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The Prairie Provinces
Chapter XVIII. Our Government

Canadians have every reason to be proud of their form of government. They are ever ready to

render a willing obedience to their sovereign. King Edward VII. At the same time they are practically a self-governed people and are left free to make their own laws. Thus it may be said that while they are the loyal subjects of the King they may be said to rule themselves. Those who have framed the British constitution have dealt wisely with Canada, for they have added to the loyalty of Canadians by leaving them free to govern themselves. But self-government is a great responsibility. The boys and girls who are now attending school will one day be the ruling citizens of Canada. How necessary it is, therefore, that they should understand the system of government which they are to direct!

Our form of government may be said to be of four kinds, called, according to the extent of each, municipal, provincial, federal, and imperial. The meaning of these terms should be understood at the outset. The city, town, village, or country district in which you live is called a municipality, and has a municipal government. The province, within which your municipality is situated, has a provincial government. The group, 01* federation, of provinces to which yours belongs is controlled by a federal government. The term imperial is applied to the government of the empire.

Winnipeg is a municipality and, therefore, has a municipal government. Manitoba, the province in which this municipality is situated, has a provincial government. The government of Canada, a federation of provinces, is federal : while that of the British Empire is imperial.


Let us consider, in the first place, why it is necessary to have government at all. Every man who owns property, say a house and lot, looks after it himself. So long as he does not interfere in any way with the rights of his neighbors he may in a sense do what he likes with his own. He makes all necessary improvements, such as planting trees and building fences. In a municipality it is different. There are many things which the citizens have in common, but which no one person can be said to own, such as parks, roads, and public libraries. Now, as roads and parks have to be kept in good condition, and new books bought for libraries, some persons must be found to attend to these matters. The people, therefore, elect from their number a few men who make it their business to care for everything belonging to the public. This group of men is called a council, and looks after the affairs of the municipality.

Have you in connection with your school a literary society? If so, you elect each term a committee, composed of a president, vice-president, and other members, whose duty it is to manage the society. The members of the committee are your representatives and you hold them responsible for the proper management of your society. This will help you to understand the position occupied by the council which is annually elected by the citizens of your municipality.

Every city municipality has its own council, composed of a mayor, who is the head, and a number of aldermen. A town council consists of a mayor and councillors; a village council, of a mayor, or overseer, and councillors. The number of aldermen in a city municipality, and councillors in a town and a village municipality, varies in the provinces. The council of a rural municipality is -composed of a reeve and from four to six councillors. All these officials, mayors, aldermen, reeves and councillors, are elected yearly or bi-yearly. Mayors and reeves are elected by all the voters of a municipality.

As the form of municipal government is not the same in the three provinces, and as it is at present undergoing certain radical changes, the teacher should try to make himself thoroughly familiar with these, in so far as they relate to the city, town, village and rural municipalities in the provinces.

It is the duty of each council to make laws to govern the municipality which it represents. These are called by-laws, that is, laws of a bye, or township, and must be obeyed by all citizens. ’Whenever a very important by-law, one involving the expenditure of a large sum of money, is proposed, the council must submit it to a vote of the people.

In your literary society you have a set of rules, or by-laws, which are intended for the guidance of the members. All must observe these rules, otherwise there would be no order.

Whenever the committee of your society is about to make a very important move, for example, the spending of a large sum of money, it first consults the whole society.

So varied are the duties to be performed in governing a municipality, that several permanent officials are appointed by the council. One of these, the clerk, records the proceedings of the council’s meetings, keeps the books of the municipality, and publishes all by-laws. Another official is the treasurer, who receives and pays out all money. Often matters arise which require a knowledge of law, and so it is necessary for the council to engage the services of a solicitor. In cities, where public works, such as pavements and

water-works, are extensive and costly, an expert engineer is engaged. Another important official is the health officer, whose duty it is to check such contagious diseases as measles and diphtheria.

Have you ever thought of the importance of the school you are attending? Who had it built? Who keep it in repair? Who choose your teachers?

The work of education is considered so important that its control is entrusted to a special body of citizens. Each year, in addition to electing members of council, the people also choose trustees, who look after the building and managing of public schools. In cities, towns, and villages, two trustees are elected in each ward, one retiring annually, the other continuing m office a year longer. In rural districts, three trustees are chosen at the first election, after which one retires each year. Every board of trustees employs a secretary-treasurer, and in cities a superintendent.

