Legislative Assembly of British Columbia


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Library RotundaHansard Frequently Asked Questions

The Story of Hansard

1. What is Hansard?
2. Where does the name "Hansard" come from?
3. Hansard in Canada
4. Hansard in B.C.

Hansard Transcripts

5. How a transcript is made
6. Obtaining copies of Hansard transcripts
7. House and Committees
8. How do I find something in Hansard?

Legislative Television

  9. When is it on?
10. What channel is it on?
11. How debates are televised


The Story of Hansard
1. What is Hansard?

Hansard is the official report of debates in the British Columbia Legislature. Most jurisdictions in the British Commonwealth call their official report of debates "Hansard." In the United States the Congressional Record fulfils a similar purpose.

Hansard is "a full report, in the first person, of all speakers alike, which, though not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument."

That statement of Hansard policy was written in 1907 for the U.K. Parliament at Westminster, but it continues to apply today in Hansard offices throughout the Commonwealth.

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2. Where does the name "Hansard" come from?

The name "Hansard" originated with Luke Hansard and his son Thomas, who were printers to the British House of Commons in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Hansard was operated by the Hansard family as a (highly unsuccessful) business until 1889. They faced stiff competition from journalists such as Charles Dickens, who was a parliamentary reporter before he became a novelist.

Reporting was journalistic; it paraphrased the debate, with a sprinkling of direct quotations. Today's Hansard, produced entirely under legislative authority, is a full, accurate and impartial report of legislative proceedings.

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3. Hansard in Canada

The Canadian House of Commons has had a full, publicly financed Hansard report since 1880. Britain's Hansard did not become fully publicly financed until 1908.

Canada's Hansard, however, almost died an early death. In 1881, the year after it was established, an opposition member proposed that it be abolished. The Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, rose in his place and delivered a ringing defence:

"As a matter of history, it is of the very greatest importance that the remarks of every hon. member, who has a responsibility as the representative of the people should, if we can afford it  — and we can afford it  — be as fully recorded in the official report as those of a leader. I hope we shall not commit such a great mistake, I hope we shall not make such a relapse into barbarism as to throw over the only means by which after generations shall be able to learn what were the subjects of interest engaging our attention, what was the style of speaking and the style of thought, and what were the moving impulses of the people and their representatives in Parliament."

More of Sir John A.'s remarks can be seen on the Hansard Association of Canada's web site.

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4. Hansard in B.C.

B.C.'s Hansard was not instituted until 1970 and did not become a complete report — including the debates of budget estimates (Committee of Supply) and clause-by-clause debate of bills (Committee of the Whole) — until 1972. Until 1970, B.C. had only the Journals of the House; these remain, as in most Legislatures, the official record of what motions were debated and passed.

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Hansard Transcripts
5. How a transcript is produced

Sittings of the Legislature are recorded digitally as computer audio files. Each file covers five minutes of the proceedings. A digital backup recording is also made, and the video tape record is a second backup.

A Hansard editor makes a careful draft transcript of this five-minute segment of the sitting. These draft transcripts are knitted together and uploaded to the Internet in batches as they are done. Words spoken in the House appear on the internet within about an hour. This first version of the transcript is known as the Blues, after the blue paper used for the cover of its printed version. Printed versions of the complete Blues transcript are produced for the use of MLAs after most sittings.

A second editor checks each five-minute transcript for accuracy, listening to the audio again. A senior editor then assembles the full transcript and reads it through to ensure consistency. Throughout the process, Hansard's research department works with editors to verify the accuracy of names, titles and quotations.

Hansard's publishing department then formats the final transcript of each sitting for printing and for the Web. The final transcript is checked over and then posted to the Internet and printed by the Queen's Printer for B.C. on the morning of the day following the sitting.

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6. Obtaining copies of Hansard transcripts

Both subscriptions and individual transcripts may be ordered from:

Crown Publications, Queen's Printer for British Columbia
563 Superior Street
Victoria, BC    V8V 1T7

Toll-Free:

1-800-663-6105

Telephone:

(250) 387-6409

Fax:

(250) 387-1120

E-Mail:

crown@crownpub.bc.ca

Website:

http://www.crownpub.bc.ca

The price for a single issue is $2.85 (plus GST and shipping) and an annual subscription, mailed daily, is $396 (plus GST only). Transcripts may also be available from the constituency office of your local MLA or through your local library.

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7. House and Committees

General meetings of MLAs in the chamber of the Legislature are known as sittings of the House. When debating the budgetary estimates of government departments, meetings are sometimes held in a committee room of the Legislature. These meetings are known as meetings of Committee A. When estimates are debated in the chamber, the meetings are known as meetings of Committee B.

In addition to debates of the House and estimates committees, Hansard Services also produces transcripts of the Legislature's select standing committees and special committees. See the Legislature's Committees page for more information. There is also a Legislative Committees search page from which you can search transcripts of committee proceedings. Committee transcripts are not indexed.

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8. How do I find something in Hansard?
See the Hansard Services help page. It is possible that what you remember an MLA saying was said in the media or elsewhere, rather than in the House or a committee. In that case, you will not find it in Hansard. Try a general Web search, search a media outlet's web site or contact your local media outlet or the MLA's office for help.

Hansard Television
9. When is it on?

The legislative television broadcast schedule is available here.

10. What channel is it on?

The legislative television channel guide is available here.

11. How debates are televised

Please visit the About Legislative Television page for information about televising of legislative proceedings.

 

E-mail: hansard.services@leg.bc.ca