Dieu et Mon Droit: The Marginalization of Parliament and the Role of Neoliberalism in The Function of the Ontario Legislature From 1971 to 2014
thesisposted on 15.06.2021, 14:19 by Thomas E. McDowell
In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to the increasingly popular trend among western governments to use arcane parliamentary mechanisms to circumvent the legislative process. However, despite growing concern for the influence of parliament, there are few comprehensive studies that capture the evolution of this pattern in the detail necessary to draw substantive conclusions about why it is occurring. This dissertation seeks to address this gap in the literature by undertaking a detailed archival analysis of the evolution of the role and function of the Ontario Legislature between 1971 and 2014. Using an interpretivist approach, it draws upon the Marxist political economy literature to assess the nature of the relationship between the marginalization of parliament and the emergence of neoliberalism as the dominant policy paradigm in Ontario over the course of the same period. This project makes the case that the Ontario Legislature has undergone a profound shift from an assembly characterized largely by cooperation between the three major political parties in the 1970s, to one in which governments have routinely made use of all methods of parliamentary procedures to undermine the opposition. An important explanation for the emergence of this trend, it is argued, has been to insulate controversial neoliberal reforms from democratic control by hastening their passage through the legislature. The utilization of these restrictive instruments has been coupled with a growing tendency by governments to overcome institutional obstacles to the implementation of neoliberal restructuring measures by granting themselves increasingly significant powers to govern through regulation. Thus, while a confluence of factors have contributed to the marginalization of the legislature in Ontario, the compulsion to shield neoliberal reforms from exposure to institutional processes emerges as arguably the most significant explanation. It is hoped this dissertation will make several contributions to the literature. First, although the scholarship has largely ignored the role of parliamentary institutions to the implementation of neoliberalism, this study shows that they are central to the story of neoliberal restructuring in Ontario. Second, it shows that all three major parties have not only moved Ontario in a neoliberal direction, but have also been responsible for significant changes to the legislature’s procedures. Third, it provides a historical canvass of the evolution of procedure at Queen’s Park, demonstrating that while restrictive measures were initially exceptional, employed only to facilitate the passage of highly controversial measures, over time they have become commonplace, routinely used for all varieties of legislation.