House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 18. Financial Procedures - The Business of Ways and Means


The business of “ways and means” is the process by which the government sets out its economic policy through the presentation of a budget and obtains parliamentary approval to raise the necessary revenues through taxation. The most important revenue‑raising statutes (i.e., those which replenish the Consolidated Revenue Fund) are the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, and the Customs Tariff.

A principle fundamental to the ways and means process is the requirement that taxation bills originate in the House of Commons. The Constitution Act, 1867 provides that “Bills for appropriating any Part of the Public Revenue, or for imposing any Tax or Impost, shall originate in the House of Commons”,[377] a requirement echoed in the Standing Orders of the House.[378]

There are two types of ways and means proceedings:

*       the debate on a motion to approve in general the budgetary policy of the government (the budget presentation followed by the four‑day ensuing debate); and

*       the consideration of legislation (bills based on ways and means motions already approved by the House) which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer.

A ways and means motion proposes that a particular financial measure be considered by the House. For a budget, the motion seeks to approve the budgetary policy of the government; for legislation, the motion sets out the terms and conditions of the proposed measures, most notably the rates and incidence of taxation. While a budget is normally followed by the introduction of ways and means bills, such bills do not have to be preceded by a budget presentation. Generally, taxation legislation can be introduced at any time during a session; the only prerequisite being prior concurrence in a ways and means motion.

The Crown, on the advice of its responsible Ministers, initiates all requests to impose or increase a tax on the public and the House either grants or withholds its consent.[379] A ways and means motion may therefore only be moved by a Minister of the Crown.[380] Once adopted, a ways and means motion forestalls the passage of any amendment that would infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown.[381]

*   Ways and Means Proceedings (1867-1968)

Initially, the business of ways and means involved the consideration and authorization of measures to raise revenue and measures to appropriate, or set aside, from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the funds approved in the estimates by the Committee of Supply.[382] Ways and means procedures remained essentially unchanged for the first 100 years following Confederation. Measures were proposed in the form of resolutions, each of which had to be debated and adopted formally in the Committee of Ways and Means, then reported to the House. Once reported, the resolutions were read a first and second time and agreed to, before being embodied in one or more bills which then passed through the same legislative stages as other bills.[383]

Over the years, the major business of ways and means became the consideration and adoption of resolutions emanating from the budget speech. However, the financial statement by the Minister of Finance, and opposition responses, could hardly be termed a debate. On a designated day, the Minister of Finance would rise in the Chamber and address the House on the “financial condition of the Dominion”. Once the opposition had been given an opportunity to reply, the House would go into the Committee of Ways and Means and consider any resolutions respecting taxation or tariffs which the Minister had proposed in the budget. At first, consideration of the budget speech and consequential ways and means resolutions accounted for only a small proportion of the work of the Committee; the bulk of its time was occupied with appropriating the funds voted under supply. Gradually, however, the financial statement evolved into a major political event. Debate on the budget lengthened as the opposition used it both to challenge the government’s financial policy and, through the use of amendments, to draw attention to specific government actions and programs.

For many years after Confederation, the Minister of Finance followed no established procedure when presenting the budget. Sometimes, the presentation was made on the motion for the House to resolve itself into the Committee of Supply[384] and, on other occasions, while the House was sitting as the Committee of Ways and Means.[385] From 1912 to 1968, the budget statement was presented on the motion for the House to resolve itself into the Committee of Ways and Means. As with supply, the motion for the Speaker to leave the Chair to go into the Committee of Ways and Means was debatable, amendable and not subject to time limitations. This meant that budget proposals were debated initially on the motion to resolve into the Committee of Ways and Means, debated in the form of resolutions in the Committee, debated when the resolutions were reported to and read in the House, and debated again as bills passed through the normal legislative process. This practice was not modified until 1913, at which time the House resolved that, when the order was read to consider ways and means on a Thursday or a Friday, the motion for the Speaker to leave the Chair would be decided without debate or amendment.

Following changes to the Standing Orders in 1955,[386] there was no longer any debate on the motion for the Speaker to leave the Chair for the House to go into the Committee of Ways and Means, except on occasions when a budget was to be presented. In such cases, the motion, together with any amendments, could be debated for a total of eight sitting days. Any subamendment would be disposed of on the fifth day of debate; any amendment on the seventh.[387] In the early 1960s, the House further limited the budget debate to six days,[388] with the subamendment and amendment disposed of on the second and fourth day, respectively. Speeches, with the exception of those of the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Member speaking first on behalf of the Opposition, were limited to 30 minutes; the Member moving the subamendment could speak for 40 minutes.[389]

Before the 1968 changes to the Standing Orders, tax changes could only be introduced in a budget. Most felt this procedure was ill‑suited to the modern context in which government saw fiscal policy as its prime instrument for influencing economic activity and needed the flexibility to respond quickly to changing economic conditions.[390]

*   Ways and Means Proceedings (1968 to Present)

In 1968, the House agreed to abolish the Committee of Ways and Means[391] in order to do away with the Committee’s role in considering resolutions to authorize any withdrawals from the Consolidated Revenue Fund following the adoption of supply, and to eliminate the repetitive process of debating budget proposals initially on the motion to resolve into the Committee of Ways and Means, again in the Committee of Ways and Means, and yet again during the various stages of the bills subsequently introduced.[392] Ways and means bills, however, continued to be considered in a Committee of the Whole until 1985.[393]

As a result of these changes, the budget debate takes place on a generally worded motion respecting the budgetary policy of the government. Ways and means motions (proposals respecting changes to government revenues) resulting from the budget are proposed to the House once the budget debate has concluded and are decided without debate or amendment. Detailed consideration of the proposed ways and means measures takes place only during the debate on the bills brought forward to implement them.[394]

In 1982, the time limit for all Members speaking on the budget motion, except the Minister of Finance, the Member speaking first on behalf of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, was reduced from 30 to 20 minutes and a 10‑minute period for questions and comments was set aside following each 20‑minute speech.[395] In 1991, the total number of sitting days allocated to the budget debate was reduced from six to four, with the subamendment and amendment disposed of on the third and fourth day, respectively. As well, amendments were adopted governing the notice provisions for a budget presentation as well as the provisions governing proceedings on the day of the budget presentation.[396]

In February 1994, the House decided that the adoption of a ways and means motion could apply to amendments to a bill then before the House, provided that such amendments were otherwise admissible.[397] At the same time, a new rule authorized the Standing Committee on Finance to consider and report on proposals with respect to the budgetary policy of the government.[398] The Committee could begin its review on the first sitting day in September of each year and present its reports on this matter until the tenth sitting day before the last normal sitting day each December.

