Constitutionally, Canada’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.
She is represented by a governor general at the federal level and by 10 lieutenant governors, one per province.
The three territories each have a commissioner representing the Queen. They mainly have a ceremonial role.
The governor general, or his representative, grants royal assent to bills passed in Parliament.
He summons and dissolves Parliament, reads the speech from the throne, signs certain state documents and presides over certain swearing-in ceremonies.
Canada is also a parliamentary democracy. Members of Parliament meeting in the House of Commons hold legislative power, which means they can draw up and pass laws. They debate bills in the House, study them fully in committees, propose amendments to them, and then pass or defeat them.
Although government members usually introduce bills, opposition members may also introduce them on their own behalf.
The Senate also contributes to the legislative process by passing bills voted on by the House of Commons before they receive royal assent. Senators can reject a bill, but don’t do so often. They can also amend bills introduced in the House of Commons.
The Senate also has the power to introduce bills, except for money bills (those having a financial impact or requiring public expenditure).
In Canada, the Cabinet holds executive power. Its role is to set the policies of the government of the day and administer state affairs according to laws passed by the legislature.
The head of the Cabinet is the prime minister. Following parliamentary tradition, he is the leader of the party that obtained the most seats in the House of Commons.
The prime minister appoints ministers, senators, lieutenant governors of the provinces, and Supreme Court judges. He also chooses the date to dissolve Parliament and call an election and the date to vote.
Except in rare instances, ministers are chosen from members of Parliament. In comparison, the United States Constitution formally prohibits elected officials from being ministers (called “secretaries” in the U.S.).