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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

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Welcome to the online version of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009, created to provide users with searchable, easy to navigate access to one of the key procedural authorities used by Members of the Canadian House of Commons.


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As House of Commons procedure is subject to change, users should remember that this edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice contains information and precedents dating to the end of the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament in December 2008. Standing Order changes adopted since then, as well as other changes in practice, are not reflected in the text.

To confirm current rules and practice, please consult the latest version of the Standing Orders on the Parliament of Canada Web site.




To the left of the screen, users will find a list of titles that correspond to the chapters of the printed book. By clicking on a title, users will open the first section of an online chapter which includes the Table of Contents for the chapter. They can then navigate through the chapter by using the links in the Table of Contents, the links on the left hand side of the screen, or the “next” and “previous” buttons at the top and bottom of the page.


Contact Information


For further information about the procedures of the House of Commons, please contact the Table Research Branch at 613-996-3611 or by e-mail at


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Cataloguing in Publication


House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009
Edited by Audrey O’Brien and Marc Bosc

© House of Commons, 2009

First Edition, 2000, Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit


Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication


Canada. Parliament. House of Commons

House of Commons procedure and practice / edited by Audrey O’Brien, Marc Bosc.

Issued also in French under title: La procédure et les usages de la Chambre des communes.

Previous ed. edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Co-published by: Éditions Yvon Blais.

ISBN 978-2-89635-321-7


1.         Canada. Parliament. House of Commons--Rules and practice--Handbooks,
manuals, etc.  2. Parliamentary practice--Canada--Handbooks, manuals, etc.
3. Legislation--Canada--Handbooks, manuals, etc. I. O’Brien, Audrey, 1950- 
II. Bosc, Marc  III. Title.


KE4658.C36 2009      328.71’05        C2009-903828-5


Logo: Thomson Reuters Canada Limitée

Éditions Yvon Blais, une division de Thomson Reuters Canada Limitée


C.P. 180  Cowansville
(Québec) Canada
J2K 3H6

Customer Service
Tel.: 1-800-363-3047
Fax: (450) 263-9256

Catalogue No.  X9-2/5-2009E
ISBN  978-2-89635-321-7


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vertical-duo364-k-copy.jpgAlmost 10 years have passed since the publication of the first edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. At the time of its release early in 2000, it was the latest and the most comprehensive of a series of reference works on the procedure and practice of the House of Commons written since Confederation.

As predicted in the Preface of the first edition, it has proven to be an essential guide to understanding the House of Commons and the work of its Members. The thorough research and careful interpretations contained in it have made the book a recognized authority, often quoted in the House.

Yet in an institution as dynamic as the House of Commons, parliamentary practice is constantly evolving to meet changing needs and circumstances. It is no surprise then that in the years since 2000, the House has amended its rules to a considerable extent, and many new practices and precedents have been established in a significant number of areas. Because there have been important changes and innovations in that time, it has become necessary to produce a new, updated and substantially revised edition.

Perhaps the most significant change to our practice came with the amendment of the Standing Orders concerning the report stage of bills. To address the procedural controversies dating back to the late 1990s, in 2001, the House appended a note to the appropriate Standing Orders instructing the Speaker not to select for debate at report stage motions that were repetitive, vexatious, or frivolous, or that served only to prolong proceedings unnecessarily. In the years immediately following this change, Speaker Milliken delivered a series of important rulings interpreting the new rule and clarifying the conduct of report stage.

In 2003, as a result of the work of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, major amendments to the Standing Orders concerning Private Members’ Business were adopted. Most significantly, the Standing Orders now make most items of Private Members’ Business votable, reversing previous practice. All of these changes are described in the chapter on Private Members’ Business. Among numerous other amendments to the Standing Orders recommended by the Committee and subsequently adopted by the House were alterations in the lengths of speeches, and provisions for the consideration of certain main estimates in Committee of the Whole. The Special Committee also examined electronic services offered to Members and recommended a system of electronic filing of notices of motions and written questions, which led to the introduction of the procedures now in place.

The range of other changes to the rules and practices is wide. Since 2000, the House has adopted new rules relating to the election of the Deputy Speaker and the other Chair Occupants, and to the appointment of various Officers of Parliament. Prior to 2005, if debate on a motion to concur in a committee report was adjourned, there was no guarantee that debate would be resumed and that the House would have the opportunity to take a decision on the motion. Since then, Standing Orders were adopted providing for a maximum length for the debate, the resumption of the debate if adjourned, and the putting of all questions on the motion at the conclusion of the debate.

