Typical Sitting Day
The daily business of the House of Commons is set out in the Standing Orders, the written rules of the House. The House convenes on Mondays at 11:00 a.m., on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 10:00 a.m., and on Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. The House usually adjourns by 7:00 p.m., except on Fridays when the House rises at 2:30 p.m. The daily business of the House is listed on the Order Paper and is generally grouped into five categories:
Daily Order of Business
At the beginning of each sitting of the House, the Speaker takes the Chair. After it has been confirmed that a quorum of 20 members is present, the Speaker reads the prayer. When the prayer is finished, the House pauses for a moment of silent reflection. Once completed, the Speaker orders the doors opened, allowing the public to attend the sitting, and begins the proceedings of the House.
On Wednesdays, after the prayer has been read, but before the doors are opened to admit the public, the Speaker recognizes a member to lead the House in the singing of the national anthem.
Statements by Members
During this 15-minute period, any member who is not a minister is permitted to address the House for up to one minute on virtually any matter of local, provincial, national or international concern.
Oral Questions (Question Period)
Following Statements by Members, at no later than 2:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. on Fridays), Question Period takes place for a maximum of 45 minutes. At this time, members may question the government on all matters within its jurisdiction. For more information, see the Our Procedure article about the questions.
Routine Proceedings, also referred to as “the daily routine of business”, consists of several categories or rubrics of business that provide members with an opportunity to bring a variety of matters to the attention of the House. The amount of time required to complete Routine Proceedings varies from day to day depending on the number of items to be dealt with.
The government is required to table a variety of documents either by statute, by order of the House, or by the Standing Orders. The Speaker may also table certain documents, such as reports from officers of Parliament, or reports on his or her interparliamentary exchange duties and reports relating to the administration of the House of Commons.
Government legislation is first presented to the House under this rubric. Following a minimum 48-hour notice period, any public bill sponsored by the government is placed on the Order Paper. Ministers wishing to introduce a bill signal their desire to proceed with the bill, and the Speaker proposes the motion for leave to introduce the bill, which is deemed carried, without debate, amendment, or question put. After the motion has been agreed to, the minister may give a brief explanation of the bill. After the motion to introduce the bill is adopted, the Speaker proposes to the House, “That this bill be now read a first time and be printed”. This motion is also deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put. The bill is then assigned a number, sequentially, and placed on the Order Paper under Orders of the Day for the second reading stage at a future sitting. For more information, see the Our Procedure article about the legislative process.
Ministers may make announcements or statements on government policy or matters of national interest. A spokesperson from each recognized opposition party is permitted to respond, as are representatives of non-recognized parties, with the consent of the House.
Canada’s international and interparliamentary relations are carried out in part through formal parliamentary associations that operate on multilateral and bilateral levels to promote Canada’s interests abroad. Interparliamentary delegations are required to present to the House reports on any visit taken in fulfillment of their duties, either in Canada or abroad, within 20 sitting days of their return to Canada.
Information, requests and recommendations from standing, special or legislative committees and standing or special joint committees are transmitted to the House by way of reports. A report may be presented by the committee chair, or in his or her absence, by a member of the committee. If the committee has adopted a motion to request a response from the government to its report, that request is communicated orally at the time the report is presented. When a committee has appended dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations to its report, a committee member representing the official opposition may provide a brief explanation of these views. For more information, see the Our Procedure article about committees.
Public bills sponsored by any member who is not a minister are introduced under this heading. A member who is not a minister wishing to introduce a bill signals their desire to proceed with the bill, and the Speaker proposes the motion for leave to introduce the bill. This motion is deemed carried, without debate, amendment, or question put. After the motion has been agreed to, the member introducing the bill will give a brief explanation of the bill. After the motion to introduce the bill is adopted, the Speaker proposes to the House, “That this bill be now read a first time and be printed”. This motion is also deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put. The bill is then assigned a number, sequentially. The bill is then placed on the Order Paper under Private Members’ Business, where it is set down for a second reading, according to the order of precedence. For more information, see the Our Procedure article about private members’ business.
