Home > Free Essays > Politics & Government > Government > Canadian House of Commons

Canadian House of Commons Expository Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Sep 19th, 2019

Introduction

Canadian government has a democratic form of governance where the parliament consists of General Governor, Senate, and House of Commons who have prime responsibility of discussing national issues and formulations of relevant legislations that are critical in boosting governance.

The parliament coordinates with the executive authority that consists of the Queen, represented by the General Governor, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet who have the mandate of implementing legislations passed by the House of Commons and approved by the Senate.

The General Governor appoints 105 senators who have the mandate of discussing critical issues that are affecting the country, amending and vetting of bills passed by the House of Commons before the General Governor assents them for implementations.

The House of Commons consists of 308 elected members of parliament from different constituencies or ridings. Canada conducts federal elections after every four-year term or when the executive dissolves the parliament.

The House of Commons operates in a democratic system where members of parliaments have privileges to present views of their constituents, discuss issues of national interest, and pass crucial legislations of governance.1

Since Canadian House of Commons plays a critical role as a legislative arm of the government, what are its strengths and weaknesses as well as essential reforms necessary for it to function effectively?

Strengths of the House of Commons

The procedure of formulating legislation in the House of Commons is very effective and well coordinated in the parliament to allow the freedom of expression and to control passage of legislations.

The House of Commons coordinates with the Canadians on one hand to ensure that they represent them effectively and the Senate on the other hand in ensuring that they pass essential legislations.

The House of Commons consists of 308 elected members of parliament who represent their respective constituencies across Canada.

The members of the parliament have a noble role of representing their constituents by voicing various issues that affect them, prompting the government to respond to certain issues, discussing national issues, and formulation of legislations to enhance governance.

The process of formulating legislation in the House of Commons is a standard one, thus allowing effective participation of the members at various critical stages.

In the House of Commons, members of parliament have opportunity to discuss national issues, propose bills, make essential amendments, vet presented bills and approve them for further scrutiny in the Senate.2

The procedure of formulating laws is very stringent and well coordinated to prevent unnecessary passing of superfluous legislations that may be inconsistent with constitution and demand daunting process of amendment.

The House of Common has made significant contribution in the demarcation of territorial and constituency boundaries as part of critical reforms of enhancing equal representation and distribution of national resources.

Through appropriate legislations, the House of Commons in conjunction with the federal government established boundary review commission that has the mandate to review territorial and constituency boundaries according to census statistics.

Therefore, the House of Commons has enough powers to recommend demarcation of territories and constituencies to enhance fair representation of the people and distribution of national resources.

Proper governance encourages participation of citizens through their representatives and the House of Commons has put appropriate legislations in place that provide for equal and proportionate representation.

In recent past, under-representation and over-representation of citizens has been a problem facing the House of Commons and their constituents. To resolve the problem, House of Commons together with boundary review commission, devised a formula that is accurate in demarcation of boundaries and distribution of senatorial and parliamentary seats across the Canada.3

Thus, ability of the House of Commons to influence demarcation of territorial and constituency boundaries is not only important in devolution of powers, but also resources for democratic and economic growth respectively.

Regarding distribution of powers within the government’s branches, the House of Commons has a fair share of power relative to the executive and the judiciary. As part of parliament, the House of Commons has sufficient powers to compel judiciary and executive to respond to critical issues affecting Canadians.

Political, economic, and social issues that are pressing the citizens find their way into the House of Commons for discussions and appropriate recommendations passed to the Senate and eventually to the executive for necessary action.

Usually, the Senate and the executive take seriously the recommendations of the House of Commons for the members of parliament exercise sovereign powers of the Canadians. The House of Commons has powers to pass a vote of no confidence against the government if it deems to be in contempt of good governance or is corrupt.

Recently, the House of Commons deemed that the government was acting in contempt of parliamentary mandate, and it passed an overwhelming vote of confidence against the government, which led to the dissolution of parliament before parliamentary term expired.4

The vote of no confidence compelled General Governor, David Johnston, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to dissolve parliament and call for another election, which happened on 2 May 2011. Hence, the House of Commons is powerful and effective in carrying out social, political, and economic reforms in Canada.

Although Senate has powers to vet and approve bills and recommendations from the House of Commons, it does not have absolute powers to act in contempt of the parliament, for the sovereign authority of the people lies the House of Commons.

Since the General Governor, in consultation with the Prime Minister, appoints105 senators, who are responsible for checking and regulating passage of bills and recommendations from the lower house, they cannot act in disregard of the parliament as they are elected members.

In respect to the sovereignty of the people, the House of Commons has special mandate of originating bills that involves taxation and appropriation of funds.5

Taxation and appropriation of public funds are matters of national interest that need participation of the people through the elected members of parliament for transparency and justice to prevail in the society.

Since Senate comprises of appointed members, their vetting and approval powers do not undermine the spirit of the House of Commons, because they only act to scrutinize and facilitate passage of bills and recommendations for the General Governor to assent.

