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Home / The Course / Which Government Level? / Federal government / Powers

Pursuit of an Ideal
The phrase “peace, order and good government” is entrenched in the British North America Act, 1867. It was included by the Fathers of Confederation to define the legislative jurisdiction of Parliament.

The phrase has come to define Canadian values in a way that is comparable to “liberté, égalité, fraternité” in France or “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the United States.


The Constitution Act, 1867, which remains the basic element of our written Constitution, gives the federal government responsibility for matters that concern all Canadians and cross inter-provincial and international borders, such as defence, foreign affairs, the regulation of inter-provincial and international trade and commerce, criminal law, citizenship, central banking and monetary policy.

The Constitutional Act, 1982 gave the provinces broad powers over their natural resources. They now control the export to other parts of Canada of the primary production of their mines, oil wells, forests and electric power plants, provided that any given province does not discriminate against other parts of Canada in prices and supply. But the federal government still has the power to legislate on these matters, and if the provincial and federal laws conflict, those of the federal government will prevail.

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