The Senate is the appointed upper house of the Parliament of Canada. The Constitution requires that Senators be appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, who also chooses the Senator who will serve as Speaker of the Senate. The Senate is responsible for providing “sober second thought” to decisions by the elected Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.
In theory, the powers of the Senate are similar to those of the House of Commons. Bills must be adopted by both houses in order to become law. The Senate can amend, delay, or refuse to pass bills introduced in the House of Commons. In practice, however, it is rare for the Senate to exercise its powers in such a way as to impede legislation adopted by the House of Commons.
There are several important constitutional limitations to the Senate’s powers. Although most bills can be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Commons, money bills must originate in the House of Commons. While the House has an absolute veto over constitutional amendments, the Senate can only delay these.
When there are no vacant Senate seats, the number of Senators is normally 105, although the Constitution permits the appointment of eight additional Senators, to a maximum of 113. Once appointed, Senators normally continue to serve until mandatory retirement at the age of 75. Senators can, however, resign or, in certain limited circumstances, be removed.
Contrary to the case in the House, where seats are distributed on the basis of population, each region of the country has a set number of Senators. Additional seats have been added as new provinces and territories have been created.