Because House of Commons Procedure and Practice touches on constitutional, political and historical matters, this new edition has also incorporated recent statutory changes. For example, in 2000, the Canada Elections Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act which modernized the organization and terminology of electoral legislation. In 2007, this Act was amended to provide for fixed general elections every four years. Equally noteworthy has been the impact of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. In 2004, amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act created an Ethics Commissioner for the House of Commons and a Conflict of Interest Code which is now appended to the Standing Orders. In 2006, the Federal Accountability Act created a new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to administer a new Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. The impact of the Act is described in a number of chapters. The adoption of legislation has also codified the manner in which the House deals with delegated legislation.

The fundamental privileges of the House and its Members have been objects of interest since the publication of the first edition in 2000. The courts have dealt with challenges to the House’s control of its Precinct, the right of Members to refuse attendance in court as witnesses, and the scope of parliamentary privilege where the privilege had an impact upon the legal rights of non-Members. In 2005, the Supreme Court established the legal and constitutional framework for considering matters of privilege. These crucial issues are examined in the chapter on the privileges and immunities of Members.

While the information in this edition extends to the end of the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament (December 2008), a copy of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, as amended in June 2009, has been appended as a reference for readers. As in the first edition, all of the material in this edition is presented with full commentary on the historical circumstances which have shaped the current approach to parliamentary business. Key Speakers’ rulings and statements are also documented and the considerable body of practice, interpretation and precedents is amply illustrated. Extensive footnote references support the text and offer additional insights into the development of the current rules and practices.

As this second edition is more than a mere update of the original, readers will notice a number of changes in this new version, including several new graphics, revised and reorganized appendices, a number of significantly revised and reorganized chapters, a more complete bibliography that lists reference works by chapter, and an improved index. While an electronic version of the first edition was eventually made accessible on the Internet, making the work available to a much wider audience, this edition is being presented in electronic and printed formats at the same time.

The second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice is part of a continuum of works documenting Canadian parliamentary procedure from the early years of the House to the present. Like the first edition, it is a shared endeavour in that one talented team of proceduralists was responsible for the original research and drafting, another for the arduous task of vetting and revising, and yet another for the complex project management of this bilingual work. Together they have made my role as Senior Editor immeasurably easier and I am grateful for their painstaking work and the wise counsel of Deputy Clerk Marc Bosc who led them. My personal objective as Senior Editor has been to honour the tradition begun with the first edition by providing in this new edition, in a revised and enhanced form, as complete and up-to-date a description as possible of the current procedure and practice of the House. If the experience of the past decade is any indication, this book will continue to be the key reference tool for parliamentarians, and all others here, across Canada and around the world, who share an interest in the work of the House of Commons.


Audrey O’Brien

Clerk of the House of Commons
June 2009


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vertical-duo364-k-copy.jpgA new edition of any book enjoys the benefit of being able to build upon the foundation of its predecessor. The Senior Editors of the First Edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Clerk of the House Robert Marleau (1987 to 2000) and Deputy Clerk Camille Montpetit (1998 to 1999) set a high standard of scholarship in publishing this milestone. In recognition of this achievement, their names are recorded in the preliminary pages of this second edition.

Not surprisingly, in the years since the publication of the first edition in 2000, the breadth of procedural evolution has been significant. There have been a number of rule changes and an even greater number of new precedents and practices. As a result, the preparation of the second edition has proven to be, no less than that of the first, a major undertaking. It is the fruit of years of labour by a team of devoted professionals of whom the Clerk of the House, Audrey O’Brien, and I, as Senior Editors, are very proud, and whose efforts deserve to be acknowledged.

The ink was barely dry on the first edition when already work began on the next one. Starting in 2000, week by week and year by year, reference information was painstakingly collected until in 2006 drafting of the second edition began. From 2007 to completion, Acting Deputy Principal Clerk Barbara Whittaker was in charge of the project, taking over from Deputy Principal Clerk Luc Fortin, who initially led the team. As the project’s lead manager, Ms. Whittaker was indefatigable, juggling the multitude of responsibilities involved in the production of a work of this magnitude. I am extremely grateful to her. Day-to-day management of the project was placed in the capable hands of Paulette Nadeau, the project coordinator until her much-deserved retirement. She was succeeded most professionally by Lisa Chartier-Derouin, who was greatly assisted by Natalie Foster.

