Is this your maiden voyage to Ottawa? If so, you'll soon discover a capital city unlike Washington D.C., Mexico City, or London.
Despite being Canada's political nerve center, Ottawa feels more akin to an urban college town than a governmental hub. Along with its humble number of Parliamentary buildings and few commercial high-rises in the main business district, there's the nearby University of Ottawa campus, daily ByWard Farmer's Market, and noticeable homeless population (harmless) loitering in the streets.
It is amidst this "more neighborhood than metropolis" vibe that Canada's tradition of a Constitutional Monarchy form of government, meaning that England's Queen Elizabeth II (as of 2006) is recognized as the head of Canada's Executive Branch, lives strong. Though, "technically", the Queen (or acting Monarch) maintains final authority on all executive decisions, a Governor General is appointed by her to rule on her behalf. This selection is made upon the "advice" of the current Prime Minister, who most often helms the political party holding the most seats in the House of Commons. It is Canada's Prime Minister that is the true power in this nation's government.
Canada's government consists of two legislative branches, the House of Commons (308 members elected by geographical district) and Senate (105, appointed by the Prime Minister). The Senate is referred to as the "Upper House" of Parliament and the House of Commons is casually termed the "Lower House." However, this terminology is not indicative of the chambers' power structure. Because "certain" bills can only originate in the House (e.g., collecting/spending public funds), and because the Senate rarely rejects bills approved by the House, it is Canada's "Lower House" that dominates law making. And it is over the House's 308 seats that the real political battles are waged, with each of Canada's main political parties (Conservative, Progressive Conservative, Canadian Alliance) attempting a majority. Presently, there is heated debate on the appointment process of Senators with one minority party (New Democratic Party) calling for the Senate's abolition.
Canada's Supreme Court is also located in Ottawa and is the final authority of the country's Judicial branch. Supreme Court Justices (9) are appointed by the Prime Minister and serve until they reach the age of 75.
Have we bored you yet? If so, click through and start to plan your trip, no lobbying or politicking is required to find a healthy venue and/or activity.