The Crown is not only Canada’s oldest continuing political institution, it is also its most pervasive, touching the operation of Parliament and the legislatures, the executive, the bureaucracy, the courts, and federalism. However many consider the Crown remote and anachronistic, requiring explanation. There are few studies of the Crown in Canada; the few that exist tend to see the Crown in symbolic terms, such as a bond of national unity. David E. Smith adopts a new perspective on the place of the Crown in Canadian politics - not in the form of the office of governor general nor in the person of the sovereign, but as a structuring principle of government in Canada.
The influence of the Crown, he argues, pervades all aspects of government, be it the legislative or administrative process, the legal system or the conduct of Canadian federalism. Yet, despite this essential place in the constitutional order, its influence remains largely invisible behind the shield of responsible government. In fact, Smith traces Canada’s distinctive form of federalism - with highly autonomous provinces - to the influence of the Crown. Canada, he states, is best understood as a system of compound monarchies.
Based on archival research in Canada, and in Australia, The Invisible Crown assesses the contribution the Crown makes to a powerful executive in a system of parliamentary government. It concludes that the Crown has influenced the development of Canadian politics, and, the strength of that influence is a function of Canada’s unique societal, geographic, and economic conditions.