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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

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More than any other segment of the parliamentary day, the 45-minute Question Period serves as a daily snapshot of national political life and is closely followed by Members, the press and the public, each sitting day of the House. Held at 2:15 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, it is this part of the parliamentary day where the government is held accountable for its administrative policies and the conduct of its Ministers, both individually and collectively.[2] As has been noted, “Question Period is a free‑wheeling affair, with tremendous spontaneity and vitality. The main topics raised are often those on the front pages of the major newspapers or raised on national television news the previous evening”.[3] Any Member can ask a question, although the time is set aside almost exclusively for the opposition parties to confront the government and hold it accountable for its actions, and to highlight the perceived inadequacies of the government. “Question Period serves the opposition and to a lesser extent the government well in its present form …. It is not subtle or clever but it is effective in making points—for both sides.”[4]

*   Historical Perspective

For most of the history of parliamentary government in Canada, there were no written rules expressly permitting the asking of oral questions, though the practice did exist. Prior to Confederation, oral questions had been asked essentially by consent and, as responsible government evolved, they became more frequent.[5] When the House of Commons adopted its first set of rules in December 1867, only written questions were provided for.[6] Nevertheless, the practice of oral questions had started even earlier on November 29, 1867, three weeks after the opening of the first session of Parliament, when, before Orders of the Day were called, an oral question was posed not to a Minister, but to the Chairman of the Printing Committee.[7]

By 1878, the asking of oral questions had become a frequent enough practice to warrant comment by Speaker Anglin:

It is customary for hon. members to ask the Government for any special information between the various calls from the Chair for the day, before Notices of Motion or the Orders of the Day. I am not aware that any hon. member has a positive right even to do that; but I think he must confine himself entirely to asking the information from the Government, and he must not proceed to descant on the conduct of the Government.[8]

In the following years, the practice of Members asking oral questions in the House on matters deemed urgent became established as a right by convention.[9]

Over time, informal standards and guidelines developed and, by the 1940s, Oral Questions (“Questions on Orders of the Day” as they were then called) had become an accepted part of the parliamentary day. However, oral questions were still not sanctioned by any written rules. The legitimacy of the convention was augmented through statements made by Speakers in the House concerning guidelines, interpretations and advice on what kinds of questions and replies were acceptable.[10] Furthermore, in the 1940s, procedure committees began to look at the practice of oral questions in an effort to recognize formally the de facto procedure by establishing rules to regulate its proceedings.

The first attempt by the House to codify the practice of oral questions occurred in 1944 when a special committee noted: “The custom of asking questions before the orders of the day are proceeded with has taken such a development that it is now part of our parliamentary practice. It is neither possible nor advisable to do away with it”.[11] The committee proposed that a formal rule be adopted permitting oral questions to be asked with a minimum one hour’s notice and that each question be followed by no more than three supplementary questions.[12] However, its report containing the new rule was never adopted. During the next few years, other committee reports proposed rules along similar lines but again none of them were adopted by the House.[13] Meanwhile, beginning in 1947, the heading “Inquiries of the Ministry” appeared in the Debates when oral questions were posed in the House.

The continued absence of any rule governing oral questions necessitated further statements from the Chair on Question Period and, in 1955, resulted in the modification of the procedure for starred questions (written questions requiring oral answers). This was intended to reduce the number of oral questions on Orders of the Day,[14] but in fact, Question Period continued to grow as a proceeding. In the early 1960s, however, the nature of Question Period was briefly changed when the Chair began to enforce several long‑standing unwritten rules regarding the content of questions, many of which were outdated.[15] The resulting furore eventually led to the adoption, in 1964, of the first‑ever codification of Question Period rules.[16]

The requirement that questions be of an urgent nature was incorporated in the Standing Orders adopted by the House in 1964.[17] It was also established that the House would begin its consideration of Oral Questions at the conclusion of Routine Proceedings and immediately before Orders of the Day were called. Given that at the time every sitting started at 2:30 p.m. with Routine Proceedings, Question Period was always at approximately the same time, depending on the length of Routine Proceedings. Friday, however, was an exception as the sitting started at 11:00 a.m. with Routine Proceedings. A limit of 30 minutes for the consideration of Oral Questions on Wednesdays was also introduced (no time limit was imposed for the remaining weekdays), probably due to the fact that Wednesday was a short day with no evening sitting. At the same time, a new procedure was established whereby Members who were dissatisfied with responses given to their questions during Question Period, or who were told by the Speaker that their question was not urgent, could raise these matters at the adjournment of the House.

In addition to the Standing Order changes, the House simultaneously approved content guidelines for oral questions and the answers to them.[18] The guidelines stemmed from precedents which were still considered valid but had not been codified. Questions were to be asked on matters of sufficient importance which required immediate, but not lengthy and detailed answers; there could be no questions in regard to statements made in newspapers; questions involving legal opinions or on sub judice matters were not permitted; and questions could not raise matters of policy too large to be dealt with as an answer to a question. Answers to questions were to be as brief as possible, deal with the matter raised and not provoke debate. Other issues, including the number of supplementary questions, for example, were left entirely to the Speaker, who could direct that a question not be proceeded with or that it be placed on the Order Paper after due notice.

The time limitation for Oral Questions was altered the following year when provisions were adopted to limit the time allowed for Oral Questions to not more than 30 minutes each day with the exception of Monday, when the time allowed for Oral Questions was not to exceed one hour.[19] In 1966, the time limitation was extended to 40 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.[20] In 1968, the Standing Orders were further amended to provide a period of 40 minutes each sitting day for the consideration of Oral Questions.[21]

In 1975, a set timeframe was established for Question Period: Question Period was placed before Routine Proceedings where it would begin at 2:15 p.m. daily Monday through Thursday, and at 11:15 a.m. on Friday.[22]

At the time of these rule changes, Speaker Jerome made a statement in the House which affects the conduct of Question Period to this day. As he explained in his autobiography, Mr. Speaker, when he assumed the Chair in 1974 the only guidance he had for conducting Question Period were precedents ruling questions out of order.[23] He established that asking oral questions was a right, not a privilege of the Members, and he identified several principles for the conduct of Question Period.[24] He also reiterated that the guidelines for questions and answers would continue to apply, and added to them those requirements which had evolved since 1964.

After 1975, Question Period became an increasingly open forum where questions of every description could be asked, often without regard to some of the guidelines that had been issued and, as well, without regard to the urgency requirement in the Standing Order. This was coupled with an apparent reluctance on the part of successive Speakers to use their discretionary powers to direct that non‑urgent questions be placed on the Order Paper. In addition, the introduction of television to the House in 1977 affected the conduct of Members during Question Period:

It has also been argued that television has contributed to some less than positive developments. Perhaps the most common complaint is that television has led to the over‑emphasis on Question Period. It is also felt that individual Members tend to play to the cameras—that they grandstand—in the hopes of getting a 15‑second clip on the evening news.[25]

In 1986, following a period of acrimonious and disorderly Question Periods during which several Members were named and suspended for the remainder of the sitting day, Speaker Bosley made a statement similar to that of Speaker Jerome in 1975.[26] As discussed later in this chapter, Speaker Bosley set down four principles for Question Period and its attendant guidelines, which are widely adhered to today.[27]

In 1997, many questions and even points of order were raised on the issue of questions anticipating Orders of the Day. Previously, questions in anticipation of an Order of the Day were disallowed to prevent the time of the House from being taken up with business to be discussed later in the sitting.[28] After one such point of order, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs recommended that questions no longer be ruled out of order on the sole basis that they anticipated Orders of the Day.[29] Shortly after, although the House had not yet adopted the report, Speaker Parent stated that he would follow the Committee’s advice.[30] The practice of allowing questions anticipating Orders of the Day has been continued.[31]

