Friday, February 09, 2007

A day in the House...

Today is the first day in which the House will go through a full standard agenda, I will summarize each item on the agenda for you to begin as a guide for those not familiar. I will be trying to post a summary each day the House sits, beginning today, and I will link back here as a guide.

Routine Beginning Business

Prayers / Condolences and Messages of Sympathy / Introduction of Guests / Congratulatory Messages

All of these items only take a few minutes or on the rare occassion up to about 30 minutes. The speaker, the clerk or sometimes a regilious minister begins each day with a standard prayer followed by all members partaking in the Lord's Prayer. Then MLAs have the opportunity to offer condolences to families of notable members of their communities, MLAs then may introduce any notable guests sitting in the legislature (it is not unusual for an MLA to request unanimous request to revert to this order later on in the day as notable people come in and out of the House) and Congratulatory Messages allows MLAs to congratulate people and businesses in their community and others for a notable achievement. Politics is forbidden in these statements and I will not ordinarily report on them.

Tabling of Documents

Presentations of Petitions, Answers to Petitions and Written Questions / Presentations of Committee Reports / Tabling of Documents

These items all involve the tabling of documents - either petitions or a government's written response to a petition or a written question (a question tabled with the clerk by an MLA), committee reports or other documents as tabled by ministers (usually annual reports for their departments, the reports of commissions or inquiries or sometimes a controversial document that has been discussed in the House. Again, I will not ordinarily report on them.

Statements by Ministers

A minister has unlimited time to stand up and speak on an issue. This is not an item that comes up everyday, it usually occurs when a minister wants to annnounce a major new program or in the case of a major or significant event affecting their jurisdiction. For instance the Minister of Labour usually stands every month to comment on the unemployment figures released by StatCan. The opposition critic may stand and respond for an amount of time not longer than how long the minister spoke.

Statements by Members

This is the preview for question period. There are 10 minutes set aside and no member can speak for more than a minute so you usually get between 10 and 12 MLAs speaking. This is WORSE than question period. Though the occassion member will use this to refer to something positive, particularly government MLAs, this is mostly used for rabid partisan attacks, however, unlike question period, there is no chance for a response or for an exchange of information. The media totally ignores this circus and so will I - except in the unusual case that something substantive is said.

Oral Questions

This is question period, it lasts 30 minutes. I think you know the rest.

New Business

Introduction of Bills / Notices of Motions

MLAs stand and introduce new bills or give notices of motions (48 hours notice is required). They may speak "briefly" on the substance of measures. No debate is permitted at this time. Bills are debated beginning the next day, motions are debated in a more complicated fashion. They are not debate necessarily in the order they are introduced. There are two sorts of motions: debatable and tabling. Debatable motions if introduced by a minister are brought up during "Orders of the Day" in the next sitting after 48 hours. Motions introduced by the opposition and backbenchers are debated for two hours each and one motion is debated each Tuesday and Thursday in the following order: two opposition motions, a government motion, another opposition motion, another government motion and then repeat the cycle. Tabling motions call on the government to present certain documents to the opposition, if the government does not do so within a time frame suitable to the opposition, they can debate the motion and try to pass it.

Government Motions for the Ordering of the Business of the House

The Government House Leader, or his designate, indicates which items already on the House's agenda will be debated later in the day.

Orders of the Day

This is essentially "old business"...

  • first second reading of any bills introduced the day before, this can sometimes take all day and then continue over into the next day.

  • on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we then proceed to a private member's motion for up to two hours (sometimes there are not two hours left in the sitting)

  • if time is remaining, they proceed to consider items in Committee of the Whole House, Government Motions or Third Reading of bills as designated earlier by the Government House Leader. (The Throne Speech and Budget debate also take place here)

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