MPs are elected to represent Canadians
Canadians elect MPs to represent their interests in the House of Commons.
Canada is a representative democracy. Rather than having millions of people vote directly on potential new laws, Canadians elect one MP in each constituency to represent them in the House of Commons and work on their behalf to create new policies and laws.
The Work of an MP
An MP’s job involves working both in their constituency and in the House of Commons.
When Parliament is sitting, MPs typically spend Monday to Friday in Ottawa, and return to their constituency on weekends. Every few weeks, when Parliament stands adjourned, they spend a week or more in their constituencies to focus on matters of local concern.
In Ottawa, MPs’ schedules are divided between time spent in the House of Commons Chamber, in their offices and in committee meetings. In their constituency, MPs work in their local offices, meet with constituents and attend local events, gatherings and ceremonies.
In the Chamber
Inside the House of Commons, MPs debate important issues and make decisions that affect the lives of Canadians. It is also where MPs from different political parties ask questions to the government to hold it accountable for its policy positions and past decisions.
MPs bring ideas and concerns from their constituency or, in the case of MPs who are Cabinet ministers, from their government department (ministry) to the House of Commons in the form of bills (proposals for new laws). Once bills are introduced, MPs debate the idea and can suggest changes to improve it. They then vote to decide whether the bill should become a law.
MPs also ask and answer questions during Question Period, give speeches about important events and issues in their constituencies, and present reports to the House. These reports are made available to the public and other MPs.
Committees are small groups of MPs that examine issues, seek expert advice, and listen to Canadians’ thoughts on bills and important issues. In committee meetings, MPs examine bills to improve them and study topics of national interest to make recommendations to the federal government.
Standing committees are permanent groups of MPs who meet to study specific topics.
Special committees are temporary groups of MPs who are tasked by the House to look at a specific problem or issue or to study a specific bill. They cease to exist when they present their final report to the House.
Other types of committees include joint committees (whose membership includes senators) and the Committee of the Whole (all MPs sitting in the House of Commons Chamber as a committee). MPs can sit on several committees, as well as various subcommittees.
Once they have heard different perspectives, committees prepare a report with recommendations and present that report to the House.
In Their Constituencies
MPs are chosen to represent the needs and concerns of their constituents – the people in their constituency. MPs have one or more local offices in their riding and one in Ottawa. Constituents can ask for help with many types of issues, including pensions, immigration or employment insurance.
While in their constituencies, MPs attend events and meet with a range of people and organizations to listen to their ideas. Sometimes they take those ideas back to Ottawa in the form of bills or speak about issues in the chamber to present different perspectives.
A caucus consists of all parliamentarians from a particular political party. MPs who do not belong to a political party work independently and do not have a caucus.
MPs typically meet with their caucuses on Wednesday mornings during weeks when the House is sitting, to bring their constituents’ concerns to the attention of the rest of their party and voice their own concerns in relation to current issues and bills.
Cabinet consists of all ministers, including the Prime Minister. Usually all Cabinet ministers are MPs, who are chosen by the Prime Minister to oversee a government department (also called a ministry). Each department is responsible for a different sector of public administration, such as national defence, foreign affairs, women and gender equality, Indigenous services, and agriculture. Each of these departments is staffed by government employees who work to implement the government’s plans.
Cabinet members work together to come up with new bills, oversee projects and implement the government’s plans. The Cabinet is part of the executive branch of government.
The Number of MPs
The number of MPs in the House of Commons is based on the number of constituencies. The exact number of MPs, and the boundaries of their constituencies, are primarily determined by population and can be adjusted after every 10-year census.
Since representation in the House of Commons is based primarily on population, the number of MPs in the House of Commons has increased as the country has grown. Canada had 181 MPs in 1867. Now there are 338, with each MP representing approximately 110,000 Canadians.
Distribution of House of Commons Seats
Hover over the Provinces & Territories to display House of Commons seat distribution