Friday, November 20, 2009

Political, Legal, and Regulatory Environments

Assignment 5:
Political, Legal, and Regulatory Environments

Political Culture of Canada

Canadian political culture exists as part of a greater North American and European political culture, which ultimately emphasizes constitutional law, freedom of religion, personal liberty, and regional autonomy. Essentially, these ideals upon which Canadian political culture is founded stem in various degrees from sources including the British common law and French civil law traditions, North American aboriginal government, and English civic traditions, among others.
Peace, order, and good government are the stated goals of the Canadian government. These words reveal much about the history of Canadian political culture. There is a strong tradition of loyalty, compromise and tolerance in Canadian political culture. In general, Canadian politics have not operated through revolutionary, swift changes. Instead, change is typically slow and worked out through compromise between interest groups, regional consultations, and the government of the day.
Canada also has a recent tradition of liberalism. Individual rights have risen to the forefront of political and legal importance for most Canadians, as demonstrated through support for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a relatively free economy, and liberal attitudes toward homosexuality, women's rights, and other egalitarian movements. However, there is also a sense of collective responsibility in Canadian political culture, as is demonstrated in general support for universal health care, gun control, foreign aid, and other social programs.

National Unity

National unity has been a major issue in Canada since the forced union of the Canadas in 1840.
Federal-provincial relations is a regular issue in Canadian politics: Quebec wishes to preserve and strengthen its distinctive nature, western provinces desire more control over their abundant natural resources, especially energy reserves; industrialized Central Canada is concerned with its manufacturing base, and the Atlantic provinces strive to escape from being less affluent than the rest of the country.
The predominant and lingering issue concerning Canadian national unity has been the ongoing conflict between the French-speaking majority in Quebec and the English-speaking majority in the rest of Canada. Quebec's continued demands for recognition of its "distinct society" through special political status has led to attempts for constitutional reform.
Western alienation is another national-unity-related concept that enters into Canadian politics. Residents of the four western provinces, particularly Alberta, have often been unhappy with a lack of influence and a perceived lack of understanding when residents of Central Canada consider "national" issues.

Political Conditions

Canada is considered by most sources to be a very stable democracy. In 2006 The Economist ranked Canada the third most democratic nation in its Democracy Index, ahead of all other nations in the Americas and ahead of every nation more populous than itself.
The Liberal Party of Canada, under the leadership of Paul Martin, won a minority victory in the June 2004 general elections. In December 2003, Martin had succeeded fellow Liberal Jean Chrétien, who had, in 2000, become the first Prime Minister to lead three consecutive majority governments since 1945.
Except for three short-lived transitional or minority governments, prime ministers from Quebec led Canada continuously from 1968 to early 2006. Quebecers led both Liberal and Conservative governments in this period.
Monarchs, Governors General, and Prime Ministers are now expected to be at least functional, if not fluent, in both English and French. In selecting leaders, political parties give preference to candidates who are fluently bilingual.

Canada’s Governing structure can be described as a parliamentary democracy, a federation, and a Commonwealth realm.
The politics of Canada function within a framework of constitutional monarchy and a federal system of parliamentary government with strong democratic traditions. Many of the country's legislative practices derive from the unwritten conventions of and precedents set by the United Kingdom's Westminster Parliament.

Canada's governmental structure was originally established by the British parliament through the British North America Act (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867), but the federal model and division of powers were devised by Canadian politicians.
In 1931, the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, giving legal recognition to the autonomy of Canada and other Dominions. Following this, Canadian politicians were unable to obtain consensus on a process for amending the constitution until 1982, meaning amendments to Canada's constitution continued to require the approval of the British parliament until that date.
Similarly, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain continued to make the final decision on criminal appeals until 1933 and on civil appeals until 1949.

