1. A Constitutional Monarchy

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. This means that the powers of the monarchy in Canada are limited by the Constitution. The Constitution is a set of basic principles, laws and rules that explain the powers and duties of the government and the rights and freedoms of the citizens. Our formal head of state is a monarch. Our monarch is now Elizabeth II, who is also the Queen of the United Kingdom. As our Queen does not live in Canada, she appoints, under the advice of our Prime Minister, a Governor General to represent her authority in Canada. The Governor General is usually appointed for a five-year term.

At one time, the Governor General had a lot of power in our government, but this is no longer the case. The office of Governor General is now largely ceremonial. The Governor General meets foreign dignitaries, accords medals, honours and decorations, signs bills passed in Parliament, and opens Parliament with a formal address known as the Speech from the Throne. It is indeed true that the Governor General has the authority to summon, adjourn and dissolve Parliament, however he or she can only do so on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is also true that the Governor General has the responsibility of choosing the Prime Minister, but he or she is bound to choose the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons.

  1. A Parliamentary Democracy

Canada is also a parliamentary democracy. In such a system, the citizens elect the Members of Parliament to represent them in governing the country. The main function of Parliament is to legislate, that is to make laws for the country. In addition, Parliament controls the executive branch of the government, i.e. the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This control of the executive by the legislature is what we mean by responsible government. Our Parliament consists of the Queen, represented by the Governor General, the House of Commons or the Lower House, and the Senate or the Upper House.

  1. Prime Minister

The Prime Minister, as we saw above, is chosen by the Governor General, but the choice of the Governor General is usually determined by the results of the elections. After an election the leader of the political party which holds at least a plurality and normally a majority of seats in the House of Commons must be called upon to become the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister sits in the House of Commons with the other elected Members of Parliament. He or she represents the people from his or her constituency.

The Prime Minister is the head of government. The powers of the Prime Minister are not clearly defined in the Constitution. Nevertheless, he or she has broad powers at his or her disposal. He or she is the leader of the party which, normally, has the majority of the seats in the House of Commons and thereby which controls the House. The Prime Minister appoints his or her ministers and their tenure as well as their portfolios depend almost solely on him or her. The Prime Minister also makes a wide range of appointments - senators, judges, ambassadors and many other senior bureaucrats. He or she controls the organization of government. Moreover, by advising the Governor General to dissolve Parliament, he or she decides when the elections are held. Finally, the Prime Minister is responsible for representing Canada in international affairs.

  1. Cabinet

The Cabinet is made up of approximately 30 ministers chosen by the Prime Minister. By convention the provinces are fairly represented in the Cabinet. Usually each Cabinet minister is in charge of a ministry or a department. As the political head of the department the minister determines its orientation and makes its important decisions and consequently is individually responsible for it to the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet, referred as the government, are the corner stone of our system of government. Indeed, the government brings forward Parliament’s legislative program and controls public finances. However, the government is responsible to the House of Commons. It must have the confidence of the House of Commons and if it loses it, the government must resign.

The Prime minister is the dominant figure in Cabinet: his or her duties include deciding on the agenda for Cabinet meetings, chairing the meetings and being the government spokesperson in the House of Commons and in the country.

  1. House of Commons

The House of Commons is made up of all the elected Members of Parliament. There are 301 seats in the House of Commons, which represent the 301 constituencies across Canada. The members are elected for a five year term, unless an election is called before that time is up.

The main function of the Members of Parliament is to debate and pass or defeat the bills brought forward by the government as part of its legislative program. These bills are known as government bills. The passing or the rejection of a government bill demonstrates whether the government possesses the support or confidence of the House of Commons or not. Furthermore, Question Period allows Members of the House, especially Opposition Members, to question activities and policies of the government in place.

The Members of Parliament may also introduce their own bills, known as private Members’ bills, provided that such bills do not involve the raising or spending of money. These bills, however, have little chance of being voted upon, let alone of being passed by Parliament. In addition, the Members present petitions from their constituents and make statements on relevant issues.


  1. Senate

The Senate is made up of 105 people representing every province and territory. Senators are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and may hold their position until they are 75 years old.

