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Canadian House of Commons.


The House of Commons (French: Chambre des communes) is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign (represented by the Governor General) and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Members are elected by simple plurality ('first-past-the-post' system) in each of the country's electoral districts, which are colloquially known as ridings. MPs hold office until Parliament is dissolved and serve for limited terms of up to five years after an election, but historically this has been four or fewer years after. Seats in the House of Commons are distributed roughly in proportion to the population of each province and territory. However, some ridings are more populous than others and the Canadian constitution contains some special provisions regarding provincial representation; thus, there is some interprovincial and regional malapportionment based on population.


The House of Commons was established in 1867, when the British North America Act 1867 created the Dominion of Canada, and was modelled on the British House of Commons. The "lower" of the two houses making up the parliament, the House of Commons in practice holds far more power than the upper house, the Senate. Although the approval of both Houses is necessary for legislation, the Senate very rarely rejects bills passed by the Commons (though the Senate does occasionally amend bills). Moreover, the Government of Canada is responsible solely to the House of Commons through a system of responsible government. The Prime Minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains the support of the lower house.


It is widely thought that "Commons" is a shortening of the word "commoners". However, the term derives from the Anglo-Norman word communes, referring to the geographic and collective "communities" of their parliamentary representatives and not the third estate, the commonality. This distinction is made clear in the official French name of the body, la Chambre des communes. Canada remains the only country besides the United Kingdom to use the name "House of Commons" for the Lower House of Parliament.


The Canadian House of Commons chamber is located in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario.




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Taken on February 7, 2009