What place do first ministers, along with the cabinets they select, have in democratic life in Canada? Has cabinet really become just a focus group for the Prime Minister? Do political staff and central agency bureaucrats enhance or diminish democracy? Do private members have any say in the cabinet process? In an accessible, thorough, and balanced fashion, this volume of the Canadian Democratic Audit examines the concentration of power in cabinet and the prime minister's office. Taking the view that to explain our Westminster-style government as a benign dictatorship is an oversimplification, Cabinets and First Ministers provides an honest assessment of current conditions. With characteristic eloquence, White renders a clear account of the development, structure, and operation of cabinet, and the role of the first ministers at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels. He further discusses how the processes that support cabinet are affected by the considerable power of the first minister and looks at the ways in which they allow for the involvement of other elected members and the public.Keeping in mind the core concerns of the Canadian Democratic Audit, White also examines first ministers and cabinets with an eye to accountability and transparency - concepts which are key in effective democracy, and which, in the wake of the so-called "sponsorship scandal," have been much in the public eye. His cogent analysis does much to explain this much-scrutinized aspect of our democracy, and points the way to realistic proposals for its improvement.
Graham White is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
Contents Tables Foreword Acknowledgments 1 The Scope and Criteria for the Audit 2 Cabinet Government in Canada: An Executive Summary 3 The First Minister As Autocrat? 4 Public Participation in Cabinet Processes? 5 Democracy through Cabinet Structure and Process? 6 Democracy in the Elected Dictatorship? Discussion Questions Appendix: Sources of Audit Information Additional Reading Works Cited Index