Let’s compare the powers of our PM and the US president under the assumption that rational persons occupy the position.
Our PM has more powers than the US president. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins pointed them out:
“In your form of government, particularly in a majority government, your prime minister has much more power concentrated in that one position than our president ever thought about having,” Wilkins said in 2008.
Unlike the U.S., our prime minister controls both the executive (cabinet) and legislative (House of Commons and Senate) branches of government.
“Can you imagine,” Wilkins wondered, “what it would be like for the U.S. president to be able to appoint cabinet members, senators and judges without lengthy confirmation hearings?”
If President-elect Biden had the powers of our prime minister, he would not face the challenge of passing bills through a divided Congress. As a result of the last U.S. election, the Democrats control the House of Representatives and the Republicans control the Senate.
While our PM doesn’t control the Canadian Senate, he exerts influence by virtue of representing an elected House of Commons.
This control isn’t written into our constitution; it’s an understanding that has evolved over time from when Sir John A. Macdonald described the Senate as a body of “sober second thought” that would curb the “democratic excesses” of the elected House of Commons.
The unwritten nature of governance and common sense is something that escapes the U.S. Outgoing President (OGP –I’m tired of speaking his name).
The American Declaration of Independence states:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Leaders are assumed to be versed in common sense and the unspoken customs of government, and in decent conduct without it being spelled out.
The OGP didn’t hold anything to be self evident. He declared that the importation of Canadian aluminum was a threat to U.S. security and under powers given the president in such matters, imposed tariffs on Canadian metals.
A rational president would have to demonstrate the alleged threat that Canada poses to U.S. security but in the case of the OGP, just saying it made it fact. And since there was no written law that said he had to, he didn’t demonstrate any threat.
The OGP has a habit of claiming things were true because he says they are true. At 2:30 in morning, the day after the presidential election began in the U.S., he declared himself to be winner even as ballots were still being counted. Now he declares that he actually got the most votes without a shred of evidence to back the claim.
Claiming things are true when they demonstrably are not is what most people would call lying. But for this unstable president, his delusional thinking that he can affect the outcome of events with the power of his utterances puts his sanity in doubt.
President-elect Biden brings to office, not just sanity, not just an appreciation of the letter of the law, but the understanding of governmental mores: the social norms that are widely observed within a society.
His presidency promises to be a breath of fresh air.