House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 15. Special Debates - Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne

*   Designating a Day for Consideration

Although there is no Standing Order that requires the Speech from the Throne to be debated at the beginning of a new session, traditionally, when the House returns from the Senate, a day is designated for the consideration of the Speech.[1] The Prime Minister moves a motion to consider the Throne Speech either later that day or at the next sitting of the House.[2] The motion does not require notice and, while it is generally moved and adopted without debate, it is debatable and amendable.[3]

*   Initiating Debate

On the day specified in the motion for the consideration of the Speech from the Throne, a government backbencher moves that an Address be presented to the Governor General (or, depending on who delivered the speech, to the Sovereign or to the Administrator of the Government of Canada) “to offer our humble thanks … for the gracious speech which Your Excellency has addressed”. This allows for wide‑ranging debate on the government policies announced in the Throne Speech, and provides a rare opportunity for Members to address topics of their choice.[4]

From 1867 to 1893, the motion for the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne typically consisted of several paragraphs, each of which received separate consideration. The paragraphs collectively formed a resolution that was adopted and referred to a select committee. The committee would then report the Address in Reply to the House where it would be agreed to, engrossed (that is, transcribed upon parchment) and presented to the Governor General. This cumbersome procedure was changed in 1893, when a new practice was adopted whereby the House itself considered the Address in the form of a presentation to the Governor General.[5] It was not until 1903 that the motion for an Address in Reply became one brief paragraph of thanks for the Speech from the Throne.[6]

Following the mover’s speech, a second government backbencher[7] (usually one who speaks the official language that is not that of the mover) is recognized to speak to and second the motion. Both the mover and seconder are typically chosen from the ranks of those Members most recently elected.[8] Over the past few years, in contrast to previous practice, their speeches have been followed by a 10‑minute questions and comments period.[9] When the seconder has completed his speech and responded to the questions and comments, the Leader of the Opposition normally moves to adjourn the debate.[10] The usual practice is for the Prime Minister or a Minister, often the Government House Leader or President of the Privy Council, to then move the adjournment of the House.[11]

*   Resuming Debate on the Address

The Standing Orders provide for six additional days of debate on the motion and on any amendments proposed thereto.[12] These days are designated by a Minister, usually the Government House Leader, and are not necessarily consecutive. The House normally debates the Address early in the session when there is little or no government business on the Order Paper. In the following days, the government typically places bills or motions on notice to sustain the work of the House later on.

The fact that the debate on the Address has not been completed or that the House has not yet voted on it does not preclude the House from discussing or voting on other issues.[13] The purpose of giving first reading to the pro forma Bill C-1, An Act respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office, is to assert the independence of the House of Commons, and its right to choose its own business and to deliberate without reference to the causes of summons as expressed in the Speech from the Throne.[14]

Since 1955, the Standing Orders have provided that, when the Order of the Day is called to resume debate on the motion for an Address in Reply, the Order takes precedence over all other business of the House, with the exception of the daily routine of business―that is, Routine Proceedings, Statements by Members and Oral Questions.[15] Private Members’ Business, which used to be suspended on these days, is now held if necessary.[16]

*   Rules of Debate on the Address

Leaders’ Day

The first day of resumed debate is known as “Leaders’ Day”. It is traditional for the Leader of the Opposition to speak first and to move an amendment to the main motion. Normally, the Prime Minister speaks next, and is followed by the leader of the second‑largest party in opposition, who may propose a subamendment. Other leaders of parties with official status in the House are then recognized in turn.[17] Leaders of parties holding fewer than 12 seats are not automatically recognized for debate on Leaders’ Day.[18]

While this has been the customary speaking order, there is no specific rule stating the order in which party leaders are recognized during the debate on the Address in Reply. During the Address in Reply proceedings in 1989, the leader of the second largest party in opposition spoke after the Leader of the Opposition; the Prime Minister delivered his speech the day after Leaders’ Day.[19] In 1991, when the Prime Minister did not rise to speak after the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, a complaint was lodged with the Chair by the Opposition House Leader. The Speaker ruled that, in the absence of any Standing Order to this effect, Members were not bound to any particular speaking order.[20] The Prime Minister subsequently addressed the House the next day, and the leader of the second largest party in opposition delivered her speech immediately thereafter.

