Parliament About the House of Commons

The House of Commons (French: Chambre des communes) is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign (represented by the Governor General) and the Senate.
 
The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members, who are known as Members of Parliament. Members are elected for limited terms, holding office until Parliament is dissolved (a maximum of five years). Each member is elected by, and represents, one of the country's electoral districts, which are colloquially known as ridings.

The House of Commons was established in 1867, when the British North America Act of 1867 created the Dominion of Canada, and was modelled on the British House of Commons.
 
The "lower" of the two houses making up the parliament, the House of Commons in practice holds far more power than the upper house, the Senate. Although the approval of both Houses is necessary for legislation, the Senate very rarely rejects bills passed by the Commons (although the Senate does amend many bills).
 
Moreover, the Government of Canada is responsible solely to the House of Commons. The Prime Minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains the support of the House of Commons. It is widely thought that "Commons" is a shortening of the word "commoners". However, the term derives from the Anglo-Norman word communes, meaning "localities". Canada remains the only nation besides the United Kingdom to use the name "House of Commons" for the Lower House of Parliament.
 
The Canadian House of Commons is located in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario.

History
The House of Commons came into existence in 1867, when the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the British North America Act, uniting the Province of Canada (which was separated into Quebec and Ontario), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a single federation called the Dominion of Canada.
 
The new Parliament of Canada consisted of the Queen (represented by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons. The Parliament of Canada was based on the Westminster model (that is, the model of the Parliament of the United Kingdom).
 
Unlike the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the powers of the Parliament of Canada were limited in that other powers were assigned exclusively to the provincial legislatures. The Parliament of Canada also remained subordinate to the Governor-general (representing both the Crown and the Foreign Office) and the Westminster Parliament, the supreme legislative authority for the entire British Empire. Greater autonomy was granted by the Statute of Westminster 1931, under which the United Kingdom ceased to interfere in Canadian affairs. Full autonomy was only granted by the Canada Act 1982, under which the Parliament of the United Kingdom relinquished all authority to legislate for Canada.

Members & Elections
The House of Commons is composed of 308 members, each of whom represents a single electoral district (also called a riding). Law requires that there be a minimum of 282 electoral districts; there are currently 308. Seats are distributed among the provinces in proportion to population, as determined by each decennial census, subject to the following exceptions made by the constitution.
 
Firstly, the "senatorial clause" guarantees that each province will have at least as many Members of Parliament as Senators. Secondly, the "grandfather clause" guarantees each province has at least as many Members of Parliament now as it had in 1976 or in 1985. Finally, no province may lose more than fifteen per cent of its seats after a single decennial census. As a result of these three clauses, smaller provinces and provinces that have experienced a relative decline in population are over-represented in the House. Only Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta — Canada's fastest-growing provinces — are represented roughly in proportion to their populations. Provincial boundary commissions are responsible for drawing the boundaries of the electoral districts, but their proposals are subject to parliamentary approval. Territorial representation is independent of population; each territory is entitled to only one seat.

General elections occur whenever Parliament is dissolved by the Governor General. The timing of the dissolution is normally chosen by the Prime Minister. A parliamentary term may not last for more than five years. Canadian law states that all federal elections must be held on a Monday (except on statutory holidays), and the campaign must be at least 36 days long.
 
Candidates are usually nominated by political parties. It is possible for a candidate to run independently. Although it is rare for such a candidate to win, one truly independent and non-incumbent candidate, André Arthur, won election in a Quebec district in 2006.
 
The last non-incumbent independent to win was Gilles Duceppe in a 1990 by-election, although Duceppe was informally representing the Bloc Québécois, which was not yet registered as a political party with Elections Canada when the by-election was held.
 
In 2004 one independent candidate, Chuck Cadman, won his seat after having formerly represented his riding of Surrey North in Surrey, British Columbia.  He had earlier been elected as a member of the Reform Party (in 1997) and later the Canadian Alliance (in 2000). Cadman chose to run as an Independent when he lost his party's nomination to another Alliance candidate.
 
Most Canadian candidates are chosen in meetings called by their party's local electoral district association. In practice, the candidate who signs up the most local party members is most likely to win the nomination.

To run for a seat in the House of Commons, candidates must file nomination papers bearing the signatures of at least 50 or 100 constituents (depending on the size of the electoral district). Each electoral district returns one member; the First Past the Post electoral system, under which the candidate with a plurality of votes wins, is used. To vote, one must be a citizen of Canada and at least eighteen years of age.

