The daily routine of business, commonly referred to as Routine Proceedings, is a time in the daily schedule when business of a basic nature is considered, providing Members with an opportunity to bring a variety of matters to the attention of the House, generally without debate. The House proceeds to Routine Proceedings at the opening of the sitting on Tuesdays and Thursdays (immediately after the Speaker has read the prayer and ordered the doors opened), at 3:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and at noon on Fridays (immediately following Question Period).64
This segment of the daily program consists of separate rubrics called by the Speaker each day and considered in succession. These rubrics include:
- “Tabling of Documents”;
- “Introduction of Government Bills”;
- “Statements by Ministers”;
- “Presenting Reports from Interparliamentary Delegations”;
- “Presenting Reports from Committees”;
- “Introduction of Private Members’ Bills”;
- “First Reading of Senate Public Bills”;
- “Presenting Petitions”; and
- “Questions on the Order Paper”.
As the Speaker calls each item in Routine Proceedings, Members who wish to bring forward matters rise in their place and are recognized in turn. Usually they will have previously indicated to the Chair or the Table their wish to raise an item.65 The amount of time required to complete Routine Proceedings varies from day to day depending on the number of items dealt with under each rubric.
Of all the rubrics that make up Routine Proceedings, the Standing Orders prescribe that “Introduction of Government Bills” must be called and completed each sitting day.66 In concrete terms, this means that the first two rubrics (“Tabling of Documents” and “Introduction of Government Bills”) must be considered each sitting day. Thus, at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Statements by Members interrupts Routine Proceedings if the heading “Introduction of Government Bills” has not yet been completed. The ordinary daily routine of business then continues at 3:00 p.m., immediately after Question Period, until all items under “Introduction of Government Bills” are completed, suspending as much of the hour set aside for Private Members’ Business as necessary.67 Obviously, this does not apply on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, since on those days Statements by Members and Question Period take place before Routine Proceedings. If the proceedings under “Introduction of Government Bills” are not completed by the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, the House continues to sit and carries on with Routine Proceedings until the rubric “Introduction of Government Bills” has been completed. The Speaker then adjourns the House until the next sitting day.68 However, on days when time remains for Routine Proceedings after “Introduction of Government Bills” is completed, which is most often the case, Routine Proceedings could possibly continue until interrupted either by the normal adjournment of the sitting on Mondays,69 by Statements by Members on Tuesdays and Thursdays,70 or by Private Members’ Business on Wednesdays and Fridays.71
After Routine Proceedings on Wednesdays, the House takes up “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers”.72 At every sitting, applications for emergency debates are also considered after Routine Proceedings, prior to the calling of Orders of the Day.73
Since Confederation, the Standing Orders have provided for a daily routine of business. What has varied over time is its composition, its timing in the sitting day and the classes of items that could be dealt with under each rubric. For almost 40 years beginning in 1867, there were just four rubrics: “Presenting Petitions”, “Reading and Receiving Petitions”, “Presenting Reports by Standing and Select (later Special) Committees”, and “Motions”.74 In 1906, the rubric “Introduction of Bills” was added after “Motions” in the sequence (bills having previously been presented under “Motions”).75 A few years later, in 1910, another item styled “First Reading of Senate Bills” was added after “Introduction of Bills”, while at the same time the two items dedicated to petitions were dropped.76 The order of rubrics under Routine Proceedings did not change again until 1955 when “Government Notices of Motions” was added.77 Twenty years later, in 1975, “Tabling of Documents” and “Statements by Ministers” were added to Routine Proceedings to reflect and codify long-standing practices that had previously been dealt with under the rubric “Motions”.78 In 1986, the rubric “Presenting Reports from Interparliamentary Delegations” was created and “Presenting Petitions” was reinstated.79
In late 1986 and early 1987, the moving of motions to proceed to Orders of the Day80 and to proceed to the next item of Routine Proceedings81 during Routine Proceedings, combined with requests for recorded divisions,82 sometimes resulted not only in the House failing to reach Government Orders, but also in the government being unable to introduce its legislation. In the fall of 1986, a government bill to amend the Patent Act was placed on the Order Paper. The strong opposition to the bill led to the use of these motions during Routine Proceedings to delay introduction, first reading and second reading of the bill.83 After the bill was considered by a legislative committee and reported back to the House with amendments,84 the government gave notice of a time allocation motion respecting the report stage of the bill.85 The government intended to move the time allocation motion under the heading “Motions” during Routine Proceedings; however, the use of procedural tactics prevented the House from reaching this rubric.86 On April 13, 1987, the government attempted to skip over certain items under Routine Proceedings when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister moved that the House proceed from “Tabling of Documents” to “Motions” which, if carried, would have had the effect of superseding all intervening headings. Speaker Fraser had ruled out of order a similar motion only a few months earlier.87 A point of order was raised regarding the motion moved by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, a debate ensued and the Speaker reserved judgement.88
In his ruling the next day,89 Speaker Fraser expressed concern about the disruption which these procedural tactics had on Routine Proceedings and the inappropriate use of the rules of procedure as a substitute for debate: “It is a practice which can supersede the presentation of petitions, delay indefinitely the introductions of Bills—those of private Members as well as those of the government—and completely block debate on motions for concurrence in committee reports as well as on allocation of time motions”.90 Speaker Fraser stated that, in light of the various obstruction tactics which had been used by the opposition parties in response to the controversial legislation and which had completely blocked debate on that and other government legislation, the interests of the House would be served best if the government were allowed to proceed, in this instance only, with its motion, which would supersede certain rubrics under Routine Proceedings. He cautioned, however, that the use of motions to supersede business during Routine Proceedings needed to be examined and that “no procedures should be sanctioned which would permit the House to be brought to a total standstill for an indefinite period”.91 He elaborated further that the decision was circumscribed by events for which the rules of procedure offered no solution and was not to be regarded as a precedent.
In June 1987, through amendments to the Standing Orders, the items under Routine Proceedings were reordered; the “Introduction of Bills” rubric was divided to create two separate ones for the introduction of government bills and of private Members’ bills, and the procedure for the completion of “Introduction of Government Bills” at every sitting was adopted.92 In addition, the rubric “Questions on the Order Paper” was inserted into the list of items, and “Government Notices of Motions” was dropped from Routine Proceedings.93
In 2001, the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons considered concerns expressed by many Members that government announcements regarding legislation or policies were increasingly being made outside the House of Commons. To remedy the situation, the Committee recommended, first, that the government make greater use of “Statements by Ministers” in the Chamber, an item already provided for in the Standing Orders. The Committee also suggested reordering the Routine Proceedings rubrics to call for the “Introduction of Government Bills” second, prior to “Statements by Ministers”. The Committee was of the view that this change “would encourage Ministers to give brief explanations of their legislation in the House, following introduction”.94 Concurrence in the Special Committee’s report led to the rearrangement of the Routine Proceedings rubrics into their present order.95
Tabling of Documents
Many statutes and several Standing Orders require that certain returns, reports and other papers must be laid before the House each year or session by a representative of the government or by the Speaker of the House of Commons. As well, the House occasionally makes resolutions or orders that require particular documents to be tabled. Whatever the case may be, Ministers may either present such papers from their place in the House, or deposit the document with the Clerk of the House on any sitting day. Parliamentary Secretaries are also authorized to table these documents in the House.
