Constitutional Framework

… a core topic in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

SigningConstitution

Constitutional Proclamation, Ottawa, 1982

Topic description

This topic introduces students to the framework of institutions in a constitutional democracy.

Topic learning outcome

Upon completing this topic the student will be familiar with the framework of institutions in a constitutional democracy, including the concepts in the table below.

Core concepts associated with this topic
Republic

Constitutional Monarchy

Westminster System

The Crown

Her Majesty The Queen

Governor General of Canada

Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

Head of State vs. Head of Government

Reserve Power

Crown Prerogative

Constitution

Constitution of the United States

Constitution of Canada

Amending Formulas

Legislative Power

Executive Power

Entrenchment

Organic Statutes

Constitutional Laws

Conventions vs Laws

Constitutional Conventions

Judicial Power

Judicial Review

Social Contract

Representative Government

Responsible Government

Prorogation

Speech from the Throne

Open access readings for 8 hours of preparation

The Atlas pages for the concept entries noted above.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica, Representative Government, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/representative-government/, accessed 12 August 2016.

Noel Cox (last updated 2010), “The Theory of Sovereignty and the Importance of the Crown in the Realms of The Queen” [2002] ALRS 6; (2002) 2(2) Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal, 237-255, at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ALRS/2002/6.html, accessed 15 August 2016.

Department of Justice Canada (2012), A Consolidation of the Constitution Acts 1897 to 1982, at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/CONST_E.pdf and, on the Atlas, at http://www.atlas101.ca/pm/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ConstitutionActs1867to1982.pdf, accessed 20 September 2016.

Government Printing Office (2007), The Constitution of the United States of America As Amended, at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CDOC-110hdoc50/pdf/CDOC-110hdoc50.pdf, accessed 11 August 2016, and on the Atlas, at http://www.atlas101.ca/pm/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Constitution-of-the-United-States.pdf.

In the news…

Adrian Morrow (2016), Wynne to prorogue Ontario Legislature to clear way for Throne Speech, 8 September 2016, at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-legislature-to-prorogue-government-to-deliver-throne-speech-monday/article31762807/, accessed 19 September 2016.

Office of the Premier (2016), Speech from the Throne – A Balanced Plan to Build Ontario Up for Everyone, 12 September 2016, at https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2016/09/speech-from-the-throne.html, accessed 19 September 2016.

John Ibbitson (2016), Parliament is back, and the Liberals have some big decisions to make, Globe and Mail, 19 September 2016, at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/parliament-is-back-and-liberals-have-some-big-decisions-to-make/article31948289/, accessed 19 September 2016.

Gordon Gibson (2016), Tips for the PM: Stay clear of constitutional quagmires, Globe and Mail, 17 September 2016, at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/tips-for-the-pm-stay-clear-of-constitutional-quagmires/article31930829/, accessed 19 September 2016.

Ian Austin (2016), Justin Trudeau, Nearing a Year in Office, Tries to Recast Himself, New York Times, 14 September 2016, at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/15/world/canada/justin-trudeau.html, accessed 21 September 2016.

Recommended readings in MPP and MPA courses

Toronto PPG1000 Governance and Institutions

Malcolmson, Patrick, and Richard Myers. 2012. “The Constitution,” in The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada, 5th ed., pp. 13-33. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Aucoin, Peter, Mark D. Jarvis, and Lori Turnbull. 2011. Excerpt from Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government, pp. 1-20, 29-73. Toronto: Edmond Montgomery Publications.

Concept comprehension questions

AQ100.02.01. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term republic choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. A republic is a political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.

b. A republic is a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president.

c. A republic is a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

d. A republic is most often a single sovereign state, but there are also sub-sovereign state entities that are referred to as republics.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.02. Among statements a-d pertaining to the distinction between a constitutional monarchy and Westminster system choose the one that is the most valid or choose e if none is valid.

a. A constitutional monarchy is a system of government modeled after that in the U.K.; a Westminster system is a system of government unique to Canada.

b. A Westminster system of government is modeled after that in the U.K.; a constitutional monarchy is a system of government where a monarch shares power with a constitutionally organized government.

c. While Canada has adopted a constitutional monarchy like the U.K., it cannot be considered as having a Westminster system of government.

d. A Westminster system of government consists of the monarch and an organized level of government; a constitutional monarchy refers to the country’s parliamentary system.

e. None of a-d is a valid statement.

