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Photograph showing the interior of the House of Commons, May 20, 1897

Photograph showing the interior of the House of Commons, May 20, 1897
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Glossary

B

British North America Act
See Constitution Act, 1867.

C

Cabinet
The active component of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, comprised of government ministers responsible for federal departments, policies and planning.

Caucus
A gathering of all members of a political party represented in the House of Commons or the Senate, for the purpose of discussing the party's plans and policies.

Central agency
An executive unit such as the Privy Council Office, the Treasury Board Secretariat or the Public Service Commission, responsible for the formation and administration of government policies.

Civil Service
See Public Service.

Confederation
The union of British North American colonies initiated in 1867 by New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec), and advanced through to the membership of Newfoundland in 1949. Modified as recently as 1999 with the creation of the territory of Nunavut.

Constituents
Residents of a legislative district, known as a constituency or "riding," represented by a member of the House of Commons or, according to regional divisions, by an individual appointed to the Senate.

Constitution Act, 1867
Entitled the British North America Act until amended in 1982, this act of the British Parliament recognized the federal union of the provinces of Canada, and defined the branches and powers of Canada's federal and provincial governments.

Constitutional monarchy
The formal mode of government in Canada, in which executive, legislative and judicial powers are defined in legislation such as the Constitution Act, 1867 and divided between representatives of the Crown and the federal and provincial Cabinets.

Crown
The highest embodiment of executive power in Canada, derived from the British monarchy and represented by the governor general.

D

Department
An administrative unit, also referred to as a ministry, dedicated to a specific federal program, service or policy area.

Deputy minister
An executive public servant who administers a federal department and who serves as an advisor to a Cabinet minister.

E

Executive Branch
The branch of government that includes the governor general and lieutenant-governors as representatives of the Crown, and their advisors in the federal Cabinet or provincial executive councils.

F

Federalism
The distribution of legislative authority between a central government having jurisdiction over national issues and provincial governments having jurisdiction over regional issues, as established in the Constitution Act, 1867.

G

Government-of-the-day
The Cabinet -- and by extension, any members of the same party elected or appointed to a legislature -- given a mandate by the electorate and/or by the authority of the Crown to serve as the executive branch of government.

Governor general
Canada's symbolic head of state, representing the authority of the Crown.

Governor-in-council
The executive unit comprised of the governor general and the advisory committee of the Queen's Privy Council, which exercises executive power by means of orders-in-council.

H

Head of state
In the Canadian system of government, the Queen, represented by the governor general, embodies the highest authority.

House of Commons
The elected portion of the Canadian Parliament, also known as the Lower House, comprised of members of Parliament who form the government and opposition parties.

I

Indian Act
Canadian federal legislation that sets out certain federal government obligations and regulates the management of Indian reserve lands, Indian moneys and other resources.

Inner Cabinet
A group of Cabinet ministers who wield decisive executive authority concerning the business of Cabinet as a whole, usually identified with the group responsible for priorities and planning.

J

Judicial Branch
The branch of government described in Sections 96-101 of the Constitution Act, 1867, comprised of the federal and provincial systems that apply Canadian law in courts.

L

Legislative Branch
The branch of government that includes the federal House of Commons and Senate, and the provincial legislatures, responsible for the development and maintenance of legislation on behalf of their constituencies.

Legislation
Bills introduced in federal or provincial legislatures, which become law upon receiving royal assent.

Legislature
See Legislative Branch.

Letters Patent of 1947
The document that defines the modern authority and responsibilities of the governor general as the individual appointed to represent the Crown in Canada.

Lieutenant-governor
The provincial counterpart of the governor general, representing the Crown at the head of the provincial executive.

M

Member of Parliament
An individual elected to the House of Commons to represent a constituency.

Merit principle
The standard for hiring and promoting civil servants based on specific, objective qualifications, introduced to combat patronage appointments.

Minister
A member of Cabinet who is assigned a particular departmental portfolio, or who addresses administrative, symbolic or other non-departmental duties as a minister "without portfolio."

Ministry
An administrative unit, also referred to as a department, dedicated to a specific federal program, service or policy area. This term is also used to refer generally to the government-of-the-day; for example, the First Ministry under Sir John A. Macdonald governed from 1867 to 1873.

O

Order-in-council
A legislative instrument generated by the governor-in-council, which constitutes a formal recommendation of Cabinet that is approved and signed by the governor general.

P

Parliamentary democracy
The system of government in Canada, in which citizens' rights -- such as the ability to vote in elections -- are recognized and given expression in a Parliament, comprised of the Crown, an appointed Upper House (the Senate) and an elected Lower House (the House of Commons).

Patronage
An executive prerogative, generally criticized, in which appointments or other rewards are granted, often in recognition for political loyalty or other personal association.

Portfolio
A designation for the set of executive responsibilities assigned to a Cabinet minister or other member of government, usually comprising one or more specific policy areas.

Prime minister
The head of Canada's political executive, and usually the leader of the political party with the most representatives elected to the House of Commons.

Prime Minister's Office
A central agency that serves as the secretariat to the prime minister, responsible in particular for communications to and from the prime minister, and for coordinating administrative issues such as appointments.

Privy Council Office
A central agency that serves as the secretariat to the Privy Council, responsible in particular for coordinating the business of Cabinet.

Prorogue
An abrupt end to a parliamentary session and all parliamentary business, brought about through the recommendation of the prime minister and proclaimed by the governor general.

Public Service
The collective administrative personnel of government, also known as the civil service.

Public Service Commission
A central agency responsible for staffing, training and other administrative matters related to employment in Canada's public service.

Q

Queen's Privy Council for Canada
A body appointed to serve in an advisory role to the Crown on government business. The Privy Council's active political unit is the federal Cabinet.

S

Senator
An individual selected by the prime minister and appointed by the governor general to the Senate, Canada's Upper House. The Senator's primary responsibility is to represent regional interests, as opposed to specific local constituencies.

Statute
An act of Parliament which has received royal assent, and which may take effect as statutory law through an order-in-council.

T

Treasury Board Secretariat
A central agency that serves as the administrative branch of the Treasury Board, responsible for providing guidance on federal expenditures and for managing Canada's public service.

Treaty
An agreement between states under international law, or between the Crown and Native peoples. Treaty-making is an executive power, and therefore treaties are often confirmed through orders-in-council.