Glossary of Parliamentary Terms

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Act

A bill that has been approved by the Legislative Assembly.
See also Statute.

Address in Reply

A formal message to the Lieutenant Governor expressing the thanks of the House for the Speech from the Throne. Moved by a supporter of the government, and debated in the House, it is also known as the Throne Speech debate. The Address in Reply may not exceed six sitting days.

Adjournment

The end of a meeting of the House (e.g. at the end of a sitting day). All business not concluded at the time of adjournment may be resumed at the next sitting or session.

See also Dissolution; Prorogation; Recess.

Adjournment of Debate

A suspension by the House of a debate before the matter has been decided. The item remains on the Order Paper and may be taken up again at a later date.

Administrator

The Chief Justice of British Columbia, or designate, who assumes the powers of the Lieutenant Governor in her or his absence. The Administrator may read the Throne Speech and grant Royal Assent to bills.

Amendment

A proposal to alter a motion, bill, or committee report. Amendments must be introduced by motion and must be adopted by the House before the proposed changes take effect.

Bar of the House

A brass bar across the inside entrance of the Chamber that cannot be crossed by non-Members or non-officials of the House.

Bells

The ringing of the bells (chimes) signifies the following activities: sitting of the House (1 long chime), division or quorum in the Chamber (3 chimes), division or quorum in section A of Committee of Supply (4 chimes). The electric chime system is also used to signify a meeting of Cabinet or caucus.

Bill

Proposed legislation that is presented to the Legislative Assembly for its consideration and approval.

Black Rod

A ceremonial rod the Sergeant-at-Arms carries when accompanying the Lieutenant Governor into the Chamber to deliver the Speech from the Throne or to grant Royal Assent.

Blues

The preliminary transcript of the debates of the Legislative Assembly produced by Hansard Services. The print version of this transcript has a blue cover page, and the final transcript has a white cover page.

Budget

The government’s plan for fiscal, economic and social policies for the forthcoming fiscal year. The Minister of Finance must present the budget address and table the main Estimates in the Legislative Assembly the third Tuesday in February.

Budget Debate

The general debate on the government’s fiscal, economic and social policies that follows the Minister of Finance’s budget address/speech. The debate on the Minister’s motion, “That the Speaker do now leave the Chair for the House to go into Committee of Supply,” continues a maximum of six sitting days and at least eight sittings and concludes with a vote on the motion.

Cabinet

The executive of government, comprising ministers appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. The Cabinet is responsible for the administration of government and the establishment of its policy.

See also Executive Council.

Cabinet Minister

Customarily, a Member of the governing party appointed to the Executive Council by the Lieutenant Governor on the advice of the Premier.

Casting Vote

In the event of a tie, the deciding vote accorded to the Speaker or the Chair.

Caucus

Members of the Legislative Assembly from the same political party.

Chamber

The room where the proceedings of the House take place, located on the second floor in the centre block of the Parliament Buildings.

Clerk of the House

The chief procedural and administrative adviser to the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly. The Clerk is responsible for maintaining all official House documents and for the management of Assembly services.

Committee of Supply

A committee consisting of all the Members of the Legislative Assembly, presided over by the Deputy Speaker or by a Chair. Committee of Supply is responsible for reviewing and approving the government’s expenditure plans as presented in the Estimates. The mace is placed under the Clerk’s Table during Committee of Supply.

Committee of the Whole House

A committee consisting of all the Members of the Legislative Assembly, presided over by the Deputy Speaker or by a Chair. Also known as Committee of the Whole, it is responsible for examining in detail each section of a bill or any other matter referred to it by the House. The mace is placed under the Clerk’s Table during Committee of the Whole.

Constituency

A specific geographical area entitled to elect a representative to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly. Currently, there are 85 constituencies (or ridings) in B.C.

Crossing the Floor

When a member changes political allegiance during a sitting of the Legislative Assembly. A Member of the Legislative Assembly crossing the floor may choose to sit as an independent Member or as a member of a different party.

Crown

Her Majesty the Queen, represented by the Lieutenant Governor; the executive branch of government.

Dissolution

Proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor that ends Parliament. It is followed by a provincial general election. Members cease holding their seats upon dissolution.

See also Adjournment; Prorogation.

Division

A recorded standing vote taken upon request by a Member. Members divide into two groups ‘yeas’ or ‘nays’ and the names of the Members for and against a proposition are read into the record and formally recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.

Estimates

The expenditure plans of all government ministries, consisting of Main Estimates tabled annually and Supplementary Estimates tabled as required. The print version of the Estimates is commonly referred to as the “blue book”.

See also Budget.