AQ100.02.03. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term constitutional monarchy choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. A constitutional monarchy is a system of government in which a monarch shares power with a constitutionally organized government.

b. A constitutional monarchy is a democratic state in which the people determine who leads the government.

c. A constitutional monarchy is a monarchy governed according to a constitution that limits and defines the powers of the sovereign.

d. A constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.04. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term Westminster system choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. A Westminster system as a parliamentary system of government modelled after that which developed in the United Kingdom, where the seat of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster.

b. A Westminster system has three syllables followed by two and is not, repeat not, pronounced Westminister system.

c. A Westminster system of government may include some of the following features: a sovereign or head of state who functions as the nominal or legal and constitutional holder of executive power; a head of government (or head of the executive), known as the prime minister, premier, or first minister; an executive branch led by the head of government usually made up of members of the legislature with the senior members of the executive in a cabinet adhering to the principle of cabinet collective responsibility.

d. A Westminster system is based on separation of powers between the executive, led by a prime minister, and the legislature, often controlled by the Opposition.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.05. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term Her Majesty The Queen choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Her Majesty The Queen has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters, unable to vote or stand for election.

b. Her Majesty The Queen is the head of state for Canada.

c. Her Majesty The Queen selects her representative in Canada, the Governor General, to act on her behalf.

d. Her Majesty The Queen has a special relationship with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, retaining the right to appoint and also meeting with him or her on a regular basis.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.06. Among statements a-d pertaining to the role of the Governor General of Canada choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The Governor General is the representative of the Queen in Canada.

b. The Government of Canada describes the Governor General’s role as that of exercising the duties of the Head of State.

c. The Governor General represents Canada during State visits abroad and receives Royal visitors, heads of State and foreign ambassadors at Rideau Hall and at the Citadelle of Québec.

d. The Governor General is the commander-in-chief of Canada.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.07. Among statements a-d pertaining to the role of the Lieutenant Governor of a Province choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The role of the Lieutenant Governor of a Province includes ensuring that the province always has a Premier that commands the confidence of the Legislative Assembly.

b. The role of the Lieutenant Governor of a Province includes advising the Queen on the appointment of the Governor General.

c. The role of the Lieutenant Governor of a Province includes appointing Cabinet ministers on the advice of the Premier.

d. The role of the Lieutenant Governor of a Province includes approving government business such as regulations and public appointments by signing Orders-in-Council on the advice of Cabinet.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.08. Among statements a-d pertaining to the distinction between head of state and head of government choose the one that is the most valid or choose e if none is valid.

a. In Canada, the Queen is head of government and does not hold any legislative or executive power; the head of state is the Prime Minister.

b. In Canada, the Queen is the head of state and does not hold any legislative or executive power, the head of government is the Prime Minister.

c. The head of government is a symbolic figure; the head of state oversees operations of the civil service and appoints members of government.

d. The Governor General can be considered the head of government, while the Queen can only be the head of state.

e. None of a-d is a valid statement.

AQ100.02.09. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term reserve power choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Reserve power is the power that may be exercised by the head of state without the approval of another branch of the government.

b. Constitutional scholars disagree about the reserve powers that may be exercised by the Governor General of Canada.

c. There are no firm rules to govern the use of the Governor General’s powers in summoning, proroguing, or dissolving Parliament.

d. Before exercising reserve power, the Governor General of Canada must consult with the head of state, Her Majesty the Queen.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.10. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term Crown prerogative choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Crown prerogative is the source for the following executive powers in Canada: foreign affairs (e.g., treaty-making and diplomatic appointments); defence and the armed forces (e.g., sending peacekeepers abroad).

b. Crown prerogative is the source for the following executive powers in Canada: passports, pardons, and the prerogative of mercy; the hiring and dismissal of certain public officials; honours and titles; copyright over government publications; the law of heraldry; incorporating companies by royal charter; collecting tolls from bridges and ferries; and the right to proclaim holidays.

c. The scope of Crown prerogative in Canada has increased over time.

d. Crown prerogative is the residue of discretionary or arbitrary authority, which at any given time is legally left in the hands of the Crown.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.11. Among statements a-d pertaining to the comparisons between Crown prerogative and reserve power choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Crown prerogative and reserve power both refer to the ability of the Crown to act independently of the legislature and are therefore essentially the same.

b. In the United States the presidential prerogative bears some similarity to Crown prerogative in the Westminster system but, since the President is both head of government and head of state there is nothing comparable to reserve power.

c. The scope of Crown prerogative and reserve power in Canada has diminished over time.

d. Crown prerogative is typically exercised by the government, with the representative of the Crown acting exactly on the advice of the Cabinet; reserve power is the ability of the representative of the Crown to act independently of the government, sometimes in opposition to the advice of the Prime Minister.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.12. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term constitution choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. A constitution describes the system of beliefs and laws by which a country, state, or organization is governed.

