Lawmaking in 21st Century Canada: Executive Power and the Search for Accountability

Canada prides itself as an exemplar of democracy and the rule of law. It has constitutionally entrenched fundamental rights and freedoms and scores highly on studies assessing the quality of its legal system. Yet its clean bill of health and sterling reputation abroad masks the less positive reality of lawmaking in 21st century Canada. Most laws in Canada are not made in Parliament, but are made directly by the executive through an opaque process carrying none of the traditional safeguards of the parliamentary process. This occurs through Parliament delegating its lawmaking powers to the executive through sweeping grants of authority, a practice upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada as constitutionally sound. This paper examines executive lawmaking in Canada, assessing scrutiny mechanisms and drawing implications for conceptions of democracy. It concludes that Canada must strengthen its accountability mechanisms to maintain its claim as a world leader in democracy and the rule of law.