In the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, Parliament has the ultimate responsibility to hold the government to account for the management of the various authorities granted to it under the Constitution and the various laws passed by Parliament. Although it does not exercise executive authority, Parliament is the principal guarantor of the government’s accountability, scrutinizing its policies and actions and ensuring that the executive power is properly exercised. Parliament has a number of tools to do this, ranging from its role in the passage of legislation, to the review of public expenditures, to its interrogations of the government’s policies and actions in Question Period.
The Executive Branch (prime minister and ministers) is accountable to the legislature. Its mechanisms for doing so are political and partisan. Ministers exercise their authority on the basis of political support that they receive from Parliament. It remains in power only if it has the confidence of the legislature. Together, Parliament and the Executive Branch, are responsible to the electorate. Ministers act largely through the work of a non-partisan public service, which are accountable to the prime minister, their minister, and the Treasury Board for the use of their authority to implement policy. Public servants must adhere toprinciples and values that enable them to support successive governments effectively and without partisan bias. Whereas political responsibility of ministers is the mechanism that ensures accountability to Parliament, it is managerial responsibility that is the mechanism that ensures accountability on part of public servants.