The Crown and Prime Ministerial Power

The Crown and Prime Ministerial Power

This article elaborates on the relationship between the Crown and prime ministerial power through the lenses of the confidence convention and royal prerogatives. The article highlights how the prime minister’s status as the Crown’s first councilor complicates the operation of the confidence convention, the means which the House ultimately determines who heads the governing ministry. The article then outlines how the prime minister’s discretionary authority to exercise key royal prerogatives serves as the foundation of the centralization of government around the first minister. Rather than seeing the centralization of power in the prime minister as a form of ‘presidentialisation’, the article argues that it is more accurately understood as a form of ‘regalisation’, owing to its source in royal authority.

Queen Elizabeth II surpassed Queen Victoria’s time on the throne on September 9, 2015. The Canadian government marked the occasion with a commemorative bank note, stamp, and coin. Monarchists celebrated the event and politicians made statements. But most Canadians probably shrugged. Polls indicate that Canadians are ambivalent toward the monarchy.1 If we were to rewrite the Canadian constitution from scratch, it’s unlikely that Canada would have a sovereign. There is no longer a deep affection for the Crown as an institution or unifying symbol of the nation. A notable number of Canadians hold these feelings, of course, but no honest monarchist can think that most people share these sentiments. The Queen herself is admired, and Will and Kate draw crowds and sell magazines, but the Crown is not revered.