A sitting of the Legislative Assembly is a formal meeting during which the Assembly will collectively debate and decide on questions placed before it. As noted in House of Commons Procedure and Practice: “A ‘sitting’ of the House begins when the Speaker or another Presiding Officer takes the chair, sees that a quorum is present, and calls the House to order. A sitting ends with the adjournment of the House” (3rd ed., p. 399). Unless otherwise ordered, sittings of the Legislative Assembly take place during the times prescribed in the Standing Orders, with the Assembly usually meeting from Monday to Thursday during what is referred to as a “sitting week.” Sitting weeks are generally set in accordance with the Standing Orders and are outlined in the “parliamentary calendar,” which is published by the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly at the beginning of each year. Changes to the designated schedule are brought forward as may be required.
The Legislative Assembly is the master of its own business. To allow the Assembly to conduct its business in as efficient and structured a way as possible, proceedings are organized in an ordered manner, which is outlined in greater detail in this chapter.
The Legislative Assembly is the master of its own business. To allow the Assembly to conduct its business in as efficient and structured a way as possible, proceedings are organized in an ordered manner.
5.2Schedule of Sittings of the Legislative Assembly
For much of the Legislative Assembly’s early history, sittings essentially took place on an ad hoc basis. The Standing Orders only provided that sittings began at 2 p.m. and recessed from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. (when applicable) until the adjournment of the House. Over time, the sitting schedule of the Legislative Assembly became more structured, though it was varied from time to time by Sessional Orders. Standing Order 2(1) 82 was last amended in 2014, providing for the current daily sitting times of the Legislative Assembly (see B.C. Journals, February 12, 2014, pp. 8-9).
STANDING ORDER 2
(1) The time for the ordinary meeting of the House shall, unless otherwise ordered, be as follows:
|Monday:||Two distinct sittings:|
|10 a.m. to 12 noon|
|1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.|
|Tuesday:||Two distinct sittings:|
|10 a.m. to 12 noon|
|1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.|
|Wednesday:||1:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.|
|Thursday:||Two distinct sittings:|
|10 a.m. to 12 noon|
|1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.|
(2) (a) Unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet:
(i)the second Tuesday in February to the last Thursday in May inclusive, and
(ii)the first Monday in October to the last Thursday in November inclusive.
(b) The House shall stand adjourned during the week of Spring Vacation as provided in the School Act, the week of Good Friday, the week of Easter Monday, the 4th week after Easter (if Easter falls in March), the week of Victoria Day, the week of Thanksgiving Day and the week of Remembrance Day.
(c) As soon as possible after New Year’s Day, the Clerk of the House shall publish a calendar which shows the days on which the House shall meet, according to the Standing Orders.
The current Standing Order 2(1) has incorporated the words “two distinct sittings” from Sessional Orders previously adopted by the Legislative Assembly. The wording distinguishes the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday sittings from those which are a mere continuation of another sitting. There is further support for the view that a late sitting can be treated as an extension of the earlier sitting. Standing Order 2, by its clear wording, refers to “distinct” sittings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, thereby triggering new Orders of the Day and the attendant procedures.
On days when the Legislative Assembly meets, it does so in accordance with a predetermined schedule of sittings and hours of interruption and an annual parliamentary 83 calendar, as prescribed in Standing Orders 2 and 3. The Legislative Assembly controls its own sittings and retains a large margin of flexibility in the timing and duration of its sittings, giving rise to occasional departures from the usual timetable. By agreement, sittings of the Legislative Assembly are routinely recessed or suspended, usually resuming within a short period. This usually happens for practical reasons, to allow the Assembly to manage its time as it sees fit, such as, for example, to allow for a break until the next order of business begins. The Speaker also has the discretion to recess proceedings of the Legislative Assembly at any time, as circumstances may warrant.
5.2.1Application of “Unless Otherwise Ordered”
Standing Order 2 provides the sitting schedule of the Legislative Assembly but also highlights that the Assembly may alter the set schedule by adopting a motion to that effect.
In 1974, a point of order was raised on a motion to set the time of the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning, without providing an hour for adjournment. The Member quoted Erskine May, which states: “As a sitting on either of these days [Saturday and Sunday] is not subject to any rules of the House regulating the hours of meeting, interruption and adjournment, such matters have been provided for in the resolution appointing a Saturday sitting…” (18th ed., p. 287). Speaker Dowding’s decision on the point of order was as follows (B.C. Journals, March 30, 1974, p. 127):
The purpose of Standing Order 3(2) is to provide an alternate sitting hour for the House when business has been interrupted by the clock and no other order has been made for a meeting of the House. This Standing Order ensures that the House will know when its next meeting will be if no other hour is fixed.
The House today, having, at 12:58 p.m., fixed its next sitting to commence at 2 p.m., it thus follows that the purposes of Standing Order 3(2) is no longer required and the next sitting of the House can be ordered to be fixed for any time after the House adjourns from the 2 o’clock sitting.
In this instance the hour was fixed for Saturday at 10 a.m. and the House having inherent power to regulate its own sittings, may make such an order for whatever hour or day it chooses — whether it be for 10 a.m. Saturday or six months hence.
As the Saturday 10 a.m. sitting is a duly constituted sitting, it follows that the House will have power to adjourn that sitting by order.
The text of Standing Order 2(1) clearly provides that the prescribed schedule is in effect “unless otherwise ordered.” The Legislative Assembly follows the practice of having the Assembly adopt a motion on the final day of the spring and fall sitting periods that authorizes the Speaker to recall the Assembly should the need arise. Commonly referred to as the “long adjournment motion,” it provides that the Speaker, after consultation with the government, determines that the Legislative Assembly shall meet prior to 84 recalling the Assembly (see B.C. Votes and Proceedings, May 30, 2019, p. 10). Therefore, at the call of the Speaker, the Assembly may be reconvened to deal with any matters which may arise between scheduled sitting periods.
If it is anticipated that the Legislative Assembly would be required to sit on a day when it does not usually do so in the midst of a scheduled sitting period (e.g., a Saturday or a Sunday), it is likely that the Government House Leader would move a debatable motion “That the House at its rising stand adjourned until (specific date and time).”
5.2.2Extension of Normal Time of Adjournment
When the Legislative Assembly wishes to continue with business beyond the time fixed for adjournment in the Standing Orders, the Government House Leader (or a Minister acting on behalf of the Government House Leader) may move “That this House stand recessed for ___ minutes, and thereafter sit until adjournment.” Other forms of recess motions may be moved to effect a recess and later continuation of a sitting.
If this debatable motion is passed, the Mace remains on the Table, and the Speaker vacates the chair for the time specified in the motion. Upon resumption of the chair by the Speaker, the business under consideration at the moment of interruption is resumed, and the Legislative Assembly is presumed to be in an extension of the same sitting, overcoming the necessity for a new Order Paper or calling of the Orders of the Day.
If, during the extended sitting period, it is desired to proceed to another order or item of business within an order, the Government House Leader may call that item of business for consideration in the usual manner.
5.2.3Additional Sitting on the Same Day
If, for any reason, a new and distinct sitting of the Legislative Assembly is required, the debatable motion would be “That the House, at its rising, stand adjourned until (7 p.m. today), and thereafter sit until adjournment.” The Speaker would leave the Chamber in procession with the Mace, and upon the Speaker’s return at the prescribed hour, the Legislative Assembly would commence with the business under Routine Business.
5.2.4Sitting Beyond Midnight
The interval between the actual adjournment of the Legislative Assembly and the time agreed to for the next sitting would have to provide sufficient time to permit the printing of a new Order Paper.
A sitting of the Legislative Assembly is not necessarily confined to a single calendar day, as one sitting may consume more than one day. These types of sittings, although infrequent, may occur for the purpose of, for example, completing the remaining stages of a bill, or to allow Members to speak to another item of business. There are numerous 85 occasions in B.C. when the Legislative Assembly continued to sit after midnight (see B.C. Journals, November 6, 2009, p. 72; January 17, 2009, p. 157; October 6, 2005, pp. 40-1; April 28, 2004, pp. 93, 96).
If the Legislative Assembly continues to sit after midnight or after the scheduled sitting hour the next day, the sitting is considered to be an extension of the previous day’s sitting. The Assembly is then deemed to be sitting until adjournment on that second day. At the conclusion of an extended sitting, the Legislative Assembly stands adjourned until the regular commencement time of the next sitting, which is either the same day, if that time has not yet been reached, or the next day, if the extended sitting has gone beyond that time. Therefore, if a sitting on any day should be prolonged beyond the hour of meeting on the following day, no independent sitting can take place on that day, and the Legislative Assembly rises when it has disposed of the business of the sitting prolonged from the previous day (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §17.3, p. 361). In this context, there are instances when the previous day’s extended sitting was adjourned for a short time in order to initiate a new sitting on the second day at the scheduled commencement time (see B.C. Journals, October 6, 2005, pp. 40-1).
Standing Order 2(2) sets out the parliamentary calendar, designating the sitting weeks of the Legislative Assembly in a calendar year, currently divided into a spring sitting period and a fall sitting period. As the spring sitting period includes provisions for the consideration of the provincial budget estimates, the fall sitting period typically focuses primarily on legislative matters. The Standing Order tasks the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly with publishing the parliamentary calendar at the beginning of each calendar year.
The parliamentary calendar designates the sitting weeks of the Legislative Assembly in a calendar year.
Changes to the designated schedule are brought forward as may be required. These circumstances are typically provided with the terms of a long adjournment motion, which provides the Speaker with the authority, after consultation with the government, to recall the Legislative Assembly.
A proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor to prorogue, dissolve or convoke the Legislative Assembly supersedes the sitting schedule set out in the parliamentary calendar.86
5.3.1Time of Adjournment and Interruption of Business
In light of the amendment to Standing Order 2(1), a consequential amendment to Standing Order 3 was also adopted by the Legislative Assembly on February 12, 2014 (see B.C. Journals, February 12, 2014, p. 9). The Standing Order reinforces the scheduled time of adjournment of afternoon sittings of the Legislative Assembly, and provides for the next sitting.
STANDING ORDER 3
If at the hour of 6:30 p.m. on any Monday and Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday or 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, the business of the day is not concluded and no other hour has been agreed on for the next sitting, the Speaker shall leave the Chair:
On Monday until 10 a.m. Tuesday
On Tuesday until 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
On Wednesday until 10 a.m. Thursday
On Thursday until 10 a.m. Monday
subject to the provisions of Standing Order 2(2)(b).
5.3.2Interruption of Business
The procedure following the interruption of business “by the clock” has evolved over the years, as reflected in certain proceedings and a subsequent decision of Speaker Shantz (see B.C. Journals, January 27 and 28, 1959, pp. 14-6):
Mr. Speaker left the chair at 6 o’clock p.m.
Eight O’clock P.M.
The Speaker called for the reading of Orders of the Day.
Mr. Strachan rose to a point of order to the effect that the House should resume the interrupted business.
Mr. Speaker held otherwise that this was a new sitting and the House should proceed to Orders of the Day, reasons to be given tomorrow….
The Speaker made a statement as follows:
Honourable Members — When I left the chair at 6 o’clock last night, advising the members that I would be back at 8 o’clock, I was prepared to conform to the procedure used on a former occasion. In 1957 there was a similar occurrence when, at 6 o’clock, the Speaker left the chair to resume at 8 o’clock. This was during the debate on a motion made by a member. At 8 o’clock when the House was resumed, the interrupted business was proceeded with. This was not questioned and no point of order raised.
When I resumed the chair at 8 o’clock, my attention was directed to an order made by this House which overrides our Standing Order 3, and which reads as follows: “That on Tuesday, January 27th, 1959, and on all following days of the Session there will be two distinct sittings on each day — one from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and one from 8 p.m. until adjournment — unless otherwise ordered.”
As no time had been otherwise ordered for the next sitting, it could only be a new sitting under this order and it is not within my authority to change it.
There was a further order made by this House varying our Standing Order 25 as follows: “That the Speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor be taken into consideration at the next sitting of the House, and that this Order have precedence over all other business, except introduction of Bills, until disposed of.”
