House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 18. Financial Procedures - Contents and Introduction

18. Financial Procedures

Photo of high relief entitled “Taxation” from the British North America Act series of the Heritage Collection in the Chamber of the House of Commons.

*    Basic Components of Financial Operations

*    The Financial Cycle

Figure 18.1     The Financial Cycle

*    Historical Perspective

British Precedents

*      The Civil List

*      The Consolidated Fund

*      The Estimates

Financial Procedure in Colonial Canada

*      Upper Canada

*      Lower Canada

*      The Province of Canada

Financial Procedure in the Canadian House of Commons

*      Standing Orders (1867-1968)

*    The Royal Recommendation

Royal Recommendation and Public Bills Sponsored by Private Members

*    The Commons’ Claim to Predominance in Financial Matters



*    Historical Perspective

From Confederation to 1968

Supply Proceedings Since 1968

*    The Continuing Order for Supply

*    General Debate Phase

Allotted Days

*      Designating an Allotted Day

Opposition Motions

*      Notice

*      Speaker’s Power to Select

*      Votable Motions

*      Proceedings on an Opposition Motion

*    Legislative Phase

Main Estimates

Interim Supply

Supplementary Estimates

*      Final Supplementary Estimates

*      Dollar Items

Consideration of Estimates in Committee

Report to the House

Consideration of Main Estimates in Committee of the Whole

Concurrence in Estimates

The Supply Bill or Appropriation Act

*    Deviations from Supply Cycle





*    Ways and Means Proceedings (1867-1968)

*    Ways and Means Proceedings (1968 to Present)

*    The Budget

The Budget Speech

*      Budget Secrecy

*      Pre-Budget Consultations

*      Financial Statement

The Budget Debate

*      Duration of Debate

*      Precedence of Debate

*      Length of Speeches

*      Disposal of Amendments and Termination of Debate

Figure 18.2     Budget Presentation and Debate

*    The Legislative Phase

Ways and Means Motions

Ways and Means Bills

*      Amendment in Committee and at Report Stage

*      Ways and Means Bills Requiring a Royal Recommendation



*    The Public Accounts of Canada

*    The Auditor General of Canada

Auditor General Reports

*    The Standing Committee on Public Accounts


If committees are going to do a better job of examining the Estimates, they need more opportunities to influence expenditure, more authority, and better information. Once improvements have been made, committees should be able to bring new attitudes and approaches to their study of the Estimates.

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs,

Fifty‑First Report (The Business of Supply: 

Completing the Circle of Control) presented to the House

on December 10, 1998 (Journals, p. 1435)

The development of parliamentary procedure is closely bound up with the evolution of the financial relationship between Parliament and the Crown. As the executive power,[1] the Crown is responsible for managing all the revenue of the state, including all payments for the public service.[2] The Crown, on the advice of its Ministers, makes the financial requirements of the government known to the House of Commons which, in return, authorizes the necessary “aids” (taxes) and “supplies” (grants of money). No tax may be imposed, or money spent, without the consent of Parliament.

The direct control of national finance has been referred to as the “great task of modern parliamentary government”.[3] That control is exercised at two levels. First, Parliament must assent to all legislative measures which implement public policy and the House of Commons authorizes both the amounts and objects or destination of all public expenditures. Second, through its review of the annual departmental performance reports, the Public Accounts and the reports of the Auditor General, the House ascertains that no expenditure was made other than those it had authorized.[4]

The practices and procedures which govern how Parliament deals with the nation’s finances are set out principally in the Constitution Act, 1867,[5] the Financial Administration Act,[6] unwritten conventions, and the rules of the House of Commons and the Senate.

[1] The Constitution Act, 1867 invests the “Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada” in the Crown, its Governor General and the Privy Council for Canada (ss. 9 to 11), and the Lieutenant‑Governors advised by the Executive Council for each province (ss. 58 to 67). Appointed by the Crown’s representative, the federal Cabinet constitutes the de facto or effective federal executive. However, it has de jure or statutory existence only as the effective part of the Privy Council for Canada (McMenemy, J., The Language of Canadian Politics: A Guide to Important Terms and Concepts, 4th ed., Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006, p. 130).

[2] May, T.E., A Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, 6th ed., rev. and enlarged, London: Butterworths, 1868, p. 546.

[3] Redlich, J., The Procedure of the House of Commons: A Study of its History and Present Form, Vol. III, translated by A.E. Steinthal, New York: AMS Press, 1969 (reprint of 1908 ed.), p. 160. For a detailed description of the development in Canada of the various practices and institutions concerning parliamentary control of finance, see Ward, N., The Public Purse: A Study in Canadian Democracy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962.

[4] May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 23rd ed., edited by Sir W. McKay, London: LexisNexis UK, 2004, pp. 848‑9. See also Ward, pp. 3‑10.

[5] R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5.

[6] R.S. 1985, c. F‑11.

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