Canada's Government: Municipal, Provincial, Federal

Region: Ontario Answer # 710

Canada is a parliamentary democracy based on the British form of government. There are three levels of government in Canada: federal, provincial, and municipal. Each level of government sets certain types of laws and is responsible for certain types of issues.

Federal government

Parliament is comprised of three parts – the House of Commons, the Senate, and Her Majesty, represented in Canada by the Governor General. Members of Parliament, commonly called MPs, are representatives from ridings across Canada who sit in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

The federal government is the party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons, and the Official Opposition is the party that holds the second highest number of seats.

The Upper House of Parliament is made up of over 100 Senators appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Parliament writes, or drafts, debates, and eventually approves or “enacts” all new federal laws and amendments. Before becoming an enforceable law, a proposed “Act of Parliament” is called a “Bill.” The House of Parliament is the only constitutionally authorized body to introduce legislation concerned with the raising or spending of funds. For example, the House makes and approves laws concerning matters such as Immigration, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance benefits, and Old Age Security.

Other areas of law that Parliament is solely responsible for include:

  • criminal law,
  • Aboriginal issues,
  • income taxes, and
  • regulations affecting industries that are national or international.

Once a new law or amendment to existing laws are voted on and approved by the House of Commons, the proposed legislation must then be debated and voted upon by the Senate. If the Senate approves a law or its changes, the legislation is usually “enacted” or “proclaimed” to be in force in the weeks or months to follow by the Governor General.

If you have a question or concern about a federal issue, contact your local Member of Parliament.

Provincial government

Each province or territory has its own government, which is responsible for passing laws that fall within provincial jurisdiction.

Some of the areas of law that provinces are responsible for include:

  • family law,
  • health law,
  • labour standards,
  • education,
  • social services, and
  • housing.

Similar to the federal Parliament, voters in provinces elect members from their ridings to sit in the provincial legislature. The provincial government is the party that controls the most seats in the legislature and the opposition is the party that holds the second highest number of seats. The elected officials are called Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

If you have a question or concern about a provincial issue, contact your local MPP.

Municipal government

Municipal governments are given their authority by the provincial government. Municipalities are responsible for property taxes, property standards, zoning, business licenses, and local by-laws. Municipalities are often divided into wards and voters will elect councillors (or aldermen) who represent them at city or town council.

Municipal governments make laws concerning areas such as:

  • smoking in public places,
  • zoning,
  • parking by-laws, and
  • property taxes.

If you have a question or concern about a municipal issue, you can contact your local councillor.

For additional information, visit the Government of Canada website at canada.ca.

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