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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Role of house leaders in the Canadian House of Commons Carter, Wendy L.

Abstract

This thesis deals with the role of House leaders in the organization and conduct of business in the Canadian Parliament. The position of House leader in the parliamentary parties has emerged out of a complexity of factors and pressures placed upon the parliamentary system during the last thirty years. It may now be said that House leaders form the primary communication channel between the political parties concerning the business of the Canadian House of Commons. The adversary system in parliament, reinforced by the traditional position of the opposition, requires that the parties cooperate in organizing the conduct of parliamentary business. The House leaders meet informally and privately to negotiate and to arrange the timing of debates and other matters. The House leaders perform other important duties within their parties. The Government House leader is responsible to the prime minister and cabinet for the overall management of the House, management of the government's legislative schedule, and assistance in the development of legislation. The contemporary Government House leader is also involved in long-range legislative planning. Opposition House leaders keep their parties informed about House activities and perform important strategy and organizational duties. All House leaders are involved in procedural debates and parliamentary reforms. House leaders are appointed from within the parliamentary party and any authority they possess for making interparty agreements comes from the party. That they are normally senior and respected members and have unique contacts with the other House leaders are factors which usually enhance their influence and persuasive powers over the party. The development of the position of House leaders has decreased the influence of party whips; yet the whips remain and the roles of House leaders and party whips may now be seen as complementary. House leaders naturally must operate within the formal rules of the House, and changes in these rules affect the role of the House leaders. The inability to develop a working time allocation mechanism for Commons legislative activity leaves informal communications between the House leaders as the crucial method of scheduling and limiting these debates. The role performed by House leaders has become more significant and it is now recognized that House leaders hold powerful positions in the Canadian House of Commons. As government business increases yet further in amount and complexity the role of House leaders may be expected to become still more significant in the Canadian parliamentary process.

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