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Legislatures and the passage of laws Chapter 8
Learning Objectives • • Passage of laws. The bicameral system Stages in the legislative process. The construction of the House of Commons • Some comparisons to the British Parliament.
Legislative Structures • bi-cameral means that it is composed of two parts. • Canada, the United States and Britain all have bi-cameral legislatures • They all have the house of commons/representatives and a senate. • Unicameral means there is only one legislative chamber (i. e. . the provinces)
What Is Parliament? Parliament is the legislative branch of the Westminster model and so is often called the legislature in Canada. Every public policy proposal must be passed by parliament before it becomes authoritative statute law. The adoption of federalism by Canada and the resulting use of judicial review has limited the sovereignty of the Canadian Parliament.
What Is Parliamentary Sovereignty? As developed in Great Britain, parliamentary sovereignty includes four essential features: – There is no higher legislative authority. – No court can declare Acts of Parliament to be invalid. – There is no limit to Parliament's sphere of legislation. – No Parliament can legally bind its successor or be bound by its predecessor.
What Is Meant by Parliamentary Privilege? Parliamentary privilege is a series of rights given to the legislature in a parliamentary system and to nobody else. This ensures that Parliament and its members are collectively and individually free of outside influence and control. Parliamentary privilege is in place to safeguard parliamentary sovereignty.
What is the Structure of the Legislature in Canada? Canada has a bicameral legislature: – a lower house (the House of Commons) – an upper house (the Senate) The lower house is designed to be closest to the people based on popular election with relatively frequent elections. The upper house is designed to check the power of popular passion and so is appointed.
What is the Role of the House of Commons? In the Canadian system, the fusion of the executive and legislative power, based on party cohesion and cabinet direction, has brought the House of Commons under the control of the prime minister and cabinet. This has produced a political system wherein the of the day government has the capacity to act decisively. As a representative institution, Commons serves as a repository of public authority.
How Is Membership in the Commons Determined? The membership structure of the House of Commons is territorially based around the provincial units, with population the main basis in assigning provincial seat totals. In order to protect the French-Canadian minority, Quebec is assigned a given number of seats (75) and the other provincial seat allocations are then computed from that starting point.
What is the Physical Set-up of the Commons? The government sits on the Speaker's right and the opposition on the left. Each member is assigned a particular desk with government and opposition members facing each other across the centre aisle, symbolic of the antagonistic relationship between them. The prime minister and the cabinet occupy the first two rows centre on the government side with the official opposition leader and the shadow cabinet facing them.
What does the Speaker of the House do? As the presiding officer, it is the Speaker's job to ensure the smooth and fair functioning of the House. In so doing, he or she recognizes those members who wish to participate in the debate, attempts to be impartial in the business of the House, and rules on disputed questions of procedure. Decisions of the Speaker should be non-partisan and fair to all participants.
How do Political Parties Work Within Parliament? Each party selects a house leader and party whips who help to ensure an orderly flow of business. A party's house leader is usually different from the national leader so that the party leader may be absent from the Commons without disrupting the public's business. The party whips help to “whip, ” the party members into cohesive groups in the legislature.
What Are Legislative Committees of the House? The House is structured into a series of legislative or standing committees where much of the intensive work of the legislative branch takes place. The standing committees give clause-by-clause consideration to each piece of legislation between its second and third readings. It is at the standing committee stage that the real work of the legislature occurs.
Types of Bills Any Member of the House of Commons can introduce legislation, but the kind of legislation proposed, and its chance of passage varies depending on whether it is: – a government bill – a private member’s bill
A Government Bill A government bill is part of the ruling party’s legislative program. It is introduced by a minister and is backed by the full weight of the government party caucus. Government bills are given priority and are usually passed, especially under majority governments.
A Private Member’s Bill These bills are introduced by an MP, but do not have government support. They are given little time for consideration in the Commons and are dealt with in the order in which they are introduced. Few are ever debated and are almost never passed. The most common use of private member’s bills is to influence public opinion with the intent of changing future government policy.
Legislative Stages All legislation passes through six stages in Parliament to be enacted into Canadian law: 1. first reading 2. second reading 3. committee stage 4. third reading 5. consideration by the other House 6. royal assent.
First Reading The bill is introduced by indicating the title of the bill and perhaps a brief statement about the bill’s subject matter. There is no debate at this stage.
Second Reading Here the initial debate on the bill takes place. Passage on second reading gives the bill "approval in principle. " The bill cannot be amended but must be accepted or rejected in total. This is the major debate of a bill, for once it is approved in principle, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to defeat it at a later stage.
The Committee Stage Here the bill is sent to a standing committee for detailed, clause-by-clause review. Here the bill can be amended for the first time. Witnesses, both pro and con, may be called to testify.
Third Reading Once the committee is finished with a bill, it is sent back to the full House for third reading. The committee may have made changes in the bill, but the full House, sitting as Committee-of-the. Whole, has the right to accept or reject such revisions. Opposition parties may debate a controversial bill at length in third reading, trying to force the government to end debate through closure.
The Other House Once a bill is passed by one House, the same basic steps are repeated by the other House. Because bills, as passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, must be identical any revisions must be sent back to the initiating House for approval. Either House may initially consider any bill, except for money bills, which must originate in the Commons.
Royal Assent The sixth final stage concerns approval by the formal executive through the royal assent procedure, which takes place in the Senate chamber. The bill usually becomes law as soon as royal assent has been granted. However, in some instances, a bill may not become operative until it is proclaimed in accordance with a timetable included in the bill.
How Does the Senate Differ From the Commons? In contrast to the elected House of Commons, the Canadian Senate is an appointed body. Although formally designated by the governor-in-council, Senate selection is in fact a prerogative of the prime minister.
Distribution of Senate Seats The allocation of Senate seats is based on provincial population as well as regional distribution with a current maximum of 105 members.
What Are the Functions of the Senate? The initial design of the Senate as laid out by the Fathers of Confederation reflected two main purposes: – First, it was to serve as a check on the lower house – Second, it was to represent the provinces and regions within the national government.
What Are the Senate’s Current Functions? – The Senate is a tool for party organization and development. – The Senate plays a revising role in the legislative process. – The Senate provides at least symbolic representation for the regions. – Occasionally the Senate contributes to the political process by investigating areas of social concern. – Infrequently, the Senate is called upon to provide regional representatives for the cabinet.
Should the Senate Be Reformed? Reform proposals have been advanced regarding the appointment and structure of the Canadian Senate. Most proposals have sought to enhance the Senate's legislative role such as the Triple-E Senate (Elected, Equal, and Effective). The greater the proposed change in the Senate's role and powers, however, the greater will be the opposition to that reform coming from the Commons.
How the British Parliament Differs from the Canadian • Speaker is more independent. • Speaker requires approval of house and the Queen. • More limited use of standing committee system. • The role of the House of Lords
Traditional House of Lords • Monarchical institutional • Appointments based on heredity. • 1200 members, but only 400 played an regular role. • 2/3 hereditary peers • 1/3 life peers • Did have the suspensive veto. 2 year time limit.
The evolving Lords: post 1999 • Hereditary peers would be cut from 751 to 75 (90%). • These people lost their legislative positions in 1999, but they can still be granted. • Life peers can continue to increase.