Preparing for a new Parliament

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Early decisions for you

Checklist

Before Parliament opens:

Minority government considerations

Strategic context

Maintaining the confidence of the House, while advancing the government’s agenda, is an on-going and delicate task for a minority government. [ * ]

The Confidence Convention

Confidence is a constitutional convention that has evolved over time, and political actors, media, and constitutional experts may disagree as to what constitutes a question of confidence. It is not justiciable and is not a matter of parliamentary procedure, and therefore is not an issue the Speaker can rule on. In practice, what constitutes a matter of confidence is ultimately determined by the Prime Minister whose responsibility it is to act on any votes of non-confidence by resigning or requesting that the Governor General dissolve Parliament thereby triggering an election.

However, it is generally acknowledged that the following motions are questions of confidence:

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Opening of Parliament

Decision required: When Parliament will open

November 18 is the pro forma date for the opening of Parliament set by the Proclamation dissolving the last Parliament. [ * ]

The Government has some latitude in whether to open the 43rd Parliament this fall or during winter 2020. [ * ]

Minority governments have opened Parliament on average 83 days following the election (i.e., January 12, 2019), later than has typically been the case for majorities which have generally opened Parliament 60-90 days after the election. However, this has varied widely (See Annex 1).

Legally, the Constitution Act, 1982 requires that Parliament sit at least once every twelve months. Therefore, the latest Parliament could be opened is June 20, 2020.

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Sitting day 1 agenda – Election of the Speaker of the House of Commons

The Constitution Act, 1867 requires that the first order of business in a new Parliament is the election of a Speaker of the House of Commons. The election is conducted by means of a single secret preferential ballot. Members will rank the candidates, and they need not rank every candidate.

Once a successful candidate has been announced to the House, you and the Leader of the Opposition will escort the Speaker‑elect to the Speaker’s chair, and recent practice has seen party leaders offering brief congratulatory remarks.

On a later sitting day, the Speaker will recommend to the House one Member to be Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole, and two Members to act as Assistant Deputy Speakers (i.e., the Assistant Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, as well as the Assistant Deputy Speaker and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole), based on prior consultations with the leaders of each of the recognized parties.

Sitting day 2 agenda – Speech from the Throne and routine business

Since the time for the election of the Speaker is unpredictable, depending on the number of candidates and the possible complexity of tabulating the votes cast, the Speech from the Throne (SFT) is normally delivered on the day after the election of the Speaker.

The time of the SFT is determined by the Government, in consultation with Rideau Hall.

On the day of the SFT, the Usher of the Black Rod will deliver a message to the House that the Governor General desires Members’ attendance in the Senate.  Members then proceed to the Senate to listen to the Speech. Following the SFT, sufficient time will be allotted for Members to travel from the Senate of Canada building and the West Block. Special travel arrangements will be provided by the House of Commons for Members who wish to attend.

When Members return to the House of Commons after hearing the SFT, the Speaker reports that they have claimed the privileges of the House of Commons. You will then introduce the pro forma Bill C-1, An Act respecting the Administration of the Oaths of Office. The purpose of this practice is to assert the right of the House to give precedence to matters not addressed in the SFT. This tradition originated over 400 years ago in Great Britain. A similar pro-forma bill is introduced in the Senate, Bill S-1, entitled An Act relating to railways.

Decision regarding the selection of the SFT Mover and Seconder

After the Speaker reports on the SFT, advising that its text will be published in Hansard, you will move a motion for consideration of the SFT later that day (to allow the House to consider other routine administrative matters).

Following these administrative matters, the Government traditionally begins debate on the SFT by having the mover and seconder speak.

The Prime Minister normally selects the mover and seconder, [ * ].

The Leader of the Opposition moves that the debate be adjourned, which is followed by the Government House Leader moving a motion to adjourn the House for the day, which is usually agreed to.

Sitting day 3 and beyond agenda [ * ]

The Standing Orders provide for up to six days of debate on the SFT, in addition to the day the speech is delivered, which need not be consecutive:

If the Government does not wish to schedule debate on the Address in Reply immediately, it could decide to schedule debate on another substantive government motion on Day 3. Government bills could be introduced as early as Day 3 and debated as early as Day 4. It has been the practice to allow all caucuses to be briefed on a bill before it is called for debate.

The regular daily order of business would begin on Day 3, with the first Routine Proceedings, Statements by Members, and Question Period of the new Parliament.

The following calendar is for illustrative purposes. Parliament need not open on a Monday. For example, it opened on Thursday in 2015 and 2011, and Tuesday in 2008.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Election of the Speaker Speech from the Throne

Routine Business required upon opening of Parliament
SFT Debate
(Day 1 of up to 6 – “Leaders Day”)

First Routine Proceedings & Question Period

Earliest day to introduce government bills

First opportunity to debate a government motion
SFT Debate
(Day 2 of up to 6)*

Vote on sub-amendment

or

Government business (Earliest day to debate government bills)
SFT Debate (Day 3 of up to 6)*

or

Government business
Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10
SFT Debate
(Day 4 of up to 6)*

Vote on amendment

or

Government business
SFT Debate
(Day 5 of up to 6)*

or

Government business
SFT Debate
(Day 6 of up to 6)*

Vote on SFT

or

Government business
Government business Government business

Items shown in bold are required.

*The days on which the SFT is debated need not be successive.

At least one day during this period would be an allotted Opposition Day, if Parliament opens in the fall.

Decisions required:

Non-ministerial Parliamentary appointments

In addition to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, you choose the following non-Ministerial appointees who support the Government in its parliamentary programme. These appointments should be made before the House opens.