The Senate shares the function of law making with the House of Commons. Indeed, all bills have to pass in the Senate as well as the Commons before they are sent to the Governor General for royal assent. Although the Senate may reject any bill that is presented to it, it seldom uses this right once a bill has been passed by the House of Commons. The Senate also has the power to initiate bills except for money bills, that is, those that entail public expenditures or the raising of taxes.

The Senate has also conducted successful investigations into social problems.

  1. Speakers

The House of Commons and the Senate each have a speaker. The Speaker of the House of Commons is elected by secret ballot by the members of the House of Commons after each election. The Speaker of the Senate is appointed by the Governor General upon recommendation from the Prime Minister.

The Speaker of the House of Commons presides over the deliberations of the House and ensures that Members conform to the Standing Orders and parliamentary practices. The Speaker must be an impartial arbiter. In the case of a tie vote, the Speaker must cast the deciding vote. The Speaker of the Senate plays a similar role in the Upper House.

  1. Responsibilities of the federal government

The responsibilities of the federal government include:

    • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and National Defence
    • Canada Post
    • Employment and immigration
    • Transportation
    • Foreign Policy
    • Criminal Law
    • Aboriginals
    • Trade and Commerce
    • Money, banks
    • and many others
  1. Calling an Election

It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide when the federal elections are to held. In order for an election to be called the Prime Minister must ask the Governor General to dissolve or end Parliament. Once this is done, all the seats in the House of Commons are open and candidates must be elected or re-elected to fill them. The Prime Minister sets the date for the election and the candidates begin campaigning. The Prime Minister must call a federal election at least every five years. Usually an election is called before the five-year term is up.

  1. Who Can Vote?

All Canadians who are 18 years of age or older can vote in a federal election. Elections Canada, the organization in charge of federal elections, maintains and continuously updates the list of all eligible voters in a federal election. Information about eligible voters in a federal election is provided to Elections Canada by a number of other organizations such as: Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as well as provincial and territorial departments.

  1. Who Runs the Federal Election?

Besides maintaining the voters’ list, Elections Canada informs the Canadian public of their rights and responsibilities in the election process. It makes sure that the ballot boxes and ballots are ready on the day of the election. It counts the ballots and it provides quick up-to-date information on the results of the election.

The Chief Electoral Officer, or CEO, runs the election, watching over all aspects of the election. Through the whole process, the CEO must remain neutral or impartial.

  1. Voting Day

Most people will vote on the day of the election. However, those who are unable to vote on that day can vote in an advance poll.

Once the voting time period is over, the ballot box is opened and the votes are counted. The votes from the advanced poll are also counted at this time. Once all the ballots for a constituency have been counted, one candidate is declared the winner. The candidate who receives the greatest number of votes in the constituency is the elected Member of Parliament (MP) and will represent that constituency in the House of Commons.

The party with the largest number of elected MPs becomes the government party and its leader becomes the Prime Minister. If the government party has an absolute majority of MPs it will form a majority government and if it obtains only a plurality of MPs, it will form a minority government.

If some of the Alliance members had said before the November election that they had changed their minds on the pension and would opt in and buy back past service, that would have been a different story. However, those who did not do it broke a fundamental promise and a fundamental part of what that party is all about in terms of accountability and respect for the House. They should resign their seats and submit to a byelection if indeed they mean what they say. That is an important part of what we are debating today.

I will use the words again of the Leader of the Opposition and the House leader of that party who talked about the importance of building on trust and the importance of accountability.

When we talk about the ethics counsellor being responsible to the House of Commons, we do this in a broader vision of our democracy. I believe our country is in a democratic crisis. Our parliamentary system gives the Prime Minister far too much power. The Prime Minister appoints all the senators, all the supreme court justices, the head of the army, the head of the RCMP, all the important heads of agencies, and makes thousands of patronage appointments to all kinds of organizations, agencies and crown corporations. He does this without any parliamentary accountability whatsoever.

If the Minister of Industry had any zeal for democratic reform he would lead a crusade to make sure that some of the powers of the Prime Minister's office went to the House of Commons and parliamentary committees in terms of important appointments.

