Canadian House of Commons
Overview
 
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada
Parliament of Canada
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislative branch of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in the national capital, Ottawa. Formally, the body consists of the Canadian monarch—represented by her governor general—the Senate, and the House of Commons, each element having its own officers and...

, along with the Sovereign (represented by the Governor General
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

) and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 elected body, consisting of 308 members
41st Canadian Parliament
The 41st Canadian Parliament is the current Parliament of Canada, with the membership of its House of Commons having been determined by the results of the 2011 federal election held on May 2, 2011...

 known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Members are elected by simple plurality ('first-past-the-post' system)
Plurality voting system
The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

 in each of the country's electoral districts
Electoral district (Canada)
An electoral district in Canada, also known as a constituency or a riding, is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based...

, which are colloquially known as riding
Electoral district (Canada)
An electoral district in Canada, also known as a constituency or a riding, is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based...

s
. MPs may hold office until Parliament is dissolved and serve for constitutionally limited terms of up to five years after an election.
Encyclopedia
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada
Parliament of Canada
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislative branch of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in the national capital, Ottawa. Formally, the body consists of the Canadian monarch—represented by her governor general—the Senate, and the House of Commons, each element having its own officers and...

, along with the Sovereign (represented by the Governor General
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

) and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 elected body, consisting of 308 members
41st Canadian Parliament
The 41st Canadian Parliament is the current Parliament of Canada, with the membership of its House of Commons having been determined by the results of the 2011 federal election held on May 2, 2011...

 known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Members are elected by simple plurality ('first-past-the-post' system)
Plurality voting system
The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

 in each of the country's electoral districts
Electoral district (Canada)
An electoral district in Canada, also known as a constituency or a riding, is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based...

, which are colloquially known as riding
Electoral district (Canada)
An electoral district in Canada, also known as a constituency or a riding, is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based...

s
. MPs may hold office until Parliament is dissolved and serve for constitutionally limited terms of up to five years after an election. Historically however, terms have ended before their expiry and the sitting government has typically dissolved parliament within four years of an election according to a long-standing convention. Notwithstanding this, an Act of Parliament
Fixed election dates in Canada
In Canada, some Canadian jurisdictions have passed legislation fixing election dates, so that elections occur on a more regular cycle and the date of a forthcoming election is publicly known...

 now limits each term to four years. Seats in the House of Commons are distributed roughly in proportion to the population of each province and territory
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

. However, some ridings are more populous than others and the Canadian constitution
Constitution of Canada
The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law in Canada; the country's constitution is an amalgamation of codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. It outlines Canada's system of government, as well as the civil rights of all Canadian citizens and those in Canada...

 contains some special provisions regarding provincial representation; thus, there is some interprovincial and regional malapportionment based on population.

The House of Commons was established in 1867, when the Constitution Act, 1867
Constitution Act, 1867
The Constitution Act, 1867 , is a major part of Canada's Constitution. The Act created a federal dominion and defines much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including its federal structure, the House of Commons, the Senate, the justice system, and the taxation system...

, formerly the BNA Act (British North America Act), created the Dominion of Canada, and was modelled on the British House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

. The lower
Lower house
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide the lower house has come to wield more power...

 of the two houses making up the parliament, the House of Commons in practice holds far more power than the upper house
Upper house
An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...

, the Senate. Although the approval of both Houses is necessary for legislation, the Senate very rarely rejects bills passed by the Commons (though the Senate does occasionally amend bills). Moreover, the Government of Canada is responsible solely to the House of Commons. The Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 stays in office only as long as he or she retains the support, or "confidence", of the lower house.

It is widely thought that "Commons" is a shortening of the word "commoners". However, the term derives from the Anglo-Norman
Anglo-Norman language
Anglo-Norman is the name traditionally given to the kind of Old Norman used in England and to some extent elsewhere in the British Isles during the Anglo-Norman period....

 word communes, referring to the geographic and collective "communities" of their parliamentary representatives and not the third estate, the commonality. This distinction is made clear in the official French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 name of the body, Chambre des communes. Canada and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 remain the only countries to use the name "House of Commons
House of Commons
The House of Commons is the name of the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada and historically was the name of the lower houses of Ireland and North Carolina...

" for a lower house of parliament.

The Canadian House of Commons chamber is located in the Centre Block
Centre Block
The Centre Block is the main building of the Canadian parliamentary complex on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario, containing the Commons and Senate chambers, as well as the offices of a number of Members of Parliament and Senators, as well as senior administration for both legislative houses...

 of the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill , colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Its Gothic revival suite of buildingsthe parliament buildings serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada and contains a number of architectural...

, in Ottawa
Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

, Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

.

