Speech from the Throne reveals to the SENATE
and the HOUSE OF COMMONS
the work the ministers propose for the session of Parliament then beginning. Historically, in England, the speech sometimes explained why Parliament had been called into session when many years had elapsed between sessions. Now, with Parliament doing very much the same kinds of business year after year and in session almost constantly, few speeches arouse great curiosity. The speech contains comments on the state of the nation and outlines the measures on which the government will seek parliamentary action. Although delivered by the queen or her representative (usually the GOVERNOR GENERAL
) the speech is entirely the work of ministers; consequently the opposition parties feel obliged to dismiss the speech as vacuous or misconceived. Normally the first business of the House of Commons - and of the Senate - is to authorize a response to the speech. This is the "Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne." A government backbencher moves for a thankful Address; then members in opposition move amendments lamenting the content of the speech and usually declaring their nonconfidence in the ministers. In the House of Commons the debate on the Address is limited to 8 days. Given the very general nature of the motions, a member can speak on almost any subject and remain relevant. To demonstrate that the House can initiate business other than what has been proposed in the speech the first bill introduced in a session always deals with a matter not mentioned in the speech.
JOHN B. STEWART
Links to Other Sites
Parliament of Canada
The official source for current news and information about the Parliament of Canada. Also features online webcasts, Hansard, history notes and much more. Check out the useful "How Canadians Govern Themselves" paper from the Information and Documentation Branch.
Governor General of Canada
The official website for the Governor General of Canada features biographies of current and former Governors General, a summary of official duties, and more.
How Canadians Govern Themselves
See an online version of Eugene Forsey's very readable book about Canada's parliamentary system of government. Also compares Canadian and American forms of government. Includes biographical notes on the author. From the Parliament of Canada.
Glossary: Parliamentary Procedure
Glossary of terminology related to parliamentary procedure. From the Parliament of Canada.