We also have too many confidence votes in the House. If we had fewer confidence votes parliament would work in a more congenial and democratic way in trying to solve the problems that face the Canadian people. Those are just some of the issues we should be dealing with.

Parliamentary committees should have a lot more power and independence to initiate and timetable legislation. However the government will not even take the minor step of allowing the committees to secretly elect their own chairs. Such a step would simply follow the precedence of secretly electing a Speaker of the House. The government is in the dark ages in terms of basic democratic reforms.

On the electoral and democratic side, no wonder the Minister of Industry hides his head in shame. Only 5% of Canadians polled support the unelected Senate. The minister, however, sits across the way and says aye, aye and cheers on the Prime Minister to make more and more Senate appointments to that house of hacks, flacks and political has-beens.

The time has come for genuine reform to abolish the unelected, undemocratic and unaccountable Senate. Canada should also take a serious look, as has almost every other country in the world, at some kind of proportional representation in our electoral system so that every voter could have equality and not cast a wasted vote.

The Liberal majority government, elected constitutionally for another five years, received 40% of the vote on a turnout of less than 60% in the last election. That means fewer than a quarter of Canadians voted for the government of the day.

Canada is one of only three countries in the world with a population of more than eight million that does not have some form of proportional representation in its electoral system. Only Canada, India and the United States do not have some kind of proportional representation.

Under a PR system every voter would be equal. No vote would be wasted. People would be included and involved in creating a parliament that would actually reflect how people vote. That is the kind of democratic reform we should be looking at.

We should also get rid of the kind of enumeration mess we had in the last campaign. Over a million people were denied democracy because there was no house to house enumeration of voters. Most of those missed were younger or poorer people living in inner cities or younger people who had moved.

These are some of the things we must change to make Canada more democratic and inclusive.


National Post, Sept. 26, 2000

PM has powers of a despot

By Gordon Gibson

A curious headline indeed in yesterday's Post: "Parliament has been neutered:

Liberal MPs."

The curiosity lies not in the factual statement. It is true. But surely such a

complaint lies uneasily in the mouths of the very people who could provide the

remedy, do so by their own act, and literally do it tomorrow.

"We are just supposed to be voting machines" said one. " ... we have little power

to produce legislation." "Parliament doesn't work" says another.

Additional gems: MPs who try to make a difference are "abused, maligned and

mistreated," and the Privy Council Office treats MPs like "the black man in the

late 1940s and 1950s."

My heart goes out to these poor Solons -- or rather it would, except for the fact

they have made their own beds and then complain about the wrinkles.

Their basic problem is with the dictatorial powers of the Prime Minister over

Parliament. And in their interviews who do they ask to fix this? They call upon

the Prime Minister. As much might a chicken turn for succour to Colonel Sanders.

You need your own solidarity to fix this, chickens.

The Prime Minister of Canada has the powers of a despot, to a degree unmatched

anywhere else in the developed world. He or she appoints the head of state (a.k.a

the Governor-General), and the heads of the military and national police. The PM

appoints the political and the permanent heads of all government departments, plus

the Governor of the Bank of Canada and all Senators. He or she appoints all of the

judges of the Supreme Court who interpret the Constitution, plus all other

important judges, and the heads and most members of all significant boards,

commissions and Crown corporations.

The PM writes or approves all legislation, directs or approves all tax and

expenditure decisions, approves or controls chairs of committees and the actions

of committees and even the office space and boondoggle-type travel of MPs. He or

she calls elections at a time of unilateral choosing, and then has a veto (by law)

over whether this or that MP can run again. Some countries have what they call

"iron triangles" of power. We have a fully closed circle.

In other civilized countries to which we like to compare ourselves it is not like

this at all. The legislatures of Britain or Australia or France have far more

independence. The President of the United States may be able to reduce the world

to a nuclear cinder at the push of a button, but can't begin to control Congress.

Quite the contrary -- Congress controls the President in most things.

The head of the Swiss government serves as Chairman of the Council of Ministers on

a one-year rotating term. Most Swiss do not even know this person's name, from

time to time. And then we have Canada -- J. Chretien, Prop.

