The post 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 North-West 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
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
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.