Prorogation of a Parliament, a prerogative
act of the Crown taken on the advice of the Prime Minister, results in the
termination of a session. It is possible to prorogue a session of Parliament by
proclamation when the House is sitting
or during an adjournment.
Both the House of Commons and the Senate then stand prorogued until the opening
of the next session. Parliament meets for a new session in the normal manner on
the date set in the proclamation. Parliament is prorogued either by the
Governor General (or Deputy of the Governor General) in the Senate Chamber, or
by proclamation published in the Canada Gazette. When Parliament
stands prorogued to a certain day, a subsequent proclamation (or proclamations)
may be issued to advance or defer the date.
Prorogation of a session brings to an end
all proceedings before Parliament. With certain exceptions, unfinished business
“dies” on the Order Paper and must be started anew in a subsequent
Bills which have not received Royal Assent
before prorogation are “entirely terminated” and, in order to be proceeded with
in the new session, must be reintroduced as if they had never existed.
On occasion, however, bills have been reinstated at the start of a new session
at the same stage they had reached at the end of the previous session. This has
been accomplished either with the unanimous consent of the House or through the
adoption of a motion to that effect, after notice and debate. The
House has also adopted provisional amendments to the Standing Orders to carry
over legislation to the next session, following a prorogation.
Since 2003, prorogation has had almost no
practical effect on Private Members’ Business.
As a result of this significant exception to the termination of business
principle, the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business
established at the beginning of a Parliament, and all bills and motions in the Order
of Precedence, as well as those outside of it, continue from session to
If consideration of an item at a certain stage had begun but had not been
completed, the item is restored at the beginning of that stage, as if no debate
had yet occurred. Private Members’ bills that were referred to a
committee in the previous session are deemed referred back to the same committee. Private Members’ bills which have been read a third time and passed
are sent again to the Senate.
Committees, including special
and legislative committees, cease to exist and all orders of reference lapse.
Committee memberships, except the membership of the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs, are terminated
and all Chairs and Vice-Chairs cease to hold office. The Panel of
Chairs for legislative committees also ceases to exist.
In addition, when the House is prorogued,
no documents may be tabled until the first day of the new session. If documents
requested through an Order of the House or an Address to the Governor General
have not been tabled at the time of prorogation, the requests carry over from
session to session, within the same Parliament. They are considered to have
been readopted at the start of the new session without requiring a motion to
Requests for government responses to committee reports and petitions survive in
the same manner.
In general, during a prorogation Members
are released from their parliamentary duties until, in the new session, the
House and its committees resume activities. However, the Speaker, the Deputy
Speaker and the members of the Board of Internal Economy continue in office while
the Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole do not.
Prorogation has no effect on the activities of Members involved in
parliamentary associations or on international and interparliamentary exchange
Dissolution terminates a Parliament, ending
all business in the Senate and in the House of Commons, and is followed by a
The date of the election is set in accordance with the provisions of the Canada
Elections Act which stipulates that a general election must be held on the
third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following polling day from
the last general election.
However, given that dissolution is a prerogative act of the Crown, the Governor
General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, may dissolve Parliament any time
before this date and issue a proclamation for a general election.
Usually three proclamations are issued at
the time of dissolution. The first is for the dissolution itself, stating that
Parliament is dissolved and declaring that “the Senators and Members of
Parliament are discharged from their meeting and attendance”. A second
proclamation appears simultaneously; it calls the next Parliament and informs
with regard to the issuance of writs of election, the date set for polling and
the date set for the return of the writs. The third proclamation fixes the date
on which Parliament is summoned to meet, sometime following the return of the
The date of this summons may be changed through the issuance of a further
A Parliament may be dissolved in accordance
with the provisions set down in the Canada Elections Act or earlier,
regardless of whether the House is scheduled to meet or not that day.
If the House is sitting and there is not to be a prorogation ceremony in the
Senate Chamber, the dissolution is usually announced to the House by the Prime
Minister or another Minister.
The Speaker then leaves the Chair.
The demise of the Crown does not have the
effect of dissolving Parliament.
In ancient British practice and until 1843 in Canada, the demise of the Crown did result in an automatic dissolution of Parliament.
