Two Concepts of Legitimacy


I think it might be useful at this point to introduce into our conversation a distinction employed by Campbell Sharman in his excellent IRPP paper on reforming the Senate. The distinction is between input legitimacy and output legitimacy. 

Input legitimacy relates to the functioning and machinery of an institution: how members are selected, the procedures by which decisions are made and power exercised, and so on. Output legitimacy refers to the public assessment of the relevance and quality of the institution’s performance. As Sharman writes, “Both forms of legitimacy express public assessment of the worth of an institution, but input legitimacy is a matter of the design of the institution while output legitimacy must be earned by the institution’s performance.”

Coyne has written elsewhere on this site, and I obviously agree with him, that — despite the prime minister’s best attempts at convincing Canadians otherwise — there is nothing remotely illegitimate about the coalition’s attempt at taking the reins of parliament. It is, as far as I’m concerned, little more than the predictable contortions of parliament in an extended minority situation. 

But obviously many people feel otherwise, and while I’m tempted to dismiss this as a failure of basic knowledge of civics amongst Canadians, that misses an element that Sharman’s distinction teases out, which is the requirement, ultimately, that the output of an institution be acceptable to the people. Both forms of legitimacy are important, but there is the question of priority. Normally, we tend to think that IL determines OL: That is, we accept the outcome of an election, or a vote in parliament, or what have you, because it has high input legitimacy. To put it another way, as long as the rules are followed we accept the result. 

But it is not that simple, and in the end, I’m inclined to think that output legitimacy has priority. That is, a certain institutional design will only be (input) legitimate to the extent to which it tends on the whole  (note the hedging here) to produce acceptable (that is, output-legitimate) outcomes.  

So where does that leave us? I think, with a caution to both sides. Harper says he will use all legal means to maintain power. But that has its dangers, for both himself and his party (ask Paul Martin) but also for public perceptions of the system as a whole. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it the right thing to do, and nobody like a stickler for the rules. Clinging to power through any means possible can bring the system into disrepute. 

For the coalition: They need to be aware of and sensitive to public opinion. Just because they can take down the government and seize power does not mean it is in their own long term interest (again, for the Libs I think it is a BAD IDEA), and, worse, it might serve to undermine the input-legitimacy of the system in the public mind. That is, the public (e.g. Jon Kay) might look at what is going on and think: Any system that allows this to happen can’t be legitimate. 

There is a lot at stake here. Our parliamentary system is old, established, and far more flexible than people give it credit for. It has consistently given Canadians effective and reasonably stable government while doing so with a large degree of IL and OL (pace Coyne’s distressing habit of declaring our federal elections borderline illegitimate). But every institution has its limits. The more these maniacs twist and pull and bend with no regard for the stresses they are imposing, the more dangerous this all becomes.

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Two Concepts of Legitimacy

  1. Potter,

    I was actually having a discussion along these lines earlier today, however without the scholarly precision. Nice to put some more stable concepts to the ideas. My thanks.

    Also, little more than the predictable contortions of parliament in an extended minority situation

    This was predictable? I don’t know what psychic you frequent, but mine was way off on this one.

  2. Voters upset by the coalition because of any lack of output legitimacy can have input legitimacy when next there is an election, which could be very soon.

  3. Well, given how many pundits etc. were basically pleading for the “left” to “unite” in some fashion, it was inevitable, was it not, that eventually even Layton and Dion could take the hint?

  4. The distinction is between input legitimacy and output legitimacy.

    Oh, gawd….

  5. When their own power and wellbeing is at issue, politicians generally are willing to let the end justify the means, i.e. favour “output legitimacy” over “input legitimacy”. The political institutions of a mature, sophisticated country have to be able to withstand this. Ours have worked pretty well, but this is a novel situation and they are being tested. I hope the G-G has good advice and good judgement. The Governor-Generalship is an odd constitutional feature, very occasionally of great imprtance, but not normally. You’d almost expect someone like the Chief Justice to be involved at a time like this.

