The Office of Lieutenant Governor
The position of Lieutenant Governor was established in Canada by the British North America Act of 1867. This Act united the existing Canadian provinces under one central federal government with each province retaining its own Legislature to preside over matters not under federal jurisdiction. In Alberta, the Office of Lieutenant Governor came into existence when the federal government created the Province of Alberta from the Northwest Territories on September 1, 1905.
Under Section 9 of the British North America Act, Her Majesty The Queen is the Canadian Head of State and thus, The Queen of Canada. The Lieutenant Governor is the Queen's representative in Alberta and, consequently, exercises Her Majesty's powers in the Province. If for any reason, such as illness, the Lieutenant Governor cannot perform these functions, the Chief Justice of Alberta assumes responsibility for them in an interim capacity.
The Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the Governor General of Canada, on the advice of the Prime Minister, for a period of not fewer than five years. Those persons appointed are usually men and women who have served their province with distinction for many years.
The Offices of The Queen, Governor General, and Lieutenant Governor are entrenched in the Canadian Constitution and cannot be changed without the approval of all Canadian provincial Legislative Assemblies and the federal Senate and House of Commons.
Because of the Lieutenant Governor's constitutional position as head of the executive government of the Province, the Lieutenant Governor cannot be involved in political activity. This non-partisan role allows the Lieutenant Governor to represent all Albertans at ceremonial and state occasions.
In the early years, Lieutenant Governors were agents of the federal government and were expected to advise the provincial government regarding the intent of federal legislation and to ensure that provincial legislation conformed to that of the federal government. Over the years, however, provincial government authority has increased and the Lieutenant Governor's role as federal agent has diminished. The duties of this office are now principally concerned with acting as the Queen's representative and as Chief Executive Officer of the Province.
One of the most important responsibilities of the Lieutenant Governor is to ensure that the Province always has a Premier. The Premier is head of the provincial government and is usually the leader of the party that elected the most Members to the Legislature. If the position of Premier becomes vacant because of death or resignation, it is the Lieutenant Governor's duty to see that the post is filled. The Lieutenant Governor is also responsible for seeing that a new government is formed if the existing government resigns following a defeat in the Legislature or at an election.
The Lieutenant Governor is an important element in both the Legislature and the Executive Council, or Cabinet, of the Province. The Lieutenant Governor summons, prorogues, and dissolves the Legislature, and reads the Speech from the Throne at the opening of each session. On the advice of the Premier, the Lieutenant Governor appoints and swears-in members of Executive Council and is guided by their advice, as long as they retain the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. The Lieutenant Governor gives Royal Assent in Her Majesty's name to all measures and bills passed by the Legislative Assembly, except on the rare occasions when "reservation" is considered necessary. The Lieutenant Governor also signs orders-in-council, proclamations, and many other official documents before they have the force of law.
The Lieutenant Governor is host to members of the Royal Family, visiting heads of state, and other official visitors to the Province. The Lieutenant Governor also extends hospitality to many persons from Alberta, and from other parts of Canada and abroad, at dinners, luncheons, receptions, and the annual New Year's Levee.
The Lieutenant Governor encourages a wide variety of activities that contribute to the enrichment of the lives of Albertans of all ages. As well, in ceremonies at Government House, the Lieutenant Governor presents a number of awards for bravery, outstanding public service, and achievement. Some examples are the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, the Alberta Order of Excellence, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and the Royal Life Saving Society of Canada Awards.
The Lieutenant Governor attends many dinners, cultural events, and military and civilian ceremonies. Consequently, the Lieutenant Governor travels extensively throughout the Province.
During a visit to Canada in 1973, Her Majesty the Queen observed that "the Crown is an idea more than a person, and I would like the Crown to represent everything that is best and most admired in the Canadian ideal." The Canadian Crown is a distinctive and essential part of Canada's heritage and character, and thus is a focus for national pride. It is an important symbol of unity, serving to bind Canadians together in their common ideals and aspirations. It is visible proof of the vitality of our traditions, the permanence of our institutions, and the continuity of national life. As representative of the Crown in Alberta, the Lieutenant Governor is the personification and custodian of these traditions and ideals.