Parliament of Canada

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Parliament of Canada 
 

Our Country, Our Parliament

Glossary

amend – To change or improve something; for example, a law or an Act of Parliament.

amendment – A change that is made to a bill, a motion or a committee report with the intention of improving it.

bicameral – Of two chambers, or rooms. Canada’s Parliament is made up of two separate Chambers. They are the Senate and the House of Commons.

bill – A proposal for a law to be considered by Parliament.

budget –The government’s plan for how it will collect and spend money each year.

Cabinet –The Cabinet is a group of all Ministers (mostly from the House of Commons and at least one from the Senate). The Cabinet makes decisions about the Government’s priorities and policies, the legislation that will be presented to Parliament, and how to collect and spend money.

Cabinet Minister – A person — normally a Member of Parliament or a Senator — who is chosen by the Prime Minister, and appointed by the Governor General, to help govern. A Minister is usually the head of a government department. The Government Leader in the Senate is also a member of the Cabinet.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – An important part of the Canadian constitution that ensures all people in Canada are guaranteed certain basic human rights and freedoms.

capital –The city where a country’s legislature is located and the government carries out its business. The capital city of Canada is Ottawa. Each province and territory also has a capital city and a legislature.

caucus – A group made up of all Senators and Members of Parliament from the same political party. Caucuses meet regularly.

Centre Block –The Parliament Buildings have three parts (West Block, Centre Block and East Block). The House of Commons and the Senate Chambers are in the Centre Block. It is recognizable by the Peace Tower with the clock.

ceremony – A formal event that follows rules or traditions.

chair –The person in charge of a meeting. This person directs the discussion of business in a Senate or a House of Commons committee meeting.

Chamber – One of two large rooms in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. The Senate Chamber, or the Upper House, is where Senators meet to discuss business. The Commons Chamber, also called the Lower House, is where Members of Parliament meet. Traditionally, the Senate Chamber has red furniture and carpet, to signify monarchy, while the House of Commons’ furniture and carpet are green, following the tradition set in Britain.

Chief Electoral Officer of Canada –This person is responsible for overseeing all federal elections.

citizen – A person who has full political and civil rights in his or her country.

Clerk of the House of Commons – The senior official in the Commons, and the main advisor to the Speaker and Members of the House of Commons regarding House rules and procedures.

Clerk of the Senate –The senior official in the Senate, and the main advisor to the Speaker of the Senate and to Senators regarding the Senate’s rules and procedures. The Clerk is also Clerk of the Parliaments and is responsible for all legislation passed by Parliament.

committee – A group of Senators, Members of Parliament, or both, selected to study a specific subject or bill and write a report about it.

Confederation –The agreement by the provinces to join together to form the nation of Canada and create a federal Parliament. This happened in 1867 with four present-day provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The other six provinces and three territories joined at later dates.

constituency –The specific geographic area in Canada that a Member of Parliament represents in the House of Commons. (Synonym: riding or electoral district)

constituent – A person living in an area in Canada represented by a Member of Parliament.

constitution –The set of rules that a country like Canada follows to work as a nation. It includes the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, but is not limited to them.

constitutional monarchy – A system in which the powers of the Monarch are limited by the written or unwritten constitution of the country. Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen or King of Canada is our Head of State, whereas the Prime Minister is our Head of Government.

debate – A discussion in which the arguments for and against a subject are presented according to specific rules. Discussions in the Senate and the House of Commons are called debates.

dissolution –The bringing to an end of a Parliament, either at the end of its four-year term or if the government is defeated on a motion of non-confidence, by proclamation (an official announcement) of the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is followed by a general election.

elect – To pick one person from a group of several people by voting. The person with the most votes is elected.

election –The process of choosing a representative by vote. In a federal election, voters in each riding elect one representative to the House of Commons. The person who gets the most votes represents the riding.

federal government –The government of Canada that acts and speaks for the whole country.

governing party –The political party that forms the Government because more of its members were elected to the House of Commons than from any other party.

Government –The political party with the most members elected to the House of Commons usually forms the Government. In the federal government, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet decide the policies and priorities, make sure they are put into action, and also guide the Government’s legislation through the House of Commons and the Senate.

Government House Leader –The Minister responsible for managing the Government’s business in the House, including negotiating the scheduling of business with the House Leaders of the opposition parties. (Synonym: Leader of the Government in the House of Commons)

Governor General – A person appointed by our Monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to be the Monarch’s representative in Canada. The Governor General is appointed for a term of five years. The term may be extended.

Hansard –The daily official record of debates in the Senate and the House of Commons in English and French. Hansard was the surname of a British printer who prepared reports of parliamentary debates in 19th-century England. The Hansard is also called Debates of the Senate and House of Commons Debates.

Head of Government – In Canada, the Prime Minister holds the powers of the Head of Government and looks after the business of the country.

Head of State – Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Canada, is our Head of State. She is represented in Canada by the Governor General.

Honourable – A special title given to Senators and Cabinet Ministers for life, and to the Speaker of the House of Commons as long as he or she is the Speaker. In Parliament, Senators and Members of Parliament use terms such as “Honourable Senator,” “The Honourable Member for...,” and “Honourable colleague” because traditionally they are not allowed to call one another by name in the Chambers.

House Leader – An appointed Member of every party that manages its business in the House of Commons.

House of Commons – One of three parts of Parliament. MPs meet and debate in the House of Commons Chamber.

independent – A Member of the Senate or House of Commons who does not belong to a political party.

interest groups – Groups of businesses, associations and people with a common interest who ask MPs or Senators to speak for them and promote their interests.

law – A rule for all Canadians made by Senators, Members of Parliament and the Governor General through discussion and voting.

