SS10 – Ms. M : )

Okay, let’s review.

How does Canadian government work?

The Canadian or federal government is divided into three institutions, each with specific tasks. These include: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Each of these is meant to function separate from the others. Why? Canadians have a belief that those who interpret and enforce the law – the judges and judicial branch – should not be connected in any way to those who create the laws. Otherwise, the elected government would have too much power an influence over its citizens.

Check to see if you remember them

Now solve this puzzle to visualize Canada’s three branches of government!


Next, remember:

Government in Canada has three levels: federal, provincial or territorial and municipal.

Each level has different areas of responsibility, which can be identified based on geography and types of services. Both the federal and provincial/territorial areas of responsibility are listed in the Constitution Act, 1867.

  1. the federal government creates laws and manages programs and services that tend to affect the whole country
  2. the provincial and territorial governments have powers to make decisions relating to areas of law that affect their province or territory directly, and
  3. the municipal governments are responsible for establishing by-laws and services that are administered in a specific city, town or village.

Check below for examples of the laws and services established by each level of government.

Screen Shot 2020-01-14 at 10.54.04 PM

Check how much you know and…

Play this game!

Play another game!

Okay, moving on:

Parliament Buildings pixabay

What is the House of Commons?

By now you will also know something about the role that the House of Commons – also known as the Lower House – plays in the Canadian parliamentary system. The House of Commons has two basic jobs: proposing and passing laws, and deciding who gets to be Prime Minister.

When Canadians refer to “Parliament” they are usually              referring to just the House of Commons.

The House of Commons consists of 338 elected Members of Parliament, better known as  MPs, each of whom represents a different electoral district, also known as a riding or constituency,which is a specific geographic region of the country. MPs are normally elected at the same time, every four years, in a Canadian federal election. There are no term limits, and members can be re-elected indefinitely.

The different provinces of Canada are divided into ridings according to the principle of representation by population (or “rep-by-pop“) so the larger provinces elect more MPs than the smaller ones. Broadly speaking, every MP represents a riding of about 100,000 people or so.

Get to know your government by checking out Parliament in Action and clicking throughA Working Day in the House of Commons


FUN FACT:   The government and opposition are on TV in a session known as Question Period. Ministers and critics ask each other specific questions during this session called. Watch some of the most recent or archived Question Periods!


Remember this crucial part of government:

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 2.10.24 PM

How does a bill become a law in Canada?

Do you remember how a bill becomes a law in Canada? Review by using all of the links and materials referred to below.

New Canadian laws are generally initiated by the prime minister and his cabinet. A draft law is known as a bill, and after it’s written, a relevant cabinet minister will introduce the bill to the House of Commons. After an initial vote to consider, a small committee of a few special members of the House will debate the details of the proposed bill and possibly make some changes, then send it back to the full House for further votes of approval.

Though the House is the most important part of Canada’s Parliament, there is also a second chamber of parliament known as the Senate of Canada. After the House of Commons passes a bill, it must also pass a vote in the Senate before it becomes law. It then goes to the governor general who ceremonially signs it into law, known as giving royal assent.

Click to learn or review the process:                                                   How does a bill become law in Canada?


Look at The Bill on the Hill, too! And watch the two videos! (Here is number two!)


Okay, moving on again:

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 2.22.38 PM

What’s the Senate?

By far the most controversial institution in the Canadian system of government, the Canadian Senate has mixed support. Modeled after Britain’s House of Lords, it was originally supposed to allow representatives of Canada’s wealthy elite to veto (refuse) legislation passed by politicians who represent common people— an idea that is not accepted in Canada now nor is it democratic.

The Senate is the focus of discussions regarding “reform” or “abolishment,” but neither has been seriously attempted to date. This section is meant to help you decide why and also form an opinion about if anything should be done about the Senate as often proposed.

Click on and learn about the Senate here and here.