But -- and here is the interesting thing -- this is a self-inflicted misery. Most

of these prime ministerial powers have been given by Parliament itself, not by the

Constitution or some alien from outer space. What Parliament gives it can take

away. And who controls Parliament?

Why, none other than Liberal MPs!

Let us do a thought experiment. Suppose Liberal MPs wanted to take control of

committee memberships and voting away from the party Whips -- a modest and

reasonable reform. How would they do that? They would simply change the House

rules to make sure that happens.

It is true the Liberal caucus contains too many toadies to go against the Prime

Minister unanimously or even by a majority. No problem. The Opposition also badly

wants this kind of rule change. So if six -- just six -- Liberal MPs decided to

work with the Opposition to reform the House of Commons, they could do so


Who are those six? There are enough mutterers inside the Liberal caucus to do the

deed. However they would need guts as well as tongues. The names listed in the

Post headline story are nothing but whiners unless they stand up and be counted on

this one.

Think of the possibilities. Why allow any more appointments to the Supreme Court

bench unilaterally by the Prime Minister? Change the rules to require involvement

of the House and/or the provinces. Do the same with the Bank of Canada and other

major appointments.

MPs not able to influence legislation? Change the committee rules and it is done.

And so on, until Parliament becomes what it was meant to be -- the ongoing

representative of the people, holding the executive branch to account.

This kind of revolution is no mere matter of the self-esteem of Liberal

backbenchers. It goes to the fundamentals of democracy. If the MP you get to vote

for is a nobody on the Hill -- and that is the current fact unless you live in

King Jean's riding -- then in democratic terms you are a nobody too.

It is time, but will the chickens challenge the Colonel? No. They will turn out to

be the same turkeys we have always known. A turkey is -- well, you know -- sort of

a big chicken.

    I did not take part in the committee's proceedings, but I reviewed the amendments put forward by Bloc Quebecois members who wanted to make sure, among other things, that we had better definitions, and rightly so.

    The suggestions to correct one of the flaws were aimed at making sure that the authority was not given to one minister or to the cabinet because, on such an important public issue, specific projects or the subject matter should to be reviewed by the House of Commons on a regular basis, and be audited, not just by anyone, but by someone under the Auditor General of Canada.

    As the member for Jonquière mentioned earlier, every single proposed amendment was turned down one after the other in committee and here at report stage. Members who used to be on the other side, but who have to tow the party line when a bill is put forward by a minister, voted down these amendments because the government bill was supposedly perfect.

    I am making an aside here to remind the House that we have been here for eight years now. This is probably the last speech I will make before the end of the 2001. I said it on several occasions, but I believe it bears reminding.

    When we see the way the government has been dealing with the anti-terrorism and public security bills after September 11, and when we realize that the authority is concentrated in the hands of a single minister, and cabinet at times, that the cabinet is made up of members of parliament appointed by the Prime Minister, and that the Prime Minister appoints the governor general, the senators when time comes to send members to the other House, that he is responsible for appointing people to high offices, some say that, proportionally—Canada is not the United States—the powers of the Prime Minister of Canada are actually greater than those of the President of the United States.

    In the United States, through a veto, both Houses can prevent the president from exercising certain powers such as, for instance, sending troops abroad or using supplementary funds. He needs to introduce a specific bill or program in both Houses of Congress. This is not the case here.

    In Canada, when we want to buy time, we refer bills to the other place. However, seeing as Liberal Party members also sit in its caucus, they receive instructions from the Prime Minister—naturally, they also share with him what is going on in the other place—saying, “Take your time on that bill”, or the opposite, “Hurry up and adopt that bill”.

    An example of this was the bill on organized crime, which has yet to be passed officially by the other place. But they rush through bills on public security, or Bill C-7 on young offenders. Now with Christmas around the corner, during the last sitting of the session before the holidays, we are studying Bill C-27. No doubt an important issue, but the bill is seriously flawed

    The Prime Minister or the caucus will have the ability to appoint all of the members of the board for this new waste management organization that will oversee nuclear waste. Who will he appoint? People in whom he has complete trust, or to whom he feels indebted. I know that the word patronage is not necessarily parliamentary, but if the shoe fits, then I do not see how I could avoid the term. So I will use it. This opens the door to patronage.

