Politics

The new Liberal minority government will face its first do-or-die vote by Dec. 10

After Parliament returns next week, everyone will be watching to see whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority government survives a vote on the throne speech. But that's not the only upcoming vote that could topple the Liberal government.

A motion on government supply will be the first confidence vote for the government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Rideau Hall on Nov. 20, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

After Parliament returns next week, everyone will be watching to see whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority government survives a vote on the throne speech.

But that's not the only upcoming vote that could topple the Liberal government. It's not even the first one on the agenda.

Senior House of Commons officials told reporters Thursday that the first do-or-die vote after Parliament returns will be on a motion to allow the government to continue operating.

In last month's general election, the Liberals landed 13 seats shy of a majority in the House of Commons. That drop in seats means the Liberals will need the support of other parties on "confidence" votes, such as the speech from the throne and money bills, which include budgets.

In the parliamentary system, the government has to hold and maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. Parliamentary convention says that if a government loses a vote of confidence, the prime minister is expected to visit the governor general and either request a new election or resign.

There's no legal definition of a confidence vote but, traditionally, they're considered to be votes to approve spending or implement the budget. The government can, if it chooses, hold a vote on the throne speech, which is considered a confidence vote.

The House of Commons can pass a motion that explicitly declares its lack of confidence in the government. The government can also declare a vote to be a matter of confidence.

The speech from the throne is usually the first vote of confidence (if the government chooses to hold a vote). But because this Parliament is resuming on Dec. 5, the first vote of confidence on its agenda will be one to allow government spending to continue.

That vote is known as the "business of supply" in Commons-speak. Basically, MPs vote to supply the government with money to operate — to pay public servants, for example, or to cover the cost of federal-provincial transfer payments.

Parliament is scheduled to vote on the business of supply on or before Dec. 10.

The Speaker, MPs and the mace share a bus ride

This year's throne speech will be the first to be delivered in the new but temporary Senate building. Traditionally, the House of Commons and the Senate sit in the same building: centre block. But both chambers have been relocated temporarily to make room for renovations that could take more than a decade to complete.

Sergeant-at-Arms Patrick McDonnell waits to place the mace as Parliament resumes in West Block in Ottawa, Monday, January 28, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Instead of walking over to the red chamber for the throne speech, MPs and the newly elected Speaker will take a bus over to the Senate building on Rideau St. across from Ottawa's famed Chateau Laurier hotel.

Because it's not logistically possible to bus all 338 MPs to the Senate, a select few from the government and the opposition sides will take the bus. The ceremonial mace — the gilded sceptre that represents the authority of the Speaker — will also ride along.

The first session of Canada's 43rd Parliament opens at 8.55 a.m. Thursday. The first order of business will be electing a Speaker. After that, Governor General Julie Payette will read the throne speech.

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

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