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

6. The Physical and Administrative Setting

There is no such thing as a bad seat in the House of Commons.

Speaker Gilbert Parent
(Debates, September 30, 1998, p. 8585)


hile the House of Commons conducts its business in accordance with established procedures and practices, it does so in its own unique physical setting and under administrative structures of its own making. These two factors are an important backdrop to the procedural operations of the House. This chapter provides information about Ottawa as the seat of government, the Parliament Buildings, the House of Commons Chamber and the administrative framework through which are provided an array of facilities and services dedicated to the operations of the House and the needs of its Members.

Ottawa as the Seat of Government

In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the seat of government for the Province of Canada. This followed years of intense rivalry among the elected representatives of the pre-Confederation colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, who could not agree on a permanent site. [1]  The itinerant Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada met in several different cities, beginning with Kingston in 1841. In 1844, it moved to Montreal where it remained until 1849 when the legislative building was burned by rioters. [2]  Thereafter a system was adopted under which the assembly met alternately at Quebec and Toronto before finally settling into its permanent home in Ottawa, where it met for the first time in 1866. With the advent of Confederation the following year, the capital of the Province of Canada became the national capital, in compliance with the Constitution Act, 1867, Section 16 of which states that “the seat of Government of Canada shall be Ottawa”. [3]  Accordingly, the Parliament of Canada assembled in Ottawa on November 6, 1867, for the First Session of the First Parliament.

The Parliament Buildings and Grounds

Location and Disposition

The Parliament Buildings are situated on a cliff, originally a primeval forest of beech and hemlock whose southern approach consisted of dense cedar swamps and a beaver meadow. The site, [4]  which was formerly the location of a military barracks, overlooks the Ottawa River. It is bounded by Wellington Street to the south (the Wellington Wall, which was built in 1872, stands on the north side of Wellington Street, separating the lawns and buildings of Parliament Hill from the city street), the Rideau Canal to the east, the Ottawa River to the north and Bank Street to the west, and has the legal name of Parliament Hill. [5]  (See Figure 6.1, The Parliamentary Precinct.) The original complex of buildings comprised the Parliament Building — fronted by a tower and backed by the Library of Parliament, a 16-sided polygonal structure — as well as two extant departmental buildings styled East Block and West Block. The Parliament Building, including the tower, was destroyed by fire on February 3, 1916. [6]  Only the library survived intact, thanks to an employee who closed the great iron doors connecting the library to the rest of the building. For the next four years, both Houses of Parliament met several city blocks south of Parliament Hill in the Victoria Memorial Museum, now called the Canadian Museum of Nature. [7]  In 1920, sittings resumed in the new Centre Block, which was built on the same site as the old building. [8]  A new tower, called the Peace Tower in commemoration of Canada’s human and material contributions to the First World War, was also built. [9]

Figure 6.1 – The Parliamentary Precinct
Image depicting a map of the buildings in and area around the Parliamentary Precinct. To the left of the image (at the West side of the Precinct) are the Justice and Confederation Buildings, bordered on the South by Wellington Street and on the North by a hill leading down to the Ottawa River. To the right of these buildings on the image (slightly to the East) are the West Block the Centre Block and East Block. These too are bordered by Wellington Street and the Ottawa River. To the south of Wellington Street, along the bottom of the image, are the Wellington Building, bordered by Bank and Wellington Streets; the Victoria Building, at the corner of O’Connor and Wellington Streets; and La Promenade Building, found at the corner of O’Connor and Sparks Streets.
Source: Public Works and Government Services Canada.

While originally sufficient to house the entire parliamentary and governmental apparatus, the Centre, East and West Blocks ceased to provide adequate accommodation as the size, complexity and functions of Parliament and government multiplied. Today, government departments are housed in office buildings throughout the National Capital Region and elsewhere in the country. The parliamentary precinct — those premises which both Houses of Parliament “occupy from time to time for their corporate purposes” [10]  — has expanded to include several other buildings in the immediate vicinity of Parliament Hill. [11]

The House of Commons and Senate Chambers are located in the Centre Block. Offices for Members of Parliament are located in the Centre Block, East Block and West Block, as well as the Confederation Building, the Justice Building and the Wellington Building. Committee rooms are found in the Centre Block, East and West Blocks, La Promenade Building and Wellington Building. Offices for House staff and parliamentary services are found in these and other locations in the capital.

The grounds around Parliament Hill have undergone several stylistic transformations since Confederation but have always included a wide central walk leading from the gateway at the south end of the grounds to the main entrance at the base of the tower. At the southern end of the walkway is a fountain; in its centre burns the Centennial Flame, which was lit on New Year’s Eve 1966, to mark the first hundred years of Confederation (1867-1967). [12]  The fountain is a 12-sided truncated pyramid, each side holding a bronze shield bearing the coat of arms of a province or territory. Water flows continuously around the shields; the flame, fed by natural gas, burns through the water and gives the impression of the flame dancing over the water. Coins tossed into the fountain are retrieved to fund the Centennial Flame Research Award Fund. [13] 

The grounds of Parliament Hill are the site of 14 bronze portrait statues, erected between 1885 and 1992. [14]  Represented are seven former Prime Ministers (John A. Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, Wilfrid Laurier, Robert Borden, William Lyon Mackenzie King, John Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson), five Fathers of Confederation (George-Étienne Cartier, a joint memorial to Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, George Brown and Thomas D’Arcy McGee) and two monarchs (Victoria and Elizabeth II). [15] 

Title, Management, Care and Control

Given Parliament’s right to administer its own affairs free from interference, including overseeing the areas used in the performance of official parliamentary functions, the Speakers of the two Houses have traditionally held authority and control over accommodation and services within the parliamentary precinct. [16]  At Confederation, Parliament Hill (including the adjacent parcel of land on which the Confederation Building stands) was transferred by the imperial government to Canada as “ordnance property”. [17]  As such, control of the grounds and construction, repair and maintenance of the buildings fell under the general mandate of the government department responsible for federal buildings and property. [18]  The National Capital Commission, a federal body whose mandate is the improvement and beautification of the national capital region, [19]  is charged with the landscaping and upkeep of the grounds of Parliament Hill.

The Centre Block

Built in a modern Gothic revival style, the rectangular Centre Block is some 144 metres long by 75 metres deep, and six stories high. [20]  More than 25 different types of stone and marble were used in the building’s construction; however, much of the exterior is Nepean sandstone, quarried near Ottawa, and its interior walls are sheeted with Tyndall limestone from Manitoba. Inside, the history and traditions of Canada are reflected in many stone carvings which have been the ongoing work of over 60 sculptors and carvers since 1916.

The main entrance to the Centre Block is located at the base of the Peace Tower, where a broad flight of steps leads into a stately Gothic archway. The main doors open onto stairs leading up into the octagonal Confederation Hall (also called the Rotunda) and the Hall of Honour leading to the Library of Parliament (see Figure 6.2, Floor Plan of the Centre Block). In the centre of the Confederation Hall is a massive stone column inscribed in memory of the Canadian soldiers who fought in World War I. On the eastern end of the Centre Block is found the Senate Chamber and on the western end, the House of Commons Chamber. Each House has a distinct entrance to the building for its Members.

Figure 6.2 – Floor Plan of the Centre Block
Image depicting the floor plan of the Centre Block. At the top of image is a circle which represents the Library of Parliament. Directly below the Library are two lines leading down the page which represent the Hall of Honour. This Hall leads in a line down the page (South) to the Rotunda, Peace Tower, Memorial Chamber and Observation Deck. To the right (East) of the Hall of Honour is the Senate, and to the left (West) are the House of Commons and House of Commons Foyer.
Source: Information Service, Library of Parliament.

Peace Tower

The Peace Tower with its four-faced clock is the focal point of the Parliament Buildings. It commemorates Canada’s contributions to World War I and houses on its third floor the Memorial Chamber, which holds the books of remembrance naming those Canadians who gave their lives in each of the wars in which Canada has been involved. An enclosed observation deck below the clock offers a view in all directions of the National Capital Region. The Tower, which is 92.2 metres high, is surmounted by a mast from which the flag is flown. [21] 

The Peace Tower also contains a carillon of 53 bells, inaugurated on July 1, 1927, in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. Regular recitals are given by the carillonneur. The bells chime every quarter-hour, controlled by a mechanism connected to the clock.