The skilled drafting team was composed of procedural clerks Miriam Burke, José Cadorette, Diane Deschamps, Marc-Olivier Girard, Nancy Hall, Debra Manojlovic‑Ford, Marie‑Thérèse Messier, Terence Moore, Paulette Nadeau, Marie-France Renaud, Gary Sokolyk and Graeme Truelove. Significant research assistance was provided by Olivier Champagne, Rachel Clement, Christine Holke David, Jonathan Holmes, Yves Rouillard and Katy Treehuba, as well as numerous House of Commons Pages.

As the draft of each chapter was completed, it was reviewed and revised. This important task involved both the drafters and their procedural colleagues from all branches of Procedural Services. I would like to thank Clerk Assistants Marie-Andrée Lajoie, André Gagnon, Eric Janse and Beverley Isles; Principal Clerks Janice Hilchie, Colette Labrecque-Riel and Jeffrey LeBlanc; Deputy Principal Clerks, Robert Benoit, Luc Fortin, Rosanne Karith (Acting), Jeremy LeBlanc, Ian McDonald, Pierre Rodrigue and Marie-Danielle Vachon; the Procedural Clerks who conducted the peer reviews of the chapters, Wayne Cole, Monique Hamilton, Christine Lafrance, Guillaume La Perrière, Lucile McGregor, Lucie Tardif-Carpentier and Marc Toupin; and Procedural Clerks Samy Agha, Danielle Bélisle, Andrew Chaplin, Angela Crandall, Carmen DePape, Diane Diotte, Isabelle Dumas, Georges Etoka, Joann Garbig, Catherine Gérin-Lajoie, Jean‑François Lafleur, James Latimer, Chad Mariage, Catherine Millar, Chloé O’Shaughnessy, Jean‑François Pagé, Alexandre Roger, Louise Thibault and Justin Vaive for their attention to detail and invaluable research input they provided in reviewing chapters.

I would also like to thank Rob Walsh, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, and Richard Denis, Deputy Law Clerk, for setting up a team of Parliamentary Counsel and Legislative Editors who reviewed certain chapters and provided us with advice throughout the project. Thanks also to Louis Bard, Chief Information Officer of Information Services; Kathryn Butler Malette, Director General, Human Resources and Corporate Planning Services; Claire Kennedy, Chief Financial Officer; and Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers for the input received from their respective services. In addition, I wish to extend my appreciation to Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and her staff for their assistance with those parts of Chapter 4, “The House of Commons and Its Members” dealing with the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons; to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Marc Mayrand, and his staff for reviewing those sections of the same chapter dealing with our electoral process; and to Auditor General Sheila Fraser and her staff for their input on certain portions of Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

While research and drafting may be the foundation of this publication, its creation has also required the participation of many others. I would like to underline the contribution of Sylvie Ouellet, the administrative assistant responsible for inputting, revising and formatting the text, and thank her for her hard work and dedication. Johan Fong and Maureen Quirouet worked tirelessly on all publication and design aspects of the project and they are to be commended for their efforts. The Translation Bureau assigned several seasoned translators to handle the heavy demands of the project. A special note of thanks is to be given to Josée Deschênes and Patricia Galbraith who, as the lead translators assigned to the book, provided valuable recommendations and worked with us onsite throughout the project. Our appreciation as well to their colleagues Catherine Bouchard, Lucie Boisvenue, Elizabeth Cowan, Yvon de Repentigny, Terri Irwin, Stephen Mullen and Judith Poirier, who supported them under the supervision of Louise Lafontaine. Pierre Couture, Angèle Doiron and Carl Forget took on the important job of reviewing the English and French texts for concordance, and Cecylia Lisiecki and Michel Whelan greatly assisted with the review of the proofs. Thanks to Brian McCambridge, Manager of the Publishing Service, for his guidance and support in coordinating the work of the reviewers. The indexing in both official languages was undertaken by Nicole Blais, Bruce Hubbard, Yves Laliberté, Richard Lueger, François Poliquin, Suzanne Proulx and Joanne Sacoutis, under the direction of Kim Buzzetti, Chief of the Publishing Service. Important administrative, logistical and design support was provided by Diane Joly, Dominik Marengère and Samuel St-Amand. David Monaghan, Curator of the House of Commons, provided invaluable advice, and photographers Christian Diotte and Bernard Thibodeau were most helpful in taking new photos and images for the second edition. Thanks to Gilles Bourget, Vimy Khan, Konrad Kyc, Memduh Eroglu, Mark Gregory, Andrew Lis and Roger Savard from the Systems Integration and Application Development section in Information Services, the online version of the book became a reality. True to their reputation, the staff of the Library of Parliament provided a prompt and efficient service in responding to our numerous requests for reference material.

