Representative Government

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


The Canadian Encylopedia defines representative government as a political system in which an elected assembly governs. Members of the assembly act as the people’s representatives in government.

Aucoin, Jarvis, and Turnbull (reference below) note that it is possible to have representative government without having Responsible Government, as was the case for the Canadian colonies in the three decades before Confederation:

“Each colony thus had a legislative assembly of representatives directly elected by the people. These legislative bodies were modelled on the British House of Commons, although the term “legislative assembly” was used in all provinces except Quebec, where the term “National Assembly” was, and still is, used. As was the case in Britain by the 1840s, the consent of the elected legislative assembly was required for the passage of all laws, including the laws that enabled the executive government to raise public money through various forms of taxation. However, in each of the colonies, and unlike in Britain, the people’s elected representatives in the legislative assembly did not otherwise have control over the executive branch of government.

“The executive branch of government, or simply “the government,” was under the control and authority of the colonial governor. Governors were British officials appointed by the King or Queen on the advice of the British government, sent from Britain to exercise executive powers under instructions from the British government. The colonies were, after all, colonies of the British Empire.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Constitutional Framework (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica, Representative Government, at, accessed 12 August 2016.

Peter Aucoin, Mark D. Jarvis, and Lori Turnbull, (2011). Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government, pp. 34. Toronto: Edmond Montgomery Publications.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 12 August 2016.