*   The Budget

The term “budget” derives from budge, an anglicized form of the French word bouge, which denotes a small bag. A 1733 satirical pamphlet, The Budget Opened, caricatures Sir Robert Walpole, then British Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, “explaining his financial measures as a quack doctor opening a bag filled with medicines and charms”.[399] The term “budget” appears to have acquired its current meaning around this time.

By tradition, the Minister of Finance annually makes a formal budget presentation, offering a comprehensive assessment of the financial standing of the government and giving an overview of the nation’s economic condition.[400] The Minister also declares if and where the burden on the taxpayer will be increased or reduced.

The Budget Speech

Whenever the government wishes to make a budget presentation, a Minister[401] will rise in the House to request that an Order of the Day be designated for this purpose; the Minister will also specify the date and time of the presentation.[402] Traditionally, the Minister of Finance makes the announcement during Oral Questions in the House, in response to a question from a Member of the Official Opposition.[403] However, a Minister may do so at any time while the House is sitting.[404] The Minister’s announcement has been deemed to be the request that a day be designated pursuant to the requirements of the Standing Orders, that is, for it to be placed on the Order Paper, and no further notice is required. The Order of the Day is also deemed to be an Order of the House to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment if required.[405]

At the specified time on the designated day, typically in the late afternoon after the financial markets have closed, the Speaker interrupts any proceedings then before the House, which are deemed adjourned,[406] and the House proceeds to the consideration of the Order of the Day for the budget presentation. The Minister of Finance then rises in the House to move a ways and means motion, “That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the Government”[407] and to deliver the budget speech.[408] The Minister may also table notices of ways and means motions setting out the various taxation and other financial measures that will be needed to implement the budget provisions and ask that an Order of the Day be designated for the consideration of each of these motions. However, concurrence in any of these motions, or of any ways and means motions tabled at any other time during the session, may not be proposed until the debate on the budget is completed. This is to allow the House to pronounce itself on the budgetary policy of the government before considering individual taxation measures.[409]

It is the long-standing practice of Canadian governments to put tax measures into effect as soon as notice of the ways and means motions on which they are based are tabled in the House of Commons, with the result that taxes are collected as of the date of this notice, even though it may be months, if not years, before the implementing legislation is actually passed by Parliament.[410]

*   Budget Secrecy

There is a long‑standing tradition of keeping the contents of the budget secret until the Minister of Finance actually presents it in the House. Respect for a budget’s impact on financial markets has often been used as the basis of questions of privilege or points of order respecting the validity of budget proceedings where there has been a budget “leak”.[411] However, Speakers of the Canadian House have maintained that secrecy is a matter of parliamentary convention, rather than one of privilege.[412] Speaker Sauvé noted that while a breach of budget secrecy

… might have a very negative impact on business or on the stock market [and] might cause some people to receive revenues which they would not otherwise have been able to obtain … [it has] no impact on the privileges of a member. [It] might do harm―irrevocable in some cases―to persons or institutions, but this has nothing to do with privilege. It has to do with the conduct of a minister in the exercise of his administrative responsibility.[413]

In order that Members of Parliament and the news media are able to respond to the budget speech, a closed‑door informal session, or “lock‑up”, is usually provided for them by Finance Department officials several hours before the actual budget presentation in the House.[414] Although questions of privilege have been raised concerning lock‑ups, the Speaker has ruled that admission to lock‑ups and the nature of lock‑ups are not a matter for the Chair to decide.[415]

*   Pre-Budget Consultations

With a growing emphasis on consultation, many of the budget’s financial provisions have been discussed publicly before the budget is ever drafted.[416] Since 1994, the Standing Committee on Finance has been specifically empowered to hold “pre‑budget” consultations.[417] Prior to this, only the Minister and the Department of Finance had consulted with the government’s economic and social partners during the budget preparation process. The Finance Committee already had the authority to undertake this type of consultative study.[418] However, the inclusion of an explicit Standing Order for this purpose indicates the House’s willingness to receive and consider a report on the matter.

On occasion, the Committee asks that the House authorize the Committee to travel throughout Canada during its proceedings and to broadcast its deliberations.[419] While it seems a tradition has now developed in this regard, these yearly trips are neither automatic nor obligatory. Under the Standing Orders, the Committee may report the outcome of its budgetary consultations to the House up to and including the tenth sitting day prior to the last scheduled sitting day in December as provided for in the House of Commons calendar.[420] Although the House is not required to do so, the House usually considers the subject matter of the report on pre-budgetary consultations in a take-note debate, which is normally held under Government Orders some time before the budget is actually presented.[421] Holding a take-note debate does not prevent a Member from moving concurrence in the report of the Standing Committee on Finance presented pursuant to Standing Order 83.1.[422]

*   Financial Statement

On occasion, the Minister of Finance makes an economic statement to the House, generally referred to as a “mini‑budget”,[423] that provides basic economic and fiscal information that will be the subject of policy review and public debate leading up to the next budget.[424] Unlike a budget presentation, these statements are delivered without notice and do not precipitate a budget debate. Notices of ways and means motions are also tabled on these occasions. Such statements have been made in the course of debate during consideration of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne,[425] on a motion to adjourn the House for an emergency debate,[426] during Routine Proceedings under “Statements by Ministers”,[427] on a government motion “That this House support the economic policies of the government”,[428] and on moving the motion for second reading of a borrowing authority bill.[429] The rules of debate pertinent to each situation have applied.[430]

The Budget Debate

Following the budget speech, the Speaker recognizes a representative of the Official Opposition, usually the finance critic, who, after a brief speech, moves the adjournment of the debate, which is then deemed adopted. In doing so, that Member reserves the right to speak first when debate on the motion resumes at a subsequent sitting. The Speaker then adjourns the House until the next sitting day.[431]

*   Duration of Debate

Once the budget has been presented, the Standing Orders provide for a maximum of four additional days of debate on the budget motion and any amendments proposed thereto.[432] The four days of debate do not have to be consecutive[433] and, if few Members wish to speak, the debate can be less than four days. The unused days may be added, if the House so agrees, to the number of opposition days in the same supply period, as suggested by the Standing Orders.[434]

Since the rule changes in 1955, there have been seven cases where budget debates have not continued for the full amount of time provided for in the Standing Orders.[435] In 1962, the budget was presented and Parliament was dissolved before any debate on the budget could take place.[436] The House adopted Special Orders providing for fewer days of debate in 1966 and 1969.[437] Another two debates (in 1974 and 1979) were cut short when the Prime Minister sought and was granted a dissolution of Parliament after subamendments were adopted.[438] In early 1991, when the Standing Orders required that there be six days of debate, only four days of debate were held on the budget presented on February 26; both the amendment and the subamendment were negatived and debate on the main motion was not resumed before prorogation occurred in May.[439] In 1993, only two days of debate took place on the budget presented on April 26; the subamendment was negatived and debate on the amendment and the main motion was not resumed before dissolution occurred in September 1993.[440]

*   Precedence of Debate

In 1955, the House established that debate on the budget motion should be given precedence over all other government orders.[441] When an Order of the Day is called for resuming debate on the budget motion, pursuant to the Standing Orders it stands as the first item of business for the sitting and no other government business may be considered during that sitting, unless the motion has been disposed of.[442]

*   Length of Speeches

The Standing Orders impose a 20-minute time limit on the speeches delivered by all Members, with the exception of the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the first Opposition Member speaking to the motion, all of whom have unlimited time. A 10-minute questions and comments period is made available following any 20-minute speech, and following any speech by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, a Minister moving a government order, or a Member speaking in reply immediately after such Minister[443] The general nature of the budget motion allows for a wide‑ranging debate, during which the rules of relevance are generally relaxed.

*   Disposal of Amendments and Termination of Debate

Only one amendment and one subamendment may be proposed to the budget motion.[444] The purpose of this rule is to permit third parties officially to present their proposals on an issue and have the House come to a decision. This is contrary to the usual rules of debate where Members are permitted to move an unlimited number of amendments and subamendments, provided that each one has been disposed of before the next is proposed. On the first day of resumed debate on the budget motion, the Opposition speaker who had previously moved the adjournment of the budget debate continues with his or her speech and traditionally moves an amendment at the end of the speech. The next speaker, a Member of the next largest opposition party, typically moves a subamendment at the end of his or her speech.[445] Occasionally, no subamendment is proposed.[446] There is no rule preventing the amendment or the subamendment from being moved on a day after the first day of resumed debate (although this has not occurred since the number of days of resumed debate was reduced to four in 1991).[447]

The Standing Orders define the exact procedures to be followed for the disposal of the amendment and subamendment. On the second day of resumed debate, if a subamendment has been proposed, the Speaker will interrupt the proceedings 15 minutes before the end of Government Business to put the question to dispose of the subamendment.[448] In the same manner, at the end of the third and fourth day’s resumed debate, the Speaker puts the question on the amendment and the main motion, respectively. If, for some reason, the subamendment was moved after the second day, it would be voted on before the amendment on the third day. If the subamendment and amendment were moved after the third day, they would be voted on at the end of the fourth day.[449] During the 1970s, the main motion was frequently adopted on division,[450] but since the 1980s, with one exception,[451] Members have requested recorded divisions.


Budget Presentation

Budget Debate

Maximum of 4 days

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Minister of Finance makes presentation normally in late afternoon

Amendment and subamendment normally moved

Subamendment— question put 15minutes before the end of Government Business

Amendment— question put 15minutes before the end of Government Business

Main motion— question put 15minutes before the end of Government Business


As with amendments moved to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, proposed amendments to the budget motion are opportunities for expression of non‑confidence in the government. On several occasions since 1930, proposed amendments to the budget motion have been worded as explicit statements of non‑confidence in the government.[452] In two cases in the 1970s, the adoption of subamendments was followed by the Prime Minister seeking a dissolution of Parliament.[453]

*   The Legislative Phase

The legislation required to give effect to taxation proposals, whether outlined in a budget or initiated independently of a budget during the course of a session, must go through a unique preliminary step in the legislative process. The House must first adopt a ways and means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced. Charges on the people, in this context, refer to new taxes, the continuation of an expiring tax, an increase in the rate of an existing tax, or an extension of a tax to a new class of taxpayers. Industry levies and service fees imposed by departments do not constitute charges on the people in the context of ways and means.[454] Legislative proposals which are not intended to raise money but rather to reduce taxation[455] or to change the way in which the funds are to be used once they have been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund[456] need not to be preceded by a ways and means motion before being introduced in the House.