Now, all these things, the making of roads and the erection of public buildings, require a great sum of money. This money the council raises by such property as land, machinery, and buildings-churches, hospitals, and schools being free from taxation. In the work of taxing, assessors and collectors are employed, the former to assess, or estimate, the value of property, the latter to collect the taxes when fixed.

To return to your literary society. You need, in connection with it, money to buy books, music,' and other supplies. How is the money raised % Your treasurer collects from each member a fee, the amount of which depends upon the expenses of the society. The fee increases with the expenses. So also in a municipality, the amount of the taxes depends upon the kind of malls and schools that are built.


Up to this point we have been learning how a municipality governs itself through a council and several officials. Let us next consider the need of some government above the municipalities. Just as in a town there are many things of interest to all the townsmen, but for which no one person is responsible; so also in a province there are institutions, such as asylums, universities, and railways.

which are used by all the municipalities alike but controlled by none. The citizens of the province, therefore, elect representatives who meet in the most central municipality, called the capital. This body of representatives is known as the legislature, because its duty is to legislate or make laws. These laws, being of interest to the whole of the province, cannot, therefore, be left to any municipal council; and so arises the necessity of provincial government.

Have you a football club in your school? If so, it is, like your literary society, managed by a committee. There are, perhaps, other schools in your neighborhood which also have football clubs. When you wish to play a series of games with these, you find that you require a set of rules to govern the competition. The making of these rules could not fairly be left to any one club. Each club, therefore, chooses one or more representatives, and these meet at some central point. Here they draw up rules to govern the league. In the same way the provincial parliament, made up of representatives from all parts of the province, meets at the capital to make laws to govern all the municipalities.

Since the legislature only legislates, or makes laws, there is need of a body to carry into force, or execute, these laws. For this purpose there is chosen, mainly from the legislature, a group of men called the executive council, or cabinet, or ministry. Being virtually a committee, this council feels responsible to the body from which it is selected. The ministers enjoy, while in office, the title of “Honorable.” Their duties are clearly defined.

In addition to a legislature and an executive council, there is connected with a provincial government a Lieutenant Governor, who is at the head of the system. His assent must be given before any bill can become law. He performs many, important duties; calls together and dissolves the legislature, and makes all appointments to pro-Municipal offices. In all these duties, however, the governor acts upon the advice of the executive council, so that, while he nominally conducts the government, the real power rests with the council. The council, being chosen from the legislature, represents the will of the people. It will be seen, then, that the people of the province really rule themselves. The Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the federal government, which we shall next consider.


The Dominion of Canada is made up of a group, or federation, of provinces. Each province has its local government, like the one described above, and is independent in all matters relating to itself alone. There are, however, many interests which all the provinces have in common. They all need the railways which pass across the continent ; they all use the same postal system; they all enjoy the protection of a common militia. These facts explain the need of a federal government to control those institutions which concern, not one, but all the provinces.

The federal, or Dominion, system contains a legislative assembly, called the House of Commons, composed of two hundred and twenty-one members.

Manitoba elects ten of these members, Saskatchewan ten, and Alberta seven. The making of laws for the Dominion is so important that it is thought necessary to have a second legislative body, called the Senate, whose duty it is to revise the work of the House of Commons. The senators are appointed for life by the Governor General, acting upon the advice of the council. Each of the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta has a representation in the Senate of four members. The House of Commons and Senate together form the legislature of the Dominion, and from them is chosen an executive council. This council, while responsible to the legislature, advises the Governor General, the representative in Canada of the Sovereign of the British Empire.

We have described the municipal, provincial, and federal systems of government, and have referred to a fourth, the imperial. Each of the first three systems, while independent within its own limit, may be checked by the one above it whenever that limit is overstepped. Thus a municipal council may pass by-laws relating to purely local interests, but it is for the provincial legislature to determine what such interests are. Again, the provincial legislature makes laws to control provincial affairs, but any enactment, for instance one interfering with the interests of another province, may be disallowed by the federal government and thereby be prevented from becoming law. A similar power of disallowance is exerted over the federal parliament by the imperial government, whenever a measure threatens the welfare of the British Empire at large.

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