The Administrative Setting
Administrative Structures and Services
Although its administrative structure may be described as generally comparable to that of a government department, the House of Commons, the legislative branch, is not a department of the Government of Canada. One of the privileges of the House is its right to independent regulation of its own internal affairs. The House administration exists to support the activities of members individually and collectively in their various roles as legislators in the House, its committees and in international and interparliamentary affairs, as representatives of their constituents and as members of their respective party caucuses. As well as serving members elected for the duration of a Parliament, the administration also serves the House as an institution by ensuring that the services it delivers follow a unified plan and vision and by ensuring the continuity of service and of the expertise and advice available to the House and its members across multiple parliaments.
Overall authority of the Speaker
Elected by fellow members of the House of Commons to preside over proceedings and maintain order and decorum in the chamber, the Speaker is also the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House and the spokesperson for the House in its relations with the Crown, the Senate and other bodies outside Parliament.
The Speaker is also at the head of the administration of the House of Commons and is responsible for its overall direction and management.
Board of Internal Economy
The Board of Internal Economy is the governing body of the House of Commons. It is composed of the Speaker, who acts as Chair, and members from all recognized parties (two members of the Privy Council, the Leader of the Official Opposition—or his or her representative—and additional members appointed so that there are equal number of government and opposition representatives). When Parliament is prorogued or dissolved, members of the Board retain their functions until they are replaced.
- examines and approves the annual budget estimates of the House;
- approves and controls the budget expenditures of the committees of the House, and tables an annual financial report outlining the expenses incurred by each committee; and
- approves salary scales for non-unionized employees and ratifies collective agreements of unionized employees of the House administration.
The Board is authorized to make bylaws governing the use of the funds, goods, services and premises made available to members of Parliament to perform their parliamentary functions.
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs plays an important role in the management of the House of Commons. Its mandate includes, among other things, reviewing and reporting to the House and to the Board of Internal Economy on issues concerning the administration of the House and the provision of services and facilities to members of Parliament. The committee also considers the budgetary estimates of the House of Commons, the main estimates of Elections Canada, the annual report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner pertaining to activities in relation to members of Parliament, and all matters relating to the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Commons: Sexual Harassment between members.
The Clerk and the Clerk’s Management Group
The Clerk is the chief procedural and administrative adviser to the Speaker and to all members of the House of Commons, regardless of their party affiliation.
As chief executive of the House administration, the Clerk reports to the Speaker and is responsible for the day-to-day management of House administration staff. The Clerk also serves as secretary to the Board of Internal Economy and is responsible for implementing the Board’s decisions on behalf of the Speaker.
The Clerk is responsible for the maintenance and custody of records of the proceedings and other documents of the House. All decisions of the House are authenticated by signature of the Clerk. At the beginning of a Parliament, the Clerk administers the oath of allegiance or solemn affirmation to all duly-elected members of Parliament and to members appointed to the Board of Internal Economy.
Reporting to the Clerk are senior officials who are responsible for the various organizational units of the House administration, and who form an executive governing body called the Clerk’s Management Group. The group, which is chaired by the Clerk, makes recommendations to the Speaker and to the Board of Internal Economy regarding the administration of the House and is comprised of: the Deputy Clerk, Procedure, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, the Deputy Clerk, administration, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Human Resources Officer, the Chief Information Officer, the Corporate Security Officer, and the Director General, Parliamentary Precinct Operations.
The Clerk’s Management Group is responsible for:
- Setting strategic directions, priorities and expected results for the House of Commons administration;
- Ensuring that the House administration has the financial and human resources necessary to carry out its mandate;
- Reviewing or approving all policies pertaining to the House administration before they are submitted to the Board of Internal Economy; and
- Ensuring that the House of Commons administration complies with approved policies and directives.
For more information:
- House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, 2017
- Speaker of the House of Commons, House of Commons website
- Board of Internal Economy, House of Commons website
- The Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons website
- The House administration, House of Commons website