History

The House of Commons came into existence in 1867, when the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, uniting the Province of Canada (which was separated into Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 and Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

), Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 and New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

 into a single federation called the Dominion of Canada. The new Parliament of Canada consisted of the Queen
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 (represented by the Governor General, who also represented the Colonial Office), the Senate and the House of Commons. The Parliament of Canada was based on the Westminster model
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

 (that is, the model of the Parliament of the United Kingdom). Unlike the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the powers of the Parliament of Canada were limited in that other powers were assigned exclusively to the provincial legislatures. The Parliament of Canada also remained subordinate to the Westminster Parliament, the supreme legislative authority for the entire British Empire. Greater autonomy was granted by the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

, after which new Acts of the British Parliament did not apply to Canada, with some exceptions. These exceptions were removed by the Canada Act 1982
Canada Act 1982
The Canada Act 1982 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was passed at the request of the Canadian federal government to "patriate" Canada's constitution, ending the necessity for the country to request certain types of amendment to the Constitution of Canada to be made by the...

.
From 1867 to 1916 the Commons met in the old chambers until these were destroyed by fire. It relocated to the amphitheatre of the Victoria Memorial Museum - what is today the Canadian Museum of Nature
Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is a natural history museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Its collections, which were started by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1856, include all aspects of the intersection of human society and nature, from gardening to gene-splicing...

 from 1916 to 1922. Since 1922, the Commons has sat in the same chamber.

Members and electoral districts

The House of Commons is composed of 308 members, each of whom represents a single electoral district
Electoral district (Canada)
An electoral district in Canada, also known as a constituency or a riding, is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based...

 (also called a riding). The constitution requires that there be a minimum of 295 electoral districts; there are currently 308. Seats are distributed among the provinces
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 in proportion to population, as determined by each decennial census, subject to the following exceptions made by the constitution. Firstly, the "senatorial clause" guarantees that each province will have at least as many MPs as Senators
Canadian Senate
The Senate of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons, and the monarch . The Senate consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister...

. Secondly, the "grandfather clause" guarantees each province has at least as many Members of Parliament now as it had in 1985.

As a result of these clauses, smaller provinces and provinces that have experienced a relative decline in population are over-represented in the House. Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, and Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

 are under-represented in proportion to their populations, while the other seven provinces (Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

, Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

, Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

, New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name, as well as other islands. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population...

, and Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

) are over-represented. Boundary commissions, appointed by the federal government for each province, are responsible for drawing the boundaries of the electoral districts in each province. Territorial representation is independent of population; each territory is entitled to only one seat. The calculation for the provinces is done with a "base" of 279 seats. The total population of the provinces (excluding the territories) is then divided by 279 to equal the electoral quotient. The population of the province is then divided by the electoral quotient to equal the "base" provincial seat allocation. The "special clauses" are then applied to increase the number of seats for certain provinces, bringing the total number of seats (with the three seats for the territories) to 308. The next redistribution of seats is scheduled to occur after the 2011 census
Canada 2011 Census
The Canada 2011 Census is a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population on May 10, 2011. Statistics Canada—an agency of the Canadian government—conducts a nationwide census every five years...

.

Representation in the House of Commons by province and territory is summarized in the following tables.

Province
Minimum number of seats
(in accordance with the Constitution Act)
Population
(2006)
National Quotient
(population of all provinces divided by 279)
Base seats
(rounded result)
Additional seats
(based on special clauses)
Seats
allocated
Electoral Quotient
(Average population per electoral district)
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

95 12,160,282 113,308 106 0 106 114,720
Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

75 7,546,131 113,308 68 7 75 100,615
British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

28 4,113,487 113,308 36 0 36 114,264
Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

21 3,290,350 113,308 28 0 28 117,513
Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

14 1,148,401 113,308 10 4 14 82,029
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

14 968,157 113,308 9 5 14 69,154
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

11 913,462 113,308 8 3 11 83,042
New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

10 729,997 113,308 7 3 10 73,000
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

7 505,469 113,308 5 2 7 72,209
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name, as well as other islands. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population...

4 135,851 113,308 1 3 4 33,963
Total for provinces 279 31,511,587 113,308 278 27 305 103,317
Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

1 41,464 1 41,464
Yukon Territory 1 30,372 1 30,372
Nunavut
Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

1 29,474 1 29,474
Total for territories 3 101,310 3 33,770
National total 282 31,612,897 308 102,639


A 2010 report by an Ontario think tank
Think tank
A think tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues. Most think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax...

, the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation
Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation
The Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation is an independent, non-partisan public policy research centre located at the University of Toronto School of Public Policy and Governance....

, concluded that House of Commons seat allocations may violate constitutional equal representation by population principles. Current seat allocations may overrepresent the weight of votes cast in rural/regional provinces, to the detriment of larger and more diverse populations voting in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. For example, the average population per electoral district in British Columbia is over three times as large as that of Prince Edward Island.

