Procedures for the Dissolution of Parliament and the Calling of an Election

Dissolution terminates a Parliament and is followed by a general election, the date of which is set by the governor-in-council, that is, the governor general acting on the advice of the prime minister. The Constitution Act, 1982 stipulates that the House of Commons must be dissolved within five years and that Parliament must sit at least once every 12 months. Dissolution abolishes all pending legislation and ends further committee activity.

Dissolution of Parliament takes place when the governor general issues a proclamation on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen under the Great Seal of Canada.

Background

The power to dissolve Parliament is a royal prerogative exercised by the governor general. The governor general retains certain constitutional discretion whether to accept the advice of the prime minister to dissolve Parliament.

General elections are to be held on the third Monday in October, in the fourth calendar year following the last general election (in accordance with the Canada Elections Act S.C. 2007, c. 10, s. 1), unless the governor general dissolves Parliament prior to that date. 

Procedures for Dissolution

The prime minister traditionally visits the governor general at Rideau Hall and submits an instrument of advice to the governor general recommending dissolution. An instrument of advice is a written document representing the prime minister’s personal recommendation that the governor general authorize a constitutional or legislative action of government. The signing of the documents normally takes place at Rideau Hall. When a dissolution is agreed to, the documents are signed in the following order:

  1. The prime minister submits an instrument of advice to the governor general recommending the dissolution of Parliament. The governor general signs the instrument indicating his or her approval.
  2. In the name of Her Majesty The Queen, the governor general signs the corresponding  proclamation under the Great Seal of Canada dissolving Parliament. (The deputy registrar general of Canada and the deputy attorney general of Canada sign the proclamation prior to its submission to the governor general.)
  3. The governor general signs the minute of a meeting of the Privy Council that authorizes the issue of election writs, fixing the polling day and the date of return of writs. Election writs authorize the conduct of elections in electoral districts.
  4. In the name of Her Majesty The Queen, the governor general signs the corresponding proclamation declaring that election writs are to be issued. (The deputy registrar general of Canada and the deputy attorney general of Canada sign the proclamation prior to its submission to the governor general.)
  5. The prime minister submits an instrument of advice to the governor general for the issue of a proclamation for the pro forma summoning of a new Parliament. (Pro forma refers to the date that is set for the summoning of Parliament by the prime minister when dissolution is granted by the governor general. The date can be delayed further, but it must always be at least a day after the date for the return of election writs.)
  6. The governor general signs the corresponding proclamation in the name of Her Majesty The Queen for the pro forma summoning of a new Parliament. (The deputy registrar general of Canada and the deputy attorney general of Canada sign the proclamation prior to its submission to the governor general.)        

Procedures after Dissolution

Immediately following the granting of dissolution of Parliament, the governor general informs Her Majesty The Queen of the dissolution and of the date set for the general election.

Election writs for each of the constituencies are then signed on behalf of the governor general by the secretary to the governor general, who is the deputy to the governor general, and by the chief electoral officer.

A minimum of 36 days is required by statute between the date of issuance of election writs and the polling day. The date for the return of writs should be at least 21 days after polling day.

Polling day cannot be earlier than the nearest Monday (or Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday) after the 36th day following dissolution and the proclamation of the writs.     

For additional information, please consult:
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009.
Edited by Audrey O’Brien and Marc Bosc
© House of Commons, 2009
http://www.parl.gc.ca/procedure-book-livre