Standing Orders and Procedure

The Standing Orders provide for a one-day special debate on the Standing Orders and procedures of the House and its committees early in each Parliament.56 The debate takes place on a day designated by a Minister between the 60th and 90th sitting day of a Parliament.57 If no day is designated, the debate is held on the 90th sitting day.58

Standing Order 51 was agreed to by the House in 1982 on the recommendation of the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure, which believed an opportunity should be provided for Members to “express their views concerning the procedures and Standing Orders of the House”.59 The Standing Order was amended in 2015 to ensure that at the expiry of the time provided for debate, the matter is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.60

Since its adoption, Standing Order 51 has been suspended several times, as Members have been given other forums to debate procedural matters. The first opportunity for a debate under this Standing Order came at the beginning of the Thirty-Third Parliament in 1984. However, well before the required 60th sitting day of the first session had been reached, the House agreed, by unanimous consent, to suspend the Standing Order, presumably because debate to establish a special committee to study reform of the House had recently taken place.61 The First Sessions of the Thirty-Fourth (1988) and Fortieth Parliaments (2008) ended after only 11 and 13 sitting days, respectively, thereby pre-empting the use of the Standing Order. The rule was again suspended in the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994), when the House debated several amendments to the Standing Orders early in the session,62 and in the Thirty-Seventh Parliament (2001), when the House established a special committee to study the modernization and improvement of the Standing Orders.63 In addition, a Special Order was adopted early in the Thirty-Ninth Parliament (2006) deeming the debate pursuant to the Standing Order to have taken place.64

There have been only four debates under this Standing Order. The first took place in the Thirty-Sixth Parliament (1998),65 the second in the Thirty-Eighth Parliament (2005),66 the third in the Forty-First Parliament (2012),67 and the fourth in the Forty-Second Parliament (2016).68 In each case, Members were given an opportunity to discuss the procedures of the House and its committees on a day designated by the Government House Leader.

Rules of Debate

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, the motion before the House in this type of debate is: “That this House take note of the Standing Orders and procedure of the House and its Committees”. Debate on this motion takes precedence over all other business and lasts a maximum of one sitting day. The proceedings on the motion expire when the debate has concluded or at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, whichever comes first.69 The motion is deemed to have been proposed,70 and to encourage participation, no Member may speak more than once or longer than 10 minutes.71 A questions and comments period of not more than five minutes may follow each speech.72 At the expiry of the time provided for debate, the matter is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.