When a Senate public bill has been passed by the Senate, a message is sent to inform the House. The bill is placed on the Order Paper under the heading First Reading of Senate Public Bills. When the member or minister sponsoring the bill in the House signals his or her desire to proceed when the heading is called, the motion for first reading is deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put.
Motions permissible under this rubric are those for concurrence in committee reports and those relating to the sittings and proceedings of the House or of its committees.
The Speaker has consistently ruled that any motion pertaining to the arrangement of the business of the House should be introduced by the government House leader and may be considered under Motions or under Government Orders. However, the Speaker allows certain motions placed on notice by private members, such as motions of instruction to committees and for motions for concurrence in committee reports.
Motions moved during Routine Proceedings require 48 hours’ notice. However, in practice, with the unanimous consent of the House they are often moved without notice and adopted without debate. Examples of such motions include those to:
- manage the proceedings and business of the House or its committees;
- change the order of business of the House;
- arrange the times or days of sitting of the House;
- amend the Standing Orders;
- suspend the Standing Orders;
- discharge an order of the House;
- concur in a committee report;
- authorize a committee to travel;
- establish a special committee;
- instruct a committee;
- alter the membership of a committee;
- appoint officers of the House and Parliament (such as the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Privacy Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Information Commissioner);
- send messages to another country; and
- censure chair occupants.
During debate on a motion under Routine Proceedings, if a motion to proceed to the Orders of the Day is moved and adopted, the motion being debated is superseded and dropped from the Order Paper.
Except in the case of a motion to concur in a committee report, when debate on any motion considered during Routine Proceedings is adjourned or interrupted, the order for resumption of the debate is transferred to the Order Paper under Government Orders and is considered again at the government’s initiative.
In the case of a concurrence motion in a committee report, debate for up to three hours is permitted, at which time the Speaker will put all questions. Should debate on the motion be adjourned or interrupted, the motion will be transferred to the section Concurrence in Committee Reports under Orders of the Day on the Order Paper and slated for debate within 10 sitting days on a date set by the government, following consultation with the House leaders of the other parties. The resumed debate occurs at the end of the sitting day and once the three hours have expired or there are no more members wishing to speak, the Speaker will put all the questions. If a recorded division is requested, it is automatically deferred to the next Wednesday that the House is sitting and is held no later than the end of Government Orders.
This 15-minute period permits members of Parliament to present petitions on behalf of their constituents or members of the Canadian public wishing to bring their concerns to the attention of the House. Before being presented a petition must be examined and certified correct as to form and content by the clerk of petitions, the procedural clerk responsible for verifying all petitions. Both paper and electronic petitions can be presented. Although members may make a brief statement about the petitions, no debate is permitted during the presentation of petitions. Additionally, members may also present a certified petition at any time during a sitting of the House by filing it with a clerk at the table in the chamber.
Members may place on notice, at any one time, up to four written questions to the government relating to public affairs. A member may ask for a response to a specific question within 45 calendar days and may also ask that an oral answer be provided to up to three of his or her questions. When Questions on the Order Paper are called, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader announces which questions the government intends to answer that day, and the written answers to the questions are tabled in the House. For more information, see the Our Procedure article about questions (section Written Questions).
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers are submitted by members in order to request documents that the government is not obliged to present to Parliament. These motions are decided without debate when taken up on Wednesdays after Routine Proceedings. If a minister or the member requesting the document decides that debate on such a motion is necessary, the notice of motion is transferred for debate to Private Members’ Business.
The Standing Orders provide members with an opportunity to request that the House discuss a matter requiring urgent consideration. If the request is granted, the debate must take place on the same day, unless the Speaker directs that it be taken up on the next sitting day. From Monday to Thursday, such emergency debates commence at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment (usually 6:30 p.m.) and end at no later than 12:00 midnight. On Fridays, emergency debates begin as soon as the Speaker finds the application acceptable, and continue until no later than 4:00 p.m.
Each sitting day, a substantial portion of the House’s time is devoted to the consideration of Government Orders, which include any item of business proposed by a minister.
