The Invisible Crown

The Invisible Crown: The First Principle of Canadian Government

DAVID E. SMITH
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 290
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt5hjv24
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  • Book Info
    The Invisible Crown
    Book Description:

    The Invisible Crowntraces Canada's distinctive form of federalism, with highly autonomous provinces, to the Crown's influence. Smith concludes that the Crown has greatly affected the development of Canadian politics due to the country's societal, geographic, and economic conditions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6914-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    Authors often complain that reviewers criticize books they did not write. An introduction presents an opportunity to avoid misunderstanding, one that should especially be seized when the topic is the Crown. Although the Crown is Canada’s oldest continuing political institution, it is perhaps the least understood. Part of the reason is personalities: the Crown is identified with the sovereign (more than with the sovereign’s representatives, if the observations of Canadians compiled during the research for this book are an indication), and almost never as an institution of government. Part of it is circumstance: long out of fashion in the new...

  5. 1 The Monarchical Idea
    (pp. 3-19)

    In his bookThe English Constitution,published in 1867, Walter Bagehot claimed that the ‘mass of mankind’ understood monarchy because it was simple and intelligible. The same, he argued, could not be said of parliamentary and cabinet government whose multiple parts and shifting alliances perplexed and confounded the populace. Bagehot intended that his treatise should elucidate these mysteries; and so it did, and does. K.C. Wheare, the interpreter of another governmental form, federalism, credits Bagehot with ‘inventing’ the English constitution, one which people had failed to ‘recognize or apprehend’ before he wrote about it.¹ The attraction of Bagehot’s analysis rests...

  6. 2 The Crown
    (pp. 20-37)

    It would simplify the discussion that follows if the equation between Crown and government expressed above were true. Alas, it is not; nor has it ever been a full and accurate rendering of the meaning of the term ‘Crown’. Why the then premier of New Brunswick should have been so economical in his definition is understandable, however: by the 1860s responsible government was the ark of the constitution of the British North American colonies, though the law it housed was no tablet of stone but an intangible amalgam of custom, usage, and convention. True, the Crown remained, as it always...

  7. 3 Canadianizing the Crown
    (pp. 38-62)

    A substantial basis of the post-Confederation system of government is to be found in the pre-Confederation system of government. Of no aspect of governing is this statement more true than the structure and operation of the executive. In the colonies there had been governors and executive councils, and following the grant of responsible government the latter had come more and more to conduct their business without the respective governors present. The withdrawal of the governor was by no means total (well into Confederation the governor general was present at a number of formal meetings of the Queen’s Privy Council for...

  8. 4 Government of the Day
    (pp. 63-85)

    It is now well established that strong executives characterize Canadian politics. W.P.M. Kennedy stated the fact bluntly: ‘Nothing is more remarkable in Canada than the autocratic power of the cabinet in every legislature in the land.’¹ And a chorus of academics have echoed this refrain. The origin of Canada’s strong executives lies in the suspicion, even hostility, the Fathers of Confederation felt toward democracy. It is no difficult task to unearth quotable passages to this effect in theConfederation Debates.Much more of a challenge is it to find in that record some positive reference to popular government. But mid-nineteenth...

  9. 5 The Culture of Administration
    (pp. 86-109)

    Executive dominance, whose legal source of authority emanates from the Crown, pervades Canada’s political system. It follows that administration, the processes and instruments by which the executive seeks to achieve its goals, will both reflect and reinforce that essential character. If wide discretion marks the political executive, as it does, then wide discretion will be exercised by its civil servants. Discretion in this latter instance should not be confused with independence, however, for in a system of responsible government ministers are accountable for the decisions of their officials.¹ Again, if the political executive is immune, or nearly so, to judicial...

  10. 6 The Crown-in-Parliament
    (pp. 110-133)

    It is in the nature of responsible government in a constitutional monarchy to depreciate the lingering influence of monarchy. This is not to say that the power of the Crown as a consequence contracts - in fact, it has expanded - but that the ambit for arbitrary action by the monarch is reduced to an absolute and, except in extraordinary circumstances, inconsequential minimum. At the same time it is in the interest of responsible government that the powers of the Crown, exercisable only on the advice of the political executive, should remain indeterminant and unseizable; this way the Crown helps...

  11. 7 Law, Judiciary, and the Crown
    (pp. 134-155)

    Previous chapters have demonstrated that in Canadian politics the Crown-in-Parliament, like Copernicus’s sun, lies at the heart of a system. Over time the processes of modern parliamentary politics have worked to amass its power through such practices as intensified party discipline and increased use of legislative delegation. Until the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, no higher law restrained this development, for within its sphere of jurisdiction the Crown-in-Parliament was sovereign. Nor was it the function of the courts to check the accretion of power that resulted. In fact, it will be argued below, the...

  12. 8 Compound Monarchy and Canadian Federalism
    (pp. 156-173)

    Canada’s contribution to the science of governing is to be found in the marriage of parliamentary government and federalism solemnized at Confederation. According to Bagehot, there were but two constitutional arrangements available in 1867 to assure popular rule - those of Great Britain and the United States. The British North American colonies, however, chose cardinal principles from each, superimposing the federal principle of one on the political understandings of the other. Around this uneasy integration Canadian politics has since revolved.

    Thus parliamentary federalism was no ordinary concept. Yet its originality has been undervalued, and this for several reasons. First, Confederation...

  13. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 174-186)

    In 1867 the novelty of Canada’s constitution lay in its union of parliamentary government and federalism. Unique through the remaining decades of the nineteenth century, Canada eventually shared its distinctive constitutional arrangement, first with Australia, and, then, much later, with other Commonwealth countries such as India. Yet while these principles of government might be shared, their application varied extensively. For example, Australia used the ingredients to create a polity Campbell Sharman has labelled a compound republic. Australia was not alone in being inventive, however. At the core of every country’s constitution lie understandings and agreements that confound the easy adaptation...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 187-236)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-260)
  16. Index
    (pp. 261-274)