  6. A change of comment policy?

    Senates face the same problems acheiving Diversity as do private and institutional boards. Democracy, in it’s most vibrant and inclusive incarnation, reforms private institutions from the inside. As boards become more democratic and inclusive an ethos of democracy will build. Yet the difficulites in attracting and maintaining diversity come from a failure to Invest. That is, if you want someone Poor on your board, in your Senate, you have to willing to train them for the job. The IRPP piece puts alot of thought into Selection and it’s relevance toward evolving Input Legitimacy, but Selection of diversity often fails because there are not enough people whose experience could reform and who also come complete with the requisite skills to participate.

  7. AP,
    Off-topic a little bit, but I’m very curious to know what advice (if any) you would give the GG on the potential Harper request to suspend Parliament until later.

    Say, if you were to think strictly with the good of the country in mind, not in terms of the interests of one party or the other.

  8. Stephen B
    Dec 3, 2008 21:10

    When their own power and wellbeing is at issue, politicians generally are willing to let the end justify the means, i.e. favour “output legitimacy” over “input legitimacy”.

    * * *

    I don’t think this is quite right. Input legitimacy will always exist. “output legitimacy” isn’t favoured over input legitimacy, rather input legitimacy is the bare minimum, but might not always produce output legitimacy. If someone’s “own power and well being” were at issue, a lack of input legitimacy would not merely be a matter to consider, it would be fatal.

  9. Nomenklatura
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The nomenklatura were a small, elite subset of the general population in the Canada and other Western Liberal countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries’ activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc. The nomenklatura was analogous to the ruling class, which Liberal doctrine denounced in the Communist Eastern Bloc.

    Almost without exception, they were members of the Liberal Party. Some authors defined them as a new class. Orthodox Trotskyism utilises the term caste rather than class, because they saw the Canada as a degenerated workers’ state, not a new class society. Later developments of Trotsky’s theories, notably Tony Cliff’s theory of State Capitalism, did refer to the nomenklatura as a new class

    The English term nomenklatura derived from the Latin nomenclatura meaning a list of names.

    The nomenklatura referred to the Liberal party’s authority to make appointments to key positions throughout the governmental system, as well as throughout the party’s own hierarchy. Specifically, the nomenklatura consisted of two separate lists: one was for key positions, appointments to which were made by authorities within the party; the other was for persons who were potential candidates for appointment to those positions. The Liberal Party of Canada Ottawa Headquarters, as part of its nomenklatura authority, maintained a list of ministerial and ambassadorial positions that it had the power to fill, as well as a separate list of potential candidates to occupy those positions.

    Coextensive with the nomenklatura were patron-client relations. Officials who had the authority to appoint individuals to certain positions cultivated loyalties among those whom they appointed. The patron (the official making the appointment) promoted the interests of clients in return for their support. Powerful patrons, such as the Members of the Parliament, had many clients. Moreover, an official could be both a client (in relation to a higher-level patron) and a patron (to other, lower-level officials).

    Because a client was beholden to his patron for his position, the client was eager to please his patron by carrying out his policies. The Canadian power structure essentially consisted of groups of vassals (clients) who had an overlord (the patron). The higher the patron, the more clients the patron had. Patrons protected their clients and tried to promote their careers. In return for the patron’s efforts to promote their careers, the clients remained loyal to their patron. Thus, by promoting his clients’ careers, the patron could advance his own power.

    The Party’s Appointment Authority
    The nomenklatura system arose early in Canadian history. Pierre Elliot Trudeau wrote that appointments were to take the following criteria into account: reliability, political attitude, qualifications, and administrative ability. Jean Chretien, who was the Leader of Liberal party, also was known as “Comrade File Cabinet” (Tovarishch Kartotekov) for his assiduous attention to the details of the party’s appointments. Seeking to make appointments in a more systematic fashion, Chretien, built the party’s patronage system and used it to distribute his clients throughout the party bureaucracy. Under Chretien’s direction in 1990, the party created departments of the Liberal Party and other organs at lower levels that were responsible for the registration and appointment of party officials. Known as uchraspredy, these organs supervised appointments to important party posts. According to American Canadiologist Seweryn Bialer, after Paul Martin’s accession to power in October 2004, the party considerably expanded its appointment authority. However, in the late 2009s some official statements indicated that the party intended to reduce its appointment authority, particularly in the area of economic management, in line with Dion’s reform efforts.

