|Formation||July 1, 1867|
|Head of state (sovereign)||Monarch (Queen)|
|Vice-regal representative||Governor General|
|Meeting place|| House of Commons: West Block |
Senate: Senate of Canada Building
|Head of government||Prime Minister|
|Court||Supreme Court of Canada (highest court)|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The federal government of Canada is the body responsible for the federal administration of Canada. In Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions (the legislative, executive, and judicial branches) or specifically the Queen-in-Council (the executive, also called Her Majesty's Government). In both senses, the current construct was established at Confederation through the Constitution Act, 1867 —as a federal constitutional monarchy, wherein the Canadian Crown acts as the core, or "the most basic building block", of its Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The Crown is thus the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of Canadian government. The monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is personally represented by the Governor General of Canada (currently Julie Payette). The Prime Minister (currently Justin Trudeau) is the head of government who is invited by the Crown to form a government after securing the confidence of the House of Commons, which is typically determined through the election of enough members of a single political party in a federal election to provide a majority of seats in Parliament, forming a governing party. Further elements of governance are outlined in the rest of the Canadian Constitution, which includes written statutes in addition to court rulings, and unwritten conventions developed over centuries.
Constitutionally, the Queen's Privy Council for Canada is the body that advises the sovereign or their representative on the exercise of executive power. This task is nearly exclusively carried out by a committee within the Queen's Privy Council known as the Cabinet who collectively set the government's policies and priorities for the country.It is composed of ministers of the Crown and is chaired by the prime minister. The sovereign appoints the members of Cabinet on the advice of the Prime Minister who, by convention, are selected from the House of Commons or, less often, the Senate. During its term, the government must retain the confidence of the House of Commons, and certain important motions, such as the passing of the government's budget, are considered as confidence motions. Laws are formed by the passage of bills through Parliament, which are either sponsored by the government or individual members of Parliament. Once a bill has been approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate, royal assent is required to make the bill become law. The laws are then the responsibility of the government to oversee and enforce.
In Canadian English, the word government is used to refer both to the whole set of institutions that govern the country (just as in American English, whereas Britons would refer to such as state ), and to the executive branch (just as in British English, whereas Americans would refer to such as administration ). When the word is capitalized, as in "Government of Canada", it always refers to the executive branch.
In press releases issued by federal departments, the government has sometimes been referred to as the current Prime Minister's government (e.g. the "Trudeau Government"). This terminology has been commonly employed in the media.In late 2010, an informal instruction from the Office of the Prime Minister urged government departments to consistently use, in all department communications, such phrasing (i.e., "Harper Government," at the time) in place of "Government of Canada." The same cabinet earlier directed its press department to use the phrase "Canada's New Government."
As per the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, Canada is a constitutional monarchy, wherein the role of the reigning sovereign is both legal and practical, but not political.The Crown is regarded as a corporation sole, with the monarch , vested as he or she is with all powers of state, at the centre of a construct in which the power of the whole is shared by multiple institutions of government acting under the sovereign's authority. The executive is thus formally referred to as Queen-in-Council ; the legislature as the Queen-in-Parliament ; and the courts as the Queen-on-the-Bench.
Royal assent is required to enact laws. As part of the royal prerogative, the royal sign-manual gives authority to letters patent and orders in council, though the authority for these acts stems from the Canadian populace and,within the conventional stipulations of a constitutional monarchy, the sovereign's direct participation in any of these areas of governance is limited. The royal prerogative also includes summoning, proroguing, and dissolving parliament in order to call an election, and extends to foreign affairs, which include: the negotiation and ratification of treaties, alliances, international agreements, and declarations of war; the accreditation of Canadian diplomats and receipt of foreign diplomats; and the issuance of passports.
Though the person who is monarch of Canada (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is also the monarch of 15 other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, he or she nevertheless reigns separately as King or Queen of Canada, an office that is "truly Canadian" and "totally independent from that of the queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms."On the advice of the Canadian prime minister, the sovereign appoints a federal viceregal representative—i.e. the Governor General of Canada (currently Julie Payette)—who, since 1947, is permitted to exercise almost all of the monarch's royal prerogative, though there are some duties which must be specifically performed by the monarch themselves (such as assent of certain bills).
The Government is defined by the constitution as the queen acting on the advice of her privy council.However, the Privy Council—consisting mostly of former Members of Parliament, Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, and other elder statesmen—rarely meets in full. As the stipulations of responsible government require that those who directly advise the monarch and governor general on how to exercise the royal prerogative be accountable to the elected House of Commons (HOC), the day-to-day operation of government is guided only by a sub-group of the Privy Council made up of individuals who hold seats in parliament. This body of senior ministers of the Crown is referred to as the Cabinet.