*   Role of the Speaker During Question Period

Presiding over the daily Question Period is regarded as one of the most onerous and difficult tasks undertaken by the Speaker.[32] The Speaker ensures that Question Period is conducted in a civil manner, that questions and answers do not lead to debate and that both sides of the House get to participate. As Speaker Fraser noted in The House of Commons at Work:

Question Period places heavy demands on the Speaker of the House. He must at all times remain keenly alert and attentive, keep a perceptive eye on the whole assembly, be aware of the mood of the House and be familiar with the national and international issues likely to be raised. Insofar as possible, he must be aware of the inter‑party tensions over particular issues.[33]

The Speaker has implicit discretion and authority to rule out of order any question posed during Question Period if satisfied that it is in contravention of House rules of order, decorum and procedure.[34] In ruling a question out of order, the Chair may suggest that it be rephrased in order to make it acceptable to the House.[35] Or, the Speaker may recognize another Member to pose the next question.[36] In cases where such a question has been posed, if a Minister wishes to reply, the Speaker, in order to be equitable, has allowed the Minister to do so.[37]

The Speaker may also direct that certain questions posed during Question Period be instead placed on the Order Paper.[38] These are questions which, in the opinion of the Chair, are not urgent or are of such a technical or detailed nature as to require a written response. In recent years, the Speaker has not invoked this procedure, opting instead to suggest to the Member asking the question that it may be more appropriately posed in written form, while allowing the Minister the opportunity to respond if he or she so wished.[39]

Given that only 45 minutes are set aside each day for Question Period, the Speaker has often expressed concern that shorter questions and answers would allow more Members to participate.[40] Notwithstanding this practice, the Speaker retains sole discretion in determining the time that individual questions and answers may take, and the Chair may interrupt any Member consuming more than a reasonable share of time in posing or responding to a question.

*   Conduct of Question Period

On each sitting day at no later than 2:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. on Friday), the 45‑minute Question Period begins.[41] Practice, precedents and statements made by various Speakers in the House have helped over time to define the conduct of Question Period. From the start of the Thirty‑First Parliament in 1979 to the end of the Thirty‑Fifth Parliament in 1997, the practice had been to allow the party leader of any officially recognized party in the House, or his or her representative, to pose an initial question followed by two other questions as supplementary to the initial question. At the beginning of the Thirty‑Sixth Parliament in 1997, the current arrangement for the conduct of Question Period was put in place by Speaker Parent after consultations with the House Leaders of all officially recognized parties in the House. The Speaker recognizes the Leader of the Opposition, or the lead questioner for his or her party, for a round of three questions. A second Member from the Official Opposition is then recognized for two questions. Two questioners from the opposition party with the second-highest number of seats are recognized next for two questions each, followed by a representative from the party with the third-highest number of seats for three questions.[42] The recognition pattern which follows these initial questions varies depending on party representation in the House and the number of Members in each party. Members are typically allowed to ask an initial question followed by an additional question.

Members representing the governing party are also recognized to ask questions, although not as often as opposition Members. During the final minutes of Question Period, the Speaker will normally not permit any Member an additional question in order to allow as many Members as possible the opportunity to ask a question that day.

Participation in Question Period is managed to a large extent by the various caucuses and their Whips and can be the subject of negotiations among the parties.[43] Each party decides daily which of its Members will participate in Question Period and provides the Speaker with a list of the names and the suggested order of recognition of these Members. Each party’s list is typically compiled by the Whip or the Member or Members managing that party’s strategy for Question Period. Although the Speaker is under no obligation to use such lists, it has become an accepted practice of the House.[44] With this list as a guide, the Speaker uses his or her discretion in recognizing Members to ask questions.

Members of a political party not officially recognized in the House and independent Members are permitted to ask questions, although not as frequently as those Members belonging to recognized parties. During the Thirty‑Fifth Parliament (1994‑97), when their numbers climbed as high as 17 over the life of the Parliament, the Speaker attempted to recognize at least one of them every other Question Period, if not every day, generally towards the end of the proceedings.[45] Since 1997, independent Members have been recognized to pose questions at least twice monthly, if not more often.[46]

While the rules place no restriction on who may ask questions during Question Period, by convention only private Members do so. Members have been recognized more than once to ask questions in the same Question Period.[47] Ministers do not ask oral questions either of other Ministers or of private Members. Because of their responsibilities in answering questions on behalf of the government, Parliamentary Secretaries do not pose questions during Question Period.[48] Finally, the Speaker neither poses nor responds to oral questions.[49]

There is no formal notice requirement for the posing of oral questions, although some Members, as a courtesy, inform the Minister of the question they intend to ask.[50]

*   Points of Order and Questions of Privilege During Question Period

Generally, points of order or questions of privilege are not entertained during Question Period.[51] In his 1975 statement concerning the conduct of Question Period, Speaker Jerome indicated that any points of order or questions of privilege arising out of the proceedings of Question Period should be raised at the end of Question Period.[52] Despite this directive, there have been instances of points of order or questions of privilege being raised during Question Period, but they have been deferred, at the request of the Chair, until after Question Period.[53] However, if a situation arises during Question Period that the Speaker believes to be sufficiently serious to require immediate consideration, for example unparliamentary language, then the matter is addressed at that time.[54]

*   Principles and Guidelines for Oral Questions

While the Standing Orders concerning oral questions and Question Period have not changed substantially since 1975, such has not been the case for the various sets of guidelines that have governed the form and content of oral questions. The written rules state only that oral questions are to be based on “matters of urgency” and that a specific period of time is to be set aside each sitting day for that purpose.[55]

There exists a vast body of traditional guidelines, many of which are no longer valid or have fallen into disuse.[56] Because of the difficulty in distinguishing between valid and outdated precedents, Speaker Bosley addressed this question in 1986,[57] stating that the appropriate rules for Question Period should recognize the following principles:

*       Time is scarce and should, therefore, be used as profitably as possible by as many as possible.

*       The public in large numbers do watch, and the House, recognizing that Question Period is often an intense time, should be on its best possible behaviour.

*       While there may be other purposes and ambitions involved in Question Period, its primary purpose must be the seeking of information from the government and calling the government to account for its actions.

*       Members should be given the greatest possible freedom in the putting of questions that is consistent with the other principles.

Drawing in part on the statement from Speaker Jerome in 1975, Speaker Bosley elaborated further:

Mr. Speaker Jerome, in his statement 11 years ago, put his view with regard to the first principle of brevity so well that I would merely quote it:

There can be no doubt that the greatest enemy of the Question Period is the Member who offends this most important principle. In putting the original question on any subject, a Member may require an explanatory remark, but there is no reason for such a preamble to exceed one, carefully drawn sentence.

It is my proposal to ask all Hon. Members to pay close attention to this admonition and to bring them to order if they fail to do so. It bears repeating that the long preamble or long question takes an unfair share of the time, and invariably, in provoking the same kind of response, only compounds the difficulty.

I agree with these comments and would add that such comments obviously also apply to answers by Ministers. I would also endorse Mr. Speaker Jerome’s view that supplementary questions should need no preambles; they should flow from the Minister’s response and be put in precise and direct terms without any prior statement or argument. It is the Chair’s view that it equally follows from the first principle, that time is scarce, that Members should seek to avoid merely repeating questions that have already been asked. I do not mean that other questions on the same subject should not be asked—as apparently I have been interpreted—just that subsequent questions should be other than ones already asked.