    At the federal level, the Party Building and Cadre Work Department supervised party nomenklatura appointments. This department maintained records on party members throughout the country, made appointments to positions on the federal level, and approved nomenklatura appointments on the lower levels of the hierarchy. The head of this department sometimes was a member of the Liberal caucus and was often a protégé of the leader of Liberal party.

    Every party committee and party organizational department–from the federal level in Ottawa to the district and city levels– prepared two lists according to their needs. The basic nominated position list detailed positions in the political, administrative, economic, military, cultural, and educational bureaucracies that the committee and its department had responsibility for filling. The registered enumerated the persons suitable for these positions.

    Patron-Client Relations
    An official in the party or government bureaucracy could not advance in the nomenklatura without the assistance of a patron. In return for this assistance in promoting his career, the client carried out the policies of the patron. Patron-client relations thus help to explain the ability of party leaders to generate support for their policies. The presence of patron-client relations between party officials and officials in other bureaucracies also helped to account for the control the party exercised over Canadian society. All of the half a million members of the nomenklatura system understood that they held their positions as a result of a favor bestowed on them by a superior official in the party, and that they could be replaced if they manifested disloyalty to their patron. Self-interest dictated that members of the nomenklatura submit to the control of their patrons in the party.

    Clients sometimes could attempt to supplant their patron. For example, Paul Martin, one of Desmeralis’ former protégés, helped to oust the latter in Jean Chetien in 2004. The power of the Liberal leader was consolidated to the extent that he placed his clients in positions of power and influence. The ideal for the Liberal leader, writes Canadian émigré observer (name withheld)is to be overlord of vassals selected by oneself.”

    Several factors explain the entrenchment of patron-client relations. First, in a centralized nondemocratic government system, promotion in the bureaucratic-political hierarchy was the only path to power. Second, the most important criterion for promotion in this hierarchy was approval from one’s supervisors, who evaluated their subordinates on the basis of political criteria and their ability to contribute to the fulfillment of the economic plan. Third, political rivalries were present at all levels of the party and state bureaucracies but were especially prevalent at the top. Power and influence decided the outcomes of these struggles, and the number and positions of one’s clients were critical components of that power and influence. Fourth, because fulfillment of the economic plan was decisive, systemic pressures led officials to conspire together and use their ties to achieve that goal.

    The faction led by Paul Martin provides a good case study of patron-client relations in the Canadian system. Many members of the Martin’s faction came from Power Corporation see Ezra Levant’s .Maurice Strong article published on.December 2, 2002

    Patron-client relations had implications for policy making in the party and government bureaucracies. Promotion of trusted subordinates into influential positions facilitated policy formation and policy execution. A network of clients helped to ensure that a patron’s policies could be carried out. In addition, patrons relied on their clients to provide an accurate flow of information on events throughout the country. This information assisted policymakers in ensuring that their programs were being implemented.

    The New Class
    Milovan Djilas wrote of the nomenklatura as the new class in his book New Class: An Analysis of the Canadian Socialist System, and that it was widely seen (and resented) by ordinary citizens as a bureaucratic élite that enjoyed special privileges and had simply supplanted the earlier wealthy capitalist élites.

  10. Karol: I can’t decide. Are you an idiot or a retard?

  11. Andrew could you kindly enlighten me as to the general split between left leaning and centre leaning liberals within the party both now and during the Chretien years? It seems to me they had a pretty successful formula back then and I’m wondering which was the aberation. Which Liberal party is the real Liberal party?

  12. Coyne Crisis
    You seem to be facing serious dilema but I cannot help you with it.

  13. Whatever will we do without your help ??

  14. Well, in my personal opinion, Parliament has lost much “Input Legitimacy”.

    In my opinion, if we are going to stick with this traditional Westminister model of Parliament, then we should also stick with the traditional manner of selecting Prime Ministers: First minister, selected from his caucus or the House. Instead, we have these external party leadership conventions select all powerful Leaders, which then have complete control over their caucus, and have command over Parliament in ways which other leaders in similar systems would only dream of. Really, we have a hybrid Republican/American and Westminister model.

