House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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1. Parliamentary Institutions

Originally named the British North America Act, 1867, it was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867, in 1982 (Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5). For consistency, all references will be to its new title.
“From the earliest colonial times, the Parliament at Westminster had the power not only to make laws for the United Kingdom, but also to make laws for the overseas territories of the British Empire. In performing the latter function it was known as the imperial Parliament and its enactments were known as imperial statutes” (Hogg, p. 44).
The Preamble of the Constitution begins with “Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion…” and goes on to say, “And whereas such a Union would conduce to the Welfare of the Provinces…” (Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5).
“A reference to the British Parliament, which is built on the site of Westminster Palace in London. Thus, references to “Westminster” or “the Westminster model” are references to the British Parliament and its practices” (McMenemy, p. 320).
See Journals, November 6, 1867, p. 2. For further information on the election of the Speaker, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.
See Journals, November 7, 1867, pp. 3-4. For further information on the Speech from the Throne, see Chapter 15, “Special Debates”.
The following are some of the sources consulted on the evolution and function of Canadian parliamentary institutions: John George Bourinot, Parliamentary Procedure and Practice, with a Review of the Origin, Growth and Operation of Parliamentary Institutions, in the Dominion of Canada, 2nd ed., Montreal: Dawson Brothers, 1892; John George Bourinot, Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 4th ed., edited by Thomas Barnard Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book Co., 1916; Robert MacGregor Dawson, The Government of Canada, 6th ed., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987; Eugene A. Forsey, How Canadians Govern Themselves, 4th ed., Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 1997; C.E.S. Franks, The Parliament of Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987; Peter W. Hogg, Constitutional Law of Canada, 4th ed., Toronto: The Carswell Company Limited, 1997; Robert J. and Doreen Jackson, Politics in Canada: Culture, Institutions, Behaviour and Public Policy, 4th ed., Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, Allyn and Bacon, Canada, 1998; J.R. Mallory, The Structure of Canadian Government, rev. ed., Toronto: Gage, 1984; John McMenemy, The Language of Canadian Politics: A Guide to Important Terms and Concepts, rev. ed., Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1995; John B. Stewart, The Canadian House of Commons: Procedure and Reform, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1977; Richard Van Loon and Michael Whittington, The Canadian Political System: Environment, Structure and Process, 4th ed., Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1987; Richard Van Loon and Michael Whittington, Canadian Government and Politics: Institutions and Processes, Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1996; and Norman Wilding and Philip Laundy, An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, 4th ed., London: Cassell, 1972.
See, for example, B. Murdoch, A History of Nova-Scotia, or Acadie Volume II, Halifax: James Barnes Printer and Publisher, 1866, pp. 351-4.
Although this was not always so, all provincial legislatures are now unicameral. For more information, see G. William Kitchin, “The Abolition of Upper Chambers,” Provincial Government and Politics: Comparative Essays, 2nd ed., edited by Donald C. Rowat, Ottawa: Department of Political Science, Carleton University, Reprinted, 1974, pp. 61-82.
For more information, refer to the sections in this chapter on the “Governor General”, the “Senate” and the “House of Commons”. See also Chapter 4, “The House of Commons and Its Members”.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 9. In practical terms, however, the powers belonging to the Crown are exercised through an executive committee of ministers (Cabinet), chosen and led by a Prime Minister, and “responsible” to the House of Commons for their policies and for the activities of government (see section in this chapter on “Responsible Government and Ministerial Responsibility”).
Forsey, p.1.
For more information, refer to the section in this chapter on “The Executive”.
For more information, refer to the section in this chapter on “Political Parties”.
A political party may be defined as “… any group, however loosely organized, seeking to elect governmental office holders under a given label” (Leon Epstein, quoted in Van Loon and Whittington, The Canadian Political System, p. 305). Official party designation for the purposes of the electoral system is made by the Chief Electoral Officer, while official party status, for the purposes of parliamentary procedure, has been associated with having at least 12 Members in the House of Commons. (For more detailed information, refer to the section in this chapter on “Political Parties”.)
Twenty-two members were elected and met at Halifax in October of that year to take their seats in the House of Assembly. Journals, March 1, 1883, Sessional Paper No. 70 (Provincial Charters), Appendix, pp. 8, 14.
Representative government is a political system with an elected legislature (McMenemy, pp. 259-60).
Bourinot, 2nd ed., pp. 73-4.
Journals, March 1, 1883, Sessional Paper No. 70 (Provincial Charters), Appendix, pp. 46-52, and Bourinot, 2nd ed., pp. 72-3. Until 1784, New Brunswick was part of Nova Scotia (Forsey, p. 3).
See John George Bourinot, Constitutional History of Canada, Toronto: Copp Clark Co. Ltd., 1901, p. 69; The Nova Scotia Legislature, Nova Scotia Information Service, rev. 1990, p. 12.