The first item called by the Speaker under Routine Proceedings is “Tabling of Documents”. This item was added to Routine Proceedings in 1975.96 Prior to that time, there was no set time for Ministers to table documents, although they would usually do so during Routine Proceedings under the rubric “Motions”. The 1975 rule changes therefore codified the practice already being followed in the presentation of papers.
The presentation of reports and returns (documents for which an order or address of the House for tabling has been made, or which are required by statute to be tabled) is one method by which the House obtains information. For many years, if a paper to be tabled was in answer to an order or address of the House or pursuant to a statute requiring its production, a Minister had only to rise, usually during Routine Proceedings, and formally present the document to the House. A record of its presentation was then printed in the Journals. If the government wished to table a document that had not been ordered, it had to have the House adopt a motion in order to allow its presentation.97 In 1910, in response to the ever-increasing amount of House time taken to consider these motions, the House adopted a new rule in order to regulate their use.98 The rule allowed Ministers to dispense with such motions and simply seek leave of the House to table these documents, a request customarily granted.99
In 1955, the Standing Orders were amended to allow returns, reports and other papers required by statute or pursuant to an order to also be deposited with the Clerk on any sitting day.100 In 1968, the Standing Orders were amended to allow Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries to table any report or paper so long as it dealt with a matter within the administrative competence of the government.101 Since 1982, the government has also been required to table a comprehensive response to a committee report if the committee so requests,102 and since 1986, to table responses to petitions referred to it103 as well as announcements of Order in Council nominations or appointments.104 More recently, since 2017, the government is required to table a document outlining the reasons for a prorogation.105
Tabling of Documents by a Minister
In addition to the administrative documents that may be tabled in the House by Ministers, certain returns, reports and other papers are required to be laid before the House each year or session by statute, by order of the House, or by Standing Order.106 A number of statutes even set forth the specific circumstances for tabling; for example, some statutes require Ministers to table annual reports of the departments, agencies and commissions that fall under their administrative responsibilities.107 A Minister or Parliamentary Secretary may table documents in the House during Routine Proceedings when the rubric “Tabling of Documents” is called.108 This method of tabling is often referred to as “front door” tabling.
As an alternative, the Standing Orders provide that papers required by statute, by order of the House, or by Standing Order may be deposited by a Minister with the Clerk of the House.109 This is known as “back door” tabling.
It is entirely at the discretion of the Minister involved as to which method to use for those documents that are required to be tabled; however, if a Minister wishes to table a document which is not required to be tabled, it can only be tabled in the House during a sitting (by the “front door”).110 Each sitting day, an entry is recorded in the Journals of all papers presented to the House or deposited with the Clerk.111
When a report, return or other paper is required to be laid before the House or an Order in Council appointment or nomination is tabled,112 it is automatically referred to an appropriate standing committee of the House by the Minister, usually according to its subject matter.113 Since the referrals are permanent, committees are not required to examine the documents by a specific deadline,114 except for Order in Council appointments and nominations, which must be examined by the designated standing committee within a period not exceeding 30 sitting days from the date of tabling,115 and user fee proposals, which must be examined by the committee within 20 sitting days from the date of tabling.116
All documents tabled in the House by a Minister or, as the case may be, by a Parliamentary Secretary, whether during a sitting or deposited with the Clerk, are required to be presented in both official languages.117 Alternative versions (such as USB keys, floppy disks, audio cassettes, video cassettes or CD-ROMs, or documents in Braille or large print) may also be tabled along with the required print document in both official languages.118
Any document quoted by a Minister in debate or in response to a question during Question Period must be tabled. Indeed, a Minister is not at liberty to read or quote from a dispatch (an official written message on government affairs) or other state paper without being prepared to table it if that can be done without injury to the public interest.119 Practices for tabling documents allow a Minister to table a document at any time in a sitting without the unanimous consent of the House. Although administrative documents or documents required to be tabled by statute are normally tabled during Routine Proceedings, immediately following Question Period if cited in a response, or immediately if cited in debate, a Minister may table any document at any time, even during Question Period.120
Tabling of Documents by Private Members
There has been a long-standing practice in the House that private Members may not table documents, official or otherwise.121 While Ministers must table documents required by statute or with respect to their administrative responsibilities,122 the Standing Orders contain no provisions for private Members to table documents.123 However, since the mid-1980s, Members, on occasion, with the unanimous consent of the House, have been allowed to table documents which they cited in their speech or during Question Period;124 the documents have typically been tabled in only one language.125 Sometimes private Members have placed on the Table material for the information of other Members, although this was not considered an official tabling.126
Tabling of Documents by the Speaker
The Speaker tables documents pertaining to the administrative or ceremonial functions of the Office of the Speaker or to the procedural affairs of the House itself.127 These functions include the yearly tabling of a calendar for the following year setting out the sitting and non-sitting weeks between the last Monday in January and the Monday following Easter Monday, after consultation with the House Leaders.128 As Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, the Speaker also tables:
- minutes of proceedings of the Board of Internal Economy;129
- annual reports on committee activities and expenditures;130
- the by-laws, and amendments thereto, of the Board of Internal Economy;131
- the Strategic Plan, a report published periodically by the House of Commons Administration as approved by the Board of Internal Economy;132 and
- the Report to Canadians, the annual report of the House of Commons Administration as approved by the Board of Internal Economy.133
In addition, the Speaker tables a wide range of documents, including the following:
- reports of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, pursuant to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons;134
- reports on sponsored travel by Members of the House of Commons, pursuant to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons;135
- reports of parliamentary delegations led by the Speaker (or his or her designate);136
- Library of Parliament reports;137 and
- reports that must be tabled by the Speaker in accordance with various statutes.138
In particular, statutory requirements exist whereby certain designated Officers of Parliament submit their reports (annual, special or investigative) to the Speaker, who then tables them in the House: the Chief Electoral Officer, the Auditor General, the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and the Commissioner of Lobbying.139 The Speaker also tables the annual report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission,140 and reports of the provincial and territorial electoral boundaries commissions in the decennial process to readjust constituency boundaries after the reports have been forwarded to him by the Chief Electoral Officer.141 In the Speaker’s absence, the Deputy Speaker, the Assistant Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, or the Assistant Deputy Speaker and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole is authorized to table documents.142
Tabling of Documents During Periods of Adjournment or Prorogation
Since 1994, the Standing Orders have contained provisions allowing Ministers, during periods of adjournment, to deposit once a month with the Clerk of the House, on the Wednesday following the 15th day of any month during the period of adjournment, any returns, reports or other papers required to be laid before the House pursuant to statute, special order or Standing Order of the House, including responses to petitions and to committee reports.143 These documents are then entered in the Journals as having been deemed laid upon the Table.144 However, even if a document is technically due during the adjournment period, a Minister still has the option of waiting until the first sitting day following the adjournment to table it in the House or deposit it with the Clerk.145
As a general principle, a prorogation puts an end to all proceedings pending in Parliament. Sometimes, however, various papers and documents requested by the House (also referred to as returns) cannot be prepared for tabling in the same session in which they were requested. As these papers and documents are obtained either by a direct order of the House or by an address to the Governor General, the ordinary effect of a prorogation would be to force a renewal, in the next session, of these orders and addresses for which returns are not yet ready. However, pursuant to the Standing Orders, they are considered to have been readopted at the start of the new session without a motion to that effect.146 The Speaker has ruled that outstanding government responses to committee reports and to petitions are also given the status of returns ordered by the House and therefore must be tabled in the House in the new session.147
Tabling of Documents After a Dissolution
After a dissolution, the Clerk of the House does not accept in advance for tabling in the next Parliament any returns, reports or other papers required to be tabled pursuant to an Act of Parliament or a resolution or Standing Order of the House. The government must wait until the new Parliament is in session before tabling any document that is required.
