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Overview of the House of Commons

Canada’s Parliament

The Parliament of Canada includes the Monarch (the Queen, represented by the Governor General), the Senate (composed of members appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister) and the House of Commons (composed of elected Members).

The House of Commons

Members of Parliament

The House of Commons is where Members of Parliament—the men and women elected by Canadians to represent them in our national legislature—come together to make laws, hold the government to account and decide on the affairs of the country.

What Members do

In the Chamber

Members debate and vote on legislation, present documents and petitions, ask and respond to questions, and raise issues of importance to their constituents.

In Committees

Members work together to study proposed legislation, examine proposed government spending, investigate current issues, and receive input from citizens and other experts.

In Caucuses

Members join with colleagues in their political parties to discuss policies and parliamentary strategy.

In their Constituencies

Members meet with constituents and the public to discuss important issues. When the House is sitting, roughly one week in four is set aside for such exchanges.

Internationally

Members represent Canada, promote democratic institutions and strengthen ties with other countries by travelling or receiving visitors from abroad.

In memoriam: The Honourable Jack Layton, P.C., M.P.

Photo of Jack Layton, MP and former leader of the NDP

July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011

Within four months of the election that saw his party win its greatest number of seats in the House of Commons, the Honourable Jack Layton, Leader of the Official Opposition, succumbed to cancer. Inspiring so many to get involved to create a better Canada, he will be remembered for his unwavering passion, optimism and courage and the message of hope he left for all Canadians.

House Administration

The House Administration provides Members with the services, infrastructure and advice they need to carry out their work both on Parliament Hill and in their constituencies. Its work includes producing Parliament’s daily publications (in both official languages, in print and online), helping Members stay connected through technology, and ensuring the Parliament buildings are secure and equipped to accommodate a number of different activities.

In providing non-partisan support to Members, the House Administration is guided by three core values: professional excellence, respect for the democratic process, and balancing continuity and change.

Six service areas

Man and woman Pictogram
  • Procedural Services
  • Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel
  • Information Services
  • Parliamentary Precinct Services
  • Finance Services
  • Human Resources, Corporate Planning and Communications Services

Who gets a seat?

The House of Commons operates on a model of representation by population, with the number of seats distributed according to each province’s population. After each decennial census, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada calculates the number of seats required. New electoral boundaries are then drawn by provincial commissions, whose members are appointed by the Speaker of the House and the province’s Chief Justice to ensure the boundaries are established in a fair and unbiased way.

How laws are made

Government ministers propose new laws by introducing bills for debate in the Senate or the House of Commons. (Bills that involve raising or spending public money must be introduced in the House.) Individual Members can also introduce and debate private Member’s bills during the time set aside for such business in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

The Speaker’s role

The Speaker of the House is responsible for maintaining order and decorum and ruling on procedural issues—everything from points of order to questions of privilege to requests for emergency debates.

Question Period

For 45 minutes each day the House sits, Members can ask questions of the government on important issues. Question Period is a busy time: Members asked an average of 39 questions during each of the last fiscal year’s 103 sitting days.

Staying informed

All Canadians are encouraged to learn more about—and become involved in—the activities of the House of Commons. They can do so by watching sittings of the Chamber and committee meetings live on the Internet at parlvu.parl.gc.ca, or by attending in person and taking a seat in the House’s public galleries. Information about the House of Commons’ committees is available at www.parl.gc.ca, a site that also includes information on each individual Member of Parliament and on international activities.