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The Role of Parliament in Canada St Francis Xavier University November 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "The Role of Parliament in Canada St Francis Xavier University November 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Role of Parliament in Canada St Francis Xavier University November 2008

2 Parliament of Canada Crown House of Commons Senate

3 Role of the Crown Opens Parliament (Speech from the Throne) Formally Appoints Prime Minister, Cabinet Gives assent to Bills Dissolves Parliament and calls elections

4 Functions of the House of Commons Debate and passage of bills Voting of “supply” (funds) to maintain government Holding the executive accountable for its actions Detailed discussion of public issues in committees (Opposition): providing a feasible alternative to the Government

5 House of Commons -- Representation First-Past-the-Post Electoral System Some provinces over-represented (Senate floor provision) Rural districts tend to have smaller number of electors Party discipline is still very strict Gradual adoption of stronger committee roles

6 Current Commons Representation By Region Atlantic NS 11, NB 10, PEI 4, NL 7 32 Ontario 106 Quebec 75 Man & Sask14 + 14 28 Alberta 28 B. C. 36 Territories TOTAL 3 308

7 Current Party Standings – House of Commons Conservatives143 Liberals 76 Bloc québécois 50 NDP 37 Independent 2 TOTAL308

8 Ideas for House of Commons Reform Looser Party Discipline: –clearer rules re confidence votes –more free votes –greater role for caucus (as they do in Alberta) Bigger Role for Committees Electoral Reform -- e.g.: Proportional Representation Other Representation reform –gender parity –Stricter rep-by-pop by province

9 Harper Government’s bill to reform provincial representation in the Commons Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic Representation): –Continues practice of reapportioning seats after each 10-year census –There has been a “floor” to each province’s representation since 1915, based on Senate number –In 1985 a “ceiling” on total numbers was imposed –New rules would lift ceiling a bit to allow seat allocation according to “rep-by-pop” in Alberta and BC, and closer to “rep-by-pop” in Ontario

10 Seat allocation in Commons by Province Current allocation Atlantic 32 Quebec 75 Ontario106 Man & Sk 28 Alberta 28 BC 36 Territories 3 Total 308 Proposed Atlantic 32 Quebec 75 Ontario116 Man & Sk 28 Alberta 33 BC 43 Territories 3 Total 330

11 Senate -- Background Original purpose was as a House of regional and property interests Its regional representation and democratic legitimacy are now questioned There’s been much debate but little progress on reforming the Senate

12 Functions of the Senate Core function: sober second thought Debate and passage of bills Debate and passage of supply Somewhat more detailed scrutiny of bills Committees review public policy Occasional flexing of muscle: in law it is almost as powerful as Commons; in practice it is not.

13 Current Senate Representation By Region Atlantic10 + 10 + 4 + 6 = 30 Quebec 24 Ontario 24 West6 + 6+ 6+ 6 = 24 Territories1 + 1 + 1 = 3 Total 105

14 Current Party Standings-- Senate Liberals 58 Conservatives 21 PC 3 Indep. NDP 1 Indep 5 Vacant 17 TOTAL105

15 Ideas for Senate Reform Abolish Triple E proposal – elected, equal (per province), effective Charlottetown Accord – – elected by people, or named by provincial legislatures –-- 6 seats for every province, 1 for each Terr., plus Aboriginal seats (to be determined) –- Somewhat reduced powers

16 Harper Government Bills Before the last Parliament Bill S-4: providing for appointment only after consultative elections Bill S-6: appointed only for a single limited term of eight years Current Senators would be “grandfathered”

17 Australian Senate Elected for six year terms on the basis on state-wide proportional representation Each State gets 12 Senators Legislative powers nearly identical to those of the lower house (House of Representatives) But party discipline still important, regional politics less dominant


19 Australian Party Standings 2008 House of Representatives –ALP 83 –Liberal55 –National 9 –Independent 3 Total150 Senate –ALP 32 –Liberal 32 –Greens 5 –National 4 –Other 3 Total 76

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