Therefore, the strength of the House of Commons is its ability to regulate taxation measures and appropriate national funds proportionately to all territories and constituencies.

Weaknesses of the House of Commons

Despite great attempts by the House of Commons to establish boundary review commission, there is still problem of under-representation and over-representations in some ridings and territories. The issue of under-representation and over-representation emerged due to different parameters of demarcation.

While most people hold that demarcation of boundaries should have basis on the population, critics argue that other imperative parameters warrant otherwise. The House of Commons has been struggling to harmonize other imperative parameters of demarcation with the factor of population but it has not succeeded due to complexity of political issues.

Thus, the controversy has reached into high court where it has ruled that variation in the population in various ridings and territories does not contravene voting rights of anybody and therefore, other parameters need equal consideration as well.6

For instance, there are cases of under-representation in provinces such as Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia due decline of population over a long period and there is over-representation in provinces such as Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba among others.

The under-representation and over-representation in the House of Commons is due to ‘senatorial’ and ‘grandfather’ clauses that provide for the exaggerated number of members of parliament in each province by setting the least required seats.

Increasing number of the members of parliament is also another weakness of the House of Commons. During its inception in 1867, the House of Commons only had 180 members but currently it has 308 members, and is subject to increasing population.

Moreover, an ambiguous clause of ‘senatorial’ and ‘grandfather’ only provides minimum limit but not maximum limit hence the executive and the parliament can increase the number of parliamentary seats as they wish.

The Canadian House of Commons is expanding with time in response to increasing population, unlike in the United States where the size of the House of Representative is constant. Increasing the number of members of parliament doe not directly translate to effective representation and delivery of services to the people; it leads to overcrowding in the House of Commons and extra budget for the government, thus affecting the citizens.7

Thus, the House of Commons does not only face a great challenge of enhancing representation, but also accommodating increasing number of members of parliaments.

In appropriate devolution of government powers among the parliament, judiciary and executive have negative impact on the House of Commons because both the executive and judiciary seem to have overriding influence on the roles of parliament.

Since Canada is a multiparty nation, party leaders abuse judiciary and executive powers when disciplining errant party members, a vice that reduces freedom of democracy in the House of Commons.

Limited democracy in the House of Commons due to the restrictions imposed by respective parties, members of parliament does not have ample freedom to articulate issues that affect the country.

Instead, loyalty to the party takes precedence over other issues of national importance and this cripples the efficiency of the parliament as an independent arm of government with noble mandate of making legislations.

The Canadian House of Commons is experiencing inefficiency in carrying its mandate because the judiciary and executive are gradually usurping the powers of parliament leaving it to underperform its functions.8

Interference of the parliament by the judiciary and executive inhibits the House of Commons from exercising its mandate optimally for the benefit of the citizens.

In addition to the interference from the judiciary and the executive, the House of Commons experiences obstruction from the Senate. Senate plays a crucial role in vetting and approving bills and recommendations that originate from the House of Commons for the General Governor to assent them for implementation.

Occasionally, the Senate can reject bills or recommendation based on their discretion, thus limiting the independence of the House of Commons.

Moreover, the Senate and the House of Commons seem to have equal powers, but the constitution gives special privileges to the House of Commons such as exclusive formulation of bills regarding taxation and appropriations of public funds, as well as ability to amend the constitution irrespective of the vetting process outcome of the Senate.

Despite the differences in powers and responsibilities, the Senate infringes into the mandate of the House of Commons, and so interferes with its functions. Last year, the House of Commons passed a very crucial bill regarding climate change but the Senate rejected it; a move that elicited uproar as many argued that it was against exercise of democracy and the will of Canadians.9

The rejection was unconstitutional since it is impossible for the appointed members of Senate to have more powers than elected members of the parliament are.

Essential Reforms

The problem of under-representation and over-representation of the various constituencies or ridings in Canada emanate from the ambiguous clauses in the constitutions that set the minimum required seats of parliament without stating the maximum requirements.

‘Senatorial’ and ‘grandfather’ clauses in the constitution restrict harmonization of representations in the House of Commons. Lack of provision to limit the number of parliamentary seats has given the parliament and the executive freedom to increase the number of ridings as per the populations and as they please.

Therefore, essential reforms that will address the issue of representation and increasing number of members of parliament call for amendment of the constitution by deleting ‘senatorial’ and ‘godfather clauses, and making additional clauses that provide for the maximum and fixed number of representatives.10

The House of Commons need to make appropriate legislations that will prevent haphazard demarcation and allocation of constituencies and territories for the sake of political expediency and enhance effective representation of the Canadians.

Proper devolution of powers to the three arms of government is also an essential reform. The three arms of Canadian government, the executive, the judiciary, and the parliament should have explicit roles in the government to avoid unnecessary interference and duplication of responsibilities.