    This has changed democracy in a fundamental way, in that now in most elections, when deciding where to place their vote, in order of importance, Canadians look to:
    1. Leader
    2. Party
    3. Local Candidate

    In the traditional system, it’s the other way around. In this coalition, we are going to put in a Prime Minister based on it being the other way around, based on the logic that we have more individual members who support Dion than Harper. But I would make the counter argument in that we have a political system that is about to place in a Prime Minister who was soundly rejected by the country, by 8/10 regions of Canada, and by his own party. It’s absurd.
    That being said, I think it’s obvious that Harper is done, but now I’m in Kay’s corner. Where can I sign up to be a Republicanist? No more of this garbage instable political system. Whatever happens in this short term political drama is of secondary importance to reforming our political system, which quite frankly, I’m not so sure I am proud of anymore.

  15. “Which Liberal party is the real Liberal party?”

    The party that hasn’t gotten over its longstanding, now divorced, marriage with the people of Quebec.

    The divorce happened some years back, but the Liberals don’t quite realize that. Now they are courting the single minded Quebec dame.

  16. I haven’t read the paper and my remark was a little flip.

    Mr. Potter says, ” Clinging to power through any means possible can bring the system into disrepute. ” My point, for whatever it’s worth, was that politicians frequently try to promote their own interests by means that can bring the system into disrepute. They often confuse their own interest and the public interest.

  17. Meany,

    “That being said, I think it’s obvious that Harper is done”

    I think Harper has just discovered his second wind. Now he is able to talk much more openly about things that could never be said, such as:

    our current electoral system does not work.

    Let us institute that parties must be running a federal campaign when running in a federal election, for instance. We could demand that any federal party running in a federal election should at least field 150 candidates across the country.

  18. Karol.
    If this is what passed for political debate in the east i’m surprised that they dian’t’t only just reject communism, i’m surprised the didn’ all commit mass suicide. I dare you to repeat it. On 2nd thought don’t – it might ggive me ideas.

  19. Karol.
    If this is what passed for political debate in the east i’m surprised that they didn’t’t only just reject communism, i’m surprised the didn’ all commit mass suicide. I dare you to repeat it. On 2nd thought don’t – it might ggive me ideas.

  20. “They often confuse their own interest and the public interest.”

    But if all is based on reason, good solid reason, then the interest of the country AND their own interests are secured. For in the end, solid reasoning cannot refute either.

    Good, solid reasoning is what this country is in need of.

  21. Andrew,

    excelent article, very informative.



  22. “the requirement, ultimately, that the output of an institution be acceptable to the people”

    What nonsense. So if we don’t like the outcome then the process must be flawed, right? This is the same logic used to justify repeated referenda on Quebec sovereignty – the people still haven’t voted the right way yet so we better keep holding votes until they do.

    Democracy is messy. It’s not designed to produce optimal results; it reflects a wide variety of interests and opinions. Democracy is based on process and inputs – everyone gets their say and the system TRIES to produce reasonably acceptable outcomes if possible but this is part is of far less importance. Isn’t this the reason we have separatist MP’s in Parliament, even once forming the official Opposition? To most Canadians, myself included, this result is abhorrent but we abide by it because it was the result of a legitimate and legal democratic process.

    The Opposition has every right to declare non-confidence in the government and attempt to replace it through democratic channels. If they piss off voters in the process the voters will surely have their chance to say so at the ballot box in the not-too-distant future.

  23. I should add that if you’re focused on institutional outputs for my money you can’t beat a good dictatorship. This would neatly avoid all those pesky problems I heard about tonight on the news during their “person-on-the-street” interviews:

    – Stability, stability, stability
    – No partisan bickering
    – The ability to govern swiftly and decisively

  24. kc,
    There were some significant changes in Nomenclatura system ever since Liberal Party of Canada was taken over by sexual deviants (LGBT lobby). I did not want to post this updated version as it would tend to offend some people but if replace traditional patron-client subservience and power play with homosexual struggle for domination in multipartner sexual relationships (who does whom when and why) than you will get a picture.

  25. Andrew,

    I agree that this is a helpful way to think about legitimacy of institutions. But lets isolate your arguement for a minute.

    “…I’m inclined to think that output legitimacy has priority. That is, a certain institutional design will only be (input) legitimate to the extent to which it tends on the whole (note the hedging here) to produce acceptable (that is, output-legitimate) outcomes.”

    I do note the hedging. But I think it is key to the arguement and the implication.