Elections

General election
General election
In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.The term...

s occur whenever Parliament is dissolved by the Governor General
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 on the Queen's behalf. The timing of the dissolution has historically been chosen by the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

. The Constitution Act, 1867 provides that a Parliament last no longer than five years. Canadian election law requires that elections must be held on the third Monday in October in fourth year after the last election, subject to the discretion of the Crown. Campaigns must be at least 36 days long. Candidates are usually nominated by political parties. It is possible for a candidate to run independently, although it is rare for such a candidate to win. Most successful independent candidates have been incumbents who were expelled from their political parties (for example, John Nunziata
John Nunziata
John Nunziata is a Canadian politician. He served in the Canadian House of Commons from 1984 to 2000, initially as a Liberal and later as an independent member.-Background:...

 in 1997) or who failed to win their parties' nomination (for example, Chuck Cadman
Chuck Cadman
Charles "Chuck" Cadman was a Canadian politician and Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2005, representing the riding of Surrey North in Surrey, British Columbia.- Early life :...

 in 2004). The most recent exception of this was the election of André Arthur
André Arthur
André Arthur is a Canadian radio host and politician. He was the independent Member of Parliament for the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier from 2006 to 2011...

 in a Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec , also Québec, Quebec City or Québec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in Quebec after Montreal, which is about to the southwest...

 district in 2006. Most Canadian candidates are chosen in meetings called by their party's local association. In practice, the candidate who signs up the most local party members generally wins the nomination.

To run for a seat in the House, candidates must file nomination papers bearing the signatures of at least 50 or 100 constituents (depending on the size of the electoral district). Each electoral district returns one member using the first-past-the-post electoral system, under which the candidate with a plurality of votes wins. To vote, one must be a citizen of Canada and at least eighteen years of age.

Once elected, a Member of Parliament normally continues to serve until the next dissolution of Parliament. If a member dies, resigns, or ceases to be qualified, his or her seat falls vacant. It is also possible for the House of Commons to expel a member, but this power is only exercised when the member has engaged in serious misconduct or criminal activity. Formerly, MPs appointed to cabinet were expected to resign their seats, though this practice ceased in 1931. In each case, a vacancy may be filled by a by-election
By-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

 in the appropriate electoral district. The first-past-the-post system is used in by-elections, as in general elections.

Perquisites

The term "Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

" is usually used only to refer to members of the House of Commons, even though the Senate
Canadian Senate
The Senate of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons, and the monarch . The Senate consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister...

 is also a part of Parliament. Members of the House of Commons may use the post-nominal letters "MP". The annual salary of each Member of Parliament is, as of 2010, $157,731; members may receive additional salaries in right of other offices they hold (for instance, the Speakership
Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow Members of Parliament...

). MPs rank immediately below senators in the order of precedence
Canadian order of precedence
The Canadian order of precedence is a nominal and symbolic hierarchy of important positions within the Government of Canada. It has no legal standing but is used to dictate ceremonial protocol....

.

Qualifications

Under the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament is empowered to determine the qualifications of members of the House of Commons. The present qualifications are outlined in the Canada Elections Act
Canada Elections Act
Canada Elections Act is an Act of the Parliament of Canada respecting the election of members of parliament to the Canadian House of Commons, repealing other Acts relating to elections and making consequential amendments to other Acts....

, which was passed in 2000. Under the act, an individual must be an eligible voter, as of the day on which he or she is nominated, in order to stand as a candidate. Thus, minors and individuals who are not citizens of Canada are not allowed to become candidates. The Canada Elections Act also bars prisoners from standing for election (although they may vote). Moreover, individuals found guilty of election-related crimes are prohibited from becoming members for five years (in some cases, seven years) after conviction.

The act also prohibits certain officials from standing for the House of Commons. These officers include members of provincial and territorial legislatures (although this was not always the case), sheriffs, crown attorney
Crown attorney
Crown Attorneys or Crown Counsel are the prosecutors in the legal system of Canada.Crown Attorneys represent the Crown and act as prosecutor in proceedings under the Criminal Code of Canada...

s, most judges, and election officers. The Chief Electoral Officer
Chief Electoral Officer (Canada)
The Chief Electoral Officer is the person responsible for overseeing elections in Canada.The position of Chief Electoral Officer was created in 1920 by the Dominion Elections Act. The Chief Electoral Officer is appointed by a resolution of the Canadian House of Commons...

 and Assistant Chief Electoral Officer (the heads of Elections Canada
Elections Canada
Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency reporting directly to the Parliament of Canada. Its ongoing responsibility is to ensure that Canadians can exercise their choices in federal elections and referenda through an open and impartial process...

, the federal agency responsible for conducting elections) are prohibited not only from standing as candidates, but also from voting. Finally, under the Constitution Act, 1867, a member of the Senate may not also become a member of the House of Commons and MPs must give up their seats when appointed to the Senate or the bench.

Officers and symbols

The House of Commons elects a presiding officer, known as the Speaker
Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow Members of Parliament...

, at the beginning of each new parliamentary term, and also whenever a vacancy arises. Formerly, the Prime Minister determined who would serve as Speaker. Although the House voted on the matter, the voting constituted a mere formality. Since 1986, however, the House has elected Speakers by secret ballot. The Speaker is assisted by a Deputy Speaker, who also holds the title of Chair of Committees of the Whole. Two other deputies—the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole—also preside. The duties of presiding over the House are divided between the four officers aforementioned; however, the Speaker usually presides over Question Period
Question Period
Question Period, known officially as Oral Questions occurs each sitting day in the Canadian House of Commons. According to the House of Commons Compendium, “The primary purpose of Question Period is to seek information from the Government and to call it to account for its actions.”-History:The...

 and over the most important debates.

