House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
Previous PageNext Page

1. Parliamentary Institutions

General Andrew George McNaughton was Minister of National Defence from November 2, 1944 until August 20, 1945, without a seat in either House. After failing to win a seat both in a by-election and, subsequently, a general election, he resigned. He appeared, with permission, three times on the floor of the House during the period he served as Minister (Forsey, p. 35). In 1975, Pierre Juneau was appointed as Minister of Communications. He subsequently contested and lost a by-election, following which he resigned from Cabinet (Privy Council Office, A Guide to Canadian Ministries Since Confederation: July 1, 1867 to February 1, 1982, Government of Canada, Ottawa, 1982).
For example, in the Twenty-Sixth Ministry, Ministers were assigned responsibility for “International Cooperation” and “Intergovernmental Affairs”. In the Twenty-Fifth Ministry, Ministers were assigned responsibility for “Small Business” and “Small Communities and Rural Areas”. During the Twentieth Ministry, a number of Ministers were appointed “Without Portfolio” (Privy Council Office, A Guide to Canadian Ministries Since Confederation: July 1, 1867 to February 1, 1982, Supply and Services Canada, Ottawa, 1982; and Supplement to Guide to Canadian Ministries, 1980 to Date, Library of Parliament, May 1998).
The position “Secretary of State” has been included in earlier Ministries, designated as Minister of State. Ministers and Secretaries of State are paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in accordance with the provisions of the Salaries Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. S-3, ss. 2, 4, 5).
See Release issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, November 4, 1993.
R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, ss. 46-7.
The order of precedence of Canadian dignitaries and Officials is set by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, in turn, is advised on this matter by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The Ministry of Canadian Heritage is custodian of the Table of Precedence of Canadian Dignitaries and Officials, as well as of the Table of Titles to Be Used in Canada.
See also Chapter 2, “Parliaments and Ministries”.
There have been 26 Ministries since 1867. See Appendix 8, “Government Ministries and Prime Ministers of Canada Since 1867”.
In Canada, responsible government had been well established by the time of Confederation. See the section in this chapter entitled “Historical Perspective — The Years Preceding Confederation”.
See comments of Anthony Birch in Responsible Government, Canadian Study of Parliament Group, Ottawa, October 1989, p. 5.
“Parliament used to bring Ministers to account by a semi-judicial process. The King could do no wrong in the eyes of the law … and it was more satisfactory and expedient to attack his advisers for their evil counsel by charging them with high crimes and misdemeanours. The Commons were the accusers; the Lords the judges; the process was impeachment… . During the 18th century votes of censure against Ministers and Governments gradually replaced the cumbersome machinery of impeachment… . The process has never been abolished but it is in practice obsolete.” It survives in the United States (de Smith, quoted in Responsibility in the Constitution, pp. 14-5).
Commonly referred to as “cabinet solidarity”.
A number of Ministers have resigned over disagreements with government policy. For example: Minister of Transport Paul Hellyer resigned because he disagreed with the government’s housing policy (Debates, April 24, 1969, p. 7893; Journals, April 24, 1969, p. 939); Eric Kierans, Minister of Communications and Postmaster General, resigned in disagreement over the government’s economic priorities (Debates, April 29, 1971, p. 5339; Journals, April 29, 1971, p. 515, Sessional Paper No. 283-1/190B); and Minister of the Environment Lucien Bouchard resigned in disagreement over matters concerning the Meech Lake Accord on the Constitution (Debates, May 22, 1990, pp. 11662-4).
Ministers and Secretaries of State are bound by their Privy Council oath of secrecy not to reveal the nature of Cabinet proceedings.
Originally, the Sovereign along with the prominent nobles selected to advise the Crown were effectively both the Government and the “party” permanently in power. It was generally the case that certain factions opposed the Crown; the strength of that opposition depended in large part on the personality of the Monarch and varied from reign to reign. The first recognizable political parties emerged as a result of the Civil Wars in England when, in 1679, the Cavaliers and the Roundheads became the Tories and the Whigs, respectively (see Wilding and Laundy, pp. 545-6).
Leon D. Epstein, quoted in Van Loon and Whittington, The Canadian Political System, p. 305.
Elections Canada Backgrounder, “Registration of Federal Political Parties”, p. 1.
McMenemy, pp. 214-5.
Jackson and Jackson, p. 434.
There is no limitation on the formation of political parties; however, parties must satisfy certain criteria in order to be registered under the Canada Elections Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. E-2, ss. 25-32).
Revenue Canada Information Circular No. 75-2R4.
Elections Canada Backgrounder, “Registration of Federal Political Parties”, pp. 4-5.
Canada Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-2, s. 28. See also Elections Canada Backgrounder, “Registration of Federal Political Parties”.
R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 62(b), (d) and (f). This was first included in 1963 in the precursor to the Parliament of Canada Act, namely the Senate and House of Commons Act.
See Board of Internal Economy By-law 302, ss. 2 and 3(2). In 1990, a question of privilege was raised relating to a request refused by the Board for funding to a political party with fewer than 12 Members. In his reply, Speaker Fraser stated that the decision of the Board stood unless the House itself wished to overrule the decision (Debates, December 13, 1990, pp. 16703-7).
For example, the order of participation in debate and Question Period (see Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum” and Chapter 11, “Questions”); the allocation of opposition Supply days (see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”); and the deferral of recorded divisions by Whips (see Standing Order 45(7) and Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”).
