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


The House’s often unique methods of proceeding are the result of centuries of practice [85]  — the unwritten rules of procedure which developed over time and came to be accepted as the normal way of proceeding. The first representative assemblies on Canadian soil were inspired mainly by British parliamentary tradition, [86]  and to a lesser degree by American practice. [87]  Until recently, the British influence was explicitly recognized by the House in its Standing Orders [88]  and, to this day, in instances where internal precedents do not provide the necessary guidance, the Speaker is given full authority to go beyond the House’s jurisprudence “in cases not provided for hereinafter”. [89]  The Speaker may thus turn to provincial or foreign precedents, typically those of Commonwealth legislative bodies, “so far as they may be applicable to the House”. [90] 

In some areas (e.g., the conduct of Question Period), almost all procedures are based on practice augmented by decisions of the Chair; [91] in other areas, some practices are born without the active participation of the Speaker. [92] 

There has been a tendency for the House to codify in the Standing Orders many procedures which have originated and evolved as unwritten practices. In many ways, this has resolved issues which for many years had to be revisited by the Speaker periodically. For example, although, for many years, representatives of the recognized parties had been permitted to respond to ministerial statements, it was only in 1964 that the practice was written into the Standing Orders. [93]  A more recent example is the adoption of a Standing Order incorporating a practice that can be traced back to the earliest days of Confederation: the pairing of Members unable to be present in the House for recorded decisions. [94] 

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