Each of the orders quoted above varied in our Standing Orders during this Session.
When the hour came to 8 o’clock, the House was then in a new sitting and Orders of the Day called.
As this was a new sitting, our motion giving precedence to the debate on the Address in Reply to the message by His Honour the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the Session must be given precedence over the interrupted business. I am of the opinion that the procedure followed in 1957 was not correct and that the House at 8 o’clock should have started with Orders of the Day, necessitating that it go into Committee of Supply which then had precedence. And I so rule.
The decision of Speaker Shantz reinforces the distinct sittings of the Legislative Assembly outlined in Standing Order 2(1), and that new Orders of the Day must be laid before the Assembly at each sitting. Business of the Legislative Assembly interrupted by the provision of Standing Order 3 does not automatically become the matter being considered by the Assembly at its next sitting.
5.3.3Business Transacted After Moment of Interruption
Upon interruption of proceedings by the clock (i.e., at the time prescribed in Standing Order 2(1)), certain routine matters may be completed by the Legislative Assembly prior to the Speaker (or, in Committee of the Whole, the Chair) leaving the chair. The general rule is that opposed business cannot take place after the hour of interruption. In providing more context on the disposal of questions before the House at the moment of interruption and on what constitutes “opposed business,” Erskine May states:
The standing orders which prescribe a limit to the time for the transaction of business are not so strictly interpreted as to prevent the House from completing, when the fixed hour arrives, the proceeding on which a decision is in process of being taken.
Under this practice, proceedings on such business are extended beyond the hour appointed for the interruption of business. Consequently, whenever a question is under decision, either by collecting the voices or by a division, at an hour appointed by the standing orders for the interruption of business, the decision of the House is announced and acted upon after that fixed hour. Nor does the fact that the moment is passed when business should be interrupted prevent the putting from the Chair — if necessary, after an intervening closure motion — of the main, original or any further questions consequent upon that decision of the House, and any such contingent question may be decided by a division.
If, however, a Member objects to proceeding on any further question, not being a question inherent in the decision in process of being taken, that action…converts the business then under transaction into opposed business. The Speaker, or in committee the Chairman, therefore proceeds to interrupt the business…. (25th ed., §17.10, p. 365).
Motions to adjourn the Legislative Assembly, to adjourn debate or to fix the time for the next sitting are routine motions, and are not considered opposed business. In the Legislative Assembly, the Chair has indicated that they will not take notice of the clock during debate on a motion involving business of the Assembly, or to fix a time for the next meeting of the Assembly (see B.C. Journals, September 19, 1983, p. 150; December 1, 1981, p. 23-4). Therefore, if opposed business is under debate and the Speaker’s attention is drawn to the clock, in the absence of unanimous consent, the Speaker must adjourn the sitting forthwith. This is recognized in a decision of Speaker Dowding (B.C. Journals, March 22, 1973, p. 171-3):
The Honourable Member for Columbia River raised an important matter relating to the adjournment of the House by the interruption of business at 6 o’clock p.m. on March 20 while debate on second reading of a Bill was under way and the Honourable Member for South Peace River was addressing the House.
The sequence of events disclosed in the records indicate that while the honourable member was speaking after 6 o’clock p.m., the Honourable Member for North Peace River rose “on a point of order,” drawing attention of the Speaker to the clock.
The Speaker asked the honourable member who had been speaking to be seated and he quite properly complied. A Minister, the Honourable Member for Cowichan–Malahat, rose while the Speaker was in the Chair and moved the “adjournment of this debate until the next sitting of the House.” When objection was heard, not formally, however, the Speaker indicated to the House that the honourable member who had seated himself at the interruption of business did not thereby lose his place in the debate which had been under way. (This ruling is confirmed by May, 17th edition, p. 444, at bottom of page.)
An examination of the Journals has disclosed no occasion where a similar situation has arisen. Honourable members will recall that on a number of
occasions the Speaker and the Chairman of the Committee have left the Chair at the hour of interruption, returning at 8 o’clock p.m. but on such occasions no motion of a formal or any other nature has been made prior to the Chair being vacated. It seems significant, however, that on such occasions when the Chairman has left the Chair at the hour of interruption, and after the hour of 6 o’clock p.m., he has reported to the House, asked leave to sit again, a time therefore has been appointed, and has been ordered by the House. In other words, formal business has in fact been transacted after the moment of interruption.
Such a procedure is also noted in the British Journals and referred to in May, 18th edition, p. 291 — see Commons Journals (1957/58) p. 180.
Our Standing Order 3(1) recently adopted reads:
3(1) If at the hour of 6 o’clock p.m. on any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday the business of the day is not concluded and no other hour has been agreed upon for the next sitting, the Speaker shall leave the Chair until 8 o’clock p.m. and the House will continue until 11 o’clock p.m. unless otherwise ordered.
From this wording it seems implicit that when some conclusion of the business at hand is required and another hour agreed upon for the sitting, it can be done.
This is borne out in May, 17th edition, at p. 633, which reads:
Procedure when business is not completed at the end of a sitting — A Committee of the whole House has no power either to adjourn its consideration of any matter for a future sitting. If its consideration of the matter be not concluded, or if all the matters referred to it have not been considered, in the Lords, the House is resumed and the chairman moves “that the House be again put into committee” on a future day. When the House is put into committee, it may be resumed upon a question put by the Lord in the chair. In the Commons, the chairman is either directed (a question to that effect having been put and agreed to) to “report progress and ask leave to sit again,” or (if proceedings in the Committee are cut short by the hour of interruption) he reports progress and asks leave to sit again without such direction.
Thus, after the hour of interruption certain formalities to preserve the order of business are permitted as cited in that excerpt. The Chairman does not leave the House but calls in the Speaker, reports to him, and a time is thereupon fixed by the House for the resumption of the business interrupted. All of this occurs after the hour of interruption and by reason of the time having been noted. Clearly, May contemplates the preservation of the business of the day should the House wish to do so. Failing action by the House to agree upon a next sitting time, the Speaker returns at 8 o’clock p.m. that evening.
To resume the narrative of events at adjournment time on March 20, a motion to fix the hour for the next sitting was moved by the House Leader.
At this point, the question to be resolved by the Speaker was the nature and extent of business allowable to be transacted at the hour of interruption.
It seemed to me in the brief time available that if it was competent for the House to act upon the request of the Chairman after the hour of interruption, as above noted, it was also competent for the House at this time to determine the hour of its next sitting. Standing Order 3 provides that an hour other than 8 o’clock p.m. may be agreed upon.
Such motions, in accordance with the practice indicated in May do not, in the opinion of the Chair, fall into the category of opposed business but are clearly formal matters involving the business and hours of sitting of the House. This is borne out in our Standing Orders by Standing Order 45(2) which states that adjournment motions shall be decided without debate or amendment and Standing Order 34 which declares that a motion to adjourn shall always be in order.
Thus, so long as the House is assembled and properly constituted, such motions according to our Standing Orders appear to be in order.
Were it otherwise, the proceedings of Parliament could be frustrated every day by a member holding the floor until past the hour of interruption.
May, 17th edition, p. 466, states that in such case a member “who, without actually transgressing any of the rules of debate, uses his right of speech for the purpose of obstructing the business of the House, or obstructs the business of the House by misusing the forms of the House, is technically not guilty of disorderly conduct…. He is, however, guilty of contempt of the House, and may be named.” I emphasize that I am not thereby imputing such a motive to the member in the case herein.
Thus the House has by custom the power to prevent its proceedings from being thwarted or obstructed, whether by a member refusing to adjourn the debate at the hour of interruption or by “using a speech for the purpose of obstructing the business of the House.” That this is so is implied by the fact that May indicates that another member who has not spoken at the hour of interruption may stand, move adjournment of the debate, yet the member who has occupied the floor may still resume after the adjournment.
A further matter arose which the honourable member has referred.
Following the motion and a division which occupied some time, the Speaker left the Chair at 6:13 o’clock p.m. after a division and returned without pause to the Chair. The House resumed the business with which it had been occupied at adjournment, namely, the speech of the member who had been speaking at the hour of interruption. Orders of the Day were not called but no formal objections to this was taken; indeed, it was clear that it seemed the wish of the members that the debate resume with the same member retaining his place in the debate. He resumed his speech without protest and the House continued without further pause.
The physical absence of the Mace on the Table after the Speaker had left the Chair was also mentioned.
According to Hatsell, “When the Mace lies upon the Table the House is a House; when under, it is a Committee; when out of the House, no business can be done; when from the Table and upon the Sergeant’s shoulder, the Speaker alone manages.”
In my view, with respect, the position of the Mace on the Table in no way invalidated the adjournment and resumption of the proceedings.
The House was assembled and duly constituted. It adjourned; and pursuant to its express will, the Speaker immediately returned to the Chair after having left it. The Mace still being “in the Chamber,” the business of the House could be done immediately in accordance with the motion passed.
It is worth noting that although we follow the “customs and usages of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom” in all cases not provided for, no mention of their Standing Orders is included in our Standing Order 1. Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 4th edition, p. 9, states:
As Canadian procedure was based on British precedents in so far as circumstances permitted them to be followed in a new country, our Legislatures, from the day of the Constitution Act of 1791, naturally referred, in all cases of doubt, to the usages and customs of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom…but they have never considered themselves bound by the Standing Orders in force at Westminster which govern local practice and are not applicable to any other legislative body than the one for which they were passed.
In the British practice a motion to adjourn could be contentious business by reason of their Standing Orders providing for debate. Our Standing Order 45(2) departs from this and appears to be similar or analogous to their “exempted business.” Perusal of the British Journals confirms that at the hour of interruption there may follow resolutions, motions, and even the resolving of the House into Committee providing there is no debate on the matter in the process of doing so, as is also true in our Legislative Assembly on the motion to adjourn debate or to adjourn the House. An example to illustrate the British practice can be found at p. 372 of the Commons Journal (1891), volume 213.
In sum, in my respectful opinion, the Assembly, by reason of Standing Order 3(1), can adjourn the debate and agree upon the next sitting at the hour of interruption, since the motions are made without the right to debate and because the Assembly has the power to preserve its proceedings by its own will and purpose. In that course the Speaker must be the servant of the House in leaving and returning to the Chair. Once these two motions were disposed of, he was bound to comply therewith.
The rule to supersede, as it applied to the time of interruption of business, has been rendered inoperative by an amendment to Standing Order 32 which, in effect, prevents a motion from lapsing by virtue of an interruption by the clock. More information on Standing Order 32 is provided in Chapter 7 (Rules of Debate).92
5.4Opening and Closing of a Sitting
Each sitting of the Legislative Assembly is formally opened and closed by the Speaker’s Procession, when the Speaker enters and exits the Chamber, preceded by the Sergeant-at-Arms shouldering the Mace, and followed by the Clerks at the Table.
STANDING ORDER 5
When the House adjourns the Members shall keep their seats until the Speaker has left the Chamber.
Standing Order 5 reinforces the respect that ought to be accorded to the Speaker as Presiding Officer during proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.
Upon the Speaker’s Procession entering the Chamber on the call of “Make way for the Speaker,” Members rise and remain standing until the Speaker has bowed to both sides of the House from the chair.
After the Speaker has announced the result of the adjournment motion, Members stand in their place until the Speaker’s Procession has left the Chamber.
At British Columbia’s joining Confederation in 1871, the Standing Orders required the presence of nine of the Legislative Assembly’s 25 Members for the Assembly to conduct its business. The requirement for an established quorum in provincial Legislatures is also recognized in the federal Constitution Act, 1867 (s. 87).
The presence of at least ten Members is required for the Legislative Assembly to be properly constituted for the dispatch of business.
Today, the Standing Orders require the presence of at least ten Members — regardless of whether they come from the government or opposition benches — for the Legislative Assembly to be properly constituted for the dispatch of business. This provision is also included in the provincial Constitution Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 66, s. 42), which states:
42(1) The Legislative Assembly is not competent to conduct business, except to adjourn, unless 10 members are present.
(2) The Speaker, if present, is a member for the purpose of determining quorum under subsection (1).
STANDING ORDER 6
The presence of at least ten Members of the House, including the Speaker, shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers.