In 1963, Speaker Macnaughton cautioned that the recognition of parties in the Chamber must ultimately be resolved by the House itself (Journals, September 30, 1963, pp. 385-8). On February 18, 1966, Speaker Lamoureux was asked to pronounce on the right of a party with fewer than 12 Members to respond to a Statement by a Minister. In his ruling, he concluded that until the House defined more precisely who could respond, the Chair would be guided by practice (Journals, February 18, 1966, pp. 158-60). For further information on Minister’s Statements, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”. In 1979 and 1994, Speakers Jerome and Parent also made some remarks on the issue of the recognition of parties in the House (Debates, October 10, 1979, pp. 49-51; October 11, 1979, p. 69; June 16, 1994, pp. 5437-40).
On Wednesday, because of caucus meetings, the House does not sit until 2:00 p.m. (see Chapter 9, “Sittings of the House”).
In 1973, a question of privilege was raised in the House concerning the discovery of a bugging device in a caucus meeting room (Debates, October 17, 1973, pp. 6942-4).
See McMenemy, p. 214.
Backbenchers are Members of the House of Commons who are neither Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries or one of their party’s House officials.
The Government House Leader is a Minister, officially titled Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. From 1867 until 1944, Prime Ministers usually organized the business of the House by themselves, their contacts being the Whips of the other parties. In October 1944, Prime Minister Mackenzie King chose to delegate those duties and openly recognized the position of Government House Leader in July 1946. In 1968, it became a full-time position. Until 1997, all Government House Leaders had held at least one other portfolio concurrently; between 1963 and 1990, the Government House Leader typically was also President of the Privy Council (Library of Parliament, Leaders of the Government in the House of Commons, Compilation No. 78, November 21, 1997). The position of Opposition House Leader evolved gradually in the 1950s and has been remunerated since 1974 (An Act to amend the Senate and House of Commons Act, the Salaries Act and the Parliamentary Secretaries Act, S.C. 1974-75-76, c. 44, s. 3). The House Leaders of parties with 12 or more Members have been remunerated since 1981 (An Act to amend the Senate and House of Commons Act, the Salaries Act, the Parliamentary Secretaries Act and the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, S.C. 1980-81, c. 77, s. 3).
See also Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.
Stewart, p. 17. There are often occasions where opposition Members or parties will vote the same way as the government on a particular issue.
Debates, July 17, 1905, col. 9729-30.
Members of registered parties with fewer than 12 sitting members are entitled to have their party affiliation noted, along with their name, on the television screen and in official House records. They are also permitted to be seated together in the Chamber (see Speakers’ rulings, Debates, December 13, 1990, pp. 16705-6; June 16, 1994, pp. 5437-40). There have been instances where parties which did not have 12 sitting members claimed the status of a recognized party. Speakers have been clear in rulings that it is up to the House itself to decide such matters (see Speakers’ rulings, Journals, September 30, 1963, pp. 385-8; February 18, 1966, pp. 158-60; and Debates, October 11, 1979, p. 69; November 6, 1979, p. 1009; June 16, 1994, p. 5439).
See Wilding and Laundy, pp. 509-10. Also referred to as “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” to emphasize the notion that an opposition is loyal to the Crown (see Gerald Schmitz, “The Opposition in a Parliamentary System”, Library of Parliament Backgrounder, December 1988).
The only exception to this in the history of the House of Commons came in 1922 when the Progressive party won the second highest number of seats but declined to assume the role of official opposition (see also Appendix 9, “Leaders of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons Since 1873”; Appendix 10, “Party Leaders in the House of Commons Since 1867”; and Appendix 11, “General Election Results Since 1867”).
See also Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”.
Standing Order 35(2).
See ruling of Speaker Parent, Debates, February 27, 1996, pp. 16-20. In the United Kingdom, the Speaker has statutory authority to determine who shall be designated as Leader of the Opposition in the House. See the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act, 1975, U.K., s. 2(2). See also ruling of Speaker Amerongen, Alberta Hansard, March 11, 1983, pp. 9-11, and November 6, 1984, p. 1381; the ruling of Speaker Dysart, Journal of Debates, Legislative Assembly, Province of New Brunswick, December 16, 1994, pp. 3749-53; and the ruling of Speaker Bruce, Votes and Proceedings of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, December 9, 1996, pp. 15-9.
Party leaders who did not hold a seat and who did not automatically become Leader of the Opposition include, among others: Robert Stanfield in 1967, Brian Mulroney in 1983 and Jean Chrétien in 1990, all of whom sought and won a seat in a by-election before assuming that office (see also Appendix 9, “Leaders of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons Since 1873”).
See, for example, references to the Hon. Eric Nielsen and to the Hon. Herb Gray in Appendix 9, “Leaders of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons Since 1873”.
An Act to amend the Act respecting the Senate and House of Commons, S.C. 1905, c. 43, s. 2, now the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 62(a). Canada was the first of the Commonwealth parliaments to fund the office of Leader of the Opposition.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 50(2).
Standing Orders 43(1), 50(2), 74(1), 84(7), and 101(3).
See also Chapter 11, “Questions”.
Standing Order 81(4)(a). The Main Estimates are the government’s projected annual spending plan (see also Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”).
For some time during the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), the Leader of the Reform Party, Preston Manning, chose not to sit in the front row.
See also Chapter 11, “Questions”.

Top of documentPrevious PageNext Page