Parliamentary Publications

The following House of Commons publications are described in this chapter:

  • Journals: This publication is the official record of what is done in the House, drawn from the scroll kept by Table Officers during the sittings of the House and signed by the Clerk of the House.
  • Debates: This publication is the transcribed, edited and corrected record of what is said in the House and in a Committee of the Whole.
  • The Order Paper and Notice Paper: The Order Paper is the official agenda of the House produced for each sitting day, which lists all items that may be brought forward in the Chamber on that day. The Notice Paper contains notices of items which Ministers and other Members may wish to bring before the House.
  • Projected Order of Business: This document is produced each day the House sits and contains an unofficial forecast of the order of business for the House that day, and includes such information as the length of speeches and any time limits on debate.
  • Status of House Business: Updated daily when the House is sitting, this document provides cumulative information on the status of bills, motions, written questions, business respecting committees, and other business, including orders or resolutions of the House, among other items.
  • Minutes of Proceedings, Evidence and Reports of Committees: These three documents form the records produced by parliamentary committees: the minutes being the official record of business; the evidence being the transcribed, edited and corrected record of what is said during public committee meetings; and the reports being the observations and recommendations that committees make to the House.
  • Bills: A bill is a proposed law submitted to Parliament for its approval.

In 1994, the House began to distribute its publications electronically. The following year, it began the process of making its publications accessible worldwide by posting them online.1 The growing accessibility of official publications by electronic means has allowed for a significant reduction in the production and distribution of the printed product.2

Governing Provisions

The House of Commons has exclusive control of its publications.3 These documents are published under the authority of the House (as represented by the Speaker or the Clerk). All parliamentary publications are produced in both official languages. The Constitution and the Official Languages Act provide for the use and equal status of the official languages in the “records and journals” of Parliament.4

Many of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons make explicit reference to the Journals, the Debates, the Order Paper and Notice Paper.5 These publications, along with minutes of committees, and bills introduced in the House of Commons, are produced by order of the House under the authority of the Speaker and are considered official publications. Other unofficial publications (for example, the Projected Order of Business and the Status of House Business) have come into existence through administrative decisions or following recommendations of committees. The Status of House Business is published under the authority of the Speaker, while the Projected Order of Business is published under the authority of the Clerk.

The Standing Orders confer on the Clerk the responsibility for the preparation of House documents, as well as the safekeeping of parliamentary documents and records.6

The Journals

The Journals record all that is done, or deemed done, by the House. They are the minutes of the meetings of the House7 and, as such, the authoritative record of its proceedings, which may be used as evidence in a court of law.8 The Journals are prepared by House staff under the authority of the Clerk. The basis of the Journals is the scroll—notes and records kept by the Clerk and other Table Officers in the course of a sitting. Formerly, the House produced daily Votes and Proceedings which were not designated as Journals until they had been revised and bound at the end of the session. Beginning in September 1994, revised weekly Journals were produced, as well as unrevised daily Journals.9 In September 2014, the weekly Journals were eliminated as a distinct publication.

No explicit authority exists by which the Journals are published. At the time of Confederation, the then Votes and Proceedings were published under a Sessional Order10 which read as follows:

That the Votes and Proceedings of this House be printed, being first perused by Mr. Speaker, and that he do appoint the printing thereof, and that no person but such as he shall appoint, do presume to print the same.11

The record has since been produced without interruption; by the late 1870s, however, the practice of adopting a sessional order appeared to have fallen into disuse.12

When the House is sitting, the unrevised Journals for a given sitting are available online within a few hours of the adjournment of the House, and the printed version is available on the morning of the following weekday; revised daily versions are published online each week. At the end of a session, a compilation of the revised Journals along with other information is produced in a limited number of bound copies.13

Format and Contents

Until the Second Session of the Thirtieth Parliament (1976–77), the Journals were printed in separate English and French editions; since then they have been printed in a bilingual side-by-side format. The Journals follow the order of proceedings in the House and succinct entries are made of the business conducted and decisions taken by the House.

