COMPARISON BETWEEN THE SENATES OF CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHAT ARE THE COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE SENATES OF CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?
In Canada, the governor general who is the unelected representative of the queen summons senators as an endorsement of a council order that is signed by the prime minister to convey his or her advice to the governor general. This means that senators are appointed by executive power (Pare, 2009). In the United States of America, senators are elected by the people from the state which they represent (The constitution of the United States, n.d). In both countries the senate forms the upper house of parliament and a person appointed or elected to the office of the senator must have attained a minimum age of thirty years. In Canada, the person appointed to the office of senator must be a subject of the queen and a resident of the province for which he or she is appointed where he or she must own at least $4000 worth of property whereas in the United States of America, a person to be elected to the office of senator must have been a citizen of the United states for at least nine years and an inhabitant of the state for which he is elected to represent at the time of his or her election.
In Canada, a person appointed to the office of senator serves a continuous term until the age of seventy five years when he or she retires from the office. On the other hand, in the United States of America, a person is elected to the office of senator for a term of six years after which his or her tenure expires and may subsequently seek reelection to the office. The senators in the United States of America represent the states, with each state having two representatives in the senate. However in Canada, the senators are appointed from the four divisions of Quebec, Ontario, The Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and The Western Provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta in which each is represented by twenty four senators (Stillborn, 1992). In Canada therefore the senate does not represent the provinces in the central government but is an honorific body appointed by the executive. In the United States of America, all the states are equally represented in the senate hence representing a national balance in representation.
In the United States of America, the nation’s vice president is the ex-officio president of the senate and therefore presides over the senate’s session. Each senator is entitled to only one vote while the president of the senate may only vote to break a tie. In Canada, the speaker presides over the sessions of the senate. In both cases, the first senator to rise takes the chance to make the next speech. Both in Canada and the United States of America, the senate is not allowed to initiate bills that impose taxes or appropriate public funds. However, the approval of both the senate and the House of Representatives (House of Commons in Canada) is required for any bill to become law in both countries. However in Canada, the House of Commons may, in effect, override an amendment to the constitution of Canada even though they must wait for a period of at least one hundred and eighty days before they ca effect the override (Pare, 2009).
In both countries, the senate comprises of committees. In the United States of America’s senate, the committees or subcommittees thereof, perform the functions of reviewing bills and providing oversight of the executive branch. Each standing committee at any time may report, consider or amend bills falling within its jurisdiction. The committees also consider nominations of presidents to the offices within the committee’s jurisdiction. The committee membership is allocated to the political parties according to its overall political strength. The committees have the power to hold hearings and collect evidence on a matter during deliberation (The constitution of the United States, n.d).
The standing committees in Canada have each a responsibility for a specific area of government. The committees consider legislations and perform special studies on issues that are referred to them by the senate and may collect evidence, hold hearings and report findings to the senate. Standing committees elect their chairpersons and are made up of between nine to fifteen members each. The Canadian senate however may sit as one single committee called the committee of whole during which it is presided over by a chairman. The senate resolves itself into a committee of the whole for various reasons such as to hear testimonies from individuals of to give consideration to legislation (Stillborn, 1992).
In Canada, the queen on recommendation from the governor general may direct that four or eight members of the senate representing the four divisions be added to the senate. In the case that a senate seat falls vacant, the governor general makes an appointment of a qualified person to fill the vacant seat. In the United States, the governor of the state whose senate seat is left vacant appoints a temporary representative until there is either a special election or a general election in which the senate seat is filled.
The Canadian senate is limited by the fact that it does not represent the people’s views and therefore tend to leave important decisions affecting the citizenry to the House of Commons. In the United States the senate is powerful and effective due to the mandate it derives from the electorate.
Stillborn, J. (1992). Senate Reform Proposals in Comparative Perspective. Library of Parliament.
Pare, J. R. (2009). Senate reform in Canada. Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament
The constitution of the United States, (n.d). Philadelphia: National Constitutional Center
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