At the time this
article was written Marc-André Bédard was a research office with the Library of
the Quebec National Assembly.
Quebec became a
province of the new Canadian Confederation in 1867. As such it had a
Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council, just as it had as Lower Canada
in 1791 and under the Act of Union, in 1840. A Lieutenant Governor was the
Monarch's representative in the province. The first session of the Legislative
Assembly opened on December 27, 1867 and continued until February 24, 1868.
During this brief period, Members of the Assembly established the various
structures that would govern the affairs of the House.
The Clerk and his
The Clerk of the
Quebec Legislative Assembly was George Manly Muir. He began working for the
House during the Union period in 1841 and worked as Clerk of the English
Journal prior to becoming Assistant Clerk of the Assembly in 1862. He filled
this position until 1867 when he became Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.1
Born in Ontario
Muir was one of those rare employees who made the transition from the old
Legislature of the United Province of Canada to the Quebec Legislative
Assembly. There were a number of reasons for this. Ottawa had become the
permanent capital of the Union in 1858 and many employees moved there
permanently. They were no longer interested in returning to Quebec. Also, the
salaries offered by the new House of Commons in Ottawa were higher than those
offered by the provincial Legislative Assembly. Thus the only employees to
return to Quebec were those who received a promotion involving a salary
increase or those who did not receive any offers of employment in Ottawa.
George Manly Muir
appears to have been one of the latter. As Assistant Clerk at a salary of
$2,200 under the Union, lie accepted the position of Clerk in Quebec at the
salary of $1,800. He was the only employee for whom the change in status
involved a decrease in salary. The others all saw their salaries increase
substantially. Copying Clerks O.C. de la Chevrotière and Paul Ernest Smith, who
were receiving $800 and $1,000 respectively, were promoted to Clerk of the
French journal and Clerk of the English Journal, at salaries of $1,200 per
year. Other employees or supernumerary copying clerks, paid on a daily basis,
also made the transition from one House to the other to go onto an annual
Committee established at the beginning of the session reported on January 9,
1868, that the seventy-five employees established by the Speaker was
sufficient. It recommended that no new names be added. In fact a number of
Members found that too many employees had been hired. As the Member for
Montmorency, Mr. J.E. Cauchon noted, applications were coming in from
everywhere and hundreds of job seekers were blocking the halls of the House.2
including Mr. J.H. Bellerose (Member for Laval), Chairman of the Contingencies
Committee, replied that it was difficult to establish exactly how many
employees would be required at the beginning of a new political era. He said
that lie believed it would always, be possible to cut back later on the
services on those who did not appear to be required.3
The fifth report
of the Contingencies Committee gave rise to heated discussion in the House. It
was presented on January 24, 1868, and adopted with amendments two days later.
One of the Committee's recommendations was to increase its own powers to allow
better control over expenditures. Mr. Bellerose even spoke of "ruinous
waste" and "complicity in such frauds on the part of a number of
officers of this House". The employees in question were not named. Perhaps
what was said was an exaggeration. Nevertheless, the committee recommended that
the Sergeant-at-Arms should make no payments relating to contingent
expenditures without the written approval and order of the Chairman of the
Contingencies Committee, not only during the recess of the Parliament but also
when it is sitting. Following this recommendation, Mr. Cauchon noted that
during the recess, there were no longer any standing committees and new
committees had to be appointed at the beginning of each session. The report was
finally adopted with an amendment specifying that the Sergeant-at-Arms could
not "make any expenditures pertaining to contingent expenditures of the
House without the order in writing of the Clerk of the House, approved (if
during the session) by the Chairman of the Contingent Committee, or (if during the
recess) by Mr. Speaker".
