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Role of the Speaker

To ensure the orderly flow of business, the House of Commons observes parliamentary rules and traditions, both written and unwritten. It is the Speaker's duty to interpret these rules impartially, to maintain order, and to defend the rights and privileges of Members, including the right to freedom of speech.

To preserve the trust of the House, the Speaker's actions must be impartial. Consequently, the Speaker never participates in debate, only votes in case of a tie and works to balance the right of the Government to transact business in an orderly manner and the right of all Members to be heard in debate.

Presiding over the House of Commons

The Speaker guides the House through its deliberations by calling the items on the daily agenda, reading aloud the text of the motions before the House, recognizing Members who wish to participate in debate and putting the question to the House for decision. If a Member feels that a subject requires urgent attention, the Speaker may be asked to schedule an emergency debate. During consideration of bills, the Speaker is responsible for determining the procedural acceptability of amendments proposed by Members. During the daily Question Period (QP), when the Government is held to account for its policies and conduct, the Speaker ensures that it is conducted in a civil manner and that Members have a chance to participate.

The Speaker is empowered to rule motions brought before the House to be contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament and hence "out of order". Members may also raise a point of order or a question of privilege for the Speaker's consideration.

Upon the Government's request, the Speaker also has the power to recall the House when it is not otherwise scheduled to sit.

Administrative Duties

The Speaker is also the head of the House of Commons Administration and is responsible for its overall direction and management. The Parliament of Canada Act provides that all matters of administrative and financial policy affecting the House are overseen by the Board of Internal Economy, composed of Members and chaired by the Speaker. The Board approves the House's annual spending estimates which the Speaker then submits to Treasury Board for tabling with the Government's departmental Estimates. Board of Internal Economy decisions are implemented in the Speaker's name by the Clerk, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of House staff.

The Speaker's administrative duties also involve the tabling of certain documents and reports, including those of the Board of Internal Economy, by-laws stemming from the provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act and documents submitted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner.

Ceremonial/Diplomatic Duties

As representative of the House of Commons, the Speaker has a number of traditional, ceremonial or diplomatic duties. The Speaker is the spokesperson for the House in its dealings with the Senate, the Crown and other bodies outside Parliament.

When entering or leaving the House, the Speaker is always preceded by the Sergeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace, the symbol of the Speaker's authority. A sitting day always begins with the Speaker's Parade in which the Speaker walks in procession through the Hall of Honour and into the Chamber. Members rise while the Speaker proceeds to the Chair and the Sergeant-at-Arms places the Mace on the Table. Once satisfied that a quorum is present, the Speaker reads the prayer and formally opens the sitting.

The Speaker also leads the procession when the House is summoned to the Senate to attend the King or Governor General at the beginning of a Parliament or a session or when there is a ceremony to grant Royal Assent to bills.

Other Chair Occupants

The Speaker is assisted by a Deputy Speaker, who is also Chair of Committees of the Whole. Other presiding officers who carry out the duties of the Speaker when he or she cannot be in the Chamber include the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and an Assistant Deputy Chair.