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
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
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
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.