Because the summoning of Parliament is a royal prerogative and Parliament sits
at the pleasure of the Crown, its demise meant a lapsing of the summons and
In 1843, an act was passed in the Province of Canada providing that a Parliament
in existence at the time of any future demise of the Crown should continue as
it would have otherwise, unless dissolved by the Crown. Similar
legislation existed in other provinces prior to Confederation. The law was re‑enacted
in the First Session of the First Parliament (1867‑72) of Canada.
With dissolution, all business of the House
is terminated. The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the members of the Board of
Internal Economy continue in office for the acquittal of certain administrative
duties until they are replaced in a new Parliament. For the purposes
of certain allowances payable to them, Members of the House of Commons at the
time of dissolution are deemed to remain so until the date of the general
Members’ offices, both in Ottawa and in their constituencies, remain open in
order to allow Members and their staff to provide services to constituents.
As the office budget for Members is drawn from public funds, Members’ offices
and staff may not be used for electoral purposes.
All items on the Order Paper
including government and private Members’ bills die. The government’s
obligation to provide answers to written questions, to respond to petitions or
to produce papers requested by the House also ends with dissolution. The
government must wait until the new Parliament is in session before tabling any
document that is required pursuant to an act, resolution or Standing Order.
Committees cease to exist until the House
reconstitutes them following the election. All orders of reference expire, and
the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of all committees cease to hold office. The government
is no longer required to provide responses to committee reports.
The executive committees of interparliamentary
associations carry over from one Parliament to another. However, as a general
rule, the activities being organized by the associations are postponed during a
dissolution. Since multilateral assemblies continue to meet, Canada’s representation is usually ensured by Senators.
Once an election has been held, and prior to the start of a new Parliament,
both Senators and re‑elected Members may participate. Official
parliamentary exchange programs with other assemblies are also usually
The Constitution states that no House
“shall continue for longer than five years”.
Mindful of this deadline, all governments since Confederation have recommended
that the Governor General dissolve Parliament before the date at which such
dissolution would have been constitutionally required. In some cases, the
dissolution took place within days of when the House would have expired through
effluxion of time.
Since 2007, the Canada Elections Act has contained provisions limiting
the duration of a Parliament to four years.
Since 1949, the Constitution has provided
that in time of “real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection,” the five‑year
limit of the lifetime of the House of Commons “may be continued by Parliament”
if no more than one‑third of the Members oppose the continuation.
Prior to the existence of this provision, such an extension required a
constitutional amendment, a means resorted to only once. Due to circumstances
relating to World War I, the life of the Twelfth Parliament (1911‑17) was
extended in this way for one year—from 1916 to 1917.
 See Minute of a Meeting of the Committee of the Privy Council,
P.C. 3374, October 25, 1935, “Memorandum regarding certain of the
functions of the Prime Minister”, which stated that recommendations (to the
Crown) concerning the convocation and dissolution of Parliament are the
“special prerogatives” of the Prime Minister.
 On December 4, 2008, the Governor General prorogued the
First Session of the Fortieth Parliament. The Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson
rose in the House on a point of order to inform the House of the prorogation.
The Speaker subsequently left the Chair (Journals, p. 101, Debates,
p. 621). On several occasions, a session has been ended by prorogation in
the morning, with the new session starting in the afternoon of the same day.
See, for example, Journals, January 8, 1957, pp. 19‑21;
May 8, 1967, pp. 1827‑31; October 12, 1976,
 For example, on November 7, 2003, the House adjourned
until November 17, 2003 (Journals, November 7, 2003,
p. 1263), but the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament (2001‑04)
was prorogued by proclamation on November 14, 2003. In 2007, the
House adjourned on June 22, 2007, until September 17, 2007
(Journals, June 22, 2007, p. 1585). The First Session of
the Thirty-Ninth Parliament (2006‑08) was prorogued by proclamation on
September 14, 2007. Ten days prior, the Prime Minister had announced
in a press release that he would be recommending to the Governor General that Parliament
 In recent years, the practice has been
for proclamations to be published in the Canada Gazette while the House
is adjourned. The Governor General last prorogued a session in the Senate in
1983 (Journals of the Senate, November 30, 1983, pp. 3429‑43).