Library of Parliament

At the north end of the Centre Block’s Hall of Honour, opposite the main entrance, are the doors to the Library of Parliament. Its style of architecture is High Victorian Gothic Revival; its interior is circular in form and richly ornamented with carved white pine panelling. The Library survived the fire of 1916, but in 1952 a fire broke out in the cupola of the Library, causing extensive smoke and water damage. The Library serves Parliament using state-of-the-art information technologies, and housing a collection of well over 1,000,000 items (books, periodicals, brochures and microforms), of which over 400,000 titles are catalogued in the integrated Library system. Comprehensive information, research and analysis services are provided by the Library to parliamentarians, their staff, parliamentary committees, parliamentary associations and delegations and senior officials of both Houses. It also provides information about Parliament to the general public. [22]  Apart from the main Library and the Parliamentary Reading Room, there are branch libraries in some of the other buildings used by Parliament. [23] 

The Chamber

The South Corridor, hung with portraits of former Prime Ministers, links the Confederation Hall to the Commons Chamber. At the west end of the corridor is the spacious, high-ceilinged foyer of the House of Commons, which may also be accessed from the Members’ entrance at the western end of the Centre Block. On the four walls of the foyer, just below the balcony which overlooks it from the floor above, is a series of 10 bas-relief sculpture panels depicting 25,000 years of Canadian history from the arrival of the aboriginal peoples to that of the United Empire Loyalists in the late eighteenth century. [24]  Opening off the foyer are the doors to an antechamber which leads into the Chamber itself. [25] The doors are made of white oak and trimmed with hand-wrought iron. Members tend to use the smaller doors to either side of the main doors; these lead into the antechamber and then into the government and opposition lobbies, rooms behind the government and opposition benches, which also open onto the Chamber.

Each day when the House meets to conduct business, the Speaker’s parade [26] moves from the Speaker’s chambers through the halls of the Centre Block, entering the antechamber through the large centre doors and proceeding into the Chamber through a second set of doors.

The Chamber itself is rectangular in shape, measuring approximately 21 metres in length and 16 metres in width; it is also sheeted with Tyndall limestone as well as white oak and, like its counterpart at Westminster, it is decorated in green. [27]  (See Figure 6.3, The House of Commons Chamber.) The 14.7-metre high ceiling is made of linen canvas, hand-painted with the provincial and territorial coats of arms.

The floral emblems of the ten provinces and two territories are depicted in 12 stained-glass windows on the east, west and north walls of the Chamber. [28]  On the east and west walls, above the Members’ galleries and between the stained-glass windows, is the noted British North America Act series of sculptures. It consists of 12 separate bas-relief sculptures in Indiana limestone. Each one depicts, in symbolic and story form, the federal roles and responsibilities arising out of the BNA Act (now called the Constitution Act, 1867). [29] 

Figure 6.3 – The House of Commons Chamber
Image of the physical layout of the House of Commons. At the top of the image are the public galleries. Below the galleries, in the centre of the image and the Chamber, are the Speaker’s chair, the seats for the Pages, the Table for the Clerks and Table Officers, the Mace sitting on the Table, seats for the Hansard Reporters, and finally the Sergeant-at-Arms desk at the South end of the Chamber. To the left of the image are the seats for government members and above them various galleries for visitors. To the right of the image are the seats for opposition members and above them various galleries for visitors.
Source: Information Service, Library of Parliament.


The Chamber is divided by a wide central aisle and is furnished on either side with tiered rows of desks and chairs, facing into the centre. Government Members sit to the Speaker’s right, opposition Members to the left. The Prime Minister and Cabinet sit in the front rows of the government side; directly across the floor from the Prime Minister sits the Leader of the Opposition who is flanked by Members of his or her party. The second-ranked opposition party and all other recognized parties in the House sit with their leaders usually to the left of the Official Opposition, closer to the Bar of the House. Traditionally, the front-row seats to the left of the Speaker are reserved for leading members of the opposition parties, and opposition parties are allocated front-row seats in proportion to their numbers in the House. [30]  The distance across the floor of the House between the government and opposition benches is 3.96 metres, said to be equivalent to two swords’ length. [31]  When there are more government Members than can be accommodated on the Speaker’s right, some are seated on the left, usually nearest the Speaker. Members of parties not recognized in the House and independent Members are assigned seats at the discretion of the Speaker, usually at the rear of the House on the Speaker’s left.

The allocation of seats in the House is the responsibility of the Speaker and is carried out in collaboration with the party Whips. [32]  Seat assignments may change from time to time, but the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are always seated in the same places. It is customary for seats to be assigned near the Chair for the use of the Deputy Speaker and other Chair occupants when they are not presiding over the House; no such allocation is made for the Speaker. [33] 

The Chair

The Speaker’s Chair stands on a dais [34]  at the north end of the Chamber with the flag displayed on either side. [35]  In the years after Confederation, it was the custom for departing Speakers to take their chairs with them and a new Chair to be made for the new Speaker; [36]  this custom ceased in 1916 when the Chair then in use was destroyed in the fire. A new Chair arrived in 1921 as a gift from the British branch of what is now the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. [37]  This Chair is an exact replica of the original Speaker’s Chair at Westminster, made circa 1849, and then destroyed when the British House of Commons was bombed in 1941. It is approximately four metres high, surmounted by a canopy of carved wood and the Royal coat of arms. The oak used for the carving of the Royal arms was taken from the roof of Westminster Hall, which was built in 1397.

In recent years, the Chair has undergone some minor renovations. Microphones and speakers have been installed and lights placed overhead. The armrests now offer a writing surface and a small storage space, as well as document holders onto which can be fixed the seating plan for the House. A hydraulic lift was also installed to permit more comfortable seating for the various occupants of the Chair. [38]  At the foot of the Chair, visible only to its occupant, are two screens. The first, which was installed during the Thirty-Fourth Parliament (1988-93), is a television monitor, enabling the Speaker to see the House as the camera sees it. The other is a computer screen, installed during the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), by which the Speaker can receive information from the Table, which is equipped with laptop computers. During debate, for example, or when other time limits apply, a Table Officer activates the digital “count-down clock” and the Speaker is able to monitor the length of speeches and interventions.

At the foot of the dais below the Speaker’s Chair is a bench where some of the House of Commons pages are stationed during sittings of the House. The pages are university students employed by the House of Commons to carry messages and deliver documents to Members during sittings of the House. [39] 

A door behind the Speaker’s Chair opens onto a corridor, called the Speaker’s corridor, leading directly to the Speaker’s chambers. Hanging in this hallway are portraits of past Speakers of the House. [40] 

The Table

A short distance in front of the dais and the Speaker’s Chair is a long oak table where the Clerk of the House, chief procedural advisor to the Speaker, sits with other Table Officers. [41]  The Clerk sits at the north end of the Table, with Table Officers along the right-and left-hand side of the Table. The Clerk’s chair was made in 1873. After the death in 1902 of the then Clerk, Sir John Bourinot, the chair was presented to his widow; in 1940 it was donated back to the House by the family. The Table is equipped with microphones, small television monitors and laptop computers. The laptop computers are used to keep the records, [42]  to relay information to the Chair and, as they are connected to the House network, to send and receive information via electronic mail to and from other branches of the House. The Mace rests at the south end of the Table. Also on the Table is a collection of parliamentary reference texts for consultation by Members and Table Officers, a pair of bookends, a calendar stand, inkstand and seal press. [43] 

The Mace

The Mace is the ornamental staff, symbol of the authority of the Speaker, which rests on the Table during sittings of the House. In the Middle Ages, the mace was an officer’s weapon; it was made of metal with a flanged or spiked head and was used to break through chain-mail or plate-armour. [44]  In the twelfth century, the Sergeants-at-Arms of the King’s Bodyguard were equipped with maces. These maces, stamped with the Royal Arms and carried by the Sergeants in the exercise of their powers of arrest without warrant, became recognized symbols of the King’s authority. Maces were also carried by civic authorities.

Royal Sergeants-at-Arms began to be assigned to the Commons early in the fifteenth century. By the end of the sixteenth century, the Sergeant’s mace had evolved from a weapon of war to an ornately embellished emblem of office. The Sergeant-at-Arms’ power to arrest without warrant enabled the Commons to arrest or commit persons who offended them, without having to resort to the ordinary courts of law. [45]  This penal jurisdiction is the basis of the concept of parliamentary privilege and, since the exercise of this privilege depended on the powers vested in the Royal Sergeant-at-Arms, the Mace — his emblem of office — was identified with the growing privileges of the Commons and became recognized as the symbol of the authority of the House and of the Speaker through the House. [46] 

At Confederation, the House of Commons’ Mace was that of the former Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. [47]  It had survived the burning of the Parliament building in Montreal in 1849, [48]  as well as two fires in Quebec City in 1854, [49]  but was lost in the great fire of February 3, 1916. When the House met in the Victoria Memorial Museum (as it was then known) in the immediate aftermath of the fire, the Senate lent the House its mace. For the following three weeks, the mace belonging to the Ontario Legislature was used until a temporary mace, made of wood, was fashioned. The Mace currently in use is a replica of the original. Made of silver covered with heavy gilt, it is 1.47 metres long and weighs 7.9 kilograms. It was a gift from the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs of London and was presented in May 1917. [50]  The wooden mace was kept; it is displayed in the foyer of the House of Commons and is used in the Chamber on the anniversary of the date of the fire. [51] 

The Mace is integral to the functioning of the House; since the late seventeenth century it has been accepted that the Mace must be present for the House to be properly constituted. [52]  The guardian of the Mace is the Sergeant-at-Arms, [53]  who carries it on the right shoulder in and out of the Chamber at the beginning and end of each sitting of the House. At the opening of a sitting of the House, the Mace is laid across the foot of the Table with its crown pointing to the government side of the House. When the House sits as a Committee of the Whole, it is placed on brackets below the Table; [54]  and during the election of a Speaker, the Mace rests on a cushion on the floor beneath the Table. The Mace is kept in the Speaker’s Chambers when the House is adjourned. During the longer adjournments and recesses, it is on display in or near the Commons Chamber.

