Want to learn more about the Canadian Parliament?

Whenever something is wrong, the people of Canada call on Parliament to fix it, or at least call on Parliament to take the blame for it. Your porch is probably full of newspapers reporting on what Parliament is up to now. Parliament has a large role in determining what your country and therefore your life looks like. But what is Parliament really? Who is it made up of? What does it do? Hopefully the parliamentary facts in this article can help clear up some of the confusion.

Parliament is the name for the federal branch of the government of Canada. It includes the Queen, who is nominally if not in practice the head of state of Canada and is represented here by the Governor General, the House of Commons, and the Senate. They meet on Parliament Hill in Ottawa when they are in session and are overseen by the Prime Minister. Each time there is a federal election you are choosing a new Parliament.

Canada was once a colony of England and unlike the United States has never formally broken ties with them. Therefore the Queen is still the technical head of state in Canada. In practice however, the queen and her representative, the Governor General, only give speeches according to tradition, give their stamp of approval to whatever Canada's elected representatives decide, and call or dismiss Parliament. The Queen and Governor General are not permitted into the House of Commons, which is elected by ordinary people who are not royally appointed.

The senate, also known as the upper house, is where the Queen makes her visits. There are 105 people on the senate and they are all appointed by the Governor General according to the Prime Minister's wishes. Senators are assigned by region rather than population density and may serve indefinitely. They have to be at least 30 and own their own property. The Senate reviews what the House of Commons decides on and if it represents too much of a threat they may oppose it.

The House of Commons or lower house is made up of the people you vote for on your ballot. The representatives of the house (called MPs or Members of Parliament) are assigned based on ridings, and ridings are divided according to population, not on who owns Plano real estate. There are 308 seats in the House of Commons and whichever party (Liberal, Conservative, NDP, etc.) gets the most seats in the House of Commons gets to place their party leader in the role of Prime Minister. The House of Commons does almost all of the work in deciding how things should run in Canada. To make a law, an MP has to present a bill, argue it, and then have everyone vote on it.

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