    If we are to say that outcomes legitimate institutions, then how far from an institution can we deviate, and still end up with an outcome we like and still call something legitimate? The full extension, of course (and to be clear you are clearly not advocating it, but it is still implicated) that anything goes and as long as the outcome is acceptable then all is ‘good’.

    Of course the opposite is likely equally abhorrent. If we do everything by the ‘institution’ then and we get terrible results over and over again then so be it? Hopefully not. Evolution is important.

    Two sets of questions emerge for me.

    1) Are there certain institutions that we ought to experiment or seek to change less because they are purposefully put into place to protect more ‘sacred’ values? If so how do we determine which?

    2) More generally, how do we determine when institutions need to change? And what should the process be for identifying them? And what should be the process for changing them be? Also how often should we be looking to update out institutions? Every time we don’t like the outcome?

    It really leads me to wonder about, do institutions not reflect some greater value that we want to ensure has longer-term longevity than people’s instrumental preferences?

  26. Karol
    i warned you not to repeat . I’m going outside to shoot myself ; i suggest you join me.

  27. This was a great piece. Thanks Potter!

    While in some sense OL can take precedence, it also happens to be the most subjective and most prone to manipulation. Focusing only on OL basically recreates the “does the end justify the means” conundrum.

    On the other hand, IL is less subjective: you try to create the best system/process. Ensuring IL, you can be certain that the OL will follow suit. As long as the process/institution has integrity, then the output will be a true reflection of the input. But if that is not the case, then there is no assurance either way.

    So attacks on an institution largely rely on discrediting its IL. The Senate. Elections Canada. The Supreme Court. etc…


  28. Mr Potter: First I think such jargon should stay with the academics pursuing tenure. But the basic point about legitimacy is this: the opposition parties had accepted the legitimacy of the Tories’ mandate to govern following the Oct 14 election. They accepted its legitimacy by approving the Throne Speech and, oh yes, by the very fact the Liberal leader resigned his post – clearly a sign that he understood the verdict of the people. Coalitions are created in the immediate hours or days after an election, before anyone in Parliament is willing to accept that one of the parties has a mandate to govern. This was not the case here. Everything was going fine, until the Conservatives (foolishly) tried to take away the parties’ public subsidies. That’s when the coalition-building started in earnest and that’s why this coalition has no legitimacy. They had accepted the legitimacy of the Tories’ mandate after the Oct 14 election. The people had accepted Harper’s mandate to govern. What is happening now is a power grab based on opportunism.

  29. Fletch, your huffing about legitimacy is laughable. If the governement is legitimate it will stand and face the confidence vote in the House on Monday. We both know it has no intention of doing so, not because it’s not legitimate but simply because it knows it will lose. It’s the mentality of a six-year-old: I’m taking my toys and going home because I’m not getting my way at playtime.

    The Conservatives only received a MINORITY mandate. In their zeal to destroy their opponents, they momentarily forgot this. That’s their problem.

    And one more thing – please spare us about “opportunism”, unless you’re willing to oppose Prorogation when the government has not finished (or in this case, barely even started) its legislative agenda.

  30. Rich: I think we both agree that this should be settled based on democratic principles. So I’ll be happy to see Parliament avoid being prorogued, if the coalitionists call an election (now, not in 18 months) and let the people decide. Don’t you think it’s rather undemocratic to see a party ,12-seats away from a majority, sitting on the Opposition benches just two months after winning an election that almost everyone agreed was a “strengthened mandate”? In its place will be a lameduck party leader with barely half the number of seats and propped up by a party with representatives solely from one province. Would that be good for Canada? Let the people decide.

  31. Fletch: having a coalition of opposition parties replace a sitting minority government seems perfectly democratic to me. It’s not undemocratic in any way for the Conservatives to get booted out – they didn’t win a majority and they have to continually earn the confidence of the House. That they couldn’t manage to do this isn’t a result of some underhanded scheme – all they had to do was talk to the opposition about some economic strategies to help ease the recession. Their base partisan instincts took over instead and now they’re paying the price.

    Our opinions about what’s good for Canada don’t really count. My own opinions are that minority governments are good things. I prefer to see parties have to co-operate. I also think virtually any combination of the other parties could govern more effectively that the Conservatives, who are completely out of step with most Canadians on hugely important issues such as the role of government in the economy, global warming, and national unity. The point of this whole thread is that just because you don’t like the outcome of an institution it doesn’t mean the institution isn’t legitimate.

