Guide to the Canadian House of Commons
Photo: Library of Parliament / Karen Cooper
Aworking day in the Commons starts when the bells ring to call MPs to the House. The Speaker and the Clerks walk through the Hall of Honour to the Commons Chamber, with the Sergeant-at-Arms leading the way carrying the Mace. The Speaker goes to the raised chair at the far end of the Chamber. After he leads the House in a brief prayer, the House is called to order and the day begins.
The House of Commons meets for about 135 days a year. Each day the House meets is called a sitting. When it is in session, the House sits Monday through Friday.
A day in the House is divided into different parts so that Members can discuss all the business at hand.
A 15-minute period is set aside each day for any Member who is not a Cabinet Minister to make a statement on a subject of national, regional or local importance. Each statement lasts a maximum of one minute.
This closely watched 45 minutes is best known as Question Period. It is a chance for opposition Members, and sometimes government Members, to ask questions of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. It is an exercise in accountability. Members can ask Ministers any question about their area of responsibility, without giving advance notice.
For one hour each day, Members who are not Cabinet Ministers can have their bills and motions debated by the House. There are special procedures for selecting which bills and motions will come to the attention of the House.
Government Orders are any items of business (such as motions or bills) that the government puts on the House of Commons' agenda.
Routine proceedings can cover many different subjects:
A Member who is dissatisfied with an answer given in Question Period can ask, in writing, for the matter to be raised again during the Adjournment Proceedings at the end of the day. A Cabinet Minister or Parliamentary Secretary responds.