House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 15. Special Debates - Motion to Suspend Certain Standing Orders


In relation to any business that the government considers urgent, the House may suspend certain Standing Orders in connection with that business, but only under well‑defined conditions.[141] At any time when the Speaker is in the Chair, a motion may be moved by a Minister to suspend the Standing Orders respecting notice requirements for the hours and days of sitting.

*   Initiating Debate

In moving the motion, the Minister gives reasons for the urgency of the situation.[142] After the motion is seconded, the Speaker immediately proposes the question to the House. In doing so, the Speaker may allow up to one hour of uninterrupted debate, in which case the business then before the House is put aside temporarily and a “special” debate on the motion takes place.[143] If no Member rises, the Speaker will put the question immediately.[144]

*   Rules of Debate

Debate on such motions lasts not more than one hour and may not be interrupted or adjourned by any other proceeding or order of the House.[145] Members may speak only once and for no longer than 10 minutes.[146] Speeches may be followed by five minutes for questions and comments.[147] Amendments are not permitted unless proposed by a Minister other than the mover.[148]

*   Termination of Debate

When the debate is completed or after one hour, whichever is earlier, the Speaker puts the question on the motion and, in doing so, must ask those Members opposed to the motion to rise.[149] If 10 or more Members rise to object, the motion is deemed withdrawn;[150] otherwise, the motion is adopted[151] and becomes an order of the House governing only the proceedings specified in the motion.[152]

Such motions have seldom been proposed. In 1991, a motion was proposed to suspend the Standing Orders related to the hours of sitting of the House in order for the House to sit three evenings until 10:00 p.m. to complete all stages of an item of back‑to‑work legislation. After debate, the motion was withdrawn when more than 10 Members rose to object.[153] In 1992, a motion to waive the 48‑hours’ notice requirement for the report stage of a bill to provide for referendums on the Constitution was adopted.[154] In March 1995, a motion requesting a waiver of the 48‑hours’ notice requirement for introduction of a bill to end a work stoppage and setting the hours of sitting to debate the bill was put to the House and adopted without debate.[155] Later that same month, a similar motion was debated and deemed withdrawn when more than 10 Members rose to object.[156] In June 1999, a motion proposing that the House continue sitting to consider a bill and suspend the notice requirements of a closure motion was debated and deemed withdrawn when more than 10 Members rose to object.[157] In 2007, a motion was proposed, during Private Members’ Business Hour on a Friday, that the House sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment to continue consideration of a bill to implement certain budget provisions. The motion was deemed withdrawn when more than 10 Members rose to object.[158]

[141] Standing Order 53(1).

[142] Standing Order 53(2). See, for example, Debates, June 8, 2007, p. 10373. On one occasion, debate had already begun on the motion when a Member informed the Chair that the Minister had not stated the reason for its urgency. The motion was ruled out of order and debate resumed on the Orders of the Day (Debates, December 11, 1992, pp. 15131‑3).

[143] In most cases, the one-hour debate has been allowed. See, for example, Debates, August 9, 1977, p. 8177; September 16, 1991, p. 2179; June 1, 1992, p. 11172; March 20, 1995, p. 10697; June 10, 1999, p. 16227; June 8, 2007, p. 10376. In 2007, the debate took place in response to points of order and after the Chair Occupant acknowledged he had been too precipitous in putting the question on the motion (Debates, June 8, 2007, p. 10376).

[144] On March 15, 1995, Marcel Massé, President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister Responsible for Public Service Renewal, proposed a motion to authorize the introduction, without the customary notice, of legislation dealing with a work stoppage in west coast ports, and to extend the hours of sitting for that day. The Speaker put the question immediately without debate and the motion was adopted as fewer than 10 Members rose to object. This led to a point of order because no debate had been allowed. The Speaker indicated that as he had seen no Member seeking the floor for debate, he did not call for debate (Debates, March 15, 1995, pp. 10524‑6).

[145] Standing Order 53(3)(a).

[146] Standing Order 53(3)(c). On one occasion, the Speaker allowed each party 10 minutes to speak (Debates, June 10, 1999, pp. 16227, 16230).

[147] Standing Order 43.

[148] Standing Order 53(3)(b). No amendments have been moved in the debates held to date.

[149] Standing Order 53(4).

[150] Standing Order 53(4).

[151] Standing Order 53(4).

[152] Standing Order 53(5).

[153] Journals, September 16, 1991, pp. 270‑1.

[154] Journals, June 1, 1992, pp. 1560‑1.

[155] Journals, March 15, 1995, p. 1219.

[156] Journals, March 20, 1995, p. 1240.

[157] Journals, June 10, 1999, p. 2097.

[158] Journals, June 8, 2007, p. 1499.

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