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World > North America > Canada > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Canada - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT
Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal system, a parliamentary government, and strong democratic traditions. The 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees basic rights in many areas. Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, serves as a symbol of the nations unity. She appoints a governor general, who serves as her representative in Canada, on the advice of the prime minister of Canada, usually for a 5-year term. The prime minister is the leader of the political party in power and is the head of the cabinet. The cabinet remains in office as long as it retains majority support in the House of Commons on major issues.

Canadas parliament consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Legislative power rests with the 308-member Commons. Legislation to provide for federal elections to be held on fixed dates, every four calendar years, was passed in the spring of 2007. The first fixed election date is scheduled for 2009, but the prime minister may ask the governor general to dissolve parliament and call new elections at any time should the governing party lose the confidence of the House of Commons. Vacancies in the 105-member Senate, whose members serve until the age of 75, are filled by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Recent constitutional initiatives have sought unsuccessfully to strengthen the Senate by making it elective and assigning it a greater regional representational role. In an effort to bring about incremental Senate reform without a constitutional amendment, bills to place term limits upon Senators and to create a process of public consultation in the appointment of Senators have been introduced in parliament. However, the bills face substantial opposition, both from within parliament and from certain provinces, which question the constitutionality of the proposed legislation, putting the success of the legislation in doubt.

Criminal law, based largely on British law, is uniform throughout the nation and is under federal jurisdiction. Civil law is also based on the common law of England, except in Quebec, which has retained its own civil code patterned after that of France. Justice is administered by federal, provincial, and municipal courts.

Each province is governed by a premier and a single, elected legislative chamber. A lieutenant-governor appointed by the governor general represents the Crown in each province.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Michaelle Jean
Prime Minister--Stephen Harper
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Maxime Bernier
Ambassador to the United States--Michael Wilson
Ambassador to the United Nations--John McNee

Canada maintains an embassy in the United States at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202-682-1740).


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Canadian Dollar Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: Government and Political Conditions - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Canadian Dollar Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
Government and Political Conditions
Relations with U.S.





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