The Speaker controls debates by calling on members to speak. If a member believes that a rule (or Standing Order) has been breached, he or she may raise a "point of order
Point of order
A point of order is a matter raised during consideration of a motion concerning the rules of parliamentary procedure.-Explanation and uses:A point of order may be raised if the rules appear to have been broken. This may interrupt a speaker during debate, or anything else if the breach of the rules...

", on which the Speaker makes a ruling that is not subject to any debate or appeal. The Speaker may also discipline members who fail to observe the rules of the House. When presiding, the Speaker must remain impartial. The Speaker also oversees the administration of the House and is Chair of the Board of Internal Economy
Board of Internal Economy
The Board of Internal Economy is the body that governs the administrative and financial policies of the House of Commons of Canada. Unlike most committees of the Parliament of Canada, the Board of Internal Economy continues through prorogation and dissolution...

, the governing body for the House of Commons. The current Speaker of the House of Commons is the Honourable Andrew Scheer
Andrew Scheer
Andrew Scheer is a Canadian Member of Parliament and the Speaker of the House of Commons. At the age of 32, he is the youngest person to serve in this capacity in Canadian parliamentarian history.-Early life and career:...

, MP.

The member of the Government responsible for steering legislation through the House is Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Canada)
The Leader of the government in the House of Commons , more commonly known as the Government House Leader, is the Cabinet minister responsible for planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Canadian House of Commons...

. The Government House Leader (as he or she is more commonly known) is a Member of Parliament selected by the Prime Minister and holds cabinet rank. The Leader manages the schedule of the House of Commons, and attempts to secure the Opposition's support for the Government's legislative agenda.

Officers of the House who are not members include the Clerk of the House of Commons, the Deputy Clerk, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, and several other clerks. These officers advise the Speaker and members on the rules and procedure of the House in addition to exercising senior management functions within the House administration. Another important officer is the Sergeant-at-Arms
Serjeant-at-Arms
A Sergeant-at-Arms is an officer appointed by a deliberative body, usually a legislature, to keep order during its meetings. The word sergeant is derived from the Latin serviens, which means "servant"....

, whose duties include the maintenance of order and security on the House's premises and inside the buildings of the Parliamentary precinct. (The RCMP patrol Parliament Hill but are not allowed into the buildings unless asked by the Speaker). The Sergeant-at-Arms also carries the ceremonial mace
Ceremonial mace
The ceremonial mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies by a mace-bearer, intended to represent the official's authority. The mace, as used today, derives from the original mace used as a weapon...

, a symbol of the authority of the Crown and of the House of Commons, into the House each sitting. The House is also staffed by parliamentary pages
Canadian House of Commons Page Program
A House of Commons Page is a non-partisan employee of the Canadian House of Commons. They perform both ceremonial and administrative duties including:* Participation in the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons' Parade and Royal Assent...

, who carry messages to the members in the Chamber and otherwise provide assistance to the House.

The Commons' mace has the shape of a mediaeval mace which was used as a weapon, but in brass and ornate in detail and symbolism. At its bulbous head is a replica of the Imperial State Crown
Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown is one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.- Design :The Crown is of a design similar to St Edward's Crown: it includes a base of four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, above which are four half-arches surmounted by a cross. Inside is a velvet cap...

; the choice of this crown for the Commons' mace differentiates it from the Senate's mace, which has St. Edward's Crown
St. Edward's Crown
St Edward's Crown was one of the English Crown Jewels and remains one of the senior British Crown Jewels, being the official coronation crown used in the coronation of first English, then British, and finally Commonwealth realms monarchs...

 at its apex. The Commons mace is placed upon the table in front of the speaker for the duration of the sitting with the crown pointing towards the prime minister and the other cabinet ministers, who advise the Queen and governor general and are accountable to this chamber (in the Senate chamber, the mace points towards the throne
Throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

, where the Queen has the right to sit herself).

Carved above the speaker's chair are the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom
Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom is the official coat of arms of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. These arms are used by the Queen in her official capacity as monarch of the United Kingdom, and are officially known as her Arms of Dominion...

. This chair was a gift from the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association in 1921, to replace the chair that was destroyed by the fire of 1916, and was an exact replica of the chair in the British House of Commons at the time. These arms at its apex were considered the royal arms for general purposes throughout the British empire at the time. Since 1931, however, Canada has been an independent country and the Canadian Coat of Arms are now understood to be the royal arms of the Queen of Canada. An escutcheon of what were the deputed Arms of Canada can be found next to the speaker's chair being held by a unicorn, on the opposition side, and a parallel escutcheon of the Arms of the United Kingdom
Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom is the official coat of arms of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. These arms are used by the Queen in her official capacity as monarch of the United Kingdom, and are officially known as her Arms of Dominion...

 can be found held by a lion, on the government side.