Duration of Debate on the Address

Until 1955, there was no prescribed limit on the length of the debate on the Address in Reply, and debates lasted anywhere from one day to a record length of 28 days.[21] In 1955, further to the recommendations of a special committee on procedure, the House first instituted a limit on the length of debate on the Address in Reply when it agreed to a maximum of 10 days of debate and to morning sittings (not then a feature of the regular sitting day) for the duration of the debate.[22] This was further reduced to eight days in 1960,[23] and, in 1991, the Standing Orders were again amended to provide for a maximum of six days of debate.[24]

There have been, however, a number of instances where the House has voted on the motion although the debate lasted for less than the maximum number of days provided for in the Standing Orders.[25] There have also been instances where the debate was not completed because of either a prorogation or dissolution: in 1988, only the mover and seconder of the motion had an opportunity to speak before the session ended by prorogation after only 11 sittings. In 1997, when Parliament was dissolved for a general election after 164 sittings, only five of the six days provided for the Address debate had been completed.[26]

As indicated in the Standing Orders, any unused days may be added, if the House so agrees, to the number of allotted days for the supply period in which they occur. However, this rule has never been applied since coming into effect in 1968.[27]

Length of Speeches on the Address Debate

With the exception of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, who have unlimited speaking time, Members may speak for a maximum of 20 minutes on the Address.[28] In every instance, a 10-minute questions and comments period may be held following each speech.[29] Members limited to a 20-minute speech may indicate to the Chair that they wish to share their time with a colleague, either from their own party or from another party. A party Whip may also indicate that Members of his or her party will be sharing their 20-minute speaking time over the course of a debate.[30] In such cases, each Member may speak for 10 minutes, followed by five minutes for questions and comments.[31]

Any Member may be recognized to speak in this debate, though the speaking order normally follows a rotation that reflects party standings in the House. On occasion, in order to allow as many Members as possible to speak to the motion, the House has reduced the length of speeches or the length of the period for questions and comments, sometimes even eliminating the questions and comments period altogether.[32]

*   Disposal of Amendments and Termination of the Debate on the Address

In the early years of Confederation, one view held that attempts to amend the Address in Reply motion ought not to be made.[33] In 1873, the first amendments were moved to the Address in Reply motion when a motion of censure was made against the government for its conduct in the “Pacific Scandal”. Although a subamendment subsequently proposed an expression of confidence in the government,[34] Parliament was prorogued following a change in government before the amendments were put to a vote. Amendments were moved again in 1893 and 1899.[35] Over the course of the next 40 years, amendments were commonly moved, although not systematically. It was not until World War II that the practice of moving amendments to the Address in Reply motion became more entrenched.

Recent practice has been that the Leader of the Opposition moves an amendment on the first day of resumed debate. A subamendment is then normally proposed by the leader of the second largest opposition party. It is not unusual, however, for another Member from that party to do so.[36]

Given the general nature of the motion, the rule of relevance is not strictly applied to the proposed amendment (as opposed to the subamendments). However, precedents indicate that an amendment should add some distinct element of its own, whereas a subamendment must be relevant to the amendment and cannot raise a new issue.[37]

A subamendment adding words with the effect of making the amendment a motion of non-confidence in the Official Opposition has been ruled inadmissible since “votes of want of confidence are only directed against the Government of the day”.[38] The Speaker has ruled out of order amendments which were not deemed to challenge directly the government’s policies[39] or which, in the Speaker’s view, were the equivalent of ordering the House to increase government spending and as such requiring a royal recommendation.[40] An amendment similar to one on which the House had already expressed a judgement earlier in the debate has also been disallowed.[41]

Until 1955, there were no provisions in the Standing Orders dealing with the moving of amendments or when to put the question thereon. As with an amendment to any motion, the question was not put until no Member rose to speak to it. In 1955, a new Standing Order was adopted which established a framework for deciding amendments.[42]

