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Flashcards in Constitutions Deck (72):

What is a constitution?

The fundamental rules and principles by which a state is governed


What matters about constitutions in how they are created?

their shape and design


What is the foundation of a liberal democratic system?

A constitution


What is a codified constitution?

A constitution whose major provisions are set out in a formal constitutional document of a set of constitutional documents.


Whose constitution is the epitome of a codified constitution?

The American Constitution


Liberal democratic governments are___bound.



What has to be certain in a liberal democratic government?

Who has power
-degree of stability, removing opportunity for rule power to be arbitrary.


What 3 things are liberal democracies based on?

The perspective that there should be limits on the power and scope of government, that government should abide by the rule of law and that the rights of the people should be protected from arbitrary actions by government.


What are liberal democracies characterized by?

Not only by gov't elected by the people, but also by constitutional gov't.


Why limit the power of the state?

-Government is for the individual
-You and I matter


What is the good society in a liberal democracy?

government chosen by the people and limited


What is the rule of law essential to?

integrity and is protected


What is the rule of law in all liberal democracies?

a fundamental concept or principle


According the the principle of the rule of law, what are all of a country's citizens governed by?

a single set of legal rules


The rule of law applies___and___to all and includes procedures that are followed to ensure what?

-ensure that every person accused of violating a law is given a fair and impartial hearing


Most importantly, constitutions establish what?

that the power of the state is neither arbitrary nor capricious


What does the authority of the state spring from?

legal rules that constrain as well as empower the government's behaviour and activities


What stands out as the most important source of legal authority in societies governed by the rule of law?



Why do courts have to be independent?

uphold integrity of constitutions


How do constitutions ensure that the rule of law is the fundamental principle structuring the operations of governments in liberal democracies (what are the 5 functions iow)?

1) th define the structure of major institutions of gov't
2) to divide powers and responsibilities among the various institutions of gov't
3) to regulate relations between the citizen and the state
4) Constitutions serve as a political symbol
5) to specify a method for amending the constitutions


How does a constitution define the structure of major institutions of gov't?

-identify principle offices and institutions
-specify who is eligible to hold office and how to be elected


What are the two ways that the constitution divides powers and responsibilities?

-horizontally (among executive, legislative, and judicial branch)
-vertically between two levels of gov't


What does the division of power equal?

two constitution forms


What do constitutions clearly specify about jurisdictional power?

How it will be divided among national and sub-national gov'ts


Constitutions set out rules for which two systems?

unitary and federal systems


What does the term federal refer to ?

How sovereignty or ultimate governing authority is arranged between the different governments ruling over a shared territory.


What does a federal constitution divide?

sovereignty between a national gov't and sub-national gov't


What sense is sovereignty divided in with federal constitutions?

In the sense that in some policy areas, the national gov't will have the constitutional authority to act in other areas this will rest with regional gov't.


How is called upon to resolve disputes about the overlap of power in a federal system?

the courts


What is an example of a centralized gov't?



What is a centralized gov't?

The national gov't has considerable control over gov't finances and with the ability to take a leading role in a wide variety of policy areas


What is an example of a decentralized federal system?



What is a decentralized system?

features strong provincial gov't whose decisions have a major impact on their residents


What are the 5 reasons or rationals for a federal system?

1) large geographic space
2) the prior existence of strong states
3) the attempt to create unity or accommodate diversity
4) the desire to concentrate power and resources
5) the desire to disperse political power


Why is large geographic space a reason for a federal system?

Because many states become federation to distribute governmental power where there is a huge area to be governed


Fewer that__states are federations today, but this group includes nearly___of the land area of the world.



Why is the prior existence of strong states a reason for a federal system?

-a federation can be an acceptable compromise when strong peripheral governments create a central government.


What is an example of the prior existence of strong states with the US?

-the already strong state governments were unwilling to give up the bulk of their power to a central government
-rather they agreed to delegate certain functions to the new central government while retaining all other residual powers for themselves


Why sit eh attempt to create unity or accommodate diversity a reason for a federal system?

-federations appear to bond diverse nations into a unified state while still recognizing the different nations diversity and desire for power (and recognition).


Why is the desire to concentrate power and resources a reason for a federal system?

In some instances, a federation is created to combine several states into a stronger political system.


Why is the desire to disperse political power a reasons for a federal system?

A federation can be established to prevent over concentration of power in the central government


What are the 6 benefits of a federal system?

