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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
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The duration of a Parliament—the period of time between elections during which the institution of Parliament exercises its powers—is calculated from the date set for the return of the writs following a general election to its dissolution by the Governor General. At the same time, the Constitution Act provides that, subject to dissolution, five years is the maximum lifespan of the House of Commons between general elections, calculated from the date fixed for the return of the writs, and that there must be a sitting of Parliament at least once every 12 months.[17] In addition, revisions to the Canada Elections Act, adopted in 2007, require that a general election be held every four years.[18] Subject to an earlier dissolution of Parliament by the Governor General, a general election must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following a previous general election.[19]

The Ministry, which exercises the practical functions of government, has no fixed maximum duration. Its duration is measured by the tenure of its Prime Minister and is calculated from the day the Prime Minister takes the oath of office to the day the Prime Minister dies, resigns or is dismissed.

These two timelines—the parliamentary one, which has a maximum duration, and the prime ministerial one, which is open‑ended—do not always coincide perfectly.

*   Duration of Parliaments

About one‑third of the Parliaments since 1867 have lasted between four and five years, about another third have lasted between three and four years and a final third, less than three years (see Figure 2.1).[20] Four Parliaments (i.e., the Seventh (1891‑96), Seventeenth (1930‑35), Nineteenth (1940‑45) and Thirty-Fourth (1988‑93)) have gone near the limit of the five‑year maximum constitutional lifespan, several within days of when the House of Commons would have expired by effluxion of time. One Parliament, the Twelfth (1911‑17), was extended.[21] Four Parliaments (i.e., the Fifteenth (1925‑26), Twenty‑Third (1957‑58), Twenty‑Fifth (1962‑63) and Thirty‑First (1979)) have lasted less than one year.

 

Parliament

Years

 

Duration

 

 

 

Years

Months

Days

1

1867‑1872

4

9

8

2

1872‑1874

1

3

30

3

1874‑1878

4

5

26

4

1878‑1882

3

5

27

5

1882‑1887

4

5

8

6

1887‑1891

3

8

27

7

1891‑1896

4

11

29

8

1896‑1900

4

2

26

9

1900‑1904

3

9

24

10

1904‑1908

3

9

2

11

1908‑1911

2

7

26

12*

1911‑1917

5

11

29

13

1918‑1921

3

7

7

14

1922‑1925

3

7

22

15

1925‑1926

 

6

25

16

1926‑1930

3

6

28

17

1930‑1935

4

11

27

18

1935‑1940

4

2

16

19

1940‑1945

4

11

30

20

1945‑1949

3

8

21

21

1949‑1953

3

9

19

22

1953‑1957

3

6

4

23

1957‑1958

 

5

24

24

1958‑1962

3

11

20

25

1962‑1963

 

6

19

26

1963‑1965

2

4

 

27

1965‑1968

2

4

14

28

1968‑1972

4

1

7

29

1972‑1974

1

4

9

30

1974‑1979

4

7

26

31

1979

 

6

3

32

1980‑1984

4

3

29

33

1984‑1988

4

 

7

34

1988‑1993

4

8

19

35

1993‑1997

3

5

12

36

1997‑2000

3

1

 

37

2001-2004

3

3

24

38

2004-2005

1

1

25

39

2006-2008

2

5

4

40

2008-

 

 

 

* Extended by constitutional amendment

 

*   Duration of Ministries

Since Confederation, there have been 28 Ministries, although only 22 individuals have served as Prime Minister. A Prime Minister whose party is re‑elected in successive general elections simply continues in office as the head of the same government. For example, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who became Prime Minister in 1896, continued in office through the general elections of 1900, 1904 and 1908 before resigning after his party was defeated in the 1911 general election. On the other hand, a Prime Minister who resigns from office following a party defeat in a general election, but who is later returned to power, forms a new Ministry. For example, Pierre E. Trudeau, who first became Prime Minister in 1968 forming the Twentieth Ministry, resigned from office in 1979, only to be re‑elected with a majority in 1980, thus again becoming Prime Minister, forming the Twenty‑Second Ministry. There can, as well, be several Ministries within the same Parliament. This was the case for the Seventh Parliament. Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald died in office not long after being re‑elected in 1891. From the time of his death to the 1896 election, no less than four more administrations took office. Figure 2.2 illustrates the sometimes ephemeral, sometimes lengthy duration of Ministries.[22]

