CANADA

General Information | Electoral System | Last Elections | Presidency of the Parliament

GENERAL INFORMATION

 

Parliament: Parliament of Canada - Parlement du Canada
Structure: Bicameral
Chamber: House of Commons - Chambre des Communes
President: Gilbert Parent (M)
Secretary general: Robert Marleau (M)
Members: 301
directly elected
Percentage of women: 21 %
Term: 5 years
Last renewal: 02 June 1997
Address: House of Commons
OTTAWA, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Tel.: (613) 996 3611
Cable: Comparlas Ott
Telex: 053-3139
Fax: (613) 992 3674
E-mail: pep@parl.gc.ca
Affiliation to IPU: Yes
Affiliation dates: 1900 -1933
1960

ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Constituencies:
301 single-member constituencies :
- 103 members from Ontario
- 75 from Québec
- 34 from British Columbia
- 26 from Alberta
- 14 each from Manitoba and Saskatchewan
- 11 from Nova Scotia
- 10 from New Brunswick
- 7 from Newfoundland
- 4 from Prince Edward Island
- 2 from the Northwest Territories
- 1 from Yukon

Voting system:
Simple majority vote.
Vacancies arising between general elections are filled through by-elections.
Voting is not compulsory.

Voter requirements:
- age: 18 years
- Canadian citizenship
- residence in Canada or absence from the country for no more than 5 years (except for diplomats, armed forces, personal or other government functions abroad)
- disqualifications: corrupt or illegal practices, imprisonment for two years or more, Chief and Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and the returning officer for each electoral district.

Eligibility:
Qualified electors
- age: 18 years
- Canadian citizenship
- ineligibility: electoral fraud, conviction for corrupt or illegal practice connected with elections

Incompatibilities:
- certain public and election officers
- members of provincial legislatures
- judges

Candidacy requirements:
- nomination by at least 100 electors (50 electors in sparsely populated districts) 28 to 21 days before elections
- mandatory deposit (Can$ 1,000) accompanying the nomination ; half of the deposit is returned if the candidate is elected or obtains at least 15% of the votes cast in his/her constituency

LAST ELECTIONS
Date(s) of elections / renewal
02 June 1997

Purpose of elections
Elections were held for all members of the House of Commons following the premature dissolution of this body on 27 April 1997. Previous general elections had been held in October 1993.

Background and outcome of elections
In the wake of the premature dissolution of the House of Commons, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (Liberal Party) announced the date on the general elections on 27 April. In doing so, he asked his fellow countrymen "to give the Liberal Party a new mandate to build on its record of the last four years". At the time of dissolution (some 17 months early), the centrist Liberals held a wide lead in popularity polls over the divided opposition. Since the previous general elections, the Chrétien administration had successfully focused on slashing the country's budget deficit but had refused to yield to calls for tax cuts by its conservative rivals. In this connection, the Prime Minister declared that his Government had restored the "financial sovereignty" of Canada and stabilised public spending.
During the five-week campaign, the right-wing Reform Party, led by Mr. Preston Manning, advocated government decentralisation and took a hard line on the issue of the separation of Quebec province as opposed to the Bloc Québécois (BQ), headed by Mr. Gilles Duceppe, which stood for Québec sovereignty. The opposition as a whole criticised the Government's austerity budgets (which reduced spending on health, welfare, and higher education) and its inability to lower the unemployment rate. According to polls, the Liberals lost support throughout the pre-election period. This was borne out on polling day, as the party slipped in percentage of votes obtained compared to 1993 but nevertheless managed to retain its absolute parliamentary majority for the first time in more than 40 years; this was largely due to performance in the key province of Ontario, where the party captured 101 of the 103 seats.
The voting outcome in general underlined the pronounced regionalisation of Canadian politics, with each party, besides the Liberals, being backed mainly on geographical basis (Reform Party in west, BQ in Quebec, Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) in the east) except for the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP), headed by Ms. Alexa McDonough. The NDP, PCP (led by Mr. Jean Charest) and Reform Party all made impressive gains, with the last becoming the official opposition in the expanded (by six seats) House. Throughout the country, the Liberals may have benefited from a Reform-PC split of the right-of-centre vote.
In light of these final results, Prime Minister Chrétien announced the fornation of a new Cabinet on 11 June.

