| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
The third session of the twenty-fifth
legislature opened on March 22, 1983. The Speech from the Throne dealt in the
main with the troubled Yukon economy and the actions the government had taken
or would be initiating to deal with the problems of the unemployed (See last
report for a description of the economic situation in Yukon). Figures released
for December, 1982, indicated that the population had dropped by 8.8 percent,
that the unadjusted unemployment rate was at 17.6 percent and that unemployment
claims had jumped by 63.3 percent. Declines in the number of employed were most
severely felt in mining, forestry and transportation, down by 41.3 percent,
38.2 percent and 30.5 percent respectively.
Government Leader Chris Pearson laid the
1983-84 Operation and Maintenance Budget before the House on April 7. It called
for an increase in expenditures over the previous year of 6.5 percent to a
total of $130 million with the major objectives being a balanced budget, zero
growth in the size of the public service and adequate funding to enable
departments 1o maintain normal levels of service without diminishing the need
for increased efficiency and economy."
Even though the personal income tax rate was
raised by two percentage points, the recession has led to an expected decline
of 25 percent in revenues from this source. Emphasis was placed on the survival
of small business and, for enterprises failing within that description, the
corporate tax rate was reduced and school taxes were cut. The federal
contribution to revenues is the largest in recent memory as the annual transfer
payment has reached $73 million.
A major announcement was made in Whitehorse
on April 20, 1983, in which it was revealed that the federal government and the
Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation had agreed on a $50 million plan to reopen the
company's lead zinc mine at Faro (closed since June, 1982). Under the two-year
plan the federal government and Cyprus Anvil, a subsidiary of Dome Petroleum,
are to invest $25 million each for the purpose of a stripping operation which
will expose a body of ore to be ready for production when world metal prices
improve. The Yukon Government also was a participant in the plan, agreeing to
contribute $1 million toward topping up the wages of the 210 employees who will
go back to work and foregoing $600,000 in property taxes.
The member for Faro, Maurice Byblow (NDP),
expressed his pleasure with the action but also asked the House not to lose
sight of the unfortunate circumstances of the some 300 workers who would not be
called back, He also called attention to the contribution of the Steelworkers
Union which, as part of the package, had signed a new contract, boosting productivity
by an estimated 20 percent.
Two other major issues captured the
spotlight during the session. The first concerned land claims negotiations and
the withdrawal in December 1982, of the Yukon from those negotiations. The
government undertook a public advertising campaign on its stand which it
described in a tabled document as follows:
The Government of Yukon will not return to
the Land Claims negotiating table without the following:
1. A written agreement with the federal
government making it clear that the original ground rules will be adhered to so
that after settlement beneficiaries will be treated in the same manner as other
Yukon residents with respect to participating in any future process regarding
the devolution of self-government to the Yukon Territory.
2. A written agreement with the federal
government setting out a unified approach to the problems posed by the Canada
3. A written agreement with the federal
government documenting the responsibility of the Government of Canada for
funding all new and additional expenses incurred by the Government of Yukon
which arise from a Land Claims Settlement.
4. A written agreement with the federal
government that a satisfactory policy on aboriginal and treaty claims with
Yukon by non resident Indian people will continue to apply after Land Claims
have been settled.
5. An understanding with the federal
government with respect to the COPE claim within Yukon.
6. A written agreement with the federal
government establishing a process for determining the procedures for and the
timing of the transfer of land from federal to territorial jurisdiction.
The Council for Yukon Indians requested an
opportunity to appear before the Committee of the Whole to make a presentation
regarding the impasse. An opposition motion to grant that opportunity was
defeated by the government side which took the position that its disagreement
was with the federal government and not with the C.Y.I. and that it would be a
dangerous precedent for the House to begin receiving witnesses from aggrieved
The second flare-up occurred as a result of
the introduction of a new Children's Act. This act, which had not received
Second Reading at the time of this writing, proposes to: establish a body of private
law about establishing parentage, and about custody, access and guardianship;
revise and clarify the law affecting adoption and taking into care and caring
for children in need of protection; and establish appropriate mechanisms for
the effective implementation of the Young Offenders Act.
There has been a rather spontaneous
groundswell of public concern about the legislation, some of it informed, some
not. The opposition has requested that the bill be referred to a select
committee so that public hearings may be held and expert witnesses called. It
has also proposed, as alternatives, that the bill be held over to the fall
sitting for further public input, or that it be split into two or more bills
which would allow less contentious provisions to be passed during the spring
sitting and the rest to be dealt with later. The government has refused all of
these suggestions stating that it is under an obligation to have the bill
enacted as legislation prior to the proclamation in force of the Young Offenders
Act on October 1, 1983. However, before the session adjourned the government
announced it would not be proceeding with the Children's Act until the 1983
fall sitting. This delay will provide time for the public to provide input on
the bill and for the government to draft amendments to those provisions which
it agrees to change.
Standing committees of the Assembly have
been active with a total of five reports being tabled, two each from Statutory
Instruments and, Rules, Elections and Privileges and one from the Public
Accounts Committee. The First Report from the Standing Committee on Rules,
Elections and Privileges dealt with the rules and practices which govern
Question Period. Utilizing, as a base, an April 14, 1975 ruling of James
Jerome, Speaker of the House of Commons, the committee proposed a set of 16
specific guidelines for members to follow in the delivery of both questions and
answers. The Second Report from the same committee recommended a number of
minor amendments to the Standing Orders of the Assembly. Perhaps most notable
are the abolition of the need for seconders and the requirement that cabinet
present a response to petitions within two weeks of their being received. Both
reports were unanimously concurred in on April 13.
