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Contemporary Canadian Govt. & Politics: Government

Selected Primary Sources and their Finding Aids: What Is Happening Now -- In Government

It is so much easier to be informed of what is happening in government since the federal government adopted the Internet as its major communication tool. Researchers who do not have access to the Internet through their school, college or university, can access it for free from public libraries across the country. The following are some of the key government sources for keeping up-to-date. See also Special Topics for more topic-specific sources.

Websites of Government Departments, Agencies, etc.

Most official federal government websites post news releases and frequently show the latest news item on their homepage. Some have a "What's New" link. Many also provide a variety of social media options for seeing news items. Link to the Official Websites of federal government departments, agencies, Crown corporations, programs and major subject portals through the federal government's official site, the Canada Site. (Departments and Agencies link at the bottom of the page.) Some additional sources for keeping up with changes in the federal government:

Consulting With Canadians.

Government policies under development may be outlined in a discussion paper or consultation document with input sought from the public before they are implemented. This page provides a single access point to most of the current and some past federal government consultations. Consultations are searchable by subject, department or agency and keyword.

News. Canada Site.

This section of the Canada site brings together news sources from across the federal government. Recent news releases, backgrounders, media advisories, readouts, speeches, and statements can be searched by department or agency, region, news type, and Minister. The Advanced Search option allows searching older news sources and limiting by date:

Federal News Releases

Canada Gazette. (Pt. I: weekly, PartII: biweekly, Part III: irregular)

The Canada Gazette has been the official news bulletin of the Government of Canada since 1841. It has been used to issue official proclamations of war and peace, to call federal elections, to publish constitutional amendments, and to open and close sessions of Parliament. It contains all formal public notices and official appointments and private sector notices required by law to be published here. It also includes proposed regulations, giving the public 30 days or so to comment, and newly passed Acts and regulations.

Part I: Proposed regulations, official appointments & other formal public notices.
Part II: New regulations & other statutory instruments, orders and proclamations.
Part III: Most new acts and their enactment proclamations.

Federal Government News Releases. Canada Site.

Each day's Government of Canada news releases are posted here along with the day's warnings and advisories, media advisories, speeches and reports, if any. There is also a keyword searchable database of previous federal news releases (from 2002 on but incomplete). You can also subscribe to the RSS newsfeed.

Office of the Prime Minister News Releases. Library and Archives Canada.

A digitized collection of news releases from the PMO from 1998 to 2004.

E-mail Lists
Many government departments, agencies, boards, commissions, centres, specific programs, web portals, etc. have mailing lists to inform interested members of the public of new developments either with their programs and services or just on their websites. Some of these lists provide the same information available on their websites, some are much more elaborate resembling newsletters or magazines. By subscribing to these lists you will get updates automatically by e-mail. Some examples:

Elections Canada Subscription Service

Subscribe to this service to receive information on election financing, official reports, press releases, statements and speeches, etc.

Revenue Canada Lists.

You can subscribe to the general "newsroom" list for news releases, fact sheets, tax tips and alerts, or to over a dozen lists for more specific kinds of information.

Statistics Canada's The Daily.

The Daily provides the first look at newly released statistics by Statistics Canada. You can receive the Table of Contents with links to all articles or select the subject(s) of interest to you and receive only new product release announcements and links to articles relevant to those subjects. RSS newsfeed also available.

Parliamentary Proceedings

The Parliament of Canada Website is the official source for most current information on Parliament available to everyone. The following are examples of some of the tools available to find out what is coming up in Parliament (calendar, notice of meetings, etc.) what is going on now (live, when Parliament is in session), what has just recently happened. See also the "Parliament - Proposed Legislation" tab. For more details on the Parliamentary process, see sources listed under Clarifying - General Facts.

House of Commons Calendar.

The House homepage shows the day's agenda when in session. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the business calendar and house sitting calendar.

Senate Calendar.

Indicates fixed and possible sitting days for the coming year.

Order Paper and Notice Paper. and Senate:

The Order Paper is published for each day the House of Commons and Senate are in session. It is the official agenda, listing all items of business for that sitting including the text of any written questions for Question Period. The Notice Paper is to provide 48-hour notice of any items Members or Senators wish to introduce.

Projected Order of Business. House of Commons.

This is an unofficial outline of the expected order of business in the House of Commons for the next week's sitting days. It includes details such as the time allowed for each issue.

Schedule of Committee Meetings. and Senate:

The notice of meetings, with place, time, and witnesses scheduled is available for all active committees, including select committees and subcommittees for upcoming days when Parliament is in session.

Webcast Schedule: ParlVU. and Senate ParlVU:

Some committee proceedings and (since Feb. 2004) House of Commons Chamber proceedings are webcast in audio or audio-video allowing you to listen in or watch the proceedings live on your computer. Access from the committee meeting page or from ParlVU. ParlVU provides live and on-demand streaming of the House of Commons proceedings and public committees.

CPAC Live Coverage. Cable Public Affairs Channel.

CPAC, a non-profit, non-commercial programming service provides bilingual public affairs television and Internet programming 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. You can see live coverage of the House of Commons whenever it is in session as well as selected House and Senate committees, public hearings, speeches, and related events. Today's and the upcoming week's program schedule is available on the website. You can subscribe to get daily updates by email on general program highlights or just for specific topics. If you missed a broadcast, tapes can be ordered.