In response to a campaign by Bruce Hicks for the Canadianization of symbols of royal authority and to advance the identity of parliamentary institutions, a proposal that was supported by Speakers of the House of Commons
Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow Members of Parliament...

 John Fraser
John Fraser
-Politics:*John James Fraser , Canadian politician*John Fraser , Canadian Member of Parliament for Lambton East, Ontario...

 and Gilbert Parent
Gilbert Parent
Gilbert "Gib" Parent, PC was a Canadian Member of Parliament. He is best known in his role of Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons between 1994 and 2001....

, a Commons committee was eventually struck following a motion by MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 Derek Lee, before which Hicks and Robert Watt
Robert Watt
Robert Douglas Watt, LVO, FRHSC was the first Chief Herald of Canada. He was appointed at the foundation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, and was succeeded by Claire Boudreau in 2007....

, the first Chief Herald of Canada
Chief Herald of Canada
Chief Herald of Canada is the title held by the head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. The Chief Herald of Canada directs the operations of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and makes the grants of arms. There are exceptions to this, such as certain grants made directly by the Governor General. The...

, were called as the only two expert witnesses, though Senator Serge Joyal
Serge Joyal
Serge Joyal, PC, OC, OQ is a Canadian Senator. A lawyer by profession, Joyal served as vice-president of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada...

 joined the committee on behalf of the Senate. Commons' Speaker
Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow Members of Parliament...

 Peter Milliken
Peter Milliken
Peter Andrew Stewart Milliken, UE is a Canadian lawyer and politician. He was a member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1988 until his retirement in 2011 and served as Speaker of the House for 10 years beginning in 2001. Milliken represented the Ontario riding of Kingston and the Islands as a...

 then asked the governor general
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 to authorize such a symbol. In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords use the royal badge of the portcullis
Portcullis
A portcullis is a latticed grille made of wood, metal, fibreglass or a combination of the three. Portcullises fortified the entrances to many medieval castles, acting as a last line of defence during time of attack or siege...

, in green and red respectively, to represent those institutions and to distinguish them from the government, the courts and the monarch. The Canadian Heraldic Authority
Canadian Heraldic Authority
The Canadian Heraldic Authority is part of the Canadian honours system under the Queen of Canada, whose authority is exercised by the Governor General. The Authority is responsible for the creation and granting of new coats of arms , flags and badges for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and...

 on 15 April 2008 granted the House of Commons, as an institution, a badge consisting of the chamber's mace (as described above) behind the escutcheon of the shield of the Royal Arms of Canada (representing the Queen herself, in whose name the House of Commons deliberates).

Procedure

Like the Senate, the House of Commons meets on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Commons Chamber is modestly decorated in green, in contrast with the more lavishly furnished red Senate Chamber. The arrangement is similar to the design of the Chamber of the British House of Commons. The seats are evenly divided between both sides of the Chamber, three sword-lengths apart (about three metres). The Speaker's chair (which can be adjusted for height) is at the north end of the Chamber. In front of it is the Table of the House, on which rests the ceremonial mace
Ceremonial mace
The ceremonial mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies by a mace-bearer, intended to represent the official's authority. The mace, as used today, derives from the original mace used as a weapon...

. Various "Table Officers"—clerks and other officials—sit at the Table, ready to advise the Speaker on procedure when necessary. Members of the Government sit on the benches on the Speaker's right, while members of the Opposition occupy the benches on the Speaker's left. Government ministers sit around the Prime Minister, who is traditionally assigned the 11th seat in the front row on the Speaker's right-hand side. The leader of the Official Opposition sits directly across from the Prime Minister and is surrounded by a Shadow Cabinet, or critics for the government portfolios. The remaining party leaders sit in the front rows. Other Members of Parliament who do not hold any kind of special responsibilities are known as "backbenchers".

The House usually sits Monday to Friday from late January to mid-June and from mid-September to mid-December according to an established calendar, though it can modify the calendar if additional or fewer sittings are required. During these periods, the House generally rises for one week per month to allow members to work in their constituencies. Sittings of the House are open to the public. Proceedings are broadcast over cable and satellite television and over live streaming video
Streaming media
Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a streaming provider.The term "presented" is used in this article in a general sense that includes audio or video playback. The name refers to the delivery method of the medium rather...

 on the Internet by the Cable Public Affairs Channel owned by a consortium of Canadian cable companies. They are also recorded in text form in print and online in Hansard
Hansard
Hansard is the name of the printed transcripts of parliamentary debates in the Westminster system of government. It is named after Thomas Curson Hansard, an early printer and publisher of these transcripts.-Origins:...

, the official report of parliamentary debates.

The Constitution Act, 1867 establishes a quorum
Quorum
A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group...

 of twenty members (including the member presiding) for the House of Commons. Any member may request a count of the members to ascertain the presence of a quorum; if, however, the Speaker feels that at least twenty members are clearly in the Chamber, he or she may deny the request. If a count does occur, and reveals that fewer than twenty members are present, the Speaker orders bells to be rung, so that other members on the parliamentary precincts may come to the Chamber. If, after a second count, a quorum is still not present, the Speaker must adjourn the House until the next sitting day.

