Issues in Governing Canada
- Authority (making rules that are legitimate and bind the community)
-To steer (to pilot)
-A collective enterprise. How the political community steers forward.
-The system by which we are governed
-A series of pools which are interlinked which contain a number of actors.
-Rules surrounding authority: what can be done and by who?
-There has to be a link between the democracy and the political governs (between governed and
-Our constitutional history: moving from monarchy to constitutional monarchy. About adaptation
and change. Are there formal rules from inappropriate era? What have we brought forward?
-Invokes idea of a government limited by rules. The rules are supreme. The government itself is
subject to law, but also makes law. It's discretion to make law is constrained in some way.
Constrained power. Rules about how power is used properly.
-Legal mechanism and moral compass. Rulebook and mission statement. There is an underlying
statement of political theory about what is good (underlying values).
-body of rules governing the powers of state.
-formalized Law (written down in careful written language) and convention
-Informal constitution as well
-Decision of judiciary must be independent (not biased or unbiased)
-Unconstitutional: sense of illegal
-Constitutional conventions: Non-legal rules that are still very important and determine behaviour,
expect compliance but are not judiciary. Followed by political actors and community. As citizens
it's our responsibility to make sure these rules are complied with.
-Unconstitutional means unconventional (but sometimes something could have been done which
was illegal, making it also unconstitutional)
-Governor General: Appoints senators, has the power to dissolve parliament. Represents Queen.
-Political convention called responsible government: meaning governor general does not exert all
of his/her power. Even if they have (some would say) the most power.
-Arguments about how we govern ourselves and our country.
-Courts have overstepped their rules. They are stepping on the feet of legislature. Abusing their use of
power. Courts are not democratically elected yet are taking over parts that should be controlled by
people voted in democratically, given that this is a democracy. Some argue that the courts are just doing
their job, given that they have been given a strong role, and this is completely legal and legitimate. Counter argument: The court is supposed to be representative of us, our views. We are fundamentally
represented by legislature. But some think we are not fairly represented.
Goals of this course:
-Introduce students to basic institutions, actors and relationships that together compose the most
basic components of the Government of Canada.
-To show how those relationships have changed since the creation of Canada in 1867.
-To highlight some of the current institutional issues governing Canada
1.The governed and the government (In 1867 the constitution viewed the power of
parliament as absolute. That has changed, importantly since 1982)
2.Two levels/orders of government in the federal system (Government has autonomy but
only in certain areas. Concept of federalism. Provinces and Country. Each has guaranteed to
itself in various parts of the constitution autonomy. Section 91+92 (changes in 1982)...at
which level could the government do something. Creating political dynamic.)
3.The basic institutions of government (Balance of power within the federal government
powers...legislative, judicial and executive)
-Is there freedom of speech? Where is the division between public and private? Concept of civil
-Does this constitution work and act appropriately throughout all 3 institutions?
Parliament: House of commons, Queen (has legislative and executive power), Senate
Prime Minister: exerts power and is member of house of commons
Cabinet: Members of house of commons or senate. Not a legal requirement but is a fundamental
requirement and understanding.
Legislature: House of commons, senate, cabinet
Other Actors: Judiciary, provinces, BNA Act 1867 + Charter 1982
Executive: Monarchy, Governor General, Prime minister
Questions: What is the constitution? What are constitutional Acts? Analyze and explain the roles
of each part of government. Describe the specific institution and what are its essential elements