One of the main duties of the Crown is to ensure that a democratic government is always in place,which includes the appointment of a prime minister to thereafter head the Cabinet. Thus, the governor general must appoint as prime minister the person who holds the confidence of the House of Commons; who, in practice, is typically the leader of the political party that holds more seats than any other party in that chamber (currently the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau). Should no particular party hold a majority in the HOC, the leader of one party—either the party with the most seats or one supported by other parties—will be called by the governor general to form a minority government. Once sworn in by the viceroy, the prime minister holds office until he or she resigns or is removed by the governor general, after either a motion of no confidence or his or her party's defeat in a general election.
The monarch and governor general typically follow the near-binding advice of their ministers. The royal prerogative, however, belongs to the Crown and not to any of the ministers,who only rule "in trust" for the monarch and who must relinquish the Crown's power back to it upon losing the confidence of the commons, whereupon a new government, which can hold the lower chamber's confidence, is installed by the governor general. The royal and viceroyal figures may unilaterally use these powers in exceptional constitutional crisis situations. Politicians can sometimes try to use to their favour the complexity of the relationship between the monarch, viceroy, ministers, and parliament, as well as the public's general unfamiliarity with such.
The Parliament of Canada—the bicameral national legislature located on Parliament Hill in the national capital of Ottawa—consists of the Queen-in-Parliament (normally represented by the governor general), the appointed Senate (i.e. upper house), and the elected House of Commons (i.e. lower house).The governor general summons and appoints each of the 105 senators on the advice of the prime minister, while the 338 members of the House of Commons (aka Members of Parliament, or MPs) are directly elected by Canadian citizens, with each member representing a single electoral district for a period mandated by law of no more than four years; the constitution mandates a maximum of five years. Per democratic tradition, the House of Commons is the dominant branch of parliament and, as such, the Senate and Crown rarely oppose its will. The Senate, thus, reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint.
As outlined in the Constitution Act, 1867 , the governor general is responsible for summoning parliament in the Queen's name. A parliamentary session lasts until a prorogation, after which, without ceremony, both chambers of the legislature cease all legislative business until the governor general issues another royal proclamation calling for a new session to begin. A session begins with a "Speech from the throne," whereby the governor general or the monarch delivers the governing party's prepared speech of their intentions for the session. After a number of such sessions, each parliament comes to an end via dissolution. Since a general election will typically follow, the timing of a dissolution is usually politically motivated, with the prime minister selecting a moment most advantageous to his or her political party. However, the end of parliament may also be necessary if the majority of MPs revoke their confidence in the Prime Minister's ability to govern, such as through a vote of no-confidence or if the government's budget is voted down (a loss of supply). While the Canada Elections Act mandates that members of Parliament stand for election a minimum of every four-years, no parliament has ever been allowed to expire in such a fashion.
The sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice.However, she does not personally rule in judicial cases; instead the judicial functions of the royal prerogative are performed in trust and in the queen's name by officers of Her Majesty's courts.
The Supreme Court of Canada—the country's court of last resort—has nine justices appointed by the governor general on recommendation by the prime minister and led by the Chief Justice of Canada, and hears appeals from decisions rendered by the various appellate courts (provincial, territorial, and federal).
The Federal Court hears cases arising under certain areas of federal law,and works in conjunction with the Tax Court of Canada.
The powers of the parliaments in Canada are limited by the Constitution, which divides legislative abilities between the federal and provincial governments. In general, the provincial legislatures may only pass laws relating to topics explicitly reserved for them by the constitution, such as education, provincial officers, municipal government, charitable institutions, and "matters of a merely local or private nature,"whereas any matter not under the exclusive authority of the provincial legislatures is within the scope of the federal parliament's power.
Thus, the Federal Government alone can pass laws relating to, amongst other things, Canada's postal service, census, military, criminal law, navigation and shipping, fishing, currency, banking, weights and measures, bankruptcy, copyrights, patents, First Nations, and naturalization.
In some cases, federal and provincial jurisdictions may be more vague. For instance, the federal parliament regulates marriage and divorce in general, while the solemnization of marriage is regulated only by provincial legislatures. Other examples include the powers of both the federal and provincial parliaments to impose taxes, borrow money, punish crimes, and regulate agriculture.
An emphasis on liberalismand social justice has been a distinguishing element of Canada's political culture. Individual rights, equality, and inclusiveness (i.e. a just society) have risen to the forefront of political and legal importance for most Canadians, as demonstrated through: support for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; a relatively-free economy; and social liberal attitudes toward women's rights, homosexuality, abortion rights, euthanasia, cannabis use, and other egalitarian movements. Likewise, there is a sense of collective responsibility in Canadian political culture, as is demonstrated in general support for universal health care, multiculturalism, foreign aid, and other social programs. Peace, order, and good government, alongside an implied bill of rights are founding principles of the Canadian government.
