Those who have a comprehensive enough genius to be able to give laws to their own nation or to another
should pay certain attentions to the way they are formed.
(The Spirit of the Laws, Book XXIX, Chapter XVI)
In 1980, the Clerk of the House, Dr. C.B. Koester (1979-1987), supported by Speaker Jeanne Sauvé
(1980-1984), established the Table Research Branch at the House of Commons. The Table Research
Branch was mandated to provide information and advice on parliamentary procedure to the Chair, the
Table, Members of Parliament, public servants, academics and the general public. In addition, Dr.
Koester envisaged the Table Research Branch producing an original, comprehensive manual of procedure
and practice in the House of Commons — not that there had never been a book on Canadian parliamentary
Sir John George Bourinot, Clerk of the Canadian House of Commons from 1880 to 1902, was the first
person to write a book on parliamentary procedure from the Canadian perspective. Parliamentary
Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, first published in 1884, with a fourth edition in
1916, is still recognized as a fundamental, if somewhat outdated, authority on Canadian practice.
Following in Bourinot’s footsteps, Arthur Beauchesne, Clerk of the House of Commons from 1925 to 1949,
published four editions of Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, a collection of notes
with annotations, comments and precedents to provide Members with a quick reference whenever questions
of procedure arose. In particular, the fourth edition, published in 1949, is still highly regarded by
proceduralists. Two more editions were published, the fifth in 1978 and the sixth in 1989, under the
direction of Alistair Fraser, a former Clerk of the House (1967-1979). However, because the copyrights
for these earlier publications are held privately, it proved difficult for the House of Commons to
provide Parliamentarians with timely and accurate updated editions.
Before setting out to publish a procedural reference book, the Table Research Branch first developed a
database to consolidate procedural information at the House of Commons and to serve as a reference tool
for future publications. Once this undertaking was completed, procedural research officers began
drafting The Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons of Canada which focussed on the written
rules and included a concise commentary and brief history of each Standing Order. Upon its publication
in 1989, this work became a solid foundation of reliable information on Canadian procedure and
With the success of The Annotated Standing Orders, John A. Fraser, Speaker of the House of Commons from
1986 to 1993, and Gilbert Parent, the Speaker since 1994, embraced the idea that the time had come for
a distinctly Canadian reference work on the procedure and practice of the House of Commons. They
committed the resources and encouraged the efforts of the team of researchers, writers and editors
brought together for this purpose.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice represents a milestone in the evolution of Canadian
parliamentary jurisprudence. Parliamentarians, proceduralists, academics and interested Canadians
should find this book an essential guide to understanding the House of Commons and its Members.
Although it touches on constitutional, political and historical matters, this reference book is
primarily a procedural work which examines the many forms, customs and practices which have been
developed and established since Confederation in 1867. While shedding light on the Westminster model
of parliamentary government, it provides a distinctive Canadian perspective in describing procedure in
the House of Commons up to the end of the First Session of the Thirty-Sixth Parliament in September
The material is presented with full commentary on the historical circumstances which have shaped the
current approach to parliamentary business. Key Speakers’ rulings and statements are also documented
and the considerable body of practice, interpretation and precedents unique to the House of Commons of
Canada is amply illustrated. A wealth of references in the footnotes support the text and offer
additional insights into the development of the current rules and practices. The book is complemented
further by the figures found throughout the text and by many appendices.
In many ways, House of Commons Procedure and Practice is a continuation of Bourinot’s work, documenting
Canadian parliamentary procedure from the early years of the House to the start of a new millenium. It
is our hope that in offering a clear exposition of our procedures and practices, this book will serve
as a reference guide for Parliamentarians in their daily work and for all those who study and are
intrigued by the House of Commons and how it functions.
Clerk of the House of Commons