Introduction of Government Bills
At present, “Introduction of Government Bills” comes immediately after “Tabling of Documents”.148 Prior to June 1987, all public bills sponsored either by the government or by private Members were introduced under the rubric “Introduction of Bills”. As a result of amendments to the Standing Orders, the rubric was divided into “Introduction of Government Bills” and “Introduction of Private Members’ Bills”.149
Legislation emanating from the government is first presented for the consideration of the House under this rubric during Routine Proceedings. Following a minimum 48-hour notice period,150 any public bill sponsored by the government is placed on the Order Paper in chronological order. When “Introduction of Government Bills” is called by the Speaker, the Minister wishing to introduce a bill signals his or her desire to proceed with the bill (advance notice having been given to the Chair of the Minister’s desire to introduce a bill), whereupon the Speaker proposes the motion for leave to introduce the bill. The following formula is used: “(name of Minister), seconded by (name of Member), moves for leave to introduce a bill entitled ‘An Act to …’ ”.151 A motion for leave to introduce a bill is deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put.152 After the motion has been agreed to, the Minister may give a succinct explanation of the bill.153
Immediately after the motion for leave to introduce a bill is adopted, the Speaker proposes to the House, “That this bill be now read a first time and be printed”.154 This motion is also deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put.155 A Table Officer then rises and declares, “First reading of this bill/Première lecture de ce projet de loi”.156 The Speaker completes the process by routinely asking, “When shall the bill be read a second time?” and stating, “At the next sitting of the House”. The House thus agrees to delay second reading of a bill without the adoption of a motion.157 The expression “next sitting of the House”, when used to state the time that a question is ordered to stand over, means the bill is placed on the Order Paper under “Orders of the Day” for a second reading at a future sitting. The government determines the order in which government legislation is called.
No bill can be read a second time on the same day as introduction and first reading without a special order or the unanimous consent of the House.158 The one exception to this rule is for the passage of appropriation bills at all stages on the last allotted day in a supply period.159
A government bill may be introduced only by a Minister. A government bill standing on the Order Paper in one Minister’s name may be moved on his or her behalf by another Minister since the bill is considered an initiative of the entire Cabinet.160 If the Minister does not wish to introduce the bill when the rubric is called, the bill remains on the Order Paper for introduction and first reading at a later date. Although the usual practice is for the government to have a Minister second a motion to introduce a government bill, it is not mandatory;161 another Member may be chosen as the seconder for a bill.
Statements by Ministers
The third item under Routine Proceedings is “Statements by Ministers”. Under this rubric, Ministers make announcements or statements on government policy or matters of national interest.162 Following the ministerial statement, a spokesperson from each recognized party in opposition is permitted to respond.163 “Statements by Ministers” may be accompanied by a moment of silence, which, after consultation among the parties, is usually observed following the responses to the statement.164
This rubric is of recent origin, though the practice of receiving statements from Ministers has been well established for years. At Confederation, no provision existed in the written rules for the kind of ministerial statements that are now possible. Nonetheless, beginning in 1867, Ministers rose from time to time just before Orders of the Day to make presentations on matters of government policy or public interest.165 In addition, until at least 1915, Prime Ministers frequently made statements to explain changes in the membership of the Cabinet.166 Representatives of the opposition parties routinely responded to policy statements, while ministerial changes traditionally elicited comments from the Leader of the Opposition.
As the number of policy statements increased, House practice became more defined; by the early 1950s, it had become customary to allow only party leaders to respond to the statements. By 1959, not only had the practice reverted from allowing responses only from party leaders to allowing responses from one speaker from each of the opposition parties, but also statements took place under the rubric “Motions” during Routine Proceedings, instead of just before Orders of the Day. A further modification to the practice occurred that year when the Speaker advised the House that he considered unacceptable any opposition responses that “went beyond the length of the statement itself”.167
In 1964, a Standing Order was adopted both to formalize the tradition of making statements under “Motions” and to provide guidelines by which the procedure could be regulated. The new rule allowed for factual pronouncements of government policy which did not provoke debate. It also codified the existing practice of responses by opposition parties.168 This last aspect of the rule later provoked a discussion on the question of what constituted a party for the purposes of the Standing Order, with some Members citing the Senate and House of Commons Act (now known as the Parliament of Canada Act), which provided additional allowances to leaders of parties with more than 12 Members. In the end, the Speaker concluded that, until the House defined more precisely who could respond to a ministerial statement, the Chair would be guided by practice, which had long allowed each party, but not independent Members, an opportunity to comment on ministerial statements.169
These guidelines remained in effect until 1975 when, on the recommendation of a procedure committee, the way in which ministerial statements were commented upon was modified to allow both comments by opposition representatives and questions by Members in general. At the same time, the Speaker was given full discretion in limiting the time taken up by such proceedings, which would now be conducted under a newly created item in Routine Proceedings called “Statements by Ministers”.170 In the beginning, the new procedure worked well, although before long it became lengthy and difficult to regulate, so much so that the making of policy statements and announcements in the House fell into disuse in order, it seems, to preserve valuable House time for other government business.171
Following the recommendations of two special committees examining procedural reforms in the early and mid-1980s, the House made several changes to the conduct of “Statements by Ministers”. Rules were proposed to encourage Ministers to make public through the House any announcements of government policy by eliminating the “mini-question period” that generally followed a statement, and permitting only a comment by a representative of each opposition party.172 These changes were finally adopted on a provisional basis in June 1985 and in February 1986, and made permanent in June 1987.173 The new rules also adjusted the schedule of the sitting so as to preserve the amount of time reserved for Government Orders and Private Members’ Business by extending the sitting, if necessary beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, by the amount of time taken by the statement.174
In 2001, the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons looked into concerns expressed by many Members that government announcements regarding legislation or policies were increasingly being made outside the House of Commons. To remedy the situation, the Committee recommended that Ministers and their departments make greater use of the forum provided by the House and that more statements and announcements be made by Ministers in the House during “Statements by Ministers”. The Committee also suggested reordering the items under Routine Proceedings to call for the “Introduction of Government Bills” prior to “Statements by Ministers”. The Committee was of the view that this change “would encourage Ministers to give brief explanations of their legislation in the House, following introduction”.175 The concurrence in the Special Committee’s report led to the rearrangement of the Routine Proceedings rubrics to their present order.