At the federal level, Canada has been dominated by two relatively-centrist parties practicing "brokerage politics:"the centre-left Liberal Party of Canada and the centre-right Conservative Party of Canada (or its predecessors). Regarding the Canadian political spectrum, the historically-predominant Liberals have positioned themselves more-or-less at the centre, with Conservatives sitting to their right and New Democrats occupying the further left.
Smaller parties, such as the Green Party of Canada and the Quebec-nationalist Bloc Québécois, have also been able to exert their influence over the political process by representation at the federal level. Far-right and far-left politics, in terms of Canadian politics, have never been a prominent force in Canadian society.
Polls have suggested that Canadians generally do not have a solid understanding of civics.This has been theorised to be a result of less attention being given to the subject in provincial education curricula, beginning in the 1960s. By 2008, a poll showed only 24% of respondents could name the queen as head of state. Likewise, Senator Lowell Murray wrote five years earlier that "the Crown has become irrelevant to most Canadians' understanding of our system of Government." As John Robson of the National Post opined in 2015:
Intellectually, voters and commentators succumb to the mistaken notion that we elect 'governments' of prime ministers and cabinets with untrammelled authority, that indeed ideal 'democracy' consists precisely in this kind of plebiscitary autocracy.
Canada Day is the national day of Canada. A federal statutory holiday, it celebrates the anniversary of Canadian confederation which occurred on July 1, 1867, with the passing of the Constitution Act, 1867 where the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada. Originally called Dominion Day, the holiday was renamed in 1982 when the Canadian Constitution was patriated by the Canada Act 1982. Canada Day celebrations take place throughout the country, as well as in various locations around the world attended by Canadians living abroad.
The prime minister of Canada is the head of government, chair of the Cabinet, and primary minister of the Crown. Canadian prime ministers are styled as The Right Honourable, a privilege maintained for life.
The governor general of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen, as a political sovereign, is shared equally both with the 15 other Commonwealth realms and the 10 provinces of Canada, but she physically resides predominantly in her oldest and most populous realm, the United Kingdom. The Queen, on the advice of her Canadian prime minister, appoints a governor general to carry out most of her constitutional and ceremonial duties. The commission is for an unfixed period of time—known as serving at Her Majesty's pleasure—though five years is the normal convention. Beginning in 1959, it has also been traditional to rotate between anglophone and francophone officeholders—although many recent governors general have been bilingual. Once in office, the governor general maintains direct contact with the Queen, wherever she may be at the time.
The monarchy of Canada is at the core of Canada's constitutional federal structure and Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The monarchy is the foundation of the executive (Queen-in-Council), legislative (Queen-in-Parliament), and judicial (Queen-on-the-Bench) branches of both federal and provincial jurisdictions. The Queen of Canada has been Elizabeth II since 6 February 1952. The official styles of the Monarch is "By the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislature of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and is composed of three parts: the Monarch, the Senate, and the House of Commons. By constitutional convention, the House of Commons is dominant, with the Senate rarely opposing its will. The Senate reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint and may initiate certain bills. The monarch or their representative, normally the Governor General, provides royal assent to make bills into law.
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state which has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Each realm functions as an independent co-equal kingdom from the other realms.
A speech from the throne is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign, or a representative thereof, reads a prepared speech to members of the nation’s legislature when a session is opened, outlining the government’s agenda and focus for the forthcoming session; or—in some cases—closed. When a session is opened, the address sets forth the government’s priorities with respect to its legislative agenda, for which the cooperation of the legislature is sought. The speech is often accompanied with formal ceremony and is often held annually, although in some places it may occur more or less frequently, whenever a new session of the legislature is opened.
The Cabinet of Canada is a body of ministers of the Crown that, along with the Canadian monarch, and within the tenets of the Westminster system, forms the government of Canada. Chaired by the prime minister, the Cabinet is a committee of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and the senior echelon of the Ministry, the membership of the Cabinet and ministry often being co-terminal; as of November 2015 there are no members of the latter who are not also members of the former.
The title and style of the Canadian sovereign is the formal mode of address of the monarch of Canada. The form is based on those that were inherited from the United Kingdom and France, used in the colonies to refer to the reigning monarch in Europe. As various Canadian territories changed ownership and then the country gradually gained independence, the style and title of the monarchs changed almost as often as the kings and queens themselves. The mode of address currently employed is a combination of a style that originates in the early 17th century and a title established by Canadian law in 1953.
The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions. Legally ill-defined, the term has different meanings depending on context. It is used to designate the monarch in either a personal capacity, as Head of the Commonwealth, or as the king or queen of his or her realms. It can also refer to the rule of law; however, in common parlance 'The Crown' refers to the functions of government and the civil service.