For similar reasons it has always been a fundamental rule of questioning Ministers that the subject matter of the question must fall within the collective responsibility of the Government or the individual responsibility of one of its Ministers. This is the only basis upon which Ministers can be expected to answer questions.[58]

These two statements, along with some of the guidelines adopted by the House in 1964,[59] are used today by the Speaker as a reference in managing Question Period. In summary, when recognized in Question Period, a Member should:

*       ask a question;

*       be brief;

*       seek information;[60] and

*       ask a question that is within the administrative responsibility of the government or of the individual Minister addressed.[61]

Furthermore, a question should not:

*       be a statement, representation, argument, or an expression of opinion;[62]

*       be hypothetical;[63]

*       seek an opinion, either legal or otherwise;[64]

*       seek information which is secretive in its nature, such as Cabinet proceedings or advice given to the Crown by law officers;[65]

*       reflect on the character or conduct of Chair Occupants, members of the House and of the Senate or members of the judiciary;[66]

*       reflect on the Governor General;[67]

*       refer to proceedings in the Senate;[68]

*       refer to public statements by Ministers on matters not directly related to their departmental duties;[69]

*       address a Minister’s former portfolio or any other presumed functions, such as party or regional political responsibilities;[70]

*       be on a matter that is sub judice;[71]

*       deal with the subject matter of a question of privilege previously raised, on which the Speaker reserved his decision;[72]

*       create disorder;[73]

*       make a charge by way of a preamble to a question;[74]

*       be a question from a constituent;[75]

*       seek information from a Minister of a purely personal nature;[76]

*       request a detailed response which could be dealt with more appropriately as a written question placed on the Order Paper;[77] or

*       concern internal party matters, or party or election expenses.[78]

Finally, all questions and answers must be directed through the Chair.[79]

Sub judice Convention

Over the years, a practice has developed in the House whereby Members are expected to refrain from discussing matters before the courts, or under judicial consideration, in order to protect those involved in a court action or judicial inquiry against any undue influence through the discussion of the case. This practice is referred to as the sub judice convention and it applies to debate, statements and Question Period.[80] It is deemed improper for a Member, in posing a question, or a Minister, in responding to a question, to comment on any matter that is sub judice.

In December 1976, a special committee was established to review the rights and immunities of Members.[81] The Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members decided to study how Members’ freedom of speech was affected by the sub judice convention. Its First Report, presented to the House on April 29, 1977, remains the definitive study of the convention.[82] In the Report, the Committee stated: 

It is the view of your Committee that the responsibility of the Chair during the question period should be minimal as regards the sub judice convention, and that the responsibility should principally rest upon the Member who asks the question and the minister to whom it is addressed.[83]

As the Committee noted, if a question to a Minister touches upon a matter that is sub judice, it is likely that the Minister will have more information than the Speaker concerning the matter and can determine whether answering the question may cause prejudice. The Minister could refuse to answer the question as is his or her prerogative.[84] The Committee clarified further that while all Members share in the responsibility of exercising this restraint, the Speaker is the final arbiter in determining whether a subject raised during the consideration of Oral Questions is sub judice. While a presumption exists in favour of allowing debate and against the application of the convention, the approach of most Chair Occupants has been to discourage comments on sub judice matters.[85] Although Members themselves customarily observe the convention during Question Period, the Speaker has ruled out of order questions concerning criminal cases, noting that the Chair has the duty to balance the legitimate right of the House with the rights and interests of an ordinary citizen undergoing the trial.[86]

Questions Concerning the Administration of the House

The Speaker is the Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, the body which oversees the administration of the House. It had been the practice that no questions dealing with the management and administration of the House could be put to the Speaker during Question Period, even though he or she was the Chair of the Board. Questions on these matters, it was held, could be dealt with by communicating directly with the Speaker.[87] In June 1985, the House adopted a new rule allowing questions concerning matters of financial or administrative policy affecting the House itself to be directed not to the Speaker, but to those members of the Board of Internal Economy designated by the Board to respond on its behalf.[88] In explaining the procedure for such questions to the newly‑elected Members of the Thirty‑Fifth Parliament (1994‑97), the Speaker stated:

All questions relating to the internal and financial management of the House of Commons fall within the statutory responsibilities of the Board of Internal Economy …. Such matters do not fall within the administrative responsibilities of the government. That is why responses to these questions cannot be expected from the ministry.[89]

Questions Concerning Matters Before Committees

Questions seeking information about the schedule and agenda of committees may be directed to Chairs of committees.[90] Questions to the Ministry or to a committee Chair concerning the proceedings or work of a committee, including its order of reference, may not be raised.[91] Thus, for example, a question would be disallowed if it dealt with a vote in committee,[92] with the attendance or testimony of Members at a committee meeting,[93] or with the content of a committee report.[94] When a question has been asked about a committee’s proceedings, Speakers have encouraged Members to rephrase their questions.[95]

Supplementary Questions

Members may seek to clarify the answer to a question or solicit further information through the use of supplementary questions. A supplementary question is posed immediately following a response to an initial question. In conformity with parliamentary tradition, the Speaker retains the authority to determine when supplementary questions may be permitted.[96] The same guidelines which apply to initial questions apply to supplementary questions. They are to be constructed as “a follow‑up device flowing from the response and ought to be a precise question put directly and immediately to the Minister, without any further statement”.[97]

In the past, Speakers have used their discretion to insist that a supplementary question be on the same subject and as a general rule be asked of the same Minister.[98] However, at the beginning of the Thirty‑Sixth Parliament in 1997, Speaker Parent allowed the practice to be modified by not insisting that an additional question be, strictly speaking, supplementary to the main question. He indicated that he would find it acceptable for a party to split a round of questioning between two Members, with each one asking a different question to a different Minister.[99] This practice remains in effect today.[100]

As a supplementary question is meant to flow from or be based upon the information given to the House in the response of the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to the initial or preceding question, the Speaker has indicated that supplementary questions should not be permitted when a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary, in responding to the initial question, informs the House that the question will be taken under advisement.[101] However, Members are occasionally permitted to put a supplementary question even under these circumstances.[102]

*   Historical Perspective

The guidelines for supplementary questions have evolved in much the same way as those for oral questions. The practice of asking supplementary questions began in the early 1940s, despite the Speaker’s disapproval.[103] In 1943, Speaker Glen stated that supplementary questions would only be allowed where “explanations or statements by ministers might reasonably be requested, in circumstances where the minister would no doubt wish to have his remarks made as clearly as possible”.[104] In 1944, a procedure committee recommended that the number of supplementary questions be limited to three for each original question; although this proposal was considered in a Committee of the Whole, no decision was made.[105] In 1948, another procedure committee recommended that an oral question be followed by such supplementary questions as necessary to clarify the answer given by the Minister; the report was not considered by the House.[106]

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the continued absence of any rule governing oral questions necessitated a number of statements from various Chair Occupants which included remarks on supplementary questions. Some Chair Occupants allowed up to two supplementary questions for each initial question; others used their own discretion in permitting a supplementary question.[107] In 1964, when the rules for Question Period were finally codified, some practices, including the number of supplementary questions, were still left to the discretion of the Speaker.