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Board of Internal Economy Government members

The Board of Internal Economy is the governing body for the financial and administrative matters of the House of Commons. Its membership includes the Speaker, who acts as Chair, and Members from all recognized parties in the House.

You choose the Government’s representation on the Board.

The Speaker normally announces the membership of the Board to the House on the day of the Speech from the Throne.

Government representative in the Senate

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Speakers of the Senate

Unlike in the House, where the Speaker is elected, the Speaker of the Senate is appointed by the Governor-in-Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and may be removed at any time. Senator George Furey (unaffiliated) will continue to be the Speaker if a new Speaker is not appointed. You may wish to consult with senators on the appointment of the Speaker. Should you wish to have a new Speaker appointed, you will be provided advice under separate cover.

The Speaker pro tempore (or Deputy Speaker) in the Senate is nominated at the beginning of the session by the Senate Selection Committee, which is made up of nine Senators.

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Senate

Senate composition and upcoming vacancies

There are currently 103 senators. The Standings in the Senate are as follows:

Before the expected return of Parliament, there will be two additional vacancies. Senators McIntyre and Neufeld (both Conservatives, from New Brunswick and British Columbia, respectively) will retire in early November. Seven more retirements are anticipated in 2020. Twenty-four vacancies are anticipated before the end of 2023 (See Annex 5 for a list of upcoming Senate vacancies).

If there are no early retirements, changes in affiliation, or expulsions, ISG senators will continue to hold the majority of seats in the Senate for the duration of the next mandate.

If the current group configurations remain, attrition will result in the Senate Liberals no longer having the numbers required to be a recognized group (9 seats), under current Senate Rules, in January 2020.

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Annex 1: Timing of the opening of Parliament

Minority Governments – Length of time for the opening of Parliament
Election Opening Length of Time Status of Government
June 10, 1957 Oct 14, 1957 126 days New P.C.
June 18, 1962 Sept 27, 1962 101 days Renewed P.C.
April 8, 1963 May 16, 1963 38 days New Liberal
Nov 8, 1965 Jan 18, 1966 71 days Renewed Liberal
Oct 30, 1972 Jan 4, 1973 66 days Renewed Liberal
May 22, 1979 Oct 9, 1979 140 days New P.C.
June 28, 2004 Oct 4, 2004 98 days Renewed Liberal
Jan 23, 2006 Apr 3, 2006 70 days New Conservative
Oct 14, 2008 Nov 18, 2008 35 days Renewed Conservative

Average opening time by a Minority Government was 83 days, based on the above examples.

Annex 2: Governor General Special Warrants

The Financial Administration Act requires all of the following conditions to be met for the use of Special Warrants:

The Act provides that Special Warrants can be issued any time Parliament is not in session from the date of dissolution to 60 days following the date fixed for the return of the writs (November 11, 2019). Hence, the final day to issue a Special Warrant is January 10, 2020. Special Warrants cannot be used in one fiscal year to cover funding for the subsequent fiscal year.

The Act requires that the President of the Treasury Board table a statement showing all special warrants issued, as well as their amounts, within 15 days of the start of a new session.

Should the need for Special Warrants arise, you will be briefed separately.

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Annex 5: Projected Senate Retirements from 2019 – 2023

No. Name Affiliation Province Appointed on the advice of Retirement Date
1 Raynell Andreychuk Conservative Saskatchewan Mulroney August 14, 2019
2 Jacques Demers Independent Senators Group (ISG) Québec (Rigaud) Harper August 25, 2019
3 Paul McIntyre Conservative New Brunswick Harper November 2, 2019
4 Richard Neufeld Conservative British Columbia Harper November 6, 2019
5 Nicole Eaton Conservative Ontario Harper January 21, 2020
6 Joseph A. Day Senate Liberal New Brunswick Chrétien January 24, 2020
7 Serge Joyal Senate Liberal Québec (Kennebec) Chrétien February 1, 2020
8 David Tkachuk Conservative Saskatchewan Mulroney February 18, 2020
9 Tom McInnis Conservative Nova Scotia Harper April 9, 2020
10 Lillian Dyck Senate Liberal Saskatchewan Martin August 24, 2020
11 Norman Doyle Conservative Newfoundland and Labrador Harper November 11, 2020
12 Elaine McCoy ISG Alberta Martin March 7, 2021
13 Mike Duffy ISG Prince Edward Island Harper May 27, 2021
14 Jim Munson Senate Liberal Ontario Chrétien July 14, 2021
15 Carolyn Stewart-Olsen Conservative New Brunswick Harper July 27, 2021
16 Thanh Hai Ngo Conservative Ontario Harper January 3, 2022
17 Diane Griffin ISG Prince Edward Island Trudeau, J. March 18, 2022
18 Terry Mercer Senate Liberal Nova Scotia Chrétien May 6, 2022
19 Howard Wetston ISG Ontario Trudeau, J. June 3, 2022
20 Larry Campbell ISG British Columbia Martin February 28, 2023
21 Sandra Lovelace Nicholas* Senate Liberal New Brunswick Martin April 15, 2023
22 George Furey Non-affiliated Newfoundland and Labrador Chrétien May 12, 2023
23 Patricia Bovey ISG Manitoba Trudeau, J. May 15, 2023
24 Dennis Patterson Conservative Nunavut Harper December 30, 2023
*Pending this retirement, there would be three Senate Liberal Senators remaining, with expected retirements in September 2024, July 2025, and July 2029, respectively.
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