188.8.131.52Absence of Quorum
Standing Order 7 provides a course of action for the Speaker to take if there is a lack of quorum at the beginning of a sitting, or when the lack of quorum is formally brought to the Chair’s attention during a sitting. These provisions are seldom used, as the required number of Members is usually present to maintain a quorum throughout the sitting day.
STANDING ORDER 7
(1) If, at the commencement of a sitting there is not a quorum, the Speaker may declare a recess or adjourn the House until the next sitting.
(2) If, during a sitting of the House, a question of quorum arises, the Speaker may ring the division bells and, no later than 5 minutes thereafter, count the House. If a quorum is not then present, the Speaker may declare a recess or adjourn the House until the next sitting.
(3) Whenever the Speaker adjourns the House for want of a quorum, the time of adjournment and the names of the Members then present shall be entered in the Journal.
The first opportunity for determining the presence of a quorum is after Prayers and Reflections at the beginning of the day’s sitting (see Ontario Journals, June 18, 1969, p. 182).
It is common practice to ring the division bells in the absence of quorum. This practice applies both in proceedings of the House and in Committee of the Whole (see Ontario Journals, June 18, 1969, p. 182; House of Representatives (Australia) Hansard, April 9, 1935, pp. 1052-3). Once the sitting has begun, the Chair does not take action unless the apparent lack of quorum is called to their attention (see Ontario Journals, June 18, 1969, p. 182). Furthermore, in B.C., the Speaker ruled “that any question as to the method by which a quorum has been determined should have been raised at the time and not at a later time during the debate in progress” (B.C. Journals, September 22, 1977, p. 308).
It is, however, up to the discretion of the Speaker whether or not to ring the bells. The Speaker may decline to ring the bells on the grounds that the call for a count amounts to no more than obstruction, or for other reasons (see House of Representatives (Australia) Hansard, October 14, 1936, p. 1106; September 6, 1929, pp. 747-8).94
Speaker Cass of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario outlined the procedure followed in the absence of quorum in that Legislative Assembly. Subject to B.C. practice and Standing Order 7, the procedures outlined by Speaker Cass constitute a useful guideline to follow on points of order relating to quorum. Speaker Cass stated (Ontario Journals, June 18, 1969, p. 182):
At the request of the Member for High Park, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole has asked for a ruling on the correct procedure to be followed when there does not appear to be a quorum. For the guidance of the House, I am, therefore, pleased to set out the procedure as precisely as possible, as follows:
1. The House is said to be “made” immediately after prayers, at the beginning of the day’s sitting. If, at that time, Mr. Speaker’s attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum present, he will direct the bells to be rung for four minutes and then make his count. If there is not a quorum on this count the names of those present will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings and Mr. Speaker will adjourn the House until the next sitting.
2. At any time after the House has been “made”, if a Member draws to Mr. Speaker’s attention the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, he will take the same procedure as aforesaid.
3. If the House is sitting in Committee and a Member draws to the Chairman’s attention the apparent lack of a quorum, he will take precisely the same procedure as had already been outlined for Mr. Speaker, that is, he will have the bells rung for four minutes and then make his count. If his count discloses less than a quorum the Chairman will leave the Chair, the House will resume and the Chairman will report the facts to Mr. Speaker. On the Chairman’s report Mr. Speaker proceeds exactly as if the question had been raised while he was in the chair, i.e. he will cause the bells to be rung for four minutes, then make his count. If a quorum is then present the House again resolves itself into Committee, but if not, Mr. Speaker adjourns the House until the next sitting. In this regard it would appear that if the adjournment takes place in the afternoon of the day on which a night sitting is to be held, the adjournment would be to the night sitting; otherwise, until the next day. If the incident occurs at a night sitting, the adjournment, of course, is until the following day.
It should be noted that…neither the Speaker nor the Chairman takes any action unless the apparent lack of a quorum is called to his attention by a Member of the House.
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, precedents indicate that when a quorum count is called, quorum is usually quickly restored so that the Assembly may continue with the business before it (see B.C. Hansard, March 23, 2004, p. 9614; March 22, 2004, p. 9539).
Any Member may draw the attention of the Speaker to the lack of quorum, and such a request may be made on a point of order while another Member is speaking, thereby superseding for the moment any question before the Legislative Assembly. The Member who is speaking when quorum is called may resume speaking after the quorum count, unless a lack of quorum results in the adjournment of the sitting.
Should the Legislative Assembly be required to adjourn for lack of quorum under Standing Order 7(2), the order of the day under debate when quorum is called retains its precedence on the Order Paper. Therefore, lack of quorum cannot result in a dropped order.
Points of order and questions of privilege are not considered by the Chair while a quorum count is taking place.
Quorum requirements for proceedings of a Committee of the Whole mirror other proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.
Procedures for when a question of quorum arises in Committee of the Whole are outlined in Chapter 11 (Committees of the Whole).
5.5Daily Routine Business
The daily business of the Legislative Assembly is proceeded with in accordance with the predetermined sequence outlined in Standing Order 25. Items that appear on the Order Paper are listed in accordance with the order established in the Standing Order. This allows for some level of predictability in how a sitting of the Legislative Assembly will typically unfold, providing regular opportunities for Members to participate in various proceedings. Some orders under Routine Business, such as Prayers and Reflections, Introduction of Bills, Statements by Members and Oral Question Period, are called by a Clerk at the Table and are proceeded with on a daily basis. The other orders under Routine Business are proceeded with when Members bring forward matters under one of the listed items. Members will usually have indicated to the Speaker or the Clerks at the Table their intention to raise an item of business.96
STANDING ORDER 25
The daily routine of business of the House shall be as follows:
Prayers and Reflections (morning or afternoon sitting)
Introduction of Bills
Statements (Standing Order 25B) (afternoon sittings: Monday and Wednesday; morning sittings: Tuesday and Thursday)
Oral Question Period (30 minutes, afternoon sittings: Monday and Wednesday; 30 minutes, morning sittings: Tuesday and Thursday)
Reading and Receiving Petitions
Presenting Reports by Committees
Motions on Notice
Written Questions on Notice
Proposed Amendments on Notice
The order of business for consideration of the House day by day, after the above routine, shall, unless otherwise ordered, be as follows:
10 a.m. to 12 noon
(Private Members’ Time)
Private Members’ Statements (10 a.m.)
Public Bills in the hands of Private Members
Private Members’ Motions
Public Bills and Orders and Government Motions on Notice
No division, on Orders of the Day, will be taken in the House or in Committee of the Whole during Private Members’ Time, but where a division is requested, it will be deferred until thirty minutes prior to the ordinary time fixed for adjournment of the House on the Monday, unless otherwise ordered.
MONDAY (afternoon), TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY
Throne Speech Debate
Budget Debate including Committee of Supply
Public Bills and Orders and Government Motions on Notice
Public Bills in the hands of Private Members
Adjourned debate on other motions
5.5.1Prayers and Reflections
Prayers and Reflections are delivered at the start of the sitting day and are the first item of business after the arrival of the Speaker’s Procession in the Chamber. In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, unlike other jurisdictions, Prayers and Reflections are held with both officers and strangers present and are the only proceeding not transcribed verbatim for publication in the Hansard transcript. Usually the Speaker will invite a Member to “lead the House in prayer or reflection,” the Member having been previously designated by their Caucus Whip. Prayers and Reflections may also be delivered by the Speaker or invited faith leaders or Indigenous leaders or Elders. Prayers and Reflections may be of any faith or denomination, may be reflective of different cultural traditions, may be a traditional land acknowledgment, and may also be a moment of reflection.
5.5.2Introductions by Members
By longstanding practice, at the beginning of each sitting, the Speaker will announce “Introductions by Members,” allowing Members to briefly introduce a dignitary, visitor or special guest on the floor of the Chamber or in the public galleries.
PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION 2
Introductions should be brief, precise and non-argumentative, and not permitted whilst another Member is addressing the House, without the consent of such Member.
The latter part of the recommendation recognizes that, on occasion, Members seek leave of the Legislative Assembly during debate to make an introduction of a dignitary or a guest.
A tendency by some Members to stray beyond acceptable guidelines on introduction of guests was the motive for this Practice Recommendation. Few other Parliaments permit such extensive introductions, and the practice should be strictly controlled.
5.5.3Introduction of Bills
The purpose of introduction and first reading of bills is for the Legislative Assembly to agree to an order allowing the bill to be introduced, so that it may be printed and distributed to all Members, at which time it also becomes publicly accessible. Government bills brought forward by message (Standing Orders 66 and 67) may be introduced at any time, as long as debate on the current proceeding is adjourned prior to the introduction of the bill (see B.C. Journals, July 13, 1998, pp. 135-6). This primary stage in the legislative process is further outlined in Chapter 10 (Legislative Process).98
Until the adoption of Practice Recommendation 5 in 1985, no statement or speech of any kind was permitted on the introduction of a bill. A Member is now permitted to make a statement not exceeding two minutes on introduction to explain the purpose of the bill. The explanatory statement must not be used for the purpose of making a partisan speech or for raising a point of order or a question of privilege, nor should it be used as a means to criticize another Member. If a Member strays from the intent and purpose of the two-minute explanation permitted by Practice Recommendation 5, they will be brought to order by the Speaker.
Proceedings relative to Introduction of Bills under Standing Order 25 should be read in conjunction with Standing Orders 48(1) (notice), covered in Chapter 9 (Motions), and Standing Orders 74, 75 and 78, covered in Chapter 10 (Legislative Process).
5.5.4Statements by Members
Pursuant to Standing Order 25B, six Private Members (i.e., any Members who are not Ministers) are provided with an opportunity to make a maximum two-minute statement on a topic of their choice. As set out in Standing Order 25, Statements by Members currently take place in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays, immediately before Oral Question Period.
STANDING ORDER 25B
Six Private Members shall be permitted a two minute statement each day immediately prior to Oral Question Period subject to the following guidelines:
(1) A Member desiring to make a statement shall so advise his or her Whip 24 hours prior to the relevant day the statement is to be made.
(2) Party Whips shall confer to settle the names of the six Members who will be recognized for “Statements” for the following sitting day and shall advise the Speaker by noon of the day in question as to who has been selected, together with the topic of the statement.
(3) Statements under this Standing Order shall be subject to the ordinary parliamentary rules of decorum and debate.
The provisions of Standing Order 25B have been in existence since 2002, initially as a Sessional Order. They were made permanent in 2004 and finally amended in 2006 to take their current form, allowing statements by six Private Members.
An amendment to Standing Order 25 adopted in 2017, permanently fixing Statements by Members and Oral Question Period in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays, requires an adjustment of timing 99 prescribed by the provision of Standing Order 25B(2). The Speaker relies on the cooperation of the Caucus Whips to receive the requisite information well in advance of when Statements by Members are delivered during a morning sitting.
Statements by Members are intended to give Private Members a brief opportunity to discuss a matter of importance in their constituency or to the province at large that they may not necessarily have an opportunity to raise during other proceedings. The spirit and intent of statements is very much in keeping with that of Private Members’ Statements under Standing Order 25A, on which there are numerous Speakers’ rulings (greater detail is provided further in this chapter, in section 184.108.40.206). In a statement delivered to the Legislative Assembly, Speaker Barisoff noted (B.C. Journals, March 1, 2007, p. 29):
In order to assist Members with respect to their daily Statements, I will remind the House of the relevant guidelines in this regard. The jurisprudence of this House does not preclude Members from expressing a party’s position on political issues or policy. However, the topics covered should not revive discussion on a matter already discussed in the same Session nor should they anticipate a matter already appointed for consideration by the House.
Statement should not reflect negatively on individual Members or groups of Members in the House.
It is also contrary to the intent and spirit of Statements to use these as a vehicle to criticize or rebut another Member’s words spoken during other proceedings in the House.
5.5.5Oral Question Period
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Oral Question Period was first provided for on February 27, 1973, and continued thereafter by way of Sessional Order until 1985, when amendments to Standing Order 25 provided for a daily Oral Question Period. Originally a 15-minute time allotment, it was extended to 30 minutes on a permanent basis in 2006. Standing Order 25 was further amended in 2017, cementing a practice implemented by Sessional Orders in previous Sessions, providing for Oral Question Period to take place in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Further details and rules relating to oral questions are included in Standing Order 47A, outlined in Chapter 13 (Questions).
