Majority Government in Canada

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The way Canada elects its representatives and head of government is different from the process we follow in the United States. Winning a majority of seats in the Canadian Parliament's House of Commons has different ramifications than winning a majority in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives.

In our presidential system, the head of state and the head of government is the same person, and he or she is elected independently of the members of the American legislature (Senate and House of Representatives).

But in a parliamentary system, there's a head of state and a head of government, and the head of government derives its power from the ruling party. In Canada, the head of state is the Queen, and the prime minister is the head of government. The ruling party determines who will be prime minister. So how does a party become Canada's ruling party?

Majority Party Versus Minority Party in Canada

The political party that wins the most seats in a general election becomes the government's ruling party. If that party wins more than half of the seats in the House of Commons or legislative assembly, then the party forms a majority government. This is the best-case scenario as far as a political party is concerned (but may not be ideal for voters, depending on how they voted), since it ensures they will be able to steer the direction of policy and legislation without much input (or interference, depending on your point of view) from other parties. The parliamentary system of government makes party loyalty from Canadian politicians all but assured.

Here's why: A majority government can pass legislation and maintain the confidence of the House of Commons or legislative assembly to stay in power much more easily than a minority government. That's what happens when a party wins half or fewer than half of the seats in the House of Commons or legislative assembly. 

In order to retain the confidence of the House of Commons and remain in power, a minority government has to work a lot harder. It will have to negotiate more frequently with other parties and possibly make concessions and adjustments in order to win enough votes to pass legislation. 

Choosing Canada's Prime Minister

The entire country of Canada is divided into districts, also known as ridings, and each one elects its representative in Parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most ridings in a general federal election becomes Canada's Prime Minister. 

As head of the country's executive branch, Canada's prime minister chooses the cabinet, deciding who should oversee the various government departments, such as agriculture or foreign affairs. Most of Canada's cabinet ministers come from the House of Commons, and occasionally one or two come from the Senate. The prime minister serves as chairman of the cabinet.

Canadian federal elections are usually held every four years on the first Thursday in October. But if the government loses the confidence of the House of Commons, a new election may be called. 

The political party which wins the second highest number of seats in the House of Commons becomes the official opposition party. 

The prime minister and cabinet are the key decision-makers in Canadian government. Having a majority party makes their jobs much easier.