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Federal Government Organization, Senate

Canadian Senate, British House of Lords, western provinces, Maritimes, House of Commons

The members of the Senate are appointed, nominally by the governor-general but in effect by the prime minister. Once appointed, a senator may stay in office until age 75. Appointment to the Senate is considered an honor and is frequently granted for political service in the national or provincial government. To be appointed, a senator must own a certain amount of property, be over the age of 30, and reside in the province he or she represents.

Senators are appointed on the principle of regional representation. There is a total of 104, but four more or eight more can be added under exceptional circumstances as long as they are drawn equally from Quebec, Ontario, the Maritimes, and the western provinces.

The Canadian Senate is more closely related in function to the British House of Lords than to the U.S. Senate. It has the power to initiate legislation, except for finance bills, but mainly acts as the chamber of “sober second thought,” scrutinizing the legislation initiated in the House of Commons. It has the right to amend or delay passage of bills passed by Commons. It also has the power to veto bills but rarely exercises it. Another important function of the Senate is the Special Senate Committee, through which social and economic issues important to the country are thoroughly investigated, often leading to changes in government policy.

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