Bills on Today’s Agenda vs Newspaper Reports

I like to know things first. It’s a character flaw that is exacerbated by a desire to place the libraries first in the minds of my firm’s lawyers for being the source of current information. With all the technology available for learning things, it should be easy to learn what you need to know. Lately though, I find myself stymied in my desire to know things first.

Today is a good example. Being from an Alberta farming background and growing up with my great grandfather’s shotgun stored in my closet (unloaded of course), I thought I would write about the imminent demise of the Long Gun Registry.

The National Post reports that the bill to dismantle the registry will be unveiled today. The Bills on today’s agenda page on the LEGISinfo website has nothing about this bill.

Twitter posts reveal that the bill was introduced an hour ago, yet I can’t get my hands on it. Major Canadian newspapers are reporting about the bill, but the text is elusive.

Even in an era of instant communication, patience is required.

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Comments

  1. Presumably the reason the National Post had its story is that someone in the Minister’s office told them that the bill was coming today. Many governments do selective advance notices of this kind about bills, so that the story is in the paper on the day of the bill’s introduction and not just the next day. It is just a teaser, though – the National Post is unlikely to have had the text of the bill, just the fact of its introduction and whatever the Minister’s office saw fit to tell it.

    Bills coming up for first reading are never on the order paper by name. (The bills shown in Shaunna’s screen shot have all already had first reading.) There are too many times when plans to introduce a bill fall through before the time planned for introduction. Plus, the government wants more control over the timing of the announcements than the order papers give them.

    It takes some time for the webmasters of the legislative assemblies or of Parliament to put the bill up, especially in both languages. They may not have it until actual introduction, because (as just mentioned) the plans to introduce something and its actual introduction are not always the same. Thus there is a gap between actual introduction and appearance online.

    Members of Parliament or of the Legislature who get the bills placed before them at time of introduction can now tweet the fact and the contents before the ‘slower’ media get online. OTOH … what do a few hours (or less) really matter? The bill will not be going to second reading for a while, and there will be lots of time to review and comment on it.

  2. John G,
    You are absolutely correct that a few hours here or there for reviewing the text of a first reading bill isn’t usually critical.

    I also agree that it takes time for those responsible for government websites like LEGISinfo to post data.

    You said: “Bills are never on the order paper by name.” I confess that I didn’t realize that this was the case for Federal Bills.

    In Alberta, the order paper does have first reading bills listed under a “Leave to Introduce” section. Though all bills under the leave section are not necessarily introduced, it is a great way to know what is coming up on the agenda.

    I guess that I wish the RSS feed attached to the LEGISinfo agenda page would give me the best clue to what is coming rather than the teasers by news reporters.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. I believe that Alberta has a system unusual in Canada for approving bills before introduction, involving more control by the Legislature and less by the government. As a result, the Alberta Legislature is in a better position to know (and put on the Order Paper) what’s (probably) coming than its counterparts in most of the rest of the country.

  4. On this topic, have a look at the Ruling of Speaker Milliken of March 19, 2001, concerning the confidentiality of bills placed on notice but not yet introduced in the House:

    …with respect to material to be placed before parliament, the House must take precedence. Once a bill has been placed on notice, whether it has been presented in a different form to a different session of parliament has no bearing and the bill is considered a new matter. The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves may be well informed, but also because of the pre-eminent rule which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.

    Thus, the issue of denying to members information that they need to do their work has been the key consideration for the Chair in reviewing this particular question of privilege. To deny to members information concerning business that is about to come before the House, while at the same time providing such information to media that will likely be questioning members about that business, is a situation that the Chair cannot condone.