  32. I think you are missing a trick. There is nothing written that forbids the takeover. But parliament is supposed to be governed by precedent unless unprecedented circumstances arise. Thus stare decisis gives stability without losing flexibility.

    But there just isn’t a precedent for this — passing the cabinet across the aisle — other then King-Byng, and of course the upshot of KB was the decisive repudiation of Byng’s decision in the next election. (It even led to a change of statute law in Westminster, so you cannot plausibly argue that election was not seen as a repudiation.) If there is no precedent then you need an unprecedented crisis, and that is nowhere to be found. So the putsch is not legitimate. What is legitimate is forcing an election. That is what precedent allows.

  33. If you want to rely on precedent then perhaps you could point to a precedent where a government suspends Parliament to avoid losing a non-confidence vote.

    There is no “unprecendented” crisis. There is simply a minority government that miscalculated. As I said earlier, it is rare but that’s because most minorities can remember that they are outnumbered. You are trying to claim the process is illegitimate because you don’t like the potential outcome.

  34. Andrew, this is the best thing you have written on the crisis. It is also a helpful way to think about the evolution of our constitutional system. Consider pivotal events like Magna Carta, 1688, the establishment of the Prime Ministership, Reform, and the Parliament Act of 1911 (and King-Byng too). In each case, the nature of input legitimacy going forward was changed in order to give the system more output legitimacy. The stimulus was often a case where impassioned operators tried to achieve (or maintain) an outcome which, while not offending against input legitimacy, offended against output legitimacy big time. This current crisis is one such case, and I am fairly confident that, had we gone to a confidence vote on Monday and the GG refused a dissolution, the accepted conventions about when the GG could in future refuse a dissolution would move in favour of the Prime Minister. Hopefully, with prorogation, the coalitionistas will cool down and either agree to an election or pass the confidence votes in January. Otherwise, this crisis is likely to bring about permanent (unwritten) constitutional change.

  35. That’s very thoughtful MarkCh. I’d revise your conclusion slightly:

    “Hopefully, with prorogation, the Dictator will cool down and either agree to cooperate with the Opposition Members that form the majority of the House or else tender his resignation. Otherwise, this crisis is likely to bring about permanent (and undemocratic) constitutional change whereby governments can suspend Parliament whenever it is in their own political interests to do so.”

  36. Good comment, Rich. The reason why I am hoping the coalitionistas cool down, and not Harper, is that, in the end, I believe that output legitimacy comes from the voters, and only an election can sort things out now. A Conservative vs Lib-Bloc-NDP election will tell us who the people want and establish both kinds of legitimacy.

    I agree that proroguing in these circumstances is also lacking in output legitimacy (while definitely not lacking in input legitimacy), but this time I think Harper will get away with it, because he is clearly not doing it to avoid an election. I think the best solution would have been for the GG to assure Harper that she would grant a dissolution on Monday after a lost confidence vote, on condition that Harper did not ask to prorogue today.

    Since Harper proposed co-operation in his speech last night, I don’t think we need to wait for January to consider that. What we actually need are specific proposals from the oppostion.

  37. Except, Mark, that this isn’t a two party system. Even if you’re assuming the Liberals and NDP will run together as a coalition (and they won’t, they were merely cooperating, not merging), there’s still the Conservatives, Bloc, and Greens.

    After slagging off Quebec and with no real room to grow out west, the odds of them getting a majority for the next several years have gotten increasingly slimmer. So what happens if once again we end up with a minority parliament, where no party holds enough members to run the house on their own? Is and NDP/Lib coalition still wrong? Do we have to keep re-running elections until we get the results that you want?

  38. Why does the Coalition need to cool down? They’re exercising their democratic rights by opposing the government. Stephen Harper should have proposed co-operation last week. He promised it after the election and he was clearly lying through his teeth. At any point up until now he could have tried to work with the Opposition for the good of the country but he’s utterly incapable of thinking about anything besides his own political gain. If anyone needs to cool down it’s the guy who has been running the country as if he controls the majority of the seats when he clearly doesn’t. If you want to talk about specific proposals on the economy, where are the government’s? Probably out on date with the last shreds of the Governor General’s integrity.

