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Prime Minister or President: A Comparison Essay

Comparing the two modes of executive leadership in the form of the Prime Minister and the President is quite a daunting task. It might take countless numbers of pages to be able to catch the true essence of the two modes of leadership in its various forms throughout the world. In the article The Grass is Always Greener: Prime Ministerial vs. Presidential Government, written by Jennifer Smith as published in [name of book or journal where article was taken] on [year of publication], the offices of the chief executives of the United States and Canada are compared side by side.

Although the United States and Canada share some fundamental historical and geographic similarities, they have developed their own unique forms of government. The United States is headed by a president while Canada is headed by a prime minister. The article by Jennifer Smith compares the two offices as best as could be done in a short essay highlighting the main points of the office of chief executive as viewed in the two different forms: the presidential and prime ministerial. In the article, Jennifer Smith starts by laying out a general outline of how the article was going to progress in such a short medium.

The article compares the offices of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada in terms of the following: (1) selection process on as to who could assume the post; (2) provisions on terms and removal from office; and (3) provisions on powers vested on the office. The author concedes that there are other ways by which the two offices can be compared by. However, considering the limitations of the medium, the author believes that the three (3) previously mentioned criteria, when answered, would be “the more direct approach” (230).

Both the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada is elected into office by a group of body other than the general electorate. In the US, an Electoral College, whose delegates represent the constituent states, votes in behalf of the people for a president and a vice-president. Note that this Electoral College is a different body than the House of Representatives or the Senate of the US. It is a different picture altogether in Canada, though, the House of Commons, the equivalent of the House of Representatives of the US, selects from among themselves who shall become Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is, more often than not, the head of the majority party or coalition in the House. Once in office, the President of the US stays in office for a period of four (4) years and may be re-elected only once for another four-year term, as indicated in the 22nd amendment of 1951. Early removal from office only happen be in cases wherein he is impeached by the Congress for grounds such as, “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (qtd. in Smith 236). While in Canada, the term of the Prime Minister is quite hard to define.

As a member of the House of Commons, it can be assumed that his term is co-terminus with the other members of the House. For a continuous period, a House of Commons can sit for only up to five (5) years. However, he can at any time recommend to the Governor-General to hold general elections and if his party wins majority of the seats in the House, it can be expected that he shall be nominated again by his party to the Prime Ministership. Thus, it can be said that the term of the individual Prime Minister is indefinite as long as his party holds the loyalty of the general electorate and he maintains the leadership of his party (Smith 239).

While in office, the President of the US has been mandated to perform executive functions of government, be the Commander-in-Chief of the army, navy and the militia of the constituent states. Likewise, he can conclude treaties with other countries, appoint ambassadors, senior government officers and Supreme Court judges with the concurrence of the Senate. He is also tasked with “addressing Congress [in joint session] on the state of the union and recommending to it legislative measures” (Smith 240).

In Canada, the Prime Minister tends to be the link between the ruling monarch, in this case the Queen of England as represented by the Governor-General, and the people as represented by the House of Commons. The Prime Minister forms the government by appointing Cabinet ministers, usually from within the majority party, to government departments that carry out executive functions. He also exercises power over appointments of senior civil servants and to positions in central agencies. As a collective body, the Cabinet, through the Prime Minister, advises the Governor-General on pending laws and sees them through conclusion (Smith 241).

He answers to the House of Commons during a daily Question Period on critical matters like laws to be enacted and the like (240). In summary, Jennifer Smith shows that power in the US is diffused. The executive and legislative branches, being co-equal branches, cooperates to ensure the proper functioning of the government. While in Canada, power is centralized. The Prime Minister holds performs executive function while at the same time being a member of the legislative, the House of Commons (243).

In terms of executive effectiveness, the position of Prime Minister holds the upper hand. But in terms of openness and consultation, the office of President takes the lead (244). But then again, these systems of government were developed considering various circumstances and historical precedents that judging one to be better than the other might be too rash. Work Cited Smith, Jennifer. “The Grass is Always Greener: Prime Ministerial vs. Presidential Government. ” Canada and the United States: Differences That Count. 2nd ed. Ed. David Thomas. Toronto: Broadview Press, 2000. 229 – 247.


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