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Canadian House of Commons
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Canadian House of Commons

The House of Commons (in French, la Chambre des communes) is the lower, directly elected house of the Parliament of Canada which sits in the nation's capital, Ottawa, Ontario.

Table of contents
1 Leadership
2 Officials
3 Operation
4 Composition
5 See also
6 External link

Leadership

Prime minister 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 prime minister 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 tradition this is the leader of the party which controls a majority of the seats in the House. In the case where no party has a majority, the governor general selects the leader who is most likely to command the confidence of the House. In theory the governor general then picks the members of the Cabinet, but in practice these selections have always been made by the prime minister. Although the House of Commons is not involved in the formal selection process of the prime minister or Cabinet, as in other parliamentary democracies, it does have the ability to vote no confidence or to reject Supply, and then the prime minister must either resign or appeal over the head of the House of Commons to the people in a general election.

Speaker

The speaker of the House of Commons is elected from amongst the MPs by secret ballot after each general election. 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. In this respect, he is considered "the first commoner." 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 of the Parliament Buildings and has ceremonial duties, such as carrying the mace into the chamber at the start of each house sitting. 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 day there is the question period where members of the opposition parties 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 Westminster 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 the parties have much firmer control of their members than in the United Kingdom.

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. During the summer or holiday breaks special sessions can be called by the government to debate issues of pressing importance.

Composition

Each of the country's present 308 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 senators.

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 non-incumbent independents to get elected. The last person to do so was Gilles Duceppe in 1990, though he was un-officially running for the Bloc. The last truly independent non-incumbent to win was Tony Roman who was elected from North York, Ontario in 1984.

Many eminent men and women have served here, such as prime ministers 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 29 June 2004

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BC  AB  SK  MB  ON  QC  NB  NS  PE  NL  YK  NT  NU 
Liberal Party * 8 2 1 3 75 21 7 6 4 5 1 1 1 135
Conservative Party * 22 26 13 7 24 2 3 2 99
Bloc Québécois; * 54 54
New Democratic Party * 5 4 7 1 2 19
Independent / Non-Partisan * 1 1
Vacant * 0
34 28 14 14 106 75 10 11 4 7 1 1 1 308

See also

External link

Legislative Assemblies of Canada:
Canadian
House of
Commons
Canadian Senate
Alta B.C Man N.B
Nfld.-Lab
N.S Ont P.E.I Que Sask Yukon N.W.T Nvt
City Councils: Western Canada: Calgary | Edmonton | Vancouver | Winnipeg
Central Canada: Hamilton | Mississauga | Ottawa | Toronto
Eastern Canada: Halifax | Montreal | Quebec City