There are in Canada sixteen Departments of State, presided over by Ministers, viz., Justice, Finance, Agri-culture, Secretary of State, External Affairs, Marine and Fisheries, Naval Service, Militia, Customs, Inland Revenue, Interior, Post Office, Public Works, Trade and Commerce, Customs, and Labour.
To the Prime Minister is assigned no particular place ; and, in the past, various portfolios have been held by the several occupants of the office. The present Premier, the Right Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, holds that of President of the Council.
The Minister of Justice is by virtue of his office Attorney-General of Canada, and is entrusted with practically the same powers and charged with the same duties, which belong to the office of Attorney-General in this country, so far as these are applicable to Canada. He is charged with the duty of seeing that the administration of Public Affairs is in accordance with law, and has the control or superintendence of all matters concerning the administration of Justice in the Dominion falling within the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. He must advise upon Provincial legislation in case it has gone beyond the powers of the provinces, and he advises the Crown generally on all legal matters referred to him. He also has superintendence of Penitentiaries and the prison system generally.
The Department of Finance, under the control of the Minister of Finance, has the supervision and control of all matters connected with Financial Affairs and Public accounts, revenue and expenditure of the Dominion, excepting such matters as may be assigned to other Departments. He is a member of the Treasury Board, which is a Committee of the Privy Council on all matters above mentioned. The Department has to deal with Banks and with the issue of Dominion notes and the currency generally. The Minister of Finance is also Receiver-General, and it is provided that all public moneys, from whatever source of revenue derived, shall be paid to his credit as such.
The duties and powers of the Minister of Agriculture, extend, among other matters, to the administration of laws and Orders in Council, relating to the following matters, which are controlled by his Department. Agriculture ; Public Health and Quarantine, Arts and Manufactures ; The Census ; Patents, Copyright, etc. The Minister keeps a register of copyrights, in which entries are made under the Copyright Act. A census is taken in every tenth year, and the Department prepares all forms and instructions necessary for the taking of the same, and lays before Parliament abstracts and returns showing the results of the Census. The Experimental Farms, established in various parts of the Dominion, come under the control of the Minister. All matters respecting Infectious or Contagious Diseases affecting animals are dealt with in his Department.
The duties of the Secretary of State include the keeping of the State Correspondence, and the keeping of State records and papers. He is also the Registrar-General of Canada, and as such, registers all proclamations, commissions, letters patent, and other instruments and documents issued under the Great Seal, and all bonds, warrants of extradition, etc., etc. In 1909 a Department called the Department of External Affairs, was created by Statute. Over this Department it was provided that the Secretary of State for the time being should preside, and that he, as head of the department, should have the conduct of all official communications between the Government of Canada and the Government of any other country in connection with the external affairs of Canada. It was also provided that all matters relating to the foreign consular service in Canada should be transferred to it.
The Minister of Marine and Fisheries has the management and direction of this public Department under his control. He also presides over the newly-formed ” Department of the Naval Service,” and is called the Minister of the Naval Service. The former Department has the control among other things of matters relating to pilots, the construction and maintenance of lighthouses, lightships, etc., piers, wharves, steamboat inspection, registering and measurement of shipping, hydrographic surveys, deck and load lines, and the management, regulation and protection of sea coast and inland fisheries except the fisheries protection service. The Minister of the Naval Service has the control and management of all naval affairs, including the construction, purchase, etc., of naval establishments and of ships and other vessels. The Fisheries Protection Service is also under his control.
The Minister of Militia and Defence is charged with and is responsible for the administration of Militia affairs, and of the fortifications, ordnance, arms, armouries, stores, etc., belonging to Canada, including the initiative in all matters involving the expenditure of money.
The Department of Customs is presided over by the Minister of Customs. The Governor-General appoints a Commissioner of Customs. The department has control and management of the collection of the duties of Customs, and of matters incident thereto, and of the officers and servants employed in that service.
The Department presided over by the Minister of Inland Revenue has the control and management of the collection of stamp duties, and the preparation and issue of stamps and stamp paper, except postage stamps ; of internal taxes ; standard weights and measures, and the collection of bridge and ferry tolls and rents.
The Minister of the Interior has the management of the affairs of all Crown lands and all other public lands not specially under the control of other departments. All matters referring to the regulation and control of immigration, are also under the control of this Minister.
The Postmaster-General may, subject to the Acts in force, establish and close Post Offices, appoint and suspend Postmasters, make mail contracts, and promulgate regulations with regard to postal matters, make orders and regulations respecting the money-order system ; grant licences for the sale of stamps, etc., etc.
The Minister of Public Works has the management, charge and direction of dams, construction and repair of harbours, piers and works for improving navigation, and vessels, tools, implements and machinery for the improvement of navigation. He also has control of the slides, dams and other works used for the transmission of timber, and the collection of fees incident thereto, roads and bridges, public buildings, and telegraph lines. He has under his direction all matters appertaining to the maintenance and repair of Government buildings at Ottawa, and all other property belonging to Canada acquired, constructed, enlarged, etc., at the expense of Canada, or for the acquisition, construction, etc., of which any public money is voted and appropriated by Parliament, except works for which money has been appropriated as a subsidy only.
The duties and powers of the Minister of Trade and Commerce extend to the execution of laws enacted by the Parliament of Canada and orders of the Governor in Council, relating to such matters connected with trade and commerce generally not by law assigned to any other Department of the Government of Canada. The administration and execution of the following Acts are under his management and direction : The Cullers Act ; The Inspection and Sale Act, with the exception of certain parts ; and the Manitoba Grain Act.
The Minister of Labour is charged with the administration of the Conciliation and Labour Act and the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, 1907, and with such other duties as may be assigned to him by the Governor in Council.
Since the Cabinet depends for its existence upon the approval of the Lower House, the major part of the ministry is naturally drawn from the Legislative Assembly though always a small number of positions is given to members of the Senate. These never number more than four. The head of the Cabinet, as in England, is known as the Premier (because when the Governor-General wishes a new Cabinet to be formed he is the first man called upon to form it), and the Governor-General appoints his nominees. Every Minister has the right to communicate direct with the Governor-General on all departmental matters, but with general communications between the Cabinet and the Governor-General the Premier is the medium of communication.
The Cabinet, as in England, is bound by certain conventions : conventions not written down in the British North America Act or by any law other than parliamentary usage. On the death or resignation of the Premier the Cabinet is dissolved, and ministers hold office only until a new Premier is called. He may either ask them to continue in office, or accept their resignations, which are automatically offered. In the case of an adverse vote in the Lower House, the Premier must either resign or convince the Governor-General that a dissolution is necessary, on the grounds that the adverse vote does not represent the wishes of the people. Proclamations resuming or dissolving parliament, writs of election, etc., are signed by the Governor-General, and countersigned by the Minister, or other proper officer.