After a petition has been presented to the Legislative Assembly by a Member, it is, in accordance with practice, examined by the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to ensure compliance with Standing Order 73. If the presented petition is in proper form, it is deemed to have been received, and its tabling is recorded in the Votes and Proceedings by the Clerk.
Further details on petitions are outlined in Chapter 15 (Public Petitions).100
5.5.7Presenting Reports by Committees
Reports from parliamentary committees are normally presented during Routine Business, but on many occasions, reports of select standing committees have been, by leave, presented, read and received at other times. By unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly, a motion for concurrence in the committee report may be moved without notice.
There are no provisions in the Standing Orders or practice for the tabling of minority reports. On rare occasions, the terms of reference from the Legislative Assembly have authorized a minority report (see B.C. Journals, August 27, 2001, p. 62; April 16, 1997, p. 35).
5.5.8Motions on Notice
All motions on notice, not being government motions (which are deemed to be Orders of the Day), are classed as Routine Business until they are called for debate and the debate has subsequently been adjourned, at which time they become Orders of the Day.
Further information on motions is provided in Chapter 9 (Motions).
5.5.9Written Questions on Notice
Members may submit written questions addressed to a Minister or another Member, pursuant to Standing Order 47. Members are strongly encouraged to consult with the Clerks at the Table or the Office of the Clerk with regard to form and content of written questions. Written questions require two days’ notice, in accordance with Standing Order 48. Therefore, notice of written questions appearing in Monday’s Votes and Proceedings would be brought forward to the Order Paper the following Wednesday under the heading “Routine Business.”
Further information on written questions is provided in Chapter 13 (Questions).
5.5.10Proposed Amendments on Notice
The notices received under this routine proceeding generally relate to proposed amendments to bills in Committees of the Whole. While it is understood that notice is not required to propose an amendment to a bill in a Committee of the Whole, orderly debate on such amendments is much enhanced if the proposed amendment appears on the Order Paper, identified with the number assigned to the bill. On those occasions where minor amendments to sections of a bill have arisen and been proposed without notice, the Chair and the Committee have been able to deal with them without apparent difficulty. The Chair requires that all amendments be sent to the Table in writing, signed by the proposer, pursuant to Standing Order 50.101
Standing Order 48(2) requires two days’ notice of a motion to amend a motion on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the motion “‘That the Speaker do now leave the chair’ for the House to go into Committee of Supply.” Standing Order 50 further requires that such notices be in writing, and be signed by both the mover and the seconder.
Further information on notices and motions is outlined in Chapter 9 (Motions).
5.5.11Private Members’ Statements (Monday Morning)
Monday morning sittings constitute Private Members’ Time, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. The first hour is dedicated to Private Members’ Statements. Four statements are subject to the provisions of Standing Order 25A.
STANDING ORDER 25A
(1) Every Monday at 10 a.m. four Private Members may make a statement, notice of which has been tabled no later than 6 p.m. the preceding Wednesday.
(2) The order in which such statements are to be called shall be determined by the Speaker, before appearing on the Orders of the Day.
(3) The time allocated on Monday for statements and discussion thereon shall not exceed one hour, and the time for each statement shall be limited to 15 minutes as follows:
Proponent: maximum of 7 minutes
Any other Members: maximum of 5 minutes
Proponent in reply: maximum of 3 minutes
(4) Private Members’ statements shall not be subject to amendment, adjournment or vote.
(5) Statements and discussions under this Standing Order:
(a) shall be defined to one matter;
(b) shall not revive discussion on a matter which has been discussed in the same Session;
(c) shall not anticipate a matter which has been previously appointed for consideration by the House, in respect to which a Notice of Motion has been previously given and not withdrawn;
(d) shall not raise a question of privilege.
In the Legislative Assembly, a “Private Member” has been interpreted as any Member of the Legislative Assembly who is not in Cabinet — i.e., a member of the Executive Council (see B.C. Journals, April 3, 1992, p. 38). Therefore, “Private Member” includes 102 government backbenchers and all opposition Members, regardless of whether or not opposition Members have “Shadow Cabinet” status. It has been held in B.C. that Parliamentary Secretaries may ask questions of Ministers (see B.C. Journals, June 17, 1994, p. 154; April 24, 1987, p. 56), and therefore qualify as a “Private Member” under Standing Order 25A. Only Ministers are excluded from this definition (see B.C. Journals, April 24, 1987, p. 56).
The four statements that make up the time allotted for Private Members’ Statements during a Monday morning sitting are, in practice, selected by agreement between the Caucus Whips. As noted in a decision of Speaker Barisoff (B.C. Journals, May 18, 2011, p. 31):
Standing Order 25A(2) suggests that such determination be made by the Speaker after drawing lots. When this Standing Order was first in use, it was discovered that the random drawing of lots often produced an undesirable result, in that four random choices could produce the effect of all Private Members’ Statements on a particular day would go to one party or another, and accordingly the practice developed that the designated Members on Private Members’ day were chosen by agreement between the House Leaders, and this process has worked admirably over the years that Standing Order 25A has been in place. It was hoped that with the advent of Independent Members that their turn to be chosen for Private Members’ Statements would be negotiated in the same spirit of fairness that has prevailed over the years. As Speaker, I would hope that the existing process would be continued and that the Independent Members would be made part of the process and would be prepared to accept the decision made by the House Leaders of the major parties in the House. The Chair would suggest that the overriding principle is that of fairness, and I have every reason to believe that principle will be observed in allocating time for Private Members’ Statements.
Failing such agreement, practice would revert to the procedure outlined in Standing Order 25A(2). Under this procedure, Private Members’ Statements are sent to the Table in the same way notices of motion and notices of question are tabled while the Legislative Assembly is sitting. Then, on Wednesdays, after the Assembly adjourns, the Speaker would select, by lot, four of the submitted statements, which would then appear on the Orders of the Day for Thursday of the same week for the following Monday morning.
Private Members’ Statements are subject to the restrictions enumerated in Standing Order 25A(5) and should clearly identify the matter to be discussed in order to facilitate debate.
Under existing practice, if a Member who is to deliver a statement is unavoidably absent, the Legislative Assembly simply proceeds to the next order of business. Alternatively, by leave, another Member may deliver the absent Member’s statement.103
The proponent’s time limit, as set in Standing Order 25A(3), is seven minutes. The Speaker has held that these seven minutes are not “bankable” or “transferable.” The response time of five minutes may be shared between two or more Members. The proponent’s reply time of three minutes, like the proponent’s opening statement of seven minutes, is also not transferable.
220.127.116.11Who May Respond
While Ministers are excluded from the definition of “Private Member” for the purpose of qualifying as a proponent, they are qualified to respond within the five-minute period provided (see B.C. Journals, April 3, 1992, p. 38). Although qualified to respond, Ministers are not required to respond, and indeed, it is rare for them to take part in debate on Private Members’ Statements.
18.104.22.168Nature of Private Members’ Statements
There have been numerous decisions from Speakers touching on the spirit and intent of Standing Order 25A (see B.C. Journals, May 9, 2016, pp. 80-1; May 18, 2011, pp. 31-2; April 16, 2007, p. 65; June 27, 1997, p. 119; June 14, 1995, p. 101; April 7, 1995, p. 19; May 13, 1994, p. 88; B.C. Hansard, June 26, 1992, p. 3169). Speaker Sawicki delivered a statement on the subject, and noted, in part, that Private Members’ Statements are “intended to give Members the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics related to their individual constituencies or to the province at large.” Speaker Sawicki further noted (B.C. Hansard, July 2, 1992, p. 3359):
Perusal of the topics selected by Members under Standing Order 25A since its inception clearly reveals this spirit and intent. Often, Members have used Private Members’ Time to discuss topics of personal interest or topics that did not fall within other proceedings in the House. That is not to say that Members’ statements have not been controversial or that there have not been clear differences of opinion and healthy debate. In that sense, partisan debate has often taken place during Private Members’ Statements.
In reviewing the practice of this House, however, highly partisan remarks that negatively reflect on individual Members or groups of Members in the House have not been regarded as falling within the spirit and intent of Standing Order 25A. Subject always to Standing Order 40, other opportunities for such debate are available to Members, as for instance, during debate on estimates or, depending on content, during debate on bills.
Speaker Barnes quoted the July 2, 1992, statement of Speaker Sawicki with approval and added: “…it seems to the Chair it is quite possible to express a party’s position on political issues or policy matters without indulging in personal attacks on individual Members or groups of Members in the House” (B.C. Journals, June 14, 1995, p. 101).104
The Chair has also warned Members that Standing Order 25A(5)(c) does not permit Members to canvass in any detail provisions of a bill which is on the Order Paper, but has been lenient on a Member’s ability to make a brief general comment on such a bill (see B.C. Hansard, April 3, 1992, p. 509; B.C. Journals, June 15, 1990, p. 77).
A Private Member’s Statement should not be used to rebut another Member’s Statement (see B.C. Journals, May 13, 1988, p. 56).
Ministerial Statements are not provided for in the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Custom and usage in the Legislative Assembly have permitted such statements, and leave is not required when the Assembly has not yet embarked upon an Order of the Day — i.e., during a break in proceedings (see B.C. Journals, April 24, 1978, p. 45; May 4, 1976, p. 83). However, leave is required if a Minister wishes to deliver such a statement after Orders of the Day have been called, unless it is delivered between two items of business. It is customary, as a matter of courtesy, for a Minister to inform the Speaker and the House Leaders of recognized caucuses of the Minister’s intent to deliver a Ministerial Statement.
In the Legislative Assembly, any member of Cabinet may deliver a Ministerial Statement, with the Leader of the Official Opposition having the right to respond. Replies by leaders of recognized caucuses are also permitted, subject to Standing Order 37 (see B.C. Journals, May 4, 1976, p. 83). The Leader of the Official Opposition and recognized caucus leaders may designate another Member of their caucus to respond on their behalf.
A Member whose constituency is particularly affected by a matter addressed within a Ministerial Statement has also previously been permitted to make brief comments.
Ministerial Statements are a practice adopted from the United Kingdom, where “Ministers have a presumptive right to make statements in the House on a range of topics within their ministerial remit.” Erskine May notes:
These may include policy and administration matters (the Speaker has ruled that such statements must relate to ministerial matters being made on behalf of the Government and not be delivered in a personal or party capacity); stating the advice they have tendered to the Sovereign regarding their retention of office or the dissolution of Parliament; announcing the legislative proposals they intend to submit to Parliament; or the course they intend to adopt in the transaction and arrangement of public business. (25th ed., §19.21, p. 407).
In the House of Commons of Canada, such statements allow Ministers to “make announcements or statements on government policy or matters of national interest” (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 453).105
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, there has been more leniency with the content of Ministerial Statements, adhering to the general guideline that Ministers would not otherwise be able to speak to the topic during debate on the Orders of the Day. In recent history, such statements have related to matters of government action, initiatives and responses to provincial, national and global events; commemoration of historic occasions; celebration of special occasions; and extension of condolences.
22.214.171.124Limits on Content of Ministerial Statement and Reply
Ministerial Statements and replies should not contain materials of a controversial nature or generate debate (see B.C. Journals, April 15, 1999, p. 212; April 24, 1978, p. 45). Further limits on both statements and replies have been outlined in various Speakers’ decisions. A notable decision is that of Speaker Schroeder, which outlined the following (B.C. Journals, April 26, 1978, pp. 52-4):
On Wednesday, April 19, the Minister of Finance made a statement in the House prior to the question period, by leave, and was granted leave to file a document referred to in the statement. The Liberal Leader asked leave to reply to the statement of the Minister and leave was not granted. The Liberal Leader cited a decision from page 83 of the Journals of 1976 indicating that Leaders of Recognized Parties have traditionally been allowed to make a reply to ministerial statements.
The rules relating to ministerial statements over the years have become somewhat confused largely, it appears, as a result of leave being required for the interruption of other business rather than leave itself being required to make the statement. In addition, there is no provision in the daily order of business for ministerial statements.
