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Canada Government


The government of Canada is established as a constitutional monarchy, with the powers and structure of the federal government established by the Constitution of Canada, which includes the written part, the decisions of courts, and unwritten conventions developed over time.

Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, is the sovereign and Head of State of Canada, and is the repository of executive power, judicial and legislative power; as expressed in the Constitution of Canada: "The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen."

However, sovereignty in Canada has never rested solely with the monarch due to the English Bill of Rights of 1689, later inherited by Canada, which established the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, the monarch is still the sovereign of Canada.

In Canada's federal system, the head of state is not a part of either the federal or provincial jurisdictions; the Queen reigns impartially over the country as a whole, meaning the sovereignty of each jurisdiction is passed on not by the Governor General or the Canadian Parliament, but through the Crown itself. Canada is a constitutional monarchy. Thus, the Crown is "divided" into eleven legal jurisdictions, 11 "crowns" – one federal and ten provincial. The Fathers of Confederation viewed this system of constitutional monarchy as a bulwark against any potential fracturing of the Canadian Federation.

In practice, the sovereign rarely personally exercises her executive, judicial or legislative powers; since the monarch does not normally reside in Canada, she appoints a Governor General to represent her and exercise most of her powers. The person who fills this role is selected on the advice of the Prime Minister. "Advice" in this sense is a choice generally without options since it would be highly unconventional for the Prime Minister's advice to be overlooked; a convention that protects the monarchy. As long as the monarch is following the advice of her ministers, she is not held personally responsible for the decisions of the government. The Governor General has no term limit, and is said to serve "at Her Majesty's pleasure"; however, the practice is for the Governor General to be replaced after about five years.

Just as the sovereign's choice of Governor General is on the Prime Minister's advice, the vice-regal figure exercises the executive powers of state on the advice of the Cabinet. The term "the Crown" is used to represent the power of the monarch.

Though the sovereign or viceroy rarely intervene directly in political affairs, the real powers of the position of the monarch in the Constitution of Canada should not be downplayed. The monarch does retain all power, but it must be used with discretion, lest its use cause a constitutional crisis. Placement of power in the sovereign's hands provides a final check on executive power. If, for instance, she believed a proposed law threatened the freedom or security of her citizens, the Queen could decline Royal Assent. Furthermore, armed removal of her by parliament or government would be difficult, as the monarch remains Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, who swear an oath of allegiance to her. Constitutional scholars such as Senator Eugene Forsey have maintained that the sovereign (the Queen) and Governor General do retain their right to use the Royal Prerogative in exceptional constitutional crisis situations, though Liberal governments, for their part, have adhered to the view that the Governor General does not have the right to refuse dissolution from the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor General, but to ensure the continuity of a stable government, this person must have the confidence of the House of Commons to lead the government. In practice, the position usually goes to the leader of the political party that has the most seats in the lower house, which is currently the Conservative Party of Canada. On several occasions in Canadian history no party has had a majority in the House of Commons and thus one party, usually the largest, forms a minority government.

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