Parliamentary Practice in British
Columbia, by E. George MacMinn, Victoria, Queen's Printer for British Columbia,
1981, 254 p.
The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
has now joined the ranks of the few legislative bodies in Canada which have
compiled detailed commentaries of speakers' rulings and procedural practices
and have not left their procedure simply to "contemporary work and
This attractive book, with a sturdy cover in
navy blue and red with gold printing, is the result of much detailed study, not
only of the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia,
but also of the practices of the Parliament and state legislatures of
Australia, the eminent British authority on Parliamentary practice – Sir
Erskine May – and of the principal text used by the Canadian House of Commons,
Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms.
The format employed by the author of this
commentary, Mr. George MacMinn, the Deputy Clerk, British Columbia Legislature,
is somewhat different from that generally applied in books on this
subject-matter. The book focuses on each standing order of the House, which is
listed in bold print, followed by an exhaustive commentary. The author then
asks questions which might arise with regard to the interpretation of this
standing order. After fisting his queries, Mr. MacMinn proceeds to find
adequate responses to each situation posed. The standard method of presentation
is simply to list the situations which have occurred in the application of a
standing order without attempting to analyse or editorialize the effect on
future disputes. Each standing order is analysed in relation to similar
references in other legislative bodies which employ the same standing order.
Under each standing order, there are extensive quotations from texts of various
Debates and Journals which cover each topic very fully and succinctly. The
author even goes so far as to suggest that certain standing orders should be
changed in view of present practices. However, as Mr. MacMinn stated in his
preface. after careful scrutiny and comparison with other jurisdictions, I have
concluded that our standing orders could be usefully amended in many areas . ..
Until such changes take place, this book will assist the House in finding and
applying the appropriate parliamentary law".
At the end of this text are several
appendices listing the standing orders not referred to earlier, various
amendments to standing orders since 1930, acts affecting the legislature and
its members, matters that were ruled breaches of privilege, closure of debate
citations from New Zealand and forms that are used in the House for various
items of business.
This publication is well organized and,
because of varying type set and adequate spacing, Is easily readable. Although
the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia are
somewhat similar to those of the Canadian House of Commons, there are several
interesting differences between the two.
One striking variance concerns the procedure
for closing off debate. When closure of debate is moved, the Speaker of the
British Columbia Legislature. under the terms of standing order 46. does not
put the motion "that the question be now put" if he believes such a
question is an abuse of the rules of the House or an infringement of the rights
of the minority. The standing order places the responsibility for weighing the
propriety of a closure mot I on squarely on the Chair. In the Canadian House of
Commons, standing order 33 allows only for any minister of the Crown to move
that the question be now put. The Speaker does not intervene or become involved
in the propriety of this motion; responsibility is clearly that of' the
Another interesting difference between the
two jurisdictions lies in the seconding of motions. Motions, except for those
pertaining to the Address in Reply to the Speech for the Throne and that the
Speaker do now leave the Chair, do not require a seconder in the British
Columbia Legislature. However, the opposite is true in Ottawa; all motions
require seconders in the House of Commons. However, I n committees, this
requirement has been eliminated.
The publication of Mr. MacMinn's book Is no
doubt a long awaited and welcome event not only for the British Columbia
Legislature, but also for serious students of parliamentary procedure. He has
advanced an interesting approach to this important subject matter by the use of
extensive responses to pertinent queries concerning each standing order.
Instead of listing summaries of speaker's rulings, lie has inserted elaborate
extracts of the parliamentary proceedings from which the precedents were
established, thereby relieving the reader from the burden of determining what
the exact situation was at that earlier time. In general, this is an interesting,
easily disgestible reference book for parliamentarians and for those who
practice this fascinating art.
G.A. (Sandy) Birch, Clerk of Committees, House of Commons