Skip to main content

Westminster Parliamentary Systems

Go Search
New Atlas
Atlas, A-Z
Atlas Maps
MPP/MPA Programs
Core Topics
Illustrative Courses
Topic Encyclopedia
Concept Dictionary
Career Tips
Best Practices Project

Actors, Interests and Lobbying
Administration and Governance
Administrative Law and Constitutional Checks on the Executive
All-Powerful Leaders?: The Concentration of Power in Modern Executives
Bureaucracy and the Formulation of Public Policy
Canadian Intergovernmental Structures and Operating Processes
Conceptual and Theoretical Foundations of Third Sector Governance and Management
Courts, Judicial Review, Rights and Democracy
Emergence of the Nation State
Executive Authority, Cabinet and Leadership
Executive Leadership in Government
Executive-Legislative Relations
Federal-Provincial Fiscal Relations
Federal-Provincial-Municipal Relations
Game Theory and Rational Institutionalism
Indigenous Rights and Institutions
Institutional Architecture: Federalism
Institutional Designs and Paths
Machinery of Government
Media, Framing and Agenda Setting
New Public Management
Parliamentary, Presidential and Decentralized Unitary Systems
Political and Administrative Responsibilities
Political and Administrative Responsibilities
Political Parties and Elections
Probing the Accuracy of Rational Decision Making Models: Alternative Accounts
Public and Para-Public Institutions
Public Institutions, Organizing Principles and Democratic Control
Public Opinion, Ideas and Policy Frames
Representation and Accountability
Representation and Responsiveness
Representation, Accountability and Policy
The Architecture of the Canadian State
The Bureaucracy and Bureaucratic Behaviour
The Changing Role of the State
The Democratic Deficit: Ethics, Responsiveness and Performance
The International Context of Domestic Institutions
The Policy Cycle
The Political Context of Policy Making
Weber: Rationalization and Bureaucracy
Westminster Parliamentary Systems
Who are the Players in the Policy Process?


Westminster Parliamentary Systems

This topic covers the foundations of Westminster forms of government. Countries of focus can include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and over two dozen other countries that use the Westminster system. Discussions centre on foundational theories including responsible government (Dalhousie PUAD 5100). It may also include the core principles of federalism, democratic deficit (Toronto PPG 1000H), and reform theories (Carleton PADM 5117). Students learn about the differences with alternative regimes such as presidential systems.

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Westminster Style Parliamentary System; Official Opposition; Parliamentary Accountability; Parliamentary Budget Officer; Parliamentary System of Government; Responsible Government; Standing Committees; Statute; Backbencher; Cabinet Secrecy; Central Agencies; Government Bill; Legislation; Legislative Auditor; Legislative Committees; Legislature; Legitimacy; Regime.

Recommended Readings

Carleton University: PADM 5117 Public Sector Management and the Canadian Political System

Savoie, Donald J., Court Government and the Collapse of Accountability: in Canada and the United Kingdom (Toronto: UofT Press, 2008). Introduction and Chapter 2.

Leone, Roberto and Frank Ohemeng. Approaching Public Administration: Core Debates and Emerging Issues (Toronto: Edmond-Montgomery, 2011). chapter 3

Gerald Baier, Herman Bakvis and Douglas Brown, “Executive Federalism, the Democratic Deficit and Parliamentary Reform,” in G. Bruce Doern (ed.), How Ottawa Spends 2005-2006: Managing the Minority. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, 163-183.

Paul Thomas, “Parliament and the Public Service,” in Christopher Dunn (ed.), The Handbook of Canadian Public Administration. Don Mills, Oxford University Press, 2002, 341-368.

Joseph Heath, “The Myth of Shared Values in Canada,” 2003 John L. Manion Lecture, Canada School of Public Service. May 2003, 1-35.

Eugene Forsey, How Canadians Govern Themselves, 7th Edition (Ottawa: Supply and Services, 2005). Available at:

University of Toronto: PPG1000H Governance and Institutions

Aucoin, P., Smith, J., Dinsdale, G. (2004). Responsible Government: Clarifying Essentials, Dispelling Myths and Exploring Change. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Management Development. Available online:

Johnson, D. (2011). Chapter 3. “Institutions of Governance”, pp.105-156 in Thinking Government: Public Administration and Politics in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Griffith, A. (June, 2013). Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Optimum Online. Vol. 43, Issue 2.

Dalhousie University: PUAD 5100 Organizational Designs for Governance and Public Management

Peter Aucoin, Jennifer Smith and Geoff Dinsdale, Responsible Government (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Management Development, 2004)

GG agrees to suspend Parliament. Watch Keith Boag Report.

Prorogation 2008: A Crisis in Responsible Government.


Sample Assessment Questions:

a) What is the role of the Prime Minister in the Westminster parliamentary system and what is meant by the term "primus inter pares”?

b) What is the cabinet and its role in the Westminster parliamentary system? 

c) Explain the meaning of the term "responsible government" with reference to the relationship between the cabinet and the legislature.

Page updated by Sean Goertzen on 6 May 2015, updated by Ian Clark 15 June 2015.


 Courses in which this topic is addressed

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Concepts used in this topic

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Reference collections relevant to this topic

There are currently no favorite links to display.

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance