Government of Canada
The bilingual Government of Canada wordmark
|Head of state||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Viceregal representative||Governor General Julie Payette|
|Meeting place||Centre Block|
|Main body||Queen's Privy Council for Canada|
|Leader||President of the Privy Council|
|Head of government||Prime Minister Justin Trudeau|
|Meeting place||Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council|
|Judicial (Queen on the Bench)|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The Government of Canada (French: Gouvernement du Canada), officially Her Majesty's Government (French: Gouvernement de Sa Majesté), is the federal administration of Canada. In Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council. 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 the Canadian government. Further elements of governance are outlined in the rest of the Canadian Constitution, which includes written statutes, court rulings, and unwritten conventions developed over centuries.
The monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is personally represented by the Governor General of Canada (currently Julie Payette). The Queen's Privy Council for Canada is the body that advises the sovereign or viceroy on the exercise of executive power. However, in practice, that task is performed only by the Cabinet, a committee within the Privy Council composed of ministers of the Crown, who are drawn from and responsible to the elected House of Commons in parliament. The Cabinet is headed by the prime minister (currently Justin Trudeau), who is appointed by the governor general after securing the confidence of the House of Commons.
In Canadian English, the word government is used to refer both to the whole set of institutions that govern the country (as in American usage, but where Britons would use state), and to the current political leadership (as in British usage, but where Americans would use administration).
In federal department press releases, the government has sometimes been referred to by the phrase [last name of prime minister] 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 the term (at that time Harper Government) 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 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 called the Queen-in-Council, the legislature the Queen-in-Parliament, and the courts as the Queen on the Bench.
Royal Assent is required to enact laws and, 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 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: the negotiation and ratification of treaties, alliances, international agreements, and declarations of war; the accreditation of Canadian, and receipt of foreign, diplomats; and the issuance of passports.
The person who is monarch of Canada (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is also the monarch of 15 other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, though, he or she 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—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, or bills that require assent by, the king or queen.
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, 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 the Cabinet.
One of the main duties of the Crown is to ensure that a democratic government is always in place, which means appointing a prime minister (at present Justin Trudeau) 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; in practice, this is typically the leader of the political party that holds more seats than any other party in that chamber, currently the Liberal Party. Should no party hold a majority in the commons, the leader of one party—either the one 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 party's defeat in a general election.
The monarch and governor general typically follow the near-binding advice of their ministers. It is important to note, however, that the Royal Prerogative belongs to the Crown and not to any of the ministers, who rule "in trust" for the monarch and, upon losing the confidence of the commons, must relinquish the Crown's power back to it, 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.[n 1] Politicians can sometimes try to use to their favour the complexity of the relationship between the monarch, viceroy, ministers, and parliament, and the public's general unfamiliarity with it.[n 2]
The Parliament of Canada, the bicameral national legislature located on Parliament Hill in the national capital of Ottawa, consists of the Queen (represented by the governor general), the appointed Senate (upper house), and the elected House of Commons (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 (Members of Parliament) are directly elected by eligible voters in the Canadian populace, with each member representing a single electoral district for a period mandated by law of not 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; the Senate and Crown rarely oppose its will. The Senate, thus, reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint.
The Constitution Act, 1867, outlines that 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. After a number of such sessions, each parliament comes to an end via dissolution. As a general election typically follows, the timing of a dissolution is usually politically motivated, with the prime minister selecting a moment most advantageous to his or her political party. The end of a parliament may also be necessary, however, if the majority of Members of Parliament revoke their confidence in the Prime Minister's ability to govern, or the legally mandated (as per the Canada Elections Act) four-year maximum is reached; no parliament has 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 from the provinces and territories. Below this is the Federal Court, which hears cases arising under certain areas of federal law. It works in conjunction with the Federal Court of Appeal and 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 legislatures of the provinces 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," while any matter not under the exclusive authority of the provincial legislatures is within the scope of the federal parliament's power. Thus, the parliament at Ottawa alone can pass laws relating to, amongst other things, the postal service, the census, the military, criminal law, navigation and shipping, fishing, currency, banking, weights and measures, bankruptcy, copyrights, patents, First Nations, and naturalization. In some cases, however, the jurisdictions of the federal and provincial parliaments may be more vague. For instance, the federal parliament regulates marriage and divorce in general, but the solemnization of marriage is regulated only by the 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 liberalism, and social justice has been a distinguishing element of Canada's political culture. Individual rights, equality and inclusiveness (a just society) have risen to the forefront of political and legal importance for most Canadians, as demonstrated through support for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a relatively free economy, and social liberal attitudes toward women's rights, homosexuality, cannabis use and other egalitarian movements. There is also a sense of collective responsibility in Canadian political culture, as is demonstrated in general support for universal health care, multiculturalism, gun control, foreign aid, and other social programs.