In 1975, Speaker Jerome stated that there should be no preambles to supplementary questions and that they should flow from the Minister’s response and be put in precise and direct terms without any prior statement or argument.[108] In a 1984 ruling, Speaker Francis reiterated these remarks,[109] and in 1986, Speaker Bosley further clarified that Members should avoid merely repeating questions that have already been asked, given that the time in Question Period is scarce.[110]

*   Replies to Oral Questions

There are no explicit rules which govern the form or content of replies to oral questions. According to practice, replies are to be as brief as possible, to deal with the subject matter raised and to be phrased in language that does not provoke disorder in the House. As Speaker Jerome summarized in his 1975 statement on Question Period, several types of responses may be appropriate. Ministers may:

*       answer the question;

*       defer their answer;

*       take the question as notice;

*       make a short explanation as to why they cannot furnish an answer at that time; or

*       say nothing.[111]

Questions, although customarily addressed to specific Ministers, are directed to the Ministry as a whole. It is the prerogative of the government to designate which Minister responds to which question, and the Speaker has no authority to compel a particular Minister to respond.[112] The Prime Minister (or the Deputy Prime Minister or any other Minister acting on behalf of the Prime Minister) may respond to any or all questions posed during Question Period.[113] Only one Minister may respond to a question, and it need not be the one to whom the question is addressed who actually answers it.[114] A different Minister may, under certain circumstances, reply to a supplementary question.[115]

As all Members are bound by the rules to attend the sittings of the House unless they are otherwise occupied with parliamentary activities and functions or are on public or official business,[116] no roster system exists to determine which Ministers will be in attendance on a given day.[117] In general, most Ministers are present during Question Period. If a question is asked pertaining to the portfolio of a Minister who is absent from the House, it may be answered by the Prime Minister, another Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary.[118]

Members may not insist on an answer[119] nor may a Member insist that a specific Minister respond to his or her question.[120] A Minister’s refusal to answer a question may not be questioned or treated as the subject of a point of order or question of privilege.[121]

The Speaker ensures that replies adhere to the dictates of order, decorum and parliamentary language. The Speaker, however, is not responsible for the quality or content of replies to questions.[122] In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue.[123] As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.

*   Adjournment Proceedings

Any Member who is dissatisfied with the response given to his or her question during Question Period, or who has been told by the Speaker that a question is not urgent, may give notice to speak on the subject matter of the question during a portion of time reserved at the conclusion of every sitting day except Friday. This period of House business, known as the Adjournment Proceedings, is also commonly referred to as the “late show”.[124] In addition, any Member who is concerned that a written question he or she has submitted for the Order Paper has not been responded to within 45 days may give notice of his or her intention to transfer the question to the Adjournment Proceedings.[125] The Member’s name is then placed on a list along with the names of other Members who have given such notice. At the commencement of this 30‑minute period, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, a motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been moved and seconded; no mover or seconder is required.[126] After debate, the motion to adjourn is deemed carried and the House adjourns.

The adjournment debate is used as a vehicle for brief exchanges (questions from Members and responses from Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries) on pre‑determined topics.[127] Several topics stemming from questions either first raised during Question Period or written questions transferred from the Order Paper may be debated. A question ruled out of order during Question Period for any reason other than its lack of urgency is not admissible for debate during the Adjournment Proceedings.[128] As well, questions addressed to committee Chairs during Question Period may not be the subject of debate during the Adjournment Proceedings.[129]

Historical Perspective

In a review of the Standing Orders in 1964, the House adopted a procedure committee proposal for the first‑ever Standing Order to regulate Question Period. At the same time, the House agreed to the committee’s suggestion that a rule on the Adjournment Proceedings be adopted to complement the Question Period Standing Order.[130]

The committee’s rationale in proposing the Adjournment Proceedings Standing Order was that:

… merely to impose restrictions on the orders of the day question period, by itself, … would not retain the rights that are inherent in the asking of questions. We therefore propose … that on three nights in the week, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, there be available a possible half hour period during which there might be short submissions on three different subjects on each of these three nights. Our proposal is that if during the question period a member feels dissatisfied with the answer he gets from the government, … he may give notice that he wishes to raise that matter at the time of adjournment.[131]

By the 1970s, the “late show” had become a popular vehicle for Members wishing to discuss at greater length matters initially raised during Question Period. With the number of notices given for debate far exceeding the time available, several suggestions were periodically made: to reduce by half the time allotted to each Member participating in the Adjournment Proceedings;[132] to extend the time allotted to the Adjournment Proceedings to increase the number of topics to be debated from three to five and to permit the lapsing of uncalled items after 20 sitting days;[133] and to hold the Adjournment Proceedings at 6:00 p.m. even though the applicable adjournment hour was 10:00 p.m.[134] Eventually, in 1982, the decision to eliminate evening sittings resulted in 6:00 p.m. late shows;[135] this time was pushed back to 6:30 p.m. in 1994.[136] In 1991, the Standing Orders were amended to allow a maximum of five topics to be debated;[137] however, in 2001, the House reverted to allowing only three topics to be debated in order to permit more detailed responses from Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.[138]


Members who wish to raise, during the Adjournment Proceedings, the subject matter of a question originally posed during Question Period, must provide the Table with written notice of their desire to do so, no later than one hour following the conclusion of Question Period on the day the question was raised.[139]

A Member may also be included on the list to take part in the adjournment debate by giving oral notice in the House with reference to a question on the Order Paper not being answered within the required 45‑day period.[140] This is done when the rubric “Questions on the Order Paper” is called during Routine Proceedings.

If, for whatever reason, the subject matter of a question has not been debated during the Adjournment Proceedings 45 sitting days following the notice given by a Member, the notice is deemed withdrawn.[141] Furthermore, should a Member fail to appear for the Adjournment Proceedings debate at the time at which his or her matter is to be raised, notice of the question is deemed withdrawn.[142]

Selection of Questions to Be Raised

The Speaker typically receives more notices to debate a matter during the Adjournment Proceedings than there is time available for debate. Consequently, the subject matter for which notice has been given may not be raised during the Adjournment Proceedings on the same day. When no notices have been filed with the Table, or when no Members are prepared to proceed on a particular day, the Adjournment Proceedings do not take place.

The Speaker has the discretionary power to determine the specific questions to be raised and the order of their consideration. The Chair, when making this decision, considers the order in which notices were given, the urgency of the matters and the apportioning of opportunities to Members of the various parties in the House to debate such matters.[143] The Speaker may also discuss with and consider the advice of party representatives in arriving at a sequence for the consideration of notices received.[144] In practice, debates during the Adjournment Proceedings are arranged by procedural staff on behalf of the Speaker.

At no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Speaker rises and indicates to the House which matter or matters are to be raised that day at the adjournment of the House.[145] The Speaker retains the authority to control the order of debate during the Adjournment Proceedings and may change the order of those scheduled to speak should the need arise.[146]

Length of Debate

During this 30‑minute period, debate on any one item can last no longer than 10 minutes.[147] Within this 10‑minute timeframe, the Member raising the matter may speak initially for a maximum of four minutes, with the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary speaking in response for no longer than four minutes, followed by a second round of debate in which the Member and Minister or Parliamentary Secretary may each speak for one minute.[148] However, a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary is not compelled to respond to any question raised at this time. Any Minister or Parliamentary Secretary may answer on behalf of the government, and the answer, or refusal to answer, may not be the subject of a point of order or a question of privilege.[149] During this debate, Members are not required to speak from their assigned seats.[150]

The time limits for these debates are strictly enforced by the Chair and extensions are neither requested nor granted. The full 30‑minute period need not be completely used.[151] If the full period is not used, the remaining time lapses and the House is adjourned. After 30 minutes or upon completion of debate, whichever comes first, the motion to adjourn is deemed to have been adopted and the House is adjourned to the next sitting day.[152] If Members fail to proceed with their question during the Adjournment Proceedings on their scheduled day, then the time provided is reduced accordingly.

Suspension or Delay of the Adjournment Proceedings

Occasionally, the Adjournment Proceedings are suspended because of other House orders which specify the continuation or completion of other business on a given sitting day. Specifically, the Adjournment Proceedings are suspended when the sitting has been extended for an emergency debate,[153] a take-note debate,[154] when closure has been moved on an item,[155] on the day designated for the budget presentation,[156] on any day on which the proceedings under “Introduction of Government Bills” are not completed before the ordinary hour of daily adjournment,[157] or on any day during the course of a session when the House continues to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the election of a Speaker.[158] In addition, if a motion to adjourn the House is moved and adopted during the course of a sitting, the Adjournment Proceedings do not take place.