  39. Nope, an NDP/Bloc/Liberal coalition, just like the one announced, would be perfectly legitimate, then, as a) voters certainly know it is a possible outcome and b) the Conservatives would not be able to pass ANY confidence votes in the new Parliament, unlike this Parliament, where they already have, which gave Harper considerable output legitimacy as Prime Minister.

    This could be called into question if Dion and Layton credibly repudiated the N/B/L coalition during the campaign, and then wanted to implement it after, but I don’t think anybody sees that happening.

  40. The reason the coalitionistas should cool down is that the coalition, should it be put into power without an election, is severely lacking in output legitimacy. This seems obvious to me and to many Canadians, but evidently not to Rich and T. Thwim.

  41. The coalition’s lack of output legitimacy is greatly increased by the very obvious fact that the only real reason they don’t want to go to an election is that, having tipped their hand about their plans, they think they would lose. If the opposition thought that they would win (defined as holding the Conservatives to a minority or less), they would go for an election now.

  42. It only lacks output legitimacy to you, Mark, because you obviously don’t understand how parliamentary systems work. Why don’t you tell us exactly which members of the coalition were not democratically elected to the House?

    I’d suggest an election which generates a minority government that a) refuses to cooperate with the other parties in the House and b) suspends Parliament when is in danger of losing power doesn’t exactly reek of output legitimacy.

  43. Before you tell me this is why we need another election, I’ll add the following:

    1. We only had the past election because Harper broke his own election law. He spent $330 million dollars worth of public money to get the same result he had going in.

    2. An election isn’t required because the Opposition has the legal right to form a new government. If it governs as ineptly as you are certain it will it will quickly crumble and be judged by Canadians in an election at that point.

    I think you’ve been reading too many Conservative “talking points”. The whole affair is 100% Harper’s fault yet he has done absolutely zero to try and rectify any of the damage done other than that to his own backside. Even last night he could have offered a small mea-culpa and invitation to the opposition to try and work out an economic plan. He couldn’t bring himself to be a statesman even for 5 minutes.

  44. “So if we don’t like the outcome then the process must be flawed, right?”

    OL will always have primacy, and life is easier if everyone acknowledges that fact and works to support it. If OL is unsatisfactory, the rules for IL will be changed. Sometimes that process can be protracted and messy. It’s often with hindsight that people regret not spending more time working on OL.

    We now have a cooling off period. Time to add details to what’s on offer and think it over.

  45. We don’t need another election now because we have prorogation. What was needed was a chance for people to absorb the changes in the various parties’ positions and platforms since the Oct election. Either prorogation or an election could serve that purpose. We have prorogation. Some people might have liked to stampede the herd and present a fait accompli without much time for the voters to consider the agenda, but that opportunity has passed. Thankfully.

  46. Interesting point Brad. We can then look at Prorogation through the same lens, can’t we? The input legitimacy of the Governor General agreeing to the PM’s request to prorogue seems high – on the surface this is standard operating procedure?

    But what about the output legitimacy? A democratically-elected Parliament has been shut down because the government wanted to avoid the outcome that a Parliamentary session would bring. The Governor General has now legitimized this as a tactic for any future government in trouble to use. If Parliament’s not working in your favour, just shut it down until such time as conditions might become more politically favourable to you. It’s much like the way my 6-year calls Time-Out right before she’s about to be caught in a game of tag. On its own the tactic is legitimate, but the result it produces is not.

  47. The democratically elected government shuts down over Christmas anyway. It’s fair for the G-G to weigh what’s at stake on the legislative agenda when considering a request to prorogue, as well as consider whether the elected members might be too hasty by half in what they are setting out to do.

    Can the G-G exercise her power to summon parliament independently? (I have no idea, although I realize the G-G formally exercises the power.) If so, no government has the power to dodge its day of reckoning indefinitely. If not – Gs-G don’t have to grant every request for prorogation if they feel the process is being abused and not in the interests of the country. While one may then counter that Harper is abusing it, the G-G can recognize that and still conclude that a cooling off period is in the best interests of the country. Perhaps that was discussed during the long interview Harper had with the G-G.

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