During debates, members may only speak if called upon by the Speaker (or, as is most often the case, the deputy presiding). The Speaker is responsible for ensuring that members of all parties have an opportunity to be heard. The Speaker also determines who is to speak if two or more members rise simultaneously, but his or her decision may be altered by the House. Motions must be moved by one member and seconded by another before debate may begin. Some motions, however, are non-debatable.

Speeches may be made in either of Canada's official languages (English and French), and it is customary for bilingual members of parliament to respond to these in the same language they were made in. It is common for bilingual MPs to switch between the languages during speeches. Members must address their speeches to the presiding officer, not the House, using the words "Mr. Speaker" ("Monsieur le Président") or "Madam Speaker" ("Madame la Présidente"). Other members must be referred to in the third person. Traditionally, members do not refer to each other by name, but by constituency or cabinet post, using forms such as "the honourable member for [electoral district]" or "the Minister of..." Members' names are routinely used only during roll call votes, in which members stand and are named to have their vote recorded; at that point they are referred to by title (Ms. or mister for Anglophones and madame, mademoiselle, or monsieur for Francophones) and last name, except where members have the same or similar last names, at which point they would be listed by their name and riding ("M. Martin, Lasalle—Emard; Mr. Martin, Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca...)

No member may speak more than once on the same question (except that the mover of a motion is entitled to make one speech at the beginning of the debate and another at the end). Moreover, tediously repetitive or irrelevant remarks are prohibited, as are written remarks read into the record (although this behaviour is creeping into modern debate). The presiding officer may order a member making such remarks to cease speaking. The Standing Orders of the House of Commons prescribe time limits for speeches. The limits depend on the nature of the motion, but are most commonly between ten and twenty minutes. However, under certain circumstances, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Official Opposition
Leader of the Opposition (Canada)
The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition , or simply the Leader of the Opposition is the leader of Canada's Official Opposition, the party with the most seats in the House of Commons that is not a member of the government...

, and others are entitled to make longer speeches. Debate may be further restricted by the passage of "time allocation" motions. Alternatively, the House may end debate more quickly by passing a motion for "closure
Cloture
In parliamentary procedure, cloture is a motion or process aimed at bringing debate to a quick end. It is also called closure or, informally, a guillotine. The cloture procedure originated in the French National Assembly, from which the name is taken. Clôture is French for "ending" or "conclusion"...

".

When the debate concludes, the motion in question is put to a vote. The House first votes by voice vote; the presiding officer puts the question, and members respond either "yea" (in favour of the motion) or "nay" (against the motion). The presiding officer then announces the result of the voice vote, but five or more members may challenge his or her assessment, thereby forcing a recorded vote (known as a division
Division (vote)
In parliamentary procedure, a division of the assembly is a voting method in which the members of the assembly take a rising vote or go to different parts of the chamber, literally dividing into groups indicating a vote in favour of or in opposition to a motion on the floor...

, although, in fact, the House does not divide for votes the way the British House of Commons does). First, members in favour of the motion rise, so that the clerks may record their names and votes. Then, the same procedure is repeated for members who oppose the motion. There is no formal means for recording an abstention, though a member may informally abstain by remaining seated during the division. If there is an equality of votes, the Speaker has a casting vote.

The outcome of most votes is largely known beforehand, since political parties normally instruct members on how to vote. A party normally entrusts some Members of Parliament, known as whips
Whip (politics)
A whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party's "enforcers", who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy...

, with the task of ensuring that all party members vote as desired. Members of Parliament do not tend to vote against such instructions, since those who do so are unlikely to reach higher political ranks in their parties. Errant members may be deselected as official party candidates during future elections, and, in serious cases, may be expelled from their parties outright. Thus, the independence of Members of Parliament tends to be extremely low, and "backbench rebellions" by members discontent with their party's policies are rare. In some circumstances, however, parties announce "free votes", allowing Members to vote as they please. This may be done on moral issues and is routine on private members' bills.

Committees

The Parliament of Canada uses committees for a variety of purposes. Committees consider bills in detail, and may make amendments. Other committees scrutinize various Government agencies and ministries.

Potentially, the largest of the Commons committees are the Committees of the Whole, which, as the name suggests, consist of all the members of the House. A Committee of the Whole meets in the Chamber of the House, but proceeds under slightly modified rules of debate. (For example, a member may make more than one speech on a motion in a Committee of the Whole, but not during a normal session of the House.) Instead of the Speaker, the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, or Assistant Deputy Chairman presides. The House resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole to discuss appropriation bills, and sometimes for other legislation.

The House of Commons also has several standing committees, each of which has responsibility for a particular area of government (for example, finance or transport). These committees oversee the relevant government departments, may hold hearings and collect evidence on governmental operations and review departmental spending plans. Standing committees may also consider and amend bills. Standing committees consist of between sixteen and eighteen members each, and elect their own chairmen.

