Legistics
Members of Parliament

Background

The phrase "Members of Parliament" has been used in legislation to refer to both Senators and members of the House of Commons, or exclusively to members of the House of Commons. The following is an example of the latter use of the phrase:

  • 1. The following individuals may not be directors of a port authority:
    • (a) a Senator or a member of Parliament or an officer or employee of the federal public service or of a federal Crown corporation;

Literally, however, the expression includes both Senators and members of the House of Commons. Therefore, the above reference to "Senator" is superfluous and creates confusion about what the phrase "member of Parliament " means.

Section 17 of the Constitution Act, 1867 makes it clear that Parliament includes the Senate:

17. There shall be One Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons.

The above section makes it clear that Parliament includes the Senate; Senators are parliamentarians, as are the members of the House of Commons. As such, they are obviously included within the literal meaning of the phrase "Members of Parliament". This notion is supported by the fact that, for the purposes of the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, which applies to both Senators and members of the House of Commons, the term "member" is defined in section 2 as including members of both Houses. Section 2 of the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act provides that the Act "applies to and in respect of …(b) a Member of Parliament…". In this context, "Member of Parliament" was clearly intended to include Senators, as well as members of the House of Commons.

There does, however, appear to be some confusion on the part of the public about whether Senators are "Members of Parliament" given that members of the House of Commons are traditionally designated as "MPs" and Senators are not. Because of this designation, the public seems to understand "Members of Parliament" as referring to members of the House of Commons alone, not to Senators.

Certain enactments refer specifically to "members of the Senate" and to "members of the House of Commons" - not "Members of Parliament" - when making references to parliamentarians. Once such example is the Parliament of Canada Act. Section 55 refers to the sessional allowances of "members of the Senate and the House of Commons". Similarly, section 63 (concerning the expense allowances of parliamentarians) makes specific references to both Senators and members of the House of Commons. There are many other references like these in the Act. Interestingly, however, the heading of the section relating to the remuneration and sessional allowances of Senators and members of the House of Commons reads: "Remuneration of Members of Parliament".

Recommendation

It seems clear that, literally, the expression "Members of Parliament" includes both Senators and members of the House of Commons. However, given that the traditional designation of members of the House of Commons as "MPs" creates some confusion as to who is caught by the phrase, legislative counsel should avoid the phrases "Members of Parliament" or "Senators and Members of Parliament". Instead, it is recommended that legislative counsel use "members of the Senate and the House of Commons" or, alternatively, "Senators and Members of the House of Commons" when referring to Members of Parliament in both Houses.

It should also be noted that the Table of Precedence for Canada requires that any references to Senators should always precede those references to the Members of the House of Commons. [The Table of Precedence is published in Precedence of Canadian Dignitaries and Officials (as revised November 4, 1993), Department of Canadian Heritage prepared by Canadian Heritage Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion].

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