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Conferences Between the Commons and the Senate Regarding Amendments to Bills

If the House of Commons and the Senate reach an impasse respecting amendments to be made to a bill, a Member, usually the sponsoring Minister or Member, may propose that the Senate be asked to participate in a free conference on the amendment or amendments in dispute. Over the years, this practice has fallen into disuse and has been replaced with frequent communications between the two Houses by way of official “messages” and the appearance of Ministers before House and Senate committees.

If the Senate agrees to participate in such a conference, a message is also sent to the House of Commons to inform it of the time and place chosen for the conference, and of the names of the Senators (called “managers”) who will be acting for the Senate. A similar motion is moved in the Commons to designate the representatives of the House (who normally include the Minister or Member sponsoring the bill). At the time agreed upon, the “managers” meet to try to resolve the impasse.

A free conference means that the discussion continues until an agreement is reached, but there are three possible outcomes:

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