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
House of Commons