The Shift from Representative Government to Responsible Government


The Need for Change

1830 - 1835

The Top of the government is the Monarch. Her position was inherited and government of Great Britain makes all final decisions. She doesn't care about BNA. That is why the colonial government was not democratic.

The governor was under the queen. This position was also inherited, and can veto any bills. The queen chose him, and she put Britain's wishes first!! That is another reason of the colonial government being not democratic.

The legislative council and the executive council were under the governor. Members were the elite chosen by the governor. They could advise the governor and decides what bills should become laws. That is again, why it's not democratic.

The legislative assembly was under the legislative council and the executive council. It is voted by voters. And they could suggest bills but they could be voted if they were against British interests. That is why it's democratic.

The voters were under the legislative assembly. Only the man who is 21 or more could vote. Also First Nations and Black Colonists couldn't vote. That is why it's kind of democratic, and also kind of not democratic.

Overall, I think it was not democratic because the queen and the governor are completely "not democratic", and Britains always had priority. Also, woman, First Nations, and Black Colonists couldn't vote. So, I think it was not democratic.

The impact of Joseph Howe

1835 - 1837

Joseph Howe was a very famous politician of the mid-1800s. There was a newspaper called Freedom of the press that talks about anything that is true even it goes to the government. On 1830s Joseph Howe puts a freedom to a test. He published a newspaper called the Novascotian. On the new years day on 1835, he published a letter in his newspaper that the city leader in Halifax were spending public money. Large sums of money that has to be used for poor people were used. When the city leader looked at it, he were so disappointed. The city leader were saying it was a lie, so they brought him to the court on charge. Still, the legal term for telling lies such as these is libel and he was guilty. He could have been fined or sent to jail. On the main day of his trial, he spoke for 6 hours, talking about why elites were not fair. His speech were sometimes making laughter but sometimes making people cry. The jury decided that Joseph were guilty and after the trial, he were a hero.

The Rebellions in Lower and Upper Canada

1837 - 1838

Reformers in Upper and Lower Canada led rebellions to try to remove the elite from the power.
The most important result of the rebellions was that, in 1838, the British government sent a man called Lord Durham to investigate the situation and suggest what to do. He wrote a long report and British government took his piece of advice. In 1841, it created the Province of Canada.

Lord Durham's Report

1838 - 1847

Lord Durham spent five months in the colonies and wrote a long report. It is saying "Join the two colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada into one colony called the Province of Canada", and "Give the Province of Canada responsible government". Because he wrote this report, government really created the Province of Canada in 1841. Britain did not give the new colony responsible government, however. But the idea was there, and it wasn't long before were even more changes in the colonies.

Responsible Government

Responsible Government Achieved in Nova Scotia

1847 - 1848

Nova Scotia had the first responsible government in BNA. Joseph Howe kept punishing for responsible government , and he helped create a strong Reform Party in the colony.
In 1847, the British government told the governor of Nova Scotia to bring in responsible government. The governor held the election, and the Reform Party won. James Boyle Uniacke was the leader of the Reform Party at that time.

Responsible Government in Province of Canada

1848 - 1851

Things didn't go so smoothly in the new Province of Canada. Although the British government agreed to responsible government in 1847, it didn't happen right away. Reformers in Canada East and Canada West had so many differences of opinion that it seemed they could never agree on how to run a government. Finally, in 1849, Louis Hipployte LaFontaine from Canada East and Robert Baldwin from Canada West joined forces to create an Assembly strong enough to make responsible government possible.

Responsible Government in Prince Edward Island

1851 - 1854

In PEI, the Lieutenant Governor chose the members of the Legislative and Executive Councils from the small group of landowners who actually lived on the island.
George Coles and Edward Whelan worked hard for reform in their colony.

Responsible Government in New Brunswick

1854 - 1855

New Brunswick originally had the assembly to control how the money was spent. But the colony build the oficial government and Charles Fisher became the first premier.

Responsible Government in New Foundland


There was a big difference in opinions between the appointed leaders of the Church of England and the elected politicians. Roman Catholic and Methodist politicians made the Reform Party, led by Phillip F.Little, and won the first election.