The Goverment and Political System
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and federal state with a democratic parliament. The Parliament of Canada, in Ottawa, consists of the House of Commons, whose members are elected, and the Senate, whose members are appointed. On average, members of Parliament are elected every four years.
In October, 1987 Canada and the United States signed an agreement according to which all the custom duties between them were to be eliminated beginning with January, 1, 1989. Moreover, both the countries agreed upon finding out and eliminating of all the sources of environment pollution.
Mulroney's and his political party's victory in November 1988 guaranteed that the agreement upon free trade would be adopted, too.
The Socialist Party of New Democrats elected Audrey Maclalin, the deputy of Yukon as its leader in 1989. She was the first woman who had headed one of the largest parties of the country. When the international situation became more conservative and stable, the party started to win in regional elections - the new Democrats were elected governors of Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Soon Mulroney lost his popularity with Canadian people and retired in 1993. His post was taken by Kim Campbell. She became the first woman Prime Minister in the history of Canada. In October 1993 Campbell and the Conservative Party lost the elections and got only 2 seats in the Parliament. The Liberal party got 177 seats in the elections and the right to form the government. Their leader Jean Chretien became the Prime Minister of Canada.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a federal state and parliamentary democracy with two official languages and two systems of law: civil law and common law. In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was entrenched in the Canadian Constitution.
Canada's Constitution was initially a British statute, the British North America Act, 1867, and until 1982, major amendments required action by the British Parliament. Since 1982 when the Constitution was "patriated" - that is, when Canadians obtained the right to amend all parts of the Constitution in Canada - this founding statute has been known as the Constitution Act, 1867-1982.
The Federal Government
Canada's 33 "Fathers of Confederation" adopted a federal form of government in 1867. A federal state is one that brings together a number of different political communities under a common government for common purposes and separate regional governments for the particular needs of each region.
In Canada, the responsibilities of the federal Parliament include national defence, interprovincial and international trade and commerce, the banking and monetary system, criminal law and fisheries. The courts have also awarded to the federal Parliament such powers as aeronautics, shipping, railways, telecommunications and atomic energy.
The provincial legislatures are responsible for such matters as education, property and civil rights, the administration of justice, the hospital system, natural resources within their borders, social security, health and municipal institutions.
The Parliamentary System
The roots of Canada's parliamentary system lie in Britain. In keeping with traditions handed down by the British Parliament, the Canadian Parliament is composed of the Queen (who is represented in Canada by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons.
The Senate, also called the Upper House, is patterned after the British House of Lords. Its 105 members are appointed, not elected, and are divided essentially among Canada's four main regions of Ontario, Quebec, the West and the Atlantic Provinces. The Senate has the same powers as the House of Commons, with a few exceptions.
The House of Commons is the major law-making body. It currently has 301 members, one from each of the 301 constituencies or electoral districts. The Canadian Constitution requires the election of a new House of Commons at least every five years. As in the United Kingdom and the United States, in Canada voters elect a single member for their electoral constituency, in one round of balloting.
In each constituency, the candidate who gets the largest number of votes is elected, even if his or her vote is less than half the total. Candidates usually represent a recognized political party - although some run as independents - and the party that wins the largest number of seats ordinarily forms the government. Its leader is asked by the Governor General to become Prime Minister.
The real executive authority is in the hands of the Cabinet, under the direction of the Prime Minister. In general, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons and is vested with extensive powers. It is the Prime Minister who chooses the ministers from among the members of Parliament in the governing party.
Strictly speaking, the Prime Minister and Cabinet are the advisers of the monarch. "De facto" power, however, lies with the Cabinet, and the Governor General acts on its advice. Cabinet develops government policy and is responsible to the House of Commons. The Government of Canada, headed by its Cabinet of some 25 ministers, performs its duties through the intermediary of the federal departments and agencies, boards, commissions and state-owned corporations.