Some bills are considered by legislative committees, each of which consists of up to fifteen members. The membership of each legislative committee roughly reflects the strength of the parties in the whole House. A legislative committee is appointed on an ad hoc basis to study and amend a specific bill. In addition, the Chairman of a legislative committee is not elected by the members of the committee, but is instead appointed by the Speaker, normally from among his deputies. Most bills, however, are referred to standing committees rather than legislative committees.

The House may also create ad hoc committees to study matters other than bills. Such committees are known as special committees. Each such body, like a legislative committee, may consist of no more than fifteen members. Other committees include joint committees, which include both members of the House of Commons and senators; such committees may hold hearings and oversee government, but do not revise legislation.

Legislative functions

Although legislation may be introduced in either House, most bills originate in the House of Commons.

In conformity with the British model, the Lower House alone is authorised to originate bills imposing taxes or appropriating public funds. This restriction on the power of the Senate is not merely a matter of convention, but is explicitly stated in the Constitution Act, 1867. Otherwise, the power of the two Houses of Parliament is theoretically equal; the approval of each is necessary for a bill's passage.

In practice, however, the House of Commons is the dominant chamber of Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

, with the Senate very rarely exercising its powers in a way that opposes the will of the democratically elected chamber. The last major bill defeated in the Senate came in 2010, when a bill passed by the Commons concerning climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 was rejected in the Upper House by a vote.

A clause in the Constitution Act, 1867 permits the Governor General (with the approval of the Queen) to appoint up to eight extra senators to resolve a deadlock between the two houses. The clause was invoked only once, in 1990, when Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Brian Mulroney
Brian Mulroney
Martin Brian Mulroney, was the 18th Prime Minister of Canada from September 17, 1984, to June 25, 1993 and was leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1983 to 1993. His tenure as Prime Minister was marked by the introduction of major economic reforms, such as the Canada-U.S...

 advised the appointment of an additional eight senators in order to secure the Upper House's approval for the Goods and Services Tax
Goods and Services Tax (Canada)
The Goods and Services Tax is a multi-level value added tax introduced in Canada on January 1, 1991, by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his finance minister Michael Wilson. The GST replaced a hidden 13.5% Manufacturers' Sales Tax ; Mulroney claimed the GST was implemented because the MST...

.

Relationship with the executive

Though it does not formally elect the prime minister, the House of Commons indirectly controls the premiership. By convention, the prime minister is answerable to, and must maintain the support of, the House of Commons. Thus, whenever the office of prime minister falls vacant, the governor general is supposed to appoint the person most likely to command the support of the House—normally, the leader of the largest party in the lower house, although the system allows a coalition of two or more parties. This has not happened in the Canadian federal parliament, but has occurred in Canadian provinces. The leader of the second-largest party (or in the case of a coalition, the largest party out of government) usually becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition. Moreover, the prime minister is, by unwritten convention, a member of the House of Commons, rather than of the Senate. The only two prime ministers who governed from the Senate were Sir John Abbott (1891–1892) and Sir Mackenzie Bowell
Mackenzie Bowell
Sir Mackenzie Bowell, PC, KCMG was a Canadian politician who served as the fifth Prime Minister of Canada from December 21, 1894 to April 27, 1896.-Early life:Bowell was born in Rickinghall, Suffolk, England to John Bowell and Elizabeth Marshall...

 (1894–1896). Both men got the job following the death of a Prime Minister, and did not contest elections.

The prime minister may only stay in office as long as he or she retains the confidence of the House of Commons. The lower house may indicate its lack of support for the government by rejecting a motion of confidence, or by passing a motion of no confidence
Motion of no confidence
A motion of no confidence is a parliamentary motion whose passing would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government.-Overview:Typically, when a parliament passes a vote of no...

. Important bills that form a part of the government's agenda are generally considered matters of confidence, as is any taxation or spending bill and the annual budget. When a government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons, the prime minister is obliged to either resign, or request the governor general to dissolve parliament, thereby precipitating a general election. The governor general may theoretically refuse to dissolve parliament, thereby forcing the prime minister to resign. The last instance
King-Byng Affair
The King–Byng Affair was a Canadian constitutional crisis that occurred in 1926, when the Governor General of Canada, the Lord Byng of Vimy, refused a request by his prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to dissolve parliament and call a general election....

 of a governor general refusing to grant a dissolution was in 1926.

Except when compelled to request a dissolution by an adverse vote on a confidence issue, the prime minister is allowed to choose the timing of dissolutions, and consequently the timing of general elections. The time chosen reflects political considerations, and is generally most opportune for the prime minister's party. However, no parliamentary term can last for more than five years from the first sitting of Parliament; a dissolution is automatic upon the expiry of this period. Normally, Parliaments do not last for full five-year terms; prime ministers typically ask for dissolutions after about three or four years. The 2006 Conservative government introduced a bill to set fixed election dates every four years, although snap election
Snap election
A snap election is an election called earlier than expected. Generally it refers to an election in a parliamentary system called when not required , usually to capitalize on a unique electoral opportunity or to decide a pressing issue...

s are still permitted. This bill was approved by parliament and has now become law.

