Appeals to the Chair’s Rulings
into a Committee of the Whole and Quorum
of Debate in a Committee of the Whole
Questions of Privilege
Extension of Debate
Adjournment of Debate
Termination of Debate
of Bills in a Committee of the Whole
Rules of Debate and Proceedings
Motions of Instruction
of Motions in a Committee of the Whole
Uses of Committees of the Whole
Consideration of Estimates
Debates, Broadcasting and
There is as little sense of reality in
appointing a committee of sixty members as there is in having a Committee of
the Whole of 265: it is hopeless to expect a committee of such size to
accomplish any useful work.
(Procedure in the Canadian House of
Commons, p. 209)
A Committee of the Whole is the entire
membership of the House of Commons sitting as a committee. Each time the House
resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole to deliberate on a specific
matter, a new committee is created. Once that committee has completed its
business, it ceases to exist. Over the span of a session, many Committees of
the Whole can be created on an ad hoc basis.
A meeting of a Committee of the Whole is
held in the House of Commons Chamber itself and presided over by the Deputy
Speaker, as Chair of Committees of the Whole, or by the Deputy Chair or
Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. Whoever is presiding sits at
the Table, in the Clerk’s chair, while the Speaker’s chair remains vacant. The
Mace is removed from the top of the Table to signal that the House itself is no
longer in session; it rests on the lower brackets at the end of the Table
during the entire time that the House sits as a Committee of the Whole.
Since the membership of a Committee of the
Whole is identical to that of the House, one might expect the rules in both
forums to be the same. While there are similarities, the rules in a Committee
of the Whole are less formal than those which apply when the House is in
session. For example, Members may speak more than once on any item
and need not stand in their place when they have the floor.
“The function of a Committee of the Whole
is deliberation, not enquiry.”
Unlike standing committees which have the authority to initiate studies of
continuing concern to the House, a Committee of the Whole may only consider
questions and bills which the House decides should be dealt with in this
At one time, the House sat frequently as a
Committee of the Whole to examine the estimates,
and all taxation bills
at the committee stage. In addition, most bills that had received a second
reading were referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration and review.
Relatively speaking, Committees of the Whole are now used less frequently to
consider legislation, and more frequently for special debates.
Today, the vast majority of bills are
referred to standing or legislative committees, although the Standing Orders
still provide for a Committee of the Whole to examine appropriation bills.
Furthermore, certain bills are referred by special order or by unanimous
consent to a Committee of the Whole for consideration. In such cases, however,
the predominant reason for doing so is to expedite passage of the bill.
Over the past few years, however,
Committees of the Whole have become popular once again, primarily because they
provide a forum for special debates, such as take-note debates and the
consideration of the main estimates.
Members consider a Committee of the Whole to be an opportunity for a discussion
that is less formal than a debate held in the House.
This chapter will examine the role of
Committees of the Whole and discuss the rules and practices pertaining to
proceedings in a Committee of the Whole.
 Wilding, N. and Laundy, P., An Encyclopaedia of Parliament,
4th ed., London: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1972, pp. 149‑52.
 Standing Order 101(1).
 Beauchesne, A., Beauchesne’s Rules & Forms of the House of
Commons of Canada, 6th ed., edited by A. Fraser, W.F. Dawson and J.A.
Holtby, Toronto: The Carswell Company Limited, 1989, p. 249.
 The estimates are the expenditure plans of all government
departments, consisting of main estimates, tabled annually, and supplementary estimates,
tabled as required. Consideration of the estimates is a major component of the
business of supply. For further information on the estimates, see
Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.
 An appropriation bill is a bill authorizing government
expenditures, introduced in the House by a Minister following concurrence in
the main or supplementary estimates or interim supply.
 A taxation bill is a bill proposing to introduce a new tax, to
continue an expiring tax, to increase an existing tax or to extend the
application of a tax.
 Standing Order 73(4). See, for example, Journals, June 14,
2005, pp. 889‑90.
 Since 1980, although a significant number of bills have been
referred to Committees of the Whole for examination after second reading, very
little time has been spent in this forum debating those bills, with the
exception of the Committee of the Whole consideration of Bill C-2, An Act to
implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States of
America, in December 1988 (Debates, December 20, 1988, pp. 408-19,
433-517; December 21, 1988, pp. 532-87). For a more recent
example of a bill that was referred to a Committee of the Whole after second
reading, see Journals, December 11, 2007, pp. 295-7.
 See, for example, Journals, October 3, 2006,
p. 492 (take-note debate); May 31, 2005, p. 810 (consideration
 Generally speaking, anyone who is not a Member or an official of
the House of Commons is not permitted on the floor of the House of Commons when
the House is sitting; this is, however, allowed during a Committee of the
Whole. For example, Members have used this relatively informal forum to invite
on to the floor of the House Olympic and Paralympic athletes who competed in
recent Olympic Games. Such tributes have taken place in 1996, 1998, 2002 and
2004 (Debates, October 1, 1996, pp. 4944‑6; April 22,
1998, pp. 5959-60; April 15, 2002, pp. 10393‑4;
November 1, 2004, pp. 1011‑2). An exceptional event also took
place on June 11, 2008 when, pursuant to an Order adopted the
previous day, the House met for the sole purpose of proceeding to “Statements
by Ministers” to allow the Prime Minister to make a statement of apology to
former students of Indian Residential Schools. Several guests of honour
representing the First Nations, Metis and Inuit were permitted on the floor of
the House during the speeches. After the Prime Minister’s apology, the leaders
of the opposition parties responded. In addition, the House adopted an Order at
the beginning of the sitting, authorizing the House to resolve itself into
Committee of the Whole to allow the guests of honour to make statements in
response to the ministerial statement and the responses of the leaders of the
opposition parties. The Speaker was permitted to preside over the Committee of
the Whole (Journals, June 10, 2008, p. 952;
June 11, 2008, p. 963, Debates, pp. 6854‑7.