Since Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have prorogued the legislature until after the federal election, we thought we’d take a moment to briefly explain the concept of prorogation and its effects.
Typically, a parliamentary session is divided into sitting days and adjournment periods. The prorogation of a Parliament brings an end to a particular session, meaning that session has been formally terminated. With prorogation, all MPs are released from their parliamentary duties until the next parliamentary session is summoned. Prorogation is issued by the Governor General, or Lieutenant-Governor at the provincial level, at the request (or advice) of the Prime Minister or Premier. What surprises most is that the practice is not governed by statute, instead it is the personal (prerogative) power of the Governor General/Lieutenant-Governor.
It’s important to note here that prorogation is different from the dissolution of Parliament. Although both bring a session to an end, dissolution is followed by a general election (and the formation of a newly elected Parliament) whereas with prorogation, the government remains in power and is not dissolved.
Before a session is prorogued, the Government announces the date upon which the next session will be convened. Prorogation can be very short (a couple hours) or several months. For the duration of a Parliament’s life, it is likely that there will be at minimum one prorogation – it is a routine practice and part of parliamentary procedure.
To see the difference in our curre
nt governments, look at the Ontario Legislative Assembly and LegisInfo (Federal) website banners below. You can see that LegisInfo states that “Parliament is Dissolved,” (since an election was called), while the OLA website states the “42nd Parliament, 1st Session was prorogued:”
So, what exactly are the effects of prorogation? All existing parliamentary business (sittings, draft bills, committee work) ends. All bills that haven’t reached Royal Assent are said to have ‘died on the Order Paper’ when Parliament is prorogued. Unless a government specifically states, prior to prorogation, that a bill or committee work will be carried over, all parliamentary business ends. Prorogation paves the way for the government to launch a fresh agenda with the start of a new session.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out these free resources and interesting facts:
- Prorogation and Dissolution (The Parliamentary Cycle – House o f Commons Procedure and Practice)
- Proroguing the Legislature (The Lieutenant Governor and the Legislature)
- Canadian prime ministers have, on average, requested prorogation every twelve to twenty-four months since 1867, and no governor general has ever rejected a prime minister’s advice to prorogue (“No Discretion: On Prorogation and the Governor General,” Nicholas A. MacDonald and James W.J. Bowden, 2011 CanLIIDocs 298)
- Notable Prorogrations (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
- Prorogue (v) dates to the early 15th century – the parliamentary practice dates to King Henry VIII (Online etymology dictionary)