 

Ministry

Prime
Minister

Years

 

Duration

 

 

 

 

Years

Months

Days

1

Macdonald

1867‑1873

5

4

4

2

Mackenzie

1873‑1878

4

11

30

3

Macdonald

1878‑1891

12

7

20

4*

Abbott

1891‑1892

1

5

8

5

Thompson

1892‑1894

2

 

7

6*

Bowell

1894‑1896

1

4

6

7

Tupper

1896

 

2

7

8

Laurier

1896‑1911

15

2

25

9

Borden

1911‑1917

6

 

2

10

Borden**

1917‑1920

2

6

28

11

Meighen

1920‑1921

1

5

19

12

King

1921‑1926

4

5

30

13

Meighen

1926

 

2

27

14

King

1926‑1930

3

10

13

15

Bennett

1930‑1935

5

2

16

16

King

1935‑1948

13

 

23

17

St‑Laurent

1948‑1957

8

7

6

18

Diefenbaker

1957‑1963

5

10

1

19

Pearson

1963‑1968

4

11

29

20

Trudeau

1968‑1979

11

1

14

21

Clark

1979‑1980

 

8

26

22

Trudeau

1980‑1984

4

3

27

23

Turner

1984

 

2

18

24

Mulroney

1984‑1993

8

9

8

25

Campbell

1993

 

4

10

26

Chrétien

1993‑2003

10

1

5

27

Martin

2003-2006

2

1

6

28

Harper

2006-

 

 

 

*  Senator

** Unionist government

For further information, see footnote 1 in this chapter

 

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The End of a Ministry

The end of a Ministry is triggered by the death, resignation or dismissal of the Prime Minister.[23] It does not necessarily entail the end of a Parliament.[24] While the operation of the confidence convention can lead and has led to early dissolution of a Parliament,[25] there are examples of multiple Ministries during the same Parliament.[26] The procedural consequences of the end of a Ministry vary depending on how the Ministry ends. The procedural effect of dissolution is of course well known: sittings cease immediately and all proceedings in Parliament are terminated. A new Parliament, once summoned, begins with a clean slate.[27]

*  Death of a Prime Minister

The death of a Prime Minister holds few procedural implications. If death occurs during a session of Parliament while the House is sitting, tributes may be made in the House or the House may adjourn for an extended period.[28] Since Confederation, only two Prime Ministers have died in office: Sir John A. Macdonald, in 1891, during a session, and Sir John Thompson, in 1894, while Parliament was prorogued.[29]

*  Resignation of a Prime Minister

Resignation may be prompted by a defeat in a general election, by the operation of the confidence convention alone, by the operation of the confidence convention followed by a defeat in a general election, or by other reasons, including the Prime Minister’s desire to retire from public life.

Defeat in a General Election

If Parliament is dissolved when the Ministry resigns, there are of course no procedural implications. This is typically the case for governments which are defeated at the polls and subsequently resign in the days that follow.[30] It falls to the new government to meet the new House.

In an unusual and controversial case, following the general election of 1925, the Mackenzie King government lost its majority status when the Liberals received fewer seats than the former Official Opposition party, the Conservatives.[31] Nevertheless, it decided to meet the House to test its confidence, and did so successfully until June 1926. For further details of this case, see below.

Operation of the Confidence Convention

The role of procedure in the operation of the confidence convention revolves around the decision‑making process in the House of Commons. When the government is defeated on a vote on a question of confidence in the House, the Prime Minister must either resign[32] or seek a dissolution. The Speaker does not decide what constitutes a matter of confidence. Successive Speakers have stated that it is not for the Chair to interfere to prevent debate, or a vote, on a question relating to the issue of confidence, unless the motion being put forward is clearly defective or irregular on procedural grounds.[33] Naturally, when numbers are close, the procedural implications of pairing and the manner in which a vote is recorded become critically important. The rules and practices governing these areas of parliamentary procedure are discussed in Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

