Responsible government

Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability, the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.[1] Governments (the equivalent of the executive branch) in Westminster democracies are responsible to parliament rather than to the monarch, or, in a colonial context, to the imperial government, and in a republican context, to the president, either in full or in part. If the parliament is bicameral, then the government is responsible first to the parliament's lower house, which is more representative than the upper house, as it has more members and they are always directly elected.

Responsible government of parliamentary accountability manifests itself in several ways. Ministers account to Parliament for their decisions and for the performance of their departments. This requirement to make announcements and to answer questions in Parliament means that ministers must have the privileges of the "floor", which are only granted to those who are members of either house of Parliament. Secondly, and most importantly, although ministers are officially appointed by the authority of the head of state and can theoretically be dismissed at the pleasure of the sovereign, they concurrently retain their office subject to their holding the confidence of the lower house of Parliament. When the lower house has passed a motion of no confidence in the government, the government must immediately resign or submit itself to the electorate in a new general election.

Lastly, the head of state is in turn required to effectuate their executive power only through these responsible ministers. They must never attempt to set up a "shadow" government of executives or advisors and attempt to use them as instruments of government, or to rely upon their "unofficial" advice. They are bound to take no decision or action that is put into effect under the colour of their executive power without that action being as a result of the counsel and advisement of their responsible ministers. Their ministers are required to counsel them (i.e., explain to them and be sure they understand any issue that they will be called upon to decide) and to form and have recommendations for them (i.e., their advice or advisement) to choose from, which are the ministers' formal, reasoned, recommendations as to what course of action should be taken.

An exception to this is Israel, which operates under a simplified version of the Westminster system.


In the Canadian system, responsible government was developed between 1846 and 1850, with the executive Council formulating policy with the assistance of the legislative branch, the legislature voting approval or disapproval, and the appointed governor enacting those policies that it had approved. It was a transition from the older system whereby the governor took advice from an executive Council, and used the legislature chiefly to raise money.[2] After the formation of elected legislative assemblies starting with Nova Scotia in 1758, governors and their executive councils did not require the consent of elected legislators in order to carry out all their roles. It was only in the decades leading up to Canadian Confederation in 1867 that the governing councils of those British North American colonies became responsible to the elected representatives of the people.[3]

Responsible government was a major element of the gradual development of Canada towards independence. The concept of responsible government is associated in Canada more with self-government than with parliamentary accountability; hence there is the notion that the Dominion of Newfoundland "gave up responsible government" when it suspended its self-governing status in 1933, as a result of financial problems. It did not regain responsible government until it became a province of Canada in 1948.[4]

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, based on the perceived shortcomings of virtual representation, the British government became more sensitive to unrest in its remaining colonies with large populations of European-descended colonists. Elected assemblies were introduced to both Upper Canada and Lower Canada with the Constitutional Act of 1791. Many reformers thought that these assemblies should have some control over the executive power, leading to political unrest between the governors and assemblies in both Upper and Lower Canada. The Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada Sir Francis Bond Head wrote in one dispatch to London that if responsible government were implemented "Democracy, in the worst possible Form, will prevail in our Colonies." [5]

After the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellion led by Louis-Joseph Papineau, and the 1837–1838 Upper Canada Rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie, Lord Durham was appointed governor general of British North America and had the task of examining the issues and determining how to defuse tensions. In his report, one of his recommendations was that colonies which were developed enough should be granted "responsible government". This term specifically meant the policy that British-appointed governors should bow to the will of elected colonial assemblies.

The first instance of responsible government in the British Empire outside of the United Kingdom itself was achieved by the colony of Nova Scotia in January–February 1848 through the efforts of Joseph Howe. The plaque in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada reads:

First Responsible Government in the British Empire.
The first Executive Council chosen exclusively from the party having a majority in the representative branch of a colonial legislature was formed in Nova Scotia on 2 February 1848. Following a vote of want of confidence in the preceding Council, James Boyle Uniacke, who had moved the resolution, became Attorney General and leader of the Government. Joseph Howe, the long-time campaigner for this "Peaceable Revolution", became Provincial Secretary. Other members of the Council were Hugh Bell, Wm. F. Desbarres, Lawrence O.C. Doyle, Herbert Huntingdon, James McNab, Michael Tobin, and George R. Young.

