Parliamentary Practice in British
Columbia (3rd Edition) by E. George MacMinn, Queen’s Printer: Victoria, B.C.,
1997, 376 pages
The Canadian census is decennial and so too,
it appears, is the updating of Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia.
Neither is going to be read cover to cover, yet both are sure to be invaluable
Like its predecessor published in 1987 this
is basically an annotated discussion of the Standing Orders of the British
Columbia Legislative Assembly starting with Standing Order 1 and proceeding to
Standing Order 120.
The book is divided into twelve chapters.
The first eleven cover such things as regulation and management of the House,
committees, petitions, questions, notice and unanimous consent, privilege and
so on. Only two of these chapters, the rules of debate and proceedings on
public bills begin with an introduction. The others jump right into the
The last chapter entitled Officers of the House
is organized somewhat differently. It is divided into several parts including
private bills, the legislative library and the recording of debate. There is a
non technical introduction to each. This approach makes the book easier to read
and consideration should be given to extending introductions to all chapters in
the next edition.
At the end of the book one finds ten
"Practice Recommendations" relating to various standing orders.
Although there is no explanation as to the status or origin of these one
assumes they are guidelines intending to clarify certain aspects of the
For example Practice Recommendation 7 states
that "A Member wishing to raise a question of privilege should, as a
matter of courtesy, give the Speaker notice in writing within a reasonable time
before raising the matter in the House." This relate to Standing Order 26
which says "Whenever any matter of privilege arises it shall be taken into
One wonders why such seemingly innocuous
practice recommendations were not incorporated into the Standing Orders. There
may be an interesting story here but the reader is left in the dark.
The book also includes eight appendices
including two Summaries of Amendments to Standing Orders. One is from 1930 -
1984. The other, for the years 1986-1996, has the changes shown in bold type.
It is interesting to note how Standing Order 1 was amended. It clarified that
in unprovided cases the customs and precedents of first the British Columbia
House and second the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland should be followed as far as they may be applicable. The
rules and practices of the Canadian House of Commons which were not mentioned
before the amendment are still not mentioned! One wonders if this has more to
do with "western alienation" than with good procedure.
In the appendices there is also a copy of
the BC Constitution Act, and the Legislative Assembly Privilege Act. The most
interesting appendix is on matters ruled breach of privilege. Thirteen examples
of breaches of privilege are drawn from British Columbia and other Commonwealth
Parliaments including Canada. Other examples that have been found not to be
breaches of privilege are also included.
While it is easy to see the usefulness of
such an Appendix to presiding officers and table officials, the same cannot be
said for the Appendix on "Closure of Debate in the New Zealand House of
Representatives." There does not seem to be anything particularly unique
in the two dozen short extracts from debates some of which go back to 1931. Nor
is there enough context to get an idea of the issue under discussion. It is a
shame that an important issue like closure is treated in this curious way.