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Senate

Speaker’s Parade

A sitting day in the Senate begins with the Speaker’s Parade. During the parade officials solemnly walk in procession with the Speaker of the Senate from the Speaker’s offices to the Senate Chamber. Senators rise as the Speaker enters and proceeds to the Chair while the Mace Bearer places the Mace on the Clerk’s Table.

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Chair for the Speaker of the Senate and Thrones for the Monarch and Consort

The Senate's presiding officer, the Speaker, sits at the north end of the Chamber. It is the Speaker’s job to assist the Senate in moving through its daily agenda and to rule on disputes about proper Parliamentary practices or procedures.

Behind the Speaker are two thrones. The larger is used exclusively by the Monarch or Governor General, and the other for his or her consort.

Behind the Speaker's chair, at the North end of the Chamber, is a bust of Queen Victoria – Sovereign when Canada became a nation in 1867. To the sides, a lion and unicorn bear the Coats of Arms of Canada and the United Kingdom.

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Seating Plan

Seated to the Speaker's right are members of the government party. To the Speaker's left sit the Official Opposition, other parties, independent Members and some government Members.

The Leader of the Government is the chief spokesperson for the Government. Together with the Deputy Leader, the Leader is responsible for setting the agenda for the consideration of government business in the Senate. The Leader is also a member of Cabinet.

The Government Leader's counterpart is the Leader of the Opposition. With the assistance of a Deputy Leader, the Leader of the Opposition rallies opposition members in debating the actions and policies of the Government.

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Mace

The Table in the centre aisle holds the Mace – a symbol of the Senate's authority to sit.

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Clerk's Table

The Clerk and Table Officers sitting here advise the Speaker and other Senators on Senate procedural matters and record proceedings and decisions in the official record of the Senate.

Clerk's Table
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The Colour Red

The Senate is decorated in red, which is traditionally identified as a royal colour, because this is where the Queen or her representative, the Governor General, addresses parliament.

Paintings

The eight paintings on your left and right commemorate the First World War. The paintings show a Canadian soldier guarding a captured cannon; a refreshment canteen for troops; a landing of Canadian troops; and Canadians building a railway behind the front lines.

Other paintings depict a mobile veterinary unit, destroyed cities, and a family returning to the remains of their devastated village -- reminders of the terrible costs of war.

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Galleries

From galleries at the North and South ends of the Chamber, the public, diplomats, Senators' guests, and members of the press observe Senate proceedings.


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Ceiling

The ceiling, decorated in hand painted gold leaf with a stenciled border, features heraldic symbols representing Canada, England, France, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The names of Canada's Governors General between 1867 and 1921 appear in a band along the East and West sides of the ceiling.

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Carvings

The Chamber's warmth is enhanced by elaborate wood carvings in white oak featuring Gothic cresting, rosettes, and a grape vine that forms a continuous band around the Chamber.

Perhaps the Chamber's most notable feature is its ornamental stone carving. Look closely at the six limestone canopies decorating the East and West walls, and you will see flowers, gargoyles, small animals – real and fanciful – and many other decorative details.

The pillars around the Chamber are topped with decorative figureheads, including St. George, St. Patrick, Joan of Arc and St. Andrew. Prominent people in Canadian history are commemorated too. Above the arches on the South wall you will find Samuel de Champlain, General Brock, General Wolfe, and the Marquis de Montcalm.


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A working day in the

House of Commons

Public Galleries

Galleries located on the upper level of the Chamber accommodate diplomats, Members' guests, the Press and the public — about five hundred and eighty people when every seat is filled.

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Clerk’s Table

The Clerk's Table, located in front of the Speaker's Chair, is occupied by the Clerk and other Table Officers. These people assist the Speaker and Members of the House of Commons on matters of procedure and record the proceedings and decisions in the official record of the House of Commons.

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Mace

On that table rests the symbol of authority in the House — the Mace, which is paraded into the Chamber each day to signify the start of proceedings.

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The Colour Green

No one knows the exact reason why the House of Commons is green, however, there are many theories. One of the more popular theories suggests that the colour green is used to represent the commoners.

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition face each other across the centre isle about a third of the way down the Chamber.

The Prime Minister is normally the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons. As head of the executive, the Prime Minister - among other duties and responsibilities - selects all members of Cabinet, and advises the Governor General when to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. The Prime Minister, as Leader of the Government, has considerable influence over the activities and agenda of Parliament.

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The Leader of the Opposition

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition face each other across the centre isle about a third of the way down the Chamber.