The colony of New Brunswick soon followed in May 1848[6] when Lieutenant Governor Edmund Walker Head brought in a more balanced representation of Members of the Legislative Assembly to the Executive Council and ceded more powers to that body.

In the Province of Canada, responsible government was introduced with the ministry of Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin in spring 1848; it was put to the test in 1849, when Reformers in the legislature passed the Rebellion Losses Bill. This was a law that provided compensation to French-Canadians who suffered losses during the Rebellions of 1837–1838 in Lower-Canada.

The Governor General, Lord Elgin, had serious misgivings about the bill but nonetheless assented to it despite demands from the Tories that he refuse to do so. Elgin was physically assaulted by an English-speaking mob for this, and the Montreal Parliament building was burned to the ground in the ensuing riots. Nonetheless, the Rebellion Losses Bill helped entrench responsible government into Canadian politics.

In time, the granting of responsible government became the first step on the road to complete independence. Canada gradually gained greater and greater autonomy over a considerable period of time through inter imperial and commonwealth diplomacy, including the British North America Act of 1867, the Statute of Westminster of 1931, and even as late as the patriation of the Constitution Act in 1982 (see Constitution of Canada).

Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine

Louis-Hypolite LaFontaine, founder of responsible government in the Province of Canada


Robert Baldwin, founder of responsible government in the Province of Canada

Young Canada Delighted with Responsible Government c092201-v8

Punch in Canada, February 3, 1849 by Frederick William Lock depicting "Young Canada" being "delighted" by Lord Elgin pulling the strings of “Responsible Government”

Australia and New Zealand

While the various colonies in Australia were either sparsely populated or penal settlements or both, executive power was in the hands of the Governors, who, because of the great distance from their superiors in London and the resulting very slow communication, necessarily exercised vast powers. However, the early colonists, coming mostly from the United Kingdom, were familiar with the Westminster system and made efforts to reform it to increase the opportunity for ordinary men to participate.

The Governors and London therefore set in motion a gradual process of establishing a Westminster system in the colonies, not so fast as to get ahead of population or economic growth, nor so slow as to provoke clamouring for revolutionary change as happened in America. Initially, this took the form of appointed or partially elected Legislative Councils. Then, during the 1850s, all Australian colonies except Western Australia, along with New Zealand, established both representative and responsible government; Western Australia did the same in 1890.

Cape Colony

1 John Molteno - 1st Prime Minister of the Cape - 1860s - Copy2
John Molteno, Father of Responsible Government and first Prime Minister of the Cape.
John Molteno and Saul Solomon preside over Cape Government - Zingari cartoon 1873
Cartoon critical of responsible government, showing power and positions divided between various factions by Cape leaders, depicted as owls, Molteno (to the right) and Saul Solomon.

The Cape Colony, in Southern Africa, was under responsible self-government from 1872 until 1910 when it became the Cape Province of the new Union of South Africa.[7]

Under its previous system of representative government, the Ministers of the Cape Government reported directly to the British Imperial Governor, and not to the locally elected representatives in the Cape Parliament. Among Cape citizens of all races, growing anger at their powerlessness in influencing unpopular imperial decisions had repeatedly led to protests and rowdy political meetings – especially during the early "Convict Crisis" of the 1840s. A popular political movement for responsible government soon emerged, under local leader John Molteno. A protracted struggle was then conducted over the ensuing years as the movement (known informally as "the responsibles") grew increasingly powerful, and used their parliamentary majority to put pressure on the British Governor, withholding public finances from him, and conducting public agitations. Not everyone favoured responsible government though, and pro-imperial press outlets even accused the movement of constituting "crafts and assaults of the devil".[8]

