The purpose of this term paper is to discuss the reform of the House of Commons in Canada. In order to do so, this paper will provide a complete overview of the House of Commons, electoral procedure, Canada’s Parliamentary system, Sovereignty of Parliament, lawmaking procedure, the democratic deficit, and the power of the political institutions. This paper also scrutinizes the reason behind the reforms, the outcomes of the reforms and compares the present electoral system with previous ones.
Background of the House of Commons
Milliken argued that Canada is a constitutional monarchy and its parliamentary system is open and democratic (2-3). The three components of the Parliament are the Queen, Senate, and the House of Commons who effort jointly to make the laws for Canada, for example, every federal law is made in the Queen’s name because she is the Head of State. On the other hand, the Senate is very intimately tied to the constitution, which checks, amends, rejects, or approves bills passed by the HC1, and all bills have to pass by the Senate to become law. The HC is the main law-making body in the Parliament of Canada, which consists of 308 MPs who can debate and voting on bills and discuss national issues. To amend and pass legislation, MPs are elected by simple plurality though there is a number of inter-provincials and regional mal-apportionment due to some ridings are more populous than others.
The Electoral System of Canada
Robertson mentioned that the Canadian electoral system is a tremendously complex area that has continuously altered and modified for the betterment of the existing electoral system and laws practice (6). The Canadian electoral system of federal nature has numerous aspects of political existence with the particular provincial electoral system as well as a national electoral system for the federal Parliament where a lot of similarities and significant differences exist. The Canadian Elections Act is the is the major directive for the electoral system through the statutes like Broadcasting Act, Criminal Code, Income Tax Act, and EBRA have a remarkable influence on the Canadian electoral system Robertson (7).
Dilemmas with Electoral System of Canada
Jansen identified that from the very beginning in 1867 the electoral system of Canada had designed and worked excellent for a single-member plurality electoral system that results good for only two strong parties, but not for multiparty democracy which was a Canadian sequence until 1921. Due to the rise of several political parties, it is necessary to replace the ideologue election (1). With the reality of the multi-party political system and the fact of more democratize soon there is a lot of criticism on the last 2008 election for vote-splitting to the leftists that generated a lot of the debate concerning vote splitting for the rightist in the nineties.
The shifting of people from their previous strands, joining, and voting for the Green party rather than the NDP indicates a socio-political polarisation into the Canadian society when the New Democrats reluctant to be Liberals and former Canadian Alliance members are irritated at the principles of the Conservatives. Thus to replace the old electoral system, it would be more fruitful to implement a system that would be familiar with the diversity of political affiliation of Canadians those already motivated rather than reducing the number of parties. The most significant truth of Canadian politics is that the provincial discrepancies of supporting the parties other than the systems would more precisely echo the ultimate truth of party support at the provincial intensity (Jansen, 3).
It is essential to reform the House of Commons to assess and reduce the long-standing controversies that the fundamental roles of Members of Parliament have eroded day by day. Munroe stated the Paul Martin plan to reform suggests that:
- Let MPs use their judgment: members of opposition should provide their judgment more frequently;
- Grant MPs more power on legislation: an individual member have more power over the legislative process;
- Make it easier for MPs to Initiate Legislation: individual members of parliament should have the capacity to introduce bills in parliament though it is rare.
- Strengthen House of Commons Committees: committees of HC should have more independence and authority;
- Parliament Review of Government Appointments: Senior government officials should appoint by the government but HC should have the power to review;
- Ethics Commissioner for House of Commons: it should have an independent Ethics Commissioner.
Five principal electoral reforms
- Before the First World War, women had no right to vote but after reform all Canadian citizens 18 years of age are now eligible to vote in federal and provincial elections, for example, in 1867, only 15% of the total population was eligible to vote where now 70% of people include non-Canadian residents are qualified to vote;
- Courtney argued that the first parliamentary elections were completely unfair as most of the officials, as well as voters, were corrupt and they worked for the governing party’s favor, so, election fraud was a common scenario. In order to resolve this problem, in 1920, Parliament has formed an institution, which operates separately of the provinces, parties, candidates, and governments, and the Chief Electoral Officer has chosen by the House of Commons, as a result, Canadians have now impartial officials to arrange fair elections;
- Courtney also mentioned that Chief Electoral Officer has to comply with several rules and regulations to perform their jobs, such as, they follow election financing laws and maintain the register of electors;
- Electoral redistributions or redistricting was the process by which they had declined the population disparities among the districts to the point where the devastating majority of federal and provincial districts have been constructed;
- It was previously mentioned that the election officials were highly corrupted. The laws had required to change to reduce financial expenses as the officials were dishonest, which inspired them to illegal transfers of money to candidates and parties, asked donations from party funds from Canada’s second federal election (1872);
- In 1874, the Macdonald Conservatives had remained as an opposition party due to financial corruption and the government had facilitated them by increasing finance and never tried to prevent this corruption and illegal practices because it was the path to win the election from the federal level to the provinces. As it was a severe problem for Canada, the recent law has also been designed to ensure fairness in the election system, for example, now all parties have to comply with public disclosure, liberal tax credits for political contributions, rigid spending controls on independent advocacy groups, as well as a considerable measure of public funding through reimbursement of nominees and parties;
- Generally, Canadians have familiar with door-to-door enumerations in both the federal and provincial levels (by collecting voter lists) but from the beginning of the 20th-century enumerators have hired at the outset of a campaign as a temporary basis and their job was to accumulate the lists of eligible voters for all electoral district and data shows that 95% to 97.5% of the eligible voting-age population was enumerated federally by them. This system is cost-effective and it gives the highest outcomes where the permanent electoral will not be able to provide such advantages with low costs.
