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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
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The enactment of a statute by Parliament is the final step in a long process that starts with the proposal, preparation and drafting of a bill. The drafting of a bill is a vital stage in this process—one which challenges the decision makers and drafters to take carefully into account certain constraints, since a failure to abide by these may have negative consequences in relation to the eventual interpretation and application of the law and to the proper functioning of the legislative process.

*   Limits on Legislative Action

The Constitution of Canada sets out a number of rules that limit the legislative powers and activity both of the government and of Parliament.[54] The Canadian legal duality sometimes results in differences in the application and interpretation of a federal statute, depending on whether the part of Canada in which it is being applied is governed by the common law or by civil law.[55]

Bills must be enacted, published and printed simultaneously in French and English. Section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 requires that bills proceed in both languages through the entire legislative process, including first reading.[56] Section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1982 further requires that both versions of federal statutes be treated as equally authoritative.

*   Drafting Bills

Government Bills

A decision by the government to transform a policy initiative into a legislative proposal triggers the drafting process.[57] The Department of Justice prepares a draft bill, following instructions given by Cabinet.[58] The Minister of Justice is required to examine every bill introduced by a Minister in order to ascertain that it is consistent with the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[59]

Once a bill has been drafted in both official languages, it must be approved by Cabinet, after which the Government House Leader customarily reviews it and recommends in favour of or against its introduction in Parliament. Generally, the Government House Leader asks Cabinet to delegate the latter responsibility to him or her.[60]

Private Members’ Bills

Members of the House of Commons who are neither Ministers nor Parliamentary Secretaries may introduce bills for consideration under Private Members’ Business. Legislative services are made available under the authority of the Speaker of the House to assist them in drafting their bills. Before a bill is introduced in the House, the legislative services of the House of Commons will certify that it is acceptable as to its form and compliance with legislative and parliamentary conventions.[61]

Private Bills

A private bill may not be introduced by a Minister. It must be sponsored by a private Member and founded on a petition which must first have received a favourable report from the Examiner of Petitions or from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.[62] While the form of a private bill is similar to that of a public bill, a private bill must have a preamble, which is optional for a public bill.[63] The Standing Orders of the House include certain rules of drafting specific to private bills, as well as rules relating exclusively to bills for Acts of incorporation and to bills amending or repealing existing Acts.[64]

Drafting by a Committee

A committee may be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill[65] or a committee may be appointed for that specific purpose. Motions to this effect may be moved only by a Minister. A committee that has been instructed to prepare a bill shall, in its report, recommend the principles, scope and general provisions of the bill and may, if it deems it appropriate, recommend specific legislative wording.[66] If the House concurs in the committee’s report, this will constitute an order of the House to bring in a bill based on the report.

Other Drafting Characteristics

Bills may have other drafting characteristics, depending on the purpose of the proposed legislation.

*       New legislation: Bills resulting from policy decisions or, in some cases, to implement treaties, conventions or agreements, to accept recommendations arising out of a report of a Task Force or Royal Commission of Inquiry, to carry out administrative measures, or to deal with emergencies.[67]

*       Major revisions of existing Acts: Bills to revise an Act because it contains a sunset clause (providing that it must be revised after a certain period of time) or because of changing economic or social standards or circumstances.[68]

*       Amendments to existing Acts: Bills to amend existing Acts. The amendments may be either of a substantive or of a housekeeping nature.

*       Statute law amendment bills: Initiatives to eliminate anomalies, inconsistencies, archaisms or errors in existing legislation and to deal with other matters of a non‑controversial and uncomplicated nature.[69]

*       Ways and means bills: Initiatives based on ways and means motions, the purpose of which is to create a new income tax or other taxes, to continue a tax which is expiring, to increase a tax or to extend the scope of a tax. These bills are governed by specific provisions of the Standing Orders.[70] Only a Minister may introduce a ways and means bill.[71]

*       Appropriation bills: Initiatives introduced in the House in response to the adoption of main or supplementary estimates or interim supply. These bills are also governed by specific provisions of the Standing Orders.[72] Only a Minister may introduce an appropriation bill.