(From: http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/chambus/house/debates/132_2001-12-14/han132_1045-e.htm )  notes taken in the House of Commons


Power Point Presentation of Canadian Government:


Below information is from: http://members.shaw.ca/kcic1/cangovt.html

Confederation and
Canada's Government

Canada and Flag

Canada became The Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867. Each year July 1st is a national holiday called Canada Day. Before 1982 Canada Day had been known as Dominion Day, First of July or Confederation Day. Canada Day celebrates the events that occurred on July 1, 1867, when the British North America Act created the Canadian federal government. The BNA Act proclaimed "one Dominion under the name of Canada," hence the original title of the holiday, "Dominion Day." Dominion Day was officially renamed "Canada Day" by an Act of Parliament on October 27, 1982. This change reflected the policy of successive governments to downplay Canada's colonial origins. Canada's national celebration is always observed on July 1, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case it is observed the following day.

The Capital of Canada is Ottawa, Ontario. It was named as the national capital on December 31, 1857 by Queen Victoria.

which were proclaimed during Canada's history


Document and description


The Royal Proclamation (October 7, 1763)


The Quebec Act, 1774


The Constitutional Act, 1791


The Union Act, 1840


The British North America Act, 1867
United the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada. The Province of
Canada became Ontario and Quebec.


The Manitoba Act, 1870
Manitoba was admitted as a province July 15, 1870.


Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting British Columbia
into the Union
(U.K. Order in Council May 16, 1871)
British Columbia was admitted as a province July 20, 1871.


Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Prince Edward
Island into the Union
(U.K. Order in Council June 26, 1873)
Prince Edward Island was admitted as a province July 1, 1873.


Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting all British
Territories and Possessions in North America and
Islands adjacent thereto into the Union
(U.K. Order in Council July 31,1880)
All remaining British territories and islands in North
America, except Newfoundland, were added to Canada
September 1, 1880.


The Yukon Territory Act, 1898.
Established the Yukon Territory.


The Alberta Act and The Saskatchewan Act
Alberta and Saskatchewan were admitted as provinces
September 1, 1905.


The Statute of Westminster, 1931
The United Kingdom could no longer pass laws affecting
the dominions, including Canada, without their request
and consent. They were given powers to sign treaties and
in the court system the Supreme Court of Canada
became the final Court of Appeal for Canada replacing the
(British) Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


The British North America Act, 1949
Newfoundland was admitted as a province March 31, 1949.


Canada Act, 1982 including the Constitution Act, 1982
Part I is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Proclamation bringing into force the Constitution Act, 1982.



The Nunavut Act of June 1993 and the Nunavut Land Claims
Agreement of July 9, 1993, made it possible for Nunavut to
become Canada's 3rd Territory on April 1st, 1999.


Canadian Coat of ArmsCanada's Coat of Arms was originally assigned to Canada after Confederation (July 1, 1867) by the Royal Warrent of Queen Victoria dated May 26, 1868.

The "new" Arms of Canada were proclaimed by King George V, dated November 21, 1921 on the basis of a Canadian Order in Council dated April 30, 1921.

Canada's coat of arms contains many symbols of the four founding nations. The shield bears the royal lions of England, the lion of Scotland, the harp of Ireland, the fleurs-de-lis of France and three maple leaves for Canada. The shield is supported by the lion of England on the left and the unicorn of Scotland on the right. The lion holds the Union Flag, the unicorn holds the flag of Royal France. The scroll with the motto "a mari usque ad mare" (From Sea to Sea) rests on a wreath of the floral emblems of the founding nations.

Place your cursor on the Coat of Arms to see date that Province or Territory entered Confederation.