An examination of our Journals indicates that the practice in our House with respect to ministerial statements has been similar to the practice in the House of Commons at Ottawa. In the Journals of 1976, at page 83, it is stated that leave was not required for ministerial statements and affirmed that a reply is allowed to the Leader of the Opposition and Leaders of Recognized Parties. The practice is summarized in the following passage at page 165 of Dawson’s “Procedure in the Canadian House of Commons”:
For many years, the Government has been allowed by custom to make statements of new or altered policy at the opening of the daily proceedings. These announcements usually relate to matters of general interest and urgency and the practice is accepted today as a useful vehicle by which Government policy may be made known to the House when no other proceeding offers a suitable opportunity. These announcements are not made by the consent of the House, nor are they recognized by any rule; but at least one Speaker has ruled that the practice is one of such long standing that a Minister may make such a statement by right. This right may not be exercised without restraint, for although there is no set limit on the length or content of statements, a Minister who persisted in long and argumentative recitals would soon find himself in trouble with the Opposition.
The rights of the Opposition in this matter have also gradually developed and become more clear. Early ministerial statements were followed by a few questions asked largely for the purpose of clearing up doubtful points of fact. These questions occasionally got out of hand and as early as 1891 a Speaker appealed to the House to support him in an effort to suppress the practice of conducing long discussions at such a time. Later Speakers appear to have had little difficulty and although from time to time they referred briefly to the “custom” which allowed only questions, they made no formal ruling. Mr. Speaker Macdonald extended the practice during his occupancy of the Chair and by 1951 the House had accepted a new “practice” by which each one of the leaders of the opposition parties was allowed to comment briefly on the statement made. Mr. Speaker Beaudoin extended the custom still further in 1954 and ruled that each party would henceforth be allowed one comment on any ministerial statement. The change was made to allow the party spokesman on a specific subject to represent his party should he so wish. The House has formed this practice since.
and further at page 82 of Beauchesne:
In case of ministerial changes, explanations are generally allowed to be made when the Orders of the Day are called. It is usual to permit the Leader of the Opposition to make some remarks thereon. Considerable latitude is allowed on those occasions. In the British House no debate is allowed after the ministerial statement has been made unless the adjournment of the House is moved, but such a practice could not take place in Canada, as our adjournment motions are not debatable.
and further at page 84 of Beauchesne:
When a minister makes a statement on government policy or ministerial administration, either under routine proceedings, between two orders of the day or shortly before the adjournment of the House, it is now firmly established that the Leader of the Opposition or the Chiefs of recognized groups are entitled to ask explanations and make a few remarks, but no debate is then allowed under any Standing Order (C.H. of C., Feb. 19, 1954).
In our Journals, at page 19 of 1975, a decision indicates that leave is a prerequisite for both statements and replies but that decision does not really apply to the situation at hand as it is directed at answers to oral questions taken on notice.
In summary, ministerial statements may be made without leave at the appropriate time, namely, before proceeding to Orders of the Day. Leave is required, however, if the statement is to be made by interruption of another proceeding. When a statement has been made, whether by leave or by right, replies as previously described are allowed and do not require leave. However, as stated by Beauchesne, such replies are limited to asking explanations and making “a few remarks” but no debate is allowed.
During a further point of order which took place during the discussion of the point of order, it was suggested that the Minister’s statement was that
of a Private Member and not that of a Minister so that no reply was allowed. The Minister’s statement concerned his duties in office and, therefore, it can be viewed only as a ministerial statement.
The House of Commons of the United Kingdom follows the same rule. On July 8, 1943, the Minister of Agriculture was making a statement when he was interrupted by a Private Member who inquired as to whether or not the Minister was answering questions. The Speaker interjected, stating (House of Commons (U.K.) Hansard, July 8, 1943, vol. 390, c. 2267):
There is no need for a Minister to ask the leave of the House. It is the right of a Minister to make a statement of policy not even in answer to a Question…. It is the common practice that such statements can be made without asking leave….
The decision of Speaker Schroeder was cited with approval in a decision of Speaker Reynolds (B.C. Journals, March 20, 1987, pp. 26-7):
On Wednesday last the Honourable Member for Coquitlam−Moody and Opposition House Leader raised a point of order relating to the scope and content of a ministerial statement made by the Honourable the Attorney General. The essence of the Honourable Member’s point was that the statement was made without notice and that the statement was too detailed a reference to previous debate.
In some respects the point of order was well made by the Honourable Opposition House Leader.
I cannot, however, find that there is any requirement to give notice of a ministerial statement. Under some circumstances informal notice might be considered appropriate but this is not a judgement for the Chair to make. The Chair does, however, commend the developing practice of giving notice although notice may not be required under the rules.
I have now had an opportunity to examine Hansard in relation to the content of the statement in question. It is my opinion that while the content of the statement was clearly within the proper bounds of a matter of ministerial administration arising from an alleged misrepresentation or an alleged inaccurate recitation of events, it is also clear, upon review, that some parts of the statement, contrary to permissible limits, alluded too precisely to previous debate in an argumentative manner rather than being limited to concise statements of fact surrounding ministerial administration.
On the subject of ministerial statements, Mr. Speaker Schroeder adopted with approval the following statement of practice from Dawson’s Procedure in the Canadian House of Commons, at page 165:
These announcements are not made by the consent of the House, nor are they recognized by any rule; but at least one Speaker has ruled that the practice is one of such long standing that a Minister may make
such a statement by right. This right may not be exercised without restraint, for although there is no set limit on the length or content of the statements, a Minister who persisted in long and argumentative recitals would soon find himself in trouble with the Opposition.
Under the practices of this House, and in accordance with Speakers’ rulings previously made, ministerial statements should generally be brief, be factual and be specific. General arguments or observations beyond the fair bounds of explanation, or too distinct a reference to previous debate, are out of order and will result in appropriate intervention by the Chair. There are, of course, similar limits to replies made to ministerial statements.
A further reiteration of the practice and purpose surrounding Ministerial Statements can be found in a statement of Speaker Brewin (see B.C. Journals, April 27, 1999, p. 231).
The referral of a matter to a parliamentary committee does not prohibit a Ministerial Statement on the same subject. Upon a question of privilege being raised to this effect on May 27, 1993, the Speaker found that no breach of privilege occurred (see decision of Speaker Sawicki, June 1, 1993, pp. 96-7). In support of this decision is the general proposition that the referral of a matter to a parliamentary committee does not prevent the consideration of the same matter by the Legislative Assembly (see Erskine May, 21st ed., p. 328; 17th ed., p. 400).
A deferred response to a Ministerial Statement has occasionally been permitted, but each case is assessed on its own individual merit and has usually been done by unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly (see B.C. Journals, October 29, 2003, pp. 149-50; January 21, 1999, p. 194; June 12, 1986, p. 90).
126.96.36.199Scope of Reply to Ministerial Statement
House of Commons Procedure and Practice notes:
In responding to the statement, Members are not permitted to engage in debate or ask questions of the Minister. The length of each response may not exceed the length of the Minister’s statement; Members who exceed this length are interrupted by the Speaker. The rules provide no explicit limitation of time allotted to the Minister or the overall time to be taken for these proceedings, although the duration of the proceedings can be limited at the discretion of the Chair. (3rd ed., p. 456).
Furthermore, it has been ruled that Members should confine themselves “specifically to the points raised by the Minister” (see statement of Speaker Ellis, New South Wales Legislative Assembly Hansard, November 3, 1965, p. 1711).
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, the overall time allotment for proceedings under Ministerial Statements should keep with established practice and precedent, though their duration may be limited at the discretion of the Speaker. The length of the response should not reasonably exceed the length of the Ministerial Statement.109
188.8.131.52Ministerial Statements During Oral Question Period
It has been held by the Speaker that Ministerial Statements should not be made during Oral Question Period. Speaker Ellis of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly ruled that, in order to preserve the rights of Members during Oral Question Period, when replies to questions are in the form of a Ministerial Statement, they should be deferred until the time allotted for questions has expired (see New South Wales Legislative Assembly Hansard, March 3, 1966, p. 3826).
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, there have been occasions on which a reply to a question during Oral Question Period has been deemed a Ministerial Statement by the Speaker, with a response to the statement permitted accordingly (see B.C. Journals, October 28, 1992, p. 182; June 3, 1992, p. 112).
5.5.13Orders of the Day
Orders of the Day are any matters that have been appointed by previous order of the Legislative Assembly for consideration on a particular day, such as second reading of bills, committee stage of bills, report stage of bills, third reading of bills, or adjourned debates on motions. The priority given to the various stages of bills is set out in Standing Order 28.
The parliamentary document known as Orders of the Day (the Order Paper) is the official agenda of the Legislative Assembly, printed for each sitting, which records all proposed proceedings of the Assembly in abbreviated form.
The parliamentary document known as Orders of the Day (the Order Paper) is the official agenda of the Legislative Assembly, printed for each sitting, which records all proposed proceedings of the Assembly in abbreviated form. Adding to or altering the Order Paper in any way can only be done by an order of the Assembly. Therefore, an order of the day can only be dealt with if it has previously been made an order of business of the Legislative Assembly, or if it is specifically covered by the Standing Orders. However, measures proceeding by unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly may not necessarily have been printed on the Order Paper.
184.108.40.206Orders of the Day — Daily Business
Following any completion of a sitting’s Routine Business items, a Clerk at the Table announces “Orders of the Day.” At this time, any item listed on the Order Paper under that heading may be brought before the Legislative Assembly for consideration, as determined by the Government House Leader, whose prerogative it is to do so under Standing Order 27(2). Information concerning the government’s intention to proceed with a particular order of the day is usually conveyed to Members and to the Table in advance of a sitting.110
Any item called on which debate has begun must be dealt with until adjourned or disposed of. If adjourned, the item remains on the Order Paper. If the item is disposed of, either by an affirmative or negative decision of the Legislative Assembly, or by a finding by the Speaker that the item is out of order, it is removed from the Order Paper.
When the Legislative Assembly is prorogued, all business pending on the Order Paper is quashed. If desired, it may be renewed at the next Session, as if introduced for the first time. Prorogation also terminates terms of reference for parliamentary committees (see decision of Speaker Davidson, B.C. Journals, May 1, 1984, p. 85).
Standing Order 25 should be read in conjunction with Standing Orders 27 and 28, which include provisions for the Orders of the Day and the Order Paper. These provisions are further outlined in this chapter.
The Orders of the Day for Monday afternoons, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays outlined in Standing Order 25 reflect the practice of the Legislative Assembly, which has evolved through old Standing Orders modified by Sessional Orders. A notable result of these changes is that government motions on notice are given new status as an order of the day, ranking equally with public bills and orders.
Orders of the Day for Monday morning (Private Members’ Time) are subject to the provisions of Standing Order 27(3), should there be a matter of urgent government business.
Debate on the motion on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne (also known as Throne Speech Debate or Throne Debate) may be classified as a special debate opportunity. At the opening of the first Session in a Parliament, Throne Speech Debate is often used by new Members to make their inaugural speech in the Legislative Assembly. Members also use the opportunity to formally introduce themselves to the Legislative Assembly, to offer reflections on their electoral district, to highlight matters of importance to their community, and to express appreciation for the opportunity to represent their constituents. In subsequent Sessions in a Parliament, Throne Speech Debate is used to speak to the government plans which were outlined in the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Lieutenant Governor.
Debate on the motion “‘That the Speaker do now leave the chair’ for the House to go into Committee of Supply,” more commonly known as Budget Debate, is an important part of the provincial budgetary appropriation process. This debate allows Members to speak on the fiscal priorities and plans outlined by the government in the annual Budget Speech delivered by the Minister of Finance. Further information on Budget Debate, and its place in the financial procedures of the Legislative Assembly, is outlined in Chapter 12 (Financial Procedures).
