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Federal Government Organization, Head of State

monarch of Britain, reigning monarch, royal assent, regular visits, cabinet ministers

The head of state in Canada is the monarch of Britain, who is represented in Canada by the governor-general and in each province by a lieutenant governor. The governor-general is appointed by the reigning monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister of Canada. Traditionally, English-speakers alternate with French-speakers as governor-general. The length of term is usually five years.

The governor-generalís role is largely ceremonial; he or she summons, suspends, and dissolves Parliament, gives royal assent to bills that have passed Parliament, authorizes treaties, commissions officers in the armed forces, gives honors such as the Order of Canada, and acts as host to visiting heads of state. He or she has the constitutional right to be consulted and to give advice and thus receives regular visits from the prime minister and government officials.

Officially the governor-general appoints the prime minister and the cabinet ministers. However, he or she must adhere to the advice of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons (the larger chamber of Parliament) in appointing the prime minister and must follow the prime ministerís wishes in appointing the Cabinet. While holding no political power, the governor-general has considerable symbolic power. As the governor-general is above politics, the post serves as a unifying symbol for all Canadians.

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