" The bill then goes on a calendar, so it can be debated, discussed, or amended. The bill then goes to the floor of the house where it is read, discussed, and voted on. If it passes by a two-thirds margin, it goes on to the Senate, where it goes through the same process. If it makes it this far, it is "enrolled," signed by the Speaker of the House and the Vice-President, and then it goes to the president for signature ("Ben's Guide"). Both legislative branches seem to have similar means of passing bills, Canada's follows about the same procedure in a different order.
In Canada, Canadians elect a Parliament, and the most the members can sit on Parliament is five years. The Parliament is made up of the House of Commons and the Senate. The leaders of the two bodies are the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate. The Speaker of the House is elected by other members of the House in a secret ballot, while the Speaker of the Senate is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Senate is the upper division of Parliament, and is made up of 105 seats. Senators represent specific regions of the country, and the numbers are chosen to ensure fair representation for all areas. Senators must be at least 30 years old, and they are appointed for life (or until they choose to step down). The average length of service is about 17 years. They must also be a Canadian citizen, live the province they will represent, have $4,000 personal net worth, and own $4,000 equity in land in the province. The Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister appoints senators ("Canadians"). Senators can argue and approve legislation, study budgets, and examine government policy.
The House of Commons has 308 seats, created by the population of the representative's home region (sometimes called ridings). To be elected, a person must be eligible to vote in Canada, and cannot be a prisoner. There are also some other regulations regarding judges, members of territorial parliaments, and election officers. Both the Senate and the House can initiate bills, but if they have anything to do with budgetary concerns, they can only be introduced in the House. Bills must go through several steps before they can become law, and the steps are similar in the Senate and the House. First, the bill is introduced. Then it goes to a first reading, where it is read, without debate, and printed. It goes to a second reading, where it is debated and voted on then sent to committee. The committee examines the bill, listens to witnesses, and recommends amendments, acceptance, or kills the bill. Then addition amendments may be added, debated, and voted on. The bill goes to a third reading where it is debated and then voted on. Then it goes to the other house, where the procedure begins again. Finally, when the bill is approved, the Governor General gives the bill Royal Assent ("Canadians"). Parliament can be made up of more than one session, and a Parliament ends when the Prime Minister asks the Governor General to prorogue the Parliament. Parliament ends when the Prime Minister asks the Governor General to dissolve it and call a general election ("Canadians"). Clearly, there are vast differences between the legislative process in Canada and the U.S., with perhaps the biggest difference that Senators are appointed for life, somewhat like Supreme Court justices in the U.S.
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
In the United States, the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and it has power over the federal courts throughout the country, and limited power over state and local courts. The Supreme Court is made up of nine justices who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. These appointments are made for life, or until the justice retires. There are no formal requirements for serving on the Supreme Court, but all justices have a background in the law and the legal system.
Basically, the Supreme Court rules on cases that have already made their way through at least one level of the legal system at the local or state level. If the case decision is not satisfactory to one of the parties, they can appeal the decision and take it to the next level of state or federal court. Then, if they are still not pleased, they can appeal again, until it reaches the Supreme Court. The only disputes that can originate in the Supreme Court are those between two or more states. In addition, only cases that deal with federal or Constitutional law come before the Supreme Court.
In Canada, the Supreme Court is the court of last resort, led by nine justices and a Supreme Court Justice. They are all appointed by the Governor General. Like the U.S., the Supreme Court hears cases that have made their way through the lower appellate courts until they reach the Supreme Court. However, there are two different legal systems in Canada that the Court must take into consideration. Most of Canada follows the Common Law of England, or Civil Law. However, the province of Quebec follows the French Civil Code. Criminal law always comes under federal jurisdiction and is standard across the country. This means that three of the Court justices must represent Quebec. In addition, the court can give opinions on Canadian Constitutional law. These two systems are probably the most similar of the three main branches of government in the two countries.
The biggest difference in the two judicial systems may not be in how they operate, but what they legislate. Traditionally, Canada has been much more liberal in many areas, including health care and environmental concerns. One writer notes, "Both federal and provincial governments express a shared commitment to maintaining consistently high environmental standards, while at the same time rationalizing federal and provincial roles to achieve 'one window' delivery of regulatory programs" (Harrison 159). Also traditionally, the U.S. has been far less supportive of these issues, and legislation and judiciary rulings tend to favor the business side of these concerns.
Another big difference between the two countries is how they deal with lobbyists and special interest groups. In Canada, there is an office that deals strictly with the registration of lobbyists, and anyone who has any business interests or outside interests is required to register. There are also steep fines for those who fail to register. In the U.S. The Office of Public Records registers lobbyists, and the rules are not as strict about registration. They do have to disclose any funds they spend, and most states regulate lobbyists, as well. Lobbyists are entrenched in America, and even politicians feel they cannot "do without" them. Another author notes that most big businesses find it necessary to have offices in Washington so they can influence voting on key legislation. He writes, "Starting a Washington office, forming a PAC and hiring lobbyists all had ripple effects. Participating in the Washington establishment became a competitive advantage; sitting it out, potentially costly. One corporate executive told me: 'Once our CEO saw company X (their competitor) start a Washington office, we had to have one, too'" (Andres, A19). Thus, lobbying began in the United States and is an accepted practice here, while it is not native to Canada and it has not caught on there as much as it has here. There are more controls in Canada, as well, and that seems like a positive aspect of their government.
It is clear both countries have complex and bureaucratic forms of government. Is one better than the other? That cannot truly be answered. Canadians, like Americans, can be quite critical of their government, and they can call out for reforms and changes. The American people have more of a say in the two electoral branches of their government than Canadians do, but Canadians enjoy some public polices, such as national health care, that Americans do not. Some of the Canadian practices are steeped in the traditions of Great Britain, and her ties to England are close, while America's are not. Another writer notes, "The increasing complexity of modern economic and social life is one obvious reason for the increased range of governmental activity" (Peters 18). Clearly, both these governments have grown and changed from their inception, and they will continue to do so. America could learn some valuable lessons from Canadian government in many areas, but ultimately, the democratic system seems more evolved in America, even if it has resulted in a larger, more complex government than the founding fathers could ever have imagined.
Andres, Gary J. "Left, Right Left; Liberals, Lobbyists and Laws in Lock Step." The Washington Times 2 Feb. 2006: A19.