 For example, the opening of the Fifth Session of the Twenty‑Fourth
Parliament (1958‑62), originally set for November 7, 1961, was
changed by successive proclamations to December 16, 1961, then to
January 25, 1962 and finally to January 18, 1962. The Second Session
of the Thirty‑Seventh Parliament (2001‑04) was prorogued on
November 14, 2003, with the next session set to begin on
January 12, 2004. A proclamation was then issued on
January 7, 2004, summoning Parliament to meet on February 2, 2004.
See Canada Gazette, Part II, Vol. 137, Extra,
November 14, 2003; Part II, Vol. 138, Extra,
January 9, 2004.
 Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 102‑3.
 See, for example, Journals, October 21, 1970,
p. 46; May 9, 1972, p. 281; March 8, 1974, pp. 25‑6;
October 3, 1986, pp. 47‑8; October 25, 2007,
pp. 63‑4. In 1986, the motion included a provision to bring forward
from committee any evidence adduced and documents received in relation to the
 See, for example, Journals, March 1, 1996,
pp. 23‑4; March 4, 1996, pp. 33‑5; October 14, 1999,
pp. 21, 24‑6; October 7, 2002, pp. 30‑5; February 6, 2004,
pp. 25, 27; February 9, 2004, pp. 29‑31;
February 10, 2004, pp. 34‑41.
 Journals, July 22, 1977, p. 1432; March 22,
1982, pp. 4626‑8.
 See the Third Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization
and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, presented to the
House on February 28, 2003 (Journals, p. 492) and
concurred in on March 17, 2003 (Journals, p. 495). See
also the Committee’s First Report, presented to the House and concurred in on
February 20, 2003 (Journals, p. 439).
 Standing Orders 86.1 and 87. See also Speaker Milliken’s statement
in Debates, October 16, 2007, pp. 2‑3, and Deputy
Speaker Blaikie’s statement in Debates, October 17, 2007,
 See, for example, Journals, February 2, 2004,
pp. 2‑3; October 16, 2007, pp. 2‑3. A private Member’s bill has also been reinstated after a
dissolution (Journals, October 1, 1997, p. 56, Debates,
p. 338). Senate private Members’ public bills may also be reinstated
within the first 60 days of a new session pursuant to Standing Order 86.2.
See, for example, Debates, February 13, 2004, p. 559;
November 30, 2007, p. 1589. For further information, see
Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.
 Special committees may be reconstituted in the next session
by Special Order. See, for example, the Special Committee on the Non-Medical
Use of Drugs, which was reconstituted in the Second Session (2002‑03) of
the Thirty‑Seventh Parliament (2001‑04) (Journals,
October 7, 2003, pp. 1104‑5).
 However, the government is still required to table responses to
committee reports in the subsequent session. See Standing Order 49. In 1991, two standing committees were revived by unanimous consent following a prorogation so
that they could complete mandates received from the House in the previous
session. The two committees ceased to exist once their reports were presented
to the House (Journals, May 17, 1991, p. 42).
 Members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
are named for the entire Parliament. See Standing Order 104(1).
 Following the adoption of a report from the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs setting forth the membership of each committee, the
first order of business for each committee in the new session is the election
of a Chair.
 Standing Order 112.
 Standing Order 49.
 See Speaker Bosley’s ruling in Debates,
June 27, 1986, p. 14969. For an unusual example of
the revival of a matter of privilege, see Debates,
February 6, 2004, pp. 243‑4.
 The Constitution provides for a maximum five‑year lifespan
for the House, and for a sitting of Parliament at least once every 12 months
(Constitution Act, 1867, R.S. 1985, Appendix II,
No. 5, s. 50; Constitution Act, 1982, R.S. 1985,
Appendix II, No. 44, ss. 4(1) and 5). For comments on this
issue, see Boyer, J.P., Election Law in Canada: The Law and Procedure of
Federal, Provincial and Territorial Elections, Vol. I, Toronto and Vancouver: Butterworths, 1987, pp. 164‑6.
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9,
s. 56.1. If the third Monday in October is not suitable, for cultural,
religious or other reasons, the Chief Electoral Officer may recommend another
date to the Governor in Council. The alternate day must either be the Tuesday
immediately following the Monday that would otherwise be polling day or the
Monday of the following week (s. 56.2). For further information, see
Chapter 4, “The House of Commons and Its Members”.