The Adjournment Proceedings may be delayed until later in the day when a sitting is extended due to a Royal Assent ceremony,[159] a ministerial statement[160] or when Private Members’ Business has been extended on the second sitting day set aside for the consideration of the report and third reading stages of a bill.[161] The Adjournment Proceedings may also be delayed when a sitting has been otherwise extended to allow for the 30-minute questions and answers period following the moving of a time allocation motion;[162] for the resumption of an adjourned or interrupted debate on a motion to concur in a committee report;[163] or when a recorded division has been deferred to the conclusion of Question Period[164] or Government Orders. The Adjournment Proceedings may be delayed similarly on the last allotted day in the supply periods ending March 26, June 23 and December 10.[165] If a motion has been adopted to extend the hours of sitting during the last 10 sitting days in June,[166] the Adjournment Proceedings are delayed until the agreed upon hour of adjournment.[167] If a motion has been adopted to continue a sitting pursuant to Standing Order 26, the Adjournment Proceedings would take place at the end of the extension.[168] On days when Private Members’ Business has been rescheduled due to a delay or interruption, the Adjournment Proceedings are delayed by the amount of time required to complete the rescheduled debate.[169]

Occasionally, when the adjournment of the House has been extended for the consideration of legislation, for a special debate or to consider the main estimates of a given department or agency in a Committee of the Whole House, the House has opted to preserve the adjournment debate at its normal time and, after the debate, to deem the motion to be withdrawn.[170] The Adjournment Proceedings have been interrupted by Royal Assent and resumed upon the return of the House from the Senate following the ceremony.[171] The Chair has also interrupted the Adjournment Proceedings to advise the House of a message from the Senate.[172]

Points of Order and Questions of Privilege

Points of order and questions of privilege may not be raised during the Adjournment Proceedings.[173] The only matters to be considered during this 30‑minute period are questions previously raised during Question Period or transferred for debate from the Order Paper. On this basis, the House operates without a quorum. The Speaker has been reluctant to deal, at that time, with points of order and questions of privilege because these matters could affect the whole House. For the same reason, the Speaker would not propose to the House at this time a motion moved by unanimous consent. Aside from unparliamentary language which, on occasion, has been dealt with immediately by the Speaker without any point of order being raised,[174] the Chair has ruled that matters arising from the conduct of the Adjournment Proceedings are to be deferred until the next sitting day.[175]

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[2] Stewart, J.B., The Canadian House of Commons: Procedure and Reform, Montreal and London: McGill‑Queen’s University Press, 1977, p. 56.

[3] Franks, C.E.S., The Parliament of Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987, p. 146.

[4] Franks, p. 155.

[5] O’Brien, G., “Pre-Confederation Parliamentary Procedure: The Evolution of Legislative Practice in the Lower Houses of Central Canada, 1792-1866”, Ph.D. thesis, Carleton University, 1988, p. 362.

[6] Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding of the House of Commons of Canada, 1868, Rule No. 29.

[7] Debates, November 29, 1867, p. 157.

[8] Debates, March 20, 1878, p. 1269.

[9] Bourinot, Sir J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1916, p. 315.

[10] See, for example, Journals, July 15, 1940, pp. 216‑8; March 15, 1943, pp. 160‑1; Debates, February 16, 1944, p. 548.

[11] Journals, March 3, 1944, p. 151.

[12] Journals, March 3, 1944, p. 151. The text of the proposed Standing Order stated: “A question of urgent character may be addressed orally to a Minister on the orders of the day being called, provided a copy thereof has been delivered to the Minister and to the Clerk of the House at least one hour before the meeting of the House. Such a question shall not be prefaced by the reading of telegrams, newspaper extracts, letters or preambles of any kind. The answer shall be oral and may be immediately followed by supplementary questions limited to three in number, without debate or comment, for the elucidation of the information given by the Minister”.

[13] Journals, December 5, 1947, pp. 17‑20; June 25, 1948, p. 680.

[14] Journals, July 12, 1955, p. 912. See also Dawson, W.F., Procedure in the Canadian House of Commons, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962, p. 151.

[15] Journals, October 31, 1963, pp. 509‑13.

[16] Journals, April 20, 1964, pp. 224‑5.

[17] Journals, April 20, 1964, p. 224. The text of the Standing Order stated in part: “Before the Orders of the Day are proceeded with, questions on matters of urgency may be addressed orally to Ministers of the Crown, provided however that if in the opinion of Mr. Speaker a question is not urgent, he may direct that it not be proceeded with or that it be placed on the Order Paper, provided also that on any Wednesday the time allowed for a question period prior to the calling of the Orders of the Day shall not exceed thirty minutes”.

[18] Journals, April 20, 1964, p. 225.

[19] Journals, June 11, 1965, p. 226. These changes also authorized the Speaker to refer oral questions deemed to be of a non‑urgent nature to the Order Paper.

[20] Journals, January 21, 1966, p. 34.

[21] Journals, December 20, 1968, p. 568.

[22] Journals, March 14, 1975, p. 373; March 24, 1975, p. 399.

[23] Jerome, J., Mr. Speaker, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1985, p. 54.

[24] Journals, April 14, 1975, pp. 439‑41.

[25] “Watching the House at Work”, Ninth Report of the Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges, Procedure and Private Members’ Business, December 1989, p. 7, presented to the House on January 22, 1990 (Journals, p. 1078).

[26] Debates, February 24, 1986, pp. 10878‑9.

[27] In 1993, the Standing Committee on House Management proposed certain measures to reform Question Period (Eighty‑First Report of the Standing Committee on House Management, presented to the House on April 1, 1993 (Journals, p. 2774)). It recommended guidelines for acceptable questions and supplementary guidelines, measures to enable more questions to be asked and more answers to be given, restrictions on the use of lists in Question Period and a roster system for Ministers. The House, however, never debated nor adopted the report.

[28] Beauchesne, A., Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 1st ed., Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, Limited, 1922, p. 98; 4th ed., Toronto: The Carswell Company Limited, 1958, pp. 147‑8. See, for example, Debates, February 12, 1970, p. 3508; May 7, 1974, p. 2096. In 1975, Speaker Jerome included this restriction in the list of guidelines for Question Period (Journals, April 14, 1975, p. 441). However, during the budget debate and the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Chair permitted some relaxation of the rules as long as questions on these matters did not monopolize the limited time available (Journals, June 26, 1975, p. 655). In 1983, Speaker Sauvé ruled that questions relating to opposition motions on supply days could also be put (Debates, February 24, 1983, pp. 23181‑3).

[29] Sixty-First Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on March 21, 1997 (Journals, p. 1334). In his testimony before the Committee, the Clerk of the House, Robert Marleau, pointed out that the government has the prerogative to change the Order of the Day without notice and that the Speaker is not always aware what business the House will be discussing following Question Period. Consequently, the Speaker may unintentionally rule out of order a question on the basis that it anticipated an Order of the Day. See the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Evidence, March 18, 1997, Issue No. 37, pp. 9‑10.

[30] Debates, April 7, 1997, p. 9377.

[31] Debates, October 2, 2006, pp. 3496-7.

[32] Laundy, P., The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, London: Quiller Press, 1984, p. 129; Fraser, J.A., The House of Commons at Work, Montreal: Les Éditions de la Chenelière inc., 1993, pp. 51-2; Jerome, pp. 51‑69.

[33] Fraser, p. 124.

[34] See, for example, Debates, February 10, 1994, p. 1184; February 12, 1997, p. 8014; November 18, 1997, p. 1846; June 15, 2000, p. 8127; October 19, 2006, p. 4009.

[35] See, for example, Debates, October 2, 1997, p. 407; December 6, 2001, p. 7960; April 25, 2006, p. 495.

