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Patrice Martin

Le processus législatif et réglementaire fédéral, Luc Gagné, Les Éditions Yvon Blais Inc., Cowansville, 1999, 424 pp.  

In a field where few works are written originally in French, this book is bound to be appreciated by many.  It differs from standard works on the topic in that its primary purpose is not to “tell everything” about the legislative process or parliamentary practice but to give citizens the tools they need to take an active part in the parliamentary process. Mr. Gagné, a former research assistant with the Law and Government Division of the Parliamentary Research Branch, explains at the outset that he wanted to fill a major publishing “gap”: the scarcity of works dealing with the rules of the House of Commons and the Senate.  This is, then, a book that will be appreciated by those who want an overview of the nuts and bolts of Parliament and a chance to have a say on policy development.

Le processus législatif et réglementaire fédéral is not aimed at the specialist reader.  That is undoubtedly why Mr. Gagné chose to present his subject “chronologically” rather than thematically.  For each type of bill, the author invites us to follow a particular bill from beginning to end and he explains how citizens can provide input at every stage.  This brings us to another innovative aspect of the book: Mr. Gagné deals not only with the stages a bill passes through in Parliament, he also gives an idea of what goes on at the “pre-parliamentary” and post-parliamentary" stages.  Thus we learn what happens (in a government department, in Cabinet, in a Member’s office, and so on) before notice is given of a bill on the Order Paper and Notice Paper and what happens to a bill once it has received Royal Assent.

The advantage of the chronological method is that it gives a good overview of the legislative process.  Anyone who wants to express his point of view on a particular kind of bill could find out whom to approach and what to expect, depending on where the bill is in the process.  A citizen who, for example, wanted to learn how to participate at the committee stage would only have to consult that section of the book to find out how to maximize his chances of being invited to submit a brief.  Aware that, while the average citizen may not want to read a big tome addressed to an expert, he may want to learn more about the federal system, Mr. Gagné uses reference notes to guide the reader to other works that are accepted as authorities in parliamentary procedure.  He also uses reference notes to reproduce some sections of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and the Senate and to define concepts that may be unfamiliar to the reader.

Mr. Gagné also chose to reproduce photocopies (perhaps too many) of House publications in order to “show” the reader what they look like and give a clear idea of where the relevant information can be found.

Where notice is given of a bill, for example, not only is the entry on the Order Paper and Notice Paper reproduced, but the first page and the relevant page of the publication are reproduced as well.  The same is true for each step in the process, and every time a new entry appears in one of the House’s publications, the entry is reproduced.  Readers who are “visual” will appreciate this approach.

While the chronological method has the advantage of allowing an overview, it can lead to repetition.  Where there are descriptions that resemble other descriptions without being “completely” identical to them, the reader may be moved to wonder whether there is a subtle difference between the two stages or if the same idea is just being expressed in a different way.  Having said this, the work will certainly interest those who are not experts in the subject but would like to know how and to what extent they may hope to participate in the legislative process.

Patrice Martin
Procedural Clerk
House of Commons


Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 23 no 1

Last Updated: 2020-03-03