Governments don’t have mandates, they hold confidence.
Governments aren’t directly elected in Canada, they’re formed or continue governing based on their ability to hold the confidence of the elected house of the legislature.
Talking of a government’s ‘mandate’ to enact a platform, policy, or law, moreover, rarely makes sense.
Governments don’t have terms, they have parliaments/legislatures and length of ministries.
The life of governments is determined by their ability to hold or regain the confidence of the elected house of the legislature. A government can thus span multiple parliaments and a single parliament can have more than one government. First ministers can also dissolve the legislature pretty much at will. Equally important, governments only end when the first minister resigns or is dismissed by the Crown. So, an election doesn’t begin a governmental ‘term’, nor does a dissolution of the legislature end it.
When speaking of how long a first minister led the government, we should speak about the duration of their ministry, or if they’ve headed more than one government, ministries. The ‘tenure’ of a prime minister also works.
Prime Ministers and Ministers don’t sit (i.e. sitting Prime Minister), they serve.
Ministers are servants of the Crown. This is a capacity distinct from the seat they hold in the legislature. Conversely, as members of Parliament, they sit, rather than serve.
Before using serving/sitting, however, we should ask if it’s necessary for what we’re trying to convey. If not, don’t use it.
There are no interim Prime Ministers, only interim party leaders.
Interim implies that someone who is temporarily holding an elected position and that they themselves were not elected to that position. They’re holding it in anticipation of an election. Prime Ministers are appointed.
There is no Prime Minister-elect or Premier-elect. The technical term is Prime Minister-designate or Premier-designate
Since first ministers are not elected, but appointed by the Crown, we use designate to mean that the Crown has commissioned them to form a government but that they have not yet been sworn to office (h/t Richard Berthelsen).
Ministers are accountable to Parliament for their responsibilities, they are not responsible to Parliament.
Ministers are responsible for the exercise of executive powers and are accountable to Parliament for decisions and actions that fall under their responsibilities.
The Governor General is not the head of state, the Queen is the head of state (if you absolutely must use that term.)
The Queen personifies the state in law. She is the legal personality of Canada. In that sense, she holds the highest office of the Canadian state, what we would call the head of state, or more simply ‘the Sovereign’. As the Queen’s representative, the Governor General is always one rank below the Queen and thus not the head of state.
Parliament is not synonymous with the House of Commons.
Parliament comprises the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Queen. The House of Commons, the elected lower house, is one part of Parliament.
The Crown does not dissolve a legislature without advice.
Although the Crown’s power is required to dissolve a legislature the Governor General or a Lieutenant Governor will not do so without the advice of a first minister. As a result, it is incorrect to imply that the Crown will force a new election if no party can hold confidence or parties can’t get along, etc. The Crown must wait for a first minister to advise dissolution.
Supreme Court justices are appointed, not nominated. (h/t Emmett Macfarlane)
Supreme Court justices are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. While they may go before a committee of parliamentarians before their appointment is formalized, this is not akin to the legislative nomination process where the committee can exercise a formal veto on the Prime Minister’s choice.
Parliament does not ratify treaties.
The power to sign and ratify treaties belongs with the executive. The House of Commons may be asked to express its support for a treaty through a vote and Parliament is often required to legislate to give effect to a treaty. But it is the executive that ratifies the treaty.
Refer to parliamentarians as parliamentarians or legislators, rather than lawmakers.
Crafting legislation is only small part of what parliamentarians do. And for the most part, parliamentarians have limited influence over government bills. Private member’s bills, moreover, account for small portion of Parliament’s legislative agenda. Legislation is crafted by the executive, with parliamentarians scrutinizing bill tabled by the government. Describing parliamentarians as lawmakers distort who is crafting most laws.
Should we refer to a government, administration, or ministry?
Technically, first ministers lead Her Majesty’s government. In the United Kingdom, in fact, it’s not uncommon to refer to the executive as Her Majesty’s Government. The vast majority of the executive, moreover, is comprised of public servants who are non-partisan employees of the Crown. During the Harper years, this led to consternation about the term ‘the Harper government’.
Since the first minister heads the government as the Crown’s highest ranking servant, it is acceptable to say ‘Harper government’ or ‘Trudeau government’. While public servants are non-partisan, they are expected to loyally implement the policies and directives of the Crown’s ministers.
What about administration? During the colonial era, one could speak about the ‘local administration’ to differentiate colonial officials from the government in London. In the United Kingdom, when there is a change of prime ministers from the same party, they are said to be forming a new administration, instead of a new government (which is odd, but I digress.) In Canada, though, administration is more likely used because that’s how we refer to American presidencies. (Also, in the United States, the government does not refer to the executive alone, but to Congress and the courts, too.) Accordingly, administration should be avoided.
Another reason to avoid administration is that there is a better term: ministry. A ministry is the group of ministers led by the first minister that advises the Crown. If one is looking to avoid using government, then ministry is the correct term, and preferable to administration. Oddly enough, ministry is considered antiquated in the UK, which is seems to be why they’ve adopted administration.