House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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18. Financial Procedures

The Constitution Act, 1867 invests the “Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada” in the Crown, its governor general and the Privy Council for Canada (ss. 9-11), and the lieutenant-governors advised by the Executive Council for each province (ss. 58-67). Appointed by the Crown’s representative, the federal cabinet constitutes the de facto or effective federal executive. However, it has de jure or statutory existence only as the effective part of the Privy Council for Canada (McMenemy, p. 105).
May, 6th ed., p. 546.
Redlich, Vol. III, p. 160. For a detailed description of the development in Canada of the various practices and institutions relevant to the Canadian version of parliamentary control of finance, see Norman Ward, The Public Purse: A Study in Canadian Democracy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962.
May, 22nd ed., pp. 732-3. See also Ward, pp. 3-10.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5.
R.S.C. 1985, c. F-11.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 103.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 54.
Financial Administration Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. F-11, s. 2. Until 1906, the fiscal year ran from July 1 to June 30. (See Debates, May 10, 1906, col. 3065; Journals, June 19, 1906, p. 400, and July 13, 1906, pp. 589-90).
See Standing Order 83.1.
There is no requirement that the government present an annual Budget; however, this has been the practice followed since the mid-1980s. In an effort to introduce an element of certainty into the timing of the Budget, governments have tried, wherever possible, to present their Budget in mid-February, before the Main Estimates are tabled. (Michael Wilson, Minister of Finance, The Canadian Budgetary Process: Proposals for Improvement, Ottawa, Department of Finance, May 1985, pp. 1-8; and Treasury Board of Canada, The Expenditure Management System of the Government of Canada, Ottawa, Supply and Services Canada, 1995, p. 4.) See section below on the “Budget”.
Standing Orders 81(4) and 81(18). Standing Order 81 sets out a precise House schedule for the consideration and disposal of the Business of Supply. If the March 1 deadline is met, the House typically considers and disposes of the Main Estimates for the then fiscal year before it adjourns for the summer. If, because of an unscheduled adjournment or a prorogation or dissolution of Parliament, the March 1 deadline is not met or the Main Estimates are not concurred in by the end of June, the government proposes a new Supply schedule for the approval of the House, usually after negotiations with the parties in opposition. (See, for example, Journals, April 29, 1980, pp. 95-6; April 4, 1989, pp. 20-1; March 4, 1996, pp. 34-5, 39-41; September 23, 1997, p. 14.)
Standing Order 108(3)(e).
This is signified by the Preamble to the British North America Act, which decreed that Canada was to have a constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom. Consequently, the rules of parliamentary procedure as practiced in Britain at that time would serve also to guide proceedings in the Canadian Houses of Parliament. The Act was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867, in 1982. (See also Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”.)
Since 1625, the British Commons’ exclusive right to grant monies has been fully recognized and, since 1678, the Commons have also claimed the sole right to direct how those monies will be spent (Redlich, Vol. III, pp. 115-6). This fundamental principle was firmly established in 1860 when the British Commons refused to acquiesce in the Lords’ rejection of one of its money bills. The House subsequently adopted a resolution affirming its sole right to grant aids and supplies. (Redlich, Vol. III, pp. 116-9. See also section below on “The Commons’ Claim to Predominance in Financial Matters”.)
A Commons rule that all legislation sanctioning expenditure or initiating taxation must be based on resolutions passed in a committee of the Whole House was introduced in the British Parliament in 1667. During the civil wars, these discussions had been undertaken in select committees to escape pressure and management by the Speakers, acting on the King’s behalf. The House of Commons again reverted to Committees of the Whole House because select committees were seen to be too easily swayed by privy councillors and other prominent Members. The 1667 rule actually read: “If any motion be made in the House for any public aid or charge upon the people, the consideration and debate thereon ought not presently to be entered upon but adjourned to such further day as the House shall think fit to appoint; and then it ought to be referred to the Committee of the whole House and their opinion to be reported thereupon, before any resolution or vote of the House do pass therein” (Stewart, p. 99). At Confederation, that rule had been revised to read: “If any motion be made in the house for any aid, grant, or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the consolidated fund, or out of monies to be provided by Parliament, or any charge upon the people…” (May, 6th ed., p. 549).
Redlich, Vol. III, p. 114.
Most of the historical background has been summarized from an article by Elmer A. Driedger entitled “Money Bills and the Senate”, Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 3 (Fall 1968), pp. 25-46. See also May, 6th ed.
Ordinance of 1407 on “The Indemnity of the Lords and Commons” (quoted in Driedger, p. 31).
Hatsell, Vol. III, pp. 122-3. This is the origin of the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Order 80(1) which reads: “All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit, and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate.”
The term “Civil List” was used also in the Canadian colonies.
Redlich, Vol. III, pp. 161-2.
In Canada, this fund is known as the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
In 1715, an Aggregate Fund, which was to be fed by definite sources of income and to bear definite charges of a permanent nature, was instituted under George I. However, it was only with the creation of the Consolidated Fund, in 1786, that the whole revenue of the state would flow into one receptacle from which all expenditures of the state would be discharged (Redlich,Vol. III, pp. 163-4).
Stewart, p. 109.
Redlich, Vol. III, p. 165.
Redlich, Vol. III, pp. 167-8.
Redlich, Vol. III, p. 165.
See also Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 8.
See O’Brien,pp. 89-93, 175-80, 286-92 and 361-63; and Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 9-11.
Journals, November 7, 1867, p. 5.
O’Brien, pp. 92-3.
The Assembly sitting as a committee. See also Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.
O’Brien, p. 176.
Union Act, 1840, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 12. Bourinot goes on to recount how, in 1849, Nova Scotia Governor Sir John Harvey was instructed by the Colonial Office that it was “neither possible nor desirable to carry on the government of any of the British provinces in North America in opposition to the opinions of the inhabitants”.
Bourinot, 1st ed., p. 463.
Lord Durham’s Report: An Abridgement, edited by G.M. Craig, Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1992, pp. 144-5.
Union Act, 1840, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, Arts. L-LVI.
Union Act, 1840, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, Art. LVII.
Union Act, 1840, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, Art. LVII.
O’Brien, p. 361.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 53. The language of Section 53 was first written into Canada’s constitutional documents in the Union Act, 1840, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, Art. LVII.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 54.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, ss. 102 to 106. A similar system was in use in the United Province of Canada at the time of Confederation.
Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 404-5.
Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding of the House of Commons of Canada, 1868, Rule 88.
Journals, March 31, 1874, p. 10; see also 1876 House of Commons Rule 87. Until 1874, the House was first required to agree to a motion, “That supply be granted to Her Majesty”. That motion, proposed immediately following the order to begin debate on the Throne Speech, was the mechanism used to designate a Committee of Supply and to place the Business of Supply on the House agenda. (See also Bourinot, 1st ed., p. 477.)
Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding of the House of Commons of Canada, 1868, Rule 88.

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