Political System

The structure of government in Canada is lightly based on the British Westminster system. The Canadian system of government was initially crafted in 1864; it became law in 1867 when the Constitution Act was passed. The Act gave executive power to the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland which made Canada a sovereign constitutional monarchy.

Also known as a “Democratic Federation”, Canada has three and sometimes four levels: federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal, usually further divided into regional and local. Each level has different responsibilities as prescribed by either the Constitution or a higher level of government.



The Federal Government (the Government of Canada)

Based in Ottawa, the Federal Government is headed by the Governor General of Canada on the advice of the Prime Minister. The federal government is tasked with the responsibility of creating laws for the peace and order. Its responsibilities span across defence, criminal law, employment insurance, postal service, trade regulation, external relations, transportation, citizenship, immigration, and any other issue not mentioned as belonging to the provincial or territorial governments.



Provincial and Territorial Governments

Provinces are creations of constitution acts. Territories, on the other hand, are created through federal law. Generally, provincial and territorial responsibilities include property and civil rights, administration of justice, natural resources and the environment, education, health, and welfare.

In Canada today, there are currently ten provincial and three territorial governments. Each has its own capital city and is headed by a Lieutenant Governor (provinces) or a Commissioner (territories) on the advice of a premier.



Municipal Governments

This is the lowest level of administration that connects government to the grassroots. Municipal governments are created, modified, controlled and nullified by the provincial or territorial governments. Each province and territory has hundreds of municipalities labeled in different ways.  They allow for ease of administration as some responsibilities are delegated to them from the provinces and territories.

The responsibilities of the municipal governments vary from place to place. Generally, they include water, sewage, waste collection, land use planning, education, highways, libraries, emergency services, animal control, and economic development.

 Find Canada’s provinces and territories here