At the opening of every new Parliament and at the beginning of each session within a Parliament, the Governor General reads a speech, prepared by the Prime Minister in consultation with his or her cabinet. The speech is read in the Senate Chamber before the assembled Members of both the Senate and the House of Commons.
Traditionally, the Speech from the Throne reveals the reasons for summoning Parliament. It begins with an assessment of social and economic conditions in the country. It then declares the Government’s goals and intentions, and outlines its policies and legislative agenda.
Following the Speech from the Throne, the Members of the House of Commons return to the Chamber of the House, where, after some formalities, they proceed with the debate on the Speech from the Throne (referred to as the “Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne”).
The Standing Orders of the House of Commons allow six days for this debate, which provides the opposition with an opportunity to evaluate and comment on the content of the Throne Speech. The Government has its first opportunity to speak to its goals and policies. The debate is open to all Members and is almost unlimited in scope.
At the conclusion of the debate, a vote is taken on a motion on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. This vote is usually considered a “vote of confidence” in the Government.
A second motion is then voted on. This motion calls on the Speaker of the House of Commons to present the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne to the Governor General in person. That ceremony is conducted at the Governor General’s residence (Rideau Hall) at a later date.