Supporters believed that the most effective means of instituting responsible government was simply to change the section of the constitution which prevented government officials from being elected to parliament or members of parliament from serving in executive positions. The conflict therefore centred on the changing of this specific section. "Although responsible government merely required an amendment to s.79 of the constitution, it transpired only after nearly twenty years in 1872 when the so-called "responsibles" under Molteno were able to command sufficient support in both houses to secure the passage of the necessary bill."[9] Finally, with a parliamentary majority and with the Colonial Office and new Governor Henry Barkly won over, Molteno instituted responsible government, making the Ministers directly responsible to the Cape Parliament, and becoming the Cape's first Prime Minister.[10]

The ensuing period saw an economic recovery, a massive growth in exports and an expansion of the colony's frontiers. Despite political complications that arose from time to time (such as an ill-fated scheme by the British Colonial Office to enforce a confederation in Southern Africa in 1878, and tensions with the Afrikaner-dominated Government of Transvaal over trade and railroad construction), economic and social progress in the Cape Colony continued at a steady pace until a renewed attempt to extend British control over the hinterland caused the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer Wars in 1899.[11]

An important feature of the Cape Colony under responsible government was that it was the only state in southern Africa (and one of very few in the world at the time) to have a non-racial system of voting. [12][13] Later however – following the South Africa Act 1909 to form the Union of South Africa – this multi-racial universal suffrage was steadily eroded, and eventually abolished by the Apartheid government in 1948.

Former British colonies with responsible government

In German history

In the early 1860s, the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck was involved in a bitter dispute with the Liberals, who sought to institute a system of responsible government modeled on that of Britain. Bismarck, who strongly opposed that demand, managed to deflect the pressure by embarking energetically and successfully on the unification of Germany. The Liberals, who were also strong German nationalists, backed Bismarck's unification efforts and tacitly accepted that the Constitution of Imperial Germany, crafted by Bismarck, did not include a responsible government – the Chancellor being accountable solely to the emperor and needing no parliamentary confidence. Germany gained a responsible government only with the Weimar Republic and more securely with the creation of the German Federal Republic. Historians account the lack of responsible government in the formative decades of united Germany as one of the factors contributing to the prolonged weakness of German democratic institutions, lasting also after such a government was finally instituted.

See also



  1. ^ "Victorian Electronic Democracy, Final Report – Glossary". 28 July 2005. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2007.
  2. ^ Phillip A. Buckner, The Transition to Responsible Government: British Policy in British North America, 1815-1850 (1985) ch. 4
  3. ^ "Responsible Government and Ministerial Responsibility". Parliament of Canada. October 2015. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  4. ^ "Responsible Government, 1855-1933". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website. 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  5. ^ Despatches from Sir F.B. Head, relative to Canada, with Answers from Secretary of State. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 1839.
  6. ^ Forsey, Eugene A. (2016). How Canadians Govern Themselves (PDF) (9 ed.). Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-660-04488-0. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  7. ^ A.L. Harrington: The Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope, with special reference to party politics 1872–1910. Government Printer, 1973.
  8. ^ The Zingari. 9 June 1871. p.94.
  9. ^ GE Devenish (1978). Our legal heritage. De Rebus Procuratoriis, p.486. University of the Western Cape.
  10. ^ African Historical Biographies.
  11. ^ Phyllis Lewsen: The First Crises in Responsible Government in the Cape Colony. University of The Witwatersrand / Argief-jaarboek vir Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis. 1940/3.
  12. ^ RFM Immelman: Men of Good Hope, 1804–1954. CTCC: Cape Town, 1955. Chapter 6 The Anti-convict Agitation. p.154.
  13. ^ Molteno, P. A. The Life and Times of John Charles Molteno. Comprising a History of Representative Institutions and Responsible Government at the Cape. Volume II. London: Smith, Elder & Co., Waterloo Place, 1900. p.214


  • Arthur Berriedale Keith. Responsible Government in the Dominions, 1912.
  • Molteno, P. A. The Life and Times of John Charles Molteno. Comprising a History of Representative Institutions and Responsible Government at the Cape. London: Smith, Elder & Co., Waterloo Place, 1900.
  • Status and Respectability in the Cape Colony, 1750–1870 : A Tragedy of Manners. Robert Ross, David Anderson. Cambridge University Press. 1 July 1999. 220 pages. ISBN 0-521-62122-4.