The report also
recommended reducing the expenditures for subscriptions to the journals (expect
for the Official Gazette). Henceforward only three copies of the journals would
be taken during the session and only one copy during the recess.4
During the month
of February 1868, the Contingencies Committee, in a number of reports approved
by the House, reduced expenditures still further and decreased the number of
Thus on February
7, when the Committee submitted its budgetary estimates of $88,950, it
expressed the desire that "for the future most vigorous measures of
retrenchment must be adopted". It further recommended "that for the
future the Department of Public Works shall have the superintendence of the Parliament
Buildings, their heating and lighting; and also the control over the night
guards of said buildings". The report was approved by the House on
Still with a view
to cutting back on the Legislature's spending, the Contingencies Committee
recommended that the Chairman of the Committee be able to communicate with the
Contingencies Committee of the Legislative Council to study possible savings
that could be made through common action. The House approved this report, but
on February 18, 1868, the Legislative Council refused to accede to this
On February 13,
the Members approved a report from the Committee recommending restricting the
number of employees for the following session. The report reads as follows:
"that the number of extra messengers be reduced from twenty to ten ...
temporary messengers to be paid only during tile session. That the number of
permanent charwomen be fixed at two ... Temporary charwomen to be paid only
during the session. That the messengers employed in the House to distribute stationary,
and paste the documents, etc., and the guardians of the toilet room, be
employed during the sittings of the house as guardians in the galleries, or
made useful elsewhere; and that one messenger only be kept in the reading room
and Library, respectively."
Two days later,
the Contingencies Committee submitted further recommendations which were
accepted by the Assembly. These decisions were still concerned with limiting
spending. In future, non permanent employees were to be paid only during the session.
"That whenever, in the future, a vacancy shall occur in the staff of the
officers or other employees of the House, ... it shall not be filled up until
after the case has been submitted to this Committee." It was also decided
that employees would not receive any additional pay for extra work, whether
required of them by the Clerk of the House or any other authorized or proper
February 17, the House concurred in a report of the Committee recommending better
utilization of personnel when Parliament was not sitting: employees of the
House were to be "placed at the disposal of the other departments of the
Civil Service, whenever any of these departments may require supernumerary
Regulations of the
At the opening of
the session on December 27, 1867, no code of regulations officially governed
debates in the Legislative Assembly. According to British parliamentary custom,
Clerk Muir chaired the election of the Speaker. He was also appointed, along
with Law Clerk McCord, to administer the oath to newly elected Members of the
Assembly. The following day, Etienne Simard was appointed Assistant Clerk by
It was also
decided that "the Votes and Proceedings of this House be printed, being
first perused by Mr. Speaker" and "That until otherwise provided, the
Rules, Regulations, arid Standing Orders of the House of Commons of Canada, be
those of this House; and that in all unprovided cases the Rule. and Regulations
of the House of Commons of the British Parliament will be applicable."
A Select Committee
was immediately appointed to frame Rules, Regulations and Standing Orders for
the Assembly. Since this report was approved by the House only on February 22,
1868, two days before the end of the session, for all practical purposes it was
the Rules, Regulations and Standing Orders of the House of Commons which were
in use for the 1867-1868 session. It should be noted that the Standing Orders
of the House of Commons as used in the Quebec Legislative Assembly were amended
on a number of occasions between December 28, 1867 and February 22, 1868,
particularly with respect to the time limit for receiving petitions concerning
private Members' bills.
The Rules and
Regulations adopted on February 22, 1,868 comprised 116 sections. Of these,
thirty pertained to the role of the Clerk and employees of the Legislative
Assembly. It should nevertheless be noted that there were very few innovations
in these sections, which sometimes appear to be largely based on the
Regulations of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada.
Sections 101 to
110 specifically dealt with conditions of work for employees of the Assembly.
"101. I lie
hours of attendance of the respective officer of this house, and the extra
clerks employed during the session, shall be fixed from time to time by Mr.
filling any vacancy in the service of the House by the Speaker, enquiry shall
be made touching the necessity for the continuance of such office; and the
amount of salary attached to the same shall be fixed by the Speaker subject to
the approval of the house.
103. It shall be
the duty, of the officers of this house (including the clerk and clerk's
assistant) to complete and finish the work remaining at the close of the session.
