Principles of Canadian Government

Week 1

Class coordinators

Cameron Walker, Maria Zhurov


All national political structures are grounded in their own unique history, but also exercise common functions. Whether we are looking at Canada or a warlord’s territory in Sierra Leone, we can define executive, legislative, judicial, and administrative functions. Together these functions provide steering or direction (governance). There are also forces and organizations not under control of government (civil society), which sometimes organize to get their hands on the steering wheel of government. There are ideas (religions and ideologies) that describe and explain how the world works and prescribe what should be done about it, and these are affected by currents of socialization and cleavages in society (we’ll explore them further in weeks 10 and 11). Government and civil society interact in public space, which depends on political infrastructure. This much is common to all political systems, and we’ll take some time to ensure that this map makes sense to everyone.

Learning objectives

  • Develop your functional map of the components of Canadian government at federal, provincial and municipal levels.
  • Identify structures responsible for executive, legislative, judicial, and administrative functions in Canada
  • Describe civil society
  • Identify where political parties fit (private organizations with a public purpose)
  • Describe political infrastructure and its evolution (‘hardware’ and ‘software’)

Key terms: Nation, Nation-State, Sovereignty, Crown, Democracy, Minority Rights, Royal Proclamation of 1763, Quebec Act (1774), Responsible Government, Federalism, Division of Powers, responsible government, parallel governance, deep government

Required reading

  • Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapter 2, “Institutional Foundations and the evolution of the state”


Weekly activities can be adjusted by class coordinators in consultation with the professor
Week 4 checklist of material

[1] Introduction from class coordinator – time allocation
[2] Current events of political significance (domestic, international) [60s]
[3] Review/amend focus of learning objectives [5D]
[4] Key terms [5D, GLI]
[5] Critical Approaches and Studying Politics [5D, GLI]
[6] External resources [class coordinator]
[7] Exam questions [5D, GLI]
[8] Looking ahead: next week’s class coordinator introduces (last 15 minutes)

Suggested resources

Dyck, Studying Politics, Chapter 4 “Pluralism, nationalism, and identity”
Senator Eugene Forsey, How Canadians Govern Themselves
Presentation: ELAJ (see me if you would like an explanation of any aspects)
Presentation: Decision-making
Last and Milne, “National Security Decision-Making for Crises and Threats
CBC The House” Look for relevant stories and interviews with national politicians

Next up

This week served as an overview of Canadian government. Next we will focus in on legislative and executive processes. These are significant for citizens in general, because they are determine the extent to which governments achieve the things that citizens expect. They are significant for special interests, which try to manipulate process to achieve their objectives. The concepts of “delivering” or “getting things done” is a recent response to the frustrations of political and bureaucratic gridlock.