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In the preface to the same work, the distinction between the British and the American systems of government is shortly stated, in language which we have no hesitation in adopting
“It is our legislative and administrative machinery which makes our government essentially different from all other great governmental systems. The most striking contrast in modern politics is not between Presidential and Monarchial governments, but between Congressional and Parliamentary governments. Congressional government is Committee government; Parliamentary government is government by a responsible cabinet ministry.
" These are the two principal types which present themselves for the instruction of the modern student of the practical in politics : administration by semi-independent executive agents, who obey the dictation of a legislature to which they are not responsible; and administration by executive agents, who are the accredited leaders and accountable servants of a legislature virtually supreme in all things."
Neither need we hesitate to give expression to our decided preference for the system of cabinet government which obtains in England, when we find so thoughtful a writer as Prof. Wilson-a citizen of the Republic at thatdoing the like.
After this comparison of the two leading types of Anglo-Saxon self-government, it is easy to decide to which the Canadian constitution conforms.
We shall have occasion to again refer to the limits set to our right of self-government, by reason of our colonial subjection to the ultimate supremacy of the Imperial parliament. In this chapter, we have endeavored to show that this subjection is but that subordination of a “local to a “national” government, essential in any truly federal scheme of government. If, indeed, to establish our position, we must show that some one parliamentary body, elected by a Canadian electorate, is possessed of the ultimate sovereignty in Canada over every conceivable subject
matter of governmental action, the discussion need go no further; for, admittedly, we are a colony of Great Britain, and in the ultimate legal analysis our government is from without. This, however, is not, we take it, the point of distinction.
If we can show that so far as the right of local selfgovernment—the right to make the laws by which we are to be governed, and to execute those laws as suits ourselves -has been conceded, our power is exercisable, the lawmaking power with the same efficacy, and the law-executing power, under the same principle of responsibility to parliament, and, through parliament, to the electorate, as in the United Kingdom, we shall have established our proposition.
To any one who has knowledge of the constitutions of the provinces prior to confederation, it is unnecessary to point out, that since the concession of “Responsible Government," and up to 1867, those constitutions were “similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom," and that all that has been said in reference to the British constitution might be repeated in reference to (old) Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Nor will it be contended that, under the B. N. A. Act, the sum total of our rights of self-government has been lessened ; in fact, as we shall have occasion to show, that sum total has been largely increased, both legally and by "conventions.” And no one who knows the actual working of the machinery of government in Canada, will contend that we have, either in the Dominion government; or the government of the various provinces, other than a parliamentary government.
It has been usual to speak of “the division of power” under a federal system. In truth, this form of expression is most inapt, and very inaccurately describes the division of labor which really exists. Its thoughtless use has been fruitful of much misconception of the true line or principle
of division. Bearing in mind what is involved in the term government-law-making and law-executing-and the coextensive and complementary spheres of action of these two chief departments. of government, we shall find that there is, in our system, no "division of power” in the sense in which such division was, by the older writers, erroneously assumed to exist under the British form of government; and certainly none in the sense in which such division does actually exist in the individual systems of the United States. Our simile of the endless chain may, perhaps, serve to impress the true principle of our form of government upon the reader, and that principle underlies the practical working of each and every of our governmental organizations, Dominion and Provincial.
The true line of division is this: The various subject matters, with which government can be supposed to have anything to do, are divided into two great divisions (7") -matters of general and matters of local concern—but to each of such divisions, the full equipment of power, legislative and executive, is given. There is no division of function in the sense that as to any given subject matter, legislative power resides in one organization or government, and executive power in another; as to any given subject matter, the full power of government rests in one and the same governmental body. The Dominion government and the Provincial governments are (each within the sphere of its legitimate operation) carried on, on the same principle as the government of the United Kingdom. Jurisdiction as to subject matter conceded, the will of the legislature, Dominion or Provincial, is supreme over the executive, in the same sense as the will of the Imperial parliament is supreme over the executive in the United Kingdom. The legal principle, so strongly insisted upon by Mr. Dicey—the supremacy of parliament--as clearly appears here as in the United Kingdom; while, for the conventional” aspect of the
(r) See Bank of Toronto v. Lambe, 12 App. Cas. 587, and post, Chap. X.
question, it is only necessary to carry the comparison one step further, and point out that, as in the United Kingdom, so here, the ultimate responsibility of the executive to the electorate, through the elective branch of the legislature, is clearly established, in relation as well to each provincial as to the Dominion government. The elective branch of the legislature (Dominion Parliament or Provincial Legislative Assembly) represents, and is directly responsible to, the electorate—as in the United Kingdom. The Executive Committee (the cabinet) composed of members of the legislature, holding their positions by virtue of, and contingently upon, the retention of the confidence of the elective branch of that Legislature, are therefore, practically directly responsible to that elective branch -as in the United Kingdom. The same chain of connected relation, the same source of motive power, and the same method of applying that power to the work of government, exists in each of our governmental bodies, as in the United Kingdom.
In this view of the Canadian constitution, the extent to which the executive department of the Dominion government may exercise, over Acts of the provincial legislative assembly, the power of disallowance, will appear quite immaterial when it is borne in mind that this power is, in any given case, exercised under the same responsibility (directly to the Dominion parliament, and indirectly, through the elective branch of that parliament, to the electorate) as exists in relation to the exercise of any other executive power lodged in the hands of the Dominion government. And so as to any other points of contact, or even conflict, between the Dominion and Provincial governments—or, for that matter, between two local governments —for its conduct with regard to such matter of contact or conflict, for its action or inaction, each government (executive and legislative department alike) is responsible ultimately to the electorate, who condemn or approve in the very same way and with like results as in the case, for
example, of a conflict between Lords and Commons in the United Kingdom.
Nor would it make the slightest difference, if (as was held in certain quarters, for some years after 1867,) concurrent power over many subject matters were, by the B. N. A. Act, allotted to both the Dominion and Provincial governments, and if the true construction of that Act were, to subordinate provincial legislation upon such matters, to Dominion legislation thereon. Colonial legislation is completely subordinate to Imperial, and to the extent of its
repugnancy" to such Imperial legislation, is utterly void ; and yet no one, we fancy, would contend that, by reason of such subordination, the constitutions of the pre-Confederation provinces, for example, were other than constitutions similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom. The sphere of their power of government was limited by reason of their colonial status, but so far as they had power, that power was exercised through the same medium of responsible parliamentary government. And so now, under the B. N. A. Act, each government, Dominion or Provincial, has limitations set to its sphere of operation, but each, within its sphere, is a responsible parliamentary government.