Ways and Means Motions

Before taxation legislation can be read a first time, a notice of a ways and means motion must first be tabled in the House by a Minister of the Crown; this may be done at any time during a sitting.[457] The notice normally indicates that the government will ask that the legislation be retroactive to the time of its notice, although it can also be used as a vehicle for public scrutiny prior to the introduction of the relevant legislation. On the day the notice is tabled or at some other time during the session, a Minister of the Crown may make a request to the Speaker that an Order of the Day be designated for the consideration of the motion at a subsequent sitting, that is, to put it on the Order Paper.[458] Although there are virtually no restrictions on when a notice can be tabled, a ways and means motion cannot be moved during the same sitting in which the notice is tabled,[459] or when the ways and means proceedings regarding the budget have yet to be completed.[460] When the Order of the Day is called, a Minister moves that the motion be concurred in. The motion for concurrence must then be decided immediately without debate or amendment.[461] The adoption of a ways and means motion stands as an order of the House either to bring in a bill or bills based on the provisions of that motion or to propose an amendment or amendments to a bill then before the House.[462]

Ways and means motions can be expressed in general terms,[463] or be very specific, as in the form of draft legislation.[464] In either case, they establish limits on the scope―specifically tax rates and their applicability―of the legislative measures they propose. Neither the provisions of a ways and means bill nor any amendment subsequently proposed to the bill may exceed the limits imposed in the ways and means motion. In particular, they may not increase the amount of a tax or extend the incidence of a tax or the applicable tax base.[465] Should this occur, either a new ways and means motion must be adopted authorizing the exceptions before those provisions may be considered in committee, or the offending provisions must be amended to conform to the resolution on which the bill is based.[466] To proceed otherwise would infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown in taxation measures. “The terms of the Ways and Means motion are a carefully prepared expression of the financial initiative of the Crown and frequent departures from them can only invite deterioration of that most important power.”[467] When a new ways and means motion is required, it must also be adopted rather than simply tabled.[468] Should a bill be found not to conform to the provisions of a ways and means motion, a new motion will be required before the non‑conforming provision can be considered and a decision taken.[469]

A ways and means motion often refers to more than one legislative proposal; it can encompass more than one provision in a bill and may seek to introduce more than one bill or a bill amending more than one statute. There are essentially no procedural restrictions on the motion’s wording or content.[470]

Ways and Means Bills

Concurrence in a ways and means motion constitutes an order to bring in a bill or bills based on the provisions of the motion.[471] A ways and means bill must be “based on” but not necessarily “identical to” the provisions of its ways and means motion.[472] Such a bill can then be read the first time and printed, immediately after the motion is concurred in or at a subsequent sitting of the House.[473] From this point on, the legislative steps that ways and means bills must complete are exactly the same as those followed for other public bills.[474] Like all tax measures, bills imposing a charge upon the people, and thereby requiring a ways and means motion, must originate in the House of Commons.[475]

*   Amendment in Committee and at Report Stage

No amendment may be proposed to the text of a bill until the bill is considered in committee. Amendments to ways and means bills are subject to the normal rules respecting legislation.[476] Amendments which exceed the scope of the motion on which the bill is based are procedurally unacceptable unless a new ways and means motion is concurred in prior to the amendment being moved.[477] Since ways and means motions may only be proposed by a Minister of the Crown, and since Ministers do not usually sit on committees, any amendment exceeding the provisions of the authorizing ways and means motion may only be proposed and considered at report stage. If the House has concurred in the required ways and means motion prior to the bill reaching report stage, the Minister may put amendments on notice and they will be considered with any other report stage amendments. If the debate at report stage has begun before the required ways and means motion has been concurred in, the Minister will require the House’s consent to table and decide on the ways and means motion and to proceed to consider the amendments.

*   Ways and Means Bills Requiring a Royal Recommendation

If a bill based on a ways and means motion also contains provisions relating to government expenditure, the bill will also require a royal recommendation.[478] In such cases, the House must both adopt the ways and means motion authorizing the government to proceed with the taxation measures, and give leave, after the normal 48‑hour notice period, to introduce those spending provisions which are subject to the royal recommendation, before proceeding to the first reading of the bill.[479]

In the event that the notice requirements for the expenditure provisions in a bill requiring a royal recommendation have not been met, the bill will be withdrawn and the order for second reading of the bill discharged and removed from the Order Paper. However, this would not affect the validity of any ways and means motion previously concurred in by the House.[480]

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[377] R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 53.

[378] Standing Order 80(1): “All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit, and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate”.

[379] May, 23rd ed., p. 848.

[380] On a number of occasions, the Speaker has ruled that a private Member’s bill proposed an amendment to the Income Tax Act that would have the effect of increasing the amount of tax payable by taxpayers or businesses. As a bill that seeks to eliminate an existing tax deduction cannot be introduced in the House unless it is preceded by a ways and means motion, the Speaker ruled that the bill’s first reading was null and void, and ruled that the order for second reading of the bill be discharged and the bill withdrawn from the Order Paper (Debates, October 24, 2002, p. 889; November 22, 2002, pp. 1808‑9; March 11, 2004, p. 1366; November 28, 2007, pp. 1463‑4).

[381] May, 23rd ed., p. 896. The royal recommendation has the same limiting effect with respect to amendments relating to spending. See the section in this chapter entitled “The Royal Recommendation”.

[382] The Committee of Supply and the Committee of Ways and Means were Committees of the Whole House. The rules held that all financial measures―to tax as well as to spend―should be given the fullest possible consideration, both in committee and in the House (Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceeding of the House of Commons of Canada, 1868, Rule 88).

[383] Bourinot, 1st ed., p. 495.

[384] This occurred in 1867, 1868, 1875, 1878, 1889, 1892, 1896 and 1911.

[385] This occurred in 1870, 1874 and 1879.

[386] See Journals, July 12, 1955, pp. 881, 922‑7. See also Debates, July 1, 1955, pp. 5558‑65.

[387] Criticism of ways and means proceedings focused on two concerns: the right to move subamendments to the motion to resolve into Committee, and the length of debate on the motion relating to the budget presentation. The first was resolved in 1927, when the House agreed to the right to move a subamendment (Journals, March 22, 1927, pp. 316‑68). The second issue—the length of debate—was more complex. The questions of limiting individual speeches and the overall proceedings were often discussed in the context of time allotment for debate in general. See, for example, the resolution debated and adopted on April 19, 1886 (Journals, pp. 167‑8). In 1927, a new rule limited speeches to 40 minutes on most occasions and for most speakers (Journals, March 22, 1927, pp. 328‑9), although some Members attempted unsuccessfully to exempt the budget debate from the application of these limits (Debates, March 18, 1927, pp. 1352‑7, 1364‑71).

