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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 21. Private Members' Business - Divisions


Any recorded division requested on a votable item of Private Members’ Business, on the motion to concur in the report of a committee that a private Member’s bill not be proceeded with, or in the report of a committee that requests an extension of time for the consideration of a private Member’s bill in committee is deferred to the next Wednesday that the House sits, immediately before Private Members’ Hour.[241] Such a vote may be further deferred by the Chief Government Whip, with the agreement of the Whips of all recognized parties and that of the sponsor of the item.[242]

When a recorded division is taken on an item of Private Members’ Business, the bells ring for a maximum of 15 minutes.[243] If present and voting in favour of the question, be it the main motion, an amendment or a subamendment, the vote of the Member sponsoring the bill or motion is recorded first, followed by the votes of the other Members on the same side of the House, starting with the back row, who are in favour of the bill or motion and then the Members on the other side of the House, starting with the back row, who are in favour of the item. Votes against are recorded in the same order.[244]

[241] Standing Orders 93(1)(b), 97.1(2)(c)(iii), 97.1(3)(a) and 98(4)(b). For further information, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

[242] Standing Order 45(7).

[243] Standing Order 45(3).

[244] See the Thirteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on November 26, 1997 (Journals, p. 270), and concurred in on November 4, 1998 (Journals, p. 1238). Prior to the adoption of this Report, votes were taken in the same manner but starting with the front row. See the Twenty‑Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on House Management (Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 11 and 13, 1992, Issue No. 24, p. 17), presented to the House on February 14, 1992 (Journals, p. 1025), and concurred in on April 29, 1992 (Journals, p. 1337). Prior to that, votes were taken by party unless a Member sought and received unanimous consent to have the vote taken row by row. See, for example, video archive of divisions on the amendment and on the main motion as amended taken on Motion M-383 concerning the Old Age Security Program, sponsored by Louise Thibault (Rimouski–Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques), on March 5, 2008. The amendment to the motion was moved by Mario Silva (Davenport). As Ms. Thibault supported the amendment, she was the first to rise when the division was taken and as sponsor of the main motion she was also the first to rise to vote on the main motion. On October 16, 2001, there was some confusion during the recorded division on Bill C-217, An Act to provide for the taking of samples of blood for the benefit of persons administering and enforcing the law and good Samaritans and to amend the Criminal Code (Debates, pp. 6220-2). On October 18, 2001, Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg–Transcona) rose on a point of order claiming that during this vote, called row by row, Members from the government side abstained, and when the vote was over, they rose to say that they had meant to vote a certain way. He argued that those votes should not have been counted. Speaker Milliken agreed that, in most instances, unanimous consent should be sought when Members wish to record their votes outside the usual sequence and stated that Members intending to vote must stand when their row is called (Debates, pp. 6293-4). On occasion, unanimous consent will be given to apply the result of one vote on an item of Private Members’ Business to other votes on Private Members’ Business. See, for example, Journals, March 28, 2007, pp. 1173-7, Debates, pp. 8055-65. See also the point of order raised by Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa–Vanier) concerning applied votes and the ruling of the Acting Speaker (Andrew Scheer), Debates, April 18, 2007, pp. 8398-400. The Speaker does not participate in debate and votes only in cases of an equality of voices; in such an eventuality, the Speaker is responsible for breaking the tie by casting a vote. On June 22, 2005, upon the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion M‑228 (House of Commons Symbol) in the name of Derek Lee (Scarborough–Rouge River), there was an equality of voices. The Deputy Speaker (Chuck Strahl) cast his vote in the negative and the motion was defeated. It later came to light that no tie had occurred. The Speaker made a statement about the result of the vote noting that Mr. Strahl had correctly cast his vote in the negative. However, after the vote, Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères–Les Patriotes) brought an error to the attention of the Table. He pointed out that he was recorded as having voted with the Nays, while in fact he had remained seated and did not vote. Having investigated the matter, the Speaker concluded that Motion M‑228 had been in fact agreed to by a count of 143 Yeas and 142 Nays. He directed the Table to correct the Journals so that the true decision of the House would be duly noted. See Journals, June 22, 2005, pp. 966‑8, Debates, pp. 7645‑6; Journals, June 23, 2005, p. 976, Debates, pp. 7694‑6.

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