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Doing provincial constitutions differently : codifying responsible government in the era of executive dominance O'Flaherty, Liam Michael


This paper examines the changing nature of provincial constitutions in Canada. Provinces are granted the right to have their own constitutions by Sections 58-90 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and various sections of the Constitution Act, 1982. The substance of provincial constitutions includes various Acts of provincial parliaments, long-standing constitutional conventions, unwritten rules and principles and common law. With respect to the practice of responsible government, the provinces have long relied on the traditionally “flexible” nature of their largely unwritten constitutions. Using the case studies of statutes dealing with the executive and legislative branches of government in the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, this paper analyzes recent changes in the statutes (and therefore constitutions) of the provinces. The analysis shows that there have been many changes in provincial constitutions on the subject of responsible government. The constitutions increasingly recognize the role of the Premier and cabinets, to the detriment of the traditional roles of Lieutenant Governors and the legislatures. This is in line with general trends in Canada’s provinces toward increased executive dominance. The practice of codifying changes in provincial constitutions is also more in line with how constitutional change happens in the states of comparable federations such as Australia and the United States.

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