Canada has a much different political system than China. There are three levels of government and each plays different roles and responsibilities. As federal election approaches, Bob Mok’s columns take an insight look at the Canadian political system – from the government to parliament.
For many immigrants, their first knowledge and understanding of the Canadian political system come from their preparation for citizenship test using the “Citizenship Guide”. The book - “Discover Canada: The rights and responsibilities of citizenship” is published by the Government of Canada in both paper and electronic format.
Immigrants do not have voting rights and cannot be a candidate for election in all three levels of government. Seemingly, it is unnecessary for them to learn about Canada’s political systems. Nevertheless, it would be beneficial to do so ahead of citizenship applications so that the proper officials and departments can be approached to assist in dealing with daily issues affecting everyone’s lives.
There are three (3) levels of government in Canada – Federal, Provincial, and Municipal.Each one of these governments would deal with different areas of responsibilities. Sometimes, there are regions of overlapping jurisdictions and functions. For instance, the Canada Health Act is a Federal legislation but the administrations of Health plans are left to the individual provinces.
Another example will be the immigration area. There is a Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to oversee the federal government department responsible for immigration, refugee and citizenship issues. What is confusing for many is that there is also a Ministry of citizenship, immigration and International trade in Ontario! In effect, the Federal government handles the processing and approval of immigrants and refugees while the Provincial government of Ontario implements an immigrant selection strategy and provides services for successful economic and social integration of newcomers, which maximizes the benefits of immigration.
Canada’s parliamentary democracy is an adaptation of the British Parliamentary system.Parliamentary members are elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa and to the 10 provincial and 3 territorial legislatures. Parliamentary representatives are responsible for passing laws, approving and monitoring expenditures, and keeping the government accountable.
Let us look at the 3 levels of government:
1) Federal Government –
This level of Government is responsible for matters of national and international concern. These matters cover defence, foreign policy, interprovincial trade and communications, currency, navigation, criminal law and citizenship. In the areas of agriculture and immigration only, the federal government and the provinces share jurisdiction and allow different provinces to adopt policies tailored to their own demographics, and give provinces the flexibility to experiment with new ideas and policies.
The Federal Parliament consists of three parts: the Sovereign (Queen or King), the Senate and the House of Commons.
As a member of the British Commonwealth, Canada’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Most of the royal constitutional and ceremonial duties in Canada are carried out by the Queen's representative, the Governor General.
Senators are 105 members of the “Upper house”. They are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister and serve until age 75. The Senate consider and review bills (proposals for new laws) after they are reviewed and passed by the House of Commons. No bill can become law in Canada until it has been passed by both chambers and has received royal assent, granted by the Governor General on behalf of the Sovereign.
The members of parliament (MP’s) in the “Lower House” or House of Commons are directly elected by eligible Canadian voters, traditionally once every 4 years unless the ruling party is defeated (more about that later). There are currently 308 Parliament members but the numbers will increase to 338 in the upcoming Federal election in October this year. This is necessary to manage an increase in population as well as a redrawn of riding boundaries.
We will continue in the next article in this series….
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