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Contemporary Canadian Govt. & Politics: In Parliament

In Parliament (Speech from the Throne, Debates, Committees)

Throne Speech | Debates Parliamentary Committees

Parliamentary sources include some of the most important primary material for understanding government and the policy issues it deals with, as well as to some extent, the influence of the opposition, news media, experts, and the public on these issues. To get some background information for a basic understanding of how government works and the information produced in Parliament, see the dictionaries and glossaries listed under Clarifying -- Definitions and the reference works listed under General Facts About Canadian Government and Politics.
NOTE: For the Budget Speech, see Special Topics: Government Finance

Throne Speech | Debates Parliamentary Committees

Throne Speech, or Speech from the Throne.
Print: Published in the House of Commons and Senate Debates at the opening of each new session.
Internet: 1997 (36th Parliament) to the present: On the Parliament of Canada site, "Senate", "In the Chamber", Senate Debates: or 2001 to present: House of Commons Debates:
1867-1993: On the Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources site:
(TIP: Look at the first sitting date of the first session for each Parliament, or use the Debates Index within each Parliament.)

1960 to present: POLTEXT: University of Laval, Center for Public Policy Analysis collection of Throne Speeches:

The Speech from the Throne is prepared by Cabinet and read by the Governor General in the Senate Chamber at the opening of each session of Parliament. It is a general statement outlining the government's intentions for the upcoming session. The speech is reprinted in the House of Commons Debates followed by the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, or debate on the speech. Up to six days of debate on the Throne Speech are allotted in the House of Commons following the Speech from the Throne.

Throne Speech | Debates Parliamentary Committees


House of Commons Debates: Official Report (Hansard).
Print: 1867 to the present. Printed the following day or within 48 hours.
Internet: 2001 (37th Parliament) to the present. Updated daily.
Internet: 1867 -1996 (1st to 35th Parliament):
Television and Internet: Live and taped current proceedings on the Cable Public Affairs Channel. See schedule and details on CPAC web site:
Webcam: Live and on demand streaming:

The Debates (also called "Hansard") is the official, verbatim record of everything said in the House of Commons (speeches, statements, questions, comments, debates, etc.). The Debates are published every day when Parliament is in session, in French and English, and the text is also available on the Parliamentary website the next day. This is one of the best primary sources for information on public policy issues. This is where the opposition asks questions of the governing party on the important issues of the day and the party in power defends its policies and actions (Question Period). The Debates also include recorded votes by MPs, the Throne Speech, the Budget Speech and all the debates that accompany the introduction and passing of legislation.

Proposed legislation (bills) are introduced and printed at 1st reading, then debated at 2nd reading. This is when the principles and intent of the proposed bill are presented and arguments or opposition, if any, is raised. The debate at this stage can be very revealing. The bill may be sent to a parliamentary committee for further study (for the detailed committee discussions see the committee meeting "Evidence") after which it must pass a 3rd reading, before it is sent to the Senate where it goes through a similar process.
See What's Happening Now -- In Parliament for the current status of bills and the House of Commons agenda of upcoming meetings.

Printed Debates for each Wednesday include appendices listing all the current standing committees and sub-committees, standing joint committees and special committees with the names of their members; an alphabetical list of all House of Commons Members with their constituencies and political affiliation, and members of Cabinet in order of precedence. (On the Parliament site this information is under "Parliamentary Business".)

Finding Aids for House of Commons Debates:

Index to Debates or Hansard Index:
Print: 1867 to the present. Found at the end of each session. Also printed separately at then end of each Parliament.
Internet: 2001 (37th Parl) to the present:  Fulltext keyword searches can be refined by selecting specific Parliaments and sessions, speakers, topics, etc. Updated daily when Parliament is in session.
Internet: 1867 -1996 (1st to 35th Parliament):
Internet: 1901-2019 Lipad: Linked Parliamentary Data by University of Toronto (search by keyword, politician, or party, or access by date).

TIP: Using the index can help to find the correct terms or spelling to use when a keyword search is not successful.


Debates of the Senate: Official Report (Hansard).
Print: 1867 to the present.
Internet: Feb. 1996 (35th Parliament, 2nd session) to the present.
Internet: 1867 -1996 (1st to 35th Parliament):

Like the House of Commons Debates, the Senate Debates are published in French and English each day the Senate is in session and are available on the Parliamentary web site the following day.

Bills are debated in Senate after passing three readings in the House of Commons. This is a last chance to reconsider contentious bills, but debate at this stage is not usually as involved as it is at 2nd reading in the House of Commons.

