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Foundations of our Government

Government functions to organize health care, taxation, trade and

commerce, laws and military to name a few
Government acts according to established rules and procedures
which become, over time, traditions
The groups responsible for carrying out specific aspects of the
governments work are institutions like the military, the post office,
police and schools
Our formal methods of decision making including written laws and
elections have their roots in the nation states of Europe
Early Europeans brought these traditions with them to the New World
In early Canada, British parliamentary tradition became the basis for
our national and provincial governments
The principal features are representative democracy and
constitutional monarchy
Representative Democracy
Democracy means rule by the people and
was first practiced by the ancient Greeks
In Greek city states, every eligible citizen
participated directly by voting in all
decisions: this was called direct democracy
In modern times with large populations,
individuals elect representatives to make
decisions on their behalf: this is called
representative democracy
Constitutional Monarchy
Canada has strong historical ties to Great Britain and as a result we too
in Canada recognize a monarch as head of state
The monarch is represented by the governor general and she holds the
power of the Crown
The governor general can enforce proper procedures of the PM during
elections and has the power to call on the army to force an election if
the PM does not call one within 5 years
This system ensures that no one, not even the PM can ignore the law
Lawmakers and citizens are bound by the Canadian Constitution, a
legal document that outlines who should have the power to make
various decisions
The CC is the supreme law of the land and it outlines the structure of
government and defines and limit the governments power
The monarch too is bound by these laws in the CC which is why we are
called a constitutional monarchy
The Federal System
In 1867, Canada East and West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia united
to form the nation of Canada
As a compromise and for the Provinces to maintain a level of autonomy
the Fathers of Confederation chose a federal system
Provincial governments acted on behalf of their residents, with a central
government in Ottawa responsible for issues vital to the nation as a
Areas that required a consistent national policy such as defence,
currency and the postal system were made federal
Provincial responsibilities include education, highways, police and courts
Shared responsibilities include immigration, agriculture, healthcare and
natural resources
Since Confederation western and eastern provinces felt the federal
government favoured the more populated and central provinces of
Ontario and Quebec
Municipal Governments
Municipal levels of government has the
greatest amount of contact with
individual citizens
Provincial governments determine the
nature of municipal responsibilities
Municipalities provide services directly to
the population like water, garbage
pickup, recycling and police services-
more later
The Parliamentary

The powers of government are divided into three

branches: legislative, executive, and judicial
The executive branch has power to administer and carry
out laws like federal national budgets, provincial high
school requirements and municipal business inspections
The legislative branch has power to make and amend
laws like federal employment insurance payment levels,
provincial taxation rates for education, and municipal
waste disposal by-laws
The judicial branches have power to decide who has
broken the law and to set penalties-governments are as
accountable to laws as citizens
The Legislative Branch
This branch includes the governor general, the House of Commons,
and the senate-all three make up the parliament
Parliament must meet at least once a year in what is called a session-
here they pass laws, amend or appeal others and debate issues
The House of Commons, or Lower House, includes the elected
members from Federal ridings (of roughly 100 000 citizens)
Voters elect an MP (member or parliament) in their local ridings and
the number of seats is determined by population
Debates in the H of C are controlled by the speaker of the House who
is elected by other members of Parliament and he or she applies rules
fairly and firmly to all members
In the H of C members sit with their party-leaders of the second
largest party become the official opposition-they scrutinize the
actions of the government and helps to ensure that views of all
Canadians are represented
Legislative Branch Continued
Each party with elected representatives hold private meeting called a
caucus- here they hash out differences and establish policy. Once this is
done, MPs are expected to vote in favour of the partys position in the H of
The Senate, or Upper House of Parliament, is independent of the H of C
It appoints its own speaker and runs its own affairs. The GG appoints
senators on the recommendation of the PM
Members must be 30, live in the Province or Territory they represent, own
$4000.00 of property and can serve as late as 75 years of age
The senate provides a final check on the legislation Passed in the H of C
Senators undertake investigation into issues the H of C will not, like
Senators may also work on committees and task forces, and perform
diplomatic service
Because the PM can fill vacant senate seats to loyal supporters there are
accusations of patronage rather than qualification
The Executive Branch:
The Prime Minister
Includes the governor general, the PM, the cabinet, and the public service
The GG gives formal assent (agreement) to a bill before it becomes law,
performs ceremonial functions, and acts as advisor to the government to
ensure it abides by the Constitution
the PM is the leader of the political party which has the most elected seats
in the H of C and is usually asked by the GG to become PM
The PM has 3 roles: head of government, the leader of the nation, and the
leader of a national party
As head of government the PM asks the GG to name new judges and
senators, chooses cabinet members and has final say in creating policies
As national leader, the PM addresses Canadians on issues of national
concern and explains party goals, represents Canada abroad and works
with provincial premiers to co-ordinate policies
As party leader, the PM acts as spokesperson for his or her party, gives out
patronage appointments in the senate, diplomatic corps, or govt operated
businesses and leads other party members in Parliament
Executive Branch: The Cabinet