It is now established practice in the Legislative Assembly that debate on the motion for the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the motion “‘That the Speaker do now leave the chair’ for the House to go into Committee of Supply” — outlined in Standing Order 45A, Schedules 1 and 2 — may be interrupted for other government business, though both of these items of business retain their priority on the Orders of the Day.111
220.127.116.11Precedence — Orders of the Day
Government Orders and Urgent Government Business
Standing Order 27 permits the government to call items of government business listed on the Orders of the Day in any sequence as it sees fit.
STANDING ORDER 27
(1) All items standing on the Orders of the Day, other than Government orders, shall be taken up accordingly to the precedence assigned to each on the Order Paper.
(2) Whenever Government business has precedence, Government orders may be called in such a sequence as the Government thinks fit, and the Government may place Government orders at the head of the list on every sitting except Monday morning.
(3) Notwithstanding Standing Orders 25, 25A and 27(2), urgent Government business may, with the consent of the Speaker, be considered on Monday morning, and given priority over any other business.
The combined effect of Standing Orders 25 and 27 is to allow the government unfettered discretion in the calling of government orders and government Motions on Notice at every sitting except Monday morning (Private Members’ Time). This flows from the wording of the Standing Order and from practice adopted from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
It has been held on numerous occasions that the discretion afforded to the government under Standing Order 27(2) extends to classes of orders (i.e., sections of the Order Paper, such as bills, motions, etc.), as well as individual items within each order. In the United Kingdom, a Member of the Government (Minister) has the exclusive right to move adjournment of the House between Orders of the Day (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §19.32, pp. 418-9). The Legislative Assembly follows the same practice established in the House of Commons of Canada, where all motions relating to the business of the Assembly should be introduced by the Government House Leader (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §200(1), p. 56; see also B.C. Journals, July 12, 1995, pp. 159-60; April 29, 1982, pp. 64-6).
Monday mornings, being Private Members’ Time, gives priority to Private Members’ Statements (Standing Order 25A), Public Bills in the Hands of Private Members (more commonly known as Private Members’ bills) and Private Members’ Motions. By virtue of the wording of Standing Order 27(1), Public Bills in the Hands of Private Members must be called for debate in the order in which they appear on the Order Paper (see B.C. Journals, July 7, 1995, p. 150). The same applies to Private Members’ Motions. However, in practice, unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly is often sought to proceed 112 to a motion that has been agreed upon between the Caucus Whips, without disturbing the precedence accorded to other motions on the Order Paper. If leave is not granted to proceed to a Private Member’s motion, consideration of business would proceed in the order set out in Standing Order 25, that being Private Bills in the Hands of Private Members, in the order in which the bills appear on the Order Paper.
The “urgent government business” provision in Standing Order 27(3) has never been invoked. To do so, the Speaker would require compelling reasons to set aside the priorities given to Private Members on Monday mornings. As in most cases, these matters are best resolved by consultation between the House Leaders.
5.5.14Arrangement of the Order Paper
STANDING ORDER 28
The day-to-day precedence on the Order Paper for Bills of all classes shall be as follows:
(1) Third reading;
(4) Adjourned debate on second reading;
(5) Second reading.
In the Legislative Assembly, the Introduction of Bills has always been given precedence on the Order Paper, first by Sessional Order, and then by a specific provision in the Standing Orders. Under Standing Order 25, the Introduction of Bills is the first item of Routine Business after Prayers and Reflections. During a second or subsequent sitting, it recurs as the first item of Routine Business, as items such as Statements by Members and Oral Question Period have already been completed during the earlier sitting that day.
Standing Order 28 establishes the priority to be given on the Order Paper to all types of bills. On Monday morning, during Private Members’ Time, items on the Order Paper may be called out of sequence, but only by unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly. Standing Order 28 must be read in conjunction with Standing Order 27(2), which permits the government to call government orders in the sequence that it sees fit for all sittings except Monday mornings (Private Members’ Time). As an example, the government could call adjourned debate on the second reading of a government bill prior to calling the order for committee stage of a government bill, even though committee stage is given priority on the Order Paper, in accordance with Standing Order 28.113
18.104.22.168Orders Not Taken Up — Dropped Orders
STANDING ORDER 31
(1) Motions on Notice, not taken up when called, may on request be allowed to stand and retain their precedence; otherwise they will be dropped from the Order Paper, but they may be renewed.
(2) Orders not proceeded with when called, upon the like request, may be allowed to stand, retaining their precedence; otherwise they shall be dropped and be placed on the Order Paper for the next sitting after those of the same class at a similar stage.
(3) All orders not disposed of at the adjournment of the House shall be postponed until the next sitting-day, without a motion to that effect.
Standing Order 31(1) deals with Motions on Notice and is designed to prevent a motion from lapsing if called for debate while a Member is absent. The former wording of this Standing Order gave the government the right to request that such motions be permitted to stand on the Order Paper. The present wording implies that any Member may request a motion on notice to stand, even if it is not taken up when called for debate.
Standing Order 31(2) deals with orders, as opposed to Motions on Notice. On its face, the Standing Order operates against the lapse rule, as it relates to Orders of the Day not taken up when called for debate. A question that may come up when an order is called and not taken up is: “Where will it appear on the Order Paper at the next sitting?” If, for example, a particular bill is at the top of the Order Paper for Public Bills in the Hands of Private Members and it is not taken up when called for debate, it will remain at the top of the list, if such a request is made by a Member. If no such request is made, it will simply appear as the last item of the same order heading at the next sitting. There are no apparent criteria by which the Speaker would judge such a request. However, in keeping with modern parliamentary practice, any such request would be likely to receive favourable consideration from the Speaker. Subsection (2) of Standing Order 31, like subsection (1), does not require a government request.
STANDING ORDER 32
If, at the hour of interruption or at the time of adjournment of the House, a motion is under consideration, it shall not lapse but shall stand first on the Orders of the Day for the next sitting at which orders of a similar class are properly taken up, next after the orders to which a special precedence has been assigned by Standing Order or Order of the House.
Under normal procedure, as the hour set for the adjournment of a sitting of the Legislative Assembly approaches, the Member speaking will move adjournment of the debate, and the Government House Leader will subsequently move adjournment of the House. If, however, the matter being debated is not adjourned and the question is put on the adjournment of the House, if that motion is adopted, the matter that was under debate immediately preceding the adoption of the adjournment motion results in a “dropped order.” That is to say, a motion to adjourn the Legislative Assembly, if adopted, supersedes the question before the Legislative Assembly and results in the motion under debate being dropped from the Order Paper. If the motion to adjourn the Legislative Assembly is defeated, the Assembly continues with the business and debate that was before it.
In the Legislative Assembly, an order dropped from the Order Paper in such circumstances may be reinstated (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §19.34, p. 420). This is best reflected in a precedent from 1998.
In this instance, a Member rose on a point of order, noting that a bill became a dropped order but continued to appear on the Order Paper. The Speaker ruled that the order is, indeed, a dropped order, as a result of the adjournment of the Legislative Assembly during consideration of the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of that bill during that day’s morning sitting, and therefore appeared on the Order Paper in italics. The Speaker noted that the order may be called again after passage of a motion on notice to restore it to the Orders of the Day at the same legislative stage of consideration as when it was dropped (see B.C. Journals, June 25, 1998, p. 116).
Subsequently, the Government House Leader gave a notice of motion that the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of the bill in question be reinstated to the Orders of the Day. Upon the Government House Leader moving that motion in the Legislative Assembly, Speaker Brewin delivered the following statement (B.C. Journals, June 29, 1998, pp. 120-1):
The procedure that the House is presently embarked upon is somewhat novel to this House, and a comment on the procedure may be of assistance to Honourable Members.
Members will be aware that our Standing Order No. 1 refers us to the practice of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in the absence of express provision in our Standing Orders or precedents from this Assembly. Accordingly, extensive reference has been made to Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice.
The House is dealing with the broad category of business generally known as “dropped orders” and the procedures to be followed arising from a dropped order are outlined in Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, 22nd edition at page 321.
The authority quoted states, in part, as follows:
A dropped Government order may be reinstated for the day following that on which the unexpected adjournment takes place by means of a
motion to that effect appearing on that day’s Order Paper in the name of a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of public business. The dropped order itself appears printed in italics either at the head of the list of orders of the day or at the place where the Government wishes it to be taken.
It is, therefore, the Chair’s view that the procedures adopted consequent upon the dropped government order have been correct, in that notice of motion to reinstate has been given and appears on today’s Orders as Notice on Motion No. 50.
The major question that remains unanswered is whether or not the government motion to reinstate Bill (No. 26) to its former position on Orders of the Day, is a debatable motion.
The Chair is of the view that the motion in question is debatable, but only within the confines of the scope of debate applicable to a “business” or “procedural” motion. Such motions relate to the business of the House and are described at page 315 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May.
The scope of debate on a business or procedural motion does not extend to permit an examination in detail of the subject matter of the motion, but rather directs itself as to the reasons, pro and con, for reinstatement of the order for the adjourned debate on second reading of the bill.
I refer to Erskine May’s 22nd edition at page 321, where discussing such motions it states:
If debate occurs on such a motion, it must be strictly limited to the precise object of the motion.
I draw an analogy between this motion before the House and a motion to recommit a bill to a Committee of the Whole House, in part or in whole, after the bill has been reported to the House from a Committee of the Whole. In the circumstances, the Speaker under the United Kingdom practice permits a brief explanatory statement of the reasons for recommittal to the member who moves the motion, and from a member who opposes the motion, after which explanations the Speaker puts the question on the motion without further debate. This United Kingdom practice has now been codified in their Standing Orders and is discussed in the above referred edition of Erskine May at page 542.
In this House, the bill which the government seeks to restore to the Order Paper is presently at the stage of adjourned debate on second reading. The Chair notes that many Members have not yet exercised their right to speak on the motion for second reading, nor have any of the standard amendments to this motion been moved, thereby providing ample opportunity to speak to the substance of the bill in question.
It is, therefore, the Chair’s view that the motion in question cannot be distinguished from any other procedural motion and is debatable only to the extent of the mechanics of reinstatement. The merit of the bill may be fully canvassed when, and if, the motion for reinstatement passes.
If a motion to adjourn the Legislative Assembly is adopted in the course of debate on an amendment motion, the amendment motion itself would drop, but the question on the main motion would remain on the Order Paper (see decision of Speaker Plecas, B.C. Journals, November 6, 2018, pp. 134-5). The amendment motion is not an order of the day. When orders are called for debate, it is the main question that is called, and not the amendment motion. For the purposes of debate, the amendment does not form an inseparable package with the main question, as an amendment defeated or ruled out of order leaves the main question intact. As noted in Erskine May, an amendment “interposes a new cycle of debate and decision between the proposal and decision of the main motion and question” (25th ed., §20.29, p. 445).
The doctrine of lapse is applied minimally in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Sessional Orders using the words “until disposed of,” Speakers’ decisions (see B.C. Journals, September 19, 1977, p. 304; March 31, 1976, p. 29), and the general reluctance to apply the rule by both government and opposition Members has led to its virtual elimination. However, a specific exception is extended in Standing Order 35(9), outlined further in this chapter, in section 5.7.
22.214.171.124Proceeding to Orders of the Day from Routine Business
STANDING ORDER 33
When the House is engaged in Routine Business, a motion for reading or proceeding to the Orders of the Day shall have precedence to any motion before the House. No amendment to or debate on this motion shall be allowed.
Standing Order 33 makes it clear that the use of a motion to proceed to the Orders of the Day is restricted to the time during which the Legislative Assembly is engaged in Routine Business. It should be considered in conjunction with Standing Order 55, covered in Chapter 9 (Motions). The provision of Standing Order 33 should not be abused, and its use should be limited to exceptional circumstances.
While Standing Order 55 provides for the moving of a dilatory motion “to proceed to the Orders of the Day” when a question is under debate (presumably during a proceeding other than Routine Business), Standing Order 33 provides for the use of the same motion, but in a different context — i.e., during Routine Business. It is a provision which effectively supersedes items appearing under Routine Business, including Introduction of Bills, Statements by Members, Oral Question Period, Presentation of Reports by Committees and Presentation of Petitions. Adoption of such a motion, as with any of the provisions under Standing Order 55, when used judiciously, may properly serve the interests of the Legislative Assembly. However, consistent use of such dilatory tactics could devolve into abuse. Indeed, under Standing Order 44, the Speaker may decline to put the question (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §20.24, p. 443).117
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, this motion was formerly used to bring an end to debate under Standing Order 35 (matter of urgent public importance). Under the current automatic lapse provision of Standing Order 35(9), such a motion is no longer required. However, it is noteworthy that, should the debate under Standing Order 35 end prior to the expiration of the one hour provided, resorting to a motion under Standing Order 33 would be in order.
