Author Topic: The Queen  (Read 1899 times)

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Offline waldo

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Re: The Queen
« on: September 09, 2022, 11:55:05 am »
Governor General of Canada: the Role, the Myth, the Legend

The Governor General of Canada is the representative of Canada's head of state – the Queen.[1] The Constitution Act, 1867 expressly states that the executive branch of Canada’s government is assigned to the Queen and that the Governor General will “[carry] on the Government of Canada on behalf and in the name of the Queen.”[2] Further, the Letters Patent, 1947 – issued by King George VI (the predecessor of Queen Elizabeth II) in 1947 – delegates the monarch's powers in Canada to the Governor General.[3]

The powers of the Governor General

The Constitution Act, 1867 grants extensive powers to the Governor General. These powers include the power to appoint senators and superior court judges, as well as the ability to grant and withhold royal assent to bills (royal assent allows a proposed law to become an actual law).[4] In reality, however, the Governor General’s role in exercising these powers is largely symbolic.[5]

The Governor General’s exercise of powers is mainly symbolic because Canada’s Constitution is comprised of both written and unwritten rules, and the role of the Governor General is governed almost entirely by the unwritten rules of the Constitution. [6] More specifically, constitutional conventions help guide the Governor General’s role – these are “informal rules that bind political actors to behave in a certain way and which are not normally enforceable in the courts.”[7]

For example, while section 55 of the Constitution Act, 1867 gives the Governor General the power to withhold royal assent from a proposed law (which would stop the law from being created), this power has never been exercised.[8] This power is not exercised because withholding royal assent would violate constitutional convention.[9]

The Governor General and “responsible government”

The Governor General has the constitutional responsibility to ensure that the conventions of responsible government are respected.[10] “Responsible government” is a principle that guarantees that the executive branch of government is accountable to the elected representatives in the House of Commons.[11]

The conventions of responsible government require the Governor General to act in accordance with the advice of the prime minister who has the support of the majority of representatives in the House.[12] In practice, this means that the Governor General will almost always act on the prime minister's advice when appointing ministers and proroguing (or suspending) and dissolving Parliament.

The Governor General’s “reserve” powers

While the role of the Governor General is significantly restricted by conventions, it is not entirely symbolic.[13] On rare occasions, a Governor General can exercise personal discretion, meaning that he or she can act independently of prime ministerial advice. This ability to exercise personal discretion revolves around the Governor General's “reserve powers.”[14] Two established reserve powers are the Governor General's authority to refuse a prime minister's request to dissolve Parliament and the right to appoint and dismiss a prime minister.[15]

The Governor General’s reserve powers are necessary for ensuring that the conventions of responsible government are observed. For example, the Governor General’s power to dismiss the prime minister may be necessary in the event that a prime minister violates constitutional convention by refusing to resign after an opposition party obtains a clear majority in a general election.[16] Equally important is the Governor General’s power to appoint a prime minister, which ensures that the Crown always has a prime minister to advise exercises of the Crown’s power and to take responsibility for acts of the Crown before the House of Commons.[17]