Term Paper: Comparative Politics and Government

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Political Science

Government in Canada and the United States

The purpose of this paper is to introduce and analyze the topic of political science in America. Specifically, it will compare and contrast three major branches of government and politics in the United States with Canada's government and politics. Both democracies, Canada and the United States have many governmental branches and policies in common. However, there are key differences, including Canada's legislative branch, their prime minister, and their social services. The United States government could learn some important lessons from Canadian practices, including their health insurance and role in world politics. Government has grown from the three main branches, executive, judicial, and legislative in this country, to become a complex and convoluted morass of agencies, public service employees, and bureaucracy. This is the case in most other countries, where government becomes one of the pervasive elements of society. Government is big business, and this comparison will show how this business differs in two countries that are closely tied via boarders and populations.

THE PRESIDENT/PRIME MINISTER

In the United States, the leader of the country is the President, who is elected to a four-year term, and cannot serve more than two terms in office. The President has several powers specified by the Constitution. He is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military. He appoints ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, federal judges, and other officials with the approval of the Senate. He can grant pardons and reprieves in prison sentences, and he can convene or dismiss Congress in case of extraordinary events. He can recommend legislation to Congress, and he can veto legislation passed by Congress. He receives ambassadors and dignitaries from foreign countries, and he gives an annual State of the Union address to Congress. He can also make treaties with foreign countries, with the approval of Congress. He also tries to make sure all laws are "faithfully executed" in the country. He also appoints the heads of the various governmental departments, and creates a Cabinet to advise him ("Ben's Guide").

There are of course requirements for anyone who wants to become President of the United States. He or she must be 35 years of age, must be U.S. born and a citizen, and have lived in the country for at least 14 years. The House of Representatives can remove a president from office via impeachment. To qualify for impeachment, a president must engage in "Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors" ("Ben's Guide") according to the Constitution. The House must vote in a majority to impeach, but this does not remove the president from office, it is not a legal conviction. Next, the case goes before the Senate, overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If the Senate votes two-thirds against the president, he or she is removed from office, and the vice-president takes over as president.

The President also has the power to veto legislation. All bills from Congress cross the president's desk, and he can sign them, veto them, or do nothing. A veto sends the bill back to Congress. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to confirm the bill in order to overthrow the veto. If they cannot raise a two-thirds vote in either chamber, the bill does not go into affect. If the president signs the bill, it goes into affect right away. If the president does nothing, there are two outcomes. If the bill is not signed and Congress is in session for ten consecutive days after the president receives the bill, the bill automatically becomes law and goes into affect. If the Congress is not in session for ten consecutive days after the president receives the bill, the bill dies. This is called a "pocket veto" ("Ben's Guide"). It is quite clear that the office of President of the United States is a complex and challenging office, one that wields power and police influence around the world.

Canadian leadership is far different from the American executive branch. Canada is a democracy, but a Constitutional Monarchy, which means that Queen Elizabeth II (or any other British monarch), is the figurative head of state. The Queen is represented in Canada by the Governor General, who is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Governor General has the power to call Parliament into session or dissolve a session, and the Governor General appoints the Prime Minister, usually the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. The Governor General is also the Commander in Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. Thus, Canada's executive branch is appointed rather than elected, and is broken down between two distinct offices, although the Prime Minister is considered the head of government, while the Governor General is the head of state ("Canadians").

In another very different aspect of the Prime Minister's role in government, he or she does not have clearly defined duties in the Canadian Constitution. Of course, the U.S. President has very clearly defined duties, and so, this is a big difference between the two positions. Like his U.S. counterpart, the Prime Minister makes a variety of key appointments, from judges to ambassadors and many other public servants. The Prime Minister also advises the Governor General, chooses a Cabinet, hosts foreign delegates, and chooses ministers for key governmental departments and agencies. The Prime Minister is the leader of the Cabinet, and since the Cabinet is the most powerful political body in Canada, the Prime Minister is the leader of the most powerful body in Canadian politics.

Thus, the two offices have many similarities, but quite a few key differences, including how they assume the leadership of the country. Canadians elect their representatives in Parliament, so they have a voice in their government, but they do not have a voice in their leadership, that is all done by appointment, which seems old-fashioned in a democracy. The job is split up in Canada, leading to different roles for the two leaders. The Prime Minister cannot command the Armed Forces, while the President can and does. This separation of power might lead to more balanced decisions in the area of war and conflict in Canada, however. In addition, the Prime Minister is a member of the House of Commons, so he or she has a vote in Parliament - far different from the separation between the Legislative and Executive branches of American government.

THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

The legislature is the closest branch of government to the people. They elect the legislative representatives, who are supposed to represent their constituents in their respective branches of government. One author notes, "The legislature has been the traditional locus of rule making in democratic political systems, and most nondemocratic systems also use a legislative body to legitimate their actions to their own people and to the outside world" (Peters 20). Thus, the legislative branch may be one of the most important branches to most of the country's population, because they create the laws and actions that represent the country's views and how they are perceived in the rest of the world.

In the United States, the legislative branch is made up of two bodies - the House of Representatives and the Senate, collectively referred to as the Congress of the United States. Both bodies are elected by the people. The Senate has 100 seats (2 for each state), and is the upper division of Congress. Senators are elected for six-year terms, and there are no term limits on Senators. They must be at least 30 years old, a citizen for at least nine years, and live in the state they represent. They create and pass legislation, but they are also exclusively responsible for confirming or denying presidential treaties and appointments, and holding trials for any government official who commits a crime against the government or the country ("Ben's Guide").

The House of Representatives have 435 seats, decided on by the population of the state and district they represent. Representatives are elected for two-year terms, and there are no term limits on how long they can serve. They must be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent. There are also five additional members -- from Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia -- that represent their constituencies in the House, but they cannot vote. Like the Senate, the house has some special responsibilities. They initiate laws that create taxes for the people, and they are the ones who decide if a government official should be put on trial in the Senate ("Ben's Guide").

Both bodies create and pass bills, and like the Canadian system, the bills go through a distinct process before they reach the president's desk. First, a Congressperson introduces the bill and it is numbered and printed. Next, the bill goes to a committee, where it is studied, and then recommended to go on or not. If it… [END OF PREVIEW]

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