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About the Senate - Procedure

The Senate Chamber is the site of the opening of Parliament, a formal ceremony held at the beginning of each new parliamentary session. During the ceremony, the governor general, seated on the throne in the Senate Chamber and in the presence of both Houses of Parliament, delivers a speech outlining the government's agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session. If the sovereign is present in Canada, he or she may make the speech from the throne instead.
Under the Rules of the Senate, the Senate sits Mondays to Fridays. Sittings of the Senate are open to the public, and are transcribed verbatim in the Debates of the Senate. Unlike the House of Commons, the Senate does not regularly broadcast its hearings, although at times matters of particular interest have been broadcast.
The Constitution Act, 1867, establishes a quorum of 15 members (including the member presiding) for the Senate. Any senator may request the speaker to ascertain the presence of a quorum; if it does not appear that one is present, the speaker orders bells to be rung, so that other senators on the parliamentary precincts may come to the chamber. If a quorum still does not appear, the speaker must adjourn the Senate until the next sitting day.
During debates, the first senator to rise is entitled to make the next speech. The speaker may settle disputes over which senator rose first, but his or her decision may be altered by the Senate. Motions must be moved by one senator and seconded by another before debate may begin; some motions, however, are non-debatable.
Speeches may be made in either of Canada's official languages (English or French). Members must address their speeches to the other senators as a whole, using the phrase "honourable senators" (honorables sC)nateurs), without directly addressing an individual senator. Instead, individual members must be referred to in the third person, not as "you." This is similar to the process in the British House of Lords where all speeches and comments are addressed to "my lords", as well as the Canadian House of Commons, where all comments are addressed to the speaker of the house. The speaker enforces the rules of the Senate during debate. Disregarding the speaker's instructions is considered a severe breach of the rules of the Senate.
No senator may speak more than once on the same question; however, a senator who has moved a substantive motion, proposed an inquiry, or sponsored a bill holds a right of reply that enables them to speak again at the close of debate. In the case of a bill, this right of reply can only be exercised at the second reading debate. The Rules of the Senate prescribe time limits for speeches. The limits depend on the nature of the motion, but are generally about fifteen minutes. However, the leaders of the government and opposition in the Senate are not subject to such time constraints. Debate may be further restricted by the passage of "time allocation" motions. Alternatively, the Senate may end debate more quickly by passing a motion "for the previous question." If such a motion carries, debate ends immediately, and the Senate proceeds to vote. Debate may also end if no senator wishes to make any further remarks.
When the debate concludes, the motion in question is put to a vote. The Senate first votes by voice vote; the presiding officer puts the question, and members respond either "yea" (in favour of the motion) or "nay" (against the motion). The presiding officer then announces the result of the voice vote, but two or more senators may challenge his or her assessment, thereby forcing a recorded vote (known as a division). First, members in favour of the motion rise, so that the clerks may record their names and votes. The same procedure is then repeated for members who oppose the motion, and thereafter repeated again for those who wish to abstain. In all cases, the speaker holds a vote (which is not usually exercised) and votes first when a recorded division is called; a tied vote results in the motion's failure. If the number of members voting, including the presiding officer, does not total 15, then a quorum is not present, and the vote is invalid.
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