Representative government is a system of government possessing an elected assembly (government elected, in part at least, by the people).
Representative government is a system of government possessing an elected assembly (government elected, in part at least, by the people). In colonies settled by the English, it was long recognized that, although the Crown might institute governments, the inhabitants could be legislated for and taxed only by a legislature in which they were represented, or by the British Parliament itself. In conquered colonies the Crown might legislate as it pleased; however, once colonies were promised or granted an assembly, that privilege could be taken away only by Parliament. The manner in which the Canadian provinces and territories received representative assemblies differed markedly, as did the powers of those assemblies. In Nova Scotia, the governors' commissions after 1719 looked to the establishment of an assembly, and the first elective assembly in what is now Canada met on 2 Oct 1758 in Halifax. Because of the difficulty of communications, the Crown granted PEI a separate government in 1769 and an elective assembly in 1773. In 1784, following the influx of LOYALISTS, New Brunswick was separated from Nova Scotia and given representative institutions. In 1832, after considerable debate in Britain, the governor of Newfoundland was instructed to summon an assembly.
Elsewhere today's representative institutions rest on statutes. The conquered colony of Canada was promised an assembly, but the British Parliament passed the QUEBEC ACT of 1774, establishing rule by governor and council. Hence the Crown lost its power to legislate for the province. A second British statute, the CONSTITUTIONAL ACT of 1791, created Upper and Lower Canada, each with an assembly; a third, the ACT OF UNION of 1840 (proclaimed 1841), reunited the 2 Canadas and established their Parliament; and a fourth, the BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT of 1867, created Québec and Ontario and laid the foundation of their present assemblies. The colony of Vancouver's I possessed an assembly, 1856-58, but the present form of legislature in BC stems from that of the elective assembly constituted under British authority before Confederation; it was first elected in 1871.
In 1870 the Canadian Parliament created Manitoba out of former HBC lands, granting it representative institutions. When the validity of the MANITOBA ACT was questioned, the British Parliament the following year empowered the Canadian Parliament to create provinces out of the same lands. The old North-West Territories received a fully elective assembly in 1886 by federal statute (see NORTH-WEST TERRITORIES ACT), before the creation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan with the usual elective assemblies, again by federal statute, in 1905 (see AUTONOMY BILLS). Parliament established the Yukon in 1898 and made its territorial council fully elective in 1908; the NWT Council, constituted in 1905, became partly elective in 1951 and fully elective in 1974. If history is a guide, these territorial councils are the forerunners of provincial assemblies. The conversion of representative into responsible government occurred over varying periods of time as circumstances permitted or dictated in a particular province (see RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT).
See also PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT.