During each sitting day at approximately 2:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. on Friday), the 45-minute Question Period begins. At this time, the Speaker recognizes the Leader of the Opposition, or the lead questioner for the Official Opposition, who then asks a question. This lead question is usually followed by others, called “supplementary questions”, which in most cases seek clarification of the answer to the initial question or attempt to obtain further information.
Throughout the remainder of Question Period, other Members representing the parties in opposition to the Government continue the questioning. In accordance with an agreed-upon rotation, one or more other of these Members may also be entitled to ask supplementary questions.
Members representing the governing party, Members of political parties not officially recognized in the House, and independent Members are also recognized to ask questions, though not as often as Members of officially recognized opposition parties.
Participation in Question Period is managed to a large extent by the various caucuses and their Whips, and can be the subject of negotiations among the parties. The recognition pattern of questioners varies depending on party representation in the House and the number of Members in each party. As well, the parties may negotiate a maximum time limit for each question and answer. Currently this limit is 35 seconds for each.
Each party decides daily which of its Members will participate in Question Period and provides the Speaker with a list of their names and the suggested order of recognition; however, the ultimate authority to recognize Members rests with the Speaker.
Members must be in their own seats to pose questions and may be recognized more than once during the same Question Period.
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries may not ask questions.
The Speaker’s Role
The Speaker ensures that Question Period is conducted in a civil manner, that questions and answers do not lead to debate, and that both questioners and respondents are able to make their comments heard.
The Speaker does not ask or respond to oral questions.
The guidelines that govern the form and content of oral questions are based on convention, usage and tradition. While there are no written rules for questions in the Standing Orders, a set of principles and guidelines has evolved based on practice, precedents and statements made by various Speakers over time.
The Speaker has the discretion and the authority to rule out of order any question posed during Question Period if he or she is satisfied that it is in contravention of House guidelines. The Chair may suggest that a question be rephrased or may simply recognize another Member to ask the next question.
Generally, points of order or questions of privilege are not entertained during Question Period, but are deferred until its conclusion. If a situation arises during Question Period that the Speaker believes to be sufficiently serious to require immediate consideration, for example, the use of unparliamentary language, then he or she will address the matter at that time.