The Bar of the House

The Bar is a brass rod extending across the floor of the Chamber inside its south entrance. It is a barrier past which uninvited representatives of the Crown (as well as other non-Members) are not welcome. [55]  When the House sits as a Committee of the Whole, departmental officials are permitted onto the floor of the House in order to assist the Minister. The Sergeant-at-Arms, or an assistant, sits at a desk on the opposition side of the Chamber and inside the Bar.

Individuals may be summoned to appear before the Bar of the House in order to answer to the authority of the House, or to respond to questioning. If someone is judged to be in contempt of the House — that is, guilty of an offence against the dignity or authority of Parliament — the House may summon the person to appear and order that he or she be reprimanded by the Speaker in the name of and with the full authority of the House. On a number of occasions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, individuals were summoned to appear before the Bar of the House. Since 1913, there has been just one instance of the House requiring someone to appear at the Bar. [56]  Witnesses to be examined by the House will also stand at the Bar and reply to questions posed by Members. [57]

The Galleries

Overlooking the floor of the House on both sides and both ends of the Chamber are galleries which can accommodate more than 500 people. (See Figure 6.3, The House of Commons Chamber.) In the gallery facing the Speaker’s Chair, called the Ladies Gallery, [58]  the first rows are reserved for the diplomatic corps and for other distinguished guests; the remaining rows are reserved for the visiting public. At the opposite end of the Chamber, immediately above the Speaker’s Chair, is the Press Gallery. Admittance is restricted to members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery [59] (one of the galleries in which note-taking is permitted). Immediately behind the Press Gallery is another public gallery. On the side of the Chamber facing the government benches are three galleries: one for guests of government Members, another for Senators and their guests, and another one for guests of the Prime Minister and the Speaker. Only from the Speaker’s gallery can distinguished visitors (such as heads of state, heads of government and parliamentary delegations invited to Canada) be recognized and introduced to the House by the Speaker. [60] On the other side of the Chamber, facing the opposition benches, a gallery is reserved for departmental officials (the other gallery in which note-taking is permitted), another for guests of the Leader of the Opposition, and two others for guests of Members of other opposition parties.

The doors to the galleries are opened at the start of each sitting of the House, after prayers are read. For reasons of decorum and security, photography, reading and sketching materials, and note-taking (with the above exceptions) are not permitted in the galleries. Coats, briefcases, notebooks, photographic equipment and the like may not be carried into the galleries. [61]  Guests seated in the private galleries must be appropriately attired. [62]


“Stranger” is a term of longtime use in the procedural lexicon; it refers to anyone who is not a Member or an official of the House of Commons (for example, Senators, diplomats, government officials, journalists or members of the general public). It underlines the distinction between Members and non-Members and gives emphasis to the fact that strangers or outsiders may be present in the galleries or within the parliamentary precinct only under the authority of the House. [63]  Strangers are not permitted on the floor of the House of Commons when the House is sitting. [64] 

The right of the House to conduct its proceedings in private — that is, without strangers present — is centuries old. Until 1845 in the British House, sessional orders excluded strangers from every part of its premises (while in practice the presence of strangers came to be tolerated in areas not appropriated to the exclusive use of Members). [65]  In Canada, at Confederation, the House adopted a rule giving individual Members the power to order the galleries cleared. [66]  In 1876, the rule was substantially amended, [67]  allowing Members only to move a motion “that strangers be ordered to withdraw”; this non-debatable and non-amendable motion was then left for the House to decide. [68]  The present rule, which was adopted in 1994, [69]  provides that the Speaker may order the withdrawal of strangers, and also that if a Member notices the presence of strangers, the Speaker “may” allow the non-debatable and non-amendable motion to be put. The House thus retains the power to order the removal of strangers and to meet privately. [70] In practice such occurrences are not frequent and strangers are welcome so long as there is space to accommodate them and proper decorum is observed.

Disorder in the Galleries

The Sergeant-at-Arms, one of the senior officials of the House, is responsible for maintaining order and decorum in the galleries. [71]  From time to time there have been instances of misconduct in the galleries and the Sergeant-at-Arms and security staff have acted to remove demonstrators or strangers behaving in a disruptive way. In cases of extreme disorder, the Speaker has directed that the galleries be cleared. [72]  In addition, should the House adopt the motion “That strangers be ordered to withdraw”, it would be the duty of the Sergeant-at-Arms and security staff to clear the galleries of strangers.


Adjacent to the government and opposition sides of the Chamber is a long, narrow room known as a lobby. The one behind the government benches is reserved for government Members; the other, on the opposition side, is for Members of the opposition parties. Connected by doors to the Chamber, the lobbies are furnished with tables and armchairs and equipped with telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, computer terminals and the like for Members’ use. Members attending the sitting of the House use the lobbies to converse, discuss matters, make telephone calls, attend to correspondence or other business and are able to return to the Chamber at a moment’s notice. The party Whips assign staff to work from the lobbies and pages are stationed in the lobbies to answer telephones and carry messages. The lobbies are not open to the public. The House of Commons security staff control access to the lobbies in accordance with guidelines set by the Whips.

Sound Reinforcement and Interpretation Systems

In 1951, a special committee of the House recommended the installation of a sound reinforcement system “similar to the one in the House of Commons Chamber at Westminster”. [73]  For some years, there had been complaints about the acoustics in the Chamber and the difficulty that Members and those in the galleries had in following the proceedings. The challenge in providing effective sound amplification lay in devising a system for use in an assembly where members speak from their places (rather than from a rostrum) and only when recognized by the Speaker. The committee’s report was adopted, the system was installed during a recess and used for the first time in the session which opened on November 20, 1952. [74]  Each Member’s desk, as well as the Speaker’s Chair, is equipped with a microphone. A microphone switching console, staffed by console operators, is located at the front of the gallery at the south end of the Chamber. Individual microphones are activated when a Member is recognized by the Speaker. Only the Speaker has the power to activate his or her own microphone (it may also be activated by the console operator); when the Speaker’s microphone is activated, the Members’ microphones will not function.

In 1958, the House agreed to the installation in the Chamber of a system for simultaneous interpretation in both official languages. [75]  Members were of the opinion that this would give further expression to the Constitution, which provides for the equal status of the official languages and for their use in parliamentary debate. [76] 

Enclosed booths for interpreters are located in the corners of the Chamber opposite the Speaker’s Chair. Members’ desks are equipped with interpretation devices in order to receive simultaneous interpretation of the proceedings into French or English. Visitors in the galleries also have access to the sound reinforcement and interpretation systems and may choose to listen to the proceedings with interpretation in the official language of their choice, or without interpretation.

Broadcasting Arrangements

Following the decision in 1977 to broadcast the proceedings of the House of Commons, [77]  the Chamber became the site of extensive construction to equip it for this purpose. During the summer adjournment, the Chamber was refitted: the sound systems were upgraded, appropriate lighting installed, cameras were added (operated manually and later replaced with remote-controlled cameras), and a control room was constructed above the Ladies’ Gallery situated at the south end of the Chamber. [78]  (The subject of broadcasting as an “electronic Hansard” is addressed in Chapter 24, “The Parliamentary Record”.)

Provision for Still Photography

Before the advent of broadcasting of House of Commons’ proceedings, photographs of the House during a sitting were taken with the permission of the House. [79]  In the late 1970s, once the House had dealt with the question of broadcasting, the matter of still photography arose. There were no provisions for print media to take pictures of the House at work, except by special arrangement, whereas the electronic media now had access to images of every sitting of the House. [80]  On a trial basis, and later to become standard practice, [81]  a photographer was allowed behind the curtains on each side of the House during Question Period. The photographers are employed by a news service agency which supplies other news organizations under a pooling arrangement. When in the Chamber, they operate in accordance with the principles governing the use of television cameras, described in Chapter 24, “The Parliamentary Record”.

Other Uses of the Chamber

At times, the House of Commons Chamber is used for purposes other than a parliamentary sitting. Some are recurring events such as addresses by distinguished visitors, [82]  orientation sessions for new Members, [83] and annual programs. [84]  At other times, the Chamber has been used for special events. [85]  Since these events are not actually sittings of the House, the Mace is not on the Table.

Committee Rooms

The House of Commons delegates much of its work to committees which are composed of Members (and in the case of joint committees, Members and Senators). [86] Aside from Committees of the Whole House which meet in the Chamber, [87] committees meet in rooms outside the Chamber, often while the House is sitting. Committee rooms are located principally in the Centre Block, East Block, West Block, Wellington Building and La Promenade Building. They are outfitted with sound amplification systems as well as the necessary equipment to record the proceedings and to provide simultaneous interpretation in both official languages. One room is set up for television broadcasting, with an adjoining control room and cameras operated by remote control. Although certain rooms are designated and equipped as committee rooms, they are all multifunctional and are used for other purposes. Committees may meet anywhere in the parliamentary precinct provided the requirements for interpretation and recording are met.