External links

1922 Southern Rhodesian government referendum

A referendum on the status of Southern Rhodesia was held in the colony on 27 October 1922. Voters were given the options of establishing responsible government or joining the Union of South Africa. After 59% voted in favour of responsible government, it was officially granted on 1 October 1923.

Colony of Fiji

The Colony of Fiji was a British Crown colony that existed from 1874 to 1970 in the territory of the present-day nation of Fiji. The United Kingdom declined its first opportunity to annex the Kingdom of Fiji in 1852. Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau had offered to cede the islands, subject to being allowed to retain his Tui Viti (King of Fiji) title, a condition unacceptable to both the British and to many of his fellow chiefs, who regarded him only as first among equals, if that. Mounting debts and threats from the United States Navy had led Cakobau to establish a constitutional monarchy with a government dominated by European settlers in 1871, following an agreement with the Australian Polynesia Company to pay his debts. The collapse of the new regime drove him to make another offer of cession in 1872, which the British accepted. On 10 October 1874, Britain began its rule of Fiji, which lasted until 10 October 1970.

Confederate Association

The Confederate Association was a political party formed and led by Joey Smallwood and Gordon Bradley to advocate that the Dominion of Newfoundland join the Canadian Confederation. The party was formed on February 21, 1948 prior to the launch of the 1948 Newfoundland referendums on Confederation. The party was opposed by the Responsible Government League led by Peter Cashin and the Party for Economic Union with the United States led by Chesley A. Crosbie.

Two referendums were held as the result of the first vote in which three options were considered, Confederation, responsible government or a continuation of the Commission of Government. The first referendum, held on June 3, 1948 saw the Confederation option receive 41.1% support compared with 44.6% support for responsible government and 14.3% support for Commission of Government. The anti-Confederate forces were hampered by the split of the opposition into Crosbie and Cashin's parties with relations between the two being tense and the overall opposition lacking unity or organization. The Confederate Association, in contrast, was better funded and better organized. A second vote was held on July 22 with only Confederation and Responsible Government on the ballot in which the Confederates won with 52.3% of the vote. [1]

Following the referendums, the Confederate Association reorganized itself as the Newfoundland Liberal Party.

Conservative parties in Newfoundland (pre-Confederation)

The Conservative Party of Newfoundland was a political party in the Dominion of Newfoundland prior to confederation with Canada in 1949.

The party was formed by members and supporters of the establishment. In the 1840s they opposed the proposal for responsible government which was finally granted in 1855. Since the concept was opposed generally by members of the Anglican establishment, the early party was almost entirely Protestant. As politics in Newfoundland developed along sectarian lines, the Conservatives became the Protestant party (with strong links to the Orange Order), while the Liberals were the Catholic party.

Under Sir Frederick Carter the Conservatives supported joining Canadian confederation, and campaigned on the proposal in the 1869 general election. The party was badly defeated by Charles Fox Bennett's Anti-Confederation Party. The Conservatives returned to power in 1874, but never proposed joining Canada again.

The Conservative party later absorbed the rival Liberals, putting an end to sectarian divisions with a 'denominational compromise'.

The united party collapsed in the 1880s when members of the Orange Order abandoned the government of William Whiteway, and formed a new Reform Party under Robert Thorburn. The Reform Party won the 1885 election on a platform of 'Protestant Rights'.

Whiteway founded a new Liberal Party after the collapse of the Reform Party. Members of the Orange Order formed a new Tory Party, which formed two short-lived administrations in the 1890s before disappearing.

Individual Conservatives were elected as Opposition or United Opposition MHAs before being subsumed into the Newfoundland People's Party formed by Edward Patrick Morris in 1907 after he resigned from the Liberal government of Sir Robert Bond.

In 1924, the Liberal-Conservative-Progressive Party was formed by members of the Liberal-Labour-Progressive party who were largely conservatives and discontented members of the ruling Liberal-Reform Party. This new party won the 1924 general election, making its leader Walter Stanley Monroe the new Prime Minister. In practice, the party was essentially a Tory party.

The party was defeated in 1928 under new leader Frederick C. Alderdice, but returned to power in 1932 as the United Newfoundland Party (UNP). The UNP ruled for two years until the suspension of responsible government.

