The Executive Branch of Canada’s Government 1
Few people are aware that Canada has an Executive Branch. As a post-colonial, “Dominion” with a Constitutional Monarchy system “similar in Principle” to the United Kingdom, all Executive powers are vested in the Monarch and are exercised by the Governor General assisted his or her Privy Council.
Under Great Britain’s unwritten Constitutional system there is no Governor General (that’s the similar, but not-identical aspect) and the advisors to the UK Prime Minister are styled their Privy Council.
In Canada’s written Constitution, we have a Legislative Branch – The Upper House (the Senate) and Lower House (the
Commons) and separate rules for provinces.
Our 1867 British North American Act states:
9. The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.
10. The Provisions of this Act referring to the Governor General extend and apply to the Governor General for the Time being of Canada, or other the Chief Executive Officer or Administrator for the Time being carrying on the Government of Canada on behalf and in the Name of the Queen, by whatever Title he is designated.
11. There shall be a Council to aid and advise in the Government of Canada, to be styled the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada; and the Persons who are to be Members of that Council shall be from Time to Time chosen and summoned by the Governor General and sworn in as Privy Councillors, and Members thereof may be from Time to Time removed by the Governor General.
12. All Powers, Authorities, and Functions which under any Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or of the Legislature of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Canada, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, are at the Union vested in or exerciseable by the respective Governors or Lieutenant Governors of those Provinces, with the Advice, or with the Advice and Consent, of the respective Executive Councils thereof, or in conjunction with those Councils, or with any Number of Members thereof, or by those Governors or Lieutenant Governors individually, shall, as far as the same continue in existence and capable of being exercised after the Union in relation to the Government of Canada, be vested in and exerciseable by the Governor General, with the Advice or with the Advice and Consent of or in conjunction with the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, or any Members thereof, or by the Governor General individually, as the Case requires, subject nevertheless (except with respect to such as exist under Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) to be abolished or altered by the Parliament of Canada.
13. The Provisions of this Act referring to the Governor General in Council shall be construed as referring to the Governor General acting by and with the Advice of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
14. It shall be lawful for the Queen, if Her Majesty thinks fit, to authorize the Governor General from Time to Time to appoint any Person or any Persons jointly or severally to be his Deputy or Deputies within any Part or Parts of Canada, and in that Capacity to exercise during the Pleasure of the Governor General such of the Powers, Authorities, and Functions of the Governor General as the Governor General deems it necessary or expedient to assign to him or them, subject to any Limitations or Directions expressed or given by the Queen; but the Appointment of such a Deputy or Deputies shall not affect the Exercise by the Governor General himself of any Power, Authority, or Function.
15. The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.
16. Until the Queen otherwise directs, the Seat of Government of Canada shall be Ottawa.
There we have it – that is our constitutional executive.
However, that is not the current practice. Our government and the Legislative Branch of parliament are operating outside of our constitution and illegally. How? The Privy Council was moved from the domain of the Governor General to the control of Prime Minister, as an emergency measure in 1940 when Canada was at war.
As a result, the Executive oversight and advice to our government was erased and the powers of the Prime Minister were enormously enhanced. That is how the post-WWII Prime Ministers can appear to act as autocrats and get away with it.
The rest of the Constitution outlines the Legislative Order and describes what powers each order controls or shares.
If we want to return to democratic governance, we have to repair the damage done in 1940 and return the Privy Council and it’s oversight to the Governor General. In the following articles, I will explain why.