By constitutional convention, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are able to exercise authority only with the consent and approval ("confidence") of a majority of the Members of the House of Commons. Should the Government lose the confidence of the House, the Prime Minister must submit his or her resignation to the Governor General, who either calls an election, or, much more rarely, invites the leader of another party in the House to attempt to form a government.
The confidence convention is a matter of parliamentary practice and tradition that is not written into any statute or Standing Order of the House, nor is it a matter on which the Speaker can rule. However, confidence motions are generally considered to be:
- explicitly worded motions which state, in precise terms, that the House of Commons has, or has not, confidence in the government;
- motions expressly declared by the government to be questions of confidence;
- implicit motions of confidence, that is, motions traditionally deemed to be questions of confidence, such as motions for the granting of Supply (although not necessarily an individual item of Supply), motions concerning the budgetary policy of the government and motions respecting the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.