A motion moved in accordance with Standing Order 33 is not a substantive motion and is primarily designed for the purpose of superseding another question (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §20.23, p. 442; House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 548-9).
5.6Adjournment of Debate or of the Legislative Assembly
Standing Order 34 provides that a motion to adjourn a sitting of the Legislative Assembly or debate on a matter being considered by the Assembly is always in order, pursuant to the conditions set. Standing Order 34 should, however, also be read in conjunction with Standing Orders 44 and 62.
STANDING ORDER 34
A motion to adjourn (except when made for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance) shall be always in order; but no second motion to the same effect shall be made until after some intermediate proceedings shall have taken place.
A motion to adjourn is used in two ways: as a substantive motion, and as a motion to supersede. In the midst of the debate on a question, any Member may move, while in possession of the floor, “That this House do now adjourn” or “That the debate be now adjourned.”
Such motions are not put by way of an amendment but as a distinct question which interrupts or supersedes the question already under consideration by the Legislative Assembly. Standing Order 45(2) prohibits debate on adjournment motions.
A motion to adjourn a sitting of the Legislative Assembly or debate on a matter being considered by the Assembly is always in order.
The use of the motion for adjournment of the Legislative Assembly to supersede another question must be distinguished from its use as a substantive motion (i.e., it must be moved before or between Orders of the Day), as it can otherwise only be moved by a Minister.118
A dilatory motion cannot be made while a Member is speaking, but can only be moved by a Member who, having been called by the Speaker in the course of the debate, is in possession of the floor. If this second question is resolved in the affirmative, the original question is superseded. Therefore, if the motion was for adjournment of the sitting, the Legislative Assembly must immediately adjourn, ending the business that was before it. If the motion was for the adjournment of debate, another item of business on the Order Paper is called by the Government House Leader (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §20.23, p. 442).
Substantive vs. Dilatory Motions
The various types of motions that may be moved in the Legislative Assembly are outlined in Chapter 9 (Motions). The most common types of motions that are moved are substantive and dilatory.
Substantive motions are self-contained proposals, not incidental to any proceeding. They are amendable, and are drafted in such a way as to be capable of expressing a decision of the Legislative Assembly.
Dilatory motions are dependent on a main motion already before the Legislative Assembly, and have the purpose of superseding or replacing further discussion of the main motion by setting it aside either for the time being or permanently. These may be motions to proceed to the Orders of the Day, to proceed to another order of business, to postpone or adjourn a debate, and to adjourn the sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
Of note is that, should a motion to adjourn be defeated, an intervening proceeding must take place before such a motion can again be moved (see B.C. Journals, September 22, 1983, p. 165; September 21, 1983, p. 161; March 16, 1970, pp. 148-9). The term “intermediate proceedings,” as stated in Standing Order 34, means “a proceeding that can properly be entered on the Journals [and] is construed as relating to procedure and not to debates” (Beauchesne, 6th ed., §385, pp. 112-3).
In the absence of the occurrence of actual “intermediate proceedings” which could be entered in the Journals, a reasonable amount of bona fide debate on the same question could suffice before testing the will of the Legislative Assembly (or Committee of the Whole or Committee of Supply) again on a motion to adjourn. In this instance, “reasonable bona fide debate” is a guideline only. While it is impossible to define bona fide in this context, it is generally to be observed that legitimate questions and debate of a relevant and non-repetitive nature could be considered as qualifying, but such a decision is left to the discretion of the Speaker. If, in the opinion of the Speaker, the intervening time has been occupied with pointless filibuster, the Speaker may decline, under Standing Order 44, to put the question on dilatory motions.
Previously, the Speaker has accepted a second motion to adjourn in the absence of “intermediate proceedings” when:119
1. The motion was moved by the Government House Leader; and
2. A sufficient period of time has elapsed since the last motion was moved, leading the Speaker to determine that it was appropriate to test whether there was a desire to continue with the debate.
In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, alternate motions to adjourn the Legislative Assembly and to adjourn the debate have been used. The back-to-back use of these motions is referred to as “rotating motions.” In Committee of the Whole and Committee of Supply, the common rotating motions are “That the Chair leave the chair” (Standing Order 62) and “That the Committee rise and report progress and ask leave to sit again.” While use of such rotating motions has evolved to avoid the prohibition implicit in Standing Order 34, the Chair has discretion under Standing Order 44 to disallow such motions, in the event that they are deemed to be an abuse of the rules or privileges of the Legislative Assembly (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §20.24, p. 443).
A motion for adjournment of debate is out of order if a question for adjournment of the Legislative Assembly is being debated. Conversely, a motion for adjournment of the Legislative Assembly is out of order if a question for adjournment of debate is under consideration (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §20.23, p. 442). However, a motion “That the House do now adjourn” moved by the Government House Leader supersedes a motion that the Assembly recess (see B.C. Journals, June 17, 1997, p. 105).
As referenced earlier, a substantive motion to adjourn the Legislative Assembly is a prerogative of the Government House Leader, who is usually a Minister (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §362(1), p. 109; Erskine May, 25th ed., §18.36, pp. 388-9; see also B.C. Journals, June 9, 1998, p. 94; June 17, 1997, p. 105). Indeed, the Government House Leader’s prerogative goes somewhat further. As noted in a decision of Speaker Smith, “All motions referring to the business of the House should be introduced by the Leader of the House” (B.C. Journals, April 12, 1976, pp. 52-3). The authority of the Government House Leader in adjournment matters was further addressed in detail in a decision of Speaker Barnes (B.C. Journals, July 12, 1995, p. 159):
Yesterday, the Honourable Member for Richmond–Steveston rose on a point of order and referred the Chair to proceedings in the Committee of the Whole which occurred immediately prior to Monday evening’s adjournment.
At that time, the Honourable Member for West Vancouver–Garibaldi moved, in Committee of the Whole, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again. That motion was negatived on a division and immediately thereafter, without intermediate proceedings taking place as contemplated by Standing Orders 34 and 62, the House Leader moved the same motion which carried.
Let me say at the outset that the Member brought to the House a matter occurring in Committee which, in keeping with the long-standing practice of this House, should have been raised in Committee. All Honourable Members will recall the rule that matters of procedure arising in a
Committee must be settled in the Committee and the House cannot deal with such matters unless they are reported to the House. An examination of the Blues makes it apparent that no such report was made to the House.
However, as the Honourable Member raises an important point, for the guidance of the House, it is the Chair’s view that further comment is warranted.
At the time the questioned motion was made, the Attorney General was acting as Government House Leader. The traditional responsibilities of the House Leader are outlined in Redlich — Procedure of the House of Commons and are quoted with approval in a decision of this House of April 12, 1976, as follows:
Let us now briefly indicate the influence directly exercised by the Leader of the House on the course of business. It is his task, in the name of the Government and the party in office, to distribute over the session the programme of legislation announced in the King’s speech and to advocate it in the House. He assumes the duty of proposing all such motions concerning the agenda of the House as are deemed advisable by the Government and is their spokesman in the debate thereon. With regard to every Government project, the Leader is the final authority as to its general progress, as to the time to be given to its different stages, and as to any application of the closure or other available method of shortening debate and bringing matters to a conclusion. The whole policy of the Government, especially so far as it is expressed in the inner life of the House and in measures dealing with the course of its business, in concentrated on his person.
The Government House Leader’s authority over the progress of business of the House and, in particular, power to adjourn proceedings remains paramount. Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, 16th edition, on page 408, further states that the use of the motion for adjournment of the House, when used as a substantive motion, can only be moved by a Member of the Government. See also, Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia, 2nd edition at page 43.
It is [the] Chair’s view that the law as stated in Redlich and Erskine May’s 20th edition at page 657, states that in relation to a motion to rise and report progress and ask leave to sit again “it is usual for the chairman to accept such a motion from the Member in charge of a Bill, even if no proceedings have taken place upon the Bill.” At the time in question, the motion to rise and report progress and ask leave to sit again was made by the Minister in charge of the Bill.
5.7Adjournment on a Matter of Urgent Public Importance (Special Purposes)
Standing Order 35 was last amended in 2004, with two goals in mind: to simplify the mechanics of raising a matter of urgent public importance, and to place a practical limit on the use of parliamentary time in the event a matter is found to qualify under the rules.
Standing Order 35 provides a unique opportunity for the scheduled business of the Legislative Assembly to be adjourned in order that an urgent debate take place.
A successful application under Standing Order 35 does not result in a motion being passed, in the introduction of a bill, or in a statement of opinion of the Legislative Assembly. It simply results in a debate. It is a vehicle that permits the Legislative Assembly to break away from the scheduled business on the Order Paper, to allow Members to debate a matter of urgent public importance, providing the application passes the rigorous restrictions on its successful use.
As noted in a decision of Speaker Reid (B.C. Journals, November 17, 2015, p. 151):
Standing Order 35 provides a unique opportunity for the scheduled business of the Legislature to be adjourned in order that an urgent debate take place. Therefore, a Member seeking to use Standing Order 35 must present factual and undisputed information for the proposed debate which is:
1. Not an ongoing matter already debated or available to be debated by the House; and,
2. Related to new, sudden and unexpected event(s), requiring that the Legislature suspend all other business for a genuine emergency debate on a specific matter.
In reviewing previous decisions relating to Standing Order 35, the Speaker is also required to assess whether other opportunities for parliamentary debate exist.
STANDING ORDER 35
(1) Leave to make a motion for the adjournment of the House, when made for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, must be asked after the ordinary routine of business (Standing Order 25) has been concluded and before Orders of the Day are entered on.
(2) A Member wishing to move, “That this House do now adjourn” under this Standing Order, shall rise and state the matter briefly.
(3) After the Member has stated the matter, he or she shall hand a written statement of the matter proposed to be discussed to the Speaker.
(4) If the Speaker decides that the statement is in order and is of urgent public importance, he or she shall read the statement aloud and ask whether the Member has leave to move the motion. If objection is taken, the question of leave shall be decided on division without debate.
(5) The Speaker may defer the decision upon whether or not the statement is in order and of urgent public importance. The proceedings of the House may be interrupted later for the purpose of announcing the decision.
(6) If leave has been obtained, the motion may stand over until 4:30 p.m. on that day, or the Speaker may direct that the motion be set down for consideration on the following sitting day at an hour specified by him or her.
(7) Repealed – Consequential to amendments to the Standing Orders adopted on February 10, 2004.
(8) The debate on the motion shall not exceed one hour, apportioned as follows:
Mover: 15 minutes
Other Members: 10 minutes each
(9) Upon expiration of the time limited for debate, the motion lapses and the House shall proceed to Orders of the Day or the next order of business, unless the House otherwise orders.
(10) The right to move the adjournment of the House under this Standing Order is subject to the following restrictions:
(a) not more than one such motion may be made at the same sitting;
(b) not more than one matter shall be discussed on the same motion;
(c) the motion must not revive discussion on a matter which has been discussed in the same Session;
(d) the motion must not anticipate a matter which has been previously appointed for consideration by the House, or with respect to which a notice of motion has been previously given and not withdrawn;
(e) the motion must not raise a question of privilege;
(f) the discussion under the motion must not raise any question which, according to the Standing Orders of the House, can only be debated on a motion under notice.
5.7.1When Leave Is Asked to Move the Motion Under Standing Order 35
Standing Order 35(1) outlines the proper place in the daily proceedings to raise the matter, which must be after the conclusion of Routine Business and before the Orders of the Day are called. In the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, leave is sought after Questions and before the beginning of Public Business (see House of Commons (U.K.) Hansard, May 11, 1970, vol. 801, c. 826). Once the Legislative Assembly proceeds to Orders of the Day, it is too late to make an application under Standing Order 35 (see B.C. Journals, January 20, 1999, p. 193; June 2, 1998, p. 86).
PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION 8
A Member proposing to move a motion under Standing Order 35 should, as a courtesy, give the Speaker notice in writing within a reasonable time before raising the matter in the House.
From a practical point of view, Members are encouraged to inform the Speaker and the Table Officers in advance of making an application under Standing Order 35. This is consistent with Practice Recommendation 8. Encouragement for this practice, which will allow the Speaker or the Table Officers to indicate to the Member the appropriate time to rise, is further outlined in a decision of Speaker Brewin (see B.C. Journals, January 20, 1999, p. 193).
5.7.2More Than One Matter at the Same Sitting
As outlined in a decision of Speaker Barnes: “When there is more than one application for leave in the same sitting, the Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 35(10)(a), can only entertain one such request and must give priority to the Member who first catches the Speaker’s eye” (B.C. Journals, April 21, 1994, p. 58). However, if Members act in accordance with Practice Recommendation 8, it could be argued that the Speaker should give priority to the Member who first notified the Speaker in writing of the intent to make an application under Standing Order 35. Indeed, Speaker Sawicki previously gave consideration to this when determining which application to hear first (see B.C. Journals, April 8, 1992, pp. 44-5).
5.7.3Stating the Matter
Standing Order 35(2) requires the Member to stand and state the matter briefly. In practice, the statement made under subsection (2) and the statement given to the Speaker under subsection (3) are the same. Members should not go too deeply into the merits of the case, nor should they make the type of speech which they would make if their submission is successful (see decision of Speaker Brewin, B.C. Journals January 20, 1999, p. 193; see also decision of Speaker Schroeder, B.C. Journals, April 22, 1981, pp. 93-4).124
A Member recognized by the Speaker on an application under Standing Order 35:
1. May not attempt to invoke Standing Order 49 to obtain unanimous consent (see decision of Speaker Davidson, B.C. Journals, September 15, 1982, pp. 269-70).
2. May not read or move the motion tendered to the Speaker until the Speaker has determined that the matter qualifies under the Standing Order (see decision of Speaker Brewin, B.C. Journals, January 20, 1999, p. 193).
3. May not use the opportunity to make comments about other Members (see decision of Speaker Brewin, B.C. Journals, June 2, 1998, p. 86).
The matter contained in the application under Standing Order 35:
1. Must be under the jurisdictional umbrella of the Province of British Columbia (see decision of Speaker Richmond, B.C. Journals, March 24, 2003, p. 49; further reinforced in a decision of Speaker Barisoff, B.C. Journals, May 6, 2008, pp. 102-3).
2. Must not be sub judice (see decision of Speaker Reynolds, B.C. Journals, February 24, 1988, pp. 185-6; further reinforced in a decision of Speaker Barnes, B.C. Journals, June 22, 1994, p. 161; and in a decision of Deputy Speaker Chouhan, B.C. Journals, November 26, 2018, pp. 158-9).
3. Must not involve the normal administration of justice (see decision of Speaker Barnes, B.C. Journals, June 17, 1994, p. 154; further reinforced in a decision of Deputy Speaker Chouhan, B.C. Journals, November 26, 2018, pp. 158-9).
4. Must be factual and undisputed, as a disagreement between Members on the interpretation of the facts contained in the application would likely render it unsuccessful (see decision of Speaker Richmond, B.C. Journals, April 19, 2004, pp. 74-5; further reinforced in a decision of Speaker Reid, B.C. Journals, November 17, 2015, p. 151).
5. Should not be a censure or non-confidence motion, nor should it deal with a question of maladministration of a ministry or the conduct of a Member. As noted in a decision of Speaker Barnes: “There is a long standing practice to refrain from reflecting on the conduct of a Member or Minister except by way of a substantive motion, of which notice is required” (B.C. Journals, June 19, 1995, p. 110; further reinforced in a decision of Speaker Barnes, April 21, 1994, pp. 57-8). This is also provided in Standing Order 35(10)(f).125
5.7.4Determination Made by the Speaker
Standing Order 35(4) puts the responsibility for determining whether the matter qualifies as one of urgent public importance with the Speaker. On an occasion when an application made under Standing Order 35 related to the Office of the Speaker, the Speaker recused himself from hearing the Member’s submission, and asked the Deputy Speaker to take the chair (see B.C. Hansard, November 26, 2018, p. 6811).
While the Speaker may invite submissions from Members on the matter, additional submissions are not acceptable once the Speaker has issued a ruling (see House of Commons (U.K.) Hansard, November 25, 1970, vol. 807, c. 452).
Should the Speaker determine that the motion is in order, the Speaker will read the Member’s statement and will ask if the Member has leave to move the motion. If a question for leave raises objection, even by one dissenting Member, the question of leave to proceed is decided by the Legislative Assembly, on division (meaning that a standing vote is automatic), without debate. In Standing Order 35, leave does not imply unanimous consent. It has been held that the request for leave may be postponed to await further information, without prejudice to the urgent nature of the motion (see B.C. Journals, May 31, 1976, p. 115; February 15, 1968, p. 62).
Few applications under Standing Order 35 surmount the restrictions on its use set out in the order itself, or the many Speakers’ decisions which have further limited the number of successful applications. Time and again, Speakers have found that, while the matter for which the application is being made may be of great importance, the consideration of the limitations set out in Standing Order 35(10) does not make debate on the matter possible.
Since 1967, seven applications under Standing Order 35 were granted by the Speaker, permitting the matter to proceed to debate. The debates that took place under Standing Order 35 were on:
1. The resignation of the complete psychology section of Riverview Hospital (February 23, 1967).
2. The stoppage of work on the B.C. Railway (November 26, 1974).
3. The proposed Alcan Gas Pipeline (August 9, 1977).
4. Government privatization plans (November 25, 1987).
5. Aerial spraying of the Asian gypsy moth (April 9, 1992).
6. A budget leak (March 28, 1995).
7. The Transformative Change Accord (May 4, 2006).
There have also been instances when the Speaker is not required to deliver a ruling, when negotiations between recognized caucuses led to an agreement for debate on the topic in question to take place (see B.C. Journals, October 16, 2018, p. 115; May 31, 2018, p. 99; February 16, 2017, p. 15).126
5.7.5Time of Debate
If an application under Standing Order 35 is granted by the Speaker, debate on the matter would commence at 4:30 p.m. on the same sitting day, pursuant to subsection (6) of the Standing Order. Therefore, a Member speaking on an item of business as 4:30 p.m. approaches would reserve the right to speak for the balance of the Member’s time when the item is subsequently called for resumed debate, if needed, and move adjournment of debate. The Legislative Assembly then proceeds to debate the matter under the application of Standing Order 35, with the Member whose application was granted moving the motion.
Alternately, the Speaker may make a determination that the debate take place at the next sitting day, and must set the time that the debate would commence.
5.7.6Not in Order on Opening Day
Applications under Standing Order 35 are not in order on Opening Day (see decision of Speaker Dowding, B.C. Journals, September 13, 1973, p. 5). Such a motion infringes the traditional practices of the Legislative Assembly relating to proceedings on the opening of a new Session, which is usually reserved for pro forma proceedings only.
An urgency motion would be difficult to argue at the opening of a new Session, as Members have not yet had an opportunity to fully engage in Throne Speech Debate. As noted in a decision of Speaker Barnes: “The Throne Speech Debate has been consistently cited as an ‘Ordinary Parliamentary Opportunity’ which would accommodate the discussion proposed [under Standing Order 35]” (B.C. Journals, March 23, 1994, p. 23). It would also be difficult for Members to bypass the anticipation rule set out in Standing Order 35(10)(d).
5.7.7Application of Urgency
126.96.36.199Urgency of Debate — Not Matter
“Urgency” has been consistently interpreted by Speakers as urgency in debate, and not urgency of the subject matter. Thus, when the Legislative Assembly is engaged in Throne Speech Debate or Budget Debate, leave has often been refused on the grounds that an immediate parliamentary opportunity exists to debate the matter in question (see decisions of Speaker Barnes, B.C. Journals, April 21, 1994, pp. 57-8; March 23, 1994, p. 23).
There are a number of Speakers’ decisions that relate to the restrictions enumerated in Standing Order 35(10). The restrictions of current Standing Order 35(10) (previously Standing Order 35(6)(c)) were addressed in a notable decision of Speaker Shantz (B.C. Journals, March 6, 1961, p. 97):
The motion “That this House do now adjourn to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the unemployment situation in the Province of British Columbia” is not one on which I am asked to rule upon the urgency or the importance of the unemployment situation but upon the
urgency of debate. At this time, no one can deny that unemployment is a serious matter in this Province and across Canada.
This motion is out of order on several grounds, but I would particularly refer you to Standing Order No. 35, section 6, clause (c): “The motion must not revive discussion on a matter which has been discussed in the same Session.” The motion proposed clearly revives a matter fully canvassed in the Throne and Budget debates.
Referring to the last paragraph of the statement submitted by the Hon. the Leader of the Opposition, I might also point out that the interim report of the British Columbia Energy Board was tabled in this House several days ago and, therefore, the matter could have been brought to the attention of this House at an earlier date than today (see May, 16th ed., p. 370, paragraph (2)(b)).
Therefore, I have no alternative but to rule this motion out of order.
188.8.131.52Recent Occurrences Do Not Necessarily Constitute Urgency
Numerous Speakers have noted in their decisions on an application under Standing Order 35 that a recent occurrence in an ongoing matter does not necessarily constitute a “matter of urgency.” This was noted in a decision of Speaker Barnes (B.C. Journals, July 11, 1995, p. 155):
Yesterday, the Honourable Member for West Vancouver–Garibaldi sought to move adjournment of the House pursuant to Standing Order 35 to discuss a matter of “urgent public importance,” namely, the “Crisis in the British Columbia Salmon Fishery.”
The Member cited the blockade of an Alaska State Ferry by British Columbia fishing boats, and the question of potential contravention of the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty through over-fishing by Alaskan fishers.
I wish to thank the Honourable Member for giving notice to the Chair as recommended in Practice Recommendation No. 8.
The Speaker’s role in considering such an application is to determine whether the test of urgency of debate has been met so as to set aside the normal business of the House. In considering urgency, the Chair has noted that matters which are ongoing do not meet the test. I note that this House, after an active debate, passed the following resolution on May 10, 1994:
Be it resolved that this House call on the Government of Canada to take the strongest possible stand with the United States to achieve full implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s core principles — namely, an equitable sharing of salmon commensurate with national production and the rebuilding and conservation of salmon stocks — and aggressively advance British Columbia’s interest in support of the salmon resource and the thousands of British Columbians that depend on it.
Clearly the issue of over-fishing is of an ongoing nature. See Speaker’s decisions to be found in the Journals of this House for June 21, 1991, at page 54, and May 11, 1976, at page 91.
Another question which must be addressed is whether the protest this past weekend has changed the nature of the matter. In the view of the Chair, these latest events have not changed what is effectively an ongoing matter. “The fact that new information has been received regarding a matter that has been continuing for some time does not in itself make the matter one of urgency,” found in the 16th edition, Erskine May, at page 370.
For these reasons the Honourable Member’s application cannot succeed.
This has been further reinforced in successive Speakers’ decisions (see B.C. Journals, November 17, 2015, p. 151; May 15, 2006, pp. 96-7; March 24, 2003, p. 49; June 15, 2000, pp. 90-1; January 20, 1999, p. 193).
5.7.8End of Debate Under Standing Order 35
As the motion under Standing Order 35 is for the “adjournment of the House,” the debate itself cannot be adjourned, nor is the motion amendable (see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 702-3). By virtue of Standing Order 35(9), the motion lapses upon the expiration of the one hour granted, or earlier, if no Members rise to speak on the debate prior to the conclusion of the hour.
If it is desired to bring the debate to an end prior to the expiration of the hour provided in Standing Order 35(9), there are two alternatives available:
1. The Member who proposed the motion withdraws it, with unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly to do so.
2. A motion is adopted that the Legislative Assembly proceed to the Orders of the Day, pursuant to Standing Order 33.