British Columbia - July 20,1871

Alberta - September 1, 1905

Saskatchewan - September 1, 1905

Manitoba - July 15, 1870

Ontario - July 1, 1867

Quebec - July 1, 1867

New Brunswick - July 1, 1867

Nova Scotia - July 1, 1867

Prince Edward Island - July 1, 1873

Newfoundland - March 31, 1949

Yukon Territory - June 13, 1898

Northwest Territory - July 15, 1870

Nunavut Territory - April 1, 1999

The following are the capital cities of the 10 Provinces (from West to East) and the 3 Territories:-
British Columbia (Victoria); Alberta (Edmonton); Saskatchewan (Regina); Manitoba (Winnipeg); Ontario (Toronto); Québec (Québec City); New Brunswick (Fredericton); Nova Scotia (Halifax); Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown); Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's); Yukon Territory (Whitehorse); Northwest Territory (Yellowknife); and Nunavut Territory (Iqaluit).


Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federal state with a democratic parliament. As in many constitutional monarchies, there is a clear separation in roles between the Head of State and the Head of Government. The Governor General is appointed by The Queen (on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister). Canada's Head of Government is the Prime Minister who is an elected representative of the people of Canada and head of his political party.

Parliament BuildingsCanada's Parliament Buildings are located in Ottawa, Ontario, the nation's capital. Ottawa proper was founded in 1827 by Col. John By, an engineer in charge of construction of the Rideau Canal. At first called Bytown, it was re-named after the Ottawa, an Algonquian-speaking people, in 1855. In 1858, Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria to be the capital of the United Provinces of Canada, and in 1867 it became capital of the Dominion of Canada.

The Canadian Parliament is comprised elected members of the House of Commons (Lower House) and the Senate (The Upper House) - whose members are politically appointed Members of Parliament are elected by vote of the people every 4 years.
The Head of Government is the Prime Minister.
Canada's Highest Court is the Supreme Court of Canada.

Canada has 2 official languages: English and French.
The Northwest Territory has 8 official spoken languages: Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, English, French, Gwich'in, Inuktitut, (including Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun) and Slavey (including North and South Slavey).


As a member of the Commonwealth, and a former member of the British realm, Canada's ties to the monarchy are steeped in history. For more than 500 years (since 1497) Canada has been a monarchy. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson or an appointed deputy, gives Royal Assent to bills passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, thereby establishing the bills as Acts of Parliament (the Laws of Canada). The Governor General is actually picked by the serving Prime Minister and recommended to the Queen, who appoints that person to the office.

The Governor General also summons; prorogues (ends a session) and dissolves Parliament (ends Parliament until a new one is sworn in after an election); delivers the Speech from the Throne at the opening of sessions (outlining the Government's plans for legislation) and signs State documents (documents requiring and authorizing particular appointments and actions, such as Orders-in-Council, commissions, and pardons).
The Governor General acts on the Queen's behalf in all matters of interest to the monarch.


The Year 2002 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Accession to the Throne of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.   It was 50 years ago, on February 6, 1952, that Princess Elizabeth learned of her father, King George VI's, death and ascended to the throne.  Her Coronation followed on June 2, 1953.
The young Queen easily adapted to her new role, having already spent much of her life in service to the Commonwealth.  Just sixteen years old when she conducted her first solo public engagement, by the time her father's health began to deteriorate in 1951, the young princess was already a seasoned public figure, representing her father at numerous state occasions and managing a sizeable docket of official duties.  One can be certain that King George VI found solace in the daughter that was about to take his place.
Fifty years into her reign, Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world's most popular monarchs.  She is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and is head of the Commonwealth, which includes Canada and more than 40 other countries.


Some personal Royal links to Canada are long standing. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother first visited Canada in 1939 - her most recent visit being in 1989 to mark the 50th anniversary of her first visit here. As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen with The Duke of Edinburgh visited Canada in 1951. Since then, they have visited all the provinces in Canada including the following: in 1959, The Queen opened the new St Lawrence Seaway and visited many outlying districts never before seen by a reigning monarch. The Queen and The Duke attended the 100th anniversary of the Confederation in 1967, and in 1976 they attended, with The Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, the Olympic Games in Montreal (in which Princess Anne competed as a member of the British equestrian team).

