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Canada Government


Canada's head of state is the monarch, currently Elizabeth II and commonly referred to as the Queen of Canada. However, the day-to-day duties of head of state are exercised by the Governor General, who was generally a retired politician or military leader; however, a new tradition of appointing non-political or military-related prominent Canadians began in 1999 with the appointment of Adrienne Clarkson. The governor general is formally appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister and is a non-partisan figure who fulfils many ceremonial and symbolic roles including providing Royal Assent to bills, reading the Speech from the Throne, officially welcoming dignitaries of foreign countries, presenting honours such as the Order of Canada, signing state documents, formally opening and ending sessions of Parliament, and dissolving Parliament for an election. The Governor General is also the titular Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian military. The current Governor General is MichaŽlle Jean. In theory and according to the Constitution, the Governor General is the most powerful person in the country; however, convention dictates that the Governor General hold only a ceremonial or symbolic role. Few Governors General have exercised their true power, the last time being when Jeanne Sauvť ignored the National Capital Commission and closed the grounds of Rideau Hall in the late 1980s. The most famous case where the Governor General exercised his power was the King-Byng Affair in 1926. Canada's constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists of written text and unwritten traditions and conventions (see Westminster system). The federal government and the governments of nine provinces agreed to the patriation of the constitution, with procedures for amending it, at a meeting of First Ministers in November 1981. The Quebec government did not agree to the changes, and Quebec nationalists refer to that night as the Night of the Long Knives. MichaŽlle Jean, Governor General Enlarge MichaŽlle Jean, Governor General The position of Prime Minister, Canada's head of government, in practice belongs to the leader of the political party who can command a majority in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister and his or her cabinet are formally appointed by the Governor General; however, the Prime Minister effectively chooses the cabinet and the Governor General, by convention, always appoints the Prime Minister's desired choices. The Cabinet is drawn, by convention, from members of the prime minister's party in both legislative houses, though mostly from the Commons. Executive power is exercised by the prime minister and cabinet, all of whom are sworn into the Privy Council of Canada and become ministers of the Crown. The Prime Minster exercises a great deal of individual political power, especially in terms of the appointment of other officials within the government and civil service. The legislative branch of government has two houses: the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate. Each member in the Commons is elected by simple plurality in one electoral district or "riding"; general elections are called by the Governor General when the prime minister so advises, and must occur every five years or less. Members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, are chosen by the prime minister and formally appointed by the Governor General, and serve until age 75. Paul Martin, Prime Minister Enlarge Paul Martin, Prime Minister Canada has four main political parties today. The traditionally centrist / left-of-centre Liberal Party of Canada formed the government in Canada for most of the 20th century, and is the party of the current Prime Minister Paul Martin. The only other party to have formed a government is the now-defunct, right-of-centre Progressive Conservative (PC) Party and its predecessor, the Conservative Party, which was the dominant political party in the 19th century. The PC Party merged with the Canadian Alliance to form a new rightist Conservative Party of Canada in December 2003. The New Democratic Party (NDP) is the major party furthest to the political left. The Bloc Quťbťcois promotes Quebec independence from Canada and currently holds a majority of Quebec's seats in the Commons. There are many smaller parties and, while none have current representation in Parliament, the list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial. Canada's judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down laws that violate the constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court and final arbiter; its nine members are directly appointed by Cabinet. All judges at the superior and appellate levels are selected and appointed by the federal government, after consultation with non-governmental legal bodies. The federal cabinet also appoints justices to superior courts at the provincial and territorial levels. Judicial posts at the lower provincial and territorial levels are filled by their respective governments (see Court system of Canada for more detail). Common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec, where civil law predominates. Criminal law is solely a federal responsibility and is uniform throughout Canada. Law enforcement, including criminal courts, is a provincial responsibility, but in most provinces policing is contracted to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP is one of few police forces in the world to perform three different levels of enforcement: municipal, provincial, and federal.

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