Typically a committee room is set up with several tables placed in a rectangular formation. The Chair sits at the centre of one end with the Committee Clerk and other committee advisors. The Members take seats on either side; as in the House, the government Members normally sit to the Chair’s right and the opposition Members to the left. Witnesses are seated at the end opposite the Chair. Tables are available for representatives of the press, usually behind the witnesses’ chairs, together with additional seating for individuals viewing the proceedings.

While a committee may tend to hold its meetings in a particular room, no such formal room assignments are made. In the years immediately following Confederation, committees were fewer and larger and much business was conducted in Committees of the Whole. Certain rooms were set aside for committee meetings. For example, the room known informally as the Railway Committee Room came to be so called because (although it was used by other committees) it was the home of the standing committee dealing with railways. [88]  Committees book rooms as needed; priority of use may be established from time to time by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. [89] 

Members’ Offices

Members are accommodated in suites of offices located in the Centre Block, East Block, West Block, Confederation Building, Justice Building and Wellington Building. Ministers have offices on Parliament Hill as well as in their departments. Office space is assigned to Members in consultation with their party Whips. [90]  Members of parties not officially recognized in the House and Members with no party affiliation (usually referred to as independent Members) are then allocated offices by the Speaker. [91] 

At Confederation, the newly built Centre Block, or “Parliament Building” as it was then known, housed the entire Parliament of Canada. The East and West Blocks, or “departmental buildings”, were occupied by government departments and included offices for Cabinet Ministers. The Speaker was the only Member to have an office in the parliamentary building. Members were provided with desks in the Chamber, lockers nearby, and facilities for dressing, reading and smoking; the nature of the Members’ work and the length of sessions were such that this was considered adequate to their needs. [92]

The Centre Block was designed for the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, which was composed of 130 members; at Confederation in 1867, it was required to house 181 Members of the House of Commons. By the 1880s, the basements and attics were fully utilized and parliamentarians demanded improvements in their accommodations. By 1916, the year in which fire destroyed the building, some Members were allocated private offices (i.e., the Speaker, Cabinet Ministers, leading Opposition Members); others shared rooms. Conditions for Members were improved in the new Centre Block, though not to the extent of offering private offices for all. [93]  Over the years, the membership of the House increased and so did Members’ requirements for space and staff, in line with the evolving role and worklife of Parliament and its elected representatives. Gradually, additional space became available as administrative services were moved to other locations, and as other buildings were converted to House of Commons use. [94] 

Administrative Structures and Services

The House of Commons is one of three constituent elements of the Parliament of Canada. [95]  The other two elements are the Senate and the Sovereign, represented in Canada by the Governor General. The House of Commons is not a department of the Government of Canada, although its administrative structure may be described as generally comparable to that of a government department. One of the privileges of the House is its right to independent regulation of its own internal affairs. [96]  The House may voluntarily follow administrative policies of the government, but it cannot be compelled to do so, and it is also free to develop new policies and practices. [97] 

The House administration exists to support the activities of Members individually and collectively in their various roles as legislators in the House and in committees, 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. [98] 

In 1964, the administrative structure of the House of Commons was the subject of an important review which noted significant changes in the nature, volume and complexity of House services and recommended an administrative reorganization. [99]  The origins of the modern administrative structure of the House may be traced to a major comprehensive audit carried out by the Auditor General in 1979 and 1980. In 1978, wishing to support a program of expenditure restraint undertaken by the government, the Speaker asked the Standing Committee on Management and Members’ Services to suggest possible economy measures for the House. [100]  Out of this came a recommendation from the Committee for a complete and independent review of the House administration. [101] 

At the Speaker’s request, the Auditor General reviewed the administration of the House of Commons, submitting an interim report in October 1979 and a final report early in 1981. [102]  The Auditor General noted that services to Members were of high quality; however, fundamental weaknesses and a number of significant deficiencies were identified. [103]  These findings led to a major realignment of the administrative structure of the House, which has continued to evolve to meet changing circumstances and demands. Another comprehensive audit undertaken by the Auditor General in 1990-91 found a greatly improved quality of general and financial administration. [104] 

The administrative structure of the House is not set out in any single text or piece of legislation. The organization required to support the activities of the House has evolved and expanded over the years in response to the needs of an increasingly complex system of government. Provisions for various aspects of the administration are found in legislation, [105]  the Standing Orders, [106]  by-laws made by the Board of Internal Economy, internal policy manuals and in the unwritten practices developed over time.

Overall Authority of the Speaker

Elected by the Members of the House, the Speaker holds a position of authority and represents the Commons in all its powers, proceedings and dignity. [107]  The Speaker is guardian of the rights and privileges of the House, and spokesperson for the House in its relations with the Senate, the Sovereign and other authorities outside Parliament; when in the Chair, he or she is responsible for regulating debate and preserving order in accordance with the rules of the House. [108]

In addition to the more visible roles as representative of the House and presiding officer in the Chamber, the Speaker is at the head of the administration of the House of Commons and holds extensive responsibilities in that regard. The Speaker is responsible for the overall direction and management of the House of Commons administration, [109]  much as a Cabinet Minister is responsible for a department.

The House has a number of unique characteristics that have a direct impact on how it functions and is managed. As part of its corporate rights and privileges, the House of Commons, through the Speaker, holds exclusive jurisdiction over its premises and the people within. The administrative activities of the House are numerous and diverse. All matters of finance and administration are overseen by the Board of Internal Economy, a statutory body of Members of Parliament. The House is accommodated for the most part in heritage buildings, which are recognized national symbols. These and other characteristics inevitably produce a necessarily complex administrative decision-making process.

Board of Internal Economy

The Board of Internal Economy is the governing body of the House of Commons. It has a long statutory history, originating in 1868 with the passage of An Act respecting the internal Economy of the House of Commons, and for other purposes[110] 


The membership of the Board consists of the Speaker, who acts as its Chair, two Ministers of the Crown (appointed to the Board by the Governor in Council), the Leader of the Opposition or his or her representative, and additional Members appointed in numbers resulting in an overall equality of government and opposition representatives (apart from the Speaker). All recognized opposition parties (i.e., those holding at least 12 seats in the House) are given representation on the Board. When there is only one recognized opposition party in the House of Commons, the caucus of that party appoints two members of the Board and the government caucus appoints one. When there is more than one recognized opposition party, each opposition caucus appoints one member of the Board; the government caucus appoints a number of members of the Board that is one less than the total number appointed by the opposition caucuses. [111]  The Speaker informs the House of appointments within 15 sitting days after they are made. [112]  Each Member of the Board is required to take an oath or affirmation “of fidelity and secrecy”, administered by the Clerk of the House. [113] 

The Clerk of the House is the Secretary to the Board of Internal Economy. [114]  When Parliament is dissolved, members of the Board retain their functions until they are replaced. [115]  This ensures continuity in the administrative leadership of the House; the practice has been that decisions taken by the Board while Parliament is dissolved are confined to those of a housekeeping nature.


Meetings of the Board of Internal Economy are chaired by the Speaker of the House. Five members, including the Speaker, constitute a quorum. [116]  In the event of the death, disability or absence of the Speaker, five members of the Board constitute a quorum; one must be a Minister. The members present then designate one of themselves to chair the meeting. [117] 

Mandate and Authority

The powers and authority of the Board flow from provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act, the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and the Parliamentary Employees and Staff Relations Act. Under the Parliament of Canada Act, the Board has legal authority to “act on all financial and administrative matters respecting the House of Commons, its premises, its services and its staff; and the Members of the House of Commons”. [118]  The Board examines and approves the annual budget estimates of the House before the Speaker transmits them to the President of the Treasury Board, who will then lay them before the House with the estimates of the government. [119]  All sums of money voted for the House by Parliament are released by order of the Board. In other words, the Board of Internal Economy manages all operating and administrative expenses of the House, including employee salaries and amounts payable to Members (i.e., their sessional indemnities, expense allowances, travel and communications costs). In administrative matters, the Board is responsible for managing the premises, services and staff of the House as well as those goods, services and premises made available to Members to carry out their parliamentary duties.

Pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House, the Board approves and controls the budget expenditures of the committees of the House of Commons, and must table an annual financial report outlining the expenses incurred by each committee. [120]  The rules further require that when the Board has reached a decision concerning any budget presented to it, the Speaker shall lay upon the Table the record of the Board’s decision. [121] 

In accordance with the Parliamentary Employee and Staff Relations Act, the Board is deemed to be the employer of the staff of the House of Commons, as defined in the Act (the chief exception being Members’ staff, who are deemed to be employed by the Members). [122]  As employer, the Board approves salary scales for non-unionized employees and authorizes officials of the House to negotiate the renewal of the collective agreements of unionized employees and ratifies such agreements.