When responsible government was suspended, Newfoundland's status as an independent dominion within the British Empire was brought to an end. The Government of the United Kingdom appointed a Commission of Government to govern Newfoundland, bringing an end to party politics on the island.

Party politics returned to Newfoundland when it joined Canadian confederation in 1949. At this time, the modern Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties were formed. These new parties were unrelated to the parties that existed prior to 1934.


A Dominion was the "title" given to the semi-independent polities under the British Crown, constituting the British Empire, beginning with Canadian Confederation in 1867. "Dominion status" was a constitutional term of art used to signify an independent Commonwealth realm; they included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, and then from the late 1940s also India, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The Balfour Declaration of 1926 recognised the Dominions as "autonomous Communities within the British Empire", and the 1931 Statute of Westminster confirmed their full legislative independence.

Earlier usage of dominion to refer to a particular territory dates to the 16th century and was used to describe Wales from 1535 to 1801 and New England between 1686 and 1689.

Dominion of New Zealand

The Dominion of New Zealand (Māori: Te Tominiana o Aotearoa) was the historical successor to the Colony of New Zealand. It was a constitutional monarchy with a high level of self-government within the British Empire.

New Zealand became a separate British Crown colony in 1841 and received responsible government with the Constitution Act in 1852. New Zealand chose not to take part in Australian Federation and became the Dominion of New Zealand on 26 September 1907, Dominion Day, by proclamation of King Edward VII. Dominion status was a public mark of the political independence that had evolved over half a century through responsible government.

Just under one million people lived in New Zealand in 1907 and cities such as Auckland and Wellington were growing rapidly. The Dominion of New Zealand allowed the British Government to shape its foreign policy, and it followed Britain into the First World War. The 1923 and 1926 Imperial Conferences decided that New Zealand should be allowed to negotiate its own political treaties, and the first commercial treaty was ratified in 1928 with Japan. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the New Zealand Government made its own decision to enter the war.

In the post-war period, the term Dominion has fallen into disuse. Full independence was granted with the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and adopted by the New Zealand Parliament in 1947. However, the 1907 royal proclamation of Dominion status has never been revoked and remains in force today.

Dominion of Newfoundland

Newfoundland was a British dominion from 1907 to 1949. The dominion, situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast, comprised the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the continental mainland. Before attaining dominion status, Newfoundland was a British colony, self-governing from 1855.

Newfoundland was one of the original "dominions" within the meaning of the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and accordingly enjoyed a constitutional status equivalent to the other dominions at the time. In 1934, Newfoundland became the only dominion to give up its self-governing status, ending 79 years of self-government.This episode came about due to a crisis in Newfoundland's public finances in 1932. Newfoundland had accumulated a significant amount of debt by building a railway across the island (completed in the 1890s) and by raising its own regiment for the First World War. In November 1932 the government warned that Newfoundland would default on payments on the public debt. The British government quickly established the Newfoundland Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the position. The Commission's report, published in October 1933, recommended that Newfoundland give up its system of self-government temporarily and allow the United Kingdom to administer the dominion through an appointed commission.The Newfoundland parliament accepted this recommendation and presented a petition to the King asking for the suspension of the constitution and the appointment of commissioners to administer the government until the country became self-supporting again. To enable compliance with this request, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Newfoundland Act 1933, and on 16 February 1934, the UK government appointed six commissioners, three from Newfoundland and three from the UK, with the Governor as chairman. The dominion would never become self-governing again. The system of a six-member Commission of Government continued to govern Newfoundland until it joined Canada in 1949 to become Canada's tenth province.

Economic Union Party

The Economic Union Party (EUP, formally the Party for Economic Union with the United States) was a political party formed in the Dominion of Newfoundland on 20 March 1948, during the first referendum campaign on the future of the country. The British-appointed Commission of Government had administered the country since the financial collapse of 1934. The alternatives were "responsible government" (restoration of Newfoundland self-rule), or "Confederation" (joining Canada).

