Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Executive Branch Definition:

The executive branch is the administrative arm of government (and thus also called the 'administration' or the 'administrative branch of government'); the one with the most employees as it operates, implements and enforces all the laws created by the legislative branch, and as interpreted, from time to time, by the judiciary.

Related Terms: Legislative Branch, Political Question Doctrine, Judicial Branch , Government

One of three traditional branches of democratic government (the other two being legislative and judiciary).

In Fraser v Canada, Mr. Justice Dickson wrote:

"There is in Canada a separation of powers among the three branches of government -- the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. In broad terms, the role of the Judiciary is, of course, to interpret and apply the law; the role of the legislature is to decide upon and enunciate policy; the role of the executive is to administer and implement that policy.

"The federal public service in Canada is part of the executive branch of government. As such, its fundamental task is to administer and implement policy. In order to do this well, the public service must employ people with certain important characteristics. Knowledge is one, fairness another, integrity a third."

As in Canada, in many jurisdictions, the executive branch is a non-elected core of public employees.

There is a theory a clear demarcation between the legislative branch and the executive branch.

In most jurisdictions, such as in Canada, the elected leader of the legislative body (the prime minister) appoints a leader for each department of the executive branch (thereafter called "ministers"), from amongst the members of the legislative body.

Similarly, in the United States, one of the important prerogatives of the elected President is to name "secretaries" of the major departments of the "administration"; the executive branch of the US government.
 
As the British Privy Council said in a case than emanated from Canada, Eastern Trust Co. v. Mackenzie, Mann & Co.:

"It is the duty of the Crown and of every branch of the executive to abide by and obey the law. If there is any difficulty in ascertaining it the courts are open to the Crown to sue, and it is the duty of the executive in cases of doubt to ascertain the law, in order to obey it, not to disregard it."

The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, at §61 aptly describes the authority of the "executive power of government" as:

"…the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth."

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