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, a member of the Board is designated to be responsible for answering any questions pertaining to the administration of the House which may be put during Question Period. [123] 

By-laws and Decisions of the Board

The Board is authorized by the Parliament of Canada Act to make by-laws governing Members’ use of the funds, goods, services and premises made available to them. When the Board makes a by-law, it must be tabled in the House within 30 days of its making, or deposited with the Clerk if the House is not sitting. [124] 

The Standing Orders require the Speaker to table at the beginning of each new session of Parliament a report of decisions of the Board of Internal Economy for the previous session. [125]  Early in the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), a new practice was instituted whereby records of the Board’s decisions (typically, in the form of minutes) are tabled in the House as soon as they have been approved by the Board. [126] 

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is responsible for management policy and major decision-making involving general administrative practices, security, and financial and personnel administration of the House. It is chaired by the Speaker and composed of the Deputy Speaker, the Clerk, the Sergeant-at-Arms and a senior official responsible for financial services and human resources.

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

Some of the duties of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs also deal with the administration of the House. The Committee’s mandate includes, among other things, reviewing and reporting to the House and to the Board of Internal Economy on:

  • issues concerning the management of the House and the provision of services and facilities to Members;
  • the effectiveness and management of operations under the joint control of the House of Commons and the Senate;
  • radio and television broadcasting of proceedings of the House and its committees; and
  • matters relating to the election of

In addition, the Committee considers the budgetary estimates of the House of Commons, including the Report on Plans and Priorities and the Performance Report, just as other committees consider departmental estimates. [127] 

Office of the Clerk of the House

Members are supported in their parliamentary functions by services administered by the Clerk of the House [128]  who, as the chief executive of the House administration, reports to the Speaker. The Clerk is appointed by Order-in-Council [129]  and is the senior permanent official of the House. The Clerk advises and supports the Speaker, the House and its committees in all procedural and administrative matters, and acts as Secretary to the Board of Internal Economy. The staff and administration of the House come under the control of the Clerk. [130]  The Standing Orders establishing the procedural and administrative functions of the Clerk have changed little since Confederation; however, the responsibilities of the office have evolved considerably as the administrative apparatus of the House has become more complex.

The Clerk is responsible for maintaining records of the proceedings of the House and for keeping custody of these records and other documents in the possession of the House. [131]  The Standing Orders also require the Clerk to provide the Speaker, prior to each sitting of the House, with the official agenda for the day’s proceedings, published under the title Order Paper and Notice Paper[132]  This rule has traditionally been interpreted to mean that the Speaker must be in possession of the current Order Paper and Notice Paper in order for the day’s proceedings to begin.

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 to all duly elected Members. The Clerk also administers an oath to Members joining the Board of Internal Economy. [133]  In addition, the Clerk is responsible for administering the oath of allegiance to all employees of the House administration. [134] 

Reporting to the Clerk are senior officials who are responsible for the various organizational units of the House administration (i.e., parliamentary precinct services, procedural services in the House and committees, and corporate resources). The Sergeant-at-Arms, the Deputy Clerk and the Clerks Assistant have duties in the Chamber when the House is sitting as well as administrative responsibilities.

The Sergeant-at-Arms [135]  assists the Clerk as head of parliamentary precinct services, performing certain ceremonial functions and being responsible for security and building services. The ceremonial role of the Sergeant-at-Arms entails accompanying the Speaker, as Mace-bearer, on all parliamentary functions. [136] When engaged in ceremonial functions and when attending sittings of the House, the Sergeant-at-Arms is attired formally in black tailcoat and cocked hat, with a sword signifying the authority of the office. [137] 

As regards security, the Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for the protection and security of Members, employees, visitors and property within the parliamentary precinct. [138]  This includes personal security for the Prime Minister in the precinct of Parliament, and maintaining order in the Chamber and all the parliamentary buildings. The Sergeant-at-Arms is also responsible for parking control on Parliament Hill by agreement with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and for maintaining accommodation for Members and staff of the House of Commons.

From time to time since Confederation, the Clerk of the House has also been assisted by a Deputy Clerk and one or more Clerks Assistant, [139]  who act as Table Officers and assume various responsibilities in the administration of the House of Commons. [140]  Appointments to the position of Clerk Assistant have been made at various times either by the Speaker; [141]  by Order-in-Council; [142]  or, more recently, some have been made under the administrative authority of the Executive Committee on the recommendation of the Clerk of the House.