104. The clerk of
the house shall be responsible for the safe keeping of all the papers anti
records of the house, and shall have the direction and control over all the
officers and clerks employed in the offices, subject to such orders as he may
from time to time receive from Mr. Speaker, or the house.
105. The clerk of
the house shall place on the Speaker's table, every morning, previous to the
meeting of the house, the order of the proceedings for the day.
106. It shall be
the duty of the clerk to make and cause to be printed, and delivered to each
member, at the commencement of every session of parliament, a list of the
report or other periodical statements which is the duty of any officer or
department of the government, or any bank or other corporate body, to make to
the house, referring to the act or resolution, and page of the volume of the
laws or journals wherein the same may be ordered; and placing under the name of
each officer or corporation a list of reports or returns required of him or it
to be made, and the time when the report or periodical statement may be
sergeant-at-arms, attending the house shall be responsible for the safekeeping
of the mace, furniture, and fittings thereof, and for the conduct of the
messengers and inferior servants of the House, subject to the orders which he
may, from time to time, receive from Mr. Speaker, from the House and, in the
absence of the Speaker, from the Clerk of the House, and, in the absence of the
Clerk, from the Assistant Clerk.
108. No stranger,
who shall have been committed by order of the house, to the custody of the
sergeant-at-arms, shall be released from such custody, until he has paid a fee
of four dollars to the Sergeant-at-Arms.
109. No allowance
shall, in future, be made to any person in the employ of this house, who may
not reside at the seat of government, for travelling expenses in coming to
attend his duties.
110. The clerk
shall employ at the outset of a session, with the approbation of the Speaker,
such extra writers as may be necessary; engaging others as the public business
sections relating specifically to the role of the Clerk in connection with the
Library were added. Section 114 authorized the Clerk to admit persons to the
Library during recess of Parliament. Section 115 authorized the Clerk to
subscribe to newspapers published in the province and "for such other
papers, British and foreign, as may from time to time be directed by the
Speaker." He was also authorized under section 115 to 'import annually the
continuation of periodical works in the Library."
Committee of Printing
The committee of
printing was a "joint" committee, i.e. it included Members from the
Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly. The idea of a joint committee of
printing was not a new one. It dated back to the era of United Canada. At the
time it had been decided to establish this type of mechanism to reduce the
enormous expenses incurred by the many publication requirements of both houses,
The system was therefore adopted in Quebec following Confederation and the
committee was established on December 30, 1867.
On January30, the
Committee submitted its first report on the subject of which documents were to
be printed and how they were to be distributed. The report concludes by
specifying that in addition to some 100 copies distributed to members one copy
of the Journals and sessional papers are to be provided to:
- The Executive Departments in Ottawa, Toronto,
- the Departments of Crown Lands, Provincial
Secretary and Works and Mines in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
- the Judges of the Superior Courts in the
- Colleges, Universities, etc., in the Dominion.
- certain Libraries in the Dominion, England,
United States, and other countries with whom exchanges are usually made.
On February 22,
1868, the Joint Committee of Printing submitted its second report to the House
which was adopted that very day. It primarily concerned procedures for improved
control over expenses stemming from various printing requirements. It was
decided that accounts were not to be paid by the accountant prior to
certification by the Chairman of the Joint Committee of Printing. During
recess, however, the Clerks of the two Houses were authorized to certify
payment of accounts for printing. The Committee also decided that separate
books would be kept for printing on behalf of the Council and the Assembly, and
that each House would pay its own respective accounts.
Also on February
22, the Joint Committee of Printing submitted its third report concerning
contracts for printing, paper and binding. The session ended two days later and
the House does not appear to have adopted the report; we do know at least that
submissions had been requested for these three types of contracts.
estimates submitted on February 7, 1868, the various expenses on printing
totalled approximately $15,000 out of a total of $88,950 foe all contingent
1. Mr. Muir held
the position until May 31, 1879.
2. A.N.Q., Journals,
Legislative Assembly of Quebec, First Session 1867-1868, Quebec, vol. 1,