The first subamendment must be disposed of on the second appointed day when the Speaker interrupts the proceedings 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for debate to put the question on the subamendment.[43] Subamendments may again be proposed on the third or fourth day.[44] On the fourth day, the Speaker interrupts the debate 30 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for debate to dispose of any amendment or subamendment before the House.[45] No further amendments are permitted to the main motion on the fifth and sixth days.[46] Finally, on the sixth day, unless the debate has previously concluded, the Speaker interrupts the debate 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for debate to put all the questions necessary to dispose of the main motion.[47]

The Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne has been adopted with an amendment on only five occasions. In the first two instances, an amendment moved by a Member of the Opposition was itself amended by a subamendment moved by a Member of the government party.[48]

In the next two instances, the House voted in favour of the subamendment moved by the second largest party in opposition and concurred in the amendment and the main motion, as amended. In the most recent instance, the House concurred in the amendment moved by the Official Opposition and then in the main motion, as amended.[49] Concurrence in these amendments was not deemed to be a test of the confidence of the House in the government of the day,[50] as the government had already agreed with the amendments.

Furthermore, the Address adopted in 2004 during the First Session of the Thirty-Eighth Parliament asked the government to consider the advisability of giving orders of reference to three standing committees, instructing each to make recommendations on specific matters. The House concurred in this suggestion shortly after it was made, and adopted a Special Order to this effect for each of the three committees.[51]

*   Engrossing of Address

Immediately after the adoption of the motion for the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the House adopts a motion without debate or amendment that the Address be engrossed, that is, transcribed upon parchment, and presented to the Governor General in person by the Speaker of the House of Commons.[52] It is customary for the Speaker to be accompanied by the Speaker of the Senate, a few invited Members (including the mover and seconder of the Address, the House Leaders and the party Whips), and the Clerks of both Houses.[53]

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[1] The Standing Orders do not prescribe such a debate; they merely set the rules for resuming debate on the motion for the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and for the disposal of any amendments and subamendments, as well as the main motion (Standing Order 50). In 1940, for instance, no Address debate was held for the Sixth Session of the Eighteenth Parliament. The session lasted only one day, January 25, 1940, with the government using the Speech from the Throne to advise Parliament of its intention to dissolve Parliament in order to hold a general election. Dissolution occurred the same day (Journals, January 25, 1940, pp. 1, 8, 23‑5).

[2] See, for example, Journals, October 16, 2007, p. 4. It is noted in Bourinot (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. 95) that other Ministers in the absence of the Prime Minister may move this motion. In fact, this has occurred on a number of occasions. Examples of this can be found on April 18, 1895, when George Eulas Foster, Minister of Finance and Receiver General in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell, moved the motion (Journals, p. 5) and on January 8, 1926, when Ernest Lapointe, Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the Cabinet of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, moved the motion (Journals, p. 12). Since the 1950s, the Prime Minister has moved the motion. Between 1896 and 1956, the motion appointed a specific day on which consideration of the Speech from the Throne would begin.

[3] Debate has occurred on at least three occasions. On January 8, 1926, an amendment was moved to the motion to consider the speech of the Governor General. This amendment was debated over the course of two sittings and negatived on a recorded division (Journals, pp. 12‑3; January 14, 1926, pp. 28‑9). On February 17, 1972, an amendment to the motion to consider the speech of the Governor General to provide for a 40‑minute oral Question Period was proposed. The Speaker ruled the amendment out of order because it was a substantive motion, which could not be attached to the motion before the House. The Speaker noted, however, that the motion could be amended if a procedurally acceptable amendment were proposed (Journals, pp. 5‑6). The third instance of debate on the motion for consideration can be found in the Journals, December 12, 1988, p. 6.

[4] Furthermore, on two occasions, Ministers of Finance took the opportunity provided by their speeches during the Address in Reply to make an economic statement and table notices of ways and means motions (Journals, October 20, 1977, pp. 18-9, Debates, pp. 98-102; Journals, April 21, 1980, pp. 61‑2, Debates, pp. 241-7). In the latter case, the speech gave rise to a question of privilege. A Member was of the opinion that the Minister of Finance had breached the privileges of the House by making a budget presentation under the pretext of the debate on the Address, preventing the budget debate from taking place as prescribed by the Standing Orders (Debates, April 22, 1980, pp. 265-85). In her ruling, Speaker Sauvé reiterated that the Minister never said he was making a budget presentation and that Members are entitled to address any issue when speaking during the debate on the Speech from the Throne. She also pointed out that the Standing Orders clearly established that a budget presentation is not necessary in order to table notices of ways and means motions and that notices may be tabled at any time (Debates, April 28, 1980, pp. 459-61).

