How it compares
|President Bush walks in before welcoming the seven former Soviet Bloc nation to NATO'S membership during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, March 29, 2004 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The U.S. government is defined by the constitution, which calls for three levels
of government – federal, state and local. It also calls for a separation of powers
at the federal level between three branches of government – legislative,
executive and judicial.
Known collectively as Congress, this branch is bi-cameral, consisting
of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Congress formulates law and policy
for the country. As with MPs in Canada's House of Commons, state representatives
are elected, and each state is represented in the House according to population.
There are 435 state representatives and each serves a two-year term. In the Senate,
however, each state – regardless of size – is represented by two senators.
Composed of the president, vice-president and 14 cabinet leaders. The
executive branch enforces the laws of the land. The president is chosen
indirectly by the electoral college and serves a four-year term. As chief
executive, the president can make treaties, appoint ambassadors and federal
court judges (with Senate approval), and is chief of the armed forces.
Unlike Canada's prime minister, the president has the power to veto proposed
legislation passed in Congress – something which Congress then has
a chance to override with a two-thirds vote.
The vice-president and president are elected as a ticket, meaning they come as a team. The vice-president holds a unique position in that he has a foot in both the executive and legislative branches of government. So, while the vice-president is the immediate successor to the president, he doubles as president of the Senate. Within the Senate, though, he is not allowed to vote, except to break a tie.
Consists of federal courts, including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals
and District Courts. This branch interprets the law. Judges are nominated by the
president and appointed with the consent of the Senate.
|Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reads her speech from the throne in the House of Lords
in London, Oct. 23, 1996, during the annual official opening of Parliament. The
queen traditionally addresses members of both the House of Lords and the House
of Commons, outlining the government's plans for the forthcoming session of Parliament.(AP
The U.K. system of government is a parliamentary democracy with a monarch as head of state. The system is known as the Westminster model and is the model for the Canadian system. As with the U.S. and Canadian systems, the U.K. government is divided into three main branches: legislative, executive and judicial.
The monarch has a ceremonial role in the legislature, is head of the executive, head of the judiciary, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and supreme governor of the Church of England. But like Canada's governor general, the Queen's titles are largely ceremonial and, in government matters, she acts on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet.
The U.K. legislature consists of the House of Commons, which is the main
decision-making body, the House of Lords and the monarch. The House of Lords is
composed of hereditary and life peers, along with a small number of archbishops
and bishops of the Church of England. The House of Commons is populated by MPs
who are elected by simple majority to represent individual constituencies.
The ruling party in the U.K. is the one with the most MPs elected to
the Commons. And the leader of the ruling party is prime minister. He
or she appoints a maximum of 21 cabinet ministers to make major policy
decisions, representing portfolios that range from defence to health.
And, as in Canada, government decisions are carried out by an army of
politically neutral civil servants.
The judiciary in England and Wales is the Supreme Court of Judicature and
the Lord Chancellor is its head. The Lord Chancellor makes all judiciary appointments
except for the highest positions (the prime minister is responsible for those).
Within the judiciary, a segment of the House of Lords – known as the Law Lords – functions
as the court of last appeal. This gives the House of Lords a split responsibility
between legislative and judicial arms of government.