In 1977 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited Canada as part of the Silver Jubilee tour, and The Queen was in Ottawa for the ceremony marking the Patriation of the Constitution in April 1982. In between such visits, The Queen and The Duke have toured Canada - the most recent visit being in 1997, when they visited Newfoundland (to mark its 500-year-old link with Britain), Ontario and Ottawa (to mark Canada Day on 1 July). A visit to Canada will also take place in autumn 2002 during The Queen's Golden Jubilee year.


Order of Precedence

The Canadian Constitution dates back to Confederation. In 1867, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, the founding document of Canada as an independent nation. Drafted by Canadians who became known as the Fathers of Confederation, the document stated that "The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in The Queen".

In 1982, the Canadian Parliament passed the Constitution Act 1982, which provided, for the first time in our country's history, a way of amending or changing the Constitution without having to obtain the approval of the British Parliament each time a change was required. This patriation or "bringing home" of the Canadian Constitution did not alter The Queen's status in Canada as Head of State. Her personal representative in Canada remains the Governor General, whose powers and authorities are detailed in the "Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General of Canada" (dated 1 October 1947).


Liberal Party Leader Progressive Conservative Party Leader Canadian Reform Alliance Party Leader New Democratic Party Leader Block Quebecois Leader

Party and Party Leaders are (left to right):
Liberal Party - The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien (The Prime Minister)
Progressive Conservative Party - The Right Honourable Joe Clark
Canadian Reform Alliance Party - Mr. Stephen Harper
New Democratic Party - Ms. Alexa McDonough
Block Quebecois - Mr. Gilles Duceppe

The breakdown of the Number of Seats for each Party in the House of Commons is as follows:-

Political Logos



Liberal = 166

Canadian Alliance = 57

Bloc Quebecois = 38


NDP = 13

Progressive Conservative = 12

Independent = 8

Vacant = 7

as at April 10, 2002

The 301 House of Commons seats is divided amongst the Provinces and Territories, based on a population, as follows:

  • British Columbia 34
  • Alberta 26
  • Saskatchewan 14
  • Manitoba 14
  • Ontario 103
  • Quebec 75
  • New Brunswick 10
  • Nova Scotia 11
  • Prince Edward Island 4
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 7
  • Yukon Territory 1
  • Northwest Territories 1
  • Nunavut Territory 1


NOTE:- the following text, which is an excellent description of how Canada's Government works, was provided by another site on the Internet. Unfortunately, I have lost the address of this site, so I am unable to give proper credit to the authour.

The Government

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a federal state and parliamentary democracy with two official languages and two systems of law: civil law and common law. In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was entrenched in the Canadian Constitution.

Canada's Constitution was initially a British statute, the British North America Act, 1867, and until 1982, its amendment required action by the British Parliament. Since 1982 when the Constitution was "patriated" -- that is, when Canadians obtained the right to amend the Constitution in Canada -- this founding statute has been known as the Constitution Act, 1867.

The Monarchy

From the days of French colonization and British rule to today's self-government, Canadians have lived under a monarchy. Although Canada has been a self-governing "Dominion" in the British Empire since 1867, full independence for Canada, as for all British colonies, was only established in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster.

Elizabeth II, Queen of England, is also Canada's Queen, and sovereign of a number of realms. In her capacity as Queen of Canada, she delegates her powers to a Canadian Governor General. Canada is thus a constitutional monarchy: the Queen rules but does not govern.

The Federal Government

Canada's 33 "Fathers of Confederation" adopted a federal form of government in 1867. A federal state is one that brings together a number of different political communities under a common government for common purposes and separate local or regional governments for the particular needs of each region.

In Canada, the responsibilities of the central, or federal, Parliament include national defense, interprovincial and international trade and commerce, immigration, the banking and monetary system, criminal law and fisheries. The courts have also awarded to the federal Parliament such powers as aeronautics, shipping, railways, telecommunications and atomic energy.

The regional or provincial legislatures are responsible for education, property and civil rights, the administration of justice, the hospital system, natural resources within their borders, social security, health and municipal institutions.

