Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military




Canada - Government

Canada is known around the world as a strong and free country. Canadians are proud of their unique identity. Canada inherited the oldest continuous constitutional tradition in the world. Canada is the only constitutional monarchy in North America. Our institutions uphold a commitment to Peace, Order, and Good Government, a key phrase in Canada's original constitutional document in 1867, the British North America Act. A belief in ordered liberty, enterprise, hard work, and fair play have enabled Canadians to build a prosperous society in a rugged environment from our Atlantic shores to the Pacific Ocean and to the Arctic Circle-so much so that poets and songwriters have hailed Canada as the "Great Dominion."

Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal system, a parliamentary government, and a democratic tradition dating from the late 18th century. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982, guarantees basic individual and group rights. Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, is the head of state. She appoints the governor general, who serves as her representative in Canada, on the advice of the prime minister, usually for a 5-year term. The prime minister is the leader of the political party in power and is the head of the cabinet. The governing party remains in office as long as it retains majority support ("confidence") in the House of Commons.

As a constitutional monarchy, Canada's Head of State is a hereditary Sovereign (Queen or King), who reigns in accordance with the Constitution: the rule of law. The Sovereign is a part of Parliament, playing an important, non-partisan role as the focus of citizenship and allegiance, most visibly during royal visits to Canada. Her Majesty is a symbol of Canadian sovereignty, a guardian of constitutional freedoms, and a reflection of our history. The Royal Family's example of lifelong service to the community is an encouragement for citizens to give their best to their country. As Head of the Commonwealth, the Sovereign links Canada to 53 other nations that cooperate to advance social, economic and cultural progress. Other constitutional monarchies include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, Japan, Jordan and Morocco.

There is a clear distinction in Canada between the head of state - the Sovereign - and the head of government - the Prime Minister, who actually directs the governing of the country. The Sovereign is represented in Canada by the Governor General, who is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister, usually for five years. In each of the ten provinces, the Sovereign is represented by the Lieutenant Governor, who is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, also normally for five years.

In the federal government, the Prime Minister selects the Cabinet ministers and is responsible for the operations and policy of the government. The House of Commons is the representative chamber, made up of members of Parliament elected by the people, traditionally every four years. Senators are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister and serve until age 75. Both the House of Commons and the Senate consider and review bills (proposals for new laws). No bill can become law in Canada until it has been passed by both chambers and has received royal assent, granted by the Governor General on behalf of the Sovereign.

There are federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments in Canada. The responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments were defined in 1867 in the British North America Act, now known as the Constitution Act, 1867. In the federal state, the federal government takes responsibility for matters of national and international concern. These include defence, foreign policy, interprovincial trade and communications, currency, navigation, criminal law and citizenship. The provinces are responsible for municipal government, education, health, natural resources, property and civil rights, and highways. The federal government and the provinces share jurisdiction over agriculture and immigration. Federalism allows different provinces to adopt policies tailored to their own populations, and gives provinces the flexibility to experiment with new ideas and policies.

Canada's Parliament consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Legislative power rests with the 308-member Commons. According to Canadian law, elections are held every fourth October, but it is possible for the governor general to dissolve Parliament early if the cabinet loses the confidence of the House of Commons. Vacancies in the 105-member Senate, whose members serve until the age of 75, are filled by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister.

In Canada's parliamentary democracy, the people elect members to the House of Commons in Ottawa and to the provincial and territorial legislatures. These representatives are responsible for passing laws, approving and monitoring expenditures, and keeping the government accountable. Cabinet ministers are responsible to the elected representatives, which means they must retain the "confidence of the House" and have to resign if they are defeated in a non-confidence vote. Parliament has three parts: the Sovereign (Queen or King), the Senate and the House of Commons. Provincial legislatures comprise the Lieutenant Governor and the elected Assembly.

Canada has a first-past-the-post system, in which the candidate who attracts the most votes becomes MP and the rest get nothing. Prime Minister Stephen Harpers Conservatives managed to win 54 per cent of the seats in the House with just 39 per cent of the popular vote. The Liberal Party, which won an overwhelming number of seats in Parliament with only some 40% of the vote, campaigned on a platform that promised: "We will make every vote count. We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting. This committee will deliver its recommendations to Parliament. Within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform."

Living in a democracy, Canadian citizens have the right and the responsibility to participate in making decisions that affect them. It is important for Canadians aged 18 or more to participate in their democracy by voting in federal, provincial or territorial and municipal elections. Canada is divided into 308 electoral districts, also known as ridings or constituencies. An electoral district is a geographical area represented by a member of Parliament (MP). The citizens in each electoral district elect one MP who sits in the House of Commons to represent them, as well as all Canadians.

The interplay between the three branches of government-the Executive, Legislative and Judicial-which work together but also sometimes in creative tension, helps to secure the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Each provincial and territorial government has an elected legislature where provincial and territorial laws are passed. The members of the legislature are called members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), members of the National Assembly (MNAs), members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) or members of the House of Assembly (MHAs), depending on the province or territory.

Every province has its own elected Legislative Assembly, like the House of Commons in Ottawa. The three northern territories, which have small populations, do not have the status of provinces, but their governments and assemblies carry out many of the same functions. Each province is governed by a premier and a single, elected legislative chamber. A lieutenant-governor, appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, represents the Queen, who is the legal head of state of each province. In each province, the Premier has a role similar to that of the Prime Minister in the federal government, just as the Lieutenant Governor has role similar to that of the Governor General. In the three territories, the Commissioner represents the federal government and plays a ceremonial role.

Criminal law, based largely on British law, is uniform throughout the nation and is under federal jurisdiction. Civil law is also based on the common law of England, except in Quebec, which has retained its own civil code patterned after that of France. Justice is administered by federal, provincial, and municipal courts.




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list