By constitutional convention, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are able to exercise authority only with the consent and approval (“confidence”) of the majority of the Members of the House of Commons.
Should the Government be defeated on a confidence question, under this convention the Prime Minister would normally be required to submit his or her resignation to the Governor General. The Governor General may either dissolve Parliament with a view to a general election or, much more rarely, invite the leader of another party in the House to form a new government.
The confidence convention is a matter of parliamentary practice and tradition that is not written into any statute or in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Confidence questions do not fall under parliamentary procedure and are not matters on which the Speaker can rule. However, confidence motions are generally considered to be:
- explicitly worded motions that 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.