Executive Council

A council of cabinet ministers who have been appointed by the Lieutenant Governor on the advice of the Premier to act in a formal and legal capacity to carry out their executive powers. The Executive Council (or Cabinet) is the highest formal instrument of government, and is created by section 9 of the provincial Constitution Act (RSBC 1996, c. 66).

First Reading

The introduction of a bill to the House. The Member of the Legislative Assembly sponsoring the bill introduces the proposed law to the House and explains its purpose. The bill is not debated, but Members of the Legislative Assembly vote on whether to accept it for further debate. If approved, it is assigned a number and scheduled for second reading.

Free Vote

A vote during which party discipline is not imposed on individual Members.

Galleries

Seating areas in the Chamber set aside for the public, the press, Members’ and Speaker’s guests, and visitors who wish to observe a sitting.

Governing Party

The political party that wins the largest number of seats in an election. Its leader is called upon by the Lieutenant Governor to serve as Premier and form a government.

Hansard Services

The Assembly branch that produces the official verbatim transcript of what is said in the Legislative Assembly and in committees. The transcript is available in print form as well as on the Internet. Hansard also broadcasts the live telecast of proceedings throughout the province by satellite.

House Leader

The member of a recognized party responsible for managing the party’s business in the House.

Independent Member

A Member of the Legislative Assembly who is not affiliated with a political party or who does not belong to a recognized political party.

Journals

The official record of House proceedings and decisions. The Journals are compiled from the daily Votes and Proceedings. They are indexed and published by the Office of the Clerk at the end of each session.

Legislative Assembly

The lawmaking body of British Columbia, consisting of all the elected Members, as constituted under the provincial Constitution Act.

Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC)

The governing body of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Chaired by the Speaker, the Committee derives its powers from the Legislative Assembly Management Committee Act and is responsible for the Legislative Assembly’s financial and administrative policies.

Legislative Precinct

The buildings and grounds occupied by the Members of the Legislative Assembly and staff for the purpose of their parliamentary duties, excluding constituency offices.

Legislature

Formally, the Lieutenant Governor acting by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly; term also commonly used to refer to the Parliament Buildings.

Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the federal Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada, for a term no less than five years, to represent the Queen in the Province of British Columbia.

Mace

An ornamented club symbolizing the authority of the House. When the House is in session, the mace rests on the Clerk’s Table.

Message

A formal communication from the Lieutenant Governor which accompanies government bills.

Motion

A formal proposal moved by a Member that seeks to elicit a decision from the House or a Committee. A motion initiates all business undertaken by the House.

Notice of Motion

A formal written announcement of an intention to bring a proposal before the House (required by certain Standing Orders) and placed in the Orders of the Day.

Oath of Allegiance

Pursuant to the Constitution Act, every Member of the Legislative Assembly is required to take and subscribe to an oath of allegiance to the Sovereign, or instead make a solemn affirmation or declaration, before the Lieutenant Governor or some other person authorized by the Lieutenant Governor to administer the oath (usually the Clerk of the House) before taking their seat in the House.

Order in Council

An order issued by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (Cabinet) regarding the administration of government or appointments to office and other matters.

Orders of the Day

All items of business on the agenda of the House which may be brought forward on a particular day. Also the name of the daily publication produced by the Office of the Clerk.

Out of Order

Contrary to the Standing Orders (the rules of the House) or to the rules of parliamentary procedure.

Parliament

The period of time between general elections, composed of a number of sessions that are made up of individual sittings of the House. These periods are numbered consecutively (Thirty-ninth Parliament, Fourth Session).
Term commonly used to refer to the Legislative Assembly.

Parliamentary Calendar

The schedule showing the dates when the House is expected to meet pursuant to Standing Order 2(2).

Parliamentary Committee

An all-party group of Private Members appointed by the House to investigate and report on matters referred by the Legislative Assembly.

Petition

A formal request presented to the House by a Member, seeking redress of a grievance.

Point of Order

A method used by Members to draw the Speaker’s or Chair’s attention to any departure from the Standing Orders or customary procedures. Decided by the Speaker or the Chair.

Precedent

A ruling or practice that guides subsequent procedural rulings on questions of a similar nature.

Presiding Officer

The Member who presides over House or Committee proceedings, such as the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Assistant Deputy Speaker, Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole.

Private Bill

A bill sponsored and introduced by a Private Member that seeks to exempt an individual or group from the application of the law, or that gives special/additional powers or benefits to an individual or group.

Private Member

A Member who does not serve as a cabinet minister or as Speaker.

Privilege

The rights and privileges enjoyed by the House collectively and by each Member individually, without which Members could not effectively carry out their duties.

Proclamation

An official notice or order issued by the Lieutenant Governor. A Parliament starts and ends by proclamation.

Prorogation

The closing, by the Lieutenant Governor, of a parliamentary Session. The House stands prorogued until summoned to reconvene for Opening Day of a new session.