The Queen's Privy Council for Canada, sometimes called Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada or simply the QPC or Privy Council (PC), is the full group of personal consultants to the monarch of Canada on state and constitutional affairs. Responsible government, though, requires the sovereign or her viceroy, the Governor General of Canada, to almost always follow only that advice tendered by the Cabinet: a committee within the Privy Council composed usually of elected Members of Parliament. Those summoned to the QPC are appointed for life by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada, meaning that the group is composed predominantly of former cabinet ministers, with some others having been inducted as an honorary gesture. Those in the council are accorded the use of an honorific style and post-nominal letters, as well as various signifiers of precedence.
The Canadian Oath of Allegiance is a promise or declaration of fealty to the Canadian monarch, as personification of the Canadian state, taken, along with other specific oaths of office, by new occupants of various federal and provincial government offices, members of federal, provincial, and municipal police forces, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and, in some provinces, all lawyers upon admission to the bar. The Oath of Allegiance also makes up the first portion of the Oath of Citizenship, the taking of which is a requirement of obtaining Canadian nationality.
In Canada, a lieutenant governor is the viceregal representative in a provincial jurisdiction of the Canadian monarch and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. On the advice of his or her prime minister, the Governor General of Canada appoints the lieutenant governors to carry out most of the monarch's constitutional and ceremonial duties for an unfixed period of time—known as serving at His Excellency's pleasure—though five years is the normal convention. Similar positions in Canada's three territories are termed Commissioners and are representatives of the federal government, however, not the monarch directly.
The history of monarchy in Canada stretches from pre-colonial times through to the present day. Canada's monarchical status began with the establishment of the French colony of New France in the name of King Francis I in 1534; although a previous claim was made by England in the name of King Henry VII in 1497 when John Cabot made landfall in what is thought to be modern day Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. Through both these lineages, the present Canadian monarchy can trace itself back to the Anglo-Saxon period and ultimately to the kings of the Angles and the early Scottish kings. Kings and queens reigning over Canada have included the monarchs of France, those of the United Kingdom, and those of Canada. Canadian historian Father Jacques Monet said of Canada's Crown: "[it is] one of an approximate half-dozen that have survived through uninterrupted inheritance from beginnings that are older than our Canadian institution itself."
The monarchy of Canada forms the core of each Canadian provincial jurisdiction's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy, being the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government in each province. The monarchy has been headed since February 6, 1952 by Queen Elizabeth II who as sovereign is shared equally with both the Commonwealth realms and the Canadian federal entity. She, her consort, and other members of the Canadian Royal Family undertake various public and private functions across the country. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role.
The sovereignty of Canada is a major cultural matter in Canada. Several issues currently define Canadian sovereignty: the Canadian monarchy, telecommunication, the autonomy of provinces, and Canada's Arctic border.
Prorogation is the end of a parliamentary session in the Parliament of Canada and the parliaments of its provinces and territories. It differs from a recess or adjournment, which do not end a session, and from a complete dissolution of parliament, which ends both the session and the entire parliament, requiring an election for the House of Commons in the bicameral federal parliament and the singular legislative chamber of the unicameral provincial parliaments.
The Letters Patent, 1947 are letters patent signed by George VI as King of Canada which reconstituted the office of Governor General of Canada under the terms of the Constitution Act, 1867. The letters were signed on 8 September 1947 and have been in effect since 1 October 1947, replacing the previous letters patent issued in 1931, to expand the role and powers of the governor general in exercising the royal prerogative and allow her or him to carry out an increased number of the Sovereign's duties in "exceptional circumstances". While the letters patent allow the governor general to use most of the "powers and authorities" lawfully belonging to the Sovereign, this permission can be revoked, altered, or amended by the sovereign at any time and these powers and authorities thus remain with the monarch and are carried out by the governor general on his or her behalf.
The opening of the Canadian parliament is the commencement of a session of the Parliament of Canada following a general election. It involves summons from the governor general on behalf of the monarch and a ceremony based on the same in the United Kingdom, though less elaborate and now evolved to include uniquely Canadian elements.
Two historically dominant political parties have avoided ideological appeals in favour of a flexible centrist style of politics that is often labelled brokerage politics
...most Canadian governments, especially at the federal level, have taken a moderate, centrist approach to decision making, seeking to balance growth, stability, and governmental efficiency and economy...
Canada's party system has long been described as a “brokerage system” in which the leading parties (Liberal and Conservative) follow strategies that appeal across major social cleavages in an effort to defuse potential tensions.
First Past the Post in Canada has favoured broadly-based, accommodative, centrist parties...
Democratic Government in Canada.