For a complete history of the selection of Ottawa as a capital city, see Wilfrid Eggleston, The Queen’s Choice, Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1961, ch. 5.
During a time of political and economic crisis, protest coalesced against the Governor’s assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill (compensating losses suffered in Lower Canada during the 1837 rebellion). There were days of rioting, in the course of which an angry mob invaded the House of Assembly. The building burned on April 25, 1849, and very little was saved. (See J.M.S. Careless, The Union of the Canadas,Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1967, pp. 122-6.)
The choice of Ottawa as national capital is reflected in the Quebec resolutions of 1864, adopted by delegates from the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island and the London resolutions of 1866, adopted by delegates from the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (The Quebec Resolutions, 1864, and the London Resolutions, 1866, may be found in M. Ollivier, British North America Acts and Selected Statutes, 1867-1962, Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962, p. 47, s. 52, and p. 58, s. 51, respectively.)
For a description of the original site, see Eggleston, p. 83.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 80.
The report of a Royal Commission, appointed to inquire into the origin of the fire, was presented to the House later that year (Journals, May 16, 1916, p. 388). The commissioners were “ … of the opinion that there are many circumstances connected with this fire that lead to a strong suspicion of incendiarism”, but as the inquiry was taken no further, the true cause of the fire remains a mystery. The report noted that the fire started in the Reading Room, which was furnished and fitted in “highly inflammable” varnished white pine, and where many newspapers and files were kept. See also Jane Varkaris and Lucile Finsten, Fire on Parliament Hill! The Boston Mills Press, 1988.
Arrangements were quickly made and remarkably the House began sitting in the Museum’s auditorium the day after the fire (Journals, February 4, 1916, p. 53). The Senate, which was not sitting at the time of the fire, was accommodated in what had been the Geological Department (Senate Debates, February 8, 1916, p. 50).
When the session opened on February 26, 1920, the Senate Chamber was not ready. The Senate met in the House of Commons, where the Speech from the Throne was read, and the House met in the Railway Committee Room; thereafter, until the Senate Chamber was ready, the Commons met in its Chamber and the Senate in the Railway Committee Room (Senate Debates, February 26, 1920, p. 1; February 27, 1920, p. 2; see also pages 5 and 6 of the Report of the Minister of Public Works for the Fiscal Year Ended March 31, 1919, tabled on March 10, 1920 (Journals, p. 39)).
On being occupied in 1920, the building was still in an unfinished state. It was completed in 1922, the Peace Tower in 1927.
Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 163.
The principal ones are the Confederation, Justice, Wellington, Victoria and La Promenade buildings.
The design and the construction of the fountain were the work of the then Department of Public Works. The flame was originally conceived as a project for the Centennial year and the intention was to extinguish it at the end of 1967. However, in response to popular demand, the government decided to continue the flame in perpetuity (Debates, December 11, 1967, p. 5260; December 12, 1967, pp. 5358-9).
Centennial Flame Research Award Act, S.C. 1991, c. 17. The Act originated as a private Member’s bill introduced by Patrick Boyer (Etobicoke–Lakeshore); it established the Fund which is administered by the parliamentary committee whose mandate includes matters relating to the status of disabled persons. The Fund provides awards to disabled persons to conduct research and prepare reports on the contributions of disabled persons to the public life of Canada. Reports prepared by award recipients are presented in the House by the Chair of the committee. See Journals, June 14, 1993, p. 3204; December 13, 1994, p. 1043; April 23, 1997, pp. 1515-6; May 12, 1998, p. 775; June 10, 1999, p. 2090.
Originally planned for Parliament Hill, the statue of Louis St-Laurent (Prime Minister from 1948 to 1957) was erected in 1975 in front of the Supreme Court of Canada building and looks towards Parliament Hill, which is nearby. This location was considered to be in keeping with St-Laurent’s distinguished legal career and service as Minister of Justice and Attorney General prior to becoming Prime Minister. For further information about the statues on and near Parliament Hill, see Statues of Parliament Hill, National Capital Commission, 1986.
The monument to Elizabeth II is the only monument on Parliament Hill which was not erected posthumously. It was unveiled in 1992, the year of the fortieth anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
For information on Parliament Hill and the precincts of the Houses of Parliament, see Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 163-78.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 108, The Third Schedule, clause 9. See also Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 168-9.
Formerly the Department of Public Works, it was reorganized and renamed in 1993-94; see Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, S.C. 1996, c. 16.
National Capital Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. N-4, s. 10.
Arthur Beauchesne, Canada’s Parliament Buildings: The Senate and House of Commons, Ottawa, Ottawa: 1948,p. 24. Figures converted from imperial to metric.
When the Sovereign or the Governor General is present on Parliament Hill for a state or public function, the Canadian flag is replaced by Her Majesty’s Personal Canadian Flag or by the Governor General’s Flag, as the case may be (The Arms, Flags and Emblems of Canada, 2nd ed., Deneau Publishers, 1981).
For additional information on the services offered by the Library of Parliament, see Library of Parliament, A Guide to Services, December 1997.
For further information on the history of the Library of Parliament, see Audrey Dubé and Mike Graham, Chronology of a Building, the Library of Parliament (1995), and Kenneth Binks, Library of Parliament, Canada, KCB Publications, 1979.
The “History of Canada” series was begun in 1962 by Eleanor Milne and her team of stonecarvers, and completed in 1974. The Loyalists were American colonists of diverse ethnic backgrounds who supported the British cause during the American revolution, and who left the United States at the end of the War of Independence or soon thereafter. (For further information on the United Empire Loyalists, seeWallace Brown and Hereward Senior, Victorious in Defeat: The Loyalists in Canada, Methuen Publications, 1984.)
Antechambers for the House and Senate were part of the design for the new Parliament Building constructed after the fire of 1916; the original building had no antechamber.
For information on the Speaker’s parade, see Chapter 9, “Sittings of the House”.
The predominance of the colour red in the Senate Chamber and the British House of Lords can be explained by its history as a royal colour used in the room where the Sovereign met his Court and nobles, as was the case in Parliament’s earliest days. The association of the colour green with the Commons is not so easily determined. The colour green has been linked to the Commons’ meeting places at least since 1663 (date of the first authoritative written reference to green in the House of Commons). See J.M. Davies, “Red and Green” in The Table, Vol. XXXVII for 1968, pp. 33-40; as well as “House of Commons Green”, Factsheet No. 13, Public Information Office, House of Commons, London, 1987.
The windows were a special project, undertaken in 1967 by Speaker Lamoureux to mark Canada’s centennial. They were designed by Parliamentary Sculptor Eleanor Milne. The project was completed in 1973. See The Stained Glass Windows of Canada’s House of Commons, Ottawa, published under the authority of the Speaker of the House of Commons; see also Debates, September 7, 1971, p. 7545.
This 11-year project, completed in 1985, was undertaken by Parliamentary Sculptor Eleanor Milne and her team. On the east wall are featured civil law, freedom of speech, the Senate, the Governor General, Confederation, the vote; on the west wall are bilingualism, education, House of Commons, taxation, criminal law and communication. R. Eleanor Milne, The British North America Act Series, Ottawa: Department of Public Works, 1983.
This is said to originate with the formation of political parties and party government. In the parliaments of seventeenth century Britain, according to Redlich, the division into right and left was “ … quite unknown.” For information on the origins of this and other traditions associated with seating in the British House, see Redlich, Vol. II, pp. 23-7.
This relates to times gone by in the British House; its Members no longer wear swords, but red lines marked on the carpet two swords’ length apart serve as a reminder to seek resolutions by peaceful means.
In response to a point of order, Speaker Parent explained the process followed in assigning seats to parties and stated, “There is no such thing as a bad seat in the House of Commons” (Debates, September 30, 1998, pp. 8584-5). For further information on assignment of seats, see Chapter 4, “The House of Commons and Its Members”.
Seating plans for the House indicate that at one time the Speaker, a government Member, was assigned a desk on the government side near the Chair. It appears the practice was discontinued in the Thirty-First Parliament (1979) when, following a change of government, Speaker Jerome was elected to a second term, becoming the first opposition Member to be nominated by the governing party to preside over the House.
This design element may be related to the fact that the Chair is a replica of the original Speaker’s Chair at Westminster, which is also raised above floor level. In St. Stephen’s Chapel, the home of the British Commons from 1547 to 1834, the Speaker’s Chair was located atop the steps leading to the altar.
In 1973, the House adopted a motion authorizing the Speaker to “display the Canadian Flag in the House of Commons in such location as he chooses” (Journals, February 14, 1973, p. 119). For some years the flag was displayed on the Speaker’s right. Since the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1994-97), the flag has been displayed to either side of the Chair.
Debates, May 20, 1921, p. 3691.
Journals, June 8, 1920, p. 324; see also Debates, May 20, 1921, pp. 3689-96.
The lift was installed in 1981 during the tenure of Speaker Sauvé.
See comments of Speaker Jerome on the Page Programme, Debates, March 22, 1978, pp. 4026-7; October 10, 1978, p. 6953.
The portraits are normally commissioned before a Speaker leaves office, but hung only after a Speaker has left office; a hanging ceremony is held when a new portrait is added to the collection.
The Table, with its elaborately carved base, was designed by J.A. Pearson, one of the architects of the reconstructed Centre Block.
The scroll is the (traditionally handwritten) record of proceedings in the House, kept by the Table Officers. It is the basis of the Journals. The time book, also kept by Table Officers, is an account of how time is used in the House.
The calendar stand, inkstand and seal press are the handiwork of ironmaster Paul Beau; they were placed on the Table in 1926 to replace items lost in the fire of 1916 (Debates, May 26, 1926, p. 3731). For a description of their design, see Journals, May 28, 1926, pp. 364-5. Mr. Beau was also responsible for many of the ironwork items found elsewhere in the Centre Block (see Paul Beau by Rosalind Pepall, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, 1982).
The Mace developed from the club (prehistoric weapon) and the staff (ancient symbol of age, wisdom and authority). See Erskine Grant-Dalton, “The Mace”, The Table, Vol. XXV for 1956, pp. 15-20; see also Peter Thorne, “Maces: Their Use and Significance”, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 44, 1963, pp. 25-30. It is said that the mace rather than the sword was carried into battle by the medieval warrior bishops, in conformity with canonical rule forbidding priests to shed blood (Beauchesne, Canada’s Parliament Buildings, p. 55).
May, 22nd ed., pp. 136-7.
At this time, the British Commons was at the start of its centuries-long struggle to assert and win the privileges essential to establishing its distinct role in Parliament. In the Ferrers case of 1543, the House of Commons successfully challenged the City of London authorities, securing the release of an arrested Member (Ferrers) “by their Serjeant without writ, only by shew of his mace, which was his warrant”; see the account in Hatsell, Vol. I, pp. 53-9. See also Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.