[5] Journals, January 30, 1893, p. 33.

[6] Journals, March 13, 1903, p. 25.

[7] In 2007, the seconder was the Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages (Journals, October 16, 2007, p. 5).

[8] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 97. Twice in recent years, however, this practice was not followed. In 2004 and 2006, two Members (Karen Redman (Kitchener-Centre) and Rick Casson (Lethbridge)) seconded the motion for an Address in Reply even though they had first been elected to the House in 1997 (Journals, February 2, 2004, p. 4; April 4, 2006, p. 14).

[9] Previous practice was that speeches from the mover and the seconder of the Address in Reply were not followed by a questions and comments period. The last time this practice was followed dates back to 1999 (Debates, October 12, 1999, pp. 7-12). However, in 2001, the seconder did receive several questions, prompting a point of order from the Prime Minister (Debates, January 30, 2001, pp. 17-21). Questions and comments also followed the seconder’s speech during the Address debate in 2002 (Debates, September 30, 2002, pp. 8-14) and, beginning in 2004, a questions and comments period followed the speeches by the mover as well as by the seconder. See, for example, Debates, April 4, 2006, pp. 11-5. In 2005, the Standing Orders were amended so that a period for questions and comments of up to 10 minutes would automatically be held after any 20-minute speech when the Speaker is in the Chair (Journals, February 18, 2005, pp. 451, 455).

[10] The Leader of the Opposition has always adjourned the debate since 1935. See, for example, Journals, October 16, 2007, p. 5; November 19, 2008, p. 13.

[11] See, for example, Journals, October 16, 2007, p. 5. From 1904 until 1979, with only a few exceptions, the Prime Minister would move the motion that the House do now adjourn. Since 1980, with one exception, a Minister has moved the adjournment of the House. In 1983, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council moved the adjournment of the House (Journals, December 8, 1983, p. 21). On April 4, 1989, the House did not adjourn in the traditional way. The Speaker accepted an application for an emergency debate to consider the oil spill that had occurred outside the Port of Valdez, Alaska. That day the motion to adjourn the debate on the Address in Reply was moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the sitting was suspended until 8:00 p.m., and the emergency debate was held pursuant to the Standing Orders. At 2:05 a.m., the Speaker declared the motion carried and the House adjourned (Journals, pp. 22‑3). Again, in 1996, the House did not adjourn in the traditional way: following the motion by the Leader of the Opposition to adjourn the debate, Government Orders were called. An opposition Member (Gilles Duceppe (Laurier–Sainte‑Marie)) immediately rose on a point of order to object to the receivability of a government motion reinstating a number of bills listed on the Order Paper at the time of prorogation, and making temporary amendments to certain Standing Orders. Debate on the point of order continued until the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, at which time the Deputy Speaker adjourned the sitting until the following day (Debates, February 27, 1996, pp. 26‑30).

[12] Standing Order 50(1).

[13] In 1950, at the opening of the Third Session of the Twenty-First Parliament, Prime Minister St‑Laurent moved a motion which was adopted giving precedence to the Bill entitled An Act to provide for the Resumption of Operations of Railways and for the Settlement of the Existing Dispute with respect to Terms and Conditions of Employment between Railway Companies and their Employees (Journals, August 29, 1950, pp. 5-6). The Bill was adopted by both Houses of Parliament on August 30, 1950 (Journals, pp. 7-15) and the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne did not begin until the next day, August 31, 1950 (Journals, pp. 18-9). In addition, in 1988, during the First Session of the Thirty-Fourth Parliament, the Address debate was never resumed. Instead, the House concurred in a ways and means motion the day after the Throne Speech (Journals, December 13, 1988, pp. 15-6) and began consideration of a bill based on the ways and means motion implementing the Free Trade Agreement with the United States the next day (Journals, December 14, 1988, pp. 20-2). The bill was given Royal Assent on December 30, 1988 (Journals, p. 86) and Parliament was prorogued on February 28, 1989 (Journals, p. 89). Furthermore, during the Second Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament, the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne was not completed before dissolution. This did not, however, prevent the government from proceeding with its legislative agenda or even from making two budget presentations, one on March 6, 1996 (Journals, p. 54) and the other on February 25, 1997 (Journals, p. 1145).