For the first time in its history the Yukon
Legislative Assembly received members from the Alaska State Legislature. From
March 28 to 31 a delegation consisting of one state senator and eight members
of the House of Representatives returned a visit made by a Yukon delegation to
Juneau in March 1982. Four of the Alaskans delivered addresses to the Assembly
(while in a period of recess) and all nine later appeared before the Committee
of the Whole to participate in a discussion on matters of mutual concern to
Yukon and Alaska.
The third session of the twenty-fifth
legislature was adjourned May 2, 1983, after 22 sitting days.
Patrick L. Michael
Yukon Legislative Assembly
With traditional pomp and ceremony, the
first session of the twentieth legislature of Alberta was opened on March 10,
1983 by Lieutenant Governor Frank Lynch-Staunton.
An immediate item of concern to the
legislature and more particularly to Gerard Amerongen, the re-elected Speaker
of the Legislative Assembly, was the need to designate the Official Opposition.
Claims advanced by Independents Raymond A. Speaker and Walter A. Buck that they
were entitled to the privilege on the basis of incumbency and seniority were
met by arguments from Grant Notley and Ray Martin of the New Democratic Party
that party status and popular vote guaranteed the title to themselves. Finding
neither group's representations inherently compelling nor any directly
applicable precedents, Mr. Amerongen nevertheless conceded that the notion that
an Official Opposition is customarily composed of elected members of a party
had a certain limited validity; that is to say, where no majority team in
opposition exists, the designation of Official Opposition should go to the
group whose members belong to the same party. On this basis, then, the two-man
New Democratic Party caucus was recognized as the Official Opposition and Grant
Notley as Leader of the Official Opposition.
In the Speech from the Throne, Premier Peter
Lougheed's fourth Progressive Conservative government recognized and accepted
the challenge confronting it in the face of a world decline in economic
activity, particularly in the hard hit oil and gas industries. Three priorities
were identified as keys to Alberta's recovery: an overall strategy of sound and
efficient financial management, continued supplements to the Alberta Economic
Resurgence Plan and substantial support for job training and retraining to help
young Albertans prepare for the future.
The budget presented on March 24 by
Provincial Treasurer Lou Hyndman followed up on those priorities. It was, in
Mr. Hyndman's words, "a resurgence budget of cautious confidence (that)
sustains the economic resurgence plan ... stresses a prudent responsible
approach to public sector financing ... (and) supports job training and
retraining." Total budgetary expenditure was to be held to $9.7 billion,
the minimum necessary, to support the economic resurgence plan, essential
ongoing operating programs, and needed capital construction projects. As a further
objective of the government's fiscal strategy, a plan to reduce by attrition
the number of permanent public service positions in an effort to reduce
manpower costs was announced.
To reduce the previous fiscal year's $2.3
billion budgetary deficit and minimize borrowing requirements, Mr. Hyndman
introduced the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Amendment Act. According to
its terms, investment income from the Trust Fund would be transferred to the
General Revenue Fund and the transfer of non-renewable resource revenue to the
Trust Fund would be reduced from 30 per cent to 15 per cent for a two-year
period. This would inject an estimated $860 million into the provincial coffers
and slow Heritage Fund growth to $1.9 billion in 1982-83, allowing Alberta to
adjust to the current economic situation.
Both the Official Opposition and independent
opposition members responded extensively to the Speech from the Throne.
However, opposition responses to the budget address were more limited, and a
motion to approve in general the fiscal policies of the government was carried
after only two days of debate.
The New Democratic Party tabled a statement
by the Catholic Bishops entitled "Ethical Reflections on the Economic
Crisis". The statement was used as a means of articulating New Democratic
Party policy and criticism of the government's response to the economic crisis.
Mr. Notley stressed the need for increased emphasis on social responsibility, a
short and long-term industrial strategy, a more decisive role for labour unions,
a focus on the problem of unemployment rather than inflation and a more
equitable program for reducing the rate of inflation. Furthermore, he
criticized the increase in medicare premiums as a form of regressive taxation.
In response to Alberta's critical unemployment situation, Notley proposed the
START (Short Term Alberta Recovery Targets) program. He also put forward a
long-term proposal to incorporate measures such as restructuring corporate
income tax, municipal revenue sharing, performance controls on major capital
projects and others.
Mr. Ray Speaker criticized the government
for failing to address adequately the issues of unemployment, deteriorating
incomes and bankruptcies of small businesses and the need for clear priorities
during the present economic downturn. He favoured a plan to rebuild the
confidence of the private sector, which would free this sector from the burden
of high taxation. He also urged the government to phase out all government
housing programs, reduce government regulations, cease all direct and indirect
competition with the private sector increase the commitment to higher education
and re-evaluate social policy directions. He suggested holding a public inquiry
into the growth of the government bureaucracy since the Lougheed administration
came to power in 1971, after which the bureaucracy would be selectively reduced
through a genuine hiring freeze and attrition.
During the budget debate, David Russell,
Minister of Hospitals and Medical Care, announced the introduction of a discretionary
user fee program for health care services. Beginning October 1, 1983, hospital
boards will be allowed to charge patients for admissions, emergency visits,
outpatient care, and inpatient accommodation. To ensure that no Albertan would
be denied medical care owing to these additional charges, Mr. Russell noted
that safeguards built into the system would include maximums on each fee yearly
limits on individual and family contributions, and a large class of exemptions
for people unable to afford the fees or who, on account of chronic diseases or
special handicaps, require long-term hospitalization. In the minister's opinion
the implementation of this program will increase public awareness of and
responsibility for rapidly escalating health care costs as well as provide
hospital boards with additional funds to cover program and operating deficits.