The EUP was formed by a split in the Responsible Government League (RGL), which advocated "responsible government". A group of younger anti-Confederation delegates to the Newfoundland National Convention quit the RGL, because they thought the RGL was disorganized and had failed to present a positive alternative to Confederation. Thus it seemed that the RGL was doomed to lose the referendum to Joey Smallwood's Confederate Association, advocates of Confederation.

The EUP was led by St. John's businessman Chesley Crosbie and "co-founded" by Geoff Stirling, publisher of The Sunday Herald.

The EUP believed that Newfoundland's voters had to be persuaded that "responsible government" could be made viable again. They proposed to revive the Newfoundland economy through free trade and a customs union with the United States. They also believed that the promise of economic union would give Newfoundlanders a positive reason to reject Confederation.

There was no "economic union option" on the referendum ballot. The EUP therefore supported "responsible government", with the expectation that the independent Newfoundland government would negotiate the union with the United States. The party's support was concentrated on the Avalon Peninsula. Its economic ideas, though popular with the St. John's business community, failed to generate interest in the general population.

Smallwood's forces attacked the EUP as "republican" (anti-monarchist), disloyal and anti-British. The split of the anti-Confederation forces into two organizations caused problems: tension between the EUP and the RGL, and wasteful division of resources. Conversely, the Confederate Association was well-funded and well-organized across the island.In the first referendum, held on 3 June 1948, "responsible government" won the most votes (44.6%). 41.1% voted for Confederation; 14.3% voted for continuing the Commission of Government. Since there was no majority, the results were inconclusive. A second referendum was held on 22 July, with only Confederation and Responsible Government on the ballot.

The Economic Union Party decided to unite its efforts with the Responsible Government League for the second referendum, but morale was poor and the campaign was disorganized, compared to Smallwood's well-run machine.Confederation won the second referendum with 52.3% of the votes,

and the EUP disbanded. Crosbie died in 1962 and Stirling remained active, through his media holdings, in Canadian discourse until shortly before his death in 2013.

Government of Victoria

The Government of Victoria is the executive administrative authority of the Australian state of Victoria.

Functioning within the scope of Victoria's status as a sub-national parliamentary constitutional monarchy, the Government was first formed in 1851, when Victoria first gained the right to responsible government. Since the Federation of Australia in 1901, Victoria has been a state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Constitution of Australia regulates its relationship with the Commonwealth. Under the Australian Constitution, Victoria ceded legislative and judicial supremacy to the Commonwealth, but retained powers in all matters not in conflict with the Commonwealth.The Victorian Government enforces Acts passed by the state Parliament through its vast array of government departments, statutory authorities and other related agencies. The Government is formally presided by the Governor of Victoria, who exercises their executive authority granted by the Constitution through the Executive Council, a body consisting of senior cabinet ministers. In reality, both the Governor and the Council are mostly ceremonial, with the Premier and their ministers having the real power over policy decisions, appointments and other executive orders made by the Governor-in-Council.The current Premier is Daniel Andrews, a member of the Labor Party, while Linda Dessau has served as the Governor since 2015.

History of Canada (1945–1960)

Prosperity returned to Canada during the Second World War. With continued Liberal governments, national policies increasingly turned to social welfare, including universal health care, old-age pensions, and veterans' pensions.

The financial crisis of the Great Depression after WW1, scoured by rampant corruption, had led Newfoundlanders to relinquish responsible government in 1934 and become a crown colony ruled by a British governor. Prosperity returned when the U.S. military arrived in 1941 with over 10,000 soldiers and huge investments in air and naval bases. Popular sentiment grew favourable toward the United States, alarming the Canadian government, which now wanted Newfoundland to enter into confederation instead of joining with the U.S. In 1948, the British government gave voters three Referendum choices: remaining a crown colony, returning to Dominion status (that is, independence), or joining Canada. Joining the U.S. was not made an option. After bitter debate Newfoundlanders voted to join Canada in 1949 as a province.

Liberal parties in pre-confederation Newfoundland

Several political groupings functioned in the Dominion of Newfoundland under the name Liberal Party of Newfoundland from the granting of responsible government to the island in the 1850s until its suspension in 1934 when the Commission of Government was instituted. During that period, Newfoundland was an independent dominion within the British Empire, responsible for its own internal affairs.