In addition, the Standing Orders expressly state that a record is to be made in the Journals when a vote is cast by the Chair and any reasons stated.14 Other items to be recorded include the tabling, presentation and filing of documents and papers, including petitions and reports from committees and parliamentary delegations,15 and when a question is made an Order for Return.16 In the event the House adjourns for want of a quorum, the names of Members present are to be recorded in the Journals.17 Similarly, when a recorded vote has taken place and Members have been registered as paired, their names are to be recorded in the Journals.18 When a bill involving the expenditure of public funds is introduced in the House, the accompanying royal recommendation is recorded, as are royal recommendations accompanying report stage motions in amendment.19 Also, when the Clerk of Petitions reports to the House following the presentation of a petition for a private bill, the report is published in the Journals,20 and further Journals entries are made at subsequent points in the legislative process with regard to private bills.21

The Journals contain no record of debate in the House, except to note that it took place on a question. Likewise, no record is made of the proceedings or decisions taken in a Committee of the Whole, except to note when a Committee of the Whole sits and rises, reports progress and reports a bill with or without amendment. When amendments are reported, they are published in the Journals.

In certain circumstances, the Journals may also be published during an adjournment of the House, namely when the House is reconvened for the sole purpose of granting Royal Assent to a bill or bills, whether by traditional ceremony or by written declaration.22 On the occasion that Parliament is prorogued or dissolved during an adjournment, the Journals may be published to account for any document that may have been deposited with the Clerk which would normally have been included in the Journals of the first sitting day following the adjournment period.23

Corrections and Alterations

The daily Journals are verified and corrections or changes are incorporated prior to publication of the revised Journals. The accuracy of the record has rarely been questioned, but possible errors or omissions have on occasion been brought to the attention of the House.24 Errors are corrected by those responsible for the publication.25 On one occasion, the Speaker informed the House that the record of the previous day’s proceedings had to be reprinted to correct a number of inaccuracies in voting lists.26 On another occasion, the Speaker informed the House that a decision on a motion recorded in the previous day’s Journals could not stand, as it rested on an incorrectly recorded vote.27

The Debates

The House of Commons Debates, commonly known as the Debates or “Hansard”,28 is the report in extenso of the debates which take place in the House and in a Committee of the Whole, with due regard to necessary grammatical or editorial changes.

In the pre-Confederation assemblies and for some years after Confederation, there was no official reporting of debates in the House of Commons.29 Contemporary newspapers carried accounts of legislative proceedings including debates, with varying degrees of thoroughness, accuracy and impartiality.

After Confederation, there were attempts to establish a reporting service, which did not succeed as not all Members were convinced of the need.30 In 1875, reporting of proceedings in the House of Commons began to be carried out on a contract basis, overseen by a committee of the House and in accordance with guidelines meant to ensure the accuracy of the record.31 Over time the system of contract reporting was found wanting and the House came to the view that an improved and comprehensive official parliamentary report was needed.32 In April 1880, the House concurred in a committee report which recommended, in the interests of “greater permanency” and “a higher state of efficiency”, that the House engage its own permanent reporting staff.33 Thus, reporting of debates became an official function of the House under the control of a committee of the House. In 1882, with the adoption of a report from a committee appointed to supervise the Official Report of the Debates, the House agreed to produce an index to the Debates.34

The Debates are published under the authority of the Speaker of the House. They are compiled using the audio recording of the proceedings as well as information provided by Parliamentary Publications staff stationed on the floor of the House. The Debates are produced in both official languages and are available online within several hours of the adjournment of the House. At the end of a session, a compilation of the revised Debates is produced in a limited number of bound copies.

