The History of Political Science in Canada

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A state is “a legal/political and administrative entity composed of a governing central authority that makes and reinforces laws and is recognized as the primary subject of the international legal system” (Guy, p. 99). To be a state, this entity has to possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and a capacity to enter into relations with other states (Guyy, p. 99). Thus, the government is a smaller entity than the state is, and it is composed of the executives whose actions adhere to the legal proceedings of the state and who handle domestic and foreign affairs in different sectors for the sake of the state’s welfare.

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The nation-state is different in meaning and essence – it refers to the state that unites nationalities living on its territory due to the specific political design, building the national bureaucracy to defend and unite various people, classes and groups, cultivating their loyalty to the state entity (e.g. Canada, Brazil or Russia) (Guyy, p. 100). Judging from this point, it is easy to define a nation as a group of people who possess common cultural characteristics, e.g. one language, one lifestyle etc. and who consciously identify themselves as parts of a nation. Finally, a country is only a geographical term identifying a particular region in political terms of sovereignty (Guyy, p. 100).

Since 1648 the considerable growth of nation-states has been observed in the world; it was preconditioned by the starting point of the Piece of Westphalia as a result of which the major European empires collapsed and divided into smaller nation-states (Guyy, p. 102). The second wave of the nation-state proliferation occurred after World War II due to the phenomenon of decolonization of the remaining part of European empires, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe (here the proliferation process was caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union). The fact that there are so many nations and so few nation-states is justifiable by the fact that some nations are minorities and they have no forces to sustain their own territory, so they unite with others to form a joint nation-state. Generally, nation-states are formed due to the partition that occurs along linguistic or ethnic lines (e.g. Czechoslovakia) (Guyy, p. 102).

Power is extremely important for all nation-states in the world, but it is a concept that is hard to measure because of different shades of meaning different researchers apply to it. Generally, it is referred to as the ability to influence other states; however, some theorists refer to it as the ability to control the behavior of other states, to prevail in conflict or to shift the probability of outcomes (Guyy, p. 103). Power of a nation-state is a complex notion that is composed of several components, so it is hard to estimate. Ray Cline has developed a comprehensive formula of national power, it looks as follows:

P = (C+E+M) x (SxW)

In this formula P stands for power, C stands for the critical mass of the state (its population and territory), E means its economic capability, M means its military capability, S its strategic purpose, and W the will to pursue it national strategy (Guyy, p. 103). The formula proves its efficiency due to the multiplicity of factors included into it; however, under the conditions of nuclear proliferation of the nation-states in the modern times there is a probable necessity to alter the formula corresponding to the innovative needs for power. Thus, the state’s territory is still strategically important (e.g. the superpowers USA and Russia possess a very large territory), but nowadays it is not enough to be a superpower (Canada possess a vast territory but it cannot be considered a superpower) (Guyy, p. 104). Strategically important access to seas and oceans is one of the most important factors of achieving power, especially in the nuclear warfare in case of its occurrence (Guyy, p. 105). Population does not also guarantee the state’s power – here the effectiveness of population matters (Guyy, p. 107). One should also take into consideration that no economy is nowadays self-sufficient, and the process of globalization brought about the economic interdependence, this is why the economic capability of the state becomes a less relevant element of its power (Guyy, p. 108).

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Thus, judging in terms of power, it is possible to distinguish such notions as a superpower and a middle power – the former is the leader in the global political space, the country that possesses a great influence on other states and has an ability to shape the global policies, while the latter is a state that is a two-tier player in the field of global policies and possesses less power globally (Guy, p. 103).

There is a direct connection between the country’s political organization and its economic capability; through the organization of communication and transportation networks, arrangements for land tenure systems etc. the state takes care about enhancing the human opportunity, exploiting natural resources etc (Guy, p. 109). An efficient communication system is of strategic importance for political and economic cohesiveness, and Canada is in the beneficial position in this aspect because of its most advanced one (Guy, p. 109). Speaking about the political system’s effect on the economy, it is possible to state that unitary states benefit much more from their political organization than federal states do:

“Unitary states such as Japan and France enjoy a high level of internal homogeneity and cohesiveness. But some unitary states such as Spain and South Africa, lack social homogeneity and are geographically large enough to warrant federal systems” (Guy, p. 111).

