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Canadian House of Commons


The interior of the House of Commons chamber, called the "Green Chamber"

The House of Commons (the Commons) is the lower, directly elected house of the Parliament of Canada in the nation's capital, Ottawa, Ontario.

Table of contents

Leadership

Prime Minster and Cabinet

Under the Westminster system, the Prime Minister of Canada is usually selected from, and answerable to, the directly elected lower house of parliament. However the actual formal selection of P.M. is not made by the House of Commons in a vote; rather they are appointed by the Governor-General[?] who selects the person he or she deems most likely to command the support of the House of Commons. By tradtion this is always the leader of the party which controls the most seats in the House. In teory the Governor General then picks the members of the cabinet, but in practice these selections have always been made by the Prime Minister. Though the House of Commons is not involved in the formal selection process of the P.M. or Cabinet, as in other parliamentary democracies, it does have the ability to vote no confidence or to reject Supply, then the Prime Minister must appeal over the head of the House of Commons to the people in a general election.

Speaker

After each general election, the Members of the House of Commons elect a Speaker from among MPs by secret ballot. The Speaker presides over the House of Commons and ensures that everyone respects its rules and traditions. The Speaker must be impartial and apply the rules to all Members equally.

The Speaker represents the Commons in dealings with the Canadian Senate and the Crown. The Speaker is also responsible for the administration of the House and its staff and has many diplomatic and social duties.

Officials

Seated at a long Table in front of the Speaker are the Clerk and other procedural officers of the House. They advise the Speaker and Members on the rules to be followed in the Commons. At the end of the Table lies the Mace, the symbol of the authority of the House of Commons.

At the end of the Chamber, opposite the Speaker, sits the Sergeant-at-Arms. This person is responsible for the security and maintenance of the Parliament Buildings and has ceremonial duties. House officers and Members are assisted by the parliamentary pages, who carry messages to the Members in the Chamber.

Operation

The main role of the House of Commons in practice is as a forum for members to debate government policy. In the House of Commons Chamber, Members devote most of their time to debating and voting on bills. Because its Members are elected, the Commons makes decisions on spending public money and imposing taxes. The Chamber is also a place where Members represent constituents' views, discuss national issues and call on the government to explain its actions.

Each afternoon there is the question period[?] where members of the oppostion party grill the government on their policies and on the state of the nation.

When voting on Bills the House of Commons members, as in other legislative bodies in the Westminister system, almost invariably vote along with their party, and the legislature in practice has very little discretion over the passage of legislation. This is especially true in Canada where he parties have much firmer control of their members than in the UK.

In theory, the House of Commons shares legislative power with the unelected Canadian Senate, but in practice the Senate rarely blocks passage of a bill supported by Commons.

The House of Commons meets for about 130 days a year in plenary sessions. Each day the House meets is called a sitting. When it is in session, the House sits from Monday to Friday. A day in the House is divided into different parts so that Members can discuss all the business at hand. Druing the summer or holiday special sessions can be called by the govenrment to debate issues of pressing importance.

Compostion

Each of the country's present 301 constituencies, or ridings, elects a single representative to the House using a first past the post ballot. Seats in the House of Commons are distributed roughly in proportion to each Canadian province's population. In general, the more people in a province or territory, the more Members it has in the House of Commons. Every province or territory must have at least as many members in the Commons as it has in the Senate.

To run for office one must be a Canadian citizen of voting age (18). One does not need to be a member of a party to run but it is very rare for independemts to get elected.

Many eminent men and women have served here, including all of Canadas Prime Ministers such as Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir John A. Macdonald, Lester B. Pearson, and Pierre Trudeau. Other notables include Sir William Mulock (1844-1944), John F. Stairs (1848-1904), and David Wark (1804-1905).

Party Standings in
the Canadian House of Commons

Last updated 16 Jun 2003
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BC  AB  SK  MB  ON  QC  NB  PE  NS  NL  YK  NT  NU 
Liberal Party * 6 2 2 5 98 37 6 4 4 4 1 1 1 171
Canadian Alliance * 26 23 9 3 2 63
Bloc Québécois * 34 34
Progressive Conservative Party * 1 2 1 1 3 4 3 15
New Democratic Party * 2 2 4 2 1 3 14
Independent * 1 3 4
34 26 14 14 103 75 10 4 11 7 1 1 1 301

See Also

Members of the Canadian House of Commons

External Link

Parliament of Canada (http://www.parl.gc.ca)



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