Caretaker Government

A caretaker government is a government  during the period between when parliament is dissolved by a Governor General who calls an election, throughout the campaign period and continues until a new government is appointed  after the election.

The authority of this care taker government is typically limited. Canada currently has a caretaker government in place at the federal level because telhe country is in the middle of an election.

The National Post has a  article on an unusual move by the Clerk of the Privy Council, the most senior public servant in the federal public service, to release the rules that guide a caretaker government. The prime minister and other ministers of thr crown (cabinet ministers) must follow these rules.

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/restraint-is-the-watchword-what-a-caretaker-government-can-and-cant-do-during-an-election

You can find the “rulebook” here: http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/index.asp?lang=eng&page=convention&doc=convention-eng.htm

The rulebook also explains the caretaker convention or practice in detail as well as the impacts on public servants-the non-partisan, permanent staff which administer the day to day business of the federal government

Mandate Letters

Well, hello there. It’s been a while. I’m sorry about that. I am hoping to be more active on the site. While I haven’t been posting too much, I have been tweeting and retweeting @FromEhtoZ and on the Facebook fan page of the same name.

At any rate, stay tuned for a tutorial on the senate coming soon. In the meantime, check out the below post:


Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced earlier this week that her government would release Ministers’ Mandate Letters for all 30 ministries. This is part of the government’s overall commitment to accountability and transparency and is part of the Open Government initiative. Thursday’s news release issued after a Cabinet meeting in Sudbury officially made those letters public.

These documents are typically held in confidence in the Cabinet convention and are not usually released, or at least not for a long period of time (by tradition, Cabinet records are released after thirty years, though some may be accessed through a Freedom of Information requests after twenty for a charge of $5.00 each).

But what is a mandate letter and what is its purpose? A mandate letter is, well, a letter, from the premier (or prime minister at the federal level) to his or her minister. The letter outlines what the premier wants to the minister to do or accomplish over a set period of time (over a four year term, for example), though the exact timing is not always made clear. It is the official authority to do something: create a policy, develop a program, form a strategy, consult stakeholders, make changes to legislation or regulation, establish a board, agency or commission and so on. Each minister (and associate ministers in the case of Ontario) will get one.

In some cases, ministers may ask their boss to include something that the minister is interested in pursuing, a pet project or a personal focus, to their mandate letter.

Ontario is not the first province to publicize and post Cabinet mandate letters. It follows British Columbia, Saskatchewan and most recently Alberta in releasing these usually confidential documents. At the moment, federal mandate letters remain unavailable.

These letters will flow from the priorities and agenda the premier sets for a province, from her concerns and even prescribes the ways in which she would like the minister to work (eg. Work with stakeholders, municipalities and the public).

These documents are important, because they are like instruction manuals for how the minister will work in the coming years, how he or she will give direction to public servants in his or her ministry and the tone and ways in which the ministry will fulfil the mandate.

The minister will work with his or her deputy minister (the senior pubic servant in the ministry) to ensure that policy direction, priorities and flow down throughout the ministry and that public servants can begin working on various projects, initiatives, programs and policies which will help to fulfil this mandate.

It is important to note that mandate letters do not, and cannot cover everything. For instance, they do not cover “business as usual”- the day-to-day minutia, tasks and duties public servants carry-out to fulfil the administrative mandate of ministries.

Branches of Government: Legislative Branch Part I – The Legislature

This is a follow up to the Executive Branch, part of  a series on the branches of government in Canada. This marks part one of three on the Legislative Branch.

Note: I have been experiencing issues with getting embedding Prezi presentation to play on the site. Please view the video at this link if the Prezi will not play for you on the site

“Which Level of Government is responsible for…?” Divisions of Power

 Canada’s government is a federal system. That is, we have more than one level of government, in fact, we have a national (or federal government) uniting the country and 13 provincial & territorial governments which are governed individually. We also have local governments in municipalities and towns, which deal with (you guessed it) local issues.

As such, each level has its own set of powers or areas of legislative jurisdiction for which it is responsible.

Continue reading

Throne Speeches and Prorogation

For an interesting look at opinions on the purpose of Throne Speeches and the different traditions around Throne Speeches and Prorogation in other Westminster system, I invite you to check out On Procedure and Politics post here. This blog is always a great source of information on the nuances of parliamentary procedure.

How A Bill Becomes A Law

I could have “re-invented the wheel” by developing a tutorial or a post on how a bill becomes a law, but there are many good resources available to the public about this legislative process. I will, therefore, be posting some links to these resources here:

As I find new resources, I will update this page.

What’s different about this prorogation?

Prime Minister Harper today announced his intention to seek prorogation of the federal parliament. This would mean that instead of returning on September 16th, the House of Commons would return in October.

However, instead of simply resuming activities as it was before the summer break, a prorogation resets parliament, resulting in a new session. A new session requires a new Speech from the Throne.

Commentators had made this prediction a while ago ago, that prorogation was a necessary step to also reboot a struggling Conservative party bogged down by the Senate expense issue while also giving the new ministers from the recent Cabinet shuffle, a chance to get a little more comfortable in their new roles.

Any mention of prorogation, which has since entered into the lexicon of ordinary Canadians as something negative since Mr. Harper’s 2008 and 2009 prorogations first generated controversy (among other disquieting uses of the practice), is sure to generate some suspicion. However, this time Mr. Harper is bound to find many more supporters and much less dissent than his previous two requests. Why? Continue reading

Branches of Government: The Executive Branch

This is the first in a series on the branches of government in Canada. The Executive Branch will be followed by a three-parter on the Legislative Branch. A tutorial on the Judicial Branch will come later.

Note: I have been experiencing issues with getting embedding Prezi presentation to play on the site. Please view the video at this link if the prezi will not play for you on the site

What’s the difference between a session, a sitting and a parliament?

In an upcoming tutorial, I will be speaking about the Legislative Branch in Canada and I’ll get into some detail about certain parliamentary procedures, what happens in a typical session and so forth.

One thing that often gets people tripped up is the difference between a session, a sitting and a parliament.  In my research for the site, and in browsing for my own interest, I found a great post on this topic at a blog entitled, “On Procedure and Politics“. One you get the basics of the branches of government in Canada – the exective, the legislature- and start to take an interest in the procedural aspects of how it all works, and in particular the differences between our procedures and those of the United Kingdom, I would encourage you to check out the site.

For the purposes here, I would point you to a post appropriately titled “Sittings, sessions and parliaments” for an explanation of these terms.