During “Statements by Ministers”, Ministers are expected to make brief and factual statements on government policy or announcements of national interest.176 Members speaking on behalf of parties recognized by the House are normally the ones who speak in response to a Minister’s statement. However, with the unanimous consent of the House, independent Members have been allowed to respond.177 In responding to the statement, Members are not permitted to engage in debate or ask questions of the Minister.178 The length of each response may not exceed the length of the Minister’s statement; Members who exceed this length are interrupted by the Speaker.179 The rules provide no explicit limitation of time allotted to the Minister or the overall time to be taken for these proceedings, although the duration of the proceedings can be limited at the discretion of the Chair.180
A Minister is under no obligation to make a statement in the House. The decision of a Minister to make an announcement outside the House instead of making a statement in the House during Routine Proceedings has sometimes been raised as a question of privilege, but the Chair has consistently found no grounds to support a claim that any privilege has been breached.181
It is customary as a courtesy for Ministers to advise opposition critics in advance of their intention to make a statement in the House. However, should no such warning be given, custom does not prohibit a Minister from making a statement.182
The length of time taken up by a Minister’s statement and opposition replies is added to the time provided for Government Orders on the day on which the statement is made. Accordingly, the hour for Private Members’ Business, where applicable, and the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, including the Adjournment Proceedings, may be delayed.183
Presenting Reports from Interparliamentary Delegations
“Presenting Reports from Interparliamentary Delegations” is the fourth rubric under Routine Proceedings. This item was created in 1986 following a recommendation of a special committee to provide a means by which interparliamentary delegations could report their work to the House.184
In the course of conducting parliamentary diplomacy, Members frequently travel abroad or within Canada on officially recognized interparliamentary delegations as representatives of both the House and Parliament. An officially recognized interparliamentary delegation is a delegation that is composed in whole or in part of Members of the House of Commons and has been appointed and funded either by the Speaker or by a recognized parliamentary association to represent the House or that association at an official interparliamentary activity either in Canada or abroad.
A parliamentary association is an international association whose Canadian component is composed of both Members and Senators, which provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information and for the sharing of knowledge and experience through person-to-person contact.185 The main activities of these associations include exchanges, conferences and seminars on various subjects. Parliament is a participant in 12 official parliamentary associations:
- Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association;
- Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association;
- Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association (NATO PA);
- Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA);
- Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU);
- Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF);
- Canadian Section of ParlAmericas;186
- Canada-France Interparliamentary Association;
- Canada-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Association;
- Canada-China Legislative Association;
- Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group; and
- Canada-Japan Inter-parliamentary Group.
These associations choose delegates to participate in and host international meetings, seminars and conferences with counterpart countries. Each association, operating under an established constitution, elects a number of parliamentarians from its membership to form an Executive Committee. Membership fees for international associations and the operating expenses for each parliamentary association are shared between the Senate (30 per cent) and the House of Commons (70 per cent). Administrative support for parliamentary associations is provided through the International and Interparliamentary Affairs Directorate.
In addition to these parliamentary associations, the Canadian Parliament also has four officially recognized interparliamentary groups established to increase mutual understanding between Canada and another country through bilateral exchanges, whose Canadian component is composed of both Senators and Members. The four interparliamentary groups are:
- Canada-Germany Interparliamentary Group;
- Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Group;
- Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group; and
- Canada-Italy Interparliamentary Group.
Interparliamentary groups receive some administrative support from the Senate and the House of Commons, but do not receive funds to cover meeting and travel expenses. Their revenue comes from the membership fees they receive from individual parliamentarians, and they may obtain external funding.187
Within 20 sitting days of its return, each interparliamentary delegation is required to present to the House a report on its activities on any trip taken in fulfillment of its duties abroad.188 The report typically includes the names of the Members who participated in the delegation, the travel dates, and information on the delegation’s activities and travel expenses. When “Presenting Reports from Interparliamentary Delegations” is called by the Speaker during Routine Proceedings, the head of the delegation, or a Member acting on his or her behalf, rises and presents the report.189 The Member may comment briefly on the content of the report at this time; no debate is permitted.190 The report is recorded as a sessional paper and as such is open to public review.191
The Speaker has also presented reports after official visits abroad by parliamentary delegations headed by a Presiding Officer.192 These reports are normally presented at the beginning of Routine Proceedings.
Presenting Reports from Committees
Any information to be transmitted to the House from standing, special or legislative committees and standing or special joint committees of the House must be presented by way of a report. Committees submit reports on a variety of subjects, including:
- studies and subject matter inquiries;
- matters concerning the mandate, management and operation of the departments assigned to them;
- Order in Council appointments and nominations;
- delegated legislation; and
- provisions in statutes requiring a review.