[14] For further information on the pro forma Bill C-1, An Act respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office, see Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”.

[15] Standing Order 50(3). See Journals, July 12, 1955, pp. 881‑945, in particular, pp. 908‑9. Beginning in the 1890s and until 1950, the House routinely agreed that the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne should have varying degrees of precedence over other business. See, for example, Journals, February 7, 1898, p. 23; December 8, 1947, p. 40. Such motions were not moved in 1903, 1905, either session in 1906, 1910, the first session in 1914, 1930, either session in 1932, 1934, 1935, or the second session in 1939 or in 1945. One exception to this rule is that precedence is given to the debate on a motion of privilege. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[16] Standing Order 50(3).

[17] In 1997 and 2001, the House adopted a motion whereby the House would not adjourn until the leaders of all recognized parties had spoken in the debate on the Address (Journals, September 23, 1997, p. 9; January 31, 2001, p. 18). In 2007, a Special Order provided for an extension of the time provided for Government Orders if a representative of any political party had not had the opportunity to speak before the conclusion of Government Orders (Journals, October 17, 2007, p. 10).

[18] Debates, October 10, 1979, pp. 47‑51; October 11, 1979, p. 69.

[19] Debates, April 5, 1989, p. 131; April 6, 1989, p. 145. In this example, the New Democratic Party Leader Edward Broadbent spoke after the Leader of the Opposition, John Turner; Prime Minister Brian Mulroney spoke the following day.

[20] Debates, May 14, 1991, p. 24.

[21] In 1926, the government imposed closure on the 28th day of debate in order to terminate these proceedings so that it could adjourn the House for a brief period to prepare the work of the session (Journals, March 2, 1926, pp. 123‑7). The lengthy debate was the result of the challenge by the Conservative Opposition led by Arthur Meighen of the King government’s right to summon Parliament and remain in office following the results of the general election of October 29, 1925. See the speech of Ernest Lapointe (Leader of the House) (Debates, March 2, 1926, pp. 1435‑8).

[22] Journals, July 12, 1955, pp. 881, 908‑9.

[23] Journals, July 25, 1960, p. 825; August 8, 1960, p. 898.

[24] Standing Order 50(1); Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905, 2912.

[25] See, for example, the Address debates in 1956 (both sessions), 1960 (second session), 1965, 1968 and 1978.

[26] This occurred on one other occasion, but before the introduction of time limits. In 1873, the Second Session of the Second Parliament was ended by prorogation before the questions were put on the subamendment, amendment and main motion.

[27] Standing Order 81(11). The first occasion when it could have occurred was in 1978 when the Address in Reply debate concluded after only six days of debate. At that time, the Standing Order provided for eight days of resumed debate. However, on October 20, 1978, the House adopted a Special Order designating October 30, 1978, the sixth and final appointed day (Journals, October 20, 1978, p. 42). In the discussion that took place in the House, it was noted and agreed that the two days taken away from the debate would not be added to the number of allotted days (Debates, October 20, 1978, pp. 312‑3).

[28] The House has sometimes extended to other party leaders the opportunity to speak longer than 20 minutes. See, for example, Debates, November 7, 1984, p. 31; October 3, 1986, p. 52; May 15, 1991, p. 114.

[29] Standing Orders 43 and 50(2). The length of speeches on the motion for an Address in Reply has been subject to limitation since 1960 when the House adopted amendments to the Standing Orders, which provided for speeches of 30 minutes in length with 40 minutes being granted to the movers of amendments and subamendments (Journals, July 25, 1960, pp. 825‑6; August 8, 1960, p. 898). In 1982, the length of speeches was reduced to 20 minutes and the extra time for movers of amendments was eliminated (Journals, November 29, 1982, p. 5400; Third Report of the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 5, 1982, pp. 3, 16‑17). The 10-minute questions and comments period was also added in 1982, though explicit reference to it was removed from Standing Order 50(2) as Standing Order 43 already stated that a period for questions and comments could be held following any 20-minute speech and any speech by the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition (Journals, February 18, 2005, pp. 451-2, 455). See, for example, Debates, October 17, 2007, pp. 44-5.