The announcement engendered a great deal of
opposition from the New Democratic party. Philosophically opposed to a user fee
concept, Mr. Notley made a last effort to dissuade the government from this
course of action by proposing a reasoned amendment to the Interim Supply Act,
urging the Assembly to decline giving third reading "until the government
announces its discontinuance of establishing and imposing hospital user
fees". After a ruling that the amendment was indeed in order and some
spirited debate on the motion, a division was called. The results of the vote
were: 3 for and 54 against.
On April 11 the Minister of Labour, Les
Young introduced Bill 44, the Labour Statutes Amendments Act. It would amend a
number of labour statutes and contains five significant changes. First
compulsory arbitration boards would be required to consider other union and non
union contract settlements as well as current government fiscal policies when
arbitrating contract disputes. Second, hospital and auxiliary hospital
employees and employers would be bound by compulsory arbitration it a
negotiated settlement cannot be achieved. Third, most Alberta Liquor Control Board
employees would be given the right to strike. Fourth, in the event of an
illegal strike by employees covered by compulsory arbitration legislation, an
employer would be allowed to discontinue deduction and remission of union dues
for as long as six months. Finally, trade unions would be allowed to form
organizations similar to employers' organizations for bargaining purposes.
Attorney General and Government House Leader
Neil Crawford moved a motion to adjourn the legislature from April 25 to April
28 to allow for the Standing Committee of the Assembly on Public Affairs to
conduct public hearings on Bill 44. After several opposition amendments were
defeated, the main motion was carried and the public hearings took place.
Proposed Changes to Legislative Assembly
On Friday, April 22, Mr. Crawford tabled a
white paper outlining a number of proposed changes to the Legislative Assembly
Act, including new provisions governing the eligibility of candidates in
provincial elections and the disqualification of elected Members of the
Marcel Dirk, Neil Herbst and Karen Pettifer
Alberta Legislative Assembly
For the first time in nearly a decade, the
legislature was unable to prorogue at Christmas and thus sat from January 17
until February 23 to complete the work of the second session of the 32nd
legislature. During this time, the House was principally preoccupied with three
matters: the completion of the estimates and the budget windup; the unfolding
"Trust Companies Affair". and the passage of Bill 127, a highly
contentious measure dealing with teachers ' collective bargaining and school
board financing in Metropolitan Toronto.
As a result of special investigations and
audits in the wake of the sale of nearly 11,000 Toronto apartment units by
Cadillac-Fairview Ltd. to Greymac Ltd., serious questions arose as to the
lending practices of Greymac, Crown Trust and Seaway Trust. On January 7th,
Consumer and Commercial Relations Minister Dr. Robert Elgie announced that the
government had taken control of the three trust companies. In addition to
pressing the minister for further information, Liberal leader David Peterson
and NDP leader Bob Rae attacked the government for failing to properly regulate
the provincially-chartered companies. On January 24th a bill was introduced to
authorize the sale of Crown Trust by the government. The minister explained
that this course of action was preferable to the very real possibility of
winding-up Crown Trust with consequent losses and delays to investors.
Premier William Davis led off the debate
emphasizing that the bill was indeed unique and that its principal aim was the
protection of Crown's depositors. He also pointed out that the government was
proceeding in this urgent matter not by way of general legislation but through
a specific measure to deal with one particular situation. Opposition spokesmen
were vehement in their criticism because they felt the government had not
released enough in formation on the situation and because of what they termed
the bill's "draconian", "offensive" provisions. Liberal
Justice critic Jim Breithaupt decried as 'Shades of the Star Chamber" the
bill's abrogation of due process and natural justice for the shareholders whose
every appeal was removed. Mr. Rae pointed out that no charges had been laid and
argued that despite his party's objections to Crown Trust's policies, it was
entirely improper for the legislature to set itself up as judge and jury in
transferring ownership of the company without consideration for the
The bill was referred to the Administration
of Justice Committee where these concerns were further explored. it was
reported back without major amendment and given third reading on February 1st.
Within a few days, it was announced that Central Trust Company of Halifax would
Bill 127, introduced in Spring 1982, was the
subject of extensive public hearings in the Fall, but progress was slow during
clause by clause consideration in Committee of the Whole. The bill requires the
elementary and secondary teachers in the six school boards in Toronto and its
boroughs to bargain jointly on salaries, benefits and staffing levels. It also
makes individual boards responsible for their own surpluses and deficits in
place of spreading them across all boards. Both opposition parties fought
vigorously against the bill on the grounds that it would cause a decline in
quality of education in Toronto and as a stalking horse for province-wide bargaining,
threatening local school board autonomy.
With the opposition vowing to fight the bill
in the same tenacious fashion they had employed against Bill 179, the Wage
Restraint bill, Education Minister Dr. Bette Stephenson moved, on February 15,
a time allocation motion similar to that used to speed the passage of Bill 179.
However, where the earlier motion was couched in terms of 'the first sessional
day' after passage of the motion, Dr. Stephenson's motion called for completion
of the Committee of the Whole stage at a specific time 5:45 p.m., on February
17th. Accordingly, it was not difficult for the opposition to prolong debate on
the motion to the point where it was obvious that it would not be passed in
time to take effect. Hence, the regular Committee of the Whole consideration
resumed on the 17th. The bill received third reading on February 23, but only
after the government found it necessary to move the previous question" to
curtail debate on several separate sections.
