The Constitution of Canada, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"A Country's Constitution"
The texts refer to Canada, like that of Great Britain, as having a "Cabinet Government," a form that is "imbedded in the very center of constitutional practice ... (and) has never been recognized by statute; nor can any man tell us exactly when it became fully effective."16 The cabinet is the government; and while it is selected from the elected House of Commons, and while it is entirely dependent on it; the fact is, that the cabinet is not selected by the legislature but rather by the Prime Minister who presides over it. The Prime Minister is all powerful within the cabinet, and most powerful in the House of Commons by virtue of being the head of the political party holding the most seats in it. Thus, we are governed by a Prime Minister who, depending on the composition of the House, practically speaking, has, while proceeding under our constitution, during his elective term, something approaching absolute power. We are, thus, a Republic, albeit, a disguised one.17
Sir J. G. Bourinot sums up:
"The object of the British North America Act of 1867 is neither to weld the provinces into one nor to subordinate provincial governments to a central authority, but to create a federal government in which they should be represented - a government entrusted with the exclusive administration of affairs in which they all have a common interest, while each province retains its independence and autonomy. That object is accomplished by distributing between the Dominion and the provinces all executive and legislative powers and all public property and revenues which had previously belonged to the provinces, so that the Dominion government should be vested with such of those powers, property and revenues as are necessary for the performance of its constitutional functions, and that the remainder should be retained by the provinces for the purpose of provincial governments.18
The Dominion parliament and the provincial legislatures are sovereign bodies within their respective constitutional limits. While the Dominion parliament has entrusted to it a jurisdiction over matters of national import, and possesses besides a general power to legislate on matters not specifically reserved to the local legislatures, the latter nevertheless have had conferred upon them powers as plenary and ample within the limits prescribed by the constitutional law as are possessed by the general parliament. ...
But great caution must be observed in distinguishing between that which is local and provincial, and therefore within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislatures, and that which has ceased to be merely local or provincial, and has become matter of national concern in such sense as to bring it within the jurisdiction of the parliament of Canada. ...
On the other hand, the local legislatures, whose powers are limited compared with those of the general parliament, must be careful to confine the exercise of these to the particular subjects expressly placed under their jurisdiction, and not to encroach upon subjects which, being of national importance, are, for that very reason, placed under the exclusive control of parliament."19
Or, GO TO
TABLE OF CONTENTS
[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]