The Puzzle of Independence for Administrative Bodies

  • Sossin L
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Abstract

to carry out this mandate; rather, the executive controls appointments. Not- withstanding the significant ways in which these administrative bodies are depen- dent on government, however, they are nonetheless routinely declared by courts to be independent, and protected from political interference by common law procedu- ral doctrines modelled after the constitutional principle of judicial independence. The recent confrontations show that there is little to compel Canadian govern- ments to respect the independence of administrative agencies if they do not want to. They reveal the hard but important truth about independence in administrative de- cision-making: while the rule of law and principles of fairness and impartiality may require independence, only political leadership can sustain it. Political leadership created independent agencies in order to ensure that important areas of the public interest (such as governing fair and free elections, regulating nuclear power and overseeing military police activities) are served by people and institutions that are not caught up in partisan politics. Only political leadership can ultimately safe- guard the independence of administrative bodies, so that they are free to pursue the public interest without partisan interference.

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Authors

  • Lorne Sossin

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