Committees were unusually quiescent between
sessions, in part due to the length and the stress of the just completed
session, with the consequent desire by members to spend time in their ridings.
Perhaps the most significant committee endeavour was the second phase of the
Social Development Committee's family violence enquiry: a series of hearings on
The third session of Ontario's Thirty-Second
Parliament began on April 18th, with Lieutenant Governor John Black Aird
reading the Speech from the Throne.
The speech started from the premise that
although the province was faced with difficult economic times, economic
indicators were becoming more positive, so that the restoration of confidence
has begun". Specific initiatives in such areas as job training, automobile
manufacturing, fusion fuel technology and computer development for the
education market were set within an overall policy whereby the primary economic
responsibility of government is to create the proper climate for the private
sector to foster economic growth".
Notably less critical of the federal
government than had been the case in 1982, the speech called for
"constructive intergovernmental co-operation", beginning with a First
Ministers' meeting on the economy. The government also signified its intention
to promote a constitutional amendment dealing with the identification and
definition of aboriginal rights.
In terms of social policy, the speech
indicated the government's concern with housing, pension reform and the needs
of the elderly. In order to "accelerate progress in the area of women's
issues", the government announced its intention to name a senior minister
to be directly responsible for issues of concern to women. Finally, the
previously announced commitment to amend The Education Act to recognize the
right of every French-speaking student to a French language education was
Opposition members were critical of the
speech for offering vague generalizations and almost no specific proposals on
initiatives. Liberal Health critic Sheila Copps, who led off the debate for the
Official Opposition, likened the government's "rehash of old
promises" to a dog chasing its own tail. Ms. Copps compared the
government's record against the promises made by the Premier on the dissolution
of the legislature prior to the March 1981 election, and found it lacking in
social policy, economic achievements and overall leadership. She went on to
elaborate on why the speech would been seen as a major disappointment by
farmers, by skilled industrial workers, by landlords and tenants, by injured
workers, by those concerned with provision of health care, and by many others.
Mr. Rae referred to the speech as light at
the end of the gangplank" for those suffering from the economic recession.
In his contribution to the debate, Mr. Rae chose not to comment extensively on
the Throne speech but to set out detailed criticism of the government, and his
party's proposals in three areas: housing, the unemployment situation,
particularly its human impact on the jobless, and the health care system, with
special emphasis on the nursing home industry.
Speaker's Ruling on Question Period
Before the first question period of the new
session, Mr. Speaker John Turner served notice that he would not henceforth
permit members to ask multiple questions and ministers to give multiple
answers. ('Multiple questions' are not to be confused with supplementary
questions, but pose several separate questions in the form of one original
question or one supplementary.) This policy was designed to permit more
backbench members to participate in question period. Despite an hour long
question period, party leaders had been taking so much time and ministers were
answering at such lengths that it was not unusual for only two or three
backbenchers to get to ask their questions, Clearly, it will take time to judge
the effectiveness of the Speaker's new approach, but within a week, Liberal
Deputy House Leader Jim Bradley noted the increase in the number of questions
being asked and congratulated the Speaker on the success of his "restraint
Ontario Legislative Assembly
Extensive debate about ways in which the Legislative
Assembly could further responsible government in the Northwest Territories
provided a continuing counterpoint to debate on the $474-million territorial
budget as the legislature met for its six-week winter session from February 2
Proposals to change the Assembly's rules
sparked debate about the role of the Speaker and about the role and function of
the federally-appointed Commissioner. Further debate about the Commissioner's
role arose as the Assembly considered the budget for operating his office. The
debate received an additional impetus when Indian and Northern Affairs Minister
John Munro announced he was transferring two more portfolios, Information and
Public Works, to the Executive Committee. That leaves only one ministry, Personnel,
still in the Commissioner's hands.
Motions put forward by Mackenzie-Liard MLA
Nick Sibbeston to remove the Commissioner entirely from the legislature and to
delete his office's operating funds from the territorial budget were defeated
after much debate. But many MLAs found themselves in sympathy with the
intention behind the motions. and some suggested it was time for even stronger
After further debate, MLAs approved a
four-point motion listing actions which they wanted to see achieved by October
31, 1983, the end of the Ninth Assembly's life. The points included the
development of a plan for responsible government, making the Commissioner's
position into that of a Lieutenant Governor, and abolishing the Deputy
Commissioner's position. The motion also invited Mr. Munro to attend the Spring
Session to report on those matters.
The question of whether the Commissioner
should no longer be allowed to sit with the Assembly during Committee of the
Whole was referred to the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures for a full
report. The Commissioner, while he sits with the Assembly in Committee of the
Whole, does not have a vote and is not entitled to sit with the Assembly in
formal session. Removing him from Committee of the Whole would be the final step
in having the Assembly made up solely of elected members, a process which has
been gradually evolving since 1975, when an elected Speaker presided instead of
the Commissioner for the first time since 1905.
Changes to the Council Ordinance during the
session formally recognized the Office of the Speaker and created the
Management and Services Board. Formerly known as the Members' Services Board,
it is responsible for the management of the legislature and corresponds to
Boards of Internal Economy in other legislatures.
A proposal to change the Speaker's role on
an experimental basis until the end of the Ninth Assembly's life sparked
lengthy debate. The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures, as part of its
first report to the Assembly, had suggested removing the Speaker's right to
participate in debate in the House or Committee of the Whole and restricting
his right to vote to casting the deciding vote in case of a tie.
