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Chapter 7

PO263 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Parliamentary Budget Officer, Speech From The Throne, Legislature

Political Science
Course Code
Christopher Anderson

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Under the heading “Legislative power” under section 17 of CA 1867 it declares that Canada shall have Parliament
consisting of a HOC, Senate and Queen. Since Canada’s senators are appointed by the Queen and the Queen hold
position by Heredity, on the the HOC claims to be democratic. By constitutional convention, the HOC takes the
predominant role in Parliament’s powers.
7.1 The Role of Parliament
As British democratic ideas began to develop, Britain adopted idea of responsible government — idea that
exercising executive power must have the confidence of the people’s representatives in Parliament.
Once Britain’s parliamentarians had all joined parties that were able to control the way their members voted, real
powers were transferred to the cabinet; because Cabinet constituted the leadership of the party that had control
over parliament. Party discipline would always ensure that the cabinet had enough votes to protect its own
position in power. This also now happens in Canada.
For a cabinet supported by a party with parliamentary majority is virtually guaranteed the confidence of the HOC.
Though Parliament is still a legislative body and the HOC still has power to make or break a government, the
development of party discipline and the resulting transfer or parliamentary power to the cabinet have left
parliament with a new role. The primary operational purpose of the modern parliament is to make the cabinet
accountable for its actions to the public.
Parliament provides a forum in which opposition members can criticize the government, offer constructive
7.2 The Parliamentary Calendar
Parliament determine its schedule first by the timing go the general election.
Following the election, the PM will decide when the new Parliament will be convened.
The GG with advice of the PM will convene parliament and it will begin its first session. That session has no set
length — it will be decided by the government.
When the government decided that, that session should be brought to an end, the PM will advise the GG to end the
session known by a formal process called prorogation.
Each session is typically 1 year. And because elections are typically held every 4 years, each PM usually goes
through 4 sessions.
These sessions are divided into sittings. Each time the HOC meets is a sitting. It may be brief or very long,
sometimes lasting longer than a year. When the sitting is over, the HOC stands adjourned. An adjournment might
last overnight or for weeks.
Each session of parliament begins with a Throne Speech — delivered to the HOC and senate etc. Read by the GG
but prepared by the PMO. Outlines the legislative program that the government is proposing as parliament. That
speech is then discussed for a few days in the HOC and then voted on (confidence vote).
7.3 The House of Commons: membership and Officers
HOC currently has 338 MPs. Each MP is elected to represent one territorial based constituency known as an
electoral district (riding).
Ridings are constructed by representation by population so that each percentage of seats each province has in the
House will be roughly equivalent to its national population.
In constitutional terms, the primary distinction among MPs is that those who serve in the cabinet are government
members and those who do not are private members. In political terms though, those who serve the government
the are government MPs and those who do not are opposition MPs.
Official opposition: the largest of the opposition parties. It is entitled to certain privileges in the House and must
be consulted by the PM in relation to key appointments. Because the central role of government is to be
accountable to the public, the opposition is extremely important component.
Opposition parties will name a shadow cabinet — a team on opposition critics for each of the governments
Parliamentary officers — ensures that business of parliament is conducted in a timely fashion and in accordance
with the rules.
The Speaker of he HOC is the speaker. The speaker is an MP elected by the House at the beginning of each
parliament to preside over its debated and to take responsibility for its administration. They must be elected as a
partisan politician — usually as an MP for the governing party.
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