Certain rules exist that allow the government to move a motion to “curtail debate” in cases in which it is felt a decision would not otherwise be taken in reasonable time or be taken at all. The most frequently used curtailment mechanisms are closure and time allocation.
Closure is a motion “That debate not be further adjourned”. It provides the government with a procedure to require that the question be put at the end of the sitting in which a motion of closure is adopted. Closure may be applied to any debatable matter, including bills and motions.
Prior to moving a motion for closure, oral notice of the government’s intention to do so must have been given by a Minister at a previous sitting of the House. Debate on the item that is the subject of the notice must begin before notice of closure may be given. No obligation exists to proceed with moving the closure motion even if notice has been given.
Once notice has been given, the closure motion may be moved during a subsequent sitting. It must be moved by a Minister immediately before the House resumes debate on the item. While the closure motion is not debatable or amendable, a 30-minute question period is provided for, during which Members may ask questions of the Minister responsible for the closured item. At the end of this period, the Speaker immediately puts the question on the closure motion.
When a motion for closure is adopted, debate resumes on the now-closured business, subject to the restrictions imposed by the closure rule. Any Private Members’ Business scheduled during that sitting day is still taken up at its regular time. All questions necessary to dispose of the closured business are put no later than 8:00 p.m.
The time allocation rule, which is used much more frequently than closure, allows for specific lengths of time to be set aside for the consideration of one or more stages of a public bill. Although the rule permits the government to negotiate with opposition parties towards the adoption of a timetable, it can also be used by the government to impose strict limits on the time provided for debate.
Oral notice is required when the government wishes to propose its own timetable in the absence of any time allocation agreement among representatives from all, or a majority, of the recognized parties. The notice may be given only after debate has begun on the stage of the bill to which the time allocation motion is to apply. It can then be moved at any future sitting of the House.
The wording of a motion for time allocation must specify the terms of the allocation. In most cases, time is allocated in terms of sitting days or hours. When there is no agreement among the parties, the amount of time allocated may not be less than one day. The motion can propose the allocation of time for only the stage of the legislative process under immediate consideration, with the exception of report stage and third reading, which can be covered in one motion. A motion for time allocation must be moved by a Minister in the House, and it is neither debatable nor amendable. There is, however, a 30-minute period set aside for Members to ask questions of the Minister responsible for the bill in question.
After the adoption of a motion for time allocation, debate at the stage or stages of the bill in question then becomes subject to the time limits imposed by the motion. The day on which the time allocation motion is adopted may be counted as one sitting day for that purpose, provided the motion is moved and adopted at the beginning of Government Orders and the bill is taken up immediately. If the bill is then debated for the remainder of the sitting day, Government Orders are extended by a period of time equal to the time taken for the questions and answers period, generally the full 30 minutes. At the expiry of the time allocated for a given stage, any proceedings before the House are interrupted, and the Chair puts every question necessary for the disposal of the bill at that stage.