Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Lessons in Canadian Politics

I have been confused for much of my time here about the differences between the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office--PCO vs PMO.    I get that the PCO is a bunch of civil servants who serve to administrate, so that the government executes the policies of the Prime Minister.  I get that the PMO is a bunch of political appointees (more or less) whose job is to look out for the political equities of the individual serving as PM.  That is, these are folks who care about the Prime Minister's political future via advising.  I apparently misapplied the idea of the US National Security Council as an analogous institution....

What I did not know until today is that the PMO actually has executive authority.  How did I learn this?  The PMO apparently got involved in the refugee claims process.  Why did Canada have relatively few refugees coming in from Syria?  Because the very top of the government got involved in the process in ways that seem pretty abnormal.  I am sure that Harper will claim this is about vetting to make sure terrorists don't sneak through.

But it seems strange that random folks who beholden to the PM and no one else can order civil servants around.  But I guess what parliamentary supremacy with the reality of PM supremacy means exactly that.  This was not on the Citizenship test.... although the topic of barbaric cultural practices was.  I guess it is ok since the PM is the one who is responsible for this, and he is held accountable via ... elections (since the parties themselves seem to have little power over the PM, unlike, say, Australia).

Maybe, just maybe this election campaign will be longer than is good for Harper with news like this coming out.  Harper chose to have a very long campaign, with the Conservatives having deeper pockets.  But it may come back to bite him.  And that would be lovely.

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