Yellowknife Centre MLA Bob MacQuarrie, a
former Speaker of the Ninth Assembly, felt that in a House where MLAs
individually represent their constituents, no MLA should be prohibited from
participating to the fullest. Reminding the Assembly that it had publicly
upheld the Speaker's right to speak to issues at a constituency meeting, Mr. MacQuarrie
suggested that the Speaker's independence consists of being able to demonstrate
that, when a matter of procedure is being decided, he has based his decision on
the established rules regardless of what events may have preceded that ruling.
Slave River MLA Arnold McCallum saw it as a
question of the House evolving towards the independence of the Speaker, as is
currently the practice in southern legislatures. He suggested that even the
Speaker of the Eighth Assembly, who had strongly defended his right to take
part in debate despite his role as Speaker, had moved away from that position
by the end of his term.
The proposal to remove the Speaker's right
to debate or vote on issues was defeated, but other proposed changes affecting
the Speaker's role were accepted on an experimental basis. The Speaker will
chair the Management and Services Board, preside over the NWT Branch of the
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and may belong to the Standing Committee
on Rules and Procedures, but will not belong to any other standing and special
committees for the rest of the life of the Ninth Assembly.
While debate continued about further
increases in responsible government, indications of how the legislature is
maturing were evident when Finance Minister Tom Butters rose to give the Budget
Speech. While Mr. Butters, the first territorial Finance Minister, was
presenting his second budget to the House, the occasion marked the first time
an NWT Finance Minister had ever risen on second reading to speak to the budget
placed before the House. That, noted Mr. Butters, reflected a slow evolution
and slow movement toward public accountability and responsibility.
Saying he had not bought a new pair of shoes
"because, after you hear this budget, I do not know whether I will be able
to afford a new pair of shoes," Mr. Butters emphasized the tightness of
the budget framework put before the House. "We are in for a hard ride and
it is crucial right from the start that everyone throughout the Territories
clearly understands that message. It is not my desire to paint a picture of
monetary doom. Rather I am taking this occasion to indicate in the strongest
possible terms that stringent fiscal management is the only vehicle we have to
ensure that the excellent programs and priorities set by this House and
Executive Committee survive."
A rigorous review of priorities had been
carried out by the Executive Committee to make sure that existing programs
still served valid aims, Mr. Butters said. To fund priorities set by the
Assembly and the Executive Committee, $7.69 million had been redirected within
the budgetary base. Any new initiatives or funding requests could only be
handled by trimming or eliminating existing programs.
The message that should be clear to everyone
is that any optimism about the North's immediate future must be a guarded
optimism, one that recognizes the continuing adjustments in international and
national influences," Mr. Butters noted after reviewing the NW7s
dependence on federal financing and developments in the national and
international energy fields.
But not all MLAs were happy with the budget
as presented, and their attempts to redirect money within the budget to finance
the priorities they saw as essential led to some lengthy and often angry
debates. Mr. Sibbeston, for example, felt that construction of a new school for
Fort Liard was more essential than some items in the Education budget, and his
motion to delete those capital items and put the money towards an earlier start
on building a new school in Ford Liard led to a lengthy debate. Other MLAs
wanted a commitment on construction of a new Keewatin high school, and delayed
final consideration of the Education estimates until a plan for such
construction was tabled in the House.
While Mr. Sibbeston eventually got a
commitment from Education Minister Dennis Patterson that attempts would be made
to speed up construction of the new Fort Liard school and withdrew his motion,
he and other MLAs suggested that the Assembly's role was virtually limited to
rubberstamping the budget as presented. Other MLAs pointed out that much work
and careful thought had gone into preparing the budget, and that equal work and
thought should go into making any changes to it.
The matter came to a head when Western
Arctic MLA Nellie Cournoyea, noting that the NWT Housing Corporation had a
board of directors which set its budget, moved that the Housing Corporation's
budget be passed without debate. The motion carried, but it angered MLAs who
had wished to ask questions about the corporation's spending plans.
Yellowknife South MLA Lynda Sorensen moved
that the House approve the remaining Main Estimates as tabled and that the
legislature recommend to the Commissioner that it be dissolved and an election
be called. The motion was ruled out of order because of the previous motion
deferring approval of the Education estimates. A second motion by Mrs. Sorensen
that this legislature recommend to the Governor in Council that it be dissolved
and we call an election as soon as the appropriate legislation allows" was
defeated, but the debate on the motion made evident the frustration felt by
both groups of MLAs.
Later in the session, a motion was passed
calling for a general territorial election to be held no later than November
30, 1983. That motion would require a dissolution of the Legislature before the
scheduled date of October 31, 1983.
Close to 90 committee motions were
considered in Committee of the Whole during the budget debate, ranging through
a wide variety of concerns. Twenty-eight formal motions were debated during the
session, and 21 bills. including the Appropriations Ordinance, were debated and
received assent from the Commissioner.
The bills included a new Medical Profession
Ordinance to regulate licensing of medical practitioners: a new Gas Protection
Ordinance dealing with the inspection and regulation of gas equipment and
installations; a new Civil Emergency Measures Ordinance to set out civil
measures for peacetime emergencies; a new Travel and Tourism Ordinance to
regulate the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation industry: and a new
Occupational Training Agreements Ordinance allowing the Commissioner or
Ministers of Education or Economic Development and Tourism to enter into
agreements respecting occupational training.
Amendments to existing ordinances increased
the time allowed for commencing legal actions respecting the installation of
urea formaldehyde: provided for penalties for violations of the Lotteries
Ordinance; increased amounts payable to spouses on the death if an intestate;
required professionals and the general public to report suspected cases of
child abuse; created a new category of parks known as historic parks; defined
more thoroughly the forms of political activity permitted by public servants;
and made a number of changes to the Business Loans and Guarantees Ordinance,
the Wildlife Ordinance, and the Public Utilities Ordinance.