The fifth item under Routine Proceedings is “Presenting Reports from Committees”, one of the original rubrics provided for in the rules of the House at the time of Confederation. When the Speaker calls this rubric, the committee Chair, or in his or her absence a Member of the committee (usually a vice-chair),193 once recognized by the Speaker, rises in his or her place to present the report and to provide “a succinct explanation of the subject matter of the report”.194 If the committee has adopted a motion to request a response from the government to its report, that request is communicated by the Member at that time.195 In addition to hard copies of reports being tabled in both official languages, reports have also been presented in alternative forms of media, such as on a floppy disk, audio cassette, video cassette or CD-ROM, or even printed in Braille or large print.196
While there is no provision in the Standing Orders for the tabling of minority reports,197 since April 1991 committees have been permitted to append supplementary or dissenting opinions or recommendations to their reports.198 Following the presentation of the report and any statement offered by the committee Chair or presenting Member, a committee member representing the Official Opposition, speaking on behalf of those who support the opinions expressed in the appended material, may provide a brief explanation of these views.199 No other Member may comment on the report at this time.200
A motion to concur in a committee report may be moved during Routine Proceedings under “Motions”, provided that it was placed on the Notice Paper 48 hours in advance.201 After presenting a report, a committee Chair may advise that he or she intends to move concurrence in it later in the sitting, with the unanimous consent of the House. Unanimous consent for committee reports is usually granted on non-controversial matters.202 When the rubric “Motions” is called, the committee Chair rises and seeks the unanimous consent of the House to move concurrence. A Table Officer has, upon request, read the report aloud.203
Introduction of Private Members’ Bills
Any public bill sponsored by a Member who is not a Minister may be introduced under this rubric. This rubric was created in June 1987 when “Introduction of Bills” was divided into “Introduction of Government Bills” and “Introduction of Private Members’ Bills”.204 The notice period is identical to the notice required for bills introduced by the government.205 When the Speaker calls “Introduction of Private Members’ Bills”, Members wishing to introduce a bill signal their desire to proceed at that point. If the Member is not in the House or is not ready to introduce the bill, the bill remains on the Order Paper. However, with the unanimous consent of the House, a Member other than the sponsor of the bill may move the introduction of the bill on behalf of the sponsor.206 After the Speaker identifies a seconder for the bill, the motion for leave to introduce is deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put.207 Where a Minister generally forgoes the opportunity of commenting briefly on a bill at this stage, a private Member will invariably do so.208 The Chair may interrupt the explanation if the Member is engaging in debate.209
After the Member has commented briefly on the bill, the Speaker proposes to the House that the bill be read a first time and printed. This motion is also deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put.210 A Table Officer then rises and declares, “First reading of this bill/Première lecture de ce projet de loi”. The Speaker completes the process by routinely asking, “When shall the bill be read a second time?” and stating, “At the next sitting of the House”. The bill is then placed on the Order Paper under “Private Members’ Business”, where it is set down for a second reading.211
First Reading of Senate Public Bills
Under Routine Proceedings, “First Reading of Senate Public Bills” is called between “Introduction of Private Members’ Bills” and “Motions”. Prior to 1910, public bills emanating from the Senate were read a first time under the rubric “Motions”. The rubric “First Reading of Senate Bills” was created in April 1910 and immediately followed “Introduction of Bills”.212
When a Senate public bill has been passed by the Senate, a message is sent so informing the House and requesting its concurrence in the measure. This message is received by the Clerk of the House, and the Speaker makes the announcement of its contents at the first convenient opportunity.213 The Speaker reads the message, stating, “I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that it has passed the following bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired. Bill …”. There is no need for a motion for leave to introduce the bill since the House of Commons receives the bill along with the message from the Senate and is therefore already in possession of it. The bill is then placed on the Order Paper under “First Reading of Senate Public Bills” in Routine Proceedings.214
If the Member or Minister215 sponsoring the bill in the House of Commons signals his or her desire to proceed with the bill when “First Reading of Senate Public Bills” is called by the Speaker during Routine Proceedings, the question that the bill be now read a first time is deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put.216 Since a Senate public bill is already printed when it is introduced in the House, there is no need to order that it be printed again. A Member sponsoring a Senate public bill may comment on it briefly at first reading.217 If the Member or Minister sponsoring the bill in the House is not present or is not ready to move first reading of the bill when the heading is called, then the bill remains on the Order Paper for first reading at a later sitting. In the case of private Members’ bills, with the unanimous consent of the House, a Member other than the sponsor of the bill may move first reading of the bill on behalf of the sponsor. In the case of government bills, a bill standing in the name of one Minister may be moved on his or her behalf by another Minister. If no Member chooses to sponsor a bill emanating from the Senate, no further action is taken following the reading of the message from the Senate. The bill remains on the Order Paper under “First Reading of Senate Public Bills”.
After the motion for first reading is adopted, the Speaker routinely asks, “When shall the bill be read a second time?” and states, “At the next sitting of the House.” The House agrees to this without a formal motion and the order for second reading is placed on the Order Paper under Government Orders if the bill is sponsored by a Minister,218 or under “Private Members’ Business” at the bottom of the order of precedence if the bill is sponsored by a private Member.219
“Motions” was one of four items provided for in Routine Proceedings at the time of Confederation.220 Over the years, various kinds of motions once considered under this rubric have been categorized and assigned their own place in the daily program, including private Members’ motions, motions to introduce bills, and motions to adjourn under Standing Order 52 (emergency debates). For example, until 1906, bills were introduced under this heading.221 Moreover, it was not until 1964 that the House adopted a new Standing Order to provide a separate rubric for ministerial statements, which had been taking place under “Motions”.222 In 1975, the items under Routine Proceedings were once again reordered so that “Government Notices of Motions”223 and “Motions” were the last two items to be considered during Routine Proceedings. By moving “Motions” to the bottom of the list, the House was no longer prevented from reaching the other rubrics because of lengthy debates.224 In 1987, the item “Government Notices of Motions” was dropped.225
Before the Standing Orders were changed in 2005,226 there was no distinction between motions for concurrence in a committee report and other routine motions. In fact, the provisions transferring the debate on any motion that has been adjourned or interrupted to Government Orders were applied almost exclusively to concurrence motions.227 As if to confirm the fears expressed in 1965 when the transfer provisions came into effect, the government rarely resumed debate on a motion first proposed by a private Member during Routine Proceedings.228 In order to resolve the situation, the House adopted an amendment to its Standing Orders making it mandatory that debate resume in relatively short order, but set a three-hour limit on the length of the debate and restricted the number of concurrence motions that could be moved in one sitting. In addition, debate on motions that has been adjourned or interrupted was to be resumed at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment (the sitting day having been designated by the government), rather than taking time away from Government Orders.229
Different categories of business have been developed over the years in response to the need to adapt to the organization of House business. Some categories are now uniquely reserved for the government or the opposition; some are reserved for private Members, and still others are reserved for items which affect the transaction of routine business of the House. As a general rule, motions dealing with matters of substance or government policy are moved either by Ministers under Government Orders or by Members under Private Members’ Business, or during the business of supply. The kinds of motions permissible under “Motions” have been narrowed to consist primarily of motions for concurrence in committee reports and motions relating to the sittings and proceedings of the House.230
The Government House Leader usually introduces any motion pertaining to the arrangement of House business.231 These motions may be considered under “Motions” or under Government Orders, as determined by the Minister giving notice.232 The Chair has ruled that while the rubric “Motions” “usually encompasses matters related to the management of the business of the House and its committees, it is not the exclusive purview of the government, despite the government’s unquestioned prerogative to determine the agenda of business before the House”.233 Accordingly, the Speaker accepts certain motions put on notice by private Members for consideration under the heading “Motions”, such as motions of instruction to committees and for concurrence in committee reports.234 When private Members give written notice of other substantive matters, these motions are placed under Private Members’ Business on the Order Paper.235
When the Speaker calls “Motions” during Routine Proceedings, any Member or Minister may rise and move a motion, if it has been placed on the Notice Paper 48 hours in advance. If a Member or a Minister who has given notice of a motion is not in the House or does not wish to move it, the matter will stand on the Order Paper. The motions considered under this heading may be moved without notice by unanimous consent and adopted without debate.236
Examples of motions moved under this heading include those to:
- manage the proceedings and business of the House or its committees;237
- change the order of business of the House;238
- arrange the times or days of sitting of the House;239
- amend the Standing Orders;240
- suspend the Standing Orders;241
- discharge an order of the House;242
- concur in a committee report or a report by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner;243
- authorize a committee to travel;244
- establish a special committee;245
- instruct a committee to do something;246
- alter the membership of a committee;247
- appoint Officers of the House or Parliament;248
- extend messages to another country;249 and
- censure Chair Occupants.250
Although motions of congratulations have been moved under this rubric, the Speaker has warned the House against this practice.251
After a motion has been read to the House by the Chair, debate begins and amendments may be moved to it; the normal rules of debate apply. During debate, if a motion “That the House do now proceed to the Orders of the Day” is moved and adopted, the motion being debated is superseded and dropped from the Order Paper.252 When debate on any motion considered during Routine Proceedings is adjourned or interrupted (either by the normal adjournment of the sitting on Mondays, for Statements by Members on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or for Private Members’ Business on Wednesdays and Fridays), the order for resumption of the debate is transferred to the Order Paper under Government Orders,253 with the exception of debate on a concurrence motion.254 The motion will consequently be considered again only under Government Orders in such sequence as the government determines.255
Motions for the Proposed Appointment of an Officer of Parliament
When the government informs the House, by tabling a certificate of nomination for appointment, that it intends to appoint an Officer of Parliament, the Clerk of the House, the Parliamentary Librarian or the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the name of the proposed appointee is deemed referred to the appropriate standing committee.256 The committee has the option of considering the appointment.257 If it chooses to do so, the Standing Orders authorize the committee to consider the appointment for a period of not more than 30 days following the tabling of a document in the House concerning the proposed appointment. The committee is not obliged to report to the House on the appointment, even if it has been examined.