Debates or The Official Report of Debates, a.k.a. Hansard. Senate:

The official report of the debates in the House of Commons and Senate is a verbatim report, capturing everything said. It is published the next day, or within 48 hours, after each sitting day. Includes "Question Period", 45 minutes of each day in the House of Commons is given over to questions from any MP addressed to the government. These are often on current topics in the news. (They are indicated in the Debates and indexes as 'o.q' for Oral Questions.)

Journals  and Senate:

These are the official record of the proceedings in the House and Senate, showing in brief entries what transpired, e.g. motions moved, by whom, petitions presented, titles of bills considered, votes of Members on issues, list of reports presented, etc. The House and Senate Journals are available the day after the sitting.

Committee Meeting Evidence and Minutes of Proceedings Senate:

The Minutes of Proceedings are like the Journals, recording what took place in committee meetings. They may also include the text of committee reports. The Evidence is a verbatim transcript, like the Debates, of public committee meetings. These can take up to two weeks to appear on the Parliamentary website. (Unedited copies of testimony to Senate committees can be received sooner by e-mail: Contact information is provided on Senate committee web pages.)

Proposed Legislation
Bills are legislation in the making and the process of bills becoming law can involve interesting debate and study. These are recorded and available to researchers.

Note: Proposed and newly passed regulations and new acts are published in the Canada Gazette. See "Federal News Releases" above.

Federal bills are numbered starting over in each session. (This is important since it means that a bill number is not much use as a reference if you do not know in which year or session it existed. Bill C-15, for example, will be a different bill in each session.) The bill number starts with a letter that shows whether it was first introduced in the House of Commons (C), or Senate (S). Most bills are public bills, sponsored by the government. These are numbered from 1-200 (e.g. C1-C200). Private Members' public bills are often introduced by members of the opposition party but rarely pass third reading. They are numbered 201-1000 (e.g. C201 - C1000). Private bills have to do with specific organizations or individuals and are numbered from C-1001 on. More details about bills are available on the Parliamentary site.

Some stages a bill passes through are more interesting to researchers than others:
1st reading: The bill is printed, assigned a number and a date for 2nd reading is fixed.
2nd reading: This is often the most interesting point since the principle of the bill is debated in the House of Commons and this debate is recorded in Hansard. The bill can then be accepted, deferred or rejected, and is usually referred to a committee for further study.
Committee Stage: This is also a very interesting point for researchers. The committee examines the bill clause by clause, calls the sponsoring Member and often outside experts on the subject to provide testimony on aspects of the bill. This material is found in the committee "Evidence".
Report Stage: The committee reports to the House, often suggesting amendments to the bill, or the bill can be concurred in without amendments. There is some limited opportunity for debate at this stage.
3rd reading: Members of the House can propose more amendments, send the bill back to committee or pass it.
Senate readings: Once the bill has passed three readings in the House, it goes through a similar process in the Senate. It is debated and amendments can be suggested.
Royal Assent: Once the bill is passed in both the House and Senate, it requires approval from the Crown (Royal Assent) to become law. This is provided by the Governor General or a representative. On receiving Royal Assent a bill is referred to as an act and as soon as possible is published in the Canada Gazette, Part III.
Coming Into Force: A bill comes into force on the day of Royal Assent unless specified otherwise in the text of the bill. Parts of a bill may come into force at different times.

Finding/Interpretive Aids:

Legislation at a Glance. LEGISinfo.

An overview of bills under consideration in the House and the Senate.

LEGISinfo. Library of Parliament, Senate and House of Commons.

This is a terrific research tool for researching bills. Includes Search for the bill by keyword in title or bill number (more options under Advanced Search) and you will get the text of the bill, major speeches in Parliament (usually from 2nd reading in the House and Senate), the status of the bill, recorded votes, if any, coming into force information, press releases or background information from the related government department, a legislative summary, and a list or links to further reading or related websites. Includes bills from 2001 on only. Also has an RSS feed for additions to the site.

Status of House Business. (House of Commons)

Bills are listed in order by number. If you don't know the number you can use the "Find" button on your Internet browser to search for a keyword from the title of the bill, or scroll to find it. For each bill, the cumulative information is provided on where it stands in the process of becoming law (e.g. dates of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd readings, referral to committee, whether it passed, received Royal Assent, etc.) Note these dates, committees, etc. for continuing your research (e.g. See the Debates on the date of the second reading for detailed discussion of the bill in the House of Commons. Check also the committee proceedings and evidence for the detailed discussion of the bill in committee, if it was referred to one, etc.)
Click on the bill number link to see the full text of the bill in its various forms, and evidence of Royal Assent, if it got that far.

Progress of Legislation. (Senate)

Similar to the Status of House Business. Shows information on the stages the bill has passed through.

Search the Debates (House of Commons) and Senate:

Can be useful to limit by topic if you don't know the bill number or title.

Legislative Summaries. Library of Parliament, Parliamentary Research Branch.

Brief guides to legislation, usually providing a history of the legislation, background information, description and analysis, etc. to help understand the bill and related topics.
(For more details see - Part2 - "Parliamentary & Legislative Research Papers" in Overview & Background Info.)