During the session, the Assembly also heard
presentations from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on radio and
television service in the North; from the Fisheries and Oceans department on
fisheries policy in the North; and from Bell Canada and NorthwesTel on
telephone service in the eastern and western parts of the Northwest
Territories. The Speaker recessed the session on March 10.
At the end of March, the Standing Committee
on Finance and Public Accounts held its first public hearings as a Public
Accounts Committee. The Committee considered the report of the Auditor General
of Canada on the Financial Information System put in place by the Government of
the Northwest Territories, and heard testimony from territorial government
officials during the three days of public hearings. The Public Accounts
Committee was created during the ninth session of the Ninth Assembly.
Public Affairs Officer
Legislative Assembly of the NWT
The session, which had been adjourned in
December, resumed on February 22. The House was chiefly preoccupied with
consideration and approval of the spending estimates of the PC government's
first budget before prorogation of the session on March 9.
Second Session Twentieth Legislature The new
session was opened on March 17 with the Speech from the Throne delivered by the
Lieutenant Governor C. Irwin McIntosh. The Speech promised a major high
technology development strategy, expansion of technical and vocational training
programs, new initiatives in agricultural research and market development and
legislative changes to implement a major reorganization of government
departments and crown corporations. Other legislative plans included: a
Regulatory Reform Act. new legislation to give the Provincial Auditor a clear
and independent mandate, a new Urban Municipality Act to increase the autonomy
of local governments and a new Vehicles Act to increase fines for drinking and
driving and allow police officers to demand blood samples from drivers involved
The debate on the Address in Reply to the
Speech from the Throne concluded on March 28 and was immediately followed by
the presentation of the government's budget by the Minister of Finance, Bob
Andrew. The record-breaking budget showed total government expenditures of $3.1
billion, with revenues estimated at $2.8 billion for a $317 million deficit.
The budget featured a nine-point job creation program, including capital
projects, tax reductions for small business and a summer youth employment
program; and it indicated a restructuring of government with a three-part
program to control spending and increase productivity. The overall increase in
government spending for 1983-84 was limited to seven percent. Heritage fund
spending was estimated at $714 million; Andrew said that instead of "being
a bottomless pit for the crown corporations," heritage fund revenues will
be used to encourage the private sector. Leader of the Opposition, Allan
Blakeney, however, stated that Saskatchewan taxpayers will pay dearly for the
truly staggering" deficit and he accused the government of embarking on
the "Trudeau trail" of deficits. The Budget Debate concluded on April
With the start of the second session,
Saskatchewan has embarked on a new direction with an "electronic
Hansard" in the form of an in-house system of television coverage of all
proceedings in the legislative chamber. The legislative television service is
operated by remote control by staff of the Assembly and is made available to
Saskatchewan broadcasters and cablecasters by means of either a live signal or
in the form of taped copies. Television in the House is the culmination of over
seven years of planning and preparation; video tape copies of the daily
proceedings now form the Assembly's primary historical record.
Initial reaction to the televised
proceedings of the Legislative Assembly has been very favourable and the matter
of extending the in-House system to cover proceedings in standing committees
has been studied and approved in principle by the House.
Attachment to the Table
On April 14, 1983 the Assembly welcomed Mr.
Bertram Tittawella as a guest Clerk at the Table. Mr. Tittawella, Assistant
Secretary General of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, will serve at the
Saskatchewan Table for a month-long period during which he will study all
aspects of the procedure and administration of the Legislative Assembly.
Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly
0n March 10, 1983, the Quebec National
Assembly finally ended the longest session in its history, a session that
started on November 9, 1981.
The Assembly held an emergency sitting on
Tuesday, February 15, to study Bill 111 for the restoration of services in
public sector colleges and schools. The Bill ordered the 65,000 teachers
belonging to the Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec (CEQ), who had been on
strike since January 27, to return to work. The passage of Bill 111 required 22
hours of debate in which 33 speakers took part.
A motion by the Government House Leader,
Jean-François Bertrand, proposing that the rules of procedure be suspended
because of the urgency of the situation, provoked a debate that lasted more
than two hours but was approved by a vote of 67 to 36. The Minister of Labour,
Raynald Frechette, presented the Bill for first reading shortly before six in
the evening. Second reading followed immediately and lasted until five o'clock
the following morning.
On Wednesday, February 16, second reading
ended with a vote of 63 in favour, 36 opposed, and one abstention. In committee
of the whole, the member for Argenteuil, Claude Ryan, brought to the attention
of the Assembly a letter from Claude Benjamin, chairman of the Conseil
supérieur de l'éducation. In it Mr. Benjamin asked the president of the CEQ to
have the teachers return to their classrooms and the Premier to set up a
parliamentary commission to study the work expected of teachers. A debate then
arose on section 28 of Bill 111, which related to the Charter of Human Rights
and Freedoms. Premier René Lévesque, expressed his opposition to third-party
mediation in the negotiations with the teachers. After the sitting had been
adjourned several times in the course of the evening, Mr. Lévesque returned to
the Chamber at eleven o'clock at night to report on negotiations between the
government and the CEQ. Faced with an impasse, the Assembly went on to third
reading of the Bill, which was finally passed by 64 votes to 35 at one thirty
in the morning. The Act was assented to moments later.
The Assembly resumed on Tuesday, March 8.
