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

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Economic Statements

I’ve briefly talked about the Budget and economic statements in the tutorial on the legislative branch, but given that the federal finance minister, Joe Oliver, gave an update this afternoon, and other Canadian jurisdictions have or will be giving their own, I thought it would be a good idea to have a post to distinguish between the budget and economic statements. Continue reading

Why I Wear A Poppy

There are many reasons to wear a poppy.

Come the end of October I make sure that I pick up a new poppy. I put my donation in the box and fix my Canadian flag pin in the middle of the flower so that I don’t lose the symbol. It’s part of my annual ritual.

There are many reasons to wear a poppy, particularly this year.

Though the poppy’s origins come from the fields of Flanders in WWI and popularized in John McRae’s poem, it has come to be a symbol of remembrance for all armed conflict since 1914. And so we wear this symbol not only to
commemorate the lives lost in the two world wars, but in other conflicts such as Korea, NATO missions, and in more recent conflicts. But, we also celebrate those who survived.

We appreciate the family, friends and neighbours who work in similar service to their country daily. We pay tribute to their pain, strife, the sacrifices made , and the sacrifices others will continue to make on our behalf in the future.

Remembrance Day has never been more potent in the minds of Canadians as this year given recent events in which two soldiers brutally murdered by acts of madmen outside of combat. These past weeks have shown, sadly but
appropriately, that we have Canadian heroes, some of whom are ordinary, doing the extraordinary and this is their time as well.

And so, I wear a poppy because I value the men and women who serve and have served. I am in awe of their dedication, their courage and their sacrifice. I wear a poppy, as a personal reminder, of those Canadians who have lived before me, and who protected our freedom and the right of others to live freely.

I wear a poppy to show that I remember our fallen and stand with our veterans, to show my pride and appreciation and as a reminder to always remember.

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.

Explaining the Supreme Court Ruling on Marc Nadon

Back in February, I wrote a post on the problem with Marc Nadon’s appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. Friday, March 21st, the Supreme Court of Canada issued their ruling on the Reference Case posed to it by the Governor in Council (essentially, the prime minister and the Cabinet).

Marc Nadon’s appointment to the Supreme Court has been deemed unconstitutional, and his appointment to this country’s highest bench has been declared void. Continue reading

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

Why Liberal Senators Are Not So Liberal Anymore

On January 29th, 2014, Justin Trudeau, federal Liberal Party leader emerged from a meeting with his Senate caucus members and announced that these 32 senators would no longer be Liberal senators; that they would no longer be a part of the National Liberal Caucus – which is typically composed of both elected Liberal members of parliament and appointed Liberal senators. Instead senators would now sit as independents in the Upper Chamber, would not attend the weekly Liberal caucus meetings and would not be allowed to help party fundraising efforts. Funnily enough though, these senators would still be members of the Liberal party- there was no getting around that!

Mr. Trudeau justified his surprising decision saying that he wants the Senate to be a non-partisan House of parliament, independent of the prime minister’s (and supposedly other party leaders’) reach, to remove party politics from the troubled Upper Chamber.

“If the Senate serves a purpose at all,” Mr. Trudeau said, “it is to act as a check on the extraordinary power of the prime minister and his office, especially in a majority government” and that party structures “interferes with this responsibility.”

Of course, we know from previous posts on the Senate, that Mr. Harper’s government has been trying to reform the Senate and is now awaiting a response to the government’s reference case from the Supreme Court of Canada to determine how and whether the government can make its proposed changes. At the same time, Mr. Harper has increased the number of Conservative senators by filling vacancies via appointment.

But, what does Mr. Trudeau hope to accomplish with this move? Continue reading

“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

The Problem with the Nadon Appointment

Along with senators, cabinet ministers, and really, the governor general, the prime minister acting on behalf of the government also appoints judges to various levels of the judicial system through the Governor In Council process (which we will get into at another time). The most important of these judicial appointments are the ones to the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court of the land, the final court of appeal and the interpreter of the Constitution.

By why all the fuss with this appointment? What makes this one any different than previous appointments? That is what we will be talking about in this post. Continue reading