[30] Standing Order 43. See, for example, Debates, January 20, 1994, p. 72.

[31] Debates, April 11, 2006, pp. 322-3.

[32] See, for example, Debates, April 12, 1989, pp. 404‑5; May 22, 1991, p. 433; January 28, 1994, p. 594; October 3, 1997, pp. 484, 486.

[33] This emulated British practice. See, for example, Debates, February 5, 1875, p. 12; February 11, 1878, p. 36; February 17, 1879, p. 24.

[34] Journals, October 27, 1873, p. 126; October 28, 1873, p. 128.

[35] Journals, January 30, 1893, pp. 34‑5; April 13, 1899, p. 55; April 18, 1899, pp. 64‑5.

[36] See, for example, Journals, February 28, 1996, pp. 8-9.

[37] See, for example, Journals, February 19, 1942, pp. 61-3; January 24, 1966, pp. 43‑4; January 11, 1973, p. 28.

[38] Journals, February 6, 1934, p. 51.

[39] Journals, January 30, 1959, pp. 56-7. The amendment in question called upon the government to establish a special committee to investigate whether Canadian companies were governed by U.S. trade legislation and policies, and had no direct link to the Speech from the Throne.

[40] Journals, March 5, 1948, pp. 223‑5; see also the Constitution Act, 1867, s. 54. Standing Order 79(1) stipulates that the House may not adopt any address for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.

[41] Journals, April 12, 1965, p. 34. Similarly, later during the session, if amendments comparable to those on which the House decided during the Address in Reply debate are moved to other motions, these amendments could be ruled out of order (Journals, May 3, 1955, pp. 545-6).

[42] Journals, July 12, 1955, pp. 881‑945, in particular pp. 908‑9.

[43] Standing Order 50(4). If a recorded division is demanded, the division bells are rung for not more than 15 minutes (Standing Order 45(3)). The Speech from the Throne at the start of the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament was delivered on Wednesday, November 19, 2008. During the debate the following day, both an amendment and subamendment were moved. The second day for resumed debate was scheduled for the Friday, thus meaning that if a recorded division were to be requested on the subamendment, it would be automatically deferred until the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on the following sitting day (i.e., the following Monday). As this would have prohibited the House from continuing to debate the Address motion on the Monday, the House adopted a Special Order to have the question put on any subamendment then before the House on the third day of the Address debate, rather than the second (Journals, November 19, 2008, p. 12; November 20, 2008, pp. 17-8; November 24, 2008, pp. 33‑5; Standing Order 45(6)(a)).

[44] On occasion, the House has agreed, by special order, not to allow a second subamendment. See, for example, Journals, October 8, 2004, p. 64.

[45] Standing Order 50(5). If a recorded division is demanded, the division bells are rung for not more than 15 minutes (Standing Order 45(3)). Since the Standing Orders were amended in 1991 to limit the Throne Speech debate to six days, there have been five instances where a subamendment was disposed of on the second day, and a subamendment and an amendment were disposed of on the fourth day. There is a great deal of variation in the parties sponsoring the second subamendment. In 1991, a second subamendment was moved by a Member of the Bloc Québécois, which was not an officially recognized party at the time (Journals, May 14, 1991, p. 20; May 16, 1991, p. 36). Five years later, in 1996, a second subamendment was proposed by the second-largest opposition party (Journals, February 28, 1996, pp. 8‑9; March 5, 1996, p. 47). The next year, a subamendment was moved by the third-largest opposition party (Journals, September 24, 1997, p. 20; September 29, 1997, p. 39). In 1999 and 2002, the movers of the second subamendment were both Members of the Official Opposition (Journals, October 13, 1999, pp. 12-3; October 15, 1999, pp. 27-8; October 1, 2002, pp. 5‑6; October 3, 2002, pp. 19‑20). In 2001, a Member of the fourth-largest opposition party moved a second subamendment (Journals, January 31, 2001, p. 18; February 6, 2001, pp. 45-6).

[46] Standing Order 50(6).