Five governments have been defeated in a vote in the House on a clear, uncontested question of confidence. In 1926, the three‑day old Meighen minority government lost a vote (96‑95) on what amounted to a motion of censure of the government.[34] In 1963, the Diefenbaker minority government was defeated by a wide margin (142‑111) on a supply motion.[35] In 1974, the Trudeau minority government and, in 1979, the Clark minority government both lost a vote on a Budget motion subamendment, by votes of 137‑123 and 139‑133 respectively.[36] In 2005, the Martin minority government was decisively defeated (171-133) on an explicitly-worded non-confidence motion moved by the Official Opposition on a supply day.[37] All five Prime Ministers sought and obtained a dissolution following defeat in the House. Of the five governments, the Meighen, Diefenbaker, Clark and Martin governments were subsequently defeated in general elections and, in each case, the Prime Minister resigned without meeting the new House. Only the Trudeau government was returned with a majority and met the new House.

The King government in 1925‑26 faced a more complex set of circumstances and ultimately resigned without a dissolution. The case has been cited by some as one of a resignation due to the operation of the confidence convention,[38] although King himself stated that he resigned because he did not obtain the dissolution he had sought.[39] In any case, the events leading to the government’s resignation illustrate that it is not always clear what constitutes a question of confidence.

A general election was held on October 29, 1925. Prior to the election, Prime Minister King held a bare majority of 118 of 235 seats. (The number of seats he held had fluctuated throughout the Fourteenth Parliament, giving him sometimes a majority, sometimes a minority.[40]) The 1925 election returned 101 Liberals (supporters of the King government), 116 Conservatives, 24 Progressives, 2 Labour and 2 Independents.[41] Parliament met on January 7, 1926. The King government did not resign but instead chose to meet the House, despite having received fewer seats than the Conservative Party. It retained the support of the House until June 1926 when the Official Opposition moved an amendment to a motion to concur in a committee report that amounted to a censure of the government; at that time, the King government was not able to command the support of the House on a series of procedural motions meant to set aside the censure amendment.[42] Before the censure amendment was ever put to a vote, Prime Minister King announced his resignation to the House on the afternoon of Monday, June 28, 1926. He stated that, having sought and been refused a dissolution, he was resigning.[43] After the announcement, the House adjourned. The next morning, Arthur Meighen, the Leader of the Opposition, was asked by the Governor General to form a new government. When the House convened later the same day, the government and the Official Opposition had changed sides in the House and acting House Leader Sir Henry Drayton made a statement announcing changes to the Ministry.[44] The House then resumed the transaction of its business. Two days later, the Meighen government lost a vote on a motion of censure.[45]

Not all government defeats on a vote are automatically considered matters of confidence.[46] On February 19, 1968, a motion for the third reading of a tax bill was defeated by a vote of 82‑84.[47] Prime Minister Pearson did not agree that this defeat constituted an expression of non‑confidence in the government, as some were arguing. The government introduced a motion “That this House does not regard its vote on February 19th in connection with third reading of Bill C‑193, which had carried in all previous stages, as a vote of non‑confidence in the Government”. This motion was carried on February 28 by a vote of 138‑119.[48] From February 20 to February 28, all House business was concerned with the resolution of this matter, and in fact the House transacted no business at all from February 20 to 22.[49]

Similarly, on December 20, 1983, a clause of a bill amending the Income Tax Act and other acts was defeated in a Committee of the Whole by a vote of 28‑67.[50] The Official Opposition claimed that this constituted a defeat on a question of confidence and demanded that the government resign or seek a dissolution. The government disagreed.[51] As in other similar circumstances, this was not a procedural matter upon which the Chair could rule.[52]

Starting in 2005, both the Paul Martin and Stephen Harper minority governments lost votes on several motions, but did not interpret the defeats as expressions of a loss of confidence.[53] In addition, beginning in 2005, first the Conservative Party and then, from 2006 to 2008, the Liberal Party, resorted to wholesale abstention during several key votes, thus allowing successive governments to survive.[54]

The issue of confidence was particularly contentious in May 2005 when, as had been done in 1926, the opposition used motions to concur in committee reports as a means of testing the confidence of the House in the government. On April 22, May 2 and again on May 9, 2005, amendments were put forward to motions for concurrence in committee reports, proposing wording which instructed the committees to revise their reports to include recommendations that the government resign.[55] On May 10, 2005, such an amendment was adopted as was the main motion[56] and, while opposition parties called upon the government to resign, the Government House Leader stated that the motion was simply an instruction to a committee and not a matter of confidence.[57] In the days that followed, the government lost a series of procedural votes[58] and was not able to put the issue of confidence to rest until May 19, 2005, narrowly winning a confidence vote on the second reading of its Budget implementation bill when the Speaker used his casting vote to break a tie.[59]