Not later than the expiry of the 30-day period provided, a notice of motion to ratify the appointment is placed on the Notice Paper under “Notices of Motions”, whether the committee has reported to the House or not. The motion is transferred to the Order Paper 48 hours after being put on notice. The government is not required to move the motion at the first opportunity when the rubric “Motions” under Routine Proceedings is called. It may move the motion under this rubric on any sitting day it sees fit. The motion, when moved, is to be decided without debate or amendment.
The notice of motion to ratify the appointment may be given at any time during this 30-day period, whether the committee has reported to the House or not, and the motion may be adopted before the end of this period.258
Motions for Concurrence in Committee Reports
Motions that call for concurrence in committee reports are listed on the Order Paper under “Motions” in Routine Proceedings after a 48-hour notice period.259 Any Member may give notice of a motion for concurrence in a committee report, and more than one Member may give notice of a motion to concur in the same committee report.260 However, as with any notice of motion not sponsored by a Minister, the Member who placed the notice on the Order Paper is the only one who may move the motion. In the absence of the sponsor, another Member may move the motion on the sponsor’s behalf only with the unanimous consent of the House.261
As noted above, a motion to concur in a committee report may be moved without prior notice with the unanimous consent of the House, usually during the sitting in which the committee report is presented.262 Normally, the Member presenting the report states that he or she will seek the leave of the House to move concurrence in the report later that day when the rubric “Motions” is called; the report of the committee may be considered with leave of the House at that time. These reports often pertain to the powers, sittings or membership of a committee and are typically adopted without debate.263
A motion for concurrence in a committee report is debatable. No amendment may be presented to the text of the report, but a motion may be presented to recommit the report to the committee.264 If debate is interrupted or adjourned, the motion is not transferred to Government Orders, unlike other motions presented during Routine Proceedings. Instead, it is transferred to the section “Concurrence in Committee Reports” under “Orders of the Day” on the Order Paper, and debate resumes at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on a day designated by the government, after consultations with the other parties. The day designated for the resumption of debate may not be more than 10 sitting days after the initial debate was interrupted or adjourned.265 A Minister usually rises in the House to announce the designation.266 If no day has been designated, debate is automatically scheduled for the 10th sitting day.267
After a total of three hours of debate (which includes both the initial debate and the resumed debate), or when no Member rises to speak, whichever comes first, the Speaker puts the question on the motion. In cases where there is no interruption or adjournment, a recorded division may be held immediately or deferred.268 If a recorded division is requested on a day of resumed debate, it is automatically deferred to the following Wednesday on which the House sits to a time not later than the end of Government Orders. Dilatory motions may be proposed when a motion for concurrence in a committee report is under debate.269
Only one motion for concurrence in a committee report may be moved on any sitting day. When two or more Members rise to move a concurrence motion on the same day, the Speaker proposes the motion that was submitted on notice first.270
Routine Motions for Which Unanimous Consent Has Been Denied
A rule adopted in April 1991 allows the House to consider any routine motion for which written notice has not been provided and whose presentation requires, but has not been granted, unanimous consent.271 A routine motion is defined in the Standing Orders as one “which may be required for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment”.272 When consent has previously been denied for the moving of such a motion, a Minister may rise under “Motions” during Routine Proceedings to request that the Speaker propose the question to the House.273 The Speaker puts the question without debate or amendment.274 The Speaker then asks those opposed to the motion to rise in their places. If 25 Members or more rise to object, the motion is deemed withdrawn;275 otherwise, the motion is adopted.276 Since 1991, Standing Order 56.1 has been invoked on various occasions, and its use has been the subject of numerous points of order.277
Motions Concerning Committee Travel Moved by a Minister
In conducting its business, a committee may decide to meet outside the Parliamentary Precinct. A committee may travel, however, only if it has first been authorized to do so by the House and, in the case of standing committees, if funds for travel have been approved by the Liaison Committee.278 In the vast majority of cases, authorization to travel is granted by unanimous consent, although it may also be permitted by means of concurrence in a committee report or a routine motion moved by a Minister for which unanimous consent has already been denied.279
In addition, in 2001 the House adopted a new rule providing for a distinct process with respect to the power of a committee to adjourn from place to place.280 A Minister may now give 48 hours’ notice of a routine motion for a committee to travel to assist with its studies. After the notice period has expired, the question on the motion is put forthwith, without debate or amendment, during Routine Proceedings.281
When putting the question, the Speaker will ask those who object to rise in their places. If 10 or more Members then rise, the motion shall be deemed withdrawn; otherwise, the motion is deemed adopted.282 Since coming into effect in 2001, this Standing Order has never been invoked.283
A Member wishing to present paper or electronic petitions284 in the House may do so in one of two ways: at any time during a sitting of the House, a Member may file a petition with the Clerk of the House, who enters it into the Journals for that sitting;285 or a Member may present the petition in the House during Routine Proceedings when the rubric “Presenting Petitions” is called by the Speaker.286 Regardless of the method used, the Member must sign the back of the petition.287 Before being presented, a paper or electronic petition must be examined and certified correct as to form and content by the Clerk of Petitions.288 If the petition meets the requirements specified in the Standing Orders, a Member may decide to deposit the petition with the Clerk, or to present it after being recognized by the Speaker under this rubric during Routine Proceedings. The Member may then give a brief statement to inform the House of the petition’s content.