*       Borrowing authority bills: Initiatives to seek authority to raise money when public revenues are not adequate to cover government expenditures.[73]

*       Pro forma bills: A pro forma bill is introduced by the Prime Minister at the beginning of each session. It affirms the right of the House to conduct its proceedings and to legislate, regardless of the reasons stated in the Speech from the Throne for convening the House. The bill is entitled An Act Respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office; it is numbered C‑1 but is not usually printed.[74] It is given first reading, but not second reading.[75]

*       Draft bills: This expression is used to refer to the draft form of bills that have not yet been introduced in either House. Occasionally, the House may have the draft of a government bill sent to a committee for examination. As the bill has not yet been given first reading, the committee may examine the proposed legislation without being constrained by the rules of the legislative process, and may recommend changes. The government can then take the committee’s report into consideration when finalizing the draft of the bill.

*       Omnibus bills: Although this expression is commonly used, there is no precise definition of an omnibus bill. In general, an omnibus bill seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts, and is characterized by the fact that it is made up of a number of related but separate initiatives.[76] An omnibus bill has “one basic principle or purpose which ties together all the proposed enactments and thereby renders the Bill intelligible for parliamentary purposes”.[77] One of the reasons cited for introducing an omnibus bill is to bring together in a single bill all the legislative amendments arising from a single policy decision in order to facilitate parliamentary debate.[78]

The use of omnibus bills is unique to Canada. The British Parliament does enact bills that are similar in type, but its legislative practice is different, specifically in that there is much tighter control over the length of debate. In the Australian Parliament, the opposite practice seems to be followed (the procedure allows for related bills to be considered together for the purpose of debate and voting).[79]

It is not known exactly when omnibus bills first appeared, but from the introduction of a private bill to confirm two separate railway agreements, it would appear that the practice existed as early as 1888.[80] A number of omnibus bills were subsequently introduced and passed without any procedural objection to their form being raised by Members.[81]

It appears to be entirely proper, in procedural terms, for a bill to amend, repeal or enact more than one Act, provided that the requisite notice is given, that it is accompanied by a royal recommendation (where necessary), and that it follows the form required.[82] However, on the question of whether the Chair can be persuaded to divide a bill simply because it is complex or composite in nature, there are many precedents from which it can be concluded that Canadian practice does not permit this.[83]

Members have often rejected the government’s reasons for introducing omnibus bills and have argued that some omnibus bills are not acceptable. Frequently, they have attempted to invoke their “ancient privilege” to vote separately on each proposal which is contained in a complex question. Speakers of the House have nonetheless ruled that their power to divide complex questions could extend only to substantive motions, and not to motions concerned with the progress of bills.[84] In calling for the division of an omnibus bill, Members sometimes argue that the bill embodies more than one principle.[85] Occasionally, Members also contend that the long title of an omnibus bill should refer to every act being amended. The Chair has ruled this unnecessary.[86]

When moved in committee, motions to divide omnibus bills have been ruled out of order. Unless a committee has been otherwise instructed by the House, it may only report the bill with or without amendment.[87] Members have, from time to time, proposed motions of instruction to their committees to divide bills already referred to them.[88]

Committee Chairs have also ruled against motions to submit two reports on one bill in which each addressed specific topics in the bill, thus effectively dividing the bill.[89] On the other hand, committee Chairs have ruled in order motions that a committee seek instruction to divide a bill.[90]

Despite their refusal to divide omnibus bills, Speakers have expressed deep concern for the right of Members to make themselves heard properly,[91] and have accordingly felt the need on occasion to remind the House of the remedies available to Members faced with the dilemma of having to approve several legislative provisions at the same time.[92]

While there has never been an occasion on which the Chair has decided that a bill should be divided on the ground of complexity, there are three cases that are of particular interest. In 1981, during examination of Bill C‑54, An Act to amend the statute law relating to income tax and to provide other authority for raising funds, Speaker Sauvé ordered that Part I of the bill, relating to borrowing authority, be struck because the necessary notice had not been given.[93] Later in the same session, another amending bill that dealt both with taxation and borrowing authority was introduced (Bill C‑93). At the insistence of the opposition, the government withdrew the bill, on May 7, 1982, and subsequently introduced two separate pieces of legislation on May 10, 1982.[94] The division of the omnibus bill resulted from the political process and not from any procedural argument. Finally, on March 2, 1982, in response to a point of order raised the day before, appealing to the Chair to divide Bill C‑94, the Energy Security Act, 1982, Speaker Sauvé ruled that there were no precedents which would permit her to do so.[95] This led to the famous “bell‑ringing” incident, as a consequence of which the government ultimately moved, and the House passed, a motion to divide the bill into eight separate pieces of legislation.[96] Once again, the division of the omnibus bill was brought about by political interaction.