[388] Journals, July 25, 1960, p. 826; August 8, 1960, p. 898.

[389] These changes were introduced provisionally at first and made permanent on April 12, 1962 (Journals, p. 350). They remained in force until 1968.

[390] See Stewart, pp. 102‑4.

[391] Journals, December 20, 1968, pp. 554‑79, in particular pp. 559‑60.

[392] In its Third Report, presented to the House on December 6, 1968, the Special Committee on Procedure of the House declared the existing ways and means procedure “if anything, even less readily comprehensible than that relating to supply”, with an underlying purpose which appeared “to be lost in obscurity” (Journals, December 6, 1968, pp. 429, 431‑2). See also Stewart, pp. 102‑4.

[393] In 1985, amendments were made to the Standing Orders whereby ways and means bills would no longer be dealt with in a Committee of the Whole, but would be referred after second reading to a legislative committee (Journals, June 27, 1985, p. 919). Standing Order 73 was further amended in 1994 to allow for all bills, except supply bills, to be referred after second reading either to a standing, special, or legislative committee (Journals, February 7, 1994, pp. 112‑20).

[394] See the Fourth Report of the Special Committee on Procedure of the House, presented to the House on December 20, 1968 (Journals, pp. 559‑60).

[395] See Journals, November 29, 1982, p. 5400.

[396] Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905, 2918-9.

[397] Standing Order 83(4). See Journals, February 7, 1994, p. 117.

[398] Standing Order 83.1. For further information on this procedure, see the section in this chapter entitled “Pre-Budget Consultations”.

[399] Wilding, N. and Laundy, P., An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, 4th ed., London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1972, p. 61.

[400] In the United Kingdom, a general finance act must be enacted annually because certain taxes, most notably the income tax, are authorized for one year only. Since Canadian taxation statutes continue in effect from year to year without need of renewal, there is no obligation on the part of the government to present a budget at all, although one is normally presented once a year. For further information, see Stewart, p. 101. Similarly, there is no procedural requirement for the government to table supporting documents for the budget (Debates, March 18, 2003, pp. 4368‑9). See also footnote No. 407. In 1987, the Minister of Finance announced that henceforth the budget would be presented during the middle weeks of February each year, just prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year (Debates, January 30, 1987, p. 2924). There have been exceptions to this commitment: April 27, 1989 (Journals, p. 150), April 26, 1993 (Journals, p. 2859); March 6, 1996 (Journals, p. 54); December 10, 2001 (Journals, pp. 939‑40); March 23, 2004 (Journals, pp. 201‑2); May 2, 2006 (Journals, p. 119), and March 19, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1111‑2).

[401] It does not have to be the Minister of Finance. See, for example, Debates, April 19, 1989, p. 690; February 24, 1992, p. 7522; April 23, 1993, p. 18385. On February 10, 2003, the Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions) requested the designation of an order of the day to allow the presentation of the budget speech (Debates, p. 3361). The Minister of Finance had informed the House during Oral Questions on February 7, 2003, of the date when the budget would be presented, but had neglected to specify the time (Debates, p. 3306). See also Debates, April 24, 2006, pp. 424, 426; February 20, 2007, pp. 7070, 7077.

[402] Standing Order 83(2).

[403] See, for example, Debates, February 11, 1994, p. 1235; February 21, 1995, p. 9901; February 28, 1996, p. 42; February 3, 1997, p. 7579; February 10, 1998, p. 3686. The question has also been asked by a Member from the government side (Debates, February 5, 1999, p. 11508).

[404] See, for example, Debates, February 10, 2003, p. 3361 (immediately following Oral Questions); April 24, 2006, p. 426 (at the beginning of Routine Proceedings).

[405] Standing Order 83(2). The provision for the House to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for a budget presentation was added to the Standing Orders in 1991 (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905, 2918‑9) and eliminated the requirement for the House to pass a special order to suspend the regular schedule of business to allow the Minister of Finance to deliver the budget. See, for example, Journals, January 30, 1987, p. 425; February 8, 1988, pp. 2158‑9; April 19, 1989, p. 116.

[406] Standing Order 83(2).

[407] Standing Order 84(1). On February 26, 2003 (Debates, pp. 4041‑2), a Member raised a point of order concerning the fact that the Prime Minister, in a statement reported in the media, had contradicted the government’s budgetary policy as set out by the Minister of Finance on February 18, 2003. He asserted that the government could not ask Members to vote on the motion “That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government” until the government had clarified its position and taken the appropriate steps to amend the budget formally. The Speaker reminded Members that the budget speech and the tabling of background documents were voluntary actions of the government, and that, even if the documents tabled on February 18 were no longer completely accurate, this was not sufficient ground on which to challenge the right of the House to continue considering the budget motion. However, he went on to remind the House that if, as a result of the change in policy, the government wished to propose legislation different from that which it had earlier intended, then it would have to file a new notice of ways and means (Debates, March 18, 2003, pp. 4368‑9).

[408] On March 19, 2003, a Member raised a point of order concerning the Ontario government’s intention to release its budget outside of the Ontario legislature. He asked the Speaker, on behalf of all Members, to send a message to the Ontario legislature and a message of support to the Ontario Speaker, “who is speaking up against this outrage.” The Speaker ruled that there was no point of order in terms of procedural matters arising in another jurisdiction. However, he said that the Member could arrange for a motion to be adopted by the House sending a message to the legislature of Ontario which he would be pleased to convey (Debates, pp. 4418‑9). See also Debates, March 18, 2003, pp. 4368‑9.

[409] Standing Order 83(3).

[410] See Wilson, p. 15.

