24 March 2006


British Columbia Hansard

Among the thirteen provincial and territorial online Hansards in Canada, the British Columbia Hansard is without question the best of them all. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best, I would give the British Columbia online Hansard a 9.8 – no other would rise above 6, and most would come in around 4 to 5.

If a group of politically-informed and Internet-literate citizens were to produce a set of guidelines for the presentation and organization of Hansard records on the WWW in a citizen-friendly way, they would come up with something very much like the design of this site by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. No other province or territory comes close to the high standard set by this website.

For example (just one of many), the Guide to the Old Hansards Web Project is written in plain English, and and covers the ground thoroughly. British Columbia is the only Hansard site that addresses the question of the Old Hansards – records published in print before the mid-1990s when they began to publish Hansard online simultaneously with the printed version. Once the online version was established, what should be done about the earlier Hansards? Should the government adopt a plan to work back through the earlier print-only Hansards and gradually publish them online? British Columbia has developed such a plan, and has described it publicly. No other province has addressed this question.

Yukon is the only territory whose Hansard goes back before the rise of the Internet. Early on, Yukon published its pre-Internet Hansard online, going back about ten years to November 1987.

The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia has its Hansard online back to January 1970.

British Columbia's Hansard is available in HTML from the beginning on January 22, 1970. It is also available in pdf beginning on February 12, 2002. The pdf and HTML versions of Hansard do not have identical content – the information is not quite the same in the two versions. For any given day, both versions contain the near-verbatim Hansard transcript of the debates on the floor of the Legislature; the pdf version also contains a list of the cabinet ministers, and a list of the MLAs, that do not appear in the HTML version; these lists are a useful addition to the Hansard record. As usual, for any given day the pdf version supplies an orphan page, with no navigational links to any other page in the website. The HTML version supplies a page with a navigational link enabling the viewer to access the other content in the site.

Beginning on October 6, 2003, the Hansard report for each day includes online video.

Many of the provincial and territorial Hansard websites include a page of links to the other twelve provincial and territorial Hansard websites. The British Columbia Hansard site has the best page of links to the others.

A search of the British Columbia Hansard for the earliest mention of "information highway" turned up one on May 13, 1994.

The earliest mention of "internet" is on June 29, 1995.

Whoo hoo! I work at BC Hansard, and this made my day. Actual readers... :)
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