The Lieutenant-Governor is the nominal chief executive officer of the province, an integral part of the Legislature, a formal link through the Crown with the federal government, and the provincial representative of the Sovereign. The Crown’s representative, however, exercises executive power in name only, almost always doing so “on advice” of his or her Ministers. The prime functions of the Lieutenant-Governor are to symbolize provincial jurisdiction and to ensure continuity and legitimacy of the elected governments. The Lieutenant-Governor summons, prorogues and dissolves the Legislature; swears in Premiers and Cabinets; reads the Speech from the Throne; gives royal assent to legislation; and signs writs, Orders-in-Council, and proclamations. The Lieutenant-Governor also travels widely to promote civic values and national unity in the province, and confers Saskatchewan honours.
There are eleven Crowns in Canada: that for the country as a whole and those for each of the ten provinces. The Queen is Canadian head of state: the Governor General carries out most of her functions for federal jurisdiction and the Lieutenant-Governors do the same for provincial jurisdiction, reflecting the co-sovereign status of the provinces in Confederation. The provincial Crown was not as autonomous in 1867, the year of Confederation: the Lieutenant-Governors succeeded the Governors of the former individual colonies as chief executive officers of the new provinces, but were intended as agents of Ottawa, appointed, paid, and liable to dismissal by the central government. Furthermore, Lieutenant-Governors possessed major constitutional powers to subordinate the provinces to the will of Ottawa. However, the provinces realized, exercised and defended their co-sovereign status as Canada evolved into a more authentic federal state. Some major court decisions confirmed the autonomous status of the provincial Crown; the best known of these is the judgement by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1892 in the Maritime Bank case.
The constitutional powers of the Sovereign and her representatives fall into two categories: statutory and prerogative, both exercised “on advice” of the Cabinet. Statutory powers are those conferred by acts of Parliament or the Legislatures. Prerogative powers are the authority vested in the Crown through custom, tradition and precedent. The only use of the royal prerogative in which some discretion still exists for the Crown’s representative is the exercise of the “reserve powers”—the right to summon and dissolve the Legislature and to name the First Minister (Premier). Some reserve powers of the Canadian Crown are statutory. Under sections 55–57 and 90 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the Lieutenant-Governor may withhold royal assent to legislation or, through the power of “reservation,” may reserve assent for the pleasure of the Governor General (i.e., the federal government). A statutory power granted to the Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan by provincial legislation is that of approving and signing special warrants concerning expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in specifically defined circumstances outside the normal parliamentary appropriation process.
During much of the 20th century the profile of the provincial vice-regal office steadily declined, together with the role of the Lieutenant-Governor as federal agent and his discretion in exercising prerogative powers. The CCF government of T.C. Douglas closed Government House, the vice-regal residence built in 1891, as an economy measure. The last “reservation” of royal assent in Canada was by Lieutenant-Governor Frank Bastedo in Saskatchewan in 1963, which resulted in considerable friction with the CCF government of Woodrow Lloyd. However, starting with Stephen Worobetz in 1970, appointments by the federal government to the office of Lieutenant-Governor became much less overtly partisan, and the prestige of the office gradually recovered; Irwin McIntosh (1978–83) contributed to this process. In 1983, Frederick Johnson was sworn in as sixteenth Lieutenant-Governor in the first publicly televised ceremony, and in 1984 the vice-regal office returned to Government House. Johnson was the first chancellor of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, instituted in 1985. He and his successor Sylvia Fedoruk faced the issue of the misuse of special warrants by the Progressive Conservative government of Grant Devine, but declined to intervene. Premier Roy Romanow enhanced the status of the vice-regal position, in particular by holding regular meetings with Lieutenant-Governors Fedoruk, Jack Wiebe, and Lynda Haverstock, a practice continued by his successor Lorne Calvert.