Canadian governments at the federal level have historically governed from a moderate, centrist political ideology. Canada has been dominated by two parties, the centre-left Liberal Party of Canada and the centre-right Conservative Party of Canada (or its predecessors). The historically predominant Liberals position themselves at the center of the political scale with the Conservatives siting on the right and the New Democratic Party occupying the left-wing. Smaller parties like the Quebec nationalist Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada have also been able to exert their influence over the political process by representation at the federal level. Far-right and far-left politics have never been a prominent force in Canadian society.
Polls have suggested Canadians generally do not have a solid understanding of civics, which 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; Senator Lowell Murray wrote five years earlier: "The Crown has become irrelevant to most Canadian's understanding of our system of Government." John Robson 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."
- Canadian order of precedence
- Crown corporations of Canada
- Office-holders of Canada
- Public Service of Canada
- See 'Responsibilities' and Note 1 at Cabinet of Canada.
- It was said by Helen Forsey: "The inherent complexity and subtlety of this type of constitutional situation can make it hard for the general public to fully grasp the implications. That confusion gives an unscrupulous government plenty of opportunity to oversimplify and misrepresent, making much of the alleged conflict between popular democracy—supposedly embodied in the Prime Minister—and the constitutional mechanisms at the heart of responsible government, notably the 'reserve powers' of the Crown, which gets portrayed as illegitimate." As examples, she cited the campaign of William Lyon Mackenzie King following the King–Byng Affair of 1926 and Stephen Harper's comments during the 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute.
- MacLeod, Kevin S. (2008), A Crown of Maples (1 ed.), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 18, ISBN 978-0-662-46012-1, retrieved 21 June 2009
- Government of Canada. "Speech From the Throne > Frequently Asked Questions". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Grand Chief's Office, Treaty 3 Between Her Majesty the Queen and the Saulteaux Tribe of the Ojibway Indians at the Northwest Angle on the Lake of the Woods With Adhesions, The Grand Council of Treaty #3, archived from the original on 4 April 2010, retrieved 4 June 2010
- Department of Canadian Heritage (February 2009), Canadian Heritage Portfolio (PDF) (2 ed.), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 3, ISBN 978-1-100-11529-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2011, retrieved 5 July 2009
- Coyne, Andrew (13 November 2009). "Defending the royals". Maclean's. Toronto: Rogers Communications. ISSN 0024-9262. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
- Victoria (1867), Constitution Act, 1867, III.15, Westminster: Queen's Printer (published 29 March 1867), retrieved 15 January 2009
- MacLeod 2008, p. 17
- Department of Canadian Heritage 2009, p. 4
- Brooks, Stephen Farper (2007). Canadian Democracy: An Introduction (5 ed.). Don Mills: Oxford University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-19-543103-2.
