Definition and purpose
For each sitting of the Senate, three documents are published in both official languages: the Order Paper and Notice Paper (the Senate’s official agenda), the Journals of the Senate (the Senate’s official record), and the Debates of the Senate (the edited transcript of proceedings). With the exception of the Order Paper and Notice Paper, these documents are no longer printed in paper form, but are available electronically on the Internet (at sencanada.ca and parl.ca). This note explains what information is contained in each of these documents and how they interact with one another.
The Order Paper and Notice Paper is the official agenda of the Senate. It sets out all items of business before the Senate, including items for future sittings. It is prepared in advance of each sitting based on decisions taken at the previous sitting and notices given by senators.[i] The document outlines the Order of Business – the structure of a typical sitting day – and identifies specific items – bills, reports, motions or inquiries – that may be debated during the sitting.
Before the Orders of the Day
Each sitting is divided into two parts. The first one includes Senators’ Statements, Routine Proceedings, Question Period and Delayed Answers. The Senate doesn’t deal with the items listed on the Order Paper and Notice Paper until it has completed the first part of the sitting. Routine Proceedings is particularly important for setting the Senate’s agenda. It is a period during which senators can give notice of motions or inquiries for future sittings, provide reports or other documents for the Senate’s information or for future consideration, and introduce bills. Government notices of motions and notices of inquiries are automatically included in the Orders of the Day[ii], while notices for non-government motions and inquiries are included on the Notice Paper. With certain exceptions, such as an amendment, a question of privilege or an emergency debate, the Senate cannot consider an item that does not appear on the Order Paper and Notice Paper unless leave is granted.[iii] Leave is a request to vary from the provisions of the Rules of the Senate and usual practice, and must be agreed to by all senators present without objection.
Orders of the Day and the Notice paper
Once the Senate concludes Question Period and has received any delayed answers to oral questions or answers to written questions, it moves to the second main part of the sitting: the items listed in the Order Paper and Notice Paper. Government Business – including items on notice – is called before Other Business (non-government items). Within each of these large groupings, the more advanced stages of the legislative process (such as third reading) are called before the earlier stages of the process (committee reports on bills or second reading).
Bills appear on the Order Paper in ascending numerical order within each category, with Senate government bills preceding Commons government bills in the appropriate categories. Committee reports on bills are listed according to bill number. Committee reports on matters not related to bills are assigned a chronological number based on when they were put on the Orders of the Day. Separate numerical lists are kept for Government Business and for Other Business.
Motions and inquiries are also assigned a chronological number based on when the notice was given, with separate sequences of numbers for Government Business and Other Business. To facilitate tracking, they retain this number for the rest of the session. The assigned number is usually found on the Order Paper and Notice Paper, and determines the order in which these items are listed and called.[iv]
A notice for a non-government motion or inquiry remains on the Notice Paper, which is found after the Orders of the Day, until the sponsor moves the adoption of the motion or launches the inquiry. If the debate on the motion or inquiry is adjourned, the matter then moves onto the Orders of the Day for the next sitting of the Senate, appearing in the proper category and according to ascending numerical order. Once the Senate has dealt with a motion or concludes debate on an inquiry, the item will no longer appear on the Order Paper and Notice Paper.
Each item on the Order Paper and the Notice Paper for a particular day is called and open for debate on each sitting day, unless the sitting ends before the item is reached. There is therefore generally an opportunity to debate each item at each sitting. Items of non-government business have an indication of the number of sittings they have been called and stood (neither debated nor adjourned by motion). If the item is called for 15 sittings and stood each time, it will be dropped from the Order Paper and Notice Paper if no other action is taken. If, however, the item is debated or adjourned by motion at any time, this “counter” drops back to zero.[v] Government Business stays on the Order Paper until it has been disposed of. In addition, items of non-government business usually have an indication of the senator who moved adjournment or in whose name debate was adjourned.[vi] This does not, however, prevent other senators from speaking on the item or the Senate from deciding on it.[vii]
Questions from senators that seek statistical or other information not readily available, or questions to which a written response is desired, may be submitted to the Clerk of the Senate in writing for inclusion in the Order Paper and Notice Paper. Such questions appear at the end of the Order Paper and Notice Paper and are published the day after their receipt and at the start of each subsequent sitting week, until answered by the government or until the end of the session.[viii] There is no requirement that a response be provided nor is there a time limit that must be respected. Appendix A contains a sample letter to the Clerk of the Senate to submit a written question.
The Scroll – An Administrative Version of the Order Paper and Notice Paper
The Scroll is an administrative document based on the Order Paper and Notice Paper. It is printed on larger paper, with more space for notes, and with abbreviated text for long items of business. Senators have access to the Scroll through a shared electronic folder. An annotated version of the Scroll is also prepared for the Speaker’s use during the sitting.
In addition, a summary version of anticipated business, referred to as the Scroll Notes, is circulated by email to all senators prior to a sitting. These notes are not authoritative and are subject to change at any time.
Journals of the Senate
The Journals of the Senate are the official record of Senate proceedings. The Journals note all proceedings, decisions and votes taken by the Senate in the course of a sitting. Presented reports[ix] appear in their entirety in the Journals, as do the lists of senators who were present in the chamber and who were in attendance to business pursuant to the Senators Attendance Policy.[x] Rulings and statements by the Speaker are also included.
The unrevised Journals are prepared based on the Clerk’s scroll[xi] and published after each sitting in both languages. Any errors or omissions related to the attendance of senators are noted in a corrigendum included in a subsequent issue of the unrevised Journals at the earliest opportunity. The unrevised Journals are posted on the Internet (at www.sencanada.ca and www.parl.ca) the morning after each sitting.
The Progress of Legislation, a document indicating the status of bills in the Senate and the date on which each stage was completed, is updated in electronic format after each sitting and is published in the Journals and the Debates of the last sitting day of each week.
At the end of each session, the Journals are revised, edited and published in bound volumes.[xii] Proclamations relating to the appointment of a Governor General and to the opening, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament, as well as full indices and various lists of senators, committees and officers of the Senate are included in the bound volumes.
The Debates of the Senate are substantially a verbatim transcript of the proceedings of the Senate published after each sitting. They are prepared from the edited text of the transcript of proceedings called the “blues.” The transcripts may be edited to reduce repetition or to increase clarity.[xiii] Senators may correct errors or make minor alterations to the blues before these are published as the Debates, but they must obtain agreement of the Senate to make substantial corrections to the Debates. If this permission is given, the correction is published in a subsequent issue of the unrevised Debates. The Debates are published in separate English and French documents that are available on the parliamentary website the morning after a sitting.
The first issue of the Debates every month includes an appendix listing the current officers of the Senate, members of the Cabinet and various lists of senators.[xiv]
At the end of each parliamentary session, the Debates are further revised and combined with full indices and published as the bound volumes of the Debates.