Format and Contents

The Debates are published under separate cover in each official language, with uniformity of pagination between the two editions.35 The language used by the Member speaking is indicated.36 Like the Journals, the Debates follow the actual order of proceedings in the House; unlike the Journals, the Debates contain the full deliberations of the House, namely, speeches and statements of Members as well as other comments and interventions made in the Chamber. It is not considered usual or regular to include in the Debates material not delivered in the Chamber; however, some exceptions exist. For example, the Debates contain:

  • division lists, when a recorded division takes place (paired Members are included);37
  • written answers to questions on the Order Paper;38
  • the text of the Speech from the Throne at the beginning of each session; and
  • other material specifically ordered by the House.39

For information purposes, the House has occasionally agreed to publish various texts as appendices to the Debates.40 In certain circumstances, editorial notes may also be inserted.41

Corrections and Alterations

The unedited in extenso transcriptions of the Debates, at one time produced on blue paper, continue to be known as the “blues”. Parliamentary Publications staff send to each Member who speaks in the House the transcription of the Member’s intervention.42 The blues are also published on the House of Commons’ internal website, and are sent to the Press Gallery. Question Period blues are sent to the offices of party leaders, party research offices and the office of the Speaker. At times, the Chair has referred to the blues in deciding points of order or grievances raised by Members.43 However, the blues are a preliminary copy and are not to be quoted from during debate.44

The availability of the blues on the House of Commons’ internal website permits Members and their authorized delegates to use the web page or email to submit suggested changes for Parliamentary Publications editorial staff to consider. Members may suggest corrections to errors and minor alterations to the transcription but may not make material changes to the meaning of what was said in the House. It is a long-standing practice of the House that editors of the Debates may exercise judgment as to whether or not changes suggested by Members constitute the correction of an error or a minor alteration.45 The editors may likewise alter a sentence to render it more readable but may not go so far as to change its meaning.46 Editors must ensure that the Debates are a faithful reflection of what was said; any changes made, whether by Members or editors, are for the sole purpose of improving the readability of the text, given the difference between the spoken and written word.

In order for corrections and alterations to be considered, the blues must be returned within stipulated deadlines. Returned blues must be clearly approved by the Member or an authorized delegate. If a Member’s blues are not returned, it is assumed there are no suggested modifications to be made.

Substantial errors in the Debates, as opposed to editorial changes, must be brought to the attention of the House by means of a point of order as soon as possible after the sitting, if a Member wishes to have the record changed. Such mishaps may be attributed to a misstatement on the part of the Member, or to a transcription error.47 A Member may correct the record of his or her own statement, but may not correct that of another Member.48 When a question arises in the House as to the accuracy of the record, it is the responsibility of the Speaker to look into the matter.49 On occasion, the Speaker has seen fit to order the printing of a corrigendum to the Debates.50

Since the advent of broadcasting of House proceedings, occasional points of order have been raised on the basis of discrepancy in the content of the Debates and the broadcast feed.51 While such matters have been resolved as they have arisen, the Speaker, in 1978, noted:

An examination of the record through these electronic recording devices is being resorted to by more and more Canadians all the time. Therefore, additional strain is being put on the reporting staff who have enjoyed this editorial licence in the past. They now find themselves under the constraint of matching their records exactly with the language used on the radio and television.52

In 1986, the Speaker repeated these remarks and suggested that the issue of the official status of electronic Hansard ought to be clarified.53 Until this occurs, each discrepancy must be examined on its own merit.54

The Order Paper and Notice Paper

The Order Paper and Notice Paper are published together daily when the House sits. The Order Paper is the complete and authoritative agenda of all items of business which may be considered by the House of Commons; unless otherwise provided for in the Standing Orders, only those items may be considered by the House during a sitting. As its name suggests, the Notice Paper contains all items for which notice must be given. Together, these documents contain virtually all items of business which are before the House or which may be brought before the House.