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons – See Government House Leader.

Leader of the Government in the Senate – A Senator appointed by the Prime Minister to lead the Government in the Senate.

Leader of the Official Opposition or Leader of the Opposition (House of Commons) – The leader of the political party that usually has the second-largest number of MPs in the House of Commons.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate– The leader of the party in the Senate that usually has the second-largest number of seats. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate manages his or her party members’ activities in the Senate and in its committees.

legislation – Bills that are passed by Parliament.

legislative process –The steps by which bills are approved by Parliament and become laws.

Local government –The council that manages the business of a municipality (village, town or city) that is led by a mayor. Council members are elected by the people living in that area.

Lower House – Another name for the House of Commons.

Mace – A large, heavy, silver- and gold-covered staff that is a symbol of the power and authority of Parliament. The Senate and the House of Commons each have a Mace. When the Senate and the House are in session, the Maces rest on the Clerk’s Table in each Chamber.

Member of Parliament (MP) – Technically, members of both the Senate and the House of Commons are Members of Parliament, but most often this term is used for someone elected to a seat in the House of Commons. Members of the Senate are called Senators. Each member of Parliament represents one of the ridings into which Canada is divided.

monarch – A king or queen of a country.

motion – A proposal by a Member for either the Senate or the House of Commons to do something, to order something to be done, or to express an opinion on a matter. To be considered by the Chamber, a motion must be seconded by another Member and voted on by all members. If adopted, a motion becomes an order or a resolution.

Official Opposition –The political party that usually has the second largest number of MPs elected to the House of Commons. Both the House and Senate have an Official Opposition.

opposition – All political parties and independent Members who do not belong to the governing party.

oral questions – Another name for question period.

page – A university student who works for the Senate or the House of Commons. He or she carries messages and delivers documents and other material to the Chamber during sittings of the Senate or House of Commons.

Parliament – Canada’s Parliament is composed of the Monarch, the Senate and the House of Commons. Parliament has the power to make laws for Canada in certain areas of responsibility. A Parliament is also the period of time between an election and a dissolution.

parliamentarian – A Senator or a Member of the House of Commons.

parliamentary democracy – A system of government where the citizens express their political views by choosing representatives to go to Parliament to make laws on their behalf.

Prime Minister –The leader of the party in power and the Head of Government. The Prime Minister is normally an elected Member of Parliament and represents a constituency.

Private Member – Another name for a backbencher: a Member of Parliament who does not have an official role in the House of Commons.

provincial or territorial government– Each of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories has a legislature that makes laws for the people living in that province or territory. Each legislature is located in the capital city of the province or territory.

question period – A daily period of time in the Senate and House of Commons when parliamentarians ask the government questions about its activities or important issues.

reading (of a bill) – A word used for the stages during which a bill is debated in Parliament before it is passed to become a law.

report stage – A step in the passage of a bill through both the Senate and the House of Commons. The Report Stage is when the Senate or the House of Commons considers the report of the committee that has studied a bill, and when changes to the text of the bill may be proposed.

representative – A person who speaks for you.

responsible government –The Government, made up of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, must have the support of the majority in the House of Commons to stay in power. If the Government loses that support on a question of confidence, it must resign and ask the Governor General to call an election.

riding – Another word for constituency or electoral district.

Right Honourable – A special title given to Governors General, Prime Ministers and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. The title can be used for the person’s lifetime, even after retirement.

Royal Assent –The last stage before a bill becomes a law. The ceremony of Royal Assent takes place in the Senate Chamber and is performed by the Governor General or the Governor General’s deputy with Members of the House of Commons present. A bill can also receive Royal Assent at Rideau Hall by written declaration.

Senate –The Upper House of Parliament is made up of 105 Senators.

Senator – A person appointed to the Upper House of Parliament by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. A Senator represents a region of Canada.

Sergeant-at-Arms –The person who is responsible for the maintenance and security of the buildings used by the staff and Members of the House of Commons, including the Chamber. The Sergeant-at-Arms also carries the Mace when the Speaker enters and leaves the Commons Chamber.

session –The periods into which a Parliament is divided. Sessions start with a Speech from the Throne and are ended by prorogation (suspension).

sitting – A meeting of the Senate or of the House of Commons within a session. Usually one day long, although a sitting can last for only a matter of minutes or may extend over several days.

Speaker of the House of Commons–The Member of Parliament who is elected at the beginning of a Parliament by fellow MPs to keep order in the House of Commons and to ensure that its rules and traditions are respected.

Speaker of the Senate –The Speaker is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Speaker keeps order in the Senate and ensures that rules and traditions are respected.

Speech from the Throne – A speech delivered by the Monarch or the Governor General at the start of a new session of Parliament. The speech is read in the Senate Chamber and describes the Government’s plans for the session.

Supreme Court of Canada –The highest court in Canada. It has nine justices who are appointed by the Prime Minister.

table (verb) – To place a document before the Senate, the House of Commons or a committee for consideration.

Upper House – Another name for the Senate.

Usher of the Black Rod – An officer of the Senate whose responsibilities include delivering messages to the Commons when its Members’ attendance is required in the Senate Chamber by the Governor General or a deputy of the Governor General.

vote – To choose a representative in an election. Eligible Canadian citizens vote for their representatives to the House of Commons by secret ballot during federal elections. In the Senate and House of Commons, Members can vote either orally or by standing in their places.

whip (noun) – The Member of Parliament or Senator in a political party who is responsible for keeping other party Members informed about the Chamber’s business and making sure they are present in the Chamber, especially when a vote is expected.