The legislative assemblies of the other provinces joining Confederation did not use maces (Bourinot, 2nd ed., pp. 277-8, note 5). Nova Scotia and New Brunswick obtained maces in 1930 and 1937 respectively. In Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec), maces were used in the houses of assembly from the time of their first meetings in 1792.
Bourinot, 2nd ed., pp. 277-8, note 5.
John McDonough, “The History of the Maces of the British and Canadian Parliaments,” Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. II, No. 2, June 1979, p. 29.
Journals, May 16, 1917, p. 216. For a description of the design of the Mace, see Debates, May 16, 1917, pp. 1468-9. See also Wilding and Laundy, pp. 455-6 for information on maces in other Commonwealth parliaments.
This has taken place on each anniversary since 1977 (see, for example, Debates, February 3, 1994, p. 847). The tradition began in 1961 during the tenure of Speaker Michener (Debates, February 3, 1961, p. 1701) and was revived by Speaker Jerome in 1977 (Debates, February 3, 1977, p. 2665).
“The Mace in the House of Commons”, House of Commons Library Document No. 3, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1957, p. 7. See also Hatsell, Vol. II, p. 141.
Standing Order 157(1).
This long-standing custom may have originated in the Elizabethan period, when the large committees of the time began to meet in the Chamber as an alternative to less-convenient locations outside the precinct. The position of the Mace— on the Table or below it— would have provided a clear indication as to whether Members were sitting as a House or as a committee (“The Mace in the House of Commons”, House of Commons Library Document No. 3, pp. 9-10).
In 1642, in a conflict over the respective rights and authority of the monarch and the British Parliament, Charles I issued a warrant for the arrest of five Members of the British House of Commons. The King himself went to the Commons Chamber, crossed the Bar— the first and last monarch to do so— and took the Speaker’s Chair, demanding the presence of the five wanted Members. The King’s intentions were foiled by Speaker Lenthall whose famous words (“May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here, and I humbly beg Your Majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what Your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.”) established the precedence of the privileges of the Commons over the authority of the Crown (Wilding and Laundy, pp. 708-9).
On October 30, 1991, angry at having missed a vote, Ian Waddell (Port Moody–Coquitlam) attempted to take hold of the Mace as it was borne out of the Chamber at the end of the sitting. The Member’s actions were judged to be an attempt to obstruct the House, as well as a challenge to the Chair’s authority to adjourn the sitting. A prima facie breach of privilege was found and a motion was adopted calling the Member to the Bar to be admonished by the Speaker (Debates, October 30, 1991, pp. 4269-70; October 31, 1991, pp. 4271-85, 4309-10). As a sitting Member, the individual could have received the admonishment at his assigned place, which would have been the normal practice. In this case, however, the motion adopted by the House specifically requested the Member to appear at the Bar.
For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.
At one time the Ladies’ Gallery was reserved for women (who tended to be the wives and daughters of Members), as is the Ladies’ Gallery in the British House. See Wilding and Laundy, p. 424; Redlich, Vol. II, pp. 22, 35.
The Parliamentary Press Gallery is a non-profit corporation whose membership comprises journalists assigned by media organizations to cover Parliament.
For further information on this custom, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.
In March 1997, the House was made aware that an aboriginal visitor carrying an eagle feather had been refused admission to the public galleries. The House took note of the sacred character of the eagle feather for aboriginal peoples, and the Speaker stated that it is permissible for an aboriginal person to bring an eagle feather into the House (Debates, March 12, 1997, pp. 8946, 8954-5).
This has traditionally been interpreted as conservative business dress; for example, jackets and neckties for male guests. Appropriate national costume and traditional aboriginal dress are also acceptable. The dress code is not applied in the public galleries.
For further information on the authority of the House over its precinct, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”. When it came to the attention of the House in June 1998 that Ernst Zundel (notorious for having published his claims that the Holocaust never occurred) had been granted use of the Centre Block press conference facility managed by the Parliamentary Press Gallery (Debates, June 4, 1998, pp. 7608-9), the House agreed that, for the remainder of the session, Mr. Zundel would be denied admission to the House of Commons precinct (Journals, June 4, 1998, p. 937).
There have been rare exceptions. In 1944, the House twice agreed to permit the Minister of National Defence, who was newly appointed and not an elected Member, to address the House during a sitting (Journals, November 23, 1944, p. 926; November 24, 1944, p. 928). In addition, the House met in a secret session at which the Minister was present and participated (Journals, November 28, 1944, p. 931; Debates, November 28, 1944, p. 6634).
In 1996 and 1998, the House sat as a Committee of the Whole for ceremonies recognizing the national Olympic and Paralympic teams of the 1996 Summer Games and 1998 Winter Games, for which the athletes were brought onto the floor of the House (Journals, October 1, 1996, p. 699; Debates, October 1, 1996, pp. 4944-6; Journals, April 22, 1998, p. 691; Debates, April 22, 1998, pp. 5959-60).
For historical background, see May, 1st ed., pp. 163-4; 5th ed., pp. 238-40; Redlich, Vol. II, pp. 34-5.
See Rules and Forms of Proceedings of the House of Commons of Canada, 1868, Rule 6; and Debates, March 27, 1871, col. 655, for an example of its use.
Debates, March 29, 1876, p. 905.
No such motion was ever adopted, although attempts were made (see, for example, Journals, September 7, 1950, p. 38; Debates, April 4, 1990, pp. 10186-7). In the 1990 example, Speaker Fraser ruled that a Member could not propose the motion on a point of order.
Standing Order 14 (Journals, June 10, 1994, p. 563).
See the section on secret sittings in Chapter 9, “Sittings of the House”.
Standing Orders 157(2) and 158.
See, for example, Debates, May 11, 1970, p. 6796; November 28, 1989, pp. 6342-3. On October 18, 1990, a question of privilege was raised accusing a Member of complicity in a demonstration in the galleries on the previous day, when some 20 individuals identified as students had shouted and pelted Members with macaroni and messages of protest before being escorted from the galleries by security staff (Debates, October 18, 1990, pp. 14359-68). The Speaker ruled out the allegation of complicity, but found a prima facie breach of privilege in the demonstration. The matter was referred to committee, which recommended that participants in such demonstrations be charged or otherwise punished for their actions (Debates, November 6, 1990, pp. 15177-81; Journals, November 6, 1990, p. 2228; March 6, 1991, pp. 2666-7). For text of the report, see Standing Committee on Privilege and Elections, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 6, 1991, Issue No. 39, pp. 3-8. The report was not taken up by the House.
The development of the system in the British House was watched with interest; see reports tabled by the Speaker in Journals, December 5, 1947, pp. 7, 30-2; March 15, 1951, pp. 177-9. The special committee’s report was presented and adopted on June 19, 1951 (Journals, pp. 517-8).
See Journals, February 29, 1952, p. 9 (tabling of an Order in Council authorizing the Minister of Public Works to contract for the supply, installation and operation of a sound system); Debates, June 25, 1952, p. 3732 (questioning of the Minister in the Committee of Supply); Debates, November 21, 1952, p. 11; November 26, 1952, p. 123 (Members’ comments on the new system).
Journals, August 11, 1958, p. 402.
See the discussion in the House when the decision was taken (Debates, August 11, 1958, pp. 3331-40) and on an earlier occasion when a motion seeking the establishment of simultaneous interpretation was debated (Debates, November 25, 1957, pp. 1456-99).
Journals, January 25, 1977, p. 287.
See the Speaker’s statement when the House began broadcasting its proceedings (Debates, October 17, 1977, pp. 8201-2).
See, for example, the special order adopted on May 11, 1961 (Journals, p. 535). On another occasion, when a Member objected, the Speaker sought the consent of the House for photographs to be taken during a sitting (Debates, November 27, 1964, p. 10597; December 17, 1964, p. 11263). In January 1967, the Speaker wrote to all Members, informing them of arrangements made in consultation with the House Leaders for photographs to be taken of the House in session.
See Debates, October 24, 1979, p. 557.
See Debates, January 25, 1983, p. 22194.
From time to time, the House of Commons Chamber is the site for an address by a distinguished visitor to assembled Members and Senators. In order for such a meeting to take place, the House first adopts a motion to that effect (see, for example, Journals, June 9, 1992, pp. 1660-1). When a joint address takes place, an established protocol is followed. It does not constitute a sitting of the House and the House is not in session. For further information on joint addresses to Members of both Houses, see Chapter 9, “Sittings of the House”.
Orientation sessions, usually given for Members after a general election and before the opening of Parliament, were held in the Chamber following the general elections of 1993 and 1997.
For example: The Teachers’ Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy, a professional development seminar held annually since 1996; the annual meetings of the Forum for Young Canadians, a program operated by the non-profit Foundation for the Study of Processes of Government in Canada, for students of secondary school age to learn about the workings of government and the responsibilities of citizenship; and the annual swearing-in ceremony for the parliamentary pages.
In 1921, Members and Senators assembled in the House of Commons Chamber for a ceremony to receive the Speaker’s Chair, a gift to replace the Chair lost in the fire of 1916. The gathering was not a sitting of the House and the Mace was not laid on the Table. When the House sat later the same day, special orders were adopted to prefix the remarks made at the ceremony to that day’s Debates (Journals, May 20, 1921, pp. 305-6).
Sessions were held in the House of Commons Chamber when the Parliament of Canada hosted the XIth and XVIIIth General Assemblies of the Association internationale des parlementaires de langue française in 1980 and 1991 respectively (since renamed l’Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF)) and the XXVth General Assembly of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie in 1999.
In 1996, Members and Senators past and present gathered in the Chamber and galleries to witness a ceremony unveiling the first of a series of plaques commemorating the service of individual parliamentarians since Confederation.  The event was not a sitting of the House. (The ceremony was televised but the official documents contain no written record; see references in Debates, May 29, 1996, pp. 3124, 3133.)
For further information, see Chapter 20, “Committees”.
See Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.
The Standing Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines was in existence from 1867 to 1965, when its name was changed. The Railway Committee Room opens off the Hall of Honour. It is one of the largest committee rooms, and it has been equipped to broadcast committee proceedings.
Standing Order 115(4). The priority system is based on the Committee’s report (see Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 10, 1994, Issue No. 16, pp. 9-10), which was adopted by the House on September 19, 1994 (Journals, p. 682). See also Chapter 20, “Committees”.
Members’ Manual of Allowances and Services, House of Commons, March 1998, Vol. I, Chapter B-1, p. 1.
In 1991, Louis Plamondon (Richelieu), a Member of a non-recognized party, raised a question of privilege about the reassignment of his office by the Speaker without his authorization. The Speaker ruled that the Member’s complaint was an administrative rather than procedural matter (Debates, April 8, 1991, pp. 19126-7; April 9, 1991, pp. 19232-3; April 11, 1991, p. 19340). Prior to the opening of the Thirty-Sixth Parliament in 1997, John Nunziata (York South–Weston), a former Member of a recognized party who had been re-elected as an independent Member, was reassigned office space by the Speaker against his will.