I would also like to thank the following people who came to our assistance in preparing the contract requirements for the publication of the book: from Printing Services, Marcel Néron, Manager of Client Services and Planning; from Finance Services, Alain Franchomme, Senior Contracting Officer, Richard Gauthier, Chief Procurement Officer, Gilles Larocque, Senior Financial Advisor, and Tamara Taylor, Strategic Procurement Advisor; and from my own office, Janet Villeneuve and Lyne Jutras, Executive Assistants. A note of thanks also to Sylvie Lévesque, Johanne Forget, Michel Forrest, and Philippe Lanthier from the publisher Les Éditions Yvon Blais for their guidance, patience and direction.

Finally, I wish to thank the Clerk of the House—whose legendary editorial talents speak for themselves—for her understanding and patience when I repeatedly and at times unreasonably laid claim to her scarce time for the final review of the manuscript.

The preparation of this second edition has been a major enterprise and all those who participated in this project are to be congratulated for their fine work. All of us know that even as we go to print, the House of Commons will continue to break new procedural ground. In that sense, the evidence is never all in and the time for the last word is a figure of speech. Only the Members can write the next chapter.


Marc Bosc

Deputy Clerk of the House of Commons
June 2009


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Photo Credits


*  Dust Jacket, Inside Cover, Chapter Opening and End Photoshorizontal-duo364-k-copy.jpg

All images—Copyright House of Commons.

*  Jacket Flaps

Audrey O’Brien and Marc Bosc—Copyright House of Commons;

Peter Milliken (Bernard Clark).

*  Appendix 1:
Governors General of Canada Since 1867

Portrait Images of the Governors General—Copyright 2008—Irma Coucill.

*  Appendix 2:
Speakers of the House of Commons 1867

All images—Copyright House of Commons,
except for Peter Milliken (Bernard Clark).

*  Appendix 6:
Government Ministries and Prime Ministers of Canada Since 1867

All images—Copyright House of Commons,

except for

Jean Chrétien (Jean-Marc Carisse, Office of the Prime Minister),
Paul Martin (Dave Chan, Office of the Prime Minister) and
Stephen Harper (Office of the Prime Minister).


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List of Figures


Figure 1.1       Chronological Development of Canadian Parliamentary Institutions

Figure 1.2       Distribution of Senate Seats

Figure 1.3       Distribution of Seats in the House of Commons

Figure 2.1       Duration of Parliaments

Figure 2.2      Duration of Ministries

Figure 3.1       The Path of a Question of Privilege

Figure 4.1       Representation Since 1867

Figure 4.2      Calculating Representation in the House of Commons

Figure 4.3      The Writ of General Election

Figure 4.4      Notice of Election

Figure 6.1       Parliament Hill

Figure 6.2      Floor Plan of the Centre Block

Figure 6.3      The House of Commons Chamber

Figure 8.1       Sessions Identified as “Special” in House of Commons Debates or Journals

Figure 8.2      The House of Commons Calendar (Standing Order 28(2))

Figure 9.1       Joint Addresses to Parliament Since 1940

Figure 10.1     Daily Order of Business

Figure 12.1     Classification of Motions

Figure 12.2     Moving a Motion

Figure 12.3     Putting the Question

Figure 16.1     The Three Options of the Legislative Process (Government Bills Originating in the House of Commons)

Figure 18.1     The Financial Cycle

Figure 18.2     Budget Presentation and Debate

Figure 20.1     Committee System of the House of Commons

Figure 20.2    List of Standing and Standing Joint Committees of the House of Commons

Figure 20.3    Methods of Designating Chairs and Vice‑Chairs by Type of Committee

Figure 20.4    Types of Motions in Committee

Figure 20.5    Usual Order of Business for Committee Study Leading to a Substantive Report

Figure 20.6    Swearing-in of Witnesses

Figure 20.7    Committee Room Configuration

Figure 20.8    Committee Room

Figure 20.9    Approval Process for Operational and Travel Budgets for Standing Committees

Figure 20.10   Approval Process for Special and Legislative Committee Budgets, Presented in Addition to Interim Funding

Figure 22.1     Petitions Presented to the House of Commons Since 1917

Figure 22.2    Form of a Petition

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