A. Representative and Responsible Government

Author:Patrick J. Monahan - Byron Shaw

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The Constitution Act, 1867 1did not attempt to comprehensively describe the institutions of government or their manner of operation. Instead, certain public institutions or practices that had become firmly established in the law of the British North American colonies were simply continued by the 1867 Act. These established institutions or practices in many cases were not explicitly referenced. The only oblique reference to this constitutional continuity was the phrase in the preamble to the Act stating that Canada was to have a "Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom." To understand what was contemplated by this reference, it is necessary to examine the manner in which governmental institutions had evolved in both Great Britain and British North America by the middle of the nineteenth century.

It is beyond the scope of this book to describe fully the constitutional or political history of the British North American colonies. Rather, our focus is on two constitutional developments in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that are key to understanding the manner in which the constitutional arrangements in 1867 were intended to operate. The first is the development of representative government and the second is the development of responsible government.

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Representative government refers to the requirement that laws can only be made by...

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