The period provided for “Presenting Petitions” is not to exceed 15 minutes.289 The Speaker recognizes a Member only once during this period; if a Member has more than one petition to present, they must all be presented when the Member is given the floor.290 The Member may summarize the prayer (or request) of the petition, state the parties from whom it comes and the number of signatures it contains.291 The Member may not make a speech or enter into debate on or in relation to the petition.292 The petition itself is not read.293 When a significant number of Members wish to present petitions, the Chair may encourage them to limit the length of their statements or even interrupt them to recognize other Members.294 It has long been deemed irregular for the Speaker to present a petition; an obliging colleague usually does it instead, or the petition is deposited with the Clerk.295
Once presented or deposited with the Clerk, the petitions are referred to the government, or more specifically to the Privy Council Office, by the Clerk of the House. The Privy Council Office ensures that the appropriate government department or agency prepares and collects the responses to the petitions. The Standing Order does not specify the form of the responses to the petitions. Written responses are tabled during Routine Proceedings under the rubric “Tabling of Documents”, or they may be filed with the Clerk of the House during a sitting.296
If a response from the government has not been received within 45 calendar days, the matter of the failure to respond is deemed referred to a standing committee chosen by the Member who presented the petition.297 The Chair of that committee must then convene a meeting to consider the failure of the government to respond.298
Questions on the Order Paper
The final rubric of Routine Proceedings is “Questions on the Order Paper”.299 A Member wishing to submit a written question must give 48 hours’ notice before it is placed on the Order Paper.300 Any Member may have a maximum of four questions to a Minister on the Order Paper at any one time in order to elicit information “relating to public affairs” for which the Minister’s department is responsible.301 A Member may also ask the government to respond to the question within 45 calendar days by so indicating when filing the question.302 On rare occasions, a Member may ask that an oral answer be provided during Routine Proceedings; the House refers to such questions as “starred questions” because they are followed by an asterisk. Members may attach an asterisk to no more than three of the four questions they are allowed to add to the Order Paper.303 All questions are assigned a number when they are submitted. A question is transferred to the Order Paper the day after it appears in the Notice Paper.
When the Speaker calls “Questions on the Order Paper” during Routine Proceedings, a Minister, or more usually the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, rises in his or her place to announce which questions the government intends to answer on that particular day. The government may answer written questions in one of two ways. First, the Parliamentary Secretary may simply indicate to the House the number of the question being answered,304 and the text of the answer appears in the Debates.305 If an oral reply has been requested, the Parliamentary Secretary may give the answer orally, or may seek the consent of the House to deem the question answered without actually reading aloud the text of the answer; the answer is published in the Debates.306 Alternatively, the Parliamentary Secretary may request the House to transform a certain question into an “order for return”; that is, the House orders the government to table a document which will serve as a response to the question. This is normally done when the reply is too lengthy to be easily printed in the Debates. If there is agreement from the House to proceed in this way, the tabled response is filed with the Clerk as a sessional paper, open to public review; the text of the response does not appear in the Debates.307 If there were no agreement, the government would proceed to read the answer (in the case of a starred question), choose not to reply to the question on that day308 or have the Minister table the answer later in the sitting, given that ministers do not need the agreement of the House to do so.309
After the designated Parliamentary Secretary or Minister has enumerated the questions that the government will answer on a given day, he or she will then ask the House to stand the remaining unanswered questions. This allows the questions to retain their position on the Order Paper; otherwise, the unanswered questions would be struck from the Order Paper.310 It is at this time that Members raise any concerns they have about their questions and request information about the status of the reply.
If the government fails to answer an Order Paper question for which a Member has requested an answer within 45 calendar days, the matter of the failure of the Ministry to respond is deemed referred to a standing committee chosen by the Member who submitted the question.311 Although the question remains on the Order Paper, it is designated as referred to committee. The Chair of the committee is required to convene a meeting of the committee within five sitting days of the referral, and the committee may then investigate the failure of the government to respond to the written question and report to the House. However, the committee is not required to report to the House or follow a specific process in considering the matter. The Member whose question was referred to committee may then submit another question, but is still restricted to a maximum of four “non-referred” questions at any one time. Finally, if the Member does not wish to have the question transferred to committee, the Member may rise during Routine Proceedings under “Questions on the Order Paper” and give notice of his or her intention to have the subject matter of the question transferred to the Adjournment Proceedings.312 The question is then removed from the Order Paper, along with the order referring it to committee.313
Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers
The rubric “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers” is called only on Wednesdays,314 following Routine Proceedings. Ministers are required by statute to table various documents relating to their departmental responsibilities.315 On occasion, however, a Member may want to see papers that are not required by law to be tabled. In such instances, the Member may place on the Notice Paper notice of a special type of motion requesting that the government compile or produce certain papers or documents and table them in the House. After the 48 hours’ notice requirement, such notices of motions are transferred to the Order Paper under the heading “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers”.
In the early years of Confederation, motions for papers were treated in the same way as other private Members’ motions. They were called only on Private Members’ Days and had priority only according to the date on which they were put on the Order Paper. Because the House rarely considered these motions, a custom developed whereby motions for papers were called by consent and passed in a block.
In 1910, a new procedure for obtaining papers was introduced.316 A mechanism was created to allow any Member to move a motion for the production of papers without debate. This was done under “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers”, which had precedence over the existing item “Notices of Motions”. Notices of motions for the production of papers were disposed of at once when called. If a Member or Minister wished to have a debate on a motion, it would be transferred for debate under “Notices of Motions”.