b. A constitution serves to establish what person or persons will exercise legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

c. A constitution serves to delineate the limits of governmental power.

d. A constitution guarantees a democratic form of government.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.13. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Constitution of the United States choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The Constitution of the United States is the world’s longest surviving written charter of government.

b. The Constitution of the United States assigns to Congress responsibility for organizing the executive and judicial branches, raising revenue, declaring war, and making all laws necessary for executing these powers.

c. The Constitution of the United States provides that the House of Representatives advise and consent on key executive and judicial appointments and on the ratification of treaties.

d. The Constitution of the United States gives the president the power to veto specific legislative acts, but Congress has the authority to override presidential vetoes by two-thirds majorities of both houses.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.14. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Constitution of Canada choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of the country and includes Constitution Act, 1867, and the Constitution Act, 1982.

b. The Constitution of Canada assigns to Parliament responsibility for organizing the executive and judicial branches, raising revenue, declaring war, and making all laws necessary for executing these powers.

c. The Constitution of Canada states that Canada is to have a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom.

d. The Constitution of Canada includes a declaration of the rights of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.15. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Constitution of Canada choose one that is valid or choose e if none is valid.

a. The Constitution of Canada describes the powers of the Prime Minister.

b. The Constitution of Canada gives Cabinet the power to veto specific legislative acts passed by the House of Commons.

c. The Constitution of Canada entrenches the federal government’s practice of making equalization payments to provinces whose revenues are below the national average.

d. The Constitution of Canada gives the House of Commons the authority to advise and consent on key executive and judicial appointments.

e. None of a-d is a valid statement.

AQ100.02.16. Among statements a-d pertaining to the Amending formulas in the Constitution of Canada choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Majority votes in Parliament and the Legislatures of seven provinces with 50% of the population are required to amend any section of the Constitution not exempted by Sections 41, 43, 44, and 45.

b. Majority votes in Parliament and the Legislatures of seven provinces with 50% of the population are required to amend the principle of proportional representation in the House of Commons.

c. Majority votes in Parliament and the Legislatures of seven provinces with 50% of the population are required to  the Constitution of Canada in relation to the executive government of Canada.

d. Majority votes in Parliament and the Legislatures of all provinces are required to change the composition of the Supreme Court.

e. All of a-d are valid statements.

AQ100.02.17. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term legislative power choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Legislative power is the power to make law.

b. In Westminster systems, legislative power is exercised by Parliament.

c. The executive branch must not influence the legislative powers of the Legislature.

d. The effective division of legislative power between the legislature and the executive depends on the multiple factors and changes over time.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.18. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term executive power choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Executive power is the power to govern.

b. Executive power is the power to administer.

c. In Westminster systems, executive power is exercised by the Cabinet.

d. In Westminster systems, executive power is increasingly exercised by the Prime Minister and his office.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.19. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term entrenchment choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. An entrenchment clause of a basic law or constitution is a provision which makes certain amendments either more difficult or impossible, such as requiring a form of supermajority, a referendum submitted to the people, or the consent of another party.

b. Entrenchment into the text of a constitutional law is a good way to ensure continued relevance of the most important laws by requiring them to be regularly adapted to changing circumstances.

c. Entrenchment into the text of a constitutional law is a good way to ensure the inviolability of principles so fundamental that a government will never be able to violate them legally.

d. Entrenchment is the process of ensuring that a government will not be able to legally violate a principle by writing them into the text of a constitutional law.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.20. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term organic statutes choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Organic statutes are acts of a legislative body establishing constitutional rules.

b. An example of an organic statute in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada Act.

c. Organic statutes are more adaptable than constitutional laws because they are less subject to the constraints provided in constitutional amending formulas.

d. Because organic statutes are not subject to amending formulas, they cannot be considered part of the Constitution.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.21. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term constitutional laws choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Constitutional laws are usually designed to be regularly updated to ensure that they remain relevant to changing circumstances.

b. Constitutional laws differ from organic statues in that they tend to be more comprehensive than organic statutes: while organic statutes usually deal with one particular institution or situation, constitutional laws tend to be comprehensive codifications of all (or most) of a country’s constitutional rules.

c. Constitutional laws differ from organic statues in that the authority of a constitutional law is more absolute because constitutional laws are not as easily changed as statutes.

d. Constitutional laws are subject to constitutional amending formula.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.22. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term constitutional conventions choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Constitutional conventions are constitutional rules based on implicit political agreement and enforced in the political arena rather than by the courts.

b. Constitutional conventions are like customs.

