Using the Atlas for an Introduction to How Government Works in Canada

… one way of Using the Atlas

Selecting the crucial concepts

If you are an international graduate student studying in Canada and would like to learn how government works in your host country, you may find it useful to read the following concept pages on the Atlas. The concepts are organized to be read sequentially top to bottom left column, then top to bottom second column, then top to bottom right column.

The concepts are grouped by Atlas topic and have been selected from the Atlas subject, Governance and Institutions. The full Atlas course on this subject can be found at Atlas100 Governance and Institutions. The selected concepts number approximately one quarter of those in the Atlas course. Given that an Atlas courses is designed to require approximately 120 hours of study for the average MPP or MPA student, the selected concepts represent approximately 30 hours of study.

Constitutional Framework

Constitutional Monarchy

Westminster System

Governor General of Canada

Lieutenant Governor of Ontario


Legislative Power

Executive Power

Judicial Power

Judicial Review

Constitution of Canada

Conventions vs Laws

Constitutional Conventions

Representative Government

Responsible Government

Head of State vs. Head of Government

Reserve Power

Crown Prerogative

Speech from the Throne

Electoral Systems and Democratic Reform

Political Party

Party Leader Selection and De-selection

Party Discipline

Parliament vs. Congress



Illiberal Democracy vs. Undemocratic Liberalism

Heath’s Critique of the Democracy Deficit in Canada

Deliberative Model of Democracy

Burke’s Conception of an Elected Representative

Machinery of Government

Political Executive

Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Office


Office of the Premier

Privy Council Office

Clerk of the Privy Council

Secretary of the Cabinet, Ontario


Prime Minister as First Among Equals

Prime Minister as CEO

Prime Ministerial Prerogatives

Cabinet Selection


Regional Minister

Cabinet Solidarity and Secrecy

Cabinet Decision-Making System

Cabinet Documents

Treasury Board Secretariat

Department of Finance

Ministerial Responsibility

Public Service Anonymity

Political Neutrality

Public Service Commission

Merit Principle

Accounting Officer

Agents of Parliament

Government Program


Institutional Dynamics within Government

Centre vs. Periphery

Guardians vs. Spenders

Staff vs. Line Positions

Political Executive vs. Civil Service

Constitutional Convention of a Politically Neutral Civil Service

Policy Advisory Systems

Two Models of Policy Advising

Political Aide



Forum of Federations

Multiple Identities

Distribution of Powers

Fiscal Imbalance

Equalization Formula

Classical Federalism

Cooperative Federalism

Intergovernmental Relations

Municipal Governance

Local Government

Local Government Functions

Provincial Controls over Local Government

Provincial Ministers of Municipal Affairs

Municipal Elections

Municipal Finance

Machinery of Municipal Government

Municipal Special Purpose Bodies

Developers, Citizens, and Local Government

Administrative Tribunals and Municipal Government

Indigenous Governance

Context for Indigenous Governance in Canada

Aboriginal Peoples

Indigenous Peoples – A Guide to Terminology

Non-Status Indians

Abele and Prince’s Four Models of Aboriginal Self-Government

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 24 January 2017.

Image: Geocities, at, accessed 24 January 2017.