Outcomes from reforms
- Increasingly more tolerant social values due to right to vote;
- Successful campaigns of advocacy groups;
- triumphant modeling of electoral reforms in the provinces;
- Public as well as a political reaction against brazen manipulation of electoral institutions and election laws for partisan benefit
- An accepted “statistic” approach by Canadians to electoral institutions as well as administration
- Technological advances; and
- Supreme Court interpretations of s. 3 of the Charter.
Democratic Deficit Debate
Courtney (2008) argued that in the 1990s, the term democratic deficit spread out in the political background in Canada and in a foreign country and it has achieved broad coinage and has a definite apparent utility as a rhetorical device and a variety of institutional, electoral as well as managerial concerns and practice have faulted for contributing to Canada’s democratic deficit and these are considered as follows:
- An unequal & unelected Senate;
- Prime minister of Canada has enjoyed unlimited power as a executive as well as legislative;
- an excessively rigorous parliamentary whip;
- people have lost their confidence up in government, senior officials, and the
- electoral procedure;
- Commons’ committees have failed to act independently.
Reform Agenda for Electoral System of Canada
Lortie argued that as a genuinely democratic country the frameworks of electoral processes and administrative rules those administer the elections have differed considerably among the provinces of Canada. The electoral reform of Canada has kept practical attempt to undertake the emptiness devoid of due regard to the development of political consciousness among the people with their values as well as the existence that rules followed to assort their representatives to take part in the government has needed to renovate. The visions of the proportional representation system in the House of Commons of Canada convey an expected conservatism that slows down the proposal for fundamental reformation in the system is not perfect.
Lortie also added that the apprehension on the Canadian regime would argue from the evidence of its legislation required to make certain that the reliability of the complete regime to administer election has no longer in force. Due to the Commons have engaged its effort to settle and the parliamentarians are proposing that the legislations are not enough mature to ensure noteworthy success and thus the reform agenda has raised as follows (Lortie, 4)
- Redistribution of seats: It is remarkable that the accord of the Canadian Confederation had reached for the most part due to the leaders of the Confederation have determined that proportionate representation would establish on the basis for passing on seats in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the combined legislature of the provincial and central government of Canada with the same number of seats would argue as a lack of equilibrium.
- Funding & Politics: The funding and politics of Canada have eternity formed a dangerous combination those are pointed as the necessity of emergency reform when resourceful political campaigns entail huge funding when it has gathered from the wrong person and resources that generate political scandals with sarcastic effect on the authenticity of political institutions as well as leadership. Canada makes it confirm that the amounts depleted in a reasonable manner and effortlessly accountable limits for political as well as election expenditures.
- Increase of Seats: Most parliamentary researchers have argued that Canada needed to increase seats in the House of Commons for both the provincial and central governments.
- Women involving: Young pointed out that Women involved in Canadian politics have affiliation with the political parties to ensure their equal rights and opportunity and have their access to the House of Commons as well as parliament.
The House of Commons of Canada has gone through a long reformation for more than a century and arrived at its current stage of the electoral system to integrate on the scheme of proportional representation as a progression of democratic practice. This proportional representation is an adoption system that can demonstrate and reproduce more accurately the views and opinions of the people entitled to vote and to achieve superior proportionality among the people to cast their votes for the relevant political parties to win. In the Canadian region, such advantages are a new addition but not adequate to validate the interruption those are consistently following a philosophical alteration of its electoral system and demand for more consistency.
On the other hand, the current electoral system acquires numerous qualities, which have not been ignored ever since it better addresses the lawful concerns of Canadians people’s participation. The proportional representation system would necessitate the organization of a multi-member constituency, which is at least several times higher than size than current constituencies in realistic terms; a few Canadians would observe such a development as progressive and argue for further reformation of the election system.
Thus, the further reforms need to take into account the behavior of the electorate as well as participants including the political parties would go forward to make certain that both magnitudes have given adequate weight were the five predictable political parties in the existing Parliament as well as the country has well-shaped both ideologically and practically. This hypothetical reform would draw a clear boundary among regionalization that the stakeholders would be cautious of not to cross.
The Canadian political observation has demonstrated that the most effective systems of governance are to bring together the divergent priorities to preserving a strong equilibrium among the conflicting needs and pledge strength within the system of proportional representation. It allows dominance to ideology to the organizing conceptual framework while the electoral system is based on the dynamic reformation of the House of Commons. The Canadian system of democracy that demands as one of the pioneers and peoples participation in the government must demonstrate that the representatives are capable of governing the House of Commons as well.
Courtney, John. “Can Canada’s Past Electoral Reforms Help in Understanding the Current Electoral Reform Debate?” 2008. Web.
Jansen, Harold. “Considering the 2008 Election Results: Canada’s Electoral System Needs to be Replaced”. 2008. Web.
Johnston, Richard. “Strengthening Canadian Democracy choices”. Institute for Research on Public Policy Journal, Vol. 6, no 6, ISSN 0711-0677, 2000. Web.
Lortie, Pierre. “A Minimalist Electoral Reform Agenda, Options Politiques.” 1997. Web.
Milliken, Peter. “Guide to the Canadian House of Commons”. 2005. Web.
Munroe, Susan. “Paul Martin Plan to Reform the House of Commons”. Canada Online 2005. Web.
Robertson, James R. “The Canadian Electoral System, Law and Government Division, Government of Canada”. 2001. Web.
Weaver, Kent. “A Hybrid Electoral System For Canada, Policy Options.” 1997, Web.
Young, Lisa. “Women’s Representation In The Canadian House Of Commons Institute for Advanced Policy Research” 2006. Web.
Young, Lisa. “Party, state and political competition in Canada: the cartel model reconsidered.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 31 (2): 339-58. 1998
- House of Commons