Bills in Blank or in an Imperfect Shape

Since Confederation, the Chair has held that the introduction of bills that contain blank passages or that are in an imperfect shape is clearly contrary to the Standing Orders.[97] A bill in blank or in an imperfect shape is a bill which has only a title, or the drafting of which has not been completed.[98] Although this provision exists mainly in contemplation of errors identified when a bill is introduced, Members have brought such defects or anomalies to the attention of the Chair at various stages in the legislative process. In the past, the Speaker has directed that the order for second reading of certain bills be discharged, when it was discovered that they were not in their final form and were therefore not ready to be introduced.[99]

Occasionally, bills contain provisions in respect of legislation not yet enacted. In April 1970, some Members argued that a bill should be regarded as imperfect and should not be debated because it incorporated provisions of two statutes which had not yet been enacted. Although Speaker Lamoureux ruled that the bill was in order, he pointed out that this question could be raised again on third reading, if the House was asked at that stage to adopt a bill which was dependent on the adoption of other legislation.[100]

Printing and Reprinting of Bills

Within a few hours of the introduction and first reading of a bill, it is printed and distributed to Members. Every bill must be printed in both official languages.[101] The bill will be reprinted after the committee stage, if it has been amended and if the committee orders that it be reprinted. It is then used as a working document for the House at report stage. After adoption at third reading, the bill as passed by the House in its final form is reprinted for the Senate’s consideration. Ultimately, it is reprinted in the form of an Act after receiving Royal Assent, published in the Canada Gazette, and, at the end of the year, in the Annual Statutes of Canada.[102]

Clerical Alterations

The Chair has clearly ruled in the past that a bill in possession of the House becomes its property, and cannot be altered materially, except by the House itself. Only “mere clerical alterations” are allowed.[103] By issuing a corrigendum to the bill, the Speaker[104] may correct any obvious printing or clerical error, at any stage of the bill.[105] On the other hand, no substantive change may be made to the wording with which a bill was introduced, or when a committee reported on it, other than by an amendment passed by the House.[106]

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[54] For example, sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 establish the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada and of the provincial legislatures. Sections 53 to 57 set out rules relating to money votes and Royal Assent to bills. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms imposes certain requirements and restrictions on Parliament, specifically in relation to fundamental rights and freedoms.

[55] Two legal systems coexist in Canada. Matters under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and of all provincial governments except that of Quebec are governed by the common law in the Anglo‑Saxon tradition. Matters under Quebec jurisdiction follow codified rules derived from the Romano‑Germanic tradition known as the “droit civil” or civil law.

[56] See the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Re Manitoba Language Rights, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 721, which interprets section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867. See also section 6 of the Act respecting the Status and Use of the Official Languages of Canada, S.C. 1988, c. 31.

[57] For further information regarding the process of preparing federal laws and the role of the main participants in that process, consult the document entitled Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations, Privy Council Office, 2nd ed., www.pco‑bcp.gc.ca, 2003.

[58] Prior to 1948, the responsibility for drafting government legislation was left to the department or agency within whose jurisdiction the subject matter in question fell. Draft bills were scrutinized, revised and often redrafted under the direction of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons. In 1948, the legislative drafting function was centralized in a single office: the Legislation Section of the Department of Justice.

[59] Department of Justice Act, R.S. 1985, c. J-2, s. 4.1(1). See also Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations, ch. 2.4.

[60] See Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations, ch. 2.3. Ministers sometimes table draft bills before their introduction in the House. See, for example, Journals, December 10, 1999, p. 769; May 29, 2000, p. 1742; February 2, 2007, p. 954.

[61] A royal recommendation, which may only come from a Minister, must be provided before the adoption of bills containing provisions that involve the expenditure of public funds. In addition, Members may not introduce bills involving an increase in taxation: such bills must be preceded by a ways and means motion, which can only be moved by a Minister. The need for a royal recommendation or a ways and means motion is often determined after a private Member’s bill has already been introduced in the House. On November 26, 2007, for example, the sponsor of Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residence requirement), was advised that the Chair would decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation were received before that time (Debates, pp. 1314‑5). Shortly thereafter, the Speaker ruled that since another bill, if adopted, would have the effect of increasing the tax payable by certain corporations, it ought to have been preceded by a ways and means motion. Accordingly, he directed that the Order for second reading of the bill be discharged and the bill withdrawn from the Order Paper (Debates, November 28, 2007, pp. 1463‑4).

[62] The provisions relating to this type of bill are described in sections 129 to 147 of the Standing Orders. See also Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”.

