The Prime Minister's Powers and the Rule of Law

Stephen Harper

By W.T. Stanbury, The Hill Times Online, 27 June 2011

Is there any disagreement that the Prime Minister is the most powerful man in Canada? Here is a little thought experiment (or research project). Can you find the statutory authority for each of the PM's vast array of powers? Let me give the game away. The short answer is no. The longer answer—explained below—is that the PM's powers are implicit in certain sections of the Constitution.


Defining Power

I argue that power is the ability of an individual or group to make things happen so as to achieve (or partially achieve) their goals even in the face of concerted opposition. Power can also be negative—the power to prevent others from getting what they want.

The essence of state power—even in a democracy—is that it involves the legitimate use of coercion exercised through taxation, regulation, enforcement of the criminal law, and a host of other legal powers. That's why so many seek to "climb the greasy pole" (Disraeli's phrase) to become Prime Minister, (Stanbury, The Hill Times, May 19, 2009). (...)

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