Federal-Provincial Relations

In Canada, the provinces are considered co-sovereign; sovereignty of the provinces is passed on, not by the Governor General or the Canadian parliament, but through the Crown itself. This means that the Crown is "divided" into eleven legal jurisdictions; into eleven "Crowns" - one federal and ten provincial.
Canada is a federation, with a parliamentary system of government. Being a federation means that powers and responsibilities are divided between the federal government and the 10 provincial governments. Canada also has three territorial jurisdictions. Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal (cities and towns). These governments are elected by the citizens of Canada.

Federal government (Government of Canada)

The federal government is responsible for:

  • defense;
  • foreign policy and foreign relations;
  • banking; the postal service;
  • criminal law;
  • immigration;
  • and citizenship.

Provincial Governments

Provincial governments are responsible for:

  • education; and
  • municipal institutions.

They also share responsibility with the federal government for:

  • health services;
  • farming;
  • social assistance;
  • transportation; and
  • the environment.

Territorial governments

The Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut are not sovereign units. They get their powers from the federal parliament, but they have elected assemblies that follow many of the same practices as the provincial governments.

Municipal governments

Municipal governments have functions delegated to them by other levels of government. They are responsible for local matters and services. These include:

  • police and fire protection;
  • water and sewer services;
  • recreation; and
  • local public transportation.
Summary of Governmental Organization of Canada
Type of government: Westminster style federal parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy.
  • Capital: Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Administrative divisions: Ten provinces and three territories*: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories*, Nova Scotia, Nunavut*, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon*.
  • National holiday: Canada Day, July 1.
  • Constitution: Westminster system, based on unwritten conventions and written legislation.
  • Legal system: English common law for all matters within federal jurisdiction and in all provinces and territories except Quebec, which is based on the civil law, based on the Custom of Paris in pre-revolutionary France as set out in the Civil Code of Quebec; accepts compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction, with reservations.
  • Suffrage: Citizens aged 18 years or older. Only two adult citizens in Canada cannot vote: the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer. The Governor General is eligible to vote, but abstains due to constitutional convention.
  • Monarchy

    • Head of state: Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada (since February 6, 1952).
    • Viceroy: Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada (since September 27, 2005).

    Executive Power

    • Head of government: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (since February 6, 2006).
    • Cabinet: Ministers (usually around thirty) chosen by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Governor General to lead various ministries and agencies, generally with regional representation.
    • Elections: The monarchy is hereditary. The Governor General is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister for a non-specific term, though it is traditionally approximately five years. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons is usually designated by the Governor General to become Prime Minister.

    Legislative Power

    The bicameral Parliament of Canada consists of three parts: the monarch, the Senate, and the House of Commons.

    Currently, the Senate, frequently described as providing "regional" representation, has 105 members appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister to serve until age 75.

    The House of Commons currently has 308 members elected in single-member districts in a plurality voting system.

    Judiciary Power

    The highest court in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada and is the final court of appeal in the Canadian justice system. The court is composed of nine judges: eight Puisne Justices and the Chief Justice of Canada. Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada are appointed by the Governor-in-Council.

    Also, by law, members of the bar, or superior judge of Quebec, must hold three of the nine positions on the Supreme Court of Canada. This representation makes sure that at least three judges have sufficient experience with the civil law system to treat cases involving Quebec laws.

    Regulatory Process

    The Government of Canada Regulatory Policy

    The key policy governing regulation in Canada is the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation (CDSR) that came into effect on April 1, 2007.

    The objective of the Cabinet Directive is to ensure that use of the government's regulatory power results in the greatest net benefit to Canadian society.

    The CDSR applies to federal departments and agencies with regulatory authority. For example, within a department's legislation, a Minister may be granted legislative authority to make regulations in certain areas.

    Canadians view health, safety, the quality of the environment, and economic and social well being as important concerns. Ensuring that government funds are spent wisely is in the public interest. The government will weigh the benefits of making regulations against their cost, and focus resources where they can do the most good.

    The federal government is committed to working in partnership with industry, labor, interest groups, professional organizations, other governments, and citizens, and will maintain its responsibility to serve the public interest.

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