At that time, sessions of Parliament were on average well under six months in length; see Appendix 12, “Parliaments Since 1867 and Number of Sitting Days”.
The original building had residences for the Speaker and Sergeant-at-Arms as well as living quarters for housekeepers, servants and messengers. The new building was two storeys higher and additional space was made available by eliminating the residences, though the Speaker retained a suite of rooms in order to offer the traditional hospitality (J. D. Livermore, “A History of Parliamentary Accommodation in Canada, 1841-1974”, published as Appendix III of the Report of the Advisory Commission on Parliamentary Accommodation, which was tabled on December 17, 1976 (Journals, p. 254)).
The West Block was renovated and reopened for Members in 1963, and the Confederation Building in 1973. Since 1980, the East Block (which had always been used by the Prime Minister) has been used by other Members. Office space is also available to Members in the Wellington Building, which the House of Commons began to use in 1977 (Maingot, 2nd ed., p. 169). More space will be made available to Members in the Justice Building.
Constitution Act, 1867, R.S.C. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 17.
Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 183-5. See also Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.
An example would be the House-wide program of environmental awareness and conservation, known as “Greening the Hill”, established in 1990 by Speaker Fraser, well in advance of other such initiatives in the public sector.
See page 3 of the Report on Plans and Priorities 1998-99, tabled on March 25, 1998 (Journals, p. 620).
See the Sixth Report of the Special Committee on Procedure and Organization, presented on May 20, 1964 (Journals, pp. 331-7).
For a description of the administrative review, see comments of the Speaker in Debates, November 1, 1979, pp. 841-3.
See the exchange of correspondence between the Speaker of the House and the Auditor General, tabled on November 1, 1979 (Journals, p. 162) and printed by order of the House (Journals, November 2, 1979, p. 168) as an appendix to the Debates (Debates, November 2, 1979, pp. 922-6).
The interim report was tabled in the House (Journals, November 1 and 2, 1979, pp. 162, 168) and a summary report appeared as Chapter 5 of the Auditor General’s report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1980 (tabled on December 11, 1980; see Journals, p. 840). The full audit report was filed as an exhibit with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Minutes of Proceedings, February 10, 1981, Issue No. 21, p. 3).
See paragraphs 5.8-5.10 of the Report of the Auditor General for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1980.
See page 9 of the Report of the Audit of the House of Commons Administration, tabled on November 21, 1991 (Journals, p. 703; Debates, pp. 5158-9).
For example, the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1; Salaries Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. S-3; Official Languages Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.); and Canada Post Corporation Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-10, s. 35.
See, for example, Standing Orders 22, 107, 121, 148-59.
May, 22nd ed., p. 188.
For further information on the role of the Speaker, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.
In 1998-99, the House of Commons administration under the Speaker’s jurisdiction comprised some 1,340 person-years (not including Members’ staff) and had a budget of approximately $235.2 million. Person-year figures were presented to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee by the Clerk of the House on April 30, 1998 (see Issue 23 of the Committee proceedings). For budget figures, see 1998-99 Estimates, Part I and II, The Government Expenditure Plan and the Main Estimates, p. 18-2, tabled in the House on February 26, 1998 (Journals, p. 534).
S.C. 1867-68, c. 27.
Until November 1997, when these provisions came into effect (Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (composition of the Board of Internal Economy) received Royal Assent on November 27, 1997), the Deputy Speaker was automatically a Member of the Board of Internal Economy. Peter Milliken (Kingston and the Islands), who was Deputy Speaker at the time, was subsequently appointed to the Board as one of the government’s representatives (Journals, December 11, 1997, p. 391).
Following the adoption of these provisions early in the First Session of the Thirty-Sixth Parliament (1997-99), the composition of the Board was as follows: the Speaker, two Cabinet Ministers, the nominee of the Leader of the Opposition, one representative from each of the four opposition caucuses (Reform Party, Bloc Québécois, New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative Party) and three Members appointed by the government caucus.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 50 as amended by c. 42 (1st supp.), s. 2 and S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 50(4)). See, for example, Journals, January 18, 1994, p. 18 (appointment of several Members at the beginning of a Parliament); September 18, 1995, p. 1882 (appointment of one Member to replace another).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 50 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2. The text is set out as Form 3 of the Schedule to the Act.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 51 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by c. 42 (1st supp.), s. 2 and S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 53).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 50 as amended by c. 42 (1st supp.), s. 2 and S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 52.1).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 and S.C. 1997, c. 32, s. 2 (s. 52(2)). Formerly, the Deputy Speaker or a person designated by the Speaker or Deputy Speaker was required to be present and to chair the meeting.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 52.3).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 52.4).
Standing Order 121.
Standing Order 148(2).
R.S.C. 1985, c. 33 (4th Supp.), ss. 3, 4(2). The Board of Internal Economy issues guidelines to Members in connection with their role as employers (Manual of Allowances and Services, House of Commons, January 1999).
Standing Order 37(2). See, for example, Debates, February 5, 1986, p. 10473. See also Chapter 11, “Questions”.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 52.5(3)).
Standing Order 148(1).
See Debates, February 17, 1994, p. 1507. See, for example, the minutes of the Board’s meeting of November 5, 1996, tabled on December 6, 1996 (Journals, p. 975); March 18, 1997, tabled on April 25, 1997 (Journals, p. 1557); May 26, 1998, tabled on June 11, 1998 (Journals, p. 1021).
Standing Order 108(3)(a). For further information on this Committee, see Chapter 20, “Committees”. See, for example, statements of the Speaker in appearances before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs: Minutes and Evidence of Proceedings, April 12, 1994, Issue No. 7, pp. 5-10; April 4, 1995, Issue No. 48, pp. 6-11; October 26, 1995, Issue No. 91; May 30, 1996, Issue No. 16; April 8, 1997, Issue No. 39; April 30, 1998, Issue No. 23; March 11, 1999, Issue No. 54.
Since Confederation, 10 Clerks have served the House of Commons (see Appendix 6, “Clerks of the House of Commons Since 1867”). The office of Clerk has a long history in British parliamentary tradition. The first official appointment of a Clerk to the Commons took place in 1363, though from much earlier times kings had employed officials to record their decisions and those of their advisors. In the language of the time, the word “clerk” simply indicated a person who could read and write. Thus, the early Clerks of the House were servants of the Crown appointed to assist the Commons with its business. Their duties included reading petitions and bills. As the Commons gained in stature and recognition, its Clerk became more identified with the institution. In the mid-sixteenth century, Clerks began keeping notes on proceedings in the House, and these evolved into the Journals. During the tumultuous sittings of the Long Parliament (1640-53), the role of Clerk grew to include advising the Chair and the House on procedural matters (Wilding and Laundy, pp. 134-5). For a historical account, see Philip Marsden, The Officers of the Commons 1363-1978, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1979.
For examples of recent appointments, see Journals, October 9, 1979, p. 18; September 18, 1987, p. 1485. The appointment of the Clerk is provided for by the Public Service Employment Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. P-33, s. 40(d)).
Standing Order 151.
Standing Order 151.
Standing Order 152.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by S.C. 1991, c. 20, s. 2 (s. 50(5)).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 49(1). This section of the Act also requires the Clerk to swear the oath before the Speaker of the House.
The office of Sergeant-at-Arms originated in the early years of the British Parliament, when mace-bearing members of the Royal bodyguard were assigned to attend the Speaker at sittings of the House of Commons. With the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Mace, the House could exercise its powers of arrest, trial and imprisonment and pursue its lengthy struggle to establish its rights and privileges. (See the section in this chapter on the Mace. For a detailed history of the office, see Marsden.) See Appendix 7 for a list of Sergeants-at-Arms of the House of Commons since Confederation.
For example, in the parade escorting the Speaker to and from the Chamber, or to the Senate Chamber for the reading of the Speech from the Throne.
In 1849, when rioters entered the Parliament Building in Montreal, the Sergeant-at-Arms reportedly drew his sword while attempting to protect the Mace (Beauchesne, Canada’s Parliament Buildings, pp. 56-7).
Since 1920, the House of Commons has had its own security service under the Sergeant-at-Arms. Prior to this, security was the responsibility of the Dominion Police, which in 1920 was merged with the Royal North West Mounted Police to create a new national force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). (For further information, see History of the House of Commons Security Services 1920-1995, Security Services Directorate, House of Commons, 1995.) With the Speaker’s permission, other police forces (such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the City of Ottawa police force) may enter the buildings on official business (Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 171-3).
The appointment to the position of Deputy Clerk has been made by Order in Council (Mary Anne Griffith: see Journals, September 18, 1987, p. 1485; Camille Montpetit: see Canada Gazette, Part I, November 7, 1998, p. 3036; Journals, February 11, 1999, p. 1498). In Britain, the post of Clerk Assistant is second to that of Clerk and dates from 1640, when the first such appointment was made (May, 22nd ed., p. 198; for historical background, see Marsden, pp. 45-8).
Table Officers are part of a corps of procedural staff, trained by means of an established career structure which provides experience in a variety of procedural fields. See “The Clerkship as a Profession” by C. S. Koester in The Table, Vol. LVII for 1989, pp. 35-43.
See, for example, the appointments of John George Bourinot (Journals, February 17, 1879, p. 8; Debates, February 17, 1879, cols. 5-6) and Arthur Beauchesne (Journals, February 15, 1916, pp. 79-80; February 17, 1916, p. 85).
See, for example, the appointments of Thomas Munro Fraser (Journals, February 5, 1925, p. 1); Charles Beverley Koester (Journals, October 14, 1975, p. 754); Philip A.C. Laundy (Journals, March 4, 1983, p. 5672); Robert Marleau (Journals, March 4, 1983, p. 5672); and Mary Anne Griffith (Journals, January 21, 1985, p. 224).

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As the rules and practices of the House of Commons are subject to change, users should remember that this edition of Procedure and Practice was published in January 2000. Standing Order changes adopted since then, as well as other changes in practice, are not reflected in the text. The Appendices to the book, however, have been updated and now include information up to the end of the 38th Parliament in November 2005.

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