c. Constitutional conventions can determined by ascertaining what constitutional principles are involved, what precedents have occurred, as well as the statements of actors and observers concerning those events.

d. Constitutional conventions are unimportant because they are ambiguous and cannot be enforced.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.23. Among statements a-d pertaining to the difference between constitutional conventions and laws choose one that is valid or choose e if none is valid.

a. Constitutional conventions are rules written in the Constitution based on implicit agreement; constitutional laws are rules written in the constitution and enforced through the political arena.

b. Constitutional laws are rules written in the constitution; constitutional conventions are written rules based on implicit agreement and enforced by the courts.

c. Constitutional conventions are written rules enforced by the court; constitutional laws are rules enforced through the political arena.

d. Constitutional laws are rules based on implicit agreement; constitutional conventions are enforced by the courts.

e. None of a-d is a valid statement.

AQ100.02.24. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term judicial power choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Judicial power is the power to nullify unjust decisions of the government.

b. Judicial power is the power to the power to settle questions about specific violations of law and to choose a suitable punishment from among those permitted in the relevant legislation for those found guilty.

c. Judicial power includes the power to enforce the law.

d. Judicial power includes the power to change laws through the process of judicial review.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.25. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term judicial review choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Judicial review in Canada includes determinations by the courts of the concrete meaning of abstract phrases such as “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

b. Judicial review in Canada includes examinations by the courts on the fairness of the impacts of government decisions such as changes to the tax rates.

c. Judicial review in Canada includes decisions by the courts on whether the Constitution says that a particular legislative matter is of federal or provincial jurisdiction.

d. Judicial review is the judiciary’s task of defining and applying the terms of a constitution.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.26. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term social contract choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The social contract as an actual or hypothetical compact, or agreement, between the ruled and their rulers, defining the rights and duties of each.

b. John Locke (1632-1704) argued that the social contract emerges in a two-stage process, the first where naturally free and equal human beings decide to come together in civil society and establish a political regime to govern themselves and, in the second stage, they establish the ground rules of the regime by majority vote. Locke argued that once the people have put the social contract in place, they turn the process of governing over to those who fill the offices established by the contract.

c. The result of a social contract among free and equal human beings as envisioned by John Locke will not necessarily be a democratic form of government.

d. In conceptual terms, constitutional law is very close to what John Locke meant by a social contract – a constitutional law is a kind of fundamental pact emanating from the will of the people, which provides the foundation for the entire regime.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.27. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term representative government choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Most democracies operate through representative government.

b. A functioning representative government is a guarantee of democracy.

c. Representative government is a political system in which an elected assembly governs and where members of the assembly act as the people’s representatives in government.

d. It is possible to have representative government without having responsible government, as in mid-nineteenth Canadian colonies where legislative assemblies were functioning but where the executive branch of government was under the control and authority of the colonial governor.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.27. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term responsible government choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. Most democracies operate through responsible government.

b. Responsible government as a government that is responsible to the people.

c. In Canada, responsible government means a government responsible to the representatives of the people – an executive or Cabinet collectively dependent on the votes of a majority in the elected legislature or Parliament.

d. In Canada, most of the conventions of responsible government are written down in the form of constitutional laws and organic statues.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.28. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term Speech from the Throne choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. The Speech from the Throne (or Throne Speech) is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign, or a representative thereof, reads a prepared speech to the members of parliament when a session is opened, outlining the government’s agenda for the session.

b. In Canada, for the federal government and most provinces, the Speech from the Throne is delivered annually, usually in January.

c. In Canada, the Speech from the Throne, is read by the representative of the Crown (Governor General or Lieutenant Governor) but it is prepared by the government.

d. In the United States, the closest analogue to the Speech from the Throne is the annual State of the Union address.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

AQ100.02.29. Among statements a-d pertaining to the term prorogation choose one that is invalid or choose e if all are reasonably valid.

a. In Canada, prorogation is the end of a parliamentary session.

b. Prorogation differs from a recess or adjournment, which do not end a session, and from a complete dissolution of Parliament, which ends both the session and the entire Parliament, requiring an election for the House of Commons.

c. Prorogation is routinely used by Canadian governments to avoid addressing issues in Parliament which might lead to losing a confidence vote.

d. In Canada, the legislature is typically prorogued upon the completion of the agenda set forth in the Speech from the Throne and remains in recess until the Governor General summons Parliament.

e. All of a-d are reasonably valid statements.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 15 February 2017.

Image: Wayne Cuddington, Postmedia News files, at http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/andrew-coyne-time-to-end-the-myth-that-the-1982-constitution-was-bad-for-quebec, accessed 30 August 2016.