Canada's Political System

Canada's political system is based on that of the United Kingdom. It is a constitutional monarchy, which means that we recognize the Queen or King as the Head of State, while the Prime Minister is the Head of Government.

Canada's Parliament is composed of the Queen of Canada (who is officially represented by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons. The Senate has 105 seats and its members are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The House of Commons consists of 338 members who are elected by Canadian citizens in general elections and by-elections.

According to Canada's Constitution, elections are held at least once every five years. However, an election may be called earlier if the Governor General accepts the Prime Minister's advice to dissolve Parliament. An election may also be called earlier if the Governor General accepts the resignation of the Prime Minister after the Government has been defeated on a motion of confidence in the House and the Governor General does not ask the leader of another party to become Prime Minister and form a government. In 2007, Parliament passed Bill C-16, which established fixed election dates every four years on the third Monday in October.

Representation in the House of Commons is based on geographical divisions known as "electoral districts," commonly referred to as "ridings". The number of electoral districts is established by a formula set out in the Constitution Act, 1867, and one member of Parliament (MP) is elected in each electoral district. Canada currently has 338 ridings.

Canada's electoral system is referred to as a "single-member plurality" or "first-past-the-post" system. In every electoral district, the candidate with the highest number of votes wins a seat in the House of Commons and represents that electoral district as its MP. An absolute majority (more than 50 percent of the votes in the electoral district) is not required for a candidate to be elected.

Voting in Canada is by secret ballot. The security of the ballot is paramount, and the system makes it impossible to discover who any voter has voted for.

Further reading:

Link to Elections Canada