Canadian Political System

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Canada is an independent federal parliamentary state. The Queen of Great Britain, Elizabeth II, is the official head of the state, who also serves as head of state of 15 other Commonwealth countries. But the Governor General acts as her representative. The Governor-General is advised by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and by convention acts on this advice. Since Canada has a large cultural cleavage between Francophone and Anglophone citizens, the position of Governor-General is assigned alternately to a French speaker and an English speaker. For all practical purposes, however, the head of the executive is the Prime Minister who by convention is the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons. Currently this is Stephen Harper who heads the Conservative Party. Parliament of Canada consists of two houses, the Upper House called the Senate, and the Lower House called the House of Commons. The Senate has 104 members. Senators are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Senate has less power than the House of Commons. Members of the House of Commons are elected for a term of five years. The cabinet system of Canada unites the legislative and the executive branches. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are usually members of the House of Commons, which is the highest authority in the government. The Cabinet consists of 20 or more ministers, chosen by the Prime Minister from leaders of the majority party in the House of Commons. As a federation, Canada is made up of ten provinces and two territories. Canadian central government in Ottawa represents all the peoples of Canada. Each province has its own government and parliament. Canada is huge territory - the second largest in the world - and understandably operates a federal political system. This divides governmental responsibilities between the federal government and the ten provinces. The key to understanding Canadian politics is an appreciation of the complex...
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