The Canadian government structure is a three-tier setup. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federation of provinces. These provinces are made up of counties, and counties are made up of cities.
Canada is one of the most vibrant democratic countries. The Canadian government has to care for its citizens. Any government is responsible for providing its citizens with the basic amenities of life. A government is responsible for providing its citizens with clean water, proper shelter, food, and health care. But above all, the most prominent duty of a government is to maintain law and order in their area.
Since Canada is one of the largest countries in the world, it would have found itself in a difficult position to maintain law and order in such a vast region. Thus, for the proper administration of the nation, the government structure has three layers. At the top of the pyramid, the federal government consists of The Queen, the Prime Minister, the House Of Commons. And the Senate. Provincial and Territorial governments are there in the middle of the pyramid. At the same time, local municipalities of the cities form the base of the pyramid.
The Canadian government structure derives its authority from the Canadian constitution. The constitution of Canada sets forward the nature, functions, and limitations of the Canadian governance system. It outlines the fundamental rights of all Canadian citizens. It is the guiding light for both the federal and provincial levels of government.
Canadian constitution came into being with the passage of The Constitution Act, 1867. The constitution clearly states the powers of the Canadian system’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
The Federal Government
Although Canada is a democratic country, it still has a monarchy. Under the Constitutional Monarchy system of Canada, every democratically-elected government derives its power from the Canadian people. The Queen of The United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, is also the Queen of Canada. Thus, one can say that the Canadian Government structure is that of a constitutional monarchy. But it is to be noted that it acts in the name of the Queen.
The Queen appoints a Governor-General to represent her in Canada. The Queen appoints the Governor-General of Canada on the advice of the prime minister. The Governor-General has a term of five years.
The Federal Parliament of Canada is made of The Queen, The Senate, and The House Of Commons. The executive branch of the government is represented by The Queen, The Prime Minister, and the cabinet ministers. These are entrusted with the executive powers of the country. While The Queen, represented by the Governor-General, is the Head of the State, the Prime Minister is the head of the government.
Apart from the executive and legislative branches, Canada has judicial branches. These branches check into the legality of the laws framed by the executive. The Supreme court of Canada is the top judicial body in the country. Apart from that, there are federal courts in the country.
Senate And House of Commons
The House of Commons has 338 seats. The legislative branch is vested with important legislative power. Each seat in the House Of Commons represents one electoral district. Political parties field their candidates in the election for that seat of commons in a general election. Individuals can also stand to fight as independent in an election. The system of election to the house of commons is the first-past-the-post system. In this system, a candidate has to garner more votes than the other to be elected. There is no need to have fifty percent of the votes to win an election. The elected representatives choose their prime minister, who is the leader of the largest political party.
Once the House of Commons elections are over, the Governor-General of Canada calls the leader with the most seats and appoints him as the Prime Minister. The governing party may or may not head a majority government. If the governing party has the majority on its own, it is a majority government. On the other hand, if the political party does not command mandate but has the majority from a coalition with any other party, it would be a minority government. Minority governments are generally unstable and fail to complete their five-year term.
A Senate is a representational body of provinces and has 105 members. The Governor-General appoints these members on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada.
The leader of the main opposition party is called Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition or the official opposition. In the constitutional monarchy system of Canada, The Senate and The House Of Commons have the legislative powers with them. They act as the legislative branch of the government of Canada. New Democratic Party, Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, Progressive Conservatives, and the Green Party are the main political parties at the Canadian federal level.
The Prime Minister of Canada is an integral element of the Canadian government structure. It is responsible for choosing his Cabinet members. It is on the advice of the Prime minister that the Governor-General appoints the cabinet. He can choose his cabinet members from both the Senate and the House of Commons.
For any bill to become a law, it has to be passed through both the members of parliament. Elected members of the parliament debate and discuss the bill. The bill has to be passed by the two chambers. Now, the bill passed is sent to the Governor-General for the Royal Assent.
The Provincial Government
In the Canadian government structure, the provincial or territorial government holds an important place. At the provincial level, there are provincial or territorial legislatures that are semi-sovereign. They have their own Lieutenant Governor who acts as the representative of the crown head. All the provinces in Canada have a unicameral system of government. They previously had a bicameral system of government, but the upper house was gradually abolished.
The Lieutenant Governor appoints the premier of the province. This premier should have the support of the most elected members of the parliament. The Lieutenant Governor, the Premier, and his cabinet members form the executive branch of the province. This executive branch is responsible for implementing the laws.
In a province, the general population above 18 is entitled to vote as in a federal election in Canada. The Lieutenant Governor calls the political party, which happens to get more seats, to form the provincial government. The elected house of the province or territory elects its premier.
It is the provincial parliament that makes or abolishes laws for its citizens. Every bill has to go through parliament to become law. The elected house has to go through a parliamentary session to pass a bill.
The provincial governments in Canada enjoy a fair degree of autonomy. The provincial government is required to function in areas specified under The Constitution Act, 1867. Their responsibilities are distinct from that of the federal government.
The Municipal Government
The Municipal government is the third tier in the Canadian Government Structure. At the Municipal level, the general population of the concerned locality vote to choose their local council in Canada. These council members then together elect their Mayor. The Mayor is the head of the Municipal government.
The constitution of Canada permits the provinces and territories to enable the formation of Local government. At this juncture, there are about 3,700 municipal governments in Canada. They are responsible for providing local services and facilities to the communities.
The history of Municipal governments in Canada is very long. The first municipal government was set up way back in 1785. In the period 1829, Baldwin Act was passed in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. This Act further empowered the municipal governments to raise taxes and enact by-laws.
The provincial or territorial governments define the work, power structure, finances, and management of the provincial governments of cities, villages, and townships. The Municipal governments play a key role in the Canadian government structure.
Functions of The Canadian Government Forms
The Canadian government structure has its functions demarcated. There is clarity in which government needs to act on what issues. The federal government is responsible for issues that affect the nation as a whole. Issues like national defense, citizenship, immigration are examples of federal government issues. International relations and trade with other countries are also portfolios of federal departments.
Provincial or territorial governments are responsible for managing their provinces or territories. These governments can focus on issues affecting them. This enables them to give special attention to the needs and aspirations of their respective regions. Their issues of prime importance are education, healthcare, highways, and other similar issues.
Municipal governments are local governments confined to certain cities, towns, and villages. Their areas of action are issues like local streets, sanitation, and other locally concentrated issues.
The Canadian government structure is very diverse and vibrant. It is reflective of the centuries-old well-oiled government institutions. The advent of constitutional government structure since 1785 has left an indelible mark on the entire system. The government and the opposition parties work together for the betterment of society.