There are the following types of federal systems in the modern period of time: centralized (e.g. The Republic of Argentina, Brazil), mature (e.g. the Commonwealth of Australia, Belgium) and conciliatory/cooperative (e.g. Canada) (Guy, p. 112). It is possible to state that the first type of federal systems corresponds to the one a military state should have for a number of reasons. First of all, it is important to note that each type differs in the measure of autonomy the sub-nations have, and the level of powers that sub-national governments possess. In case of the centralized federal system, it is true that the state with such a system usually has a strong centralized authority, and sub-national authorities have nominal functions and do not participate in the formation of national policies at all (Guy, pp. 113-114).

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A national economy is an extremely important factor shaping the country’s profile, its power, the level of the population’s welfare and the state’s role in the international arena:

“ A national economy is the organized process of developing markets for natural resources, industrial production, agricultural output, and technological innovations. All nation-states must choose not only how their natural resources should be exploited to meet social needs but also how to distribute the goods and services produced from them” (Guy, p. 117).

Judging from this quotation, it is possible to see that every state has to get involved in trade-offs between economic growth and environmental quality – in case the state makes the choice for economic growth, it will inevitable use the natural resources excessively, but in case environmental wellness is the priority number one, it is hard to get involved in intense production that is the basis for economic growth.

Depending on the way resources are distributed, one can distinguish capitalist, socialist and mixed economic systems (Guy, pp. 118-119). Theoretically, there are no pure socialist or capitalist economies because they cannot correspond to the needs of the state and its population simultaneously. In the capitalist economy, the intrusion of the state in economy is absent, and the national economy represents a free enterprise sector. This system is surely beneficial for private entrepreneurs who may develop their businesses without any restrictions and limitations, but at the same time the system has a set of drawbacks. It is risky for social security as social interests may be infringed, with the uncontrollable prices and produced products etc. (Guy, p. 119). In the socialist economy, all economic activity is strictly regulated by the state in the interest of the society; the government establishes prices, products and all other economy-related activities. Nonetheless, this type of economy threatens the free development of economy because of governmental control that restricts economic development in many areas (Guy, p. 119).

Urbanization, industrialization and communication development have altered the political institutions in many ways – since large population groups have moved to cities, and the industrial economic sector has become the prevailing part of the national economy, the politics of a state has to correspond to the changing needs of people. Communication systems are the main contribution to the internationalization of all economic aspects, which also produces a direct impact on the political institutions of a particular state. The GNP indicator seems to be inefficient in measuring the real state prosperity or economic decline – it is possible to understand this in case GNP figures of different countries are compared, e.g. Denmark has the GNP volume of $29,000 and Japan has the indicator of $28,000 (Guy, p. 118). It is hard to compare these states because they highly differ in terms of their prosperity and economic activity, so some alternative measures should be chosen to make the comparison adequate.

In the modern times, even despite the fact that the majority of countries possess a high military potential, the international law forbids application of military force in solving the international disputes, so it is not highly significant in the issues of influencing other states (Guy, p. 120). This is why it is possible to assume that the military power (i.e. hard power) is not as efficient nowadays as the complex impact of the whole state’s perceived strength – the influential factors shaping national power comprise trade, aid, economic productivity, and scientific and technological advancement (Guy, p. 121). For the reason of power being such a comprehensive and at times even an immeasurable notion, one should always pay attention to the whole realm of the state’s characteristics that shape the country’s image and allow speaking about its power:

“For example, the Vatican, an independent state of 104 acres, with fewer than 1000 people and no military or natural resources, exercises powerful influence in every corner of the world. This example shows that size, population, resources, and military preparedness are significant in some situations and meaningless in others” (Guy, p. 122).

This quotation shows that there is a set of soft power strengths that may affect the country’s power positions that will enable them to resolve the conflict peacefully. These may be the strategic alliances in terms of education, production, exchange of resources and experience, trade arrangements, discounts for specific products or plans for innovative cooperation projects.

There is a clear distinction between the notions of ‘politics’ and ‘government’. The political government is “the centralized system that maintains an institutionalized system of order within a society large or small” (Guy, p. 125). In contrast to government that is a legal body governing and controlling the social order and all aspects of the nation-state’s functioning, politics is “an inescapable process that serves to harmonize, and sometimes cause, conflict in human affairs” (Guy, p. 127). Government is a set of organizations in which the process of politics occurs. Thus, the government is the body responsible for human protection, decency and restraint (Guy, p. 127).

