, and agencies, and the power to dissolve parliament. The cabinet also has the power to make decisions on major policy issues and leading the government’s overall direction. The cabinet is accountable to the prime minister and not the legislature, and there is the responsibility of the ministers to be in solidarity with other cabinet colleagues. This results in a perceived lack of oversight powers by the legislature and the House of Commons over the executive on matters which the executive acts with prerogative authority and not statutory authority. This diminishes the importance and role of the members of parliament resulting in the democratic deficit.
There are various principal causes of democratic deficit. However, they all revolve around the concentration of too much power around the cabinet and the prime minister. The first cause is the concern about who can represent the best interest of Canadians. Is it the elected representatives, the policy experts, or the citizens’ stakeholders? The impact of the intergovernmental relations on the responsible government is also an issue of concern that causes a democratic deficit. The minister’s agreements are rarely a subject of debate in legislative forums, and this contradicts the democratic principles of accountability and transparency.
The cabinet also negotiates agreements when necessary like sovereign states. They negotiate on how they will approach funding of different programs and how they will handle constitutional reforms without involving the House of Commons, provincial legislative assemblies, and the senate. This is executive federalism which is also a major cause of the democratic deficit. The executive controls the exclusion of the legislature, and, hence, these make the provinces relate as states do at the international level. The executive negotiations are arbitrary and subject to cabinet ministers involved. They are not subject to the strict statutory constraints or the rule of law. The prominence of the prime ministers and the cabinet in such federal and constitutional matters result in the democratic deficit.
The pluralism perspective views the political process in terms of activities of groups and descriptive representation, and not as a substantive policy output in a consultative process. It views organized interests as the main factor in political life. Under this perspective, policies and decision making are viewed to be located in the government framework, but non-governmental groups exert influence using their resources. This is useful in understanding interest groups in Canada since most of them will try and maximize their interests. The major weakness of this perspective is that there are multiple lines of conflict and power shifting because it involves a continuous bargain among the competing groups.
Class analysis is a perspective that views organized groups as the expressions of class, gender, race, and other intersection differences in conflicting interests. The principal division in the political lives is expressed as the classes. This theoretical perspective views the state as an instrument used by small minorities to control wealth and maintain their economic and social dominance. This applies to Canada as a small minority attempts to use the state to control its dominance. The weakness of this perspective is that interest groups are not very important. It focuses on the small minority that seeks to control the wealth in the nation.
Corporatism is the perspective that there is the direct participation of businesses and organizations representing specific communities such as employees in decision making, and public policymaking. The key strength of corporatism is that it offers a prospect to make advancements towards economic democracy. This is useful in Canada interest groups as it maximizes the power of organizations and workers enabling them to triumph over collective action problems. It also enables businesses to pursue society-wide bargaining in which they produce and exchange goods. The weakness is that it might reflect the will of the government other than that of the interest groups, and this poses a great danger to labor and other specific communities.
Neo institutionalism is a policy-making perspective that stresses the impact of formal and informal structures and rules on political outcomes. The strength of this perspective is that, politically, it seeks to revitalize democracy. This is achieved by increasing the participation of citizens in the governance process. It is important in the decentralization of democracy. The major weakness of this perspective is that governing can be challenging as the government cannot meet the interest of all people. The policy-making and decision-making process can also be slow and take longer than usual. This is useful in understanding interest groups such as the media in Canada.
The most significant aspect of the current constitution of Canada is the charter of rights and freedoms. This aspect is important because it guarantees the rights of people by enshrining them together with various limits applying to them, in the highest law of Canada. The charter was enacted in 1982, and since then, it has created a legal and social revolution in the country. It has examined communities’ rights and transformed the cost and nature of investigations and prosecutions. It also subjected the will of the legislatures and the parliament to judicial scrutiny.
In the first 24 sections of the charter, the major protections are outlined. These include fundamental freedoms like freedom of expression, mobility rights, legal rights, equality rights, language rights, and democratic rights. These rights are considered to be essential to preserve Canada as a democratic and free state. The charter protects the basic freedoms and rights set out and they are subject to reasonable limits prescribed by the law. The charter applies to the federal government, provincial governments and the territorial governments. It include protection of democratic rights, fundamental freedoms, legal rights such as liberty, life and personal security, equality rights, the Canadian official languages, the Canada multicultural heritage, education rights to minority languages and the rights of indigenous people. However, the freedoms and rights are not absolute. The law limits them to protect important national values and the rights of the others. For example, hate propaganda is prohibited despite having the freedom of expression.
All these freedoms and rights are entrenched, and hence all laws that the provincial or federal governments make have to comply with them. If they fail to do so, the court can strike them down and declare them unconstitutional. This aspect of the constitution is important because it places the democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals beyond government interference. It states the freedoms and rights of the people and acts as a powerful tool that protects people living in Canada from breaches of the specific freedoms and rights by the provisional and federal governments. It is important because it essentially protects the people of Canada from the state powers.
In the last ten sections of the charter, its applications are outlined. In section 32, it is declared that the charter also applies to the parliament, the legislature, the provincial governments, and also the government of Canada. This means that individuals are protected by the charter from the government if it violates the freedoms and rights provided in it. Section 25 provides that the charter does not affect existing aboriginal treaties and other freedoms of the aboriginal people. Section 28 provides that the freedoms and rights apply equally to both males and females.