Home > Role > Constitutional Duties
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, where the duties of head of State and head of Government are distinct. Canada’s Parliament consists of three parts: the Queen, represented by the governor general; the Senate; and the House of Commons.
The Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada (1947) authorize the governor general of Canada to exercise powers and responsibilities belonging to the Sovereign, with the advice of members of the Privy Council. The governor general is non-partisan and apolitical.
The Canadian Constitution Act (1867) places executive power in the Queen. However, in practice this power is exercised by the prime minister and his ministers. The governor general acts on the advice of the prime minister and the government, but has the right to advise, to encourage and to warn. As such, the governor general can offer valued counsel to the head of Government.
One of the governor general’s most important responsibilities is to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a government in place that has the confidence of Parliament. In addition, the governor general holds certain reserve powers, which are exercised at his or her own discretion. The governor general also presides over the swearing-in of the prime minister, the chief justice of Canada and cabinet ministers. It is the governor general who summons, prorogues and dissolves Parliament, who delivers the Speech from the Throne, and who gives Royal Assent to acts of Parliament. The governor general signs official documents and regularly meets with the prime minister.