Dissolution terminates a Parliament, ending all business in the Senate and the House of Commons. It is followed by a general election. Dissolution is accomplished when the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, issues a proclamation, published in the Canada Gazette, to this effect.
A second proclamation, which usually appears at the same time, calls the next Parliament, orders the issuing of election writs to ridings across the country, and fixes dates for polling and for the return of the writs. A third proclamation fixes the date on which Parliament is summoned to meet, sometime following the return of the election writs. The date of this summons may be changed by means of a further proclamation.
The Constitution limits the duration of a Parliament to five years, except in the event of “war, invasion or insurrection”. In the absence of dissolution, the Parliament would simply “expire”. In practice, Parliament has always been dissolved, even if dissolution has taken place only a few days before the five years have passed. Recent changes were made to the Canada Elections Act to provide that, subject to an earlier dissolution of Parliament, a general election must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth year following polling day for the last general election.
Effect of Dissolution on the House
The House ceases to exist as an assembly at the time of dissolution.
All Chamber activity ceases with dissolution, and all incomplete business is terminated, including government bills and Private Members’ Business. A list of these items may be found in a document called the Status of House Business at Dissolution, which is published shortly after dissolution is proclaimed.
The Government’s obligation to answer written questions, to respond to petitions or to produce papers requested by the House also ends with dissolution.
The Government must wait until the new Parliament is in session before tabling any document that is required pursuant to an Act, resolution or Standing Order.
The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Members of the Board of Internal Economy, which governs the House, retain certain administrative responsibilities until they are replaced or re-elected following the general election.
Effect of Dissolution on Committees
Committees cease to exist until the House reconstitutes them following the election.
All orders of reference expire, and the chairs and vice-chairs of all committees are relieved of their duties.
The Government is no longer required to provide responses to committee reports that may have been requested in the previous session.
Effect of Dissolution on Parliamentary Associations and Exchanges
As a general rule, the activities of parliamentary associations are postponed. Since multilateral assemblies continue to meet, Canada’s representation is usually ensured by Senators during an election period. Once an election has been held and prior to the start of a new Parliament, both Senators and Members of the House of Commons may participate. Participation in official parliamentary exchange programs is also usually deferred.