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The Conduct of a Sitting of the National Assembly

Each sitting of the National Assembly is divided into two periods: Routine Proceedings and Orders of the Day.

The items of business that the Assembly may be called upon to discuss in the course of a sitting are listed on the Order Paper and Notices, which is published a few hours before a sitting to give the MNAs time to prepare for it.

Routine Proceedings

The period known as Routine Proceedings serves mainly to provide MNAs with information; Routine Proceedings is organized under ten headings, taken up in the following order:

  1. Statements by Members
  2. Statements by Ministers
  3. Introduction of Bills
  4. Presentation of Documents
  5. Complaints of Breach of Privilege or Contempt and Personal Explanations
  6. Question Period (Oral Questions and Answers)
  7. Deferred Divisions
  8. Motions Without Notice
  9. Notices of Proceedings in Committees
  10. Information on the Proceedings of the Assembly

Statements by Members

At the beginning of each sitting, MNAs, whether ministers or private Members, may state their views on the subject of their choice. These statements must not exceed one minute each and are limited to 10 per sitting; in addition, they must be divided proportionately among the parliamentary groups and independent Members (the latter are not affiliated with any parliamentary group).

Statements by Ministers

Under this heading ministers announce their decisions, policies and departmental projects, react to particular events or take a position on the issues of the day.

Introduction of Bills

Ministers and private Members table bills in the Assembly, reading the explanatory notes aloud in the case of public bills. This is the first stage of the process leading to the passage of a bill.

Presentation of Documents

Documents tabled during Routine Proceedings are of several types:

Complaints of Breach of Privilege or Contempt and Personal Explanations

An MNA may call attention to any breach of the privileges or immunities of the Assembly or of its Members.

With the permission of the President of the Assembly, an MNA may also explain a matter that concerns him or her as a Member of the Assembly. For instance, an MNA may wish to clarify the written record of one of his or her speeches, refute allegations made in a publication or explain remarks that have been misinterpreted.

Question Period (Oral Questions and Answers)

Question Period constitutes one of the chief means by which MNAs hold the Government accountable for its actions. The questions that ministers are asked during Question Period must be of public interest and relate to a subject that falls under Québec’s jurisdiction.

Question Period takes place every day at the beginning of the sitting. It is clocked and lasts 45 minutes.

Deferred Divisions

Recorded divisions that have been deferred are subsequently held on the request of the Government House Leader.

Motions Without Notice

Substantive motions may be moved without notice, but debated only with the unanimous consent of the Assembly.

A parliamentary group may not introduce more than one motion per sitting, and an independent Member not more than one motion per three sittings.

Notices of Proceedings in Committees

The Government House Leader keeps the Assembly informed of the sittings of parliamentary committees on orders from the Assembly:

  • name of the committee
  • date, time and place of the sitting
  • purpose of the sitting

Information on the Proceedings of the Assembly

MNAs may ask the Government House Leader to communicate information on parliamentary business to the Assembly. Such requests must relate to business standing on the Order Paper.

It is also under this heading that the President informs the Assembly of committee meetings held on a committee’s own initiative and announces the subject of the “Wednesday motion”  (Business Standing in the Name of Members in Opposition) and of any interpellation to take place on the Friday.

Orders of the Day

The period known as Orders of the Day is given over mainly to the examination of bills, but is also the time when the Assembly is seized of all other substantive debates.

Orders of the Day is organized under five headings, taken up in the following order:

  1. Business Having Precedence
  2. Urgent Debates
  3. Debates on Reports from  Committees
  4. Other Business Standing on the Order Paper
  5. Business Standing in the Name of Members in Opposition

The President announces only those headings under which a debate is to take place; this differs from the practice for Routine Proceedings, when every heading is announced one after the other.

Business Having Precedence

The following items of business, because of their importance or urgency, have priority over all other matters:

  • the Premier’s opening speech and the ensuing debate
  • motions relating to breaches of privilege or contempt
  • motions relating to the conduct of Members of Parliament
  • the budget speech and the ensuing debate
  • the consideration of interim supply
    • constituting one quarter of the amounts required to finance the operations of State
    • granted by the Assembly to the Government pending examination in parliamentary committee of the Government’s main estimates
  • the limited debate on committee reports on the main estimates
  • want of confidence motions

Urgent Debates

Any MNA may request an urgent debate; this will be authorized by the President provided the proposed subject

  • is clear
  • requires urgent consideration
  • falls under the Assembly’s responsibility
  • cannot otherwise be discussed

Debates on Reports from Committees

The reports that are debated contain recommendations but

The reports must be examined by the MNAs as a body within 15 days of their being tabled in the Assembly. There is no vote following debates on reports from committees.

Other Business Standing on the Order Paper

Such items of business are numerous, and may include

Business Standing in the Name of Members in Opposition

Motions placed on the Order Paper by opposition MNAs are found under this heading. Debate on such motions is conducted on Wednesday afternoons, except during extended hours of meeting.

 

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