[411] In 1989, the House had agreed by Special Order that the budget would be delivered at 5:00 p.m., on April 27. Following a significant budget leak in the late afternoon of April 26, the substance of the budget speech was presented in a televised press conference on that evening, at a time when the House had already adjourned for the day despite an earlier attempt by the Government House Leader to continue the sitting beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment (Debates, April 26, 1989, p. 1001). The next day, the Opposition tried unsuccessfully to withdraw their consent for the Special Order authorizing the budget presentation, on the grounds that it had already been presented. However, the Speaker ruled that he was bound by the Order of the House, as previously agreed to. See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, April 27, 1989, p. 1060.

[412] See, for example, Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, April 17, 1978, p. 4549; Speaker Sauvé’s ruling, Debates, November 18, 1981, p. 12898; Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, June 18, 1987, p. 7315.

[413] Debates, November 18, 1981, p. 12898.

[414] Journalists are informed in advance that they will not be permitted to leave the briefing room until after the budget presentation has begun in the House. Members in attendance, however, may not be prevented from leaving the room in order to attend to their official business. See Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, November 27, 1978, p. 1515.

[415] See Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, November 27, 1978, pp. 1518‑9; Speaker Sauvé’s ruling, Debates, February 25, 1981, p. 7670; Speaker Francis’ ruling, Debates, January 19, 1984, p. 563; Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, March 6, 1997, p. 8693.

[416] See, for example, Speaker Francis’ comments, Debates, January 19, 1984, p. 563; Speaker Parent’s comments, Debates, March 6, 1997, p. 8693.

[417] Standing Order 83.1 (Journals, February 7, 1994, pp. 117, 119‑20. The actual wording authorizes the Committee to consider and make reports on proposals regarding the budgetary policy of the government. For examples of reports presented to the House, see Journals, December 8, 1994, p. 1004; December 4, 1998, p. 1397; November 26, 2001, p. 853; December 7, 2006, p. 880; February 7, 2008, p. 403.

[418] See Standing Order 108(2), which gives the Committee authority to review the mandate and operations of the Department of Finance.

[419] See, for example, Journals, June 27, 2005, p. 991; June 17, 2008, p. 1005.

[420] Standing Order 83.1. In some cases, the Committee was authorized by the House to present its report past the deadline. See, for example, Journals, November 30, 1994, pp. 957‑8; December 8, 1994, p. 1004; November 1, 1999, p. 145; December 10, 1999, p. 770; December 1, 2004, p. 280; December 10, 2004, p. 337; January 31, 2005, p. 367; November 29, 2006, p. 832; December 7, 2006, p. 880; November 23, 2007, p. 206; February 7, 2008, p. 403.

[421] See, for example, Journals, November 28, 1994, p. 943; November 30, 1994, p. 957; February 1, 1999, pp. 1442, 1446; February 2, 1999, p. 1461; December 10, 2002, pp. 289‑90, 295; December 12, 2002, pp. 305‑7; January 31, 2005, pp. 359‑60, 366; February 1, 2005, p. 374; February 7, 2008, pp. 405‑6; February 8, 2008, pp. 411, 413.

[422] On three occasions since 1994, the House debated a motion to concur in the report of the Standing Committee on Finance dealing with the pre-budget consultations (Journals, December 15, 1999, pp. 819‑20; December 13, 2001, p. 953; April 22, 2005, pp. 673‑4; May 30, 2005, pp. 803-4). On November 1 and 7, 2001, the House debated the government motion “That this House take note of ongoing pre-budget consultations” (Journals, November 1, 2001, pp. 780‑2; November 7, 2001, p. 811). On November 26, 2001, the Standing Committee on Finance presented its Tenth Report on the pre-budget consultations (Journals, p. 853). On December 10, the budget speech was delivered; it was debated on December 11 and 12 (Journals, December 10, 2001, p. 939; December 11, 2001, p. 943; December 12, 2001, p. 950). On December 13, concurrence was moved in the Tenth Report of the Standing Committee on Finance and debated that day (Journals, p. 953). In accordance with the procedural rules in effect at the time, the motion was transferred to Government Orders on the Order Paper. The budget was debated again on January 28 and on January 29, 2002, when it was adopted (Journals, January 28, 2002, p. 964; January 29, 2002, p. 976). At the time, no objections were raised as to the acceptability of moving a motion to concur in the Committee’s report presented under Standing Order 83.1. See also Speaker Milliken’s ruling (Debates, May 5, 2005, pp. 5725‑7).

[423] More frequently, however, the Minister of Finance presents his Economic and Fiscal Update in the fall to the Standing Committee on Finance. See, for example, Minutes of Proceedings, November 2, 1999, Meeting No. 2; May 17, 2001, Meeting No. 24; October 30, 2002, Meeting No. 10; November 3, 2003, Meeting No. 96; November 16, 2004, Meeting No. 15; November 14, 2005, Meeting No. 147; November 23, 2006, Meeting No. 53. On October 29, 2007, long before the Standing Committee on Finance held its organization meeting, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform sought unanimous consent to propose a motion for leave to present an economic statement under “Statements by Ministers” at 4:00 p.m. the following day (Debates, p. 529). As unanimous consent was denied, the Minister of Finance tabled the government’s Economic Statement before the House on October 30, 2007, without, however, giving a speech (Journals, p. 113).

[424] Furthermore, the Parliament of Canada Act tasks the Parliamentary Budget Officer with providing objective analysis to the Senate and House of Commons about the estimates of the government, the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy (R.S. 1985, c. P‑1, s. 79.2(a)).

[425] Journals, October 20, 1977, p. 19, Debates, pp. 98-102; Journals, April 21, 1980, pp. 61‑2, Debates, pp. 242‑8. See Speaker Sauvé’s ruling, Journals, April 28, 1980, pp. 86‑8.

[426] Journals, October 14, 1971, pp. 870‑1, Debates, pp. 8688‑90.

[427] Debates, October 27, 1982, p. 20077; Journals, June 12, 1987, p. 1089; June 18, 1987, pp. 1200‑1.

[428] Journals, October 18, 2000, pp. 2074‑5.

[429] See, for example, Debates, December 2, 1992, pp. 14417‑27.

