Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is the Speech From The Throne?

A1: The Speech from the Throne officially opens every new session of Parliament. The Speech sets out the broad goals and directions of the government and the initiatives it will undertake to accomplish those goals. The Speech is usually given by The Queen’s representative, the Governor General, although it may be given by The Queen in-person. It is called the Speech from the Throne because the Governor General reads it while sitting in the seat in the Senate Chamber reserved for the Head of State or her representative, as the head of Canada’s system of executive government. The Governor General reads the Speech to a gathering of Parliamentarians (Members of the House of Commons and Senators) and others, such as the Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Q2: When is the Speech given?

A2: Each new session of Parliament begins with a Speech from the Throne, which officially opens the session. Until the Speech is delivered, no public business may be conducted by either the Senate or the House of Commons.

Q3: Why does the Governor General give the Speech?

A3: Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate and House of Commons. Parliament meets only at the “Royal summons” of the Queen, represented by the Governor General. The Senate and House of Commons cannot open a session by their own authority.

Q4: Why is the Speech given in the Senate?

A4: The Canadian Parliament was modelled on that of the United Kingdom, where neither the Sovereign nor the members of the unelected upper chamber may enter the House of Commons. The Speech is therefore given in the Senate Chamber.

Q5: The "Usher of the Black Rod" summons the Members of the House of Commons to hear the Speech from the Throne. What is the origin of this office and practice?

A5: The Usher of the Black Rod is appointed by the Governor in Council (the Governor General upon the advice of Cabinet), and has a number of ceremonial and security-related duties. The office dates back to 14th-century England. The title was changed from “Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod” in 1997, when the first woman was appointed to the position.

Q6: What is Canada's political system called?

A6: Canada has a “Westminster” style system modelled on that of the United Kingdom. As such, it is a parliamentary democracy. In our system, the executive (Cabinet) must maintain the confidence of the representative body (the House of Commons). The executive initiates policy and alone has authority to introduce legislation for the raising of revenue, the expenditure of monies and the imposition of new taxes. The Legislature (Parliament) passes the laws and exercises a function of scrutiny and supervision. If the executive cannot maintain the confidence or support of the majority of the Members of the House, it must resign or ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and to call an election.

Q7: Who writes the Speech from the Throne?

A7: The government of the day writes the Speech. The Governor General is invited to contribute introductory material dealing with his or her own activities and with Royal visits.

Q8: Are previous Speeches from the Throne available?

A8: Previous Speeches from the Throne. Since the Speech from the Throne is also incorporated into the Official Report of Debates (Hansard), previous Speeches can be found through this House of Commons publication.

Q9: What is the role of the Governor General in the Speech from the Throne?

A9: The Governor General, as the Queen’s representative in Canada, reads the Speech from the Throne prepared by the government of the day, which is Her Majesty’s government. The reading of the Speech from the Throne is required for the opening of every new session of Parliament.

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