Annotated Standing Orders Of The
House Of Commons, published under the authority of the Speaker of the House of
Commons, Queens Printer for Canada, Ottawa, 1989, 487 p. and Beauchesne's Rules & Forms Of The
House of Commons, 6th Edition, Alistair Fraser, W.F. Dawson and John Holtby,
Carswell Co., Toronto, 1989.
The two great names in Canadian
parliamentary procedure are J.G. Bourinot and Arthur Beauchesne former Clerks
of the House of Commons each of whom wrte a weighty tomb on the subject.
Bourinot, Clerk for more than two decades in the last century, was a great
admirer of the British authority, Erskine May, and was instrumental in
developing procedures for the new Canadian legislature along well established
Beauchesne, Clerk from 1925 to
1949, set out to make the standing orders more intelligible to the average
member of parliament by annotating them.
Their works live on in these two
recent publications, one produced by a team of experts on the staff of the
House of Commons, the other by three distinguished former parliamentary
officials two of whom, Fraser and Dawson, also collaborated on the 5th Edition
of Beauchesne published in 1977.
The impetus for both these books
can be traced in part to the parliamentary boycott of 1982 which completely
shut down the House of Commons for fourteen days. One result was to set into
motion a thorough re-examination of parliamentary rules and procedures which
culminated with the Report of the McGrath committee in June 1985 and the
implementation of most of its recommendations over the next two years.
These reforms necessitated numerous
changes in the standing orders and at one point it was decided to completely
reorganize and renumber them. The Annotated Standing Orders reprint each order
from 1 to 159 with commentary and historical summaries of each. The standing
orders are divided into sixteen chapters covering the following areas:
presiding officers, members, sittings of the House, daily program, questions,
process of debate, special debates, motions, public bills, financial
procedures, private members' business, committees of the whole, committees,
delegated legislation, private bills, house administration.
The Annotated Standing Orders
represented a considerable achievement and those responsible for the historical
research and commentary deserve to be congratulated. Readers may be surprised
to find there are actually some opinions offered about certain events that have
taken place. Thi will make reading a little more interesting to the average
member although one has to wonder if future Speakers may find themselves having
to deal with points of order based on the commentary as well as the rules
In a House where a 33 per cent
turnover rate after an election is not uncommon, the main purpose of annotated
standing orders should be to assist new members in understanding and using the
rules. While the present volume is more "user friendly" than the
plain standing orders it appears that less thought has gone into format, design
and presentation than went into the content.
For example the bilingual side by
side format may be useful to some members, clerks and presiding officers but
most members would probably have preferred a tumble format where they were
looking at only one language at a time. Another minor annoyance is the subject
index which refers to order numbers rather than page numbers. The orders are
printed on the bottom of each page but how many members would be able to
recognize what S.O. 72 relates to. It would be helpful if the header at the top
of the page consisted of the chapter name instead of just "Annotated
Many such shortcomings have been
addressed in the 6th edition of Beauchesne published by Carswell. It has a
handsome, easy to read, professional looking format. The decision to continue
publishing separate English and French editions was a wise one, although
unfortunately the French edition was not published simultaneously.
In Beauchesne the standing orders
are printed as an appendix. The first seven chapters in the book are heavily
weighted toward questions of privilege, the role of the officers of the House,
and other matters far removed from the daily legislative process. Indeed
considering the way arguments about privilege have become little more than
dilatory tactics used by all parties over the last decade, one had to wonder
why such importance continues to be given to the theory of privilege. Similarly
one has to wonder if ay useful purpose is served by publishing lists of
unparliamentary and parliamentary expressions since the same term may be in
order in one context and out of order in another.
There are attempts at literary
style in Beauchesne which would be out of place in the Annotated Standing
Orders. For example the short section on relations between the House and Senate
is dealt with under the heading "intercourse between the houses".
Canada does not have a formal process for resolving disputes between the Houses
despite the fact that a process for conferences exists in the standing orders.
Despite the interesting title the relevant rule (S.O. 77) is dealt with in a
more thorough manner in the Annotated Standing Orders and this seems to be the
pattern throughout the two books.