[430] However, on November 7, 1984, and November 25, 2008, the House adopted a Special Order enabling the Minister of Finance to make an economic statement and providing for replies from representatives of recognized parties following the example used for ministerial statements. See Journals, November 7, 1984, pp. 32‑3; November 8, 1984, pp. 37‑8; November 25, 2008, p. 37; November 27, 2008, p. 48.

[431] Standing Order 83(2). See, for example, Journals, February 23, 2005, pp. 474‑5; March 19, 2007, pp. 1111‑3; February 26, 2008, p. 473.

[432] Standing Order 84(2). See Journals, April 11, 1991, p. 2919.

[433] Standing Order 40(2).

[434] Standing Order 81(11). This has never occurred.

[435] Prior to 1955, only one budget debate did not terminate with a decision by the House. The Twentieth Parliament dissolved on April 30, 1949, without votes being held on the subamendment, amendment or main motion.

[436] Journals, April 10, 1962, p. 344.

[437] Journals, April 21, 1966, p. 428; June 5, 1969, p. 1121.

[438] On May 8, 1974, following the subamendment being agreed to (Journals, pp. 175‑6), Prime Minister Trudeau sought a dissolution; the Twenty‑Ninth Parliament was dissolved the next day. On December 13, 1979, following the subamendment being agreed to (Journals, pp. 345‑6), Prime Minister Clark sought a dissolution; the Thirty‑First Parliament was dissolved the next day.

[439] Journals, February 28, 1991, pp. 2639‑40; March 4, 1991, pp. 2653‑4.

[440] Journals, April 28, 1993, pp. 2874‑5.

[441] Journals, July 12, 1955, p. 926.

[442] Standing Order 84(3).

[443] Standing Orders 43(1)(a) and (b) and 84(7). See Journals, February 18, 2005, pp. 451‑5; September 20, 2006, p. 404; October 20, 2006, p. 556; October 25, 2006, pp. 577‑9.

[444] Standing Order 85.

[445] On two occasions, a Member from the third opposition party has moved a subamendment at the end of his or her speech. See Journals, May 3, 2006, pp. 123‑4; March 20, 2007, p. 1116.

[446] See, for example, the debate on the budget presented on June 13, 1963.

[447] Amendments to the budget motion are rarely disallowed, the most recent example occurring in 1978 when a subamendment “modif[ied] the first proposition completely” (Debates, November 17, 1978, p. 1250). Other amendments deemed inadmissible include those dealing with matters before the House or already decided upon by the House (Journals, May 15, 1934, pp. 332‑3; July 1, 1942, pp. 454‑6) or one of its committees (Journals, May 7, 1934, pp. 311‑2) and those which are not relevant to the question on which the amendment is proposed (Journals, March 8, 1937, p. 208).

[448] Standing Order 84(4).

[449] Standing Order 84(5) and (6).

[450] Journals, April 23, 1970, p. 711; November 27, 1974, p. 150; July 4, 1975, p. 685; June 10, 1976, p. 1341; April 20, 1978, p. 668; November 24, 1978, p. 184.

[451] Journals, March 7, 1986, p. 1777.

[452] Journals, May 15, 1930, p. 318; April 11, 1933, p. 401; May 27, 1948, p. 485; March 31, 1949, p. 290 (Parliament was dissolved before the amendment came to a vote); December 21, 1960, p. 138; June 22, 1961, pp. 707‑8; May 7, 1974, p. 169; April 19, 1977, p. 680; June 29, 1982, p. 5101; February 16, 1984, p. 180.

[453] Journals, May 8, 1974, pp. 175‑6; December 13, 1979, pp. 345‑6.

[454] May, 23rd ed., pp. 896‑903. See also Speaker Parent’s rulings, Debates, February 12, 1998, p. 3765; December 2, 1998, pp. 10789‑91; Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, June 12, 2001, pp. 5024‑7.

[455] See Speaker Michener’s ruling, Journals, December 9, 1957, p. 254; Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Journals, March 27, 1972, p. 223; Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, February 1, 2008, p. 2480. See also May, 23rd ed., pp. 901‑2.

[456] See Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, June 13, 2005, pp. 6990‑2.

[457] Standing Order 83(1). The term “at any time” has been interpreted quite literally. Notices of ways and means motions have been tabled at the start of a sitting (Debates, June 2, 2005, p. 6521; December 4, 2007, p. 1677), on a point of order (Debates, September 9, 1985, p. 6420), during Routine Proceedings (Debates, April 29, 1994, p. 3711; September 18, 2006, pp. 2902‑3), during “Statements by Ministers” (Journals, June 12, 1987, p. 1089; June 18, 1987, pp. 1200‑1), during Government Orders (Debates, December 6, 2004, pp. 2328‑9, March 27, 2007, p. 7997), during an emergency debate (Debates, October 14, 1971, p. 8689), during an Address debate (Journals, April 21, 1980, pp. 61‑2), immediately following Oral Questions (Debates, March 11, 2008, p. 3971) and immediately before Private Members’ Business (Debates, November 2, 2006, p. 4673). However, the Speaker has clearly indicated that such tabling would not be appropriate during Question Period or when another Member is speaking unless the House was about to adjourn. See Speaker Bosley’s ruling, Debates, September 11, 1985, p. 6498. For an exception to this rule, see Debates, October 31, 2006, p. 4502. Prior to 1968, the practice was for notices of ways and means motions to be given only during the budget speech. It is now procedurally acceptable for a Minister to introduce ways and means legislation based on budget proposals presented in a previous session. See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Journals, March 20, 1972, p. 202, Debates, pp. 963‑5.

[458] Standing Order 83(2). See, for example, Journals, March 27, 2007, p. 1163, Debates, p. 7997; Journals, June 12, 2008, p. 983, Debates, p. 6896.

[459] Standing Order 83(1). This restriction has been circumvented with the consent of the House. See, for example, Journals, October 15, 2001, p. 705; June 2, 2005, pp. 825, 827.

[460] Standing Order 83(3).