For a short history of the “syndics”, see A History of the Vote in Canada, published by Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada for the Chief Electoral Officer, 1997, p. xiv.
The historic Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place on September 13, 1759; Quebec surrendered on September 18. Montreal fell nearly a year later and the capitulation was signed on September 8, 1760 (Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 5).
The Royal Proclamation, 1763 (R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 1) defined the boundaries of Quebec.
In the instructions to Governor Murray, dated December 7, 1763, there are specific references to the Nova Scotian constitutional documents (see Journals, 1907, Sessional Papers, Vol. 7, Third Session of the Tenth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada; 1906-7, Vol. XLI, No. 18, p. 137). In “The Early Provincial Constitutions”, J. E. Read states that the early constitutional documents of the Province of Quebec “provide a constitutional position substantially identical to that of Nova Scotia…” (Canadian Bar Review, 1948, p. 630).
Royal Proclamation, 1763, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 1, p. 3.
A belief that during the sacrament of Holy Communion, the consecrated bread and wine are wholly converted into the body and blood of Christ; only the appearance of the bread and wine remain.
The “oath of abjuration”, along with oaths of allegiance and supremacy, were then required of every member of the British House of Commons (Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 8, note 1).
Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 9.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 2.
Quebec Act, 1774, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 2, Preamble.
Section XII of the Quebec Act, 1774, states that “whereas it is inexpedient to call an Assembly”, and went on to provide for an appointed “Council for the Affairs of the Province of Quebec” of 17 to 23 members. As a rule, the Council sat behind closed doors, debates were conducted in both French and English, and ordinances were drawn up in both languages (quoted in Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 13).
Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 12, note 1.
Colonial legislation could be enacted by the British Parliament or, in the case of conquered colonies, by the British monarch acting alone. However, once a colony had been granted a legislature, new colonial laws or changes to colonial laws could no longer be made by the Sovereign unilaterally: they now required the consent of the Imperial Parliament or the colonial assembly (Hogg, p. 35).
Constitutional Act, 1791, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3. Like the British North America Act almost a century later, the Constitutional Act, 1791, was framed with the intention of “assimilating the constitution of Canada to that of Great Britain, as nearly as the difference arising from the manners of the people, and from the present situation of the province, will admit” (quoted in Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 20).
The Consitutional Act, 1791, also provided that the Sovereign could make the right to sit in the legislative council hereditary although no titles were ever conferred under the authority of this Act (Constitutional Act, 1791, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3, s. VI. See also Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 16).
Constitutional Act, 1791, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3.
Constitutional Act, 1791, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3, s. XXXIV. Section L further provided that the Governor and a majority of the Members of the Executive Council could make temporary laws when the legislature was prorogued and that such laws would remain in force for a period no longer than six months following the date on which the legislature subsequently assembled.
Constitutional Act, 1791, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3, ss. XXVI and XXVII. See also Bourinot, 2nd ed., pp. 16-9. A dissolution ends a legislature, the period of time when a legislature is “sitting”, to make way for a general election. A legislature, in turn, may be divided into one or more sessions, each beginning with a new legislative agenda, presented as the Speech from the Throne. A session ends either with a dissolution, followed by a general election, or with a prorogation, which does not terminate the legislature but establishes that a new session will begin with a Speech from the Throne (see also Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”).
To become law, bills required the consent of both houses and the Sovereign. The Royal Assent signifies the approval of the bill by the latter.
The power to delay giving Royal Assent so that the legislation could be approved or disallowed by the British government (McMenemy, p. 260).
Constitutional Act, 1791, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 3, ss. XXX-XXXII. See also the section in this chapter on the “Governor General”.
See also Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.
Technically, the Civil List referred to a list of the sums appropriated out of the public revenue to pay members of the civil government (Gage Canadian Dictionary, Toronto: Gage Educational Publishing Company, 1997, p. 284), i.e., those individuals occupying official positions in government administration, the precursors of the modern Public Service. At the time, they were patronage appointments made by the governor, often for life (see also O’Brien, pp. 48-9; Wilding and Laundy, pp. 131-3).
Mallory, p. 11.
For further information on the rebellions, see R. Douglas Francis, Richard Jones and Donald B. Smith, Origins: Canadian History to Confederation, 3rd ed., Harcourt Brace & Company, Canada, 1996, pp. 224-48, 264-76.
Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 8.
His responsibilities also included “the adjustment of certain important questions respecting the form and future government of the two provinces” (The Report of The Earl of Durham, Her Majesty’s High Commissioner and Governor General of British North America, London: Metheun and Co., 1902).
Bourinot, 2nd ed., p. 25.
R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4.
Union Act, 1840, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4, ss. III and IV.

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