- Cheadle, Bruce (3 March 2011), "Tories re-brand government in Stephen Harper's name", The Globe and Mail, retrieved 26 April 2011
- "Tories defend use of 'Harper Government'". CTV. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- Forsey, Helen (1 October 2010). "As David Johnson Enters Rideau Hall ..." The Monitor. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
- Privy Council Office (2008). Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State – 2008. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-100-11096-7. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
- Smith, David E. (10 June 2010), "The Crown and the Constitution: Sustaining Democracy?" (PDF), The Crown in Canada: Present Realities and Future Options, Kingston: Queen's University, p. 6, archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2010, retrieved 18 May 2010
- Table Research Branch of the House of Commons (March 2008), Compendium of Procedure (PDF), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 1, retrieved 14 October 2009
- Cox, Noel (September 2002). "Black v Chrétien: Suing a Minister of the Crown for Abuse of Power, Misfeasance in Public Office and Negligence". Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law. Perth: Murdoch University. 9 (3): 12. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
- Forsey, Eugene (2005). How Canadians Govern Themselves (PDF) (6 ed.). Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. p. 1. ISBN 0-662-39689-8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
- Marleau, Robert; Montpetit, Camille (2000). "House of Commons > 1. Parliamentary Institutions". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
- MacLeod 2008, p. 16
- Russell, Peter (1983), "Bold Statecraft, Questionable Jurisprudence", in Banting, Keith G.; Simeon, Richard, And no one cheered: federalism, democracy, and the Constitution Act, Toronto: Taylor & Francis, p. 217, ISBN 978-0-458-95950-1
- Brode, Patrick (1 May 2006), "War power and the Royal Prerogative", Law Times, retrieved 22 October 2012
- Elizabeth II (2006). "Canadian Passport Order" (PDF). 4.4. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada (published 28 June 2006). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009.
- Crown of Maples- Constitutional Monarchy in Canada (2008 ed.). Queen's Printer for Canada. 2008. pp. 5, 12, 20, 40, 49. ISBN 978-0-662-46012-1. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- "The Queen and Canada: History and present Government". The Royal Household. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- Wrong, Humphrey Hume (10 November 1952), Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, ed., "Relations With the United States (Telegram 219)", Documents on Canadian External Relations, Ottawa, 18 – 867, archived from the original on 23 November 2011, retrieved 18 May 2009
- Victoria 1867, III.9 & 11
- Marleau & Montpetit 2000, The Executive
- Boyce, Peter (2008), written at Sydney, Jackson, Michael D., ed., "The Senior Realms of the Queen; The Queen's Other Realms: The Crown and its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand (ISBN 9-781-86287-700-9)" (PDF), Canadian Monarchist News, Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada (published October 2009), Autumn 2009 (30), p. 9, archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2009, retrieved 22 October 2009
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Media > Fact Sheets > The Swearing-In of a New Ministry". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
- Neitsch, Alfred Thomas (2008). "A Tradition of Vigilance: The Role of Lieutenant Governor in Alberta" (PDF). Canadian Parliamentary Review. Ottawa: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. 30 (4): 23. Retrieved 22 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
- MacLeod 2008, p. 8
- Nathan Tidridge (2011). Canada's Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government. Dundurn. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-4597-0084-0.
- Victoria 1867, IV.17
- Victoria 1867, IV.24
- Elizabeth II (31 May 2000), Canada Elections Act, 56.1.2, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, retrieved 20 November 2009
- "Debates of the Senate (Hansard), 2nd Session, 36th Parliament, Volume 138, Issue 29". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Senate. 17 February 2000. col. 1500–1510.
- Federal Court. "About the Court > Jurisdiction". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Elizabeth II (27 March 2002), Courts Administration Service Act, 2.a, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, retrieved 18 November 2009
- Victoria 1867, VI.92
- Victoria 1867, VI.91
- Anne Westhues; Brian Wharf (2014). Canadian Social Policy: Issues and Perspectives. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-1-55458-409-3.
- Katherine Fierlbeck (2006). Political Thought in Canada: An Intellectual History. University of Toronto Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-55111-711-9.
- Rand Dyck (2011). Canadian Politics. Cengage Learning. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-17-650343-7. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016.
- Stephen L. Newman (2012). Constitutional Politics in Canada and the United States. SUNY Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-7914-8584-2. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016.
- Shibao Guo; Lloyd Wong (2015). Revisiting Multiculturalism in Canada: Theories, Policies and Debates. University of Calgary. p. 317. ISBN 978-94-6300-208-0. Archived from the original on April 13, 2016.