Later this same year, on November 21, 2005, a New Democratic Party opposition motion was adopted calling on Prime Minister Martin to seek dissolution of the House during the week of January 2, 2006, and to set the date of the next election as Monday, February 13, 2006. It also requested that the Speaker transmit the text of the motion to the Governor General.[60] Following the vote, the government stated that it would ignore the resolution since it only suggested a course of action and did not explicitly state that the House had lost confidence in the government.[61]

The issue of confidence also arose in late November 2008 when, following a controversial economic statement to the House by the Minister of Finance on November 27, the three opposition parties (a majority of Members) intimated that they were intent on defeating the government at the earliest opportunity.[62] In reaction to this prospect, on November 28, the government announced that it was postponing to December 8 a potential confidence vote that had been scheduled for December 1.[63] On December 1, the Leader of the Official Opposition wrote to the Governor General to inform her that all three opposition parties had lost confidence in the government and that two of the three parties had agreed to form a new government with the support of the third, should the opportunity arise for her to exercise her constitutional authority and call on him to form such a government.[64] To avoid near certain defeat on the postponed December 8 confidence vote, the Prime Minister, on December 4, sought and obtained a prorogation, little more than two weeks after the opening of the Fortieth Parliament.[65]

Resignation Due to Other Causes

Several Prime Ministers have resigned for reasons other than those referred to above. Most have done so out of a stated desire to retire from public life.[66] There are, however, a few cases where the departure was prompted by other reasons.

In one case, the government of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (Second Parliament, 1873), which was embroiled in a scandal, resigned rather than face near‑certain defeat on a non‑confidence motion.[67] According to an eyewitness, on November 5, 1873, “Sir John got up and briefly announced that the Government had resigned. The announcement was received in perfect silence. The Opposition, directly [after] it was over, crossed the House to their new desks”.[68] The Leader of the Opposition, Alexander Mackenzie, formed a new government and Parliament was prorogued on November 7, 1873. On January 2, 1874, he sought and obtained a dissolution without having met the House with a legislative program.

In 1896, the Prime Minister, Senator Sir Mackenzie Bowell, faced a serious Cabinet revolt (seven Ministers—half the Cabinet—resigned) and ultimately resigned himself on April 27 of that year, three days after he had been granted a dissolution.[69] He was succeeded by Sir Charles Tupper, who in turn resigned after his defeat in the election.[70]

*  Dismissal of a Prime Minister

Since Confederation, no Prime Minister has been dismissed.[71] The circumstances that might give rise to dismissal have nevertheless been the subject of considerable academic debate.

Ministerial Crisis

If the House is sitting when the composition of the Ministry is being changed in circumstances of ministerial crisis, it is normal for the House to adjourn from day to day (unless it decides otherwise) until such time as the changes are complete.[72] In such cases, the House normally transacts only routine business on the days it meets and questions may be asked concerning the progress being made in reconstituting the Ministry.[73] When a new Ministry is to be formed following the death, resignation or dismissal of the Prime Minister, it is likewise appropriate for the House to adjourn from day to day (again, unless it decides otherwise),[74] but no questions may be asked as to the progress being made, there being no Ministry.[75] However, party leaders may make statements.[76] When the ministerial crisis is resolved, it is usual for a leading Member of the government caucus to make a statement explaining the ministerial changes to the House.[77]

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[17] Constitution Act, 1867, R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 50; Constitution Act, 1982, R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 44, ss. 4(1) and 5. The question of the duration of Parliament was thoroughly discussed in the talks leading to Confederation. At the time, it was decided to follow the New Zealand example of a five‑year maximum (see comments of Sir John A. Macdonald in Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North American Provinces, 3rd Session, 8th Provincial Parliament of Canada, Quebec: Hunter, Rose & Co., Parliamentary Printers, 1865, p. 39).

[18] Canada Elections Act, R.S., 2000, c. 9, s. 56.1(2); 2007, c. 10, s. 1. For a detailed description of the practicalities of convocation and dissolution of Parliament, see Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”.