The rules of the House require notice to be given before almost any matter of substance can be raised for consideration by the House.55 The sponsoring Member gives notice by sending a secure electronic notice, known as an “e-notice”, or a written notice accompanied by an original signature to the Clerk for inclusion in the Notice Paper. Notices given or deemed given on a particular day are published in that day’s Notice Paper and are automatically transferred to the Order Paper after the applicable notice period has elapsed. All items, with the exception of Government Orders, are to be taken up in accordance with the precedence assigned to them on the Order Paper.56 Thus, the Order Paper has a double significance: it contains all items of business to be considered (orders) and the sequence in which the orders may be considered.57

The Standing Orders require the Clerk of the House to provide the Speaker, each day before the House meets, with the official agenda of proceedings for the day.58 This rule has traditionally been interpreted to mean that the Speaker must be in possession of a copy of the Order Paper and Notice Paper before the business of the House may proceed.

Historical Perspective

The Order Paper originated as a document containing any item of business which the House had ordered to be taken up on a specified day. The Order Paper still contains such items;59 other items are placed on the Order Paper, not because the House has adopted an order but because the Standing Orders require it, after proper notice.60

Formerly, it was the practice for notices submitted by Members to be appended to the Votes and Proceedings of the sitting during which the notice was given.61 The current practice of producing the Notice Paper with the Order Paper began on October 27, 1969, when the House was in the process of computerizing its production processes for publications.62 On April 4, 2005, the E-Notices website was introduced, enabling Members to submit notices of motions and written questions electronically for inclusion in the Notice Paper.63

Role of the Speaker

As with other parliamentary publications, the Order Paper and Notice Paper is published under the authority of the Speaker of the House. When a notice is submitted for inclusion on the Notice Paper, it is examined by procedural staff of the Clerk. If any procedural irregularity is found, modifications as to the form and content of the notice may then be made in consultation with the sponsoring Member.64 Where items of Private Members’ Business are concerned, it may happen that a certain item for which notice has been given is deemed to be substantially the same as another. In such cases, the rules give the Speaker discretionary power to refuse the most recent notice, inform the Member and return the item without allowing it to appear on the Notice Paper.65

Format and Contents

The Order Paper and Notice Paper is a bilingual publication, available electronically and in a printed version. The part containing the Order Paper is divided into sections corresponding to the various categories of orders the House considers:

  • Order of Business: Items of business that can be dealt with in a given sitting follow a predetermined sequence outlined in the Standing Orders. The sequence of items varies from day to day, and includes: Daily Routine of Business; Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers (Wednesdays only); Orders of the Day; Statements by Members; Oral Questions and Private Members’ Business.
  • Privilege, Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and Statutory Debates: Items which are already before the House and are awaiting first consideration, resumption of debate, or decision. When debate on a privilege motion is not concluded by the time of adjournment, on the next sitting day the item takes priority over all other Orders of the Day and appears on the Order Paper in first position in the Orders of the Day. Similarly, when the Order of the Day is called to resume debate on the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Order takes precedence over all other business of the House, except the Daily Routine of Business and Private Members’ Business, and appears on the Order Paper in first position in the Orders of the Day.66 Finally, when a statute requires that a debate take place on the use of an instrument of delegated legislation, as soon as the notice period has expired, the item appears on the Order Paper in first position in the Orders of the Day.
  • Government Orders: Items which are already before the House and are awaiting first consideration, resumption of debate, or decision. They are listed under Business of Supply, Ways and Means, Government Bills (Commons), Government Bills (Senate), Government Business, and Concurrence in Committee Reports.
  • Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers: This list is published in the Order Paper on Wednesdays only67 and may be consulted online. On other days of the week, the complete list is available by consulting the previous Wednesday’s Order Paper online.
  • Private Members’ Business: Items in the order of precedence appear in the order in which they are to be considered by the House. The list may change from day to day as items are added or dropped and because the rules allow items to exchange place upon mutual agreement of the sponsors.68 Although it is not printed for distribution, the list of items outside the order of precedence is available online.
  • Questions: Written questions are printed only when they appear on the Notice Paper. However, the complete list of questions on the Order Paper is available online.69 When a question has been answered, made an Order for Return, withdrawn or transferred to committee or the Adjournment Proceedings,70 it is removed from the Order Paper and its status is noted in the Status of House Business.