The first Thursday of each month printed debates contain lists of Senators, standing, special and joint committees with their members, and an appendix called "Progress of Legislation" which shows where government, Members' and Senators' public bills stand in the process of becoming law. (This information for the current session is available on the Parliament site under "Parliamentary Business" and "Committees".)

Finding Aids for Senate Debates:
Index to Senate Debates:
Print: 1867 - . Printed at the end of each session. Also printed separately at the end of each Parliament.
Microfiche: 1991 (34th Parliament) to the present.
Internet: 2001 (37th Parl) to the present:  Fulltext keyword searches can be refined by selecting specific Parliaments and sessions, speakers, topics, etc. Updated daily when Parliament is in session.
Internet: 1867 -1996 (1st to 35th Parliament):

TIP: Use the Table of Contents for each daily issue online, which links to the text of the debates, or search using keywords and limiters provided.


see What's Happening Now -- In Parliament to find the current status of bills in the Senate and the Senate agenda for upcoming meetings.

Throne Speech | Debates Parliamentary Committees

Parliamentary Committees:

A major part of the work done by Members of the House of Commons and Senators is to examine public policy issues, proposed legislation and government policies and programs. Committees are struck by Parliament to study all major government issues.
Standing committees are set up on almost a permanent basis, on the same lines as government departments. They study issues referred to them and can initiate studies.
Special committees are appointed for special, temporary purposes, generally to investigate an issue before the government prepares legislation on it.
Senate Committees can undertake major studies of social or economic issues that are not part of the government's immediate legislative agenda. These committees allow for more time for thorough research and can be less partisan than House of Commons committees.
Joint Committees contain members of both the House and the Senate.
Legislative Committees are created to study a bill after 2nd reading when required. They may only report the bill with suggested amendments, if any.
Committee of the Whole (House of Commons) is all members sitting as a committee. It studies appropriation bills and other matters referred to it.
Sub-Committees are usually struck by Standing Committees which can establish them to study a particular issue.

The following sources provide more background information on Committees:

Committees Section of Compendium. By Table Research Branch, House of Commons.
This chapter of the Compendium of Procedure explains all aspects of committees and links to more detailed articles on the site where available.

Committees: Practical Guide. 8th ed. Ottawa: Procedural Services, House of Commons Canada, March 2006. 12 p.
Intended for Members of Parliament and the public, this guide provides detailed information on House of Commons committees, background, how they function, etc.

Listing of committees:
Print: House of Commons and Senate Journals, each Wednesday edition of House Debates, and 1st Thursday of each month's Senate Debates.
Internet: Parliament of Canada site:   (Senate: "Committees"; House of Commons: "Parliamentary Business", "Committees").

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of Parliamentary Committees:
Print: To 1994.
Microfiche: 1994-1998.
Internet: 1994 to the present. Select a specific committee page to see minutes from all sessions.

NOTE: From Sept. 1998 on these are only available in electronic form on the Parliamentary Internet site.

Committee meetings are often where the most detailed discussions of proposed legislation (bills) are found. (After preliminary discussion in the House of Commons (see Debates, above) many bills are referred to committees for more detailed examination.

The official record of committee meetings is called "Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence". (Until 1994 these were published together.)
"Proceedings" are prepared for each meeting by the Clerk, they briefly record the details of the meeting, decisions taken by the committee, members present, etc. (corresponds to Journals of the House).
"Evidence" is the transcript of what was said at the meeting, or the public proceedings; it can include information produced by witnesses, experts, lobbyists and others providing testimony to the committee (corresponds to the Debates).

Finding Aids:

Print: An index is included at the end of each printed issue and cumulated at the end of the session or at the end of the committee's work. Index also includes List of Witnesses.
Internet: On the Parliament of Canada site a search can be limited to Committee transcripts:

NOTE: Evidence is not always provided. Committees can choose to hold private ("in camera") meetings, and testimony may not be reproduced. Some large briefs and reports provided by witnesses may be published separately.

If a committee has carried out an inquiry, it will present a detailed report usually published as part of an issue of the Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. For some important inquiries the report is published separately with a special cover. (See "Committee Reports" under What Was Written - Parliament")

NOTE: Provincial and Municipal equivalents:
Debates in the provincial Legislatures go through a similar process with only one House. They are also printed and some are available on the Internet. The equivalent municipal Council meeting minutes are also available in print either at a large public or municipal library or can be consulted at City Hall or town offices. For provincial and municipal committee information see a Reference Librarian at the main local public, provincial, or municipal library. In small communities, you may be referred to the Clerk at the town office. Check the official provincial and municipal Internet sites for current information. More is being made available every year. See also Special Topics: Provincial and Local Government & Politics