[19] On September 7, 2008, Governor General Michaёlle Jean dissolved Parliament upon the request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who opted to seek dissolution citing the lack of will on the part of opposition parties to support government initiatives as his primary reason for making the request.

[20] For the actual dates for the return of the writs and of dissolution for each Parliament, see Appendix 13, “Parliaments Since 1867 and Number of Sitting Days”.

[21] This was accomplished by way of a constitutional amendment (British North America Act, 1916, R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 24). Since 1949, the Constitution has provided for an extension if no more than one‑third of the Members oppose it (British North America Act (No. 2), 1949, R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 33; see also Constitution Act, 1982, s. 4(2)).

[22] For actual dates of terms of office for each Ministry, see Appendix 6, “Government Ministries and Prime Ministers of Canada Since 1867”.

[23] The date on which a Prime Minister dies or the Governor General accepts his or her resignation is the last day of a Ministry. Prior to 1920 a Prime Minister’s resignation was accepted immediately. The Ministry was dissolved ipso facto, but individual ministers continued to carry on the routine business of their departments until their own resignation was accepted by the new Prime Minister or a new appointment was made. In 1920, Sir Robert Laird Borden indicated his intention to resign, but offered his formal resignation only when Arthur Meighen was ready to form a government. This practice continues today. See Privy Council Office, Guide to Canadian Ministries since Confederation, www.pco-bcp.gc.ca, 2008. Failure to be re‑elected as a Member of the House does not result in the Prime Minister being obliged to resign automatically. Prime Ministers Macdonald and King both suffered personal defeat but not party defeat and were subsequently elected in by‑elections (see The Canadian Directory of Parliament 1867‑1967, edited by J.K. Johnson, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1968, pp. 305‑6, 399).

[24] During the Seventh Parliament, when Sir John A. Macdonald died while in office, Sir John Abbott became Prime Minister, followed by Sir John Thompson and, finally, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, all of them serving during the same Parliament. Sir Charles Tupper then served as Prime Minister from the time of dissolution until the 1896 general election, when the Conservatives were defeated by Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Liberals. There are also instances where Prime Ministers have resigned and been succeeded by a new Prime Minister who continued in office during the same Parliament prior to an election being called. A recent example of such a turnover was the swearing in of Paul Martin following the resignation of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (Thirty-Seventh Parliament).

[25] See, for example, Journals, December 13, 1979, pp. 345‑7; December 14, 1979, p. 350; Debates, November 28, 2005, p. 10242.

[26] See, for example, the Seventh, Twenty‑Seventh, Thirty‑Fourth and Thirty‑Seventh Parliaments.

[27] For a full description of the procedural effects of prorogation and dissolution, see Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”.

[28] Journals, June 8, 1891, p. 208. See also the Speaker’s statement to the House, Debates, June 8, 1891, col. 883. In keeping with ancient practice, when the House stands adjourned during a session, the Speaker, in robes, can attend the funeral procession or the state funeral, accompanied by the Mace, as authorized by an express resolution of the House, or by reliance on parliamentary usage. The Mace may not be used for such a purpose when Parliament is prorogued. See Bourinot, Sir J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1916, p. 176, footnotes c) and e). The organization of state occasions, such as state funerals, is the responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

[29] For descriptions of the circumstances of these two deaths, see Creighton, D., John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1955, pp. 564‑78; Waite, P.B., The Man From Halifax: Sir John Thompson, Prime Minister, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985, pp. 415‑31.

[30] See, for example, the John Turner (1984) and Kim Campbell (1993) Ministries.

[31] Appendix 12, “General Election Results Since 1867”. A similar case occurred in Ontario in 1985 when the Progressive Conservative (PC) government of Frank Miller won the largest number of seats, but resigned in favour of the second‑place Liberals (Lib.) who, with the support of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Members, were able to govern with the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. The numbers were PC: 52; Lib.: 48; NDP: 25 (Canadian Parliamentary Guide, Toronto: Grey House Publishing Canada, 2008, pp. 727, 763).

[32] Forsey and Eglington list a large number of pre‑ and post‑Confederation examples of provincial government resignations without dissolution (pp. 253‑8).

[33] See, for example, Speaker Lamoureux's ruling, Journals, March 6, 1973, pp. 166‑7. See also, Debates, October 20, 1981, p. 11974 and Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, May 5, 2005, pp. 5725‑7.