 Section 56.1(1) of the Canada Elections Act,
S.C. 2000, c. 9 states: “Nothing in this section affects the
powers of the Governor General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at
the Governor General’s discretion”.
 Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 104‑5. The practice
in Canada has been not to dissolve Parliament without setting a date for its
return; later proclamations may alter that date, but there is no period where
the continuity of Parliament is in question.
 In 1997, for example, the proclamation of April 27, summoning
Parliament to meet on June 23, was superseded by proclamations which
changed the date of summons to August 1, then to August 29 and
finally to September 22. On December 1, 2005, a proclamation was
issued summoning the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament to meet on
February 20, 2006. A second proclamation was later issued changing
the date of the summons to April 3, 2006. A third proclamation was
issued on March 17, 2006 setting the time of the summons.
 The dissolution of the Thirty‑Eighth Parliament (2004‑05)
took place on the morning of November 29, 2005, prior to the opening
of the sitting. No announcement was made in the Chamber.
 See, for example, Journals, February 1, 1958,
p. 398, Debates, pp. 4199‑202; Journals,
December 14, 1979, p. 350, Debates, p. 2363 (announced by
the Prime Minister); Journals, March 26, 1979, p. 594, Debates,
p. 4517 (announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Privy
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1,
s. 2. A demise of the Crown can occur on the death, deposition or
abdication of the Sovereign, at which time the Kingdom is transferred or
demised to a successor.
 Wilding, N. and Laundy, P., An Encyclopaedia of Parliament,
4th ed., London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1972, pp. 202‑3.
 An Act for continuing the Provincial Parliament in case of the
demise of the Crown, S.C. 1843, c. 3.
 Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 103‑4.
 An Act for continuing the Parliament of Canada, in case of the
demise of the Crown, S.C. 1867‑68, c. 22.
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1,
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1,
s. 69. In addition to their salary as a Member of Parliament, certain
Members have received additional salaries associated with their positions in
the House. Following the dissolution of the Thirty‑Seventh, Thirty‑Eighth
and Thirty‑Ninth Parliaments, the Board of Internal Economy approved the
continuation of the additional salaries and office budgets of the Speaker, the
Deputy Speaker, opposition party Leaders, opposition House Leaders, and Whips
of all parties as well as the continuation of the budgets for party research
 On April 6, 2006, a question of privilege was raised by
Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest) regarding his status as a Member during a
period of dissolution. Mr. Wappel alleged that his privileges had been breached
by the refusal of public servants to communicate with him during the election
campaign. Speaker Milliken ruled that the complaint did not constitute a case
of privilege. See Debates, April 6, 2006, pp. 55‑6;
May 3, 2006, pp. 844‑5.
 A list of these items may be found in a document called the Status
of House Business at Dissolution, which is published shortly after
Parliament is dissolved.
 While there is no rule expressly forbidding Members from attending
such assemblies, policies that govern the functioning of associations prohibit
Members who are not seeking re-election from travelling with an association
during a dissolution.
 Constitution Act, 1982, R.S. 1985, Appendix II,
No. 44, s. 4(1). See also Constitution Act, 1867,
R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 50.
 The Seventh (1891‑96) and Seventeenth (1930‑35) Parliaments
extended almost to the five‑year limit. In the first case, the date set
for the return of the writs was April 25, 1891 (Journals,
Vol. XXV (1891), p. x) and dissolution took place on April 24,
1896 (Journals, Vol. XXXI (1896), p. v). In the second case,
the writs were returnable on August 18, 1930 (Journals, Vol. LXVIII,
Special Session (1930), p. iv) and Parliament was dissolved on
August 15, 1935 (Journals, Vol. LXXIV (1936),
 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2007,
c. 10. Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9,
s. 56.1 states that “each general election must be held on the third
Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the
last general election”.
 British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949,
R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 33; see also Constitution Act,
1982, R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 44, s. 4(2).
 British North America Act, 1916, R.S. 1985,
Appendix II, No. 24. The writs for the general election for the
Twelfth Parliament were returnable on October 7, 1911 (Journals,
Vol. XLVI (1910‑11), p. 563). Dissolution occurred on
October 6, 1917 (Journals, Vol. LIV (1918), p. iii). The
Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act, 1927.