The Leader of the Opposition is generally the leader of the political party with the second-largest number of seats in the House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition is the primary spokesperson for the Official Opposition, whose role is to assess government policies and programs, to hold the government to account or draw attention to government inaction, and to offer constructive criticism and alternatives.

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Seating Plan

Seated to the Speaker's right are Members belonging to the governing party.

To the Speaker's left sit the Official Opposition, other parties, independent Members and some government Members.

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Speaker's Parade

A sitting day in the House of Commons begins with the Speaker's Parade. During the parade officials solemnly walk in procession with the Speaker of the House of Commons from the Speaker’s offices to the House of Commons. Members rise while the Speaker enters and proceeds to the Chair while the Sergeant-at-Arms places the Mace on the Clerk’s Table.

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Speaker's Chair

In keeping with our Parliamentary traditions, debate is guided by the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the Speaker, who occupies the ornate chair at the head of the Chamber. It is the Speaker’s job to assist the House of Commons in moving through its daily agenda and to rule on disputes about proper Parliamentary practices or procedures.

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Stained Glass Windows

High on the Chamber's East and West walls, magnificent stained glass windows capture the floral emblems of every province. Two of the three territories are also represented on the Chamber's North wall. Begun as a Centennial project, each window contains approximately two thousand individual pieces of handcrafted glass.

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Ceiling

Hand-painted linen-canvas hangs eight inches from the ceiling proudly displaying provincial and territorial coats of arms.

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Carvings

The art of ornamental stone carving is particularly well represented here. Two groups bear special mention: the British North America Act Series consisting of six large rectangular carvings behind the Members galleries on each side of the House; and the Evolution of Life Series over the public galleries at either end of the House consisting of fourteen triangular stones depicting the evolution of life in what is now Canada.

Carved mainly in White Oak, exquisite woodcarvings, too, are found throughout the Chamber.

Triceratops

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

A general election is followed by a new Parliament, which begins with the swearing in of all elected Members of Parliament. Each Parliament has one or more sessions. When a new Parliament is opened, the first session of that Parliament begins.

Centre Block
Centre Block

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

Each session begins with a ceremony for the Speech from the Throne. On the day of the Speech from the Throne, the Governor General sends the Usher of the Black Rod to knock on the doors of the House of Commons and to call all Members of Parliament to the Senate.

The Canada Door, leading to the House of Commons Chamber. Thumbnail: The Black Rod
The Canada Door, leading to the House of Commons Chamber
Thumbnail: The Black Rod

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

If it is the first session of a new Parliament, the Speaker of the Senate declares that the Governor General will not open Parliament until the House of Commons elects a speaker.

Chair for the Speaker of the Senate and thrones for the Monarch and consort
Chair for the Speaker of the Senate and thrones for the Monarch and consort

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

The Members of the House of Commons elect a speaker by secret ballot. Members return to the Senate to announce the elected Speaker, asking for confirmation of the rights and privileges of the House.

Ballot Box for the election of the Speaker in the House of Commons
Ballot Box for the election of the Speaker in the House of Commons

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

In the Speech from the Throne, the Governor General sets out the Government’s priorities and indicates its perspective on the country.

Governor General David Johnston delivering the Speech from the Throne
Governor General David Johnston delivering the Speech from the Throne

© Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada 2011; Photo credit: Sgt Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall; Reproduced with the permission of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

The Prime Minister’s first act in the House in each session of Parliament is to present a “dummy bill” (or pro forma bill)—a Bill Respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office—giving the House the right to discuss important matters before responding to the Speech from the Throne, instead of having to make that response the first order of business. Bills are labelled based on the order of their introduction into Parliament and the Chamber in which they originate. Since this is the first bill of the Parliament and it originates in the House of Commons, it is always bill C-1 (the first bill introduced in the Senate is always bill S-1).

On the same day or on an agreed-upon date, Members debate the Address to the Governor General in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, propose amendments, and vote on it.

Seats in the House of Commons Chamber
Seats in the House of Commons Chamber

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

When the business of a session is finished in both the House of Commons and the Senate, Parliament is prorogued and must resume again within one year. There are no rules about how many sessions a Parliament should have and there is no set length for a session. The number of sessions within a single Parliament has ranged from one to seven. Parliament is prorogued by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Centre Block
Centre Block

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Opening and Closing of Parliament

Dissolution terminates a Parliament and, therefore, must be followed by a general election. Parliament is dissolved by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Voting is one way of participating directly in our democracy
Voting is one way of participating directly in our democracy

© Elections Canada
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41st Parliament: Senate

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41st Parliament: House of Commons

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