The Lieutenant Governor's Roles
The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario plays two roles: a constitutional role and a community role.
Representing the Head of State:
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and the Queen is our head of state. The Queen is represented in each province by a Lieutenant Governor, who can exercise all of the powers and duties that could lawfully be exercised by the Queen. These powers are provided for in the Constitution Act, 1867; and through constitutional convention, unwritten yet well-understood rules that have developed over many years.
Canada is also a parliamentary democracy. This means that an elected official serves as the head of the government. In Ontario, this is the Premier. The Premier is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.
Once a Premier is appointed, the Lieutenant Governor allows the Premier and his or her cabinet to exercise the legal authority of the government for as long as they hold office.
Specific Powers and Responsibilities:
The Lieutenant Governor is responsible for the following:
- Ensuring that Ontario always has a Premier who commands the confidence of the elected Legislative Assembly.
- Appointing ministers to the Executive Council (cabinet) on the recommendation of the Premier.
- Summoning, proroguing and dissolving the Legislative Assembly on the advice of the Premier.
- Reading the Speech from the Throne at the start of a parliamentary session.
- Giving Royal Assent in the Queen's name to bills passed by the Legislative Assembly, the final step in the legislative process.
- Ordering elections to the Legislative Assembly on the advice of the Premier and cabinet.
- Approving regulations, public appointments and other government business via Orders-in-Council on the advice of the cabinet.
- Ensuring that the democratic will of Ontarians and their elected representatives is upheld and the unwritten constitutional conventions of responsible government are respected.
In a parliamentary democracy, the Lieutenant Governor almost always acts on the advice of the Premier and the cabinet. This is because it is the Premier and the cabinet who are ultimately accountable to the Legislative Assembly and the public for the government's actions while in office. This is why many of Ontario's statutes refer to legal authority being exercised by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, which means the Lieutenant Governor acting on the advice of the cabinet.
In fulfilling his or her duties, the Lieutenant Governor meets periodically with the Premier. In keeping with constitutional convention and tradition, these discussions remain confidential.
The Lieutenant Governor conducts himself or herself at all times in a nonpartisan fashion and is not involved in any political activity.
In addition to fulfilling a Constitutional role, the Lieutenant Governor also acts as the Queen's representative for diplomatic purposes and with the public.
The Lieutenant Governor also meets with visiting members of the royal family, heads of state, ambassadors, consuls and other representatives of foreign countries.
The Lieutenant Governor has also traditionally fulfilled an important role in reaching out to and educating the public about our democratic institutions and society. The Lieutenant Governor undertakes hundreds of engagements each year, many of them hosted at the Lieutenant Governor's Suite at Queen's Park in Toronto and others hosted in communities across Ontario. By meeting with as many Ontarians as possible and hearing their concerns, the Lieutenant Governor encourages dialogue, promotes community identity and fosters unity.
In addition to visiting as many different communities in Ontario as possible, Lieutenant Governors have traditionally granted vice-regal patronage to various charitable organizations and taken a special interest in their endeavours.