Thank you, Mr. Chair.
When I became the Clerk in 2017, one of my goals was to unify the administration as one entity serving the members. In terms of procedural services, one way to proactively support the needs of the members was to review the Standing Orders. From my reading, I found them overly complex and not really accessible to members and their staff.
As a consequence, I launched an internally driven project to improve the style and organization of the rules and to enhance their accessibility.
Specifically, my aim was to rewrite the Standing Orders in plain language, using consistent terminology and eliminating internal references, and to reorganize the Standing Orders to improve the navigation of the document by adding a comprehensive table of contents with matching marginal notes, and I proposed a new numbering scheme that acts as a memory device and organizes related procedures in discrete chapters. Finally, I wanted to do this without making any substantive changes to the rules. This was my commitment to you at this committee at my first appearance.
The project has involved two phases of activity.
Phase one was to rewrite and reorganize the Standing Orders with a view to improving the logical flow of the rules, disaggregating complex and lengthy rules into subsections to provide a step-by-step understanding of the procedure and, where possible, combining certain procedures to improve the conciseness of the document.
Phase two was to work with the legislative services to ensure that there are no discrepancies between the English and the French text. To do this, we have involved jurilinguists on the project; these are specialists who work in the Law Clerk's office. This will also improve the level of French in the Standing Orders.
I know that you have all received a bundle of documents to prepare for the meeting. Three documents are part of it. There is a general information note describing the genesis of the project, the principles applied in the review and the approach adopted to improve the style and organization of the Standing Orders. There is a proposed table of contents and the first seven corresponding chapters, which provide a basis for the work done in the House. There is an appendix that draws members' attention to inconsistencies between rules, divergence between rules and outdated usages or rules.
Where possible, we have suggested changes to improve the internal consistency of the rules and to improve the alignment of the rules with our practices.
There has been no attempt to introduce new concepts or to recommend substantive changes to the interpretation of any rule.
Let me take some time to walk you through some specific proposals that are designed to improve the accessibility of the document.
Let's begin with the table of contents. As compared with the existing version, the proposal of a comprehensive table of contents using marginal notes or subheadings will improve the ease of navigation of the document.
Another thing users will note is the writing style, using plain language and the active voice. We also placed a premium on concision, which improves the clarity of the text and the ease of comprehension.
The removal of internal references is a major improvement in understanding the operation of the rules. For expert proceduralists, this may not seem to be an obstacle, but for new members and new staff who possess limited procedural knowledge, internal references represent a barrier to understanding the rules and how they work together.
In this same vein, we have added notes and exceptions under rules to explain linkages to other rules, exceptions to the application of rules, and references to statutory and constitutional authorities.
By using consistent terminology, we hope to eliminate the use of redundant text where the application of a term is different.
These are examples of how we propose to improve the writing style of the Standing Orders. Now here are some examples of how we organized the document to improve its navigation.
We found that certain groupings in long chapters were not particularly helpful in finding what the reader is looking for. For example, we reorganized the chapter on financial procedures. We took the procedures dealing with the budget debate and put them in the special debates chapter. We took the ways and means procedures and grouped them with non-debatable motions in the chapter on motions. And we kept the remaining procedures dealing with the business of supply in the chapter named after business of supply.
In addition to adding an index to the document, we are also proposing to include a glossary of terms that we hope will improve the understanding of the Standing Orders.
We have completed the first phase of the project for all the chapters, with the exception of the one on private members' bills. We have realized that the framework considered in the Standing Orders to deal with private members bills is archaic and inapplicable. So we are proposing options on the best ways to modernize that chapter.
I would like to hear comments on all aspects of the project.
We very much appreciate your views on how to improve the accessibility of our Standing Orders and on ways to make them best suited for your purposes as members of Parliament.
Over the next few months I will continue to provide you with new chapters as they become available. It is my hope that an iterative dialogue will lead to a revised set of Standing Orders that you and your colleagues will find helpful in your work as parliamentarians.
I'm happy to take any questions you may have.