From the point of view of politics, accountability is the set of codes and rules that ensure transparency of political procedures in a state; constitutionalism is a code that ensures the actions of government not exceeding the limits of the supreme law of the country; popular sovereignty is the principle under which sovereignty of the state is ensured by the free will of the state’s population; finally, the rule of law is the main principle governing a democratic state under which no person has the power beyond the law, and everyone has to subdue to laws. The same notions can be defined in a bit different way from the perspective of government: the principles discussed are to be observed and ensured by the government. Thus, accountability is the obligation of the government to report their actions to the public; constitutionalism is the restriction that guides their actions – no state executive has a power to breach the constitution; popular sovereignty is also the restriction that the government has to follow. Actually, the representative government is the body that speaks on behalf of people, so it is the actual guarantee of public sovereignty on the national and international level. Finally, the rule of law is a two-fold principle for the government because on the one hand the government has to subdue to the law as well as the general public has, but on the other hand government is a law-making body as well, so it has to create laws that will govern the public adequately to the political system of the state.

A democracy is a form of governmental organization in which power belongs to all people who constitute its population; plainly speaking, it is the rule of people (Guy, p. 131). In a democracy, people have an equal right to vote, freedom of speech, religion etc., and can qualify for elections in the governmental institutions (Guy, p. 131). Authoritarianism is the system characterized by autocratic political decision-making, restricted pluralism and limited participation of the state’s population in state policies. “Just as democracy is an outgrowth of a society attached to values of open government, pluralism, and political party competition, so is authoritarianism a product of unique historical variants within a political culture” (Guy, p. 146). Authoritarianism tends to concentrate political power in hands of the few, to refuse from any democratic elements of politics; authoritarian power is traditionally obtained in the result of a violent, unstable action (Guy, p. 146). Totalitarian regime is a combination of authoritarianism and strong ideology that governs the life of citizens, presence of propaganda in the state etc. (Guy, p. 148).

In general, it is hard to distinguish a democratic or an authoritarian state in its pure form. For example, one can state that Canada is a democratic state because “Canadians enjoy more elections, more party competition, and a greater amount of government accountability” (Guy, p. 130). At the same time, the rule of law and party competitiveness are very vague in China, which allows making a conclusion that it is an authoritarian regime (Guy, p. 130). At the present moment there are still examples of authoritarian regimes in the world; e.g. Kenya in Africa (there is the single-arty regime, a subtype of authoritarianism under which a single ruling party concentrates the power in its hands, influences state policies and elections), and Chile in South America (there the case of Salvador Allende’s government signified the failure of democracy and return to authoritarianism.

The democracies can be presidential and parliamentary. The parliamentary government is the one where the legitimate power to govern is granted to parliament; it is the most widely spread type of democracy in the world (Guy, p. 133). “A parliament is a legislative body usually comprised of two houses of assembly” (Guy, p. 133). Parliament is typical for countries that used to be monarchies and have become constitutional democracies. Such a government is usually headed by the parliamentary executive, an official who is chosen by the head of the state (Guy, p. 133). The Parliament has to form the majority government, which usually results in forming the ruling party that affects the parliamentary decisions and the national policy (Guy, p. 134). The party left in minority usually forms the opposition and also has certain powers in the parliament (Guy, p. 135). All decisions are discussed in the Parliament, and the head of the state has no authority to ratify any state decisions without the approval of the Parliament, which is the representative body voicing the opinion of the whole population.

The presidential form of government, in contrast to the parliamentary one, is characterized by the supreme power of the President who may influence decisions of the Parliament (Guy, p. 138). However, there are certain measures designed to restrict the Presidential power; they are the strict adherence to the constitutional proclamation of the separation of powers (Guy, p. 139). This rule is clearly evident in the USA where the system of checks and balances works perfectly well.

The government of Canada is parliamentary, so the majority of policies in formed in the Parliament. The minority government is highly vulnerable, and the Cabinet is very accountable to the Parliament, the role of which is to decide whether the Cabinet fulfills its duties properly or not (Guy, p. 134). In some occasions, there are single-party governments that seriously challenge the assumptions of parliamentary democracy (Guy, p. 135). The general audit function, i.e. the rules and procedures that allow members of Parliament to scrutinize and criticize the government record publicly, is a powerful tool for government accountability. One can state that legislative and executive powers are partly fused in Canada. In contrast to Canada, the USA legal system focuses mainly on the executive branch of power, and here the powers are clearly separated. They have been initially created as a system of checks and balances, to weigh each other and prevent each branch from misusing its powers.

