Canadian political culture exists as part of a greater North American and European political culture, which ultimately emphasizes constitutional law, freedom of religion, personal liberty, and regional autonomy. Essentially, these ideals upon which Canadian political culture is founded stem in various degrees from sources including the British common law and French civil law traditions, North American aboriginal government, and English civic traditions, among others.
Federal-provincial relations is a regular issue in Canadian politics: Quebec wishes to preserve and strengthen its distinctive nature, western provinces desire more control over their abundant natural resources, especially energy reserves; industrialized Central Canada is concerned with its manufacturing base, and the Atlantic provinces strive to escape from being less affluent than the rest of the country.
Canada’s Governing structure can be described as a parliamentary democracy, a federation, and a Commonwealth realm.
Canada's governmental structure was originally established by the British parliament through the British North America Act (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867), but the federal model and division of powers were devised by Canadian politicians.
In Canada, the provinces are considered co-sovereign; sovereignty of the provinces is passed on, not by the Governor General or the Canadian parliament, but through the Crown itself. This means that the Crown is "divided" into eleven legal jurisdictions; into eleven "Crowns" - one federal and ten provincial.
Federal government (Government of Canada)
The federal government is responsible for:
- foreign policy and foreign relations;
- banking; the postal service;
- criminal law;
- and citizenship.
Provincial governments are responsible for:
- education; and
- municipal institutions.
They also share responsibility with the federal government for:
- health services;
- social assistance;
- transportation; and
- the environment.
The Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut are not sovereign units. They get their powers from the federal parliament, but they have elected assemblies that follow many of the same practices as the provincial governments.
Municipal governments have functions delegated to them by other levels of government. They are responsible for local matters and services. These include:
- police and fire protection;
- water and sewer services;
- recreation; and
- local public transportation.
- Head of state: Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada (since February 6, 1952).
- Viceroy: Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada (since September 27, 2005).
- Head of government: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (since February 6, 2006).
- Cabinet: Ministers (usually around thirty) chosen by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Governor General to lead various ministries and agencies, generally with regional representation.
- Elections: The monarchy is hereditary. The Governor General is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister for a non-specific term, though it is traditionally approximately five years. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons is usually designated by the Governor General to become Prime Minister.
The bicameral Parliament of Canada consists of three parts: the monarch, the Senate, and the House of Commons.
Currently, the Senate, frequently described as providing "regional" representation, has 105 members appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister to serve until age 75.
The House of Commons currently has 308 members elected in single-member districts in a plurality voting system.
The highest court in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada and is the final court of appeal in the Canadian justice system. The court is composed of nine judges: eight Puisne Justices and the Chief Justice of Canada. Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada are appointed by the Governor-in-Council.
Also, by law, members of the bar, or superior judge of Quebec, must hold three of the nine positions on the Supreme Court of Canada. This representation makes sure that at least three judges have sufficient experience with the civil law system to treat cases involving Quebec laws.
The Government of Canada Regulatory Policy
The key policy governing regulation in Canada is the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation (CDSR) that came into effect on April 1, 2007.
The objective of the Cabinet Directive is to ensure that use of the government's regulatory power results in the greatest net benefit to Canadian society.
The CDSR applies to federal departments and agencies with regulatory authority. For example, within a department's legislation, a Minister may be granted legislative authority to make regulations in certain areas.
Canadians view health, safety, the quality of the environment, and economic and social well being as important concerns. Ensuring that government funds are spent wisely is in the public interest. The government will weigh the benefits of making regulations against their cost, and focus resources where they can do the most good.
The federal government is committed to working in partnership with industry, labor, interest groups, professional organizations, other governments, and citizens, and will maintain its responsibility to serve the public interest.