- Bricker, Darrell; Wright, John (2005). What Canadians think about almost everything. Doubleday Canada. pp. 8–28. ISBN 978-0-385-65985-7.
- Nanos Research (October 2016). "Exploring Canadian values" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on April 5, 2017. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "A literature review of Public Opinion Research on Canadian attitudes towards multiculturalism and immigration, 2006–2009". Government of Canada. 2011. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
- "Focus Canada (Final Report)" (PDF). The Environics Institute. Queen's University. 2010. p. 4 (PDF page 8). Archived (PDF) from the original on February 4, 2016. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
- David Johnson (2016). Thinking Government: Public Administration and Politics in Canada, Fourth Edition. University of Toronto Press. pp. 13–23. ISBN 978-1-4426-3521-0.
...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...
- "Plurality-Majority Electoral Systems: A Review". Elections Canada.
First Past the Post in Canada has favoured broadly-based, accommodative, centrist parties...
- Geoffrey Evans; Nan Dirk de Graaf (2013). Political Choice Matters: Explaining the Strength of Class and Religious Cleavages in Cross-National Perspective. OUP Oxford. pp. 166–167. ISBN 978-0-19-966399-6.
- Amanda Bittner; Royce Koop (1 March 2013). Parties, Elections, and the Future of Canadian Politics. UBC Press. pp. 300–. ISBN 978-0-7748-2411-8.
- Rodney P. Carlisle (2005). Encyclopedia of Politics: The Left and the Right. SAGE Publications. p. 274. ISBN 978-1-4522-6531-5.
- Donald C. Baumer; Howard J. Gold (2015). Parties, Polarization and Democracy in the United States. Taylor & Francis. pp. 152–. ISBN 978-1-317-25478-2.
- Emma Ambrose, Cas Mudde (2015). Canadian Multiculturalism and the Absence of the Far Right Nationalism and Ethnic Politics Vol. 21 Iss. 2.
- Taub, Amanda (2017). "Canada's Secret to Resisting the West's Populist Wave". The New York Times.
- Jackson, Michael D. (2013), The Crown and Canadian Federalism, Dundurn Press, p. 11, ISBN 978-1-4597-0989-8, retrieved 6 June 2014
- Tidridge, Nathan (2011), Canada's Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government, Toronto: Dundurn Press, p. 19, ISBN 978-1-4597-0084-0
- "In the Wake of Constitutional Crisis: New Survey Demonstrates that Canadians Lack Basic Understanding of Our Country's Parliamentary System" (PDF). Toronto: Ipsos Reid. 15 December 2008: 1. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
- Murray, Lowell (2003), Joyal, Serge Joyal, ed., 'Which Criticisms are Founded?' Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, p. 136
- Robson, John (2 November 2015). "Trudeau's menacing promise of electoral reform". National Post. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- Bourinot, John George (2008), Flint, Thomas Barnard, ed., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada (4th ed.), Lawbook Exchange, ISBN 978-1-58477-881-3
- Dawson, R. MacGregor; Dawson, W. F. (1989). Ward, Norman, ed. Democratic Government in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-6703-4. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- Johnson, David (2006), Thinking government: public sector management in Canada (2nd ed.), Broadview Press, ISBN 1-55111-779-7
- Hale, Geoffrey (2006), Uneasy partnership: the politics of business and government in Canada, Broadview Press, ISBN 978-1-55111-504-7
- Malcolmson, Patrick; Myers, Richard (2009), The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada (4th ed.), University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-1-4426-0047-8
- Morton, Frederick Lee (2002), Law, politics, and the judicial process in Canada, Frederick Lee, ISBN 1-55238-046-7
- Roy, Jeffrey (2006), E-government in Canada: transformation for the digital age, University of Ottawa Press, ISBN 978-0-7766-0617-0
- Roy, Jeffrey (2007), Business and government in Canada, University of Ottawa Press, ISBN 978-0-7766-0658-3