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The Elements of Parliament

Aspects of the institution and Members’ roles within it

In the Chamber

Aside from the Peace Tower, the Chamber is likely the most recognizable part of Canada’s Parliament. It is where elected Members come together to debate issues of national importance, introduce and discuss potential new laws, and receive official documents tabled by government departments and agencies.

In committees

In committees, Members investigate the issues that matter to Canadians by studying proposed legislation, examining departmental spending, conducting inquiries, and receiving input from citizens, policy experts and interest groups.

Several kinds of committees exist to advance parliamentary business: standing committees; special committees focused on particular issues; legislative committees that review bills; joint committees that include both Senators and Members; and subcommittees, which are offshoots of the other types of committees.

In caucuses

Most Members belong to a political party; together with their colleagues in the Senate—when they have representation there—, they make up their party’s parliamentary caucus. Each caucus meets weekly to discuss policies, plan strategies and develop positions on issues being debated in the House of Commons. Held in private, caucus meetings allow Members to express their views and opinions freely and debate policy without compromising party unity.

In constituencies

For the 41st Parliament, Canada is divided into 308 constituencies—also called ridings or electoral districts—each of which is assigned a seat in the House of Commons. The Members who represent these constituencies have a responsibility to be available to the people who live there to discuss issues of concern and to help with access to federal programs and services.

Members keep offices and employ staff in their constituencies, allowing the public to connect with them in person. They usually spend one week a month in their ridings (and longer during the summer and from late December to early January).

Internationally

Whether welcoming visitors to the House of Commons or participating in delegations to foreign legislatures and international conferences, Members play an active role in representing our country to the rest of the world.

The Speaker of the House and his fellow Members are often invited to discuss issues and strengthen relationships with colleagues in other parliaments as well as with the diplomatic community in Canada.

 

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