[461] See, for example, Journals, December 5, 2007, p. 265; March 13, 2008, pp. 598‑9. Occasionally, by unanimous consent, the order for consideration of a ways and means motion is deemed to have been read, the motion to concur is deemed moved and seconded, the question is deemed put, and a recorded division is deemed requested and deferred until an appointed date and time. See, for example, Journals, February 5, 2001, p. 35; March 24, 2003, p. 546. On occasion, the motion to concur is deemed moved, seconded and agreed to. See, for example, Journals, February 20, 2001, p. 117; April 19, 2005, p. 648; October 29, 2007, pp. 73‑4.

[462] Standing Order 83(4). No notice is required for such a bill, even though recent practice seems to suggest otherwise. Since the early 1990s, bills based on a ways and means motion have normally been introduced and read a first time during a sitting of the House following the adoption of the motion. See, for example, Journals, March 13, 2008, pp. 598‑9, Notice Paper, p. III; Journals, March 14, 2008, p. 608, Order Paper, p. 7. Notwithstanding this recent practice, a Minister will sometimes proceed with the introduction and first reading of the bill immediately after the ways and means motion has been adopted. See, for example, Journals, March 25, 2003, pp. 548‑9, 551‑3, Order Paper, pp. 7, 21; Journals, November 23, 2005, pp. 1316‑7, Order Paper, p. 30; Journals, October 29, 2007, pp. 73‑6, Order Paper, pp. 7‑8, 17. On occasion, two or more ways and means motions were adopted and a single bill was introduced. See, for example, Journals, February 16, 1971, p. 334; April 3, 1973, p. 237; October 31, 2007, pp. 119‑21; November 14, 2007, pp. 154‑6; November 21, 2007, pp. 185‑6.

[463] See, for example, Journals, March 19, 2007, p. 1111 (Sessional Paper No. 8570‑391‑19).

[464] See, for example, Journals, March 11, 2008, p. 560 (Sessional Paper No. 8570‑392‑12).

[465] May, 23rd ed., p. 915. In the fall of 2006, a Member rose on a point of order to state that Bill C‑253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), was improperly before the House. He contended that the bill contained provisions that would effectively increase the amount of tax payable by the taxpayer, which would result in potentially more taxes being collected, and therefore should have been preceded by the adoption of a ways and means motion (Debates, June 21, 2006, pp. 2758‑9). The Speaker stated that the proposal amounted to a tax deferral, and that consequently it did not impose any increased tax burden on the taxpayer (Debates, November 1, 2006, p. 4540). In the spring of 2008, a Member rose on a point of order concerning the admissibility of sections 45 to 48 of ways and means motion No. 10 to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget (Debates, March 11, 2008, p. 3971). More specifically, the point of order involved conditional amendments that sought to amend or repeal the amendments to the Income Tax Act contained in Bill C‑253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), should the latter receive Royal Assent. In reply to the fact that the ways and means motion contained measures that were not included in the budget, the Speaker has pointed out that their stated objective was “to protect Canada’s fiscal framework” as set out in the budget and that therefore the motion could proceed in its current form (Debates, March 13, 2008, pp. 4109‑10).

[466] See, for example, Speaker Jerome’s rulings, Journals, July 15, 1975, p. 710; May 19, 1978, p. 786; Debates, June 7, 1978, p. 6155.

[467] See Speaker Jerome, Journals, December 18, 1974, p. 224. See also Journals, July 14, 1975, p. 707; May 19, 1978, p. 784.

[468] See Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, June 7, 1978, p. 6155.

[469] See Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Journals, May 19, 1978, p. 786.

[470] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Journals, December 13, 1973, pp. 746‑7; Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, January 29, 1990, pp. 7546‑9.

[471] Standing Order 83(4). This allows for debate on ways and means bills to begin one sitting day earlier than the debate on other government bills.

[472] See, for example, Speaker Jerome’s rulings, Journals, December 18, 1974, pp. 224‑5; July 14, 1975, pp. 706‑7; May 19, 1978, pp. 784‑6. See also Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, March 13, 2008, pp. 4109‑10.

[473] On one occasion, a ways and means bill was introduced and read the first time without prior concurrence in the ways and means motion and the proceedings on the bill were subsequently declared null and void. See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, October 9, 1986, p. 246.

[474] See Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[475] Speaker Parent ruled that a Senate bill imposed a tax and thus should have been preceded by a ways and means motion. The bill was deemed to be improperly before the House and the first reading proceedings were declared null and void. See Debates, December 2, 1998, p. 10791. See also Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, June 12, 2001, pp. 5024‑7.

[476] See Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[477] See, for example, Debates, December 19, 1984, p. 1380; Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Government Operations, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, December 3, 1991, Issue No. 29, pp. 16‑35, in particular pp. 30‑1. On occasion, by unanimous consent of the House, a new ways and means motion has been concurred in, and a Minister of the Crown has proposed amendments to bills which went beyond the provisions of the original ways and means motion. Consent to move these amendments was usually requested either in a Committee of the Whole or during report stage. For examples where the House has proceeded by way of unanimous consent in a Committee of the Whole, see Debates, April 9, 1973, p. 3121; January 7, 1974, p. 9115. For an example where the House has proceeded by unanimous consent at report stage, see Debates, May 26, 1981, pp. 9931‑2, 9948.

[478] See, for example, Journals, October 19, 1978, p. 38; October 20, 1978, p. 42; April 8, 1997, pp. 1353‑5; April 9, 1997, pp. 1362‑3; March 13, 2008, pp. 598‑9; March 14, 2008, p. 608.

[479] See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, June 8, 1988, pp. 16254‑5. Despite the fact that two different procedures are invoked, such bills are acceptable providing the notice provision is respected. See Speaker Sauvé’s rulings, Debates, January 19, 1981, p. 6319; February 16, 1982, p. 15053; Speaker Francis’ ruling, Debates, January 18, 1984, p. 526.

[480] See Speaker Francis’ ruling, Debates, January 18, 1984, p. 526.

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