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Head of State: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Governor General: Her Excellency The Right Honorable Julie Payette (2017)

Prime Minister: The Right Honourable Justin Pierre James Trudeau (2015)

Leader of Official Opposition: Honourable Andrew Scheer (2017)

Main Political Parties:

House of Commons, Ottawa
House of Commons, Ottawa (Photo: Library of Parliament/Roy Grogan)

Canada is a federation of 10 provinces and 3 territories that enjoy a mature multiparty parliamentary democracy. Canadian citizens employ three elected levels of government, with the powers and limitations of each level of government clearly defined in the Constitution Act of 1867.

The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT exercises powers over matters that affect the whole country. These include national defence, federal taxation, banking, foreign affairs, employment insurance, postal services, railways, air transportation, shipping, fisheries, telephones, pipelines, criminal law and Aboriginal lands and rights.

The federal government is charged with the duty to ensure fairness for all Canadians through equalization payments whereby money is given to the less wealthy provinces. The purpose of this is to ensure that the standards of education and welfare are the same for every Canadian citizen, regardless of residence.

The PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT is responsible for matters that affect residents of that province, including health care, education, provincial highways and road regulations, and some natural resources. A TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT exercises responsibilities that have been delegated to it by the federal government.

The MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT exercises responsibilities on the authority of its provincial government and is responsible for a town, city or district. The Municipal government is responsible for parks, libraries, community water systems, local police, local roads and parking.

First Nations (the native people) are governed at a local level by elected BAND (TRIBAL) COUNCILS.

The fundamental principles that guide all levels of government are the supremacy of the laws of Canada, the equality of all citizens before the law, and transparent democratic practices.

The Federal Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons. They make laws on behalf of the citizens.

Notwithstanding the enormous size of Canada (the second largest country in the world), its 33 million citizens are effectively represented by 338 elected members of parliament. These MPs, including the prime minister, are fully accountable to the people and are subject to regular elections during which many are thrown out of parliament.

The Senate has 105 members, all of them appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. They hold office until age 75. Senate seats are distributed to ensure equal regional representation.

Senators study, amend and either approve or reject bills passed by the House of Commons. A Bill can only become law after being passed by the Senate.  The Senate can also introduce its own bills. However, it cannot introduce Bills that spend public money or impose taxes.

The executive branch consists of the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and the departments of government. They implement the laws on behalf of the citizens.

An independent Judiciary, headed by a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, interprets the laws of Canada.

Government of Canada (Courtesy of the Library of Parliament, Ottawa)


Read more about the Government of Canada here.

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