[47] Standing Order 50(7). The main motion is usually disposed of without a recorded division. See, for example, Journals, October 20, 2004, pp. 125-6. There have, however, been instances of recorded divisions on the main motion. See, for example, Journals, March 2, 1926, pp. 126‑7; January 23, 1957, pp. 69‑70; October 11, 1962, pp. 60‑1; February 17, 2004, pp. 90-1; October 24, 2007, pp. 56-7. In such cases, the division bells are rung for not more than 15 minutes to call the Members in to vote (Standing Order 45(3)).

[48] Journals, April 18, 1899, pp. 64‑5; December 5, 1951, pp. 258‑62; December 12, 1951, pp. 305‑6. In both cases, the subamendments supported the government. While this may appear to be contradictory to the purposes of such amendments, the effects were minimal. In the first instance, which occurred in 1899, the Address in Reply consisted of nine paragraphs. The amendment added a 10th paragraph calling for the appointment of an independent judicial commission to investigate the administration of the Yukon Territory. The subamendment noted the speed at which the government had acted on complaints and praised the integrity of the Commissioner appointed. The second instance occurred in 1951. To an amendment critical of the government's failure to make a payment to grain producers, a Member of the government party moved a subamendment commending the government for their continuing attention to the problems of farmers. A point of order was raised: that the proposed subamendment was out of order on the grounds that it was in fact not an amendment, but rather a further motion of approval and approbation of the government. In his ruling, Speaker Macdonald held that the subamendment was relevant to the amendment and that it did not constitute either a direct or an expanded negative of the main amendment. He allowed the proposed subamendment to stand.

[49] The most recent instances occurred during the Thirty-Eighth, Thirty-Ninth and Fortieth Parliaments, when the government was in a minority situation. In 2004, in the Address in Reply, the House urged the government to review the Employment Insurance program, and to reduce and improve the fairness of taxes. The subamendment, the amendment and the main motion were adopted by unanimous consent; the Prime Minister had asked for unanimous consent during the final vote (Journals, October 7, 2004, p. 58; October 18, 2004, pp. 101-2; October 20, 2004, pp. 125-6, Debates, p. 635). In 2006, the subamendment, the amendment and the main motion were also easily adopted, but this time pursuant to Special Orders. That year, the Address in Reply stated that the House looked forward particularly to early and meaningful action on promises the party in power had made during the election campaign, and that the House saw no reason for the government to increase taxes, or to decrease daycare spaces (Journals, April 6, 2006, pp. 28-9; April 10, 2006, p. 41; April 11, 2006, p. 48; April 24, 2006, pp. 51, 53-4). In 2008, the Address in Reply dealt with the role and place of the opposition in the expression of the wishes of Canadians, the functioning of and collaboration required in the House of Commons, and the provision of detailed briefings to opposition parties on the then upcoming economic and fiscal update (Journals, November 20, 2008, p. 17; November 24, 2008, pp. 29‑30, 33‑5; November 25, 2008, p. 39; November 27, 2008, p. 48).

[50] For further information on the confidence convention, see Chapter 2, “Parliaments and Ministries”.

[51] Journals, October 20, 2004, pp. 125-6; November 25, 2004, pp. 260-1.

[52] See, for example, Journals, February 17, 2004, pp. 90-1. In this case, the motion was agreed to on division. In the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament, the motion for the Address in Reply was adopted on November 27, 2008. The motion to engross the Address was moved and adopted by unanimous consent the following day (Journals, November 27, 2008, p. 48; November 28, 2008, p. 52).

[53] In 2005, the Chair was asked to rule on the government’s action on one of the items in the Address in Reply adopted the previous year. The Speaker deemed that the contentious element in the Address was open to interpretation and concluded that this was a dispute as to interpretation and a matter of debate, not a breach of privilege. The Address in Reply stated that the House had agreed, with respect to an agreement on Canada’s participation in the U.S. ballistic missile defence plan, that Parliament would have an opportunity to consider all public information on the agreement and to vote on the issue prior to a government decision. The government then announced it would not be taking part in the defence system. In the House, the Government House Leader stated that a debate was contingent on reaching an agreement with the United States, which was not the case (Debates, March 8, 2005, pp. 4122-4; March 22, 2005, pp. 4452‑3).

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