Whatever the reason the expiry of parliament's five year term, the choice of the prime minister, or a government defeat in the House of Commons a dissolution is followed by general elections. If the prime minister's party retains its majority in the House of Commons, then the prime minister may remain in power. On the other hand, if his or her party has lost its majority, the prime minister may resign, or may attempt to stay in power by winning support from members of other parties. A prime minister may resign even if he or she is not defeated at the polls (for example, for personal health reasons); in such a case, the premiership goes to the new leader of the outgoing prime minister's party.

The House of Commons scrutinizes the ministers of the Crown
Minister of the Crown
Minister of the Crown is the formal constitutional term used in the Commonwealth realms to describe a minister to the reigning sovereign. The term indicates that the minister serves at His/Her Majesty's pleasure, and advises the monarch, or viceroy, on how to exercise the Crown prerogatives...

 through Question Period, a daily forty-five minute period during which members have the opportunity to ask questions of the prime minister and of other Cabinet ministers. Questions must relate to the responding minister's official government activities, not to his or her activities as a party leader or as a private Member of Parliament. Members may also question committee chairmen on the work of their respective committees. Members of each party are entitled to a number of questions proportional to the party caucus' strength in the house. In addition to questions asked orally during Question Period, Members of Parliament may also make inquiries in writing.

In times where there is a majority government, the House of Commons' scrutiny of the government is weak. Since the first-past-the-post electoral system is employed in elections, the governing party tends to enjoy a large majority in the commons; there is often limited need to compromise with other parties. (Minority government
Minority government
A minority government or a minority cabinet is a cabinet of a parliamentary system formed when a political party or coalition of parties does not have a majority of overall seats in the parliament but is sworn into government to break a Hung Parliament election result. It is also known as a...

s, however, are not uncommon.) Modern Canadian political parties are so tightly organised that they leave relatively little room for free action by their MPs. In many cases, MPs may be expelled from their parties for voting against the instructions of party leaders. As well, the major parties require candidates' nominations to be signed by party leaders, thus giving the leaders the power to, effectively, end a politician's career. Thus, defeats of majority governments on issues of confidence are very rare. Paul Martin
Paul Martin
Paul Edgar Philippe Martin, PC , also known as Paul Martin, Jr. is a Canadian politician who was the 21st Prime Minister of Canada, as well as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada....

's Liberal
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

 minority government lost a vote of no confidence in 2005; the last time this had occurred was in 1979, when Joe Clark
Joe Clark
Charles Joseph "Joe" Clark, is a Canadian statesman, businessman, and university professor, and former journalist and politician...

's Tory
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was a Canadian political party with a centre-right stance on economic issues and, after the 1970s, a centrist stance on social issues....

 minority government was defeated after a term of just six months.

Current composition

Party Seats
Conservative Party
Conservative Party of Canada
The Conservative Party of Canada , is a political party in Canada which was formed by the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. It is positioned on the right of the Canadian political spectrum...

166
New Democratic Party
New Democratic Party
The New Democratic Party , commonly referred to as the NDP, is a federal social-democratic political party in Canada. The interim leader of the NDP is Nycole Turmel who was appointed to the position due to the illness of Jack Layton, who died on August 22, 2011. The provincial wings of the NDP in...

102
Liberal Party
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

34
Bloc Québécois
Bloc Québécois
The Bloc Québécois is a federal political party in Canada devoted to the protection of Quebec's interests in the House of Commons of Canada, and the promotion of Quebec sovereignty. The Bloc was originally a party made of Quebec nationalists who defected from the federal Progressive Conservative...

4
Green Party
Green Party of Canada
The Green Party of Canada is a Canadian federal political party founded in 1983 with 10,000–12,000 registered members as of October 2008. The Greens advance a broad multi-issue political platform that reflects its core values of ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy and...

1
Vacant 1
 Total 308

Chamber Design

The current and original Canadian House of Commons chamber was influenced by the British House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 layout and that of the original St. Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

.. The difference with the British layout is with the use of individual chairs and tables for members, absent in the British Commons' design.

With the exception of the legislatures in Nunavut
Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

 (circular seating), Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

 (circular seating) and Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

 (U-shaped seating) all other Canadian provincial legislatures share the common design from the Canadian House of Commons.

Parties and elections

  • Elections Canada
    Elections Canada
    Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency reporting directly to the Parliament of Canada. Its ongoing responsibility is to ensure that Canadians can exercise their choices in federal elections and referenda through an open and impartial process...

  • List of Canadian federal electoral districts
  • List of Canadian federal general elections
  • Party standings in the Canadian House of Commons
    Party standings in the Canadian House of Commons
    In the party standings in the Canada House of Commons, Members of Parliament are generally seated as a group with members of the caucus of their political party. The members of the governing party or parties are seated to the right of the Speaker in the House of Commons, while members of opposition...

  • List of political parties in Canada

Parliaments and members

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