House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 2. Parliaments and Ministries - Contents and Introduction

2. Parliaments and Ministries




*    Confidence and the Standing Orders


*    Duration of Parliaments

Figure 2.1    Duration of Parliaments

*    Duration of Ministries

Figure 2.2    Duration of Ministries

The End of a Ministry

*     Death of a Prime Minister

*     Resignation of a Prime Minister

Defeat in a General Election

Operation of the Confidence Convention

Resignation Due to Other Causes

*     Dismissal of a Prime Minister

Ministerial Crisis


In the United States, President and Congress can be locked in fruitless combat for years on end. In Canada, the Government and the House of Commons cannot be at odds for more than a few weeks at a time. If they differ on any matter of importance, then, promptly, there is either a new government or a new House of Commons.

Eugene A. Forsey

(How Canadians Govern Themselves, 6th ed., p. 28)

The relationship between the House of Commons and the executive can affect both the lifespan of a Ministry and the duration of a Parliament. The end of a Ministry always has an impact on the proceedings of the House of Commons; the consequences may range from the simple interruption of a sitting to the dissolution of a Parliament. It is from that perspective that any procedural events leading to or brought about by the end of a Ministry are examined, whether the end is triggered by death, by resignation following a defeat in a general election, by resignation due to the loss of confidence in the House of Commons, by resignation for other reasons, or by dismissal.

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