At the most basic level, Canada is a representative
democracy with a Constitution. Our Constitution outlines the fundamental principles which
determine how we are governed. But to be more specific, Canada is best described
as a federal state, a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy.
A federal state brings together a number of different communities in a country with a
central government for general purposes and separate local governments for local purposes.
In Canada, we actually have three levels of government – federal, provincial or territorial
and local or municipal. The responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments
are set out in Canada’s Constitution. A parliamentary democracy is a system with
elected representatives and political parties, whereby the composition of the legislature
determines the government. This means the political party with the most number of representatives
in the legislature becomes the governing party and their leader becomes the leader of the
government. A constitutional monarchy means the King or
Queen is our head of state and he or she is guided by our Constitution. Although Queen
Elizabeth II lives in England, she is also the Queen of Canada. The King or Queen is
represented by the Governor General at the federal level and the Lieutenant Governor
at the provincial level. Our Constitution limits the amount of power
the Queen has, and ensures that we remain a democracy above all else. The Queen and
her representatives have important ceremonial and symbolic functions, but it is still our
elected representatives, and therefore the people, who make decisions for our country.