See also Adjournment; Dissolution.

Public Bill

A proposed law, usually presented by a cabinet minister, to the Legislative Assembly for consideration and approval. Only a public bill introduced by a cabinet minister, with an accompanying message, may propose a tax or a spending measure. A public bill introduced by a Member of the Legislative Assembly who is not a cabinet minister is known as a public bill in the hands of a private member.

Question Period

A 30-minute proceeding held in the afternoon on Monday and Wednesday sittings, and in the morning on Tuesday and Thursday sittings while the House is in session. Members of the Legislative Assembly question cabinet ministers about government priorities and policies.

Quorum

he minimum number of Members of the Legislative Assembly required for the House or a committee to proceed with its business. The requirement is ten Members in the House, or a majority of committee members.

Recess

A temporary break from House or committee proceedings.

Regulation

Subordinate legislation made under the authority of a statute. Sometimes referred to as delegated legislation, regulations are made by persons or bodies to whom the Legislative Assembly has delegated that authority.

Resolution

A motion adopted by the House in order to make a declaration of opinion or purpose.

Responsible Government

The principle whereby Cabinet collectively, and cabinet ministers individually, are accountable and answerable to the elected body, the Legislative Assembly, for the actions of the government.

Routine Proceedings

The daily business of the House, prior to Orders of the Day. The following items are examples of routine business:

  • Prayers
  • Introduction of Bills
  • Statements by Members
  • Oral Question Period
  • Presenting Petitions
  • Reading and Receiving Petitions
  • Presenting Reports by Committees.

 

Royal Assent

The ceremony in which the Lieutenant Governor formally approves a bill passed by the House. In order to have legal effect, all bills must be given Royal Assent after they have passed third reading. The Lieutenant Governor assents to bills on behalf of the Queen.

Second Reading

The stage of a bill when Members of the Legislative Assembly consider the bill’s general principles and goals.

Sergeant-at-Arms

A permanent officer of the Legislative Assembly. The Sergeant-at-Arms holds ceremonial, security and administrative responsibilities.

Session

A Parliamentary time period that begins with the Speech from the Throne and ends with prorogation or dissolution.

See also Parliament; Sitting.

Sessional Order

A temporary order governing conduct of business in the House that applies only for the session in which it was adopted.

Sessional Paper

A document tabled in the House or deposited with the Clerk of the House during a session and entered into the Votes and Proceedings.

Sitting

A meeting of the Legislative Assembly within a session.

See also Parliament; Session.

Speaker

The Member elected by the House at the opening of a new parliament (or when there is a vacancy) to preside over its proceedings and to ensure the rules and procedures of the House are followed. As Chair of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, the Speaker is responsible for the administration of the Legislative Assembly.

Speaker’s Procession

A procession led by the Sergeant-at-Arms and consisting of the Speaker, followed by the Clerks, which enters the Chamber at the start of each sitting. The Speaker is in ceremonial dress, including a tricorn hat and a black silk robe. The Sergeant-at-Arms carries the mace and places it on the Clerk’s Table.

Speaker’s Ruling

A formal decision made by the Speaker on a procedural question or matter before the House.

Speech from the Throne

A speech delivered by the Lieutenant Governor at the start of a session. It provides a broad outline of the government’s plans and priorities.

Standing Orders

Permanent written rules adopted by the Legislative Assembly to govern its proceedings and the proceedings of Committees. They may only be altered or repealed by a decision of the House.

Statute

An alternate name for an Act; a law that has been formally approved by the Legislature.

Statutory Officer

A senior non-partisan official responsible to the Legislative Assembly for the carrying out of duties assigned by statute. There are currently 8 independent Statutory Officers:

  • Auditor General
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • Conflict of Interest Commissioner
  • Information and Privacy Commissioner
  • Merit Commissioner
  • Ombudsperson
  • Police Complaint Commissioner
  • Representative for Children and Youth.

 

Supply Act

In its final form, a Supply Act authorizes government expenditure following completion of review of the estimates. If all estimates have not been passed by the House before the end of the fiscal year (March 31), an interim supply bill enables government to meet its financial commitments. A supply bill can only be introduced by a cabinet minister.

Third Reading

The final reading stage of a bill by the Legislative Assembly.

Votes and Proceedings

The official record of the decisions and proceedings of the House on the previous day, prepared by the Office of the Clerk similar to minutes.

Westminster Model

A system of parliamentary government originating in Britain, characterized by a symbolic head of state (monarch) and a political executive drawn from and directly responsible to the elected legislative body.

Whip

A Member whose role is to keep other members of the same party informed about House business and to ensure their attendance in the House, especially when a vote is to be held.

 

Last Updated: May 11, 2017