Statistics
CANADA House of Commons

1. Results of the elections

Number of registered electors 19,161,003
Voters 13,171,628 (68.74%)
Blank or void ballot papers 187,559
Valid votes 12,984,069


2. Distribution of seats according to political group

Candidates Votes % Seats
Liberal Party 301 4,982,502 38.37 155 (-22)
Reform Party 227 2,512,570 19.35 60 (+8)
Bloc québécois (BQ) 75 1,385,630 10.67 44 (-10)
New Democratic Party (NDP) 301 1,434,705 11.05 21 (+12)
Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) 301 2,456,770 18.92 20 (+ 18)
Independents/Others 467 211,892 1.63 1 (=)
___
301*
*6 seats added since last elections


3. Distribution of seats according to profession

Politicians (at provincial or municipal level) 67
Administrators 38
Businessmen and women, industrialists, managers, merchants and property
owners 35
Legal profession 31
Teaching profession 29
Consultants 20
Farmers and ranchers 15
Medical professions 8
Public servants 8
Journalists 7
Chartered accountants 3
Brokers and insurance agents 3
Others 33
___
301


4. Distribution of seats according to sex

Men 239
Women 62
___
301


5. Distribution according to age

20-29 years 8
30-39 " 31
40-49 " 111
50-59 " 116
60-69 " 23
70-79 " 4
Unknown 8
___
301



PRESIDENCY OF THE PARLIAMENT

Appointment and term of office | Status | Functions

APPOINTMENT AND TERM OF OFFICE

Title:
Speaker of the House of Commons

Term:
- duration: 5 years (term of House)
- reasons for interruption of the term: resignation, dissolution of the Parliament, death

Appointment:
- elected by Members of the House of Commons at the first order of business at the first meeting of a new Parliament and
- after Members' mandates are validated and after Members are sworn in

Eligibility:
- all Members, except Cabinet Ministers and party leaders, are eligible
- those not wishing to pose their candidacy must notify the Clerk of the House in writing by 6:00 p.m. on the day preceding the day on which the election is to take place

Voting system:
- formal vote, by secret ballot
- the Member presiding over the election read the names in alphabetical order of those who are eligible for post - the Clerk distributes the ballots and Members write the name of their choice. If no candidate obtains a majority of the votes in the first round, a second round will be held and so on - no new candidates are permitted and the candidates who receive 5% or less of the total votes cast, are dropped from the list - the candidate receiving the majority of the votes cast is elected

Procedures / results :
- the Member who has the longest period of unbroken service (but who is neither a Cabinet Minister, nor holds any office within the House, including a party leader) presides over the election during the voting
- the Clerk of the House supervises the voting and counts the ballots
- the presiding Member announces the results without any delay
- the results cannot be challenged

STATUS

Status:
- ranks fifth in the Table of Precedence for Canada, after the Speaker of the Senate
- is charged with selecting a number of Members to comprise a Panel of Chairmen of Legislative Committees
- is honorary Chairman of all Parliamentary Associations to which Canada belongs
- represents the House of Commons with the public authorities and in international bodies
- in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees of the Whole or one of the 3 others chair occupants can assume his role and functions

Board:
- Board of Internal Economy is regulated by the Parliament of Canada Act
- iscomposed of 11 persons
- Chairman is the Speaker -
- is in charge of the administrative and financial matters concerning the House, its staff and its members
- usually meets once every two weeks
- has set up a number of sub-committees to examine specific issues

Material facilities:
- salary ($ 64 000)
+ expense allowance ($ 21 300) + supplementary allowance ($ 49 100 per annum)
- official residence + an appartment in the Centre Block
- official car and driver
- valets and additional support staff

FUNCTIONS

Organization of parliamentary business:
- sessions of Parliament may only been convened by the Governor General
- enforces the rules governing speaking times which are outlined in the Standing Orders
- is responsible for grouping amendments at report stage for debate and voting purposes and for ruling on the admissibility of amendments offered at all stages of the legislative process
- decides whether or not a motion to establish a committee is procedurally admissible, but has no power to either propose or establish a House committee

Chairing of public sittings:
- can open, adjourn and close sittings but only as empowered to do so by the Standing Orders and precedents of the House
- ensures respect for provisions of the Constitution and Standing Orders
- makes announcements concerning the Assembly
- takes disciplinary measures in the event of disturbance, and lifts such measures
- holds the ultimate authority to recognize list of Members who wish to speak and gives and withdraws permission to speak
- cannot request a vote on a matter but puts the question on a motion when debate collapses
- may adjourn the House if quorum cannot be reached at the beginning of a sitting, after he may verify quorum only if requested to do so by a MP
- authenticates the adopted texts and the records of debates
- interprets the rules or other regulations according to precedents
- there are procedures to allow the Speaker to receive and grant requests for emergency debates

Special powers:
- is an active participant for establishing the Chamber's budget, as Chairman of the Board of Internal Economy
- may hire, assign and promote his personnal staff, but the Human Resources Directorate is responsible for the administration, including recruiting
- is responsible for relations with foreign Parliaments
- is responsible for safety and, in this capacity, can call the police in the event of disturbance in the Chamber

Speaking and voting rights, other functions:
- may rule motions out of order on procedural grounds
- takes only part in voting in the event of a tie
- is charged with appointing individuals to electoral boundaries commissions