Is There a Confidence Convention in Consensus Government?

Article 3 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Is There a Confidence Convention in Consensus Government?

In the Northwest Territories’ consensus system, as in the party system, a government is appointed by the formal executive and members of the executive council are accountable to the House. However, the selection of executive council members in the two systems differs significantly and perhaps consequentially for the confidence convention in responsible government. In this article, born out of a debate between the authors sponsored by the Northwest Territories Regional Group of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, David M. Brock and Alan Cash explore some of the factors to consider if and when the convention is put to the test in a consensus system. They conclude by noting that with recent changes to the Northwest Territories Act as well as emerging conventions regarding the removal of members of the Executive Council, one may now safely argue that the confidence convention could be applied in the Northwest Territories in a manner similar to the application found in party systems. However, the prerogative of the House, emphasized and codified in consensus government, limits the discretion of the first minister and mitigates the power of the executive.

Consensus government in the Northwest Territories is to be executed “in accordance with the principles of responsible government and executive accountability.”1 This does not necessarily mean that all elements of responsible government are applied in the same manner as may be in the case in a party system. One area of potential uncertainty is the confidence convention. This convention holds that if the executive no longer has the support of the majority of members of the legislature, the government must either resign or request dissolution and a general election. But, how might this work in the northern system of consensus government?

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