[36] See, for example, Debates, November 25, 1997, p. 2181; May 25, 1999, p. 15258; April 19, 2005, pp. 5281-2; November 28, 2005, p. 10208; October 19, 2006, pp. 4008, 4013.

[37] See, for example, Debates, June 15, 2000, p. 8128; November 25, 2005, p. 10160. See also Deputy Speaker Milliken’s ruling of June 15, 2000 (Debates, p. 8134), in which he explained that questions can be ruled out of order because of language, even if the content of the question is itself in order. In these instances, Ministers may respond if they so wish.

[38] Standing Order 37(1). This authority was first incorporated into the Standing Orders in 1964 (Journals, April 20, 1964, p. 224).

[39] See, for example, Debates, February 11, 1993, pp. 15784‑5; March 18, 1994, p. 2487; October 1, 1997, p. 334; February 9, 2000, p. 3311.

[40] Debates, February 3, 1997, pp. 7580‑1. Since the start of the Thirty-Sixth Parliament in 1997, Members have been allowed approximately 35 seconds to pose questions and Ministers approximately 35 seconds to respond. See the guidelines established by Speaker Parent in consultation with the House Leaders of the recognized parties in Debates, September 24, 1997, p. 23.

[41] Standing Order 30(5). There have been notable exceptions when Question Period has not been held. On December 10, 1998, the House adjourned early out of respect for the memory of the late Shaughnessy Cohen, the Member for the riding of Windsor–St. Clair. On September 29, 2000, the House adjourned early on the occasion of the death of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. On June 11, 2008, pursuant to Special Order, the House met solely to hear the statement of apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to former students of Indian Residential Schools. The sitting was adjourned thereafter.

[42] Prior to the beginning of the Fortieth Parliament in November 2008, the Speaker permitted the representative from the opposition party with the third-highest number of seats two questions.

[43] Fraser, pp. 124‑5.

[44] The origins of the Question Period list are recounted in Jerome, pp. 53‑4, 61‑3, and in Fraser, pp. 124‑5.

[45] See, for example, Debates, June 16, 1994, pp. 5437‑40, in particular p. 5439; November 7, 1996, pp. 6269‑72. On one occasion, Members complained that an independent Member posed a question at a time when the floor should have been given to a Member of a recognized party. See Debates, December 12, 1996, pp. 7470‑3 for a discussion on this issue.

[46] See, for example, Debates, March 18, 1998, p. 5053; March 24, 1998, p. 5288; November 9, 2006, p. 4977; November 21, 2006, p. 5149; November 27, 2006, p. 5372; November 28, 2006, p. 5461; June 8, 2007, p. 10356; June 14, 2007, p. 10631; June 18, 2007, p. 10752; November 15, 2007, p. 938; November 29, 2007, p. 1543. In 2007, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs recommended in its Fifty-Third Report (presented to the House on June 6, 2007 (Journals, p. 1480)) that the Standing Orders be amended to allow the Speaker to recognize one independent Member to ask an oral question once a week. Some members of the Committee had expressed concern that the recognition of independent Members during Question Period was preventing Members of recognized parties from posing questions. Request for unanimous consent to concur in the Report was denied and the matter was not raised again in the House during the First Session of the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament (2006‑08). See also Debates, June 6, 2007, pp. 10210‑2; June 7, 2007, pp. 10288‑90; Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Evidence, June 12, 2007, Meeting No. 57.

[47] See, for example, Debates, October 30, 1996, pp. 5885‑6; November 6, 1996, pp. 6186, 6188‑9; April 16, 1997, pp. 9796‑9; November 8, 2001, pp. 7160, 7162; June 17, 2008, pp. 7068‑9.

[48] For many years prior to a definitive ruling on the subject by Speaker Jerome, Parliamentary Secretaries had been allowed to pose oral questions (Debates, November 5, 1974, pp. 1059‑64). In ruling that Parliamentary Secretaries possessed the right to ask oral questions, Speaker Lamoureux nonetheless questioned the propriety of this procedure given that Parliamentary Secretaries might be placed “in the position of both answering and asking questions, to the extent where we might have a Parliamentary Secretary asking a question of another Parliamentary Secretary” (Debates, March 6, 1973, pp. 1932‑3). Later, Speaker Fraser conceded that any recognition of Parliamentary Secretaries to ask questions during Question Period had been entirely inadvertent and unintentional on his part (Debates, October 1, 1991, p. 3001).

[49] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 314. See also Debates, April 23, 2007, pp. 8544-5. Other Chair Occupants have, however, asked questions. See, for example, Debates, May 12, 2008, p. 5728.

[50] If such notice is provided, it is generally accepted that the Minister will keep the subject matter of the question confidential until it is asked in the House, although failure to do so does not constitute a question of privilege or a point of order (Debates, December 10, 2001, pp. 8068‑70).

[51] Standing Order 47 specifies that points of order are not to be considered during Question Period.

[52] Journals, April 14, 1975, p. 441.

[53] See, for example, Debates, April 4, 1989, p. 32; February 9, 1993, p. 15637; April 23, 2002, p. 10720.

[54] Debates, March 24, 1993, p. 17482. The matter was eventually resolved at the conclusion of Question Period (Debates, pp. 17486‑8).

[55] Standing Order 37(1).

[56] See, for example, guideline 7(2)(b) listed in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Procedure and Organization (Journals, April 15, 1964, p. 213).

[57] Debates, February 24, 1986, pp. 10878‑9.

[58] Debates, February 24, 1986, p. 10879.

[59] Journals, April 20, 1964, p. 225.

[60] See, for example, Debates, February 12, 1992, p. 6860.

[61] See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1996, p. 3824; June 17, 1996, p. 3926; October 3, 1997, pp. 459‑60; May 25, 1999, pp. 15254‑5; March 17, 2000, p. 4824; October 19, 2005, p. 8726; June 6, 2006, pp. 2021, 2022; October 19, 2007, p. 149; October 22, 2007, pp. 205, 209; October 25, 2007, p. 397.

[62] See, for example, Debates, November 5, 1990, p. 15127.

[63] While the Speaker has occasionally ruled hypothetical questions out of order (see, for example, Debates, May 16, 1995, p. 12681), Members are often asked to rephrase their question (see, for example, Debates, November 29, 1990, p. 15980). The Speaker has also given a Minister the option to reply or not to reply to a hypothetical question (see, for example, Debates, October 7, 1991, p. 3387; April 14, 1994, p. 3048; December 3, 1997, p. 2652).

[64] See, for example, Debates, September 21, 1995, p. 14726; March 27, 2001, pp. 2311-2. A Member may be permitted to seek a Minister’s opinion of legal arguments concerning a bill before the House. See Speaker Milliken’s comments in Debates, February 17, 2005, pp. 3651‑2.

[65] See, for example, Debates, June 5, 1991, p. 1201.

[66] Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, July 25, 1988, p. 17914; October 5, 1990, p. 13858; December 13, 1990, p. 16693; September 19, 1991, p. 2401; March 10, 1998, pp. 4629-30.

[67] Standing Order 18. See, for example, Debates, September 27, 1990, p. 13513; February 24, 1994, pp. 1799‑800.

[68] See, for example, Debates, February 3, 1994, pp. 892‑3; October 16, 1995, p. 15399; February 18, 1999, pp. 12131, 12135.

[69] See, for example, Debates, May 2, 1994, pp. 3762‑3.

[70] See, for example, Debates, May 2, 1994, pp. 3762‑3; November 3, 1997, p. 1474; September 28, 1998, p. 8469; November 8, 2002, p. 1491; November 4, 2005, p. 9531.

[71] See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9; February 13, 1998, p. 3854. This topic is discussed in greater detail below.

[72] See, for example, Debates, April 14, 1987, p. 5144.