The government appointed a team of conciliators in the negotiations between the
teachers and the government, and announced a $150 million plan of action for
young people. The session ended two days later with a motion of censure by the
Leader of the Opposition, Gérard D. Lévesque, condemning the government for its
management of the economy. Twelve members took part in the debate, which lasted
four hours, and the motion was finally rejected by 55 votes to 30.
The Fourth Session
The fourth session started on March 23 with
the election of a new Speaker and the reading of an inaugural address on the theme
The opening sitting was marked by a debate
on the need to clarify the circumstances surrounding the out-of-court
settlement in 1979 of a suit arising from the damage done to work site LG-2 in
1974. Opposition House Leader Fernand Lalonde raised the question of the role
played by the Premier in reaching a $200,000 settlement for a $31 million suit
by Hydro Quebec against the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec. The
opposition threatened to boycott the work of the Chamber if it did not obtain a
formal commitment from the government to hear all the witnesses in the affair.
The Premier agreed to call a parliamentary committee to hear everyone connected
with the out-of-court settlement as soon as possible.
After these exchanges between the Premier
and the Opposition, the Chamber adopted unanimously a motion by René Lévesque
proposing that Richard Guay be elected Speaker of the Assembly following the
resignation' of Claude Vaillancourt. The Leader of the Opposition, Gérard D.
Lévesque, and the independent member for Sainte-Marie, Guy Bisaillon, expressed
their satisfaction, thanked Mr. Vaillancourt for his competence and
impartiality during a term of office that began in May, 1981, and wished the
new Speaker every success.
The election of the new Speaker was followed
by the welcoming of the Lieutenant Governor, Jean-Pierre Côté, who opened the
session by expressing the wish that the National Assembly would "achieve
its vital task in a dignified and exemplary manner".
The Inaugural Address
On behalf of the government the Premier then
delivered the Inaugural Address. In his 45minute speech he stressed the need
for change in many sectors:
change in the governmental apparatus, with a
less heavy administration. Two ministries will be abolished, Public Service and
Public Works. Some government bodies will disappear and others will be
combined. By next autumn all ministries and government bodies will have to
prepare a precise plan for improving their service to the public.
Decentralization will be stepped up, in collaboration with the province's
municipalities. Employers and unions will both be called upon to share their
views to a greater extent, even in the preparation o t e provincial budget;
change of direction in the economy and
employment. New solutions will be proposed in the short term: worker
participation, work sharing, early retirement at age 60. In the near future
Quebec will be trying to achieve a better position in the market, in an ongoing
search for excellence in future-oriented sectors. Umbrella legislation on
scientific and technological research will be presented in the spring to
achieve this end;
Mr. Lévesque invoked the need for social
change to modify our ways of thinking and acting, confronted as we are by the
challenges o' the future. The Labour Code will be amended to adapt better to
the new social context. New rules will be defined for negotiations between the
government as an employer and its public sector employees;
he called for change in the political
system, which through voting reforms and dialogue with Quebec's native peoples
will convince Quebecers to back real constitutional change which is the only
way `we can finally joint the great host of free modern nations".
He concluded by announcing that his party
intends to fight the next election on the issue of nationhood. "We will
say that clear thinking and realism point inevitably to independence, which for
us as for so many other peoples is the source and the assurance of individual
and collective progress."
In his reply for the Liberal opposition,
Gérard D. Lévesque, scoffed at the government address, saying that the only
noteworthy change it contained had been the recycled vocabulary used for themes
already proposed to the people. It was, he said, a speech devoid of any economic
or job-related policies, adding that its contents were disjointed and
irrelevant to the economic reality of Quebec. "The striking aspect of this
speech is the absence of innovative projects and measures capable of helping
Quebec out of the crisis."
The Opposition Leader noted the effects of
dangerous trends in Quebec's economy: a drop in income tax revenue, a 6.2 per
cent decline in the gross domestic product in 1982, decreasing job creation (42
per cent of Canadian job losses) and weakness in investments.
He denounced the myth of the "safety
net" which the government claimed to have woven in 1982 to prevent the
worst. "What kind of safety net," asked the Opposition Leader, is
made up of higher taxes, orders to govern labour relations, federal-provincial
squabbles, and blind cuts in public spending?"
Finally, the Leader of the Opposition
deplored the Parti québécois single-minded obsession for the independence of
Quebec without regard to the need for economic growth and job creation. He
urged instead two ways of redressing the situation: a change of attitude, to
adjust our priorities to suit the goals of growth and job creation; and a
reform of the public sector and reestablishment of balanced public finances,
especially as regards taxes.
The opposition recommended a sort of
ombudsman of economic growth, to keep the government aware of the consequences
of its acts. It concluded that a social consensus must be reached, by regaining
the hard work ethic that until recently had made Quebec one of the proudest and
most prosperous provinces in Canada.
The Assembly devoted the week of March 29 to
work that will probably characterize the fourth session: estimates were tabled
for $24.3 billion for the next fiscal year, an increase of 8.6 per cent over
the previous budget; and the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Resources
began studying the circumstances surrounding the decision of the board of the
Société d'énergie de la Baie James to settle out of court its civil suit
brought following the damage done to work site LG2 in 1974, and more
specifically, the role of the Premier and his office in the decision.
Indexing and Bibliographic Service
Library of the National Assembly
Three important committee reports were
tabled during the period under review. On March 22, Senator George McIlraith
presented the Second Report of the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee on the
advance study of budget resolutions respecting income tax and other related
matters, in particular the subject matter of Bill CA 39, An Act to amend the
Statute Law relating to Income Tax (No. 2). The committee made a number of
detailed recommendations regarding such matters as aviation turbine fuel
pricing, capital cost allowances, the automobile standby charge, investment tax
credits and limited partnerships.
