Preparing for a new Parliament
[ * ] An asterisk appears where sensitive information has been removed in accordance with the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act.
Early decisions for you
- Decide the date for the opening of Parliament [ * ].
Before Parliament opens:
- Decide the date/time for the Speech from the Throne (SFT), and whether to debate and bring it to a vote.
- Decision regarding the selection of the SFT Mover and Seconder.
- Non-Ministerial Parliamentary appointments.
- Whether to change the titles and mandates of House of Commons standing committees to reflect machinery of government changes (if necessary).
Minority government considerations
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:
- Explicit motions of confidence or non-confidence, which state, in express terms, that the House has, or has not, confidence in the Government. For example, in 2005 and 2011, the Prime Minister advised the Governor General to dissolve Parliament after Opposition Day motions stating that the House had lost confidence in the Government were adopted.
- Implicit motions of confidence traditionally deemed to be confidence matters. This includes votes on: the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne (SFT), but not necessarily amendments to it; the Government’s budgetary policy, but not necessarily amendments to it; supply, but not necessarily individual items of supply.
- Matters expressly declared by the Prime Minister in advance to be confidence questions.
- Declaring, in advance, certain priority government bills to be confidence questions has been a tactic successfully used by Prime Ministers to help pass those bills because it signaled to the opposition that not supporting them would trigger an election.
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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:
- The first day of the SFT debate is traditionally devoted to speeches by leaders of the recognized parties. Your speech follows that of the Leader of the Official Opposition, and is a key opportunity to provide detail on the Government’s policy agenda. The leaders of the Official Opposition and the second-largest opposition party usually move an amendment and sub-amendment respectively to the SFT.
- At the end of the second day, there is the first vote on the SFT, on the sub-amendment. In the past, most Governments had not begun to introduce legislation until after this vote, although there is no procedural rule preventing the Government from doing so and Governments have not always adhered to this practice.
- Debate continues and at the end of the fourth day there is a vote on the amendment and any further sub-amendments.
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- At the end of the sixth day of debate, the House votes to express its overall approval of the SFT, including any amendments that might be agreed to by the House. This vote is implicitly considered a confidence question.
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
(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
(Day 2 of up to 6)*
Vote on sub-amendment
Government business (Earliest day to debate government bills)
|SFT Debate (Day 3 of up to 6)*
|Day 6||Day 7||Day 8||Day 9||Day 10|
(Day 4 of up to 6)*
Vote on amendment
(Day 5 of up to 6)*
(Day 6 of up to 6)*
Vote on SFT
|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.
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.
- Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
- Chief Government Whip
- Deputy Government Whip
- Chair of the National Caucus for the Government
- National Caucus Research Office Head
- In the past two Ministries, this position, for the Government party, was held by the Prime Minister.
- The MP responsible for the Caucus Research Office is the employer of the Office’s staff, and will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of anti-harassment and violence policies, accessibility, and family friendly measures passed in the last Parliament, for the Office’s staff.
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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.
- Two members of the Ministry are appointed to the Board by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. This has usually included the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and another Minister.
- Additional members of the Government caucus (ministers and/or backbench members) are appointed so that the total membership results in an equal number of Government and opposition members, apart from the Speaker. This has usually included the Chief Government Whip.
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 composition and upcoming vacancies
There are currently 103 senators. The Standings in the Senate are as follows:
- 58 Independent Senators Group (ISG)
- 29 Conservatives
- 9 Senate Liberals
- 7 non-affiliated
- 2 vacancies
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
|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:
- Parliament is dissolved for the purposes of a general election;
- a Minister has reported that the expenditure is urgently required for the “public good”;
- the President of the Treasury Board has reported that there is no other appropriation available to make the payment; and
- that they only be used to fund existing programs, not new commitments.
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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