My friend James Bowden, a budding constitutional scholar has a very interesting blog post. James is trying to make our constitution and government more accessible to the public. An admirable goal.
“Secret” Guidelines on the Caretaker Convention Available Here!
Posted on 2011/08/04 by James W.J. Bowden
Former Clerk of the Privy Council Mel Cappe wrote an introductory piece The Caretaker Convention in Canada arguing that the Privy Council Office should release its official guidelines on the caretaker convention that place limitations on the government’s authority during elections, and that the guidelines should be updated as needed. Mr. Cappe presented his report at a workshop hosted by the Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights in February 2011.
As Nick and I explained in a column in the Hill Times from April 28 (and as we examine in even greater detail in an upcoming article!), the caretaker convention means that from the issuing of the writs of election to the appointment of the next government, the current government ought not to exercise the full extent of its legal powers by declining to take on any major spending that Parliament had not already approved before the writs, and by voluntarily limiting the Crown prerogative on major appointments. The caretaker convention exists in the absence of any formalized, legal limitations on the government’s power during the writ period; when Parliament is not in session, the House of Commons cannot fulfill its core function of holding the government to account for its expenditures. Therefore, in order to adhere the principle of responsible government as closely as possible, when the House of Commons can no longer rein in the government, the government must constrain itself by convention. While the caretaker convention is in effect, the government carries out only routine spending and appointments necessary for the basic functioning of the country.