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Gary Levy

Selected Decisions Of Speaker James Jerome 1974-1979, published under the authority of the Clerk of the House of Commons, Ottawa, 1983. 174 p.

Proceedings in legislative bodies are based on Standing Orders, written conventions and decisions of successive Speakers. The latter is the subject of this book, intended as the first in a series which, when completed, "will bring together in summary form ail the significant decisions of the Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons".

This volume contains more than one hundred decisions grouped under fifteen headings such as "Questions", Adjournment Motion Proposed Under Standing Order 26", "Precedence and Sequence of Business'. etc. Each ruling is presented in a uniform format with a paragraph of background information, a brief statement of the issue involved. a summary of the decision, the reasons given by the Speaker. authorities cited and references to appropriate pages in Hansard. The type is easy to read with English on the left hand cage and French on the right. There is both an analytical and a chronological index.

The format works well in this case but it should not necessarily be applied to rulings of all previous Speakers. In many cases they were rulings on Standing Orders or problems that no longer exist. A decision will have to be made as to whether future books will be primarily historical works or whether decisions selected will be limited to include only those which still have some relevance today.

The book will be welcomed by parliamentarians and staff for it will save them many hours of searching for references. it is understandable, although unfortunate, that the names of the many people who collaborated on this collective work are not mentioned somewhere.

In the course of a session, Speakers deliver numerous rulings of a routine nature. It would undermine the usefulness of the book it all such rulings were included. The editors tried to select those which, in their judgement, were the most significant. Still there is much repetition with several rulings making essentially the same point.

A more serious problem is caused by the difficulty of condensing all the nuances of a complicated procedural issue into a paragraph of background or a statement of the issue. Thus a few of the rulings seem to contradict each other. For example on July 25, 1975 Speaker Jerome ruled that an accusation by a newspaper that a Member of Parliament had leaked budget information to a businessman was a prima facie question of privilege (p. 20). Three years later "The Chair expressed serious doubts as to whether the convention of budget secrecy falls within the area of privilege at all.(p. 36). If the question arises again members will no doubt want to examine the original material in full.

The Editor

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Vol 7 no 1

Last Updated: 2020-09-14