[34] Journals, July 1, 1926, pp. 508‑9.

[35] Journals, February 5, 1963, pp. 474‑5.

[36] Journals, May 8, 1974, pp. 175‑6; December 13, 1979, pp. 345‑7.

[37] Journals, November 28, 2005, pp. 1352-3.

[38] Forsey and Eglington, pp. 253, 261‑3.

[39] Journals, June 28, 1926, p. 483.

[40] Appendix 12, “General Election Results Since 1867”, footnote 8.

[41] Appendix 12, “General Election Results Since 1867”.

[42] Journals, June 18, 1926, pp. 444‑9; June 22, 1926, pp. 461‑2; June 23, 1926, p. 465; June 25, 1926, pp. 475‑81.

[43] Journals, June 28, 1926, p. 483.

[44] Journals, June 29, 1926, pp. 485‑6.

[45] Journals, July 1, 1926, pp. 508‑9.

[46] In 1973, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that his minority government would not consider every defeat on a vote as a matter of confidence (Debates, January 8, 1973, p. 61). The government did, in fact, lose several votes in the 1973‑74 period (see, for example, Journals, March 26, 1973, pp. 212‑3). For a discussion on this subject, see “Party Discipline and the Confidence Convention: An Historical Perspective”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer 1993, pp. 13‑20.

[47] Journals, February 19, 1968, pp. 702‑3.

[48] Journals, February 28, 1968, pp. 719‑21.

[49] Journals, February 20 to 28, 1968, pp. 705‑21.

[50] Debates, December 20, 1983, p. 352.

[51] Debates, December 20, 1983, pp. 352‑6.

[52] Debates, December 20, 1983, pp. 367‑8.

[53] For example, on February 15, 2005, two government bills were defeated at second reading (Journals, pp. 434-8). There are dozens of examples. See Massicotte, L., “Le gouvernement Harper contrôle-t-il les Communes?”, Le Devoir, August 11, 2008, p. A-7.

[54] See, for example, Journals, March 9, 2005, p. 508; October 24, 2007 pp. 56‑7; February 12, 2008, pp. 424-6; June 5, 2008, pp. 923‑7. See also Debates, February 11, 2008, pp. 2862‑5. It should be noted however that strategic absence by a party during votes is not an entirely new practice in the House of Commons. See Gregg, A.R., “Canadian Parliamentary Party Behaviour: An Analysis of Minority Government, 1963-1968”, M.A. thesis, University of Alberta, 1974, pp. 30‑46.

[55] At the time that the amendments were introduced, points of order were raised by the Government House Leader regarding their acceptability. The amendments were ruled to be in order. See Debates, April 22, 2005, pp. 5460-1; May 5, 2005, p. 5727; May 9, 2005, p. 5821. The amendment to a committee report concurrence motion, proposed on May 2, was ruled out of order by the Speaker because it went beyond the scope of the committee report and was therefore not relevant to the main motion (Debates, May 5, 2005, p. 5696).

[56] Journals, May 10, 2005, pp. 731‑4.

[57] Debates, May 10, 2005, pp. 5908‑9. For a discussion of the May 2005 votes, see Heard, A., “Just what is a Vote of Confidence? The Curious Case of May 10, 2005”, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 40, No. 2, June 2007, pp. 395-416.

[58] Journals, May 11, 2005, pp. 739-42; May 12, 2005, pp. 745-6; May 13, 2005, pp. 747‑8, 751‑2.

[59] This was the first time in the history of the Canadian House of Commons that a Speaker has had to cast his vote on a matter of confidence. In announcing his vote in favour of the motion, Speaker Milliken stated that his decision was based on parliamentary traditions, customs and usages, rather than party affiliation, and that he was voting on procedural grounds to allow debate to continue through referral of the bill to the Standing Committee on Finance, in order that the House could make its own decision on the bill at a later date (Debates, May 19, 2005, p. 6260).

[60] Journals, November 21, 2005, pp. 1301‑3. On November 23, 2005, the Speaker sent a letter to the Governor General, enclosing an extract of the motion as agreed to by the House.

[61] Debates, November 22, 2005, p. 9995.