The original Liberal Party was originally a coalition of Catholics and Methodists who opposed the Anglican-dominated political establishment. This party agitated for the granting of 'responsible government' to the island. Shortly after responsible government was instituted in 1854, the Methodists left the party to join the Anglicans in the Conservative Party, leaving the Liberals as a predominantly Irish Catholic party. Political parties in the dominion were thus divided along sectarian lines for the next thirty years - a situation that resulted in periodic riots and other political violence. This division also reflected class differences: most Catholics were working class or farmers, and most members of the middle and business classes were Protestant.

In the 1880s, a denominational compromise was reached and political parties realigned with a new Liberal Party being formed by former Conservative Premier William Whiteway. Whiteway launched the new Liberal Party as a vehicle to promote the construction of a cross-island railway.

Under Robert Bond, the Liberals suffered a split when Edward Patrick Morris left to form the Newfoundland People's Party. The NPP won the 1909 and 1913 elections. After 1919, the NPP was called the Liberal-Labour-Progressive Party. In 1919, Richard Squires merged his Liberal Party with the Fishermen's Protective Union to form the Liberal Reform Party. The Liberal Reform Party won the 1919 election, but collapsed prior to the 1924 election due to a crisis over corruption. This crisis toppled both Squires and his successor, William Warren. In 1923, some members of the Liberal Reform Party joined with Albert Hickman and John Robert Bennett to form a new Liberal-Progressive Party.

Many former supporters of William Warren joined in alliance with former Conservative leader William J. Higgins to form the Liberal-Conservative Progressive Party. This party emerged as a conservative opposition to the Liberals and won the 1924 election. It later changed its name to the United Newfoundland Party.

By 1928, Squires had formed a new Liberal Party, which won the 1928 election. This second Squires government was again beset by corruption and scandal. The economic crisis caused by the Great Depression compounded these problems, and led to riots in 1932. Squires's government was toppled by the conservative United Newfoundland Party.

The UNP was elected on a promise to consider suspending responsible government. Responsible government was suspended in 1934, and a Commission of Government appointed by the British government took over the administration of Newfoundland. Newfoundland's status as an independent dominion came to an end, along with party politics.

Party politics returned to Newfoundland when it joined Canadian confederation in 1949 and a new Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador was formed under the leadership of Joseph Smallwood. The pre-Commission of Government Liberals, both in their early incarnation and their relaunching under Whiteway, tended to be identified more with poorer Newfoundlanders, while the Conservatives tended to be the party of the business establishment.

Politics of Newfoundland and Labrador

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is governed by a unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly, which operates under the Westminster model of government. The executive function of government is formed by the Lieutenant Governor, the premier (head of government, and normally the leader of the largest party in the legislature) and his or her cabinet. The politics of Newfoundland and Labrador is defined by a long history, liberal democratic political institutions and a unique political culture.

Premier of New Brunswick

The Premier of New Brunswick (French (masculine): Premier ministre du Nouveau-Brunswick, or feminine: Première ministre du Nouveau-Brunswick) is the first minister for the Canadian province of New Brunswick. They are the province's head of government and de facto chief executive.

The premier of a Canadian province is much like the Prime Minister of Canada. He or she is normally the leader of the party or coalition with the most seats in the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. The premier is styled Honourable but is not a member of the privy council so this title is only for the duration of his or her term of office. Prior the establishment of the office, the Government leaders prior to responsible government was the chief political position in New Brunswick.

The premier is chosen by the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

The province of New Brunswick, since being established in 1785, has had a variety of leaders. Since the 1840s responsible government has been in place and the position of Premier has been formalized.

The current Premier of New Brunswick is Blaine Higgs, who was sworn in November 9, 2018.

Province of Canada

The Province of Canada (or the United Province of Canada or the United Canadas) was a British colony in North America from 1841 to 1867. Its formation reflected recommendations made by John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham in the Report on the Affairs of British North America following the Rebellions of 1837–1838.

