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Parliament of Canada

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The Centre Block, with the Peace Tower and Centennial Flame

The interior of the House of Commons

The dramatic rear view of Parliament Hill, with the Library of Parliament perched atop the deep gorge of the Ottawa River
The Parliament of Canada is Canada's democratic legislative branch, seated at Ottawa, Ontario. The parliament consists of two bodies:

  • the Senate (also called "Upper House" or "Red Chamber"), consisting of 104 Senators, appointed by the Governor-General on the request of the Prime Minister; and
  • the House of Commons (also called "Lower House" or "Green Chamber"), consisting of 301 Members (called Members of Parliament or MPs), one elected from each of Canada's 301 electoral districts. The leader of the majority party in the House of Commons is asked by the Governor-General to become Prime Minister and form the government.

Legislation must pass through both houses of parliament before it is enacted. In practice, the House of Commons is by far the most powerful of the two bodies. Only the House of Commons is allowed to introduce legislation dealing with the obtaining or spending of money.

External link: Parliament of Canada (official site) (http://www.parl.gc.ca)

Parliament Hill

The parliament is housed in a complex on Parliament Hill, a very scenic location on the banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, in a Gothic Revival[?] suite of buildings. The best known is the Centre Block, with its prominent Peace Tower, a national symbol. The richly decorated interior of the centre block contains allegorical scenes.

The current Houses of Parliament were built between 1865 and 1927. The West Block was built in 1865 and the East Block in two stages in 1867 and 1910. The Library of Parliament was opened in 1876 and the original Centre Block completed in 1878.

The Centre Block burned in 1916; the edifice was entirely destroyed except for the Library of Parliament, whose treasures were preserved by a quick-thinking librarian who was able to close its massive doors. The Centre Block was immediately rebuilt, being completed in 1920, with the Peace Tower, commemorating the end of the First World War, being completed in 1927.

The Peace Tower is the most prominent part of the buildings. It replaced the 55-metre Victoria Tower, burned in the 1916 fire; the current tower is 92,2 metres tall. The base of the Peace Tower contains a book listing all of Canada's war dead; a page is ceremoniously turned every day at 11 o'clock. The tower contains an observation gallery offering beautiful views of the city. Its clock is set by the National Research Council official time signal and is equipped with a 53-bell carillon which gives frequent concerts. Like the entire interior and exterior of the building, the tower is decorated with approximately 370 stone carvings, including gargoyles, grotesques[?], and friezes.

The entire parliamentary precinct measures 112 360 square metres.

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