[62] Debates, November 27, 2008, pp. 374‑84. See also Order Paper and Notice Paper, December 1, 2008, pp. 17-8 (Order Paper) and p. IV (Notice Paper). It is interesting to note that on November 27, 2008, following the delivery of the economic statement, the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne was agreed to on division, but without a recorded vote (Journals, p. 48).

[63] By letter dated Friday, November 28, 2008, the Government House Leader informed the Speaker that the supply day scheduled for December 1, 2008 would be postponed until December 8, 2008.

[64] In addition to this letter, two accords were signed. The first, entitled “An Accord on a Cooperative Government to Address the Present Economic Crisis”, was signed by the leaders of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party and set out the “key understandings” of the “new cooperative government”. The second, entitled “A Policy Accord to Address the Present Economic Crisis”, was signed by the leaders of all three opposition parties and set out the terms of their cooperation on the economy and the duration of their mutual support agreement. A similar letter had been sent to the Governor General on September 9, 2004, while a minority Liberal government was in place. At that time, the leaders of the Conservative Party, Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party signed a joint letter to the Governor General in which they indicated that they had been in close consultation and that she should consult them before exercising her constitutional authority if faced with a request for dissolution.

[65] Journals, December 4, 2008, p. 101. That day, the Leader of the Official Opposition petitioned the Governor General, enjoining her not to grant the Prime Minister’s request for a prorogation until “he has demonstrated to you that he still commands the confidence of the House of Commons.” The signatures of 161 Members of the House, a majority, were appended.

[66] See, for example, Debates, June 16, 1993, pp. 20890‑4.

[67] See Debates, November 5, 1873, p. 781, and Forsey and Eglington, p. 258. See also Journals, November 4 to 7, 1873, pp. 139‑42.

[68] Hamilton‑Temple‑Blackwood, H.G., My Canadian Journal, 1872‑′78, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1891, p. 133. See also Debates, November 6, 1873, p. 783; November 7, 1873, p. 785.

[69] Gordon, J.C. and Gordon, I.M., “We Twa”: Reminiscences of Lord and Lady Aberdeen, Vol. II, London: W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1925, pp. 32‑4.

[70] See Gordon and Gordon, pp. 35‑7, for a description of the circumstances from the Governor General’s point of view.

[71] In August, 1873, a delegation of Members of Parliament presented a petition to Lord Dufferin, the Governor General, signed by 92 Members, including some Conservative Members, requesting that he refuse Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s request for prorogation in the midst of the Pacific Scandal. Lord Dufferin refused the petition stating that if he denied the request for prorogation this would be tantamount to dismissal of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (Journals, October 23, 1873, pp. 30‑9). See also Messamore, B.J., “'A Matter of Instinct': Lord Dufferin and the Pacific Scandal”, Canada’s Governors General, 1847-1878: Biography and Constitutional Evolution, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006, pp. 148-76. For an Australian example, see House of Representatives Practice, 5th ed., edited by I.C. Harris, Canberra: Department of the House of Representatives, 2005, p. 60.

[72] In early 1896, seven Ministers (half the Cabinet) resigned and it took several days to reconstruct the Cabinet (Debates, January 7 to 15, 1896, cols. 5‑71). The death or dismissal of several Ministers could result in similar circumstances for the government, and thus a similar adjournment of the proceedings in the House, should it be sitting at the time.

[73] See, for example, Journals, January 7 to 15, 1896, pp. 7‑13, Debates, cols. 5‑71. See also Bourinot, J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 2nd ed., rev. and enlarged, Montreal: Dawson Brothers, Publishers, 1892, pp. 795‑6.

[74] See, for example, Debates, November 5 to 7, 1873, pp. 781‑7; June 8, 1891, cols. 888‑91. See also Journals, June 28, 1926, p. 483.

[75] Debates, November 5 to 7, 1873, pp. 781‑7; June 28, 1926, pp. 5096‑7.

[76] See Speaker’s ruling, Debates, June 28, 1926, p. 5096. See also Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 355.

[77] See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1873, pp. 785‑6 (following resignation of Macdonald); June 16, 1891, cols. 891‑2 (following death of Macdonald); January 15, 1896, cols. 69‑71 (following resolution of Bowell Cabinet crisis); Journals, June 29, 1926, pp. 485‑6 (following resignation of King).

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