POL214Y5 Study Guide - John A. Macdonald, Responsible Government, Breaking Free

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2 Oct 2012
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Why were the provinces in British North America in 1867 willing to
support Confederation?
The provinces were willing to support Confederation for a number of
reasons. One of the reasons was the federalist aspect of the constitution,
which divided powers between the central and provincial government where
neither is subordinate to the other. It would bring the provinces together for
economic, political, military and trade reasons. British leaders of Canada
thought confederation was needed to forestall American attempts to claim
Canadian Land like Rupert’s Land and Northwest territories that were open
and unprotected. They belonged to Hudson’s bay company and were to be
transferred to government once confederation was approved. Sir John A
Macdonald, leader of the conservative party, wanted to create an east-west
national market that would require centralization and control over the land.
This would replace the US-Canadian Free Trade market that had been
terminated. The federal government would be given control and not the
provinces as this was a good source for them and it would promote
interprovincial national trade. Also, the provinces were heavily in debt,
borrowing from the London Money Market to pay for necessary
infrastructure to promote economic growth, so they needed this money.
As a part of the confederation deal, the federal government would assume
the provincial debt and provide grants to the provinces. Confederation took
place so that Canada could be strong enough to be an independent country
without total reliance on Britain. Britain no longer wanted to pay for
Canada’s defense and primarily acted in its own interests.
How does responsible government make the prerogative powers of the
Crown accountable?
The principle of responsible government works in such a way that it
transfers power out of the hands of the non-elected Queen or Governor
general into the hands of the elected Prime Minister, Cabinet and the House
of Commons. Under this idea, we respect and honor the queen in name but
her responsibilities fall to the governor general who in turn gives the
governing powers to the Prime Minister. The Governor General needs to
give his assent to the election of judges, the cabinet, every bill that needs to
passed and must grant dissolution of the parliament to the PM when
requested. There have been cases where the GG has behaved in a partisan
way or has not abided by the rules. The first case was the King-Byng scandal
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