[73] This is often the result of the use of unparliamentary language. See, for example, Debates, August 22, 1988, pp. 18615‑6; March 27, 2001, p. 2311; April 13, 2005, p. 5028; November 17, 2005, pp. 9818-9.

[74] See, for example, Debates, September 26, 1988, p. 19618.

[75] In early 1994, Randy White (Fraser Valley West) asked Finance Minister Paul Martin a question on behalf of one of his constituents. Speaker Parent advised the Member that questions should not be posed by persons who are not Members (Debates, January 24, 1994, pp. 234‑5).

[76] In 1986, opposition Members attempted to ask Regional Industrial Expansion Minister Sinclair Stevens questions relating to an alleged conflict of interest. The Speaker ruled the questions out of order on the grounds that they did not pertain to Mr. Stevens’ responsibilities as a Minister. He further clarified that questions of a purely personal nature are out of order, even if the borderline between what is personal and what is ministerial is not always evident (Debates, May 8, 1986, pp. 13081‑2). See also Debates, October 22, 1991, p. 3801.

[77] See, for example, Debates, February 9, 2000, p. 3311; November 3, 2003, p. 9080.

[78] See, for example, Debates, February 19, 2004, pp. 829-30; April 7, 2005, p. 4814; April 12, 2005, p. 4946; October 7, 2005, p. 8562; October 22, 2007, p. 209.

[79] See, for example, Debates, December 8, 2004, p. 2453; October 4, 2006, p. 3639.

[80] It also applies to written questions and their responses (Debates, November 15, 2005, pp. 9664-5).

[81] Journals, December 13, 1976, p. 230.

[82] Journals, April 29, 1977, pp. 720‑9. For further information on the sub judice convention, see Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”.

[83] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728.

[84] Journals, April 29, 1977, p. 728. See, for example, Debates, December 18, 1990, pp. 16901, 16905‑6.

[85] See, for example, Debates, April 6, 1995, pp. 11618‑9; October 20, 1997, pp. 829‑30; June 13, 2003, p. 7281.

[86] Debates, November 7, 1989, pp. 5654‑7. On this occasion, Robert Kaplan (York Centre) had asked the Speaker to suspend the convention in relation to a criminal case before the courts involving the 1989 federal budget leak, arguing that his questions were not material to the criminal proceedings. The Chair did not accept that the proceedings in a criminal trial could be split into two parts, with the convention only applying to one of the parts.

[87] Beauchesne, 4th ed., p. 314.

[88] Standing Order 37(2) was adopted on June 27, 1985 (Journals, pp. 914, 919). For examples of questions addressed to the Board of Internal Economy, see Debates, March 11, 1992, p. 7979; November 19, 1992, p. 13654; February 2, 1994, pp. 791‑2; May 30, 2001, p. 4400.

[89] Debates, January 31, 1994, p. 637.

[90] See, for example, Debates, May 20, 1970, pp. 7126‑7; November 4, 1981, p. 12499; March 9, 1987, p. 3955; May 20, 1992, p. 10934; May 31, 2005, p. 6411; November 27, 2006, p. 5371; March 12, 2008, p. 4049. See also Debates, February 8, 2008, p. 2834 where a question was addressed to the Chair of a standing committee who was an opposition Member. During one Question Period in 2008, opposition Members twice addressed questions to the Chair of a standing committee and the Government House Leader responded. The following day, the Liberal House Leader rose on a point of order and asked the Speaker if someone other than the Chair of a committee could respond to a question concerning the agenda of a committee. The Speaker advised that his role is to “take a look at those who are standing to answer and choose who is going to answer”. He indicated that he had recognized the Government House Leader because he was the only Member rising to respond (Debates, February 7, 2008, p. 2743; February 8, 2008, pp. 2835‑7).

[91] See, for example, Debates, May 30, 1990, p. 12048; June 4, 1991, p. 1148; March 16, 1994, p. 2361; April 27, 1994, p. 3574; September 19, 1994, p. 5816; October 2, 1998, pp. 8700‑1; June 3, 1999, p. 15807; February 21, 2002, p. 9102; February 28, 2002, pp. 9365, 9370. On one occasion, a Member rose on a point of order to argue that a question addressed to a Chair of a standing committee should have been ruled inadmissible because it dealt with proceedings in the committee rather than the committee’s agenda or schedule. The Speaker ruled that the question itself had been in order but that the response may not have answered the question. He explained, further, that it is not the role of the Speaker to judge the quality or content of the reply (Debates, February 12, 2008, pp. 2968‑9). See also the ruling delivered by Deputy Speaker Blaikie on April 3, 2008 (Debates, pp. 4405‑6).

[92] See, for example, Debates, April 18, 1985, pp. 3865‑6; January 17, 1986, p. 9881.

[93] See, for example, Debates, September 20, 1983, pp. 27295‑6; May 18, 2005, p. 6126.

[94] See, for example, Debates, November 27, 1989, pp. 6263, 6266.

[95] See, for example, Debates, June 5, 1984, p. 4378; January 17, 1986, p. 9881.

[96] Debates, January 15, 1986, p. 9793. Generally, the Speaker recognizes fewer Members for supplementary questions in the last minutes of Question Period in an effort to give as many Members as possible the opportunity to pose a question.

[97] Debates, April 14, 1975, p. 440. See also Debates, March 25, 1991, p. 18936; October 21, 1994, p. 7033.

[98] Debates, May 9, 1984, pp. 3552‑4.

[99] Debates, November 6, 1997, p. 1662.

[100] See, for example, Debates, June 15, 2005, pp. 7185‑6.

[101] Debates, March 4, 1986, pp. 11168‑9. In ruling on the acceptability of supplementary questions, Speaker Bosley stated that “when a question is taken on notice, the Chair’s practice, which I think is reasonable, is to say that if that is what is being done then it does not make much sense to allow supplementary questions”.

[102] See, for example, Debates, September 27, 1994, pp. 6217‑8.

[103] Debates, May 8, 1941, p. 2651.

[104] Debates, May 28, 1943, p. 3126.

[105] Journals, March 3, 1944, p. 151.

[106] Journals, June 25, 1948, p. 680.

[107] See, for example, Journals, March 16, 1956, pp. 299‑305; February 26, 1959, p. 172; October 31, 1963, pp. 509‑13, in particular p. 513.

[108] Journals, April 14, 1975, p. 440.

[109] Debates, May 17, 1984, p. 3832.

[110] Debates, February 24, 1986, p. 10879.

[111] Journals, April 14, 1975, p. 439. See also Debates, May 6, 1986, p. 13002; March 13, 1992, pp. 8189, 8192; February 4, 2005, p. 3104.

[112] See, for example, Debates, May 6, 1986, p. 13002; May 8, 1986, pp. 13081‑2; November 3, 1997, p. 1463; February 4, 2005, p. 3104.

[113] Debates, May 6, 1986, p. 13001. See Debates, June 4, 1982, p. 18105 for an example of a question addressed to an Acting Prime Minister.

[114] Fraser, p. 125.

[115] Speaker Francis stated in 1984 that another Minister may answer a supplementary question if the first Minister claims that the subject matter of the question concerns that Minister; the redirection must be clearly linked to the answer in the first question (Debates, May 17, 1984, p. 3832).

[116] Standing Order 15.

[117] A “roster system” of ministerial attendance for Question Period, modelled very loosely on the British House of Commons, was attempted by the Trudeau Ministry during the Twenty‑Eighth Parliament (1968‑72). The experiment was not a success and was abandoned with the Twenty‑Ninth Parliament (1973‑74) (Stewart, p. 57).