In 1955, an amendment to the Standing Orders listed “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers” as an item formally on the daily agenda of business. It also guaranteed that motions for papers would be reached on days designated at the time as Private Members’ Days.317
Provisional changes to the Standing Orders in 1961318 which were made permanent in 1962319 subsequently provided that “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers” would be called only on Wednesdays, after Routine Proceedings. These changes also provided that notices of motions for the production of papers transferred for debate would be listed under a new specific category called “Notices of Motions (Papers)” under Private Members’ Business. This procedure is still being used today, although Members have seldom chosen to place notices of motions (papers) on the order of precedence for Private Members’ Business.320
Manner in Which Notices Are Called
Notices of motions for the production of papers resemble written questions in that they are requests for information from the government. All such motions are worded in the form of either an order of the House (“That an Order of the House do issue …”) or an address to the Crown (“That a humble Address be presented to his/her Excellency praying that he/she will cause to be laid before the House of Commons …”). Thus, a motion, if adopted, becomes either an order that the government table (“produce”) certain documents in the House or an address to the Governor General requesting that certain papers be sent to the House. An order of the House is used for papers concerning matters directly related to federal departments or House business. Addresses are formal messages to the Crown through which the House requests the production of documents in the Crown’s possession, such as correspondence between the federal and other governments, Orders in Council, and papers concerning the administration of justice, the conduct of judges and the exercise of the prerogatives of the Crown.321 Motions for papers should be prepared carefully and state clearly and definitely the exact information required.322 The Speaker is responsible for ensuring that the motion before the House is in proper form; that is, it is the appropriate motion to do what is sought to be done.323
When this rubric is called by the Speaker on Wednesdays, one of several outcomes may take place for each of the notices of motions called:324
- Motion acceptable to government
A Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary325 rises and states that the notice of motion is acceptable to the government. The Speaker then asks the House if it wishes to have the motion deemed adopted. If the House agrees, the motion is carried without debate or amendment. This becomes an order for the government to produce the document (a “return”) either immediately or at a later date.326 If the House does not agree, the motion must either be transferred for debate327 or be put immediately to the House without debate or amendment.
- Motion acceptable to government with reservations
A Minister or Parliamentary Secretary rises and states that a notice of motion is acceptable to the government subject to certain reservations (confidentiality, for instance). The Speaker then asks the House if it wishes to have the motion deemed adopted. If the House agrees, the motion is carried without debate or amendment. This becomes an order for the government to produce either immediately or at a later date only those papers or documents not subject to the reservation.328 If the House does not agree, the motion must either be transferred for debate329 or be put immediately to the House without debate or amendment.
- Motion not acceptable to government; Member is asked to withdraw the notice
A Minister or Parliamentary Secretary rises, states that a notice of motion is not acceptable to the government and asks that the Member withdraw the notice. If the Member agrees, the motion is withdrawn.330 Otherwise, either the Member sponsoring the item or a Minister may then ask that the motion be transferred for debate.331 There have been numerous occasions when the sponsor has not been present in the House, but a request was made anyway to have a notice of motion withdrawn.332 In the absence of the sponsor, an alternative way of proceeding would be for a Minister, once a notice of motion is called, to request immediately that it be transferred for debate. When a request to transfer is made, the motion is transferred, without debate or amendment, to a section on the Order Paper under Private Members’ Business entitled “Notices of Motions (Papers)” on the list of items outside the order of precedence. It may be subject to debate at a subsequent time if its sponsor chooses to place it on the order of precedence. If no request is made that the motion once called be transferred for debate, the motion must be put immediately to the House without debate or amendment.333
- Member asks that notice be called
A Member rises and requests the Speaker to call his or her notice of motion. The Member or a Minister may request that it be transferred for debate under Private Members’ Business.334 The motion is then transferred, without debate or amendment, to a section on the Order Paper under Private Members’ Business entitled “Notices of Motions (Papers)” on the list of items outside the order of precedence. It may be subject to debate at a subsequent time if its sponsor places it on the order of precedence. If neither the Member nor the Minister requests that it be transferred for debate, the motion must be put immediately to the House without debate or amendment. If the motion is adopted, it becomes an order of the House that the document be produced either immediately or at a later date.335
- Notices allowed to stand
A Minister or Parliamentary Secretary rises and asks that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand and retain their place on the Order Paper.336 This is what most often occurs when the rubric is called. If the House has dealt with some of the notices, the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary asks that the remaining notices be allowed to stand.
Responses to Orders for the Production of Papers
In 1973, the government tabled in the House of Commons its views on the general principles governing “Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers”.337 Although not formally approved by the House, these principles have been followed since then:338
To enable Members of Parliament to secure factual information about the operations of government to carry out their parliamentary duties and to make public as much factual information as possible consistent with effective administration, the protection of the security of the state, rights to privacy and other such matters, government papers, documents and consultant reports should be produced on Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers unless falling within the categories outlined below, in which case an exemption is to be claimed from production.
The following criteria are to be applied in determining if government papers or documents should be exempt from production:
- Legal opinion or advice provided for the use of the government;
- Papers, the release of which would be detrimental to the security of the State;
- Papers dealing with international relations, the release of which might be detrimental to the future conduct of Canada’s foreign relations (the release of papers received from other countries to be subject to the consent of the originating country);
- Papers, the release of which might be detrimental to the future conduct of federal-provincial relations or the relations of provinces inter se (the release of papers received from provinces to be subject to the consent of the originating province);
- Papers containing information, the release of which could allow or result in direct personal financial gain or loss by a person or a group of persons;
- Papers reflecting on the personal competence or character of an individual;
- Papers of a voluminous character or which would require an inordinate cost or length of time to prepare;
- Papers relating to the business of the Senate;
- Papers, the release of which would be personally embarrassing to Her Majesty or the Royal Family or official representatives of Her Majesty;
- Papers relating to negotiations leading up to a contract until the contract has been executed or the negotiations have been concluded;
- Papers that are excluded from disclosure by statute;
- Cabinet documents and those documents which include a Privy Council confidence;
- Any proceedings before a court of justice or a judicial inquiry of any sort;
- Papers that are private or confidential and not of a public or official character;
- Internal departmental memoranda;
- Papers requested, submitted or received in confidence by the government from sources outside the government.
Ministers’ correspondence of a personal nature, or dealing with constituency or general political matters, should not be identified with government papers and therefore should not be subject to production in the House.
In the case of consultant studies, the following guidelines are to be applied:
- Consultant studies, the nature of which is identifiable and comparable to work that would be done within the Public Service, should be treated as such (the reports and also the terms of reference) when consideration is being given to their release.
- Consultant studies, the nature of which is identifiable and comparable to the kind of investigation of public policy for which the alternative would be a Royal Commission, should be treated as such, and both the terms of reference for such studies and the resulting reports should be produced.
- Prior to engaging the services of a consultant, Ministers are to decide in which category the study belongs and in case of doubts are to seek the advice of their colleagues.
- Regardless of the decision as to which category (1 or 2 above) the consultant report will belong, the terms of reference and contract for the consultant study are to ensure that the resulting report comprises two or more volumes, one of which is to be the recommendations while the other volume(s) is (are) to be the facts and the analysis of the study. The purpose of this separation is to facilitate the release of the factual and analytical portions (providing that the material is not covered by the exemptions listed above) enabling the recommendations (which, in the case of studies under category 1, would be exempt from production) to be separated for consideration by Ministers.
Despite these principles enunciated by the government, it is not the role of the Speaker to decide which documents must be tabled or if all documents have been tabled. If a Member is not satisfied with the response, the Member may pursue the matter by means of another motion.339
While there is no time limit on orders to produce papers, if the House has adopted an order for the production of a document, the order should be complied with within a reasonable time.340 However, the Speaker has no power to determine when documents should be tabled.341 A prorogation does not nullify an order for the production of papers.342