Once elected, a Member of Parliament normally continues to serve until the next dissolution of Parliament. If a member dies, resigns, or ceases to be qualified, his or her seat falls vacant. It is also possible for the House of Commons to expel a member, but this power is only exercised when the member has engaged in serious misconduct or criminal activity. In each case, a vacancy may be filled by a by-election in the appropriate electoral district. The first past the post electoral system is used in by-elections, as in general elections.

The term "Member of Parliament" is usually used only to refer to members of the House of Commons, even though appointed Senators are also a part of Parliament. Members of the House of Commons may use the post-nominal letters "MP". The annual salary of each Member of Parliament, as of 2006, is $147,000; members may receive additional salaries in right of other offices they hold (for instance, the Speakership). MPs rank immediately below senators in the order of precedence.
 
Each Parliament is made up of one or more sessions, each consisting of a number of separate sittings (meetings), separated by periods of adjournment. Each session, except the final one, ends when Parliament is prorogued by the Governor General. The final session ends with the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election.
 
 
Opening of a Parliament and a Session
After a general election, Parliament is summoned in the Queen’s name by the Governor General. On the day appointed by proclamation for the meeting of the new Parliament, the newly-elected Members, who have already taken an oath of allegiance, elect a Speaker by secret ballot.

At the time appointed for the formal opening of the new Parliament, the new Speaker, accompanied by the Members, formally announces his/her election at the bar of the Senate Chamber. The Speaker of the Senate replies on behalf of the Governor General. He/she acknowledges the election and confirms the traditional rights and privileges of the House.

This is followed immediately by the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber. Subsequent sessions of the same Parliament will open with a summons to the Senate Chamber followed immediately by the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne is customarily read by the Governor General. It announces the newly-elected Government’s general program for the parliamentary session that will follow.
When the Members return to the Commons Chamber, several procedural formalities are followed immediately by the commencement of the debate on the Address to the Governor General in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
 
 
Prorogation of Parliament

Each session of a Parliament ends with the prorogation of Parliament by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister. Most unfinished business dies and committees cease to function. Parliament then stands prorogued until the opening of the next session on a specified date. This date may be changed by a further proclamation.
 
 
Government bills that have not received Royal Assent prior to prorogation can be reinstated in the next session only if the House takes a decision to this effect. All items of Private Members' Business are automatically reinstated. Tabling of documents before the House must await the beginning of the new session. Requests for responses to petitions and for the production of papers remain in effect, as do requests made for government responses to committee reports.
 
 
Dissolution of Parliament
Dissolution ends the life of a Parliament; the last session of a Parliament is therefore the one that ends with dissolution. The proclamation (issued by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister) dissolving a Parliament is usually followed by others, fixing the date of a general election and summoning the new Parliament to meet on a specific date.

Dissolution brings to an end all Chamber activity and all business before both Houses. All committees cease to exist and requests for Government responses to committee reports lapse. The Speaker and several of the other elected officers of Parliament continue to perform certain administrative functions until they are replaced or re-elected in a new Parliament following a general election.
 
Parliamentary Calendar
The Standing Ordersof the House of Commons set out the parliamentary calendar. This establishes a schedule of sitting periods, separated by adjournments, including a Christmas break and a summer recess. Statutory holidays and certain other days are designated as non-sitting days.

The calendar comes into effect once a session starts and remains in effect for its duration. However, the House may be recalled or Parliament summoned for the opening of a new session during what is normally a period of adjournment. The House may also decide to sit on days it is not scheduled to sit or to adjourn on days on which it is scheduled to sit.

The Standing Orders also set forth weekly and daily schedules for the work of the House. The House commences sitting at 11:00 a.m. on Mondays. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays sittings begin at 10:00 a.m. As Wednesday mornings are reserved for caucus meetings, sittings on that day begin at 2:00 p.m. Daily sittings end between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., except on Fridays, when they end at 2:30 p.m. Sittings may be extended for a number of reasons.

The House stands adjourned when it is not meeting as well as when it is neither prorogued nor dissolved. During an adjournment, the House may be recalled by the Speaker, on the advice of the Government, prior to the date originally specified.

Committees meet throughout the week and may also meet during adjournment periods.
 
 
More information — Parliamentary Cycle