It is your turn now to complete this worksheet:

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 2.36.45 PM

Click here: Student Assignment_ Senate_SS10 to download the worksheet in Word format. SAVE IT SOMEWHERE YOU CAN ACCESS IT FROM HOME AND SCHOOL.

105 senators appointed by the prime minister of Canada whenever vacancies occur. Senators serve until retirement or their 75th birthday. Senators can’t be fired by the PM,but the Senate can vote to remove members from office if they are found guilty of committing what the Constitution describes as an “infamous crime”. It’s a positive that the PM cannot fire Senators because this way the Prime Minister always has someone to make sure he/she isn’t taking over control in an undemocratic way. However, it’s a negative because there is not a clear way to remove a Senator who is not doing his/her job.

Whenever a senator dies, resigns, is removed, or reaches the age limit, the sitting prime minister of Canada gets to appoint a replacement, meaning at any given time the Senate is a mixture of various appointments dating back several different prime ministerial administrations. Prime ministers always appoint senators from their own political party, though recently the Prime Minister has appointed only those who were recommended by regions.

Positions in the Senate are filled normally through a system known as patronage —a place where prime ministers could stick friends and allies as a reward for loyal service. This is still largely the case today. Most men and women who get appointed to the Senate tend to be career politicians from the prime minister’s party who have recently retired, such as cabinet ministers, mayors, premiers and, in some cases, even fundraisers or staffers.


Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 12.20.25 AM


Keep Reading!

The Senate’s official purpose is to approve all bills that pass the House of Commons before they become law. In practice, however, the Senate is known as being a “rubber stamp” that automatically agrees with everything the House wants. Since the Senate is not elected, it’s not popular for the Senate to veto the decisions of the democratically-chosen House of Commons, so most of the time they don’t. Only in the rare cases where the Senate is controlled by a different party than the House, and there is a very, very controversial piece of legislation before them, would rejection of a bill be considered. A more common, moderate compromise is for the Senate to suggest amendments, or changes, to a House bill that may or may not be followed.

Senators also propose their own bills and generate debate about issues of national importance in the collegial environment of the Senate Chamber, where ideas are debated on their merit.

Created to counterbalance representation by population in the House of Commons, the Senate has evolved from defending regional interests to giving voice to underrepresented groups like Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and women.


The Triple-E Senate

For a time, one popular reform idea was the so-called “Triple-E Senate” plan: Senators should be elected by voters and each province should have an equal number of Senate seats, making the body far more effective as a result. The main difficulty with this proposal is the extreme disparity between the sizes of Canada’s provinces. The country’s two smallest Maritime Provinces: Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, have populations under 600,000 and are more than 10 times smaller than Ontario and Quebec, which have over seven million residents each. The large provinces would thus have to sacrifice a great deal of their own power to make Triple-E work. The province of Alberta is the only part of Canada where Senate elections were regularly held, but in 2015 these were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, on the grounds that Canada’s founders never intended the Senate to be an elected body.

The other leading proposal besides the “Triple-E” is for the Senate to be abolished outright, which is a position that tends to be favoured by Canadian progressives, particularly those in the New Democratic Party. While this is certainly a simple solution, it’s also been accused of being too radical. Few modern democracies have only one chamber of parliament, and some worry that getting rid of the Senate altogether would simply consolidate more power in the hands of the House of Commons and the — both of which are already quite powerful to begin with. In any case, the Canadian Supreme Court has now made clear that substantial Senate reform will require a constitutional amendment, and passing constitutional amendments in Canada is a complicated and difficult task.

Your job now

Complete the chart seen above (you started this in class last week before the snow!) Use your research, the readings and all the materials.

1. Review all the materials you were given last week! READ everything above as well.

2. What has the Senate ever done for us, really? in the National Post, April 2, 2018.

3. Fill out the final worksheet called, The Ideal Senate, ( /10 marks) which represents your thinking about the Senate. Hand this in.