The cabinet is made up of elected party members chosen by the PM

for certain departments like finance, defense
The PM attempts to select ministers who reflect the cultural,
linguistic and social diversity of the nation
Cabinet ministers and their staff are responsible for their
departments efficient and effective operation and speak on their
behalf in Parliament and public
Cabinet meetings are often contentious but ultimately should
display outward cabinet solidarity-those unable to accept decisions
usually resign
The public service or civil service perform the ongoing business of
govt and they are often the only direct contact the public has with
Tasks include collecting taxes, monitor imports and exports, inspect
food, process passports, deliver and process mail etc.
How a Bill becomes Law
Any member of the H of C or the Senate may introduce a bill, however the
cabinet usually controls which bills are introduced
From there government lawyers draft a bill into legal language and once
there is cabinet solidarity, it moves to the legislature for debate
The bill must pass 3 readings in both the H of C and the Senate before it
can be signed into law
First reading is a formality whereby the bill is passed without debate-at
this stage opposition parties see what is proposed and prepare for rebuttal
in the later debates
Second reading is where the principle idea behind the bill is debated
If the bill passes this stage, a multiparty committee is assigned to study
the bill closely-concerned citizens or groups can contribute thoughts at
this stage
In the 3rd reading, the H of C accepts or rejects the Bill and if accepted is
then sent to the Senate and then sent to the GG to be signed-bill then
becomes law
Provincial and Territorial Governments

The Provinces and Territories, like the Federal Government have

three branches: the executive, legislative and judicial which are very
similar to the federal counterparts
The premier takes the role of the PM, and the Lieutenant-governor
takes the role of the GG
The P & T have only one house called the legislature and there is not
equivalent to the Senate
Elected officials are called MLAs and Bills that pass 3 readings in the
legislature are ready to be proclaimed into law by the lieutenant-
Tensions can arise between provincial and federal governments
especially where their interests coincide or overlap
Provincial and Territorial responsibilities include education, the
environment, health and social services, transportation and
negotiations with the federal government
Provincial and Territorial Responsibilities

Education and schools share responsibility with family and society for
helping students acquire basic skills to be productive citizens in a
Provinces must balance the needs of citizens without creating debt
Provincial Governments are also responsible for the policies and laws
that determine how resources will be used in a province
A difficult balance exists between maintaining employment and
revenue with sustainability
Health care is shared responsibility with the FG providing some funding
to ensure national standards of health care
As baby boomers require more care, there is a greater emphasis on
community based care with a focus on prevention and home care
While provinces hold primary responsibility for transportation, they
must work closely with the FG to co-ordinate the development of
railways, public transit and airports
Local or Municipal Governments

The simplest form of local or municipal government is the town

council, which is led by the mayor
The mayor and council are elected and accountable to local citizens
such as yourself
Municipalities oversee, police protection, firefighting, road
maintenance, recycling and trash pickup etc.
Revenue is drawn from property taxes, licensing fees and grants
which often times do not cover all costs
Tension exist between provincial and municipal responsibility much in
the same way as tensions between federal and provincial
Aboriginal or First Nation self-government is another local system
The Chief and the band council must negotiate with higher levels of
government as well, and many are seeking increased power and
control over governing their own affairs