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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
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21. Private Members’ Business

Photo of high relief entitled “John Cabot, Holding a Scroll in His Left Hand and a Tiller in His Right” from the History of Canada series of the Heritage Collection in the House of Commons Foyer.

 

*    From 1867 to 1984

Time Reserved for Private Members’ Business

Precedence of Items

*    Since 1984

 

 

*    Financial Limitations

*    Notice

*    Similar Items

*    Seconders

*    Introduction and First Reading of Private Members’ Bills

*    Senate Public Bills Sponsored by Private Members

 

 

*    Notice

*    Similar Items

*    Seconders

 

 

*    Notice

*    Transferred for Debate

 

 

*    Draw for the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business

Subsequent Draws

*    Creation of the Order of Precedence

Replenishment of the Order of Precedence

*    Withdrawal of Items

*    Status of Items Not Chosen

*    Items Automatically Placed in the Order of Precedence

 

 

*    Mandate of the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

*    Criteria for Determining Non-votability

*    Appeal Process

Appeal to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

Appeal to the House

*    Substitution of Another Item

 

 

*    Exchange of Items

*    Cancellations and Suspensions

*    Delays and Interruptions

*    Rescheduling of Debate

 

 

*    Non-votable Items

*    Votable Items

*    Committee Stage of Private Members’ Bills

Requirement to Report

Recommendation Not to Proceed Further

Extension of Consideration

*    Report Stage and Third Reading

*    Senate Amendments to a Private Member’s Bill

*    Notices of Motions (Papers)

*    Debate on Items of Private Members’ Business

 

 

 

 

If the private member is to count for anything, there must be a relationship between what the private member and the institution of Parliament can do and what the electorate thinks or expects can be done.

Third Report of the Special Committee

on the Reform of the House

(McGrath Committee), June 1985, p. 2

Private Members” are generally defined as Members of the House of Commons who are not part of the Ministry.[1] For the purposes of Private Members’ Business the Standing Orders also specifically exclude the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Secretaries.[2] The Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole are permitted to participate in Private Members’ Business, although in general, these two Presiding Officers have abstained from sponsoring private Members’ bills or motions.[3]

Each sitting day, one hour is set aside for Private Members’ Business, that is, for the consideration of bills and motions presented and sponsored by private Members. Private Members may use the time allotted for the consideration of Private Members’ Business to put forth their own legislative and policy proposals, and express their views on a variety of issues.[4] Private Members’ proposals can take the form of a bill (either public or private), a motion, or a notice of motion for the production of papers.

A private Member’s bill is the legislative expression of a policy initiative proposed by a private Member. Typically, these bills are drafted by Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) in the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel based on instructions received from private Members. Like government bills, private Members’ bills become statutes once they receive Royal Assent.[5] Most private Members’ bills are public bills that originate in the Commons, but some public bills, and occasionally private bills, that are sponsored by private Members come to the Commons from the Senate.[6]

A private Member’s motion typically proposes that the House declare its opinion on some topic or that the House order a certain course of action to be taken, either by the House itself, or by one of its committees or officers.

A notice of motion for the production of papers is a request that the government compile or produce certain papers or documents and table them in the House.[7]



[1] For further information on the Ministry, see Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”. On October 23, 1996, after Don Boudria (Glengarry–Prescott–Russell) was appointed to the Ministry, Speaker Parent directed the Clerk of the House to remove from the Order Paper a motion standing in Mr. Boudria’s name in the Order of Precedence for Private Members’ Business (Debates, p. 5630).

[2] Standing Order 87(1)(a)(ii). On October 16, 2007, after Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry–Prescott–Russell) was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary, Speaker Milliken directed the Clerk of the House to remove from the Order Paper a motion standing in Mr. Lemieux’s name in the Order of Precedence for Private Members’ Business (Debates, p. 2).

[3] Since 1984, only five Chair Occupants have placed items of Private Members’ Business on notice or have participated in Private Members’ Business. On October 29, 1996, Peter Milliken (Kingston and the Islands) was elected Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. Prior to this he had introduced seven bills. Bill C‑270, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (session of Parliament), was introduced on April 19, 1996 (Journals, p. 235) and had been sent to committee before Mr. Milliken became a Chair Occupant. On November 28, 1996, by unanimous consent, the Bill was concurred in at report stage, read a third time and passed (Journals, p. 935). On September 23, 1997, Ian McClelland (Edmonton Southwest) was elected Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole. On November 25, 1999, he placed on notice a motion, M‑307 (Order Paper and Notice Paper, November 26, 1999, pp. iv‑v). On September 30, 2002, Eleni Bakopanos (Saint‑Denis) became Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole. On March 21, 2003, her motion, M‑395, was placed in the Order of Precedence (Order Paper and Notice Paper, March 24, 2003, p. 28). It was debated on April 30, 2003 (Journals, pp. 717‑8) and adopted on September 22, 2003 (Journals, p. 1001). On October 7, 2004, Marcel Proulx (Hull–Aylmer) became Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. On November 14, 2005, his motion, M‑316, was placed in the Order of Precedence (Order Paper and Notice Paper, November 15, 2005, pp. 41‑2). On April 5, 2006 Andrew Scheer became Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. On June 22, 2006 he introduced Bill C‑343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft) (Journals, p. 345). The Bill was placed in the Order of Precedence on October 1, 2006 (Order Paper and Notice Paper, November 1, 2006, p. 35), debated at second reading on February 27 and April 27, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1081, 1274‑5), read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on May 2, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1325‑7), reported with amendments on December 10, 2007 (Journals, p. 283), and concurred in at report stage, read a third time and passed on February 27, 2008 (Journals, p. 478).

[4] Some important issues first raised by private Members have later reappeared in government legislation. See, for example, Bill C‑279, An Act to amend the Official languages Act (tabling of documents) introduced by Jean‑Robert Gauthier (Ottawa–Vanier), Debates, June 6, 1988, pp. 16179‑81; Bill C‑438, An Act to amend the Competition Act (game of chance), introduced in the House by Paddy Torsney (Burlington) on February 25, 2000, the provisions of which reappeared in Bill C‑23, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act, which received Royal Assent on June 4, 2002, S.C. 2002, c. 16; see “Round Table on Private Members’ Business”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 25, No. 3, Autumn 2002, p. 33; Bill C‑277, An Act to amend the Auditor General Act (audit of accounts), introduced by Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny), on November 15, 2004, the provisions of which reappeared in Bill C‑43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, which received Royal Assent on June 29, 2005, S.C. 2005, c. 30 (Debates, October 18, 2005, pp. 8713‑4).

[5] With the exception of bills dealing with changes to the names of electoral districts, relatively few private Members’ bills receive Royal Assent. Between 1945 and 1993, 127 private Members’ public bills received Royal Assent; only 31 of those bills did not deal with changes to the names of constituencies. From 1994 to 2007, 37 private Members’ bills received Royal Assent, 9 of which dealt with changes to the names of constituencies.

[6] Public bills sponsored by Members and introduced first in the House of Commons are numbered consecutively from C‑201 to C‑1000 in the order of introduction. Public bills sponsored by Senators and introduced first in the Senate are numbered consecutively from S‑201 to S‑1000.

[7] For further information, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.

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