[63] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 287.

[64] See, in particular, Standing Order 136(2) and (5). See also, in Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”, the section dealing with the form of private bills.

[65] Standing Order 68(4). In February 1994, the House added new provisions to its Standing Orders relating to bills to be prepared and brought in by committees (Journals, February 7, 1994, pp. 115‑6). This option had previously been available, but was seldom used. See, for example, the motion by Ged Baldwin (Peace River) in Routine Proceedings and Orders of the Day (November 10, 1969, p. 31); the motion moved by Geoff Wilson (Swift Current–Maple Creek) under the rubric of Private Members’ Business (Journals, December 13, 1985, p. 1390); and the motion of Don Mazankowski (Deputy Prime Minister) (Journals, April 27, 1987, pp. 783‑5). Until 2003, private Members were able to present motions to have a committee prepare and bring in a bill. This ceased after the suspension of Standing Order 68(4)(b) and (7)(b), in accordance with the Third Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, presented to the House on February 28, 2003 (Journals, p. 492) and concurred in on March 17, 2003 (Journals, p. 495). These subsections of the Standing Orders were deleted permanently on May 11, 2005, when the House concurred in the Thirty‑Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (Journals, pp. 738‑9).

[66] Standing Order 68(5).

[67] For example, the Investment Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. 28 (1st Supp.); the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, R.S. 1985, c. C‑23, which implemented a Royal Commission of Inquiry recommendation; the Canada-Mexico Tax Convention Act, 2006, S.C. 2006, c. 8, s. 3, which resulted from a treaty; the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act, S.C. 2005, c. 27, which implemented an agreement; the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act, R.S. 1985, c. G‑2, which was an administrative measure (Department of Justice, The Federal Legislative Process in Canada, Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1987, p. 6).

[68] For example, the Canada Shipping Act, R.S. 1985, c. S-9, which was replaced by the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, S.C. 2001, c. 26. An example of a statute containing a sunset clause is the Anti-terrorism Act, S.C. 2001, c. 41. The Act, as passed in 2001, included a five-year sunset clause with regard to consequential amendments concerning powers of preventative arrest and investigative hearings (s. 82 and 83).

[69] Proposed amendments must not be controversial, involve the spending of public funds, prejudicially affect the rights of persons, or create a new offence or subject a new class of persons to an existing offence (The Federal Legislative Process in Canada, p. 7).

[70] Standing Order 83. See also Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[71] Also called “tax bills”. The most important are those that result from the Budget Speech, and particularly from amendments to the Income Tax Act (The Federal Legislative Process in Canada, p. 6). The provisions relating to this type of bill are described in detail in Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[72] Standing Orders 73(4), 81 and 82. See also Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[73] Standing Order 73(5). See also Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[74] In a departure from the usual practice of the House, the pro forma bill introduced by the Prime Minister at the commencement of the Fortieth Parliament was, in fact, tabled (Journals, November 19, 2008, pp. 11-2).

[75] See, for example, Journals, April 4, 2006, p. 12. The custom is observed in other parliaments where, in most cases, the bill is read a first time and not heard of again until the start of the next session: the Australian House of Representatives refers to its “formal” or “privilege” bill (House of Representatives Practice, 5th ed., edited by I.C. Harris, Canberra: Department of the House of Representatives, 2005, p. 218); in the British House, it is called the Outlawries Bill (May, 23rd ed., p. 289). In the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the pro forma bill is Bill 1, An Act to Perpetuate an Ancient Parliamentary Right. See, for example, Ontario, Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, November 29, 2007, p. 14H. The Quebec National Assembly, on the other hand, no longer observes this custom, having last introduced a pro forma bill in 1968. See also Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”.

[76] See Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, April 11, 1994, p. 2861.

[77] See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, June 8, 1988, p. 16255.

[78] See Debates, March 1, 1982, pp. 15485‑6.

[79] House of Representatives Practice, 5th ed., pp. 383‑4. It is interesting to note that on two occasions, the Canadian House of Commons has used that procedure in examining bills (Journals, September 25, 1991, pp. 394‑5; November 26, 1991, p. 758).

[80] Journals, March 26, 1888, pp. 135‑6.