Nazism is likely to resurface in the modern times, which is evident from varied Neo-Nazism movements in different corners of the world. This tendency is mostly drawn from the anti-immigrant policies aggravated by the economic crisis; people adopt negative attitudes to illegal immigrants who diminish their living standards, who disseminate illnesses and raise crime rates etc. For this reason the threat of re-appearance of Nazism is a reality nowadays. In case this tragedy occurs, Nazism is likely to create the political environment of a typical totalitarian regime, when all people are subject to the impact of a strong ideology, and no freedom of will or self-expression, objection and non-acceptance is allowed. Under the conditions of modern technology advancement, it is obvious that Nazism is likely to receive the practically boundless power over the citizens:

“with modern electronic devices, the government spies on its citizens: television cameras scan the streets, listening devices monitor private conversations, even private thoughts and actions can be learned by the state” (Guy, p. 149).

Since Nazism rests on a firm ideology, then one can suspect it applying various psychological weapons for affecting the unconscious level of human perception etc.

According to the opinion of de Leyzieu, communism is dead since the fall of the Berlin wall, and it has given way to capitalism around the world. The author refers to capitalism as “spread of the wage economy to every country of the globe, accompanied inevitably by increased insecurity and massive, chronic unemployment and competition between wage-earners on a planetary scale” (de Leyzieu). However, it is the reality of the modern life – the contemporary humankind lives according to the principle of reward for work done, with the majority of vulnerable population groups being taken care of by the government (though not always well). Communism has no future due to the program of self-destruction included in its ideology – it is impossible to distribute wealth equally to all members of the society because some people work more, they are more talented and they deserve a better life while others are idle or wicked, not wanting to work but wanting to receive benefits earned by others. This injustice covered by the principle of ‘social justice’ soon revealed itself in all communist regimes, so it is possible to predict the death of communism in all countries where it still exists.

The executive branch of government is one of the oldest ones, and indeed, at the present period of time it is one of the most powerful ones in any kind of the state, be it a democracy or an autocracy (Guy, p. 153).

“Every political system has an executive in which leadership is concentrated in the hands of a single individual or a small elite group… This can be explained by the fact that all political executives have access to a wide range of available political resources that are usually not accessible to other branches of government” (Guy, p. 153).

Executives have enormous powers in any nation-state, Canada included. These powers include the power of information, organization, economic power etc. The Canadian resources available for Canadian executives are enormous, but they are restrained by the supervision of the Cabinet to which they are held accountable (Guy, p. 160). There really are some signs of the executives reasserting their power in Canada, one of such situations may be analyzed on the example of exercising economic power. The Canadian executive has enormous economic power (Guy, p. 155).

“resources are available to them through their position in government, the powers of taxation and confiscation…Canada’s federal and provincial government ministers tend to grant the lion’s share of government contracts to the constituencies they represent, spending millions that often ensure their re-election” (Guy, p. 155).

Access to information is also a field in which reassertion of power may be detected; executives have much access to personal information, as it has already been discussed earlier, and for this reason they may make decisions on economic and other issues that are more grounded than the general public. These privileges are excessive because the extensive access to information is not meant for their personal purposes but for the sake of their professional activity.

There are certain advantages and disadvantages in separating the head of state from head of government and party in the parliamentary system because it is hard to understand how one executive can protect partisan interests of a certain party and at the same time represent the public interest of the nation in the whole. In such a situation the conflict of interest is evident – this executive will either betray the program of his/her party for the sake of the mainstream national policy, or will lobby some biased interests at the expense of the nationwide welfare. For this reason heads of parties should be checked and balanced by alternative institutions that will find the compromise between all existing programs and opinions and will provide the country with a balanced and optimal policy.

Indeed, the US president is engaged in many ceremonial functions and they can be assigned to someone else in the Presidential administration to leave more time for the President’s actual political work. However, the US President is the face of the state, and the USA is engaged in much national and international activity, so in fact the ceremonial functions cannot be transferred to anyone less in power and authority than the President. The only objective observation that can justify the present state of affairs in the USA is that the President has a large administration with officials who conduct political activity in conjunction with the President rather efficiently.