The Standing Orders provide that Government Orders are considered on Mondays from noon to 2:00 p.m., resuming following Routine Proceedings until 6:30 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, after Routine Proceedings at 10:00 a.m., the House considers Government Orders until 2:00 p.m. and then again following Question Period from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at which time the House considers Private Members’ Business. On Wednesdays, after Routine Proceedings and Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers, Government Orders are taken up until 5:30 p.m. when Private Members’ Business begins. On Fridays, Government Orders are considered from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., at which time the House proceeds to Statements by Members. After Routine Proceedings, the House resumes consideration of Government Orders until 1:30 p.m., when Private Members’ Business begins.
Items of business classed as Government Orders fall under the following headings:
- Government Bills (Commons);
- Government Bills (Senate);
- Government Business;
- Ways and Means Proceedings; and
- Business of Supply.
Government Orders occupy most of the sitting day and the choice of which items will be debated under this heading each sitting is made exclusively by the government. When Government Orders is called, any item listed may be brought before the House for consideration. Any item that has been called, and on which debate has begun, must be dealt with until adjourned, interrupted or disposed of. If adjourned or interrupted, the item remains on the Order Paper. If the item is disposed of by either an affirmative or a negative decision of the House, it is removed from the Order Paper.
The government also designates certain sitting days (22 per calendar year) as allotted, or opposition days under the Business of Supply. On these days, opposition parties are given an opportunity to bring forward a motion of their sole choosing for debate under Government Orders.
Private Members’ Business
Each day, one hour of House time is set aside for Private Members’ Business, that is, for the consideration of bills and motions sponsored by members of the House of Commons who are not ministers or parliamentary secretaries. Only one bill or motion may be debated per day during this hour. For more information, see the Our Procedure article about private members’ business.
Adjournment Proceedings (Late Show)
The final category of business conducted on a sitting day is the Adjournment Proceedings. This period enables members to seek further information from the government on questions raised in Question Period or on a question on the Order Paper for which no answer has been given within the 45 calendar days allowed.
At the start of this 30-minute period, scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, a motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been moved and seconded. The Adjournment Proceedings allow for brief exchanges on no more than three predetermined topics, each of which may be debated for at most 10 minutes of the 30-minute period. The Speaker must indicate to the House, at no later than 5:00 p.m., which matters are to be raised that day. At the outset of each 10-minute period, the member raising the matter and the minister or parliamentary secretary replying may each speak for not more than four minutes. Each may then make a subsequent one-minute intervention.
Other Weekly Business
A variety of other business items come before the House during the sitting week, although not on a daily basis.
Weekly Business Statement (Thursday Statement)
Each Thursday, after Question Period, the House leader of the official opposition rises to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons about government business to be considered in the succeeding days or week. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons then outlines what business the government intends to bring forward. The statement is for information purposes only and is not binding on the government. This is also an opportunity for the government to designate allotted, or opposition days.
The Review of Delegated Legislation
The Review of Delegated Legislation involves the consideration of reports concerning federal regulations from the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Consideration of these reports is limited to a one-hour period beginning at 1:00 p.m. on a Wednesday.
Should the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations decide that a regulation or some other statutory instrument exceeds or conflicts with the intentions of an Act of Parliament, it may report the matter to the House. Once presented, the resolution contained in the report is automatically placed on the Notice Paper in the name of the member who presented the report. After 48 hours, the resolution is transferred to the Order Paper under the rubric Motions.
The resolution is deemed to have been moved and adopted by the House at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on the 15th sitting day after the report is presented, unless a minister gives notice of a motion that the resolution not be adopted, in which case the motion may be debated for up to one hour at 1:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday following the expiry of the 48-hour written notice. No other business can be taken up during the debate. If proceedings are completed before 2:00 p.m., the Speaker suspends the sitting until that time.
If the minister’s motion is adopted, the resolution in the name of the member who tabled the report is withdrawn and the regulation may be implemented. If the minister’s motion is defeated, then the regulation is revoked.