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Getting Down to
Business

Infographic

May 26, 2011. The House sits in just one week. With most of their administrative duties attended to, Members start turning their attention to the role and responsibilities they will have in conducting the business of Canada’s democracy.

Sustaining the institution

A week after the administrative orientation session, Members gathered in the Chamber of the House of Commons, many for the first time, for an introduction to parliamentary procedure. The session focused specifically on the first few days in the Chamber—the election of the Speaker, the Speech from the Throne—and outlined general House protocol and decorum. A panel of experienced Members from different political parties gave practical advice to all newly elected Members on how they might maximize their effectiveness in the Chamber and during their work on committees. One of the responsibilities of the House Administration in coordinating this procedural orientation session is to share and explain parliamentary traditions.

Making it official

Before they can take their seat in the Chamber, all Members—whether newly elected or returning for another term—must take an oath of allegiance or make a solemn affirmation to the Queen. The Clerk of the House of Commons performed this ceremony after the certificates confirming the election returns were received from the Chief Electoral Officer.

Before they can officially undertake their work, Members must be ‘sworn in’. They have two options: taking an oath of allegiance, or making a solemn affirmation to the Queen. The obligation to take an oath is found in the Constitution Act, 1867.

Perspective: The Chamber

The Chamber is where elected Members come together to debate issues of national importance and introduce potential new laws. In 2011–2012, 36 government bills were introduced on topics such as agriculture, citizenship and immigration, international trade, national defence, democratic reform and public safety. In addition, 210 private Member’s bills were introduced on issues such as pensions, employment insurance, the Criminal Code, environment, health, immigration, transportation, and income and excise taxes.

All of these activities were presided over by the Speaker of the House, the Honourable Andrew Scheer—the youngest Speaker in Canadian history.

The House Administration supports the Speaker and all the other Members by producing the publications required for a sitting, providing advice on parliamentary procedure, compiling lists of Members who wish to speak during debates, and broadcasting Chamber proceedings on television and the Internet.

Perspective: Committees

Photo of lights on one of the Parliament buildings

In committees, Members investigate the issues that matter to Canadians by studying proposed legislation, examining government spending, conducting inquiries, and receiving input from citizens and other experts. Several kinds of committees exist to advance parliamentary business. In 2011–2012 there were:

  • 24 standing committees—whose role includes overseeing the activities of government departments
  • 2 legislative committees—specifically created to review bills
  • 2 joint committees—which include Members of both the Senate and House
  • subcommittees—created by committees, as required from time to time

Members took part in 889 committee meetings, hearing testimony from 2,670 witnesses and preparing 85 reports. In 2011–2012, topics addressed by committees included:

  • Celebrations for Canada’s 150th anniversary
  • Immigration backlogs and wait times
  • Trade agreements between Canada and the European Union
  • Salmon aquaculture
  • The readiness of the Canadian Forces
  • Oil and gas pipelines and refining capacity
  • Drug and alcohol use in prisons

The House Administration supports Members by preparing notices and agendas in advance of the meeting and minutes after the meeting, by coordinating the production of committee reports, by preparing workplans and making arrangements for future meetings, and by providing on-demand access to committee proceedings through the parliamentary Web site.