The Parliamentary System

The roots of Canada's parliamentary system lie in Britain. In keeping with traditions handed down by the British Parliament, the Canadian Parliament is composed of the Queen (who is represented in Canada by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons.

The Senate, also called the Upper House, is patterned after the British House of Lords. Its 105 members are appointed, not elected, and are divided essentially among Canada's four main regions of Ontario, Quebec, the West and the Atlantic Provinces. The Senate has the same powers as the House of Commons, with a few exceptions.

What is a "Senator"? A Senator is a member of the Upper House of the Canadian Parliament, the Senate. There are ordinarily 105 Senators appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Senators are chosen to represent the various provinces and territories of Canada and are appointed until the age of 75.

The House of Commons is the major law-making body. It has 301 members, one from each of the 301 constituencies or electoral districts. The Canadian Constitution requires the election of a new House of Commons at least every five years. As in the United Kingdom and the United States, in Canada voters simply elect a single member for their electoral constituency, in one round of balloting.

What is a "Member of Parliament"? Although any person appointed to the Senate or elected to the House of Commons is considered a Member of Parliament, the term is more commonly used to refer to a person elected to a seat in the House of Commons as a representative of one of the 301 electoral districts into which Canada is divided. In debate, Members are identified not by their own names but by the names of their electoral districts.

In each constituency, the candidate who gets the largest number of votes is elected, even if his or her vote is less than half the total. Candidates usually represent a recognized political party -- although some run as independents -- and the party that wins the largest number of seats ordinarily forms the government. Its leader is asked by the Governor General to become Prime Minister.

The real executive authority is in the hands of the Cabinet, under the direction of the Prime Minister. In general, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, and is vested with extensive powers. In general, it is the Prime Minister who chooses the ministers from among the members of Parliament in the governing party.

Strictly speaking, the Prime Minister and Cabinet are the advisers of the monarch. De facto power, however, lies with the Cabinet, and the head of state (the Governor General) acts on its advice. Cabinet develops government policy and is responsible to the House of Commons. The Government of Canada, headed by some 25 ministers, performs its duties through the intermediary of the federal departments, special boards, commissions and state-owned corporations.

Political Development

Canada, which had been a self-governing colony in 1867, rose to the status of an independent state after its participation in World War I and achieved de jure independence with the Statue of Westminster in 1931. The Constitution of 1867 had one serious flaw: it contained no general formula for constitutional amendment. It was necessary to address the British Parliament in London each time the founding statute needed change.

An amending formula should have been included in the Constitution at the time of the coming into force of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, but it was not until November 1981, after numerous attempts, that the federal government and the provinces (except Quebec) agreed to the amending formula that is now part of the Constitution Act, 1982. Since that time, the Constitution can be amended only in Canada.

A Flexible System

The Canadian constitutional system has been changed over the years, sometimes quite extensively, but always peacefully and gradually. In the 1980s and 1990s, two major efforts were made at reform. The 1987 Meech Lake Accord sought to bring Quebec back into Canada's constitutional family by meeting five constitutional conditions set out by Quebec. The conditions centred on a provincial participation in the appointment of Supreme Court judges and senators, the Constitution's amending formula, increased powers for the provinces in immigration matters, some reduction in federal spending powers, and a constitutional declaration that Quebec is a "distinct society."

However, the Meech Lake Accord was not implemented because it did not obtain the legislative consent of all provinces and the federal government, as required under the 1982 amending formula.

In 1991-92, another round of constitutional reform was initiated, leading to the Charlottetown Agreement. The Agreement, which was supported by the Prime Minister, the 10 provincial premiers, the two territorial leaders and four national Aboriginal leaders, provided for a reformed Senate and changes to the division of legislative powers between the federal and provincial governments. It also supported the right of Canada's Aboriginal people to inherent self-government, and recognized Quebec as a distinct society. The Agreement, however, was rejected by Canadians in a national referendum held on October 26, 1992.

Today, the parliamentary system is still the form of government that is the choice of Canadians. The federal structure, with the sharing of powers it entails, is the one formula that can take into account Canada's geographical realities, the diversity of its cultural communities and its dual legal and linguistic heritage.