Similar to the Order Paper, items on the Notice Paper are listed under the following categories of business:

  • Introduction of Government Bills;
  • Introduction of Private Members’ Bills;
  • Notices of Motions (Routine Proceedings);
  • Questions;
  • Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers;
  • Business of Supply;
  • Government Business;
  • Private Members’ Notices of Motions;
  • Private Members’ Business;
  • Report Stage of Bills;
  • Motions Respecting Senate Amendments to Bills;
  • Appeal of Designation of an Item of Private Members’ Business; and
  • Statutory Debates.

Transfer from Notice Paper to Order Paper

When the notice requirement for a given item has been met, the notice is transferred to the appropriate section of the Order Paper. Some particularities found in the Notice Paper are worth noting:

  • Notices of opposition to any item in the estimates require only written 24-hours’ notice in the supply periods ending not later than December 10 and March 26. However, 48-hours’ notice must be given in the supply period ending not later than June 23.71 These notices appear on the Notice Paper under the heading “Business of Supply” and remain in it even after the notice requirement has been met.
  • Motions respecting Senate amendments to a bill require only 24-hours’ notice.72 They appear on the Notice Paper under the heading “Motions Respecting Senate Amendments to Bills” and remain in it even after the notice requirement has been met.
  • Motions to amend a bill at report stage following second reading also require only written 24-hours’ notice.73 In order to keep all such proposed amendments together, the list of these notices, together with the list of any deferred divisions on report stage motions, are kept in the Notice Paper even after the notice requirement has been met.
  • The Standing Orders require that any item of Private Members’ Business to be considered on a given day must also appear on that day’s Notice Paper; if the notice does not appear, no Private Members’ Business is taken up that day.74

Withdrawing Items from the Order Paper

As long as a motion has not been proposed to the House, it remains a notice and the sponsoring Member is free to withdraw it; the consent of the House is not required.75 A notice may be withdrawn in one of two ways: the Member either makes a written request to the Clerk to withdraw the notice or rises in the House to withdraw the notice orally.76 This applies to items on the Notice Paper and on the Order Paper, as long as the House has not been seized of them, for example, bills not yet introduced, motions not yet moved77 and notices of motions for the production of papers.78 The item is then removed from the Notice Paper or the Order Paper. In addition, in certain circumstances, notices have been removed from the Order Paper and Notice Paper by the Speaker upon his being informed, for example, of the death or resignation of a sponsoring Member.79 On one occasion, the Speaker informed the House that a revised Notice Paper had been prepared, which included notices of report stage amendments inadvertently left off the original.80

Once a notice has been transferred to the Order Paper and moved in the House,81 it is considered to be in the House’s possession and can be removed from the Order Paper only by an order of the House; that is, either a decision of the House takes place, or the Member who has moved the motion requests that it be withdrawn, and the House gives its unanimous consent.82

Special Order Paper

From time to time, a Special Order Paper is published.83 This may happen before the opening of the first or a subsequent session of a Parliament, or when the House stands adjourned and the government wishes the House to give immediate consideration to a matter or matters for which notice would have to be given.84 Once advised of this, the Speaker ensures that the required notice is published in a Special Order Paper, which is circulated to Members at least 48-hours before the session either begins or resumes.

The format of a Special Order Paper is like that of a regular Order Paper. It contains only the notices of the item or items which are to receive the immediate consideration of the House.

The Projected Order of Business

The Order Paper lists all the business which might be taken up by the House on a given day, but it does not indicate which items the government intends, or is likely, to call. The Projected Order of Business, published each sitting day, is a tentative working agenda which lists all the government and private Members’ business expected to be taken up on a particular day. It was first published in 1983 as a result of a special procedure committee’s identification of the need for a “simplified, unofficial, daily agenda, in addition to the Order Paper, to indicate the likely order of business for any particular day”.85

Format and Contents

The Projected Order of Business is produced in side-by-side bilingual format. A printed version is available and distributed daily to Members when the House sits; in addition, it is available online and may also be viewed on the parliamentary television channel.