[81] The first time that this procedure prompted any reaction was on April 2, 1953, when Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence) provided the following explanation regarding the reasons why the government wanted to amend three Acts in a single bill: “We have decided, and the house so far has concurred, that it would meet the convenience of hon. members, as it does very much that of the armed forces, if all amendments to existing legislation relating to the armed forces were contained in a single bill each year. In consequence, the Canadian Forces Act, 1950; the Canadian Forces Act, 1951; the Canadian Forces Act, 1952 have been enacted. All of these amended a number of different statutes, and this follows that precedent” (Debates, p. 3551). The later enactment of the following bills confirms that Members are not always opposed to omnibus bills: Bill C‑125, An Act to amend the Old Age Assistance Act, the Disabled Persons Act and the Blind Persons Act (S.C. 1963, c. 26); Bill C‑40, Statute Law (Military and Civilian War Pensions, Compensation and Allowances) Amendment Act (S.C. 1980‑1983, c. 19); Bill C‑42, Canada Post Corporation Act (S.C. 1980‑1983, c. 54); Bill C‑43, An Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other Acts (S.C. 1995, c. 12); Bill C‑41, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Canada Shipping Act (S.C. 1997, c. 1); Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act (S.C. 2005, c. 15); Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act (S.C. 2006, c. 12); Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005 (S.C. 2007, c. 36); Bill C‑40, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the Canada Student Loans Act and the Public Service Employment Act (S.C. 2008, c. 15). Members have on occasion commented favourably on certain omnibus bills (see, for example, Debates, March 1, 1982, p. 15482).

[82] When certain sections or parts of the Criminal Code are amended, it is often necessary to amend other Acts as well. This was the situation in the case of Bill C‑55 (regarding high risk offenders) which also amended the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Records Act, the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Department of the Solicitor General Act (S.C. 1997, c. 17). It was also the situation in the case of Bill C‑19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (S.C. 2006, c. 14).

[83] See, for example, Speaker Sauvé’s rulings (Debates, March 2, 1982, p. 15532; June 20, 1983, pp. 26537‑8) and Speaker Fraser (Debates, June 8, 1988, pp. 16255‑7; April 1, 1992, pp. 9147‑9). On June 8, 1988, when he informed the House that he could not divide Bill C‑130, Canada‑United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Speaker Fraser ruled as follows: “Until the House adopts specific rules relating to omnibus Bills, the Chair’s role is very limited and the Speaker should remain on the sidelines as debate proceeds and the House resolves the issue” (Debates, June 8, 1988, p. 16257). Speaker Milliken quoted this remark in a 2001 ruling, adding, “I have to rule with reluctance that it is not for the Chair to divide a bill in the House” (Debates, September 20, 2001, pp. 5328‑9).

[84] As Speaker Jerome explained in a ruling, “... a motion containing two or more substantive provisions is quite distinct from a procedural motion or a motion which is generally described as having only the effect of dealing with the progress of a bill. The practice in respect of substantive motions has never been extended to those motions which relate to the progress of a bill. The use of the omnibus amending bill is well enshrined in our practices, and I really can find no reason to set aside my predecessor’s very clear and sound reasoning, or the practice. Nor can I find any authority which would support an order of the Chair at this second reading stage that the bill be divided” (Debates, May 11, 1977, p. 5522). The conclusion reached by Speaker Lamoureux on January 23, 1969 (Journals, p. 617), was reiterated by Speaker Sauvé on June 20, 1983 (Debates, pp. 26537‑8), and by Speaker Fraser on June 8, 1988 (Debates, pp. 16256‑7).

[85] See, for example, Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, April 11, 1994, p. 2860; Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, September 20, 2001, pp. 5328‑9.

[86] See, for example, Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, June 8, 1988, p. 16257. The Speaker had invited Members to consult the text by Elmer A. Driedger entitled The Composition of Legislation: Legislative Forms and Precedents, 2nd ed., rev., Ottawa: Department of Justice, 1976. See pages 153‑4 of that text, on which the author explains Canadian practice as it relates to long titles. According to the Speaker, Driedger clearly demonstrates that every Act being amended need not be mentioned in the title and that the Canadian practice has evolved differently from British practice by the use of generic language.

[87] Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 27, 1975, Issue No. 39, p. 106. A committee may, of course, divide a bill when it has been so instructed by the House. See, for example, Debates, June 3, 2002, p. 12025.

[88] See, for example, Debates, May 30, 2005, pp. 6340‑1; April 17, 2008, pp. 5052‑4.

[89] Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 6, 1976, Issue No. 45, pp. 5‑7.

[90] Standing Committee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 2, 1970, Issue No. 23, p. 40.

[91] See Journals, January 26, 1971, p. 284; Debates, May 11, 1977, pp. 5522‑3.

