The politics of Canada function within a framework of constitutional monarchy and a federal system of parliamentary government with strong democratic traditions. Many of the country's legislative practices derive from the unwritten conventions of and precedents set by the United Kingdom's Westminster Parliament. However, Canada has evolved variations: party discipline in Canada is stronger than in the United Kingdom, and more parliamentary votes are considered motions of confidence, which tends to diminish the role of non-Cabinet Members of Parliament (MPs). Such members, in the government caucus, and junior or lower-profile members of opposition caucuses, are known as backbenchers. Backbenchers can, however, exert their influence by sitting in parliamentary committees, like the Public Accounts Committee or the National Defence Committee.
Canada's governmental structure was originally established by the British parliament through the British North America Act (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867), but the federal model and division of powers were devised by Canadian politicians. Particularly after World War I, citizens of the self-governing Dominions, such as Canada, began to develop a strong sense of identity, and, in the Balfour Declaration of 1926, the British government expressed its intent to grant full autonomy to these regions.
Thus in 1931, the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, giving legal recognition to the autonomy of Canada and other Dominions. Following this, Canadian politicians were unable to obtain consensus on a process for amending the constitution until 1982, meaning amendments to Canada's constitution continued to require the approval of the British parliament until that date. Similarly, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain continued to make the final decision on criminal appeals until 1933 and on civil appeals until 1949.
Selected article -
The House of Commons of Canada
: Chambre des communes du Canada
) is a component of the Parliament of Canada
, along with the Sovereign
(represented by the Governor General
) and the Senate
. The House of Commons is a democratically
elected body, consisting of 308 members
known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Members are elected by simple plurality ('first-past-the-post' system)
in each of the country's electoral districts
, which are colloquially known as ridings
. MPs hold office until Parliament is dissolved and serve for limited terms of up to four years after an election, but historically terms end before their expiry. Seats in the House of Commons are distributed roughly in proportion to the population of each province and territory
. However, some ridings are more populous than others and the Canadian constitution
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 created the Dominion of Canada, and was modelled on the British House of Commons. The "lower" of the two houses making up the parliament, the House of Commons in practice holds far more power than the upper house, 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 stays in office only as long as he or she retains the support of the lower house.
Selected political party -
The Bloc Québécois
) is a federal political party in Canada
devoted to both the protection of Quebec's
interests on a federal level as well as the promotion of its sovereignty
The BQ seeks to create the conditions necessary for the political secession of Quebec from Canada and campaigns actively only within the province during federal elections.
The Bloc Québécois is supported by a wide range of voters in Quebec, from large sections of organised labour to more conservative rural voters. Members and supporters are known as "Bloquistes" [blɔˈkist] (Bloquists). English-speaking Canadians commonly refer to the BQ as "the Bloc". The party is sometimes known as the "BQ" in the English-speaking media.
The Bloc throwout the 2000s was the third largest party in the Canadian House of Commons. It has strong informal ties to the Parti Québécois (PQ, whose members are known as "Péquistes"), the provincial party that advocates for the separation of Quebec from Canada and its independence, but the two are not linked organizationally.
Selected political picture -
Political shift in Canada in the first decade of the 21st century.
Did you know? -
Selected biography -
Michaëlle Jean CC CMM COM CD FRCPSC(hon)
(French pronunciation: [mika.ɛl ʒɑ̃]
; born 6 September 1957) is a Canadian
journalist and stateswoman. She served as the Governor General of Canada
, the 27th
since that country's confederation
Jean is a refugee from Haiti—coming to Canada in 1968—and was raised in the town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. After receiving a number of university degrees, Jean worked as a journalist and broadcaster for Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as undertaking charity work, mostly in the field of assisting victims of domestic violence. She was in 2005 appointed as governor general by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin, to replace Adrienne Clarkson as vicereine. At the time, comments of hers recorded in some of the film works by her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, were construed as supporting Quebec sovereignty and her holding of dual citizenship caused doubt about her loyalties. But Jean denied separatist leanings, renounced her citizenship of France, and eventually became a respected vicereine.
As governor general, Jean is entitled to be styled Her Excellency while in office, and The Right Honourable for the duration of her viceregal tenure and life beyond; given current practice, she will be sworn in to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada when her term as the Queen's representative ends in 2010.
Canadian politics category
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Selected election -
The Canadian federal election of 1911
was held on September 21 to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons
of the 12th Parliament
. It brought an end to fifteen years of government by the Liberal Party
of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier
. The election was fought over the issues of free trade
with the United States
, and the creation of a Canadian navy. The Conservatives
formed a majority government under Robert Borden
The Liberal government was caught up in a debate over the naval arms race between the British Empire and Germany. Laurier attempted a compromise by starting up the Canadian Navy, but this failed to appease either the French and English Canadians; the former who refused giving any aid, while the latter suggested sending money directly to Britain. After the election, the Conservatives drew up a bill for naval contributions to the British, but it was held up by a lengthy Liberal filibuster before being passed by invoking closure, then it was struck down by the Liberal-controlled Senate.
Many English-Canadians in Alberta, and the Maritimes felt that Laurier was abandoning Canada's traditional links to the United Kingdom. On the other side, Quebec nationalist Henri Bourassa, having earlier quit the Liberal Party over what he considered the government's pro-British policies, campaigned against Laurier in that province. Ironically, Bourassa's attacks on Laurier in Quebec aided in the election of the Conservatives, who held more staunchly Imperialist policies than the Liberals.
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