The fifth edition of Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia builds on the foundational work of E. George MacMinn, O.B.C., Q.C., who served as a Table Officer for 54 years and as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly from 1993 to 2011, and who authored the first four editions of the book. This new edition captures 12 years of developments in parliamentary practice in British Columbia.
The Legislative Assembly has been described as a practical or business-oriented institution with respect to procedural matters. Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia is evidence of this approach, focusing on the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Orders, their application and interpretation, and the experience of other legislative bodies with similar rules.
The fifth edition differs from earlier editions, which were organized numerically by Standing Order. The fifth edition is organized into 18 thematic chapters, with the Standing Orders, Practice Recommendations and pertinent excerpts from statutes featured throughout the supporting text. Content and commentary are significantly expanded, including new text on the roles and work of Members, the foundational elements of parliamentary procedure, voting and divisions, the legislative process, financial procedures and parliamentary privilege.
While the Legislative Assembly’s procedural operations are the focus of this book, there is also some insight into the administrative operations of the Assembly and the machinery that supports the work of elected representatives and the work of the democratic institution of Parliament. More comprehensive content, numbered sections, callouts with key information, an improved index and a modern design are hallmarks of this edition. It is my hope that these elements make the content more user-friendly and accessible to Members and all British Columbians.
British Columbia will mark 150 years as a province in 2021. The Standing Orders that have governed the Legislative Assembly’s proceedings have been updated over the years to reflect modernization of parliamentary practice and to meet Members’ expectations and changing social values. Fundamentally, the Standing Orders have enabled the Legislative Assembly to conduct its work effectively and in an organized manner; they allow the government of the day to carry out its agenda while also allowing the opposition to fulfill its important scrutiny role.
Since the publication of the last edition of this book in 2008, various Sessional Orders have been adopted, and several Standing Orders have been amended or added. This includes modification of the daily sitting times (Standing Orders 2 and 3), which were most recently changed in February 2014; a change in Standing Order 25 that provides for Routine Business, including Oral Question Period, to take place in the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays and in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, made permanent in September 2017; a family-friendly amendment in March 2018 to Standing Order 23 that provides that infants in the care of a Member are permitted on the floor of the House; the addition of a new Standing Order 17A in March 2018 that solidifies Speakers’ directives on the use of electronic devices during parliamentary proceedings; the re-establishment of the Select Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fish and Food in April 2018 (Standing Order 68(1)); a modification to Standing Order 36 and the addition of a new Standing Order 17B in October 2019 that update dress guidelines and expectations for Members, to reflect the diversity of our province; and the modification of Standing Order 25 with a consequential amendment to Standing Order 17A in November 2019 to rename the proceeding of “Prayers” to “Prayers and Reflections.”
This edition also reflects changes in parliamentary practice, most of which derive from decisions of Speakers on the application of the Assembly’s rules and procedures. The spirit of cross-party consultation continues to influence the Legislative Assembly’s practices and operations, particularly since the 2017 provincial general election, which resulted in the first minority Parliament in British Columbia in over 60 years.
Since 1981, Speakers and Members have recognized Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia as the Legislative Assembly’s primary procedural authority. As Editor of the fifth edition, I trust that it will continue to serve as a useful reference tool for Members, Table Officers and staff. It is also my hope that this edition will contribute to further transparency and understanding of how the Legislative Assembly operates. The online availability of this book is a step toward ensuring greater accessibility to this public institution, which is of importance to all British Columbians.
The fifth edition is a true team effort and reflects the dedication and talents of many individuals. However, its production would not have been possible without my colleagues who served as Assistant Editors: Artour Sogomonian, Susan Sourial and Ron Wall. I am deeply indebted to this team for their editorial assistance, keen insight and ongoing support, which enabled us to bring the fifth edition to life. In particular, I commend Artour for his steadfast determination and many contributions, which were our driving force. I extend my sincere thanks to all who contributed to the fifth edition, and particularly those noted in the Acknowledgments.
I am also grateful to the Honourable Darryl Plecas, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and to all Members of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, who supported the production of the fifth edition. A final note of personal appreciation goes to my family: Ken, Seamus, Megan and Molly — for their love and encouragement, always.
Acting Clerk of the Legislative Assembly