[92] See, for example, Journals, January 26, 1971, p. 284; Debates, May 11, 1977, pp. 5523‑4.

[93] Debates, January 19, 1981, p. 6319.

[94] Journals, May 7, 1982, pp. 4806‑7; May 10, 1982, p. 4810.

[95] Debates, March 2, 1982, p. 15532.

[96] Journals, March 22, 1982, pp. 4626‑8. At that time, the Standing Orders provided no time limit for bells rung for unscheduled votes. On this occasion, a recorded vote was demanded on a motion to adjourn. The Opposition Whip refused to accompany the Government Whip into the Chamber to indicate to the Speaker their readiness to proceed with the vote; the government and opposition parties each demanded concessions before allowing the vote to take place. Consequently, the division bells rang continuously for more than 14 days (Debates, March 2, 1982, pp. 15539‑41; March 18, 1982, pp. 15555‑7).

[97] Standing Order 68(3). See Speaker Anglin’s ruling, Debates, April 2, 1878, p. 1583. On May 16, 1923, the House, with the Senate, appointed a Joint Committee to consider a number of matters, including the form of bills and the best means of making legislation available in both Houses, at all stages of the process (Journals, p. 373). Although the existing text of Standing Order 68(3) was not amended at that time, the Committee recommended in its report, and the House agreed, that certain very specific information should appear in the printed version of bills (Journals, June 14, 1923, pp. 469‑70). The recommendations set out in the report were incorporated into the Rules of the Senate. However, they were never incorporated into the Standing Orders of the House. Over the years, Members have occasionally cited the guidelines set out in the report in calling for certain bills to be ruled out of order (Debates, May 12, 1931, pp. 1514‑7; Journals, May 10, 1938, p. 322).

[98] In April 1943, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Gordon Graydon, rose to speak against first reading of a bill that had not yet been written. He said that Members were being asked to pass what was just “a blank piece of paper” (Debates, April 16, 1943, pp. 2275‑7).

[99] Debates, May 16, 1978, p. 5461; December 15, 1980, p. 5746. On the other hand, in a ruling made on May 17, 1956, the Chair said that a bill had to have blanks when it was introduced and given first reading in order for it to be ruled to be in blank or in an imperfect shape. Speaker Beaudoin then ruled that a bill referring to an agreement that was not included in extenso in the bill was in order (Journals, pp. 567‑9).

[100] Debates, April 20, 1970, pp. 6046‑8. Similar rulings were made by Speaker Lamoureux (Debates, February 24, 1971, p. 3712) and Speaker Fraser (Debates, June 8, 1988, pp. 16252‑9, in particular pp. 16257‑8; November 28, 1991, pp. 5513‑4).

[101] Standing Order 70. See Speaker Michener’s ruling, Journals, January 19, 1960, p. 28.

[102] The Department of Justice is responsible for the publication of federal statutes in the Canada Gazette and the Annual Statutes of Canada.

[103] Journals, May 6, 1882, pp. 405‑6.

[104] In the British House of Commons, the Speaker is given wide latitude to correct minor errors in motions or bills (May, 23rd ed., pp. 386, 390-1, 581). See also Kaul, M.N. and Shakdher, S.L., Practice and Procedure of Parliament (with particular reference to the Lok Sabha), 5th ed., edited by G.C. Malhotra, New Delhi: Metropolitan Book Co., 2001, p. 518.

[105] May, 23rd ed., p. 581. In June 1984, the Chair ruled that the presence of blanks in a bill introduced by a Member was the result of a printing error, and the House agreed to proceed with second reading (Debates, June 26, 1984, p. 5139). In January 1987, the Standing Order was cited to argue that a government bill contained two flaws: there was a blank where a parliamentary document number should have appeared, and a memorandum of understanding did not appear. Speaker Fraser ruled that these anomalies did not make the bill defective under Standing Order 68(3) and directed the Clerk to alter the bill to correct the errors. The Speaker pointed out that such errors would have “to be addressed with regard to their impact on the draft legislation before the House and the consequences that will flow therefrom” (Debates, January 26, 1987, pp. 2667‑9). In 2004, after reaffirming the power of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to correct manifest printing errors in the text of a bill, the Speaker undertook to inform Members of any such corrections in the future by tabling them in the House (Debates, February 23, 2004, pp. 932‑3). Typical of recent corrigenda respecting clerical errors is that announced by the Speaker on September 29, 2005, in order to correct an error in the English text of an amendment (Debates, p. 8185).

[106] May, 23rd ed., p. 629.

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