[118] In 2006, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister routinely answered questions in the absence of the Prime Minister (see, for example, Debates, April 28, 2006, p. 645; June 9, 2006, pp. 2191‑2; September 21, 2006, p. 3084; October 19, 2006, p. 4003; November 6, 2006, p. 4746). When Members have noted the absence of Ministers, the Speaker has reminded the House of the prohibition against commenting on the presence or absence of Members (see, for example, Debates, February 17, 2004, p. 678; March 7, 2005, p. 4034). Members have also raised questions of privilege concerning the absence of Ministers during Question Period. On January 31, 1986, John Nunziata (York South–Weston) rose on a question of privilege following Question Period to argue that the absence of the Prime Minister affected his privileges because he was unable to pose questions to the government about a particular matter. The Speaker ruled that the government answers questions as a “collegial system of Cabinet responsibility” and that since the government was present during Question Period, no question of privilege existed (Debates, January 31, 1986, p. 10348).

[119] Debates, October 10, 1962, p. 347.

[120] Debates, May 8, 1986, pp. 13081‑2; February 17, 2004, p. 683.

[121] Debates, March 10, 1976, pp. 11669‑70.

[122] Debates, October 9, 1997, p. 735; March 25, 1999, p. 13513.

[123] See, for example, Debates, March 4, 1988, p. 13420; February 12, 1992, pp. 6859‑60; March 27, 1992, pp. 8937‑8; October 6, 1994, pp. 6597‑8; November 5, 2003, p. 9194; January 31, 2008, pp. 2434‑5.

[124] Standing Order 37(3). Because the Adjournment Proceedings customarily occur at the end of the sitting day, the phrase “late show” was coined before the elimination of night sittings in 1982.

[125] Standing Order 39(5)(b). This procedure is discussed in greater detail later in the chapter.

[126] Standing Order 38(1).

[127] In 2001, Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa–Vanier) raised a question of privilege to object that, while oral questions could be put to a representative of the Board of Internal Economy, the Member, if dissatisfied with the reply, could not then discuss the matter further during the Adjournment Proceedings since only Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries could reply to questions during such proceedings. The House later adopted a motion, by unanimous consent, to provide that the spokesperson for the Board, who was not a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, respond during the Adjournment Proceedings (Debates, September 28, 2001, pp. 5721-2; Journals, October 2, 2001, p. 677, Debates, p. 5883).

[128] Debates, April 27, 1964, pp. 2581‑2.

[129] Debates, May 7, 1986, p. 13048.

[130] Journals, April 20, 1964, pp. 223‑5.

[131] Debates, April 20, 1964, p. 2342.

[132] Debates, March 9, 1973, pp. 2075‑6.

[133] Appendix “J”, Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, September 30, 1976, Issue No. 20, pp. 57‑8; Journals, November 1, 1976, pp. 90‑1.

[134] Debates, November 8, 1979, p. 1081.

[135] Permanent and Provisional Standing Orders of the House of Commons, 1982, Standing Order 45(1).

[136] Journals, February 7, 1994, pp. 118‑20; June 8, 1994, p. 545; June 10, 1994, p. 563.

[137] Journals, April 11, 1991, p. 2909. Originally, the Standing Orders permitted debate to last no more than 10 minutes for each topic. Under this time limit, only three topics were debated each “late show”. Members were permitted to speak no longer than six minutes, with the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary speaking in response for no longer than four minutes.

[138] Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, par. 19, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, p. 693).

[139] Standing Order 37(3) is clear that oral notice is not sufficient. See Debates, May 30, 1990, p. 12052.

[140] An unanswered question has only been transferred to the Adjournment Proceedings on two occasions (Debates, November 20, 1992, p. 13720; September 25, 1995, p. 14819).

[141] Standing Order 37(3).

[142] Standing Order 38(2)(b). See, for example, Debates, May 29, 2008, p. 6304.

[143] Standing Order 38(3).

[144] Standing Order 38(3).

[145] Standing Order 38(4).

[146] Debates, May 11, 1993, p. 19297.

[147] Standing Order 38(2).

[148] Standing Order 38(5).

[149] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling (Debates, February 11, 1970, pp. 3465‑6). Moreover, neither may the absence of a Member, Minister or Parliamentary Secretary be treated as a question of privilege (Debates, April 25, 2002, pp. 10843-4).

[150] Standing Order 17. See also the Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, p. 693), where the Committee noted that this change would facilitate greater dialogue and the exchange of views during the Adjournment Proceedings (par. 19).

[151] Debates, May 15, 1964, p. 3301.

[152] Standing Order 38(5). In December 1997, the House adopted a motion to extend the Adjournment Proceedings by 12 minutes to permit debate on seven topics (Journals, December 9, 1997, p. 366, Debates, pp. 2954‑5). Members have tried to rise on points of order to attempt to conduct different business or to ask for an extension to continue debate. The Chair has ruled that once debate on the adjournment motion has begun, the proceedings cannot be interrupted. See, for example, Debates, February 2, 1993, p. 15313. See also Debates, May 19, 1992, p. 10914; May 20, 1992, p. 10935. On November 28, 2005, the Adjournment Proceedings were held following the adoption of a motion of non-confidence. The following day, the Thirty‑Eighth Parliament (2004‑05) was dissolved (Debates, November 28, 2005, pp. 10240‑2).

[153] Standing Order 52(12). The Adjournment Proceedings have taken place following an emergency debate with unanimous consent. See, for example, Debates, October 4, 2001, p. 5983.

[154] Standing Order 53.1.

[155] There have been two exceptions. See Journals, June 20, 1995, pp. 1817-8, 1822; December 9, 2002, pp. 280-1, 285.

[156] Standing Order 83(2).

[157] Standing Order 30(4)(b).

[158] Standing Order 2(3).

[159] See, for example, Journals, May 11, 2006, p. 164.

[160] Standing Order 33(2).

[161] Standing Order 98(3) and (5). This Standing Order has not been invoked since its adoption in 1986.

[162] Standing Order 67.1.

[163] Standing Order 66.

[164] Standing Order 45(7.1).

[165] Standing Order 81(17) and (18)(b).

[166] Standing Order 27.

[167] In 2005, a motion was adopted which resulted in the cancellation of the Adjournment Proceedings on specific days (Journals, June 23, 2005, pp. 976‑80).

[168] See transcript of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs of May 3, 1994, p. 18. The time the Adjournment Proceedings are to commence would not be known in this case. The Speaker would still announce the matters to be raised that day (or the announcement may have already been made) but if Members fail to proceed with their question, the Adjournment Proceedings lapse. See, for example, Debates, May 4, 1995, pp. 12211, 12216, 12235; March 13, 1997, pp. 9036, 9044, 9058.

[169] Standing Order 30(7). See, for example, Journals, October 30, 2003, pp. 1211‑3.

[170] See, for example, Journals, November 26, 1992, p. 2242; March 18, 1996, p. 104; June 6, 2000, p. 1795; June 14, 2000, p. 1871; November 23, 2004, p. 253. See also Standing Order 81(4)(a).

[171] See, for example, Debates, November 6, 1990, p. 15236.

[172] See, for example, Debates, March 23, 2005, p. 4525.

[173] See, for example, Debates, November 17, 1969, p. 920; June 29, 1981, p. 11070; December 5, 1991, p. 5892; December 10, 1997, pp. 3064‑5; February 11, 1999, p. 11819; June 17, 2008, p. 7100.

[174] See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1986, p. 14372; March 5, 1987, p. 3882; December 9, 1997, p. 3018. See also Debates, April 2, 1998, p. 5743.

[175] Debates, April 30, 1964, pp. 2799‑802. There have been rare exceptions. For example, in 1983, the Chair allowed a Member to rise on a point of order to apologize for unintentionally impugning the character of another Member (Debates, July 19, 1982, pp. 19490‑1). In 1986, the Speaker permitted a Member to rise on a point of order when confusion arose over which question was to be answered that day (Debates, November 3, 1986, p. 1033).

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