Sixteen years have passed since the publication of the first edition of the Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons in April 1989. While parliamentary procedure is sometimes seen as slowly evolving, this period has been marked by a great deal of change, demonstrating an increased willingness on the part of Members to adapt the rules in order to reflect changing circumstances and evolving needs. Over half of the Standing Orders have been amended in one way or another since the publication of the first edition. New practices, such as take-note debates and pre-budget consultations, have been codified. Obsolete rules, such as those relating to staffing, have been removed. In certain instances, such as with delegated legislation, the adoption of new statutes has necessitated Standing Order amendments. Significant reforms have been made, for example, in relation to Private Members’ Business, the parliamentary calendar, the legislative process and the structure of committees. The present work, which covers the period up to June 2005, includes all amendments to the Standing Orders and incorporates changes in practice, key precedents and Speaker’s rulings, which have shaped the interpretation of the rules.
Another important development since the first edition was the publication, in February 2000, of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, an original and global manual on Canadian parliamentary procedure. While both that work and this one seek to help readers understand the workings of the House of Commons, it is important to underscore the differences in their respective approaches and purposes. While House of Commons Procedure and Practice is a comprehensive study of all aspects of parliamentary rules and customs, the Annotated Standing Orders provide a focused and thorough examination of the written rules. Each Standing Order is accompanied by a brief commentary explaining the current interpretation given to it in light of relevant data drawn from various parliamentary law sources (“authorities”, usage, precedents and other written rules). The commentaries are followed by an historical summary of the evolution of each Standing Order, presenting details of any comprehensive amendments made since Confederation and the usage and precedents that have clarified, or sometimes altered, the interpretation over the years.
As with the first edition, in some instances, closely related Standing Orders have been grouped together for the sake of logic and cohesiveness — see specifically the Standing Orders governing financial procedures, committees, delegated legislation and Private Members’ Business. In other cases, specific sections of Standing Orders comprising rules in and of themselves have been considered separately. Since they are rarely invoked, Standing Orders respecting private bills have been considered all together and no historical overview has been provided. As they no longer form part of the rules, Standing Orders which have been deleted are not analysed in detail, beyond a brief explanation of when and why they were removed. The Conflict of Interest Code for Members, which has been appended to the Standing Orders since the beginning of the Thirty-Eighth Parliament in October 2004, has not been included in this procedural work, as responsibility for its interpretation and application lies with the Ethics Commissioner. All references are listed at the end of the book, thus giving the reader an opportunity to consult at his or her leisure the precedents and quotations pertaining to each Standing Order or group of Standing Orders.
A number of Standing Orders have been adopted on a provisional basis. These include, for example, provisions relating to questions and comments after certain speeches, the sharing of speaking time, concurrence in committee reports, opposition motions on allotted days and participation in meetings of the Liaison Committee. As they are currently in force, these provisional rules have been included in this work. The decision on whether to adopt them on a permanent basis, reject them or further refine them rests, as always, in the hands of Members and, ultimately, the House itself.
WILLIAM C. CORBETT
Clerk of the House of Commons.