Presidents and Prime Ministers

By Richard Rose; Ezra N. Suleiman | Go to book overview
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Political Leadership in Canada:
Pierre Elliott Trudeau
and the Ottawa Model

Colin Campbell, S.J.

In recent years there has been a plethora of literature in Canada maintaining that Pierre Elliott Trudeau has transformed the Prime Ministership into a Presidential institution.1 The concept of presidentialization reflects the tendency among Canadians to label substantial shifts in structures and conventions as "Americanization" and to invoke presumed principles of parliamentary government as absolute standards for evaluating all innovation in the political system. Such reactions to change are misguided. Those who appeal to the principles of parliamentary government sadly misunderstand two things: it is questionable whether the golden era in which the British Parliament is thought to have made law ever existed as a nineteenth- century phenomenon;2 and the Cabinet-dominated government in

NOTE: I owe a debt to my colleague in the Central Agency Project, George Szablowski of York University, Toronto, for many insights contained here. Frank Howard's column, "The Bureaucrats," in the Ottawa Citizen has kept me abreast of recent developments in Ottawa. The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., graciously provided me with an excellent environment in which to write while on leave from York. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has supported this project. Finally, I am immensely grateful to Lord Trend for his helpful comments on this paper given during the Loch Lomondside Conference.
Thomas A. Hockin, ed., Apex of Power: The Prime Minister and Political Leadership in Canada ( Toronto: Prentice-Hall, 1971, 1977); Robert J. Jackson and Michael M. Atkinson, The Canadian Legislative System: Politicians and Policy- Making ( Toronto: Macmillan, 1974); and W. A. Matheson, The Prime Minister and the Cabinet ( Toronto: Methuen, 1976).
See Gerhard Loewenberg, "The Role of Parliaments in Modern Political Systems," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed., Modern Parliaments: Change or Decline? ( Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971), pp. 5-7, 15-16. For a Canadian perspective, see a critique of Parliament from the nineteenth-century viewpoint in Roman R. March , The Myth of Parliament (Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice-Hall, 1974); and a statement of the inappropriateness of the golden-era model in Colin Campbell and Harold D. Clarke, "Some Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform," in


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