1) provincial or state gov't may be more sensitive to the needs of their populations
-public policies may be custom tailored to the population
2) less populate and remote areas of the country might be ignored in a unitary system
-power is distributed
3) citizens may find it easier to participate in the policy-making process in their own province
-way to encourage efficacy
4) allows for create recognition of (cultural) diversity
5) helps to limit the concentration of power
6) a federal system can allow for experimentation with different policies and approaches
-prospect for trying something on a smaller scale (healthcare in SK)


What is a unity system?

All governmental sovereignty rests in the national government


How do regional gov'ts gain power in a unitary system?

they are given th authority to act by reason of the national gov't
-they do not enjoy their own constitutionally entrenched and protected source of authority


Why might a unitary system be the best way to provide for the common good (5 reasons)?

1) the governing authorities may be more likely to work for the common good of the whole country
2) national unity may be promoted because greater attention is likely to be given to national issues
3) the central government can be more easily held accountable by citizens
4) people will be more likely to have the same level of government services
5) greater efficiencies in governing are possible


Why is it a benefit that national unity may be promoted because greater attention is given to national issues in a unitary system?

-in Canada, there are provincial identities which makes national programs and policies more difficult


Why is it a benefit that the central gov't can be more easily help accountable by citizens in a unitary system?

-no "passing the buck" no way to pass it off, shift the blame


Why is it a benefit that people will be more likely to have the same level of gov't services available in all regions in a unitary system?

deliver public goods more affectively and on a uniform basis


Why is it a benefit that greater efficiencies in governing are possible in a unitary system?

no duplication of efforts with national and provincial levels doing the same thing


What do basic provisions of the Charter include?

-fundamental freedoms
-democratic rights
-mobility rights
-lega rights
-equality rights
-language rights


Unlike the American Bill of rights, provisions related to___actions and___rights are included in the Charter.



Are rights and freedoms absolute?



What question regarding limitations to freedoms is controversial?

how far gov'ts should go to avoid harm


Who might be called upon to determine whether laws limiting rights and freedoms are justified or excessive when rights and freedoms are entrenched?

the courts


What does the reasonable limits clause of the charter allow for?

laws to place reasonable limits on rights and freedoms, provided that the limits can be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."


What does Section 33 of the charter allow parliament or provincial legislature?

to override some rights by using twhenotwithstanding clause (only effective for five years, although it can be re-enacted)


Which areas can section 33 of the charter be utilized in?

fundamental freedoms, legal right, and equality rights


What is the US appointment system for SC judges?

-US president appoints a judge, senate scrutinizes them and then votes
-checks and balances--giving each branch of gov't power


How are SC judges appointed in Canada?

-PM appoints a judge
-Interviewed by parliamentary committee who does not vote
-PM included legal scholars in process of selection


What if citizens were to elect judges? (More democratic means rather than appointment?)

-it becomes politics
-we assume given power of appointment and removing public opinion, the integrity of the courts is maintained


What is judicial review/

-in some countries the courts have the authority to strike down legislation or governmental actions that violate the constitution


Was power of judicial review stated in the US or Canadian Constitutions?

no, but courts in both countries have assumed this rule


What about judicial activism in countries where judicial review exists?

it varies


What is judicial activism?

judges opinions have played an important role in legal precedents?


Why are constitutional amendments needed from time to time?

Because of changing circumstances and the changing values of a country' citizens


Why do most countries require high level of support to change their written constitution than is needed to change an ordinary law?

to try to ensure that a gov't does not change the constitution to gain excessive powers or to take away protected rights


What is an unwritten constitution (uncodified)?

-essentially this means that the details of a constitution cannot be found within the confines of one document aptly names "a constitution"
-there may also be statues, precedents, and legal decisions that are induced and equally significant to the "law of the land."


What are two important examples of uncodified details in the British Constitution?

-magna carta
-english bill of rights


What are constitutional conventions?

these are unwritten rules of constitutional behaviour that fill in the gaps in the written constitution nd condition the exercise of legal powers under the constitution. While considered to be obligatory, such rules re not legally enforceable.


What types of connections have become most important?

conventions that effectively transfer "de facto" power from one authority prone actor to another


What is the convention of royal assent?

-there is a convention in British politics that the monarch will not refuse to assent to a piece of legislation passed by a majority in parliament
-the defect power to say yea or new has been passed to the PM and a parliamentary majority even while the Queen continues to hold this "de jure" power


What is the convention of the PM?

-the position PM only exists by convention
-it was never created by a constitutional document or by a piece of parliamentary legislation
-it has become the accepted practice that the lead of the party which receives the most votes in a n election is asked to form a gov't, appoint a cabinet, and sit as PM.