Material is organized under a sequence of headings corresponding to the Order of Business for the day, including Government Orders and Private Members’ Business. Entries under the headings indicate which items from the Order Paper are expected to be taken up when that heading is called by the Chair. When no entry appears under items for which notice is required, it may be taken to mean either that the Order Paper has no items listed for that category of business or that any of the items appearing on the Order Paper under that heading may be taken up. There would be no entries under items which do not require notice, such as “Tabling of Documents” or “Presenting Petitions”.

In addition, the Projected Order of Business contains notes providing the reader with information such as the length of bells for recorded divisions, the length of speeches and any time limits on debate (with reference to the applicable Standing Orders or special orders) applying to items expected to come before the House, as well as a projection of business for subsequent days. The projection is based on the order of precedence for Private Members’ Business, on orders of the House, such as those relating to the taking of deferred recorded divisions or to the holding of special debates, and on the weekly “Thursday statement” on government business.86

Subject to Change

Items listed under the heading of Government Orders are included on the basis of the weekly business statements and information provided to the Clerk by the office of the Government House Leader. As indicated on the document itself, the listing is subject to change without notice, as the government retains its right to determine the sequence in which items of government business are called and considered.87

The Status of House Business

The Status of House Business provides a concise history of each item of business which has been considered by the House or which has appeared on the Order Paper and Notice Paper since the beginning of the session, or in the case of private Members’ items, since the beginning of the Parliament. Produced under the authority of the Speaker, it is available electronically and updated daily.

Format and Contents

The Status of House Business is produced in both official languages and has five parts. Part I contains information on the legislative progress of each government bill introduced in the House, as well as all motions under Government Orders (motions in relation to the business of supply, ways and means motions and government business). Part II provides similar information on private Members’ bills introduced in the House, private bills and private Members’ motions (including motions for the production of papers). Part III contains information on all written questions submitted by private Members, while Part IV provides information about motions for concurrence in committee reports and other motions regarding standing and special committees. Part V contains information on motions which deal with other business of the House, such as the appointment of Chair Occupants, times of sitting of the House and its order of business, questions of privilege, amendments to the Standing Orders, resolutions and emergency debates.

Minutes of Proceedings, Evidence and Reports of Committees

Each committee of the House produces its own records. Since 1995, these records have become available primarily by electronic means. They include three main documents:

  • Minutes of Proceedings: the formal record of business occurring during a committee meeting;
  • Evidence: the in extenso transcript of what is said during a committee meeting;88 and
  • Reports to the House: the means by which committees make their views and recommendations known.

All committee records are made available electronically under the authority of the Speaker of the House. Under the Standing Orders, committees are empowered to print papers and evidence as may be ordered by them;89 however, this authority is somewhat qualified by limitations set by the Board of Internal Economy.90

Corrections and Alterations

Unedited transcripts of committee proceedings, known (as with the Debates) as blues, are made available to users of the House of Commons’ internal website, usually within 24-hours after a committee meets. Traditionally, minor corrections can be effected by submitting the proposed change to the editors; corrections of a more significant nature are made by the committee itself as a corrigendum.91 Should this happen, the electronic version is expeditiously updated. In 1993, the decision of a committee to alter its official record by expunging portions of testimony gave rise to a question of privilege in the House. The Speaker’s ruling established that a committee’s power to print includes the right not to print, which may be extended to a decision to omit evidence from the record.92


The House of Commons considers proposed laws—or bills—submitted for its approval by Ministers or private Members. Bills introduced in the House are published under the authority of the Speaker and made available online. All those bills are published in both official languages by order of the House.93 Standing Order 156(1) empowers the Law Clerk of the House of Commons to make minor non-substantive corrections to bills. The Speaker may also order a corrigendum when a document does not accurately reflect a decision of the House or committee.94