Interferences and duplication of responsibilities do not only cost Canadians their taxes, but also reduces efficiency in the functioning of the government. The existence of ambiguous and overlapping responsibilities in the government emanate from undefined legal and governing structures that result into poor coordination among the parliament, the executive, and judiciary.

The executive and judiciary have gradually infiltrated into the parliament circles by use of agents of parliaments who have evolved from being servants to masters of parliament.11

Therefore, the essential reforms need to focus on amending the constitution to allow separation and explicitly define the roles of each arm of government. Moreover, the amendments should provide ways of coordination to avoid interferences due to ambiguous clauses.

Regarding the issue of the equality and roles played by the House of Commons and Senate, it is undemocratic to allow members of the Senate to have equal powers with elected members of parliament for in democracy; sovereignty lies with the people; it is only exercised in the House of Commons.

Giving equal or more powers to the Senate amounts to abuse of democracy since the voting powers of Canadians will not have much significance in governance and formulation of legislations because the Senate has discretion to reject bills and recommendations from the House of Commons.

To avoid abuse of democracy, the House of Commons need to have more powers to compel the Senate to act appropriately when vetting bills and recommendations for the General Governor to assent and subsequent timely implementation.12

The essential reforms should entail limiting and checking powers of the Senate to provide freedom to the House of Commons to exercise the mandate of Canadians.

Conclusion

The House of Commons has evolved since 1867 when the British established it having 180 members of parliament to the current 308 members of parliament with 105 senators. The Canadian parliament consists of the General Governor, the Senate, and the House of Commons. The General Governor is a representative of the Queen, having the responsibility of assenting to bills and recommendations from the House of Commons after the vetting of the Senate.

Despite its noble mandate of formulating legislations, the House of Commons experiences great challenges such as poor representation of Canadians, interference from the judiciary and the executive, and restrictions from the Senate.

To operate optimally and effectively, the House of Commons needs constitutional amendments to allow proper representations of the ridings and territories, independence from judiciary and executive, and more powers as compared to the Senate.

Works Cited

Bell, Jeffrey. “Agents of Parliament: The Emergence of a New Branch and Constitutional Consequences for Canada.” The Institute of Governance, 2005: 1-27.

Bruce, Hicks. “Separation and Coordination of Powers in Canadian Parliament.” Canadian Parliamentary Review 23.4 (2010): 1-19.

Chase, Steven. “Canadian Parliament in the 21st Century.” Law Review, 2011: 1-7.

Edwards, John. “Perversity of the Canadian House of Commons.” Canadian Politics, 2007: 1-13.

Milliken, Peter. “Guide to the Canadian House of Commons.” The Canadian Parliament, 2006: 1-16.

Pare, Jean-Rodrigue. “Senate Reform in Canada.” Parliamentary Information and Research Service, 2009: 41-47.

Pollard, Fred. “House of Commons of Canada.” Politics and Democracy, 2009: 1-32.

Pond, David. “The Impact of Parliamentary Officers on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.” Canadian Study of Parliament Group, 2008: 1-67.

Smith, David. “A Question of Trust: Parliamentary Democracy and Canadian Society.” Canadian Parliamentary Review, 2009: 24-29.

Footnotes

1 Peter Milliken. “Guide to the Canadian House of Commons.” The Canadian Parliament, 2006: 3.

2 Peter Milliken, 2006: 11.

3 Fred Pollard. “House of Commons of Canada.” Politics and Democracy, 2009: 22.

4 Steven Chase. “Canadian Parliament in the 21st Century.” Law Review, 2011: 4.

5 Hicks Bruce. “Separation and Coordination of Powers in Canadian Parliament.” Canadian Parliamentary Review 23.4, (2010): 9.

6 John Edwards. “Perversity of the Canadian House of Commons.” Canadian Politics, 2007: 6.

7 John Edwards. (2007): 7.

8 David Smith. A Question of Trust: Parliamentary Democracy and Canadian Society.” Canadian Parliamentary Review, (2004): 27.

9 Jean-Rodrigue Pare. “Senate Reform in Canada.” Parliamentary Information and Research Service, (2009): 45.

10 John Edwards. (2007): 7.

11 Jeffrey Bell. “Agents of Parliament: The Emergence of a New Branch and Constitutional Consequences for Canada.” The Institute of Governance, (2005): 22.

12 David Pond. “The Impact of Parliamentary Officers on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.” Canadian Study of Parliament Group, (2008): 29.

This expository essay on Canadian House of Commons was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Expository Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2019, September 19). Canadian House of Commons. https://ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-house-of-commons/

Reference

IvyPanda. (2019, September 19). Canadian House of Commons. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-house-of-commons/

Work Cited

"Canadian House of Commons." IvyPanda, 19 Sept. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-house-of-commons/.

1. IvyPanda. "Canadian House of Commons." September 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-house-of-commons/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "Canadian House of Commons." September 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-house-of-commons/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Canadian House of Commons." September 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-house-of-commons/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Canadian House of Commons'. 19 September.

Powered by CiteTotal, the best citation maker
More related papers