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Responsible Government and Ministerial Accountability

Responsible government means that the government must be responsive to its citizens, that it must operate responsibly (i.e., be well organized in developing and implementing policy) and that its Ministers must be accountable or responsible to Parliament. The political history of the British colonies that, in 1867, formed the Dominion of Canada involved the gradual development of responsible government.

Early colonial governors and administrators were answerable only to the British authorities. Even after the formation of elected legislative assemblies, governors and their executive councils did not require the consent of elected legislators in order to govern. It was only in the decades leading up to Confederation that the governing councils in several of the British North American colonies became responsible to the elected representatives of the people.

Cabinet Ministers are collectively responsible for all decisions of Cabinet and for carrying out the policies established by it. Ministers are also accountable to the House of Commons for the exercise of their powers, in particular for the running of their departments.

Opposition Members, both in the House and in committees, work to hold the Government (Cabinet) publicly accountable for its decisions.

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