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House of Commons

The House of Commons is the centre of political power in Canada. The prime minister and his or her Cabinet receive their authority through the confidence of the House. It is an institution steeped in tradition and history. In recent years, Question Period has been televised, opening the political process to Canadians. Much of what the public sees is the rancorous debate and partisan bickering among political parties but the House of Commons is also where most government legislation is introduced, and where Members of Parliament meet to debate policy, vote on key legislation, and hold the government to account.

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House of Lords Reform

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on November 22, 1999. Partner content is not updated.

By the Queen's Robing Room inside the Palace of Westminster, there is a small, sedate chamber they call the Norman Porch. It is populated entirely with busts of past luminaries of the House of Lords, each of whom has served as British prime minister.

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Chrétien's New Cabinet

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on June 23, 1997. Partner content is not updated.

As usual, the makeup of the cabinet sent out unmistakable signals about the government's priorities and intentions. In addition to Chrétien, there are 22 other Ontarians and Quebecers in the group, reflecting Liberal strength in the centre of the country.

Article

Senate of Canada

The Senate is the Upper House of Canada’s Parliament. Its 105 members are appointed and hold their seats until age 75. The Senate’s purpose is to consider and revise legislation; investigate national issues; and most crucially according to the Constitution, give the regions of Canada an equal voice in Parliament. The Senate is a controversial institution. It has long been regarded by many Canadians as a place of unfair patronage and privilege. An unresolved debate continues about whether it should be reformed into an elected body accountable to the voters, or abolished.

Article

Filibuster

A filibuster is a parliamentary delaying tactic. It is typically employed by opposition parties to delay or prevent the passage of a bill they don’t like. A filibuster is brought about when legislators speak at great length in opposition to a bill; propose numerous, often trivial amendments; or raise many parliamentary points of privilege. All of this is designed to keep the bill from coming to a vote. The goal of a filibuster is to either change a bill or stop its passage.

Article

Opposition Party in Canada

An opposition party is a political party that does not win enough seats in a general election to form a government. The elected members of that party instead serve in the legislature as the opposition. An opposition party criticizes and challenges the governing party, with the goal of improving legislation and forming the government in the next election. The opposition party with the most seats is called the Official Opposition or Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. This title emphasizes that the party remains loyal to the Crown even as they oppose the governing party. The leader of the opposition party with the most seats is called the leader of the Opposition.

Article

Leader of the Opposition

In Canada, the leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest political party sitting in opposition to the federal government (in other words, the party with the second-largest number of seats in the House of Commons). The formal title is “Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.” This title reflects the Westminster system of government found in many Commonwealth countries whose political roots can be traced to the United Kingdom.

Article

Cabinet

In Canada’s parliamentary system of government, the cabinet is the committee of ministers that holds executive power. Cabinets are chaired by the prime minister (or in the provinces, by the premier). Ministers are typically elected politicians drawn from the party holding the most seats in the House of Commons (or the provincial legislature). Cabinets are traditionally strong, consensus-driven bodies; although some believe their influence is waning in the face of powerful prime ministers and their advisers.