Today marks the 175th anniversary of responsible government in Canada

February 02, 2023

Today marks the 175th anniversary of the start of responsible government in Canada. On this day in 1848, the Governor of Nova Scotia appointed a cabinet supported by the elected Legislative Assembly. A few days earlier, the Assembly had passed a no confidence motion in the Executive Council previously selected personally by the Governor. For the first time anywhere in the British Empire, a Governor's advisors resigned after elected representatives expressed their lack of confidence in them. 

The principle of responsible government at the heart of the parliamentary democracy holds that the cabinet must seek and maintain the confidence of the elected members of the legislature. If the cabinet ever loses that confidence, they must either resign or call for an election.

With this change in advisors, the Governor effectively laid the foundation for the system of government we enjoy today - that direction of public affairs should be in the hands of those who have the confidence of our elected representatives. 

Similar actions in New Brunswick and the Province of Canada that same year firmly established responsible government in Canada. 

While the right to vote was limited to very few in the adult population at the time, the precedents set in 1848 formed a key milestone in Canada's political evolution into the modern parliamentary democracy of today.

The events in Nova Scotia in 1848 were significant enough that King Charles III has written to celebrate this 175th anniversary. See his message here

For more on the events in Nova Scotia and their significance, visit the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia's website.