The Act of Union 1840, passed on 23 July 1840 by the British Parliament and proclaimed by the Crown on 10 February 1841, merged the Colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada by abolishing their separate parliaments and replacing them with a single one with two houses, a Legislative Council as the upper chamber and the Legislative Assembly as the lower chamber. In the aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837–1838, unification of the two Canadas was driven by two factors. Firstly, Upper Canada was near bankruptcy because it lacked stable tax revenues, and needed the resources of the more populous Lower Canada to fund its internal transportation improvements. Secondly, unification was an attempt to swamp the French vote by giving each of the former provinces the same number of parliamentary seats, despite the larger population of Lower Canada.

Although Durham's report had called for the Union of the Canadas and for responsible government (a government accountable to an independent local legislature), only the first of the two recommendations was implemented in 1841. For the first seven years, the government was led by an appointed governor general accountable only to the British Crown and the Queen's Ministers. Responsible government was not to be achieved until the second LaFontaine–Baldwin ministry in 1849, when Governor General James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin agreed to request a cabinet be formed on the basis of party, effectively making the elected premier the head of the government and reducing the Governor General to a more symbolic role.

The Province of Canada ceased to exist at Canadian Confederation on 1 July 1867, when it was divided into the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Ontario included the area occupied by the pre-1841 British colony of Upper Canada, while Quebec included the area occupied by the pre-1841 British colony of Lower Canada (which had included Labrador until 1809, when Labrador was transferred to the British colony of Newfoundland). Upper Canada was primarily English-speaking, whereas Lower Canada was primarily French-speaking.

Reform movement (pre-Confederation Canada)

Reform movement, sometimes erroneously referred to as the Reform Party, began in the 1830s as the movement in the English speaking parts of British North America (Canada). It agitated initially for republicanism, and later for responsible government. The movement dissolved after responsible government was granted to the Province of Canada in 1848, with members forming the Parti bleu and Parti rouge in Canada East and the Liberal Party in Canada West, among other smaller parties.

Responsible Government Association

The Responsible Government Association (RGA), called the Rhodesia Party from 1923, was a political party in Southern Rhodesia. Founded in 1917, it initially advocated responsible government for Southern Rhodesia within the British Empire, as opposed to incorporation into the Union of South Africa. When responsible government was achieved in 1923, the party became the governing Rhodesia Party. It endured until 1934, when it merged with the right wing of the Reform Party to create the United Party, which remained in power for 28 years afterwards, and was itself defunct by 1965.

Responsible Government League

The Responsible Government League was a political movement in the Dominion of Newfoundland.

The Responsible Government League of Newfoundland, led by Peter Cashin, was formed in February 1947 by anti-Confederation delegates to the Newfoundland National Convention on the future of the colony. It was one of several Anti-Confederation movements which suffered intermittent popularity between 1865 and 1948 as the issue of Confederation between the colonies of Newfoundland and Canada was debated.

The purpose of the RGL was to ensure that Newfoundland and Canada remain separate countries.

Robert Baldwin

Robert Baldwin (May 12, 1804 – December 9, 1858) was a Canadian lawyer and politician who, with his political partner Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, led the first responsible ministry in Canada. "Responsible Government" marked the country's democratic independence, without a revolution, although not without violence. This achievement also included the introduction of municipal government, the introduction of a modern legal system and the Canadian Jury system, and the abolishing of imprisonment for debt. Baldwin is also noted for resisting a decades-long tradition of Orange Order terrorism of political reform in the colony, that went so far as to burn the Parliament buildings in Montreal in 1849.

Self-governing colony

In the British Empire, a self-governing colony was a colony with an elected government in which elected rulers were able to make most decisions without referring to the colonial power with nominal control of the colony. Most self-governing colonies had responsible government.

Self-governing colonies for the most part have no formal authority over constitutional matters such the monarchy and the constitutional relationship with Britain. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in London, serves as the ultimate avenue of appeal in matters of law and justice.

Colonies have sometimes been referred to as "self-governing" in situations where the executive has been under the control of neither the imperial government nor a local legislature elected by universal suffrage, but by a local oligarchy state. In most cases such control has been exercised by an elite class from a settler community.

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