There is a set of functions executives in Canada and the USA exercise. The first function is the role of symbol and ceremony, which is an important element in both countries:

“In Canada, the pomp and circumstance surrounding the formal delivery of the Speech from the Throne rivals the regal splendor of British imperial majesty. The appearance of the president of the United States…has the magnificence of a Hollywood spectacular” (Guy, p. 156).

Secondly, the function of an executive is the one of the commander-in-chief of military forces in the country; they possess nuclear weapons and make strategic decision in the times of warfare (Guy, pp. 157-158). Then, making policy is a chief function of an executive; here Canada and the USA differ substantially. In the USA the President possesses this power through press conferences, statements and speeches in parliament (Guy, p. 160). However, the Queen is too distant to influence policy making in Canada, so here it is the prime function of the Parliament and the Cabinet. Controlling the bureaucrats is one more function of executives; in the US political system, bureaucracy is an integral mechanism in which executive and legislative branches intertwine, so there is a separate institution in the US Presidency that controls the bureaucratic machine separately from Congress. In Canada, federal bureaucrats are under direct supervisions of the Cabinet. Here is the main difference of the US and Canada: the latter has a fusion of executive and legislative functions, while the former has separate administrations operating separately (Guy, p. 160).

Judging from this analysis, it is possible to say that both US and Canadian executives have a vast majority of powers, though their authority differs across aspects. Thus, the Canadian bureaucracy has more powers because the legislative and executive branches are fused in Canada. The US President has much more authority than the Canadian Prime Minister because of the different types of political systems the countries have. At the same time, the armed forces are under Presidential control in the US but under civilian control in Canada. There are many other issues that distinguish the executives of Canada and the US, so it is possible only to suggest that the US executive has more power due to the presidential democracy.

In both totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, there is no public sovereignty at all, and all power is concentrated in the hands of executives. The political power usually exists separately from the population of the country; it is the government that decides on public, social and international policies of the state. For this reason people have no power and right to influence the government, and they are not entitled to hold the government accountable for its actions. Logically, the executives in this type of regimes are likely to be subject to no limitations and restrictions; they are the only authority that can pose restrictions on themselves, so they generally remain non-accountable for their actions and act on their will. In democratic states there is a contrary situation; the state is generally governed by the public, and executives are elected representatives thereof. They have to prove that the population was right in having chosen them for conducting political activities in the state, so they are highly accountable to the public and subject to the multiple restrictions posed on them by the state legislation.

The Cabinet in Canada is the executive council of the Canadian government, the key decision-making forum when it comes to laws and policies; it also controls raising and spending public monies and gives advice to the Prime Minister in major decisions (Guy, p. 168). However, there are some additional institutions that aid the Cabinet in its activities.

First of all, it is the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that is synonymous to power in Canada (Guy, p. 170). It is “the partisan political staff that advises, schedules, briefs, represents, and runs errands for the Prime Minister of Canada” (Guy, p. 170). It also protects the interests of the Prime Minister in all areas, shields him/her from enemies, processes mail etc. (Guy, p. 170). Another body of executive power that supplements the Cabinet is the Privy Council Office (PCO) that “is responsible for the arrangements leading to the making of all Royal Proclamations and Orders in Council and for certain formalities connected with Ministerial changes” (Work of the Privy Council Office). Its activity is also concerned with the affairs of Chartered Bodies and is concerned with certain UK statutory regulatory bodies covering certain professions (healthcare and education) (Work of the Privy Council Office).

Finally, it is necessary to say a couple of words about the Treasury Board that is “a separate government department and central agency,… keeps track of current and projected expenditures” (Guy 171). It operates as a board of management and provides influential advice in both financial management and staff policies in public services (Guy, p. 171).

Works Cited

  1. de Leyzieu, Jean. Does Communism have a Future? Translated by Patrick Bolland. 2006.
  2. Guy, James John. People, Politics and Government: A Canadian Perspective. 6th ed. Pearson Education Canada, 2005.
  3. Work of the Privy Council Office. 2010. Privy Council Office Official Website.

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DemoEssays. 2022. "The History of Political Science in Canada." February 9, 2022. https://demoessays.com/the-history-of-political-science-in-canada/.

1. DemoEssays. "The History of Political Science in Canada." February 9, 2022. https://demoessays.com/the-history-of-political-science-in-canada/.


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DemoEssays. "The History of Political Science in Canada." February 9, 2022. https://demoessays.com/the-history-of-political-science-in-canada/.