Friday, September 12, 2008
On September 7, 2008, the Governor General of Canada dissolved the House of Commons on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper. The Governor General of Canada gave instructions to issue writs of election, and thereby started an election campaign period. Election day is set for October 14, 2008 and the writs of election are to be returned by November 4, 2008, at which time the House of Commons will resume. The effect of the September 7, 2008 dissolution of the House of Commons is that the life of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session has ended. This means that all business of the House of Commons has ended. For example:
Canada's House of Commons had ceased to exist as an assembly.
- All Chamber activity has stopped and all incomplete business has been terminated. This means that any legislation that has been tabled for consideration stops and must be retabled when the House of Commons resumes, regardless of the stage at which the legislation reached in the legislative process. All government bills tabled in the House of Commons, or sent to the Senate, all Senate bills and all Private Members' bills die on the order paper.
- The Government is no longer obligated to answer written questions, to respond to petitions, or produce papers requested by the House of Commons.
- The Government is no longer obligated to provide responses to Committee reports. Even those that may have been requested in the previous session.
- The Committees (such as the Standing Committee on Finance) have ceased to exist.
- All orders of reference have expired, and the chairs and vice-chairs of all Committees are relieved of their duties.
Some federal activities continue. The Government bureaucrats continue to forge ahead on various initiatives even though their instructions may change depending on the outcome of the election. Orders in Council and regulations continue to be made as they do not require approval of the House of Commons to become law. However, during an election campaign period, Orders in Council and regulations are usually limited to noncontroversial administrative matters. Controversial decisions, appointments to important positions, and/or policy decisions that might unreasonably bind future governments are usually postponed until a new government is sworn in.
The Cabinet and its Ministers continue to hold full and complete authority and to function as Ministers until their replacements are sworn in. Their ministerial work is limited to tasks that are routine in nature, such as signing official documents that require a Minister's signature.
The Cabinet might meet during the election period, particularly if there is an emergency. However, government policy initiatives will not go forward for Cabinet approval.