On March 30, Senator Earl Hastings tabled
the Fifth Report of the Special Committee on the Northern Pipeline entitled
"Marching to the Beat of the Same Drum: Transportation of Petroleum and
Natural Gas North of 60. Based on evidence received during public hearings in
Ottawa and Calgary and a trip to the High Arctic for onsite visits to
industrial operations, the committee presented numerous proposals regarding
hydrocarbon transportation, exploration and production in the Arctic Region. It
emphasized the importance of appropriate planning and recommended that a
federal policy towards northern energy be formulated early in 1983. It stressed
that all support systems in relation to marine services be in place before production
commences. The committee also recommended that a "heritage fund" from
resource revenues accruing from hydrocarbon development be established in order
to provide an economic cushion and to serve as a source of funds suitable for
investment to promote a more diversified economic base.
Senator William Kelly. in his maiden speech
to the Senate. praised the report saying that the committee proposals
constituted "a meaningful way for the government of Canada to expedite
important energy development. if we are to be consequent with the genuine
global situation and the uncertainties we face, getting on with that
development is an absolute high priority and there is no cost. in my opinion,
that is too great".
On April 21, Senator Lowell Murray tabled
the Fifth Report of the Special Joint Committee on Official Languages. The
report contained a summary of recommendations made in previous reports as well
as many new proposals regarding amendments to the Official Languages Act. The
report recommended that the Act be amended to state clearly that its provisions
shall apply to Crown corporations and their subsidiary corporations as well as
to mixed enterprises. It also made a number of recommendations with the respect
to the status, mandate and powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
The committee felt it was important there be a permanent public forum to
examine language policy and it recommended that a Standing Joint Committee be
established to which all questions pertaining to language programs would be referred.
Joint Committee on the Reform of the
After some delay, the Special Joint
Committee on the Reform of the Senate was finally organized to begin its study
on ways by which the Senate could be reformed in order to strengthen its role in
representing people from all regions of Canada. The committee, composed of ten
members of the House and eight Senators, is chaired jointly by Senator Gil
Molgat and Roy MacLaren. the member from Etobicoke North. The committee has the
power to adjourn from place to place within Canada and is to present its final
report no later than December 1, 1983.
One of the more controversial bills before
the Senate recently was Bill C-130, An Act to authorize continuing financial
assistance to be provided to certain international financial institutions. Many
Senators took exception to certain clauses which stipulated that motions
confirming or revoking Orders-in-Council amending the schedule to the Bill
would originate first in the House of Commons. Senator Duff Roblin doubted the
propriety of passing the Bill since it circumscribed the rights of the Senate
and would "reduce this body to even more of a cipher than some of us might
think it is at the present time". After a lively debate the Bill was
referred, on March 28, to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in
order to consider its constitutionality. The Committee. chaired by Senator Joan
Neiman, reported back to the Senate on the following day. Because of the
urgency of the Bill's passage, no amendments were proposed but the Committee
invited the government to consider amending the negative resolution procedures
set out in this Bill and in other legislation to insure that both the Senate
and the House of Commons have equal power to initiate negative resolutions and
further. that future legislation of a similar nature incorporate this
principle". The Bill was passed by the Senate and given Royal Assent on
Gary W. O'Brien
Chief Minutes and Journals Branch (English)
House of Commons
The major event of the period under review
was the Budget presentation by Marc Lalonde, the Minister of Finance on the
evening of April 19. The theme of his address was recovery. As he explained the
recession that has crippled us for over a year has bottomed out. Industrial
production is up. Housing starts are up. Inflation is down and so are interest
rates. Even more importantly, business and consumer confidence is on the
upswing." His concern, however, was to assure that the recovery will take
firm hold and be durable.
Mr. Lalonde announced a four-year special
recovery programme which will seek to provide some $4.6 billion of investment
support. This will involve seven major initiatives and includes a planned
expenditure of $2.2 billion in public capital projects, a system of refunds of
investment tax credits and other measures to promote investment financing. To
meet the costs expected in implementing the Special Recovery Programme. the
Minister said he will levy an additional 1% increase on the federal sales tax.
This increase, however. will not take effect before the fall of 1984. To
promote activity in the housing industry, Mr. Lalonde proposed changes to the
Registered Home Ownership Program. He also revealed certain steps the
government will take to encourage employment. Training programmes for students
and young people will be supported by a total of $280 million in additional
funds. Part of the funds for the Special Recovery programme will also be
allocated to research and development. Loans totalling $100 million will be
extended to farmers in financial distress. Farmers as well as hard pressed
fishermen and businessmen will also be allowed to carry over losses incurred in
one year to reduce taxes in other years.
Turning to the broad economic picture, the
minister predicted that real GNP at the end of 1983 should be about 6.5% higher
than it was at the end of 1982. In 1984 it can be expected to be 5.2% higher
still. With regret, he indicated that unemployment would likely remain high
over this year and the next. However, he expressed confidence that the trend
will be downwards in coming years. As a result of the expenditures and
incentives undertaken by the government, Mr. Lalonde forecast a 1983-84 budget
deficit of $31.2 billion. Within the next few years, as the economy recovers
and gains strength, Mr. Lalonde said that the deficit should decrease.
Restraint on expenditure growth, he noted, will mean that federal government
outlays will form a steadily declining share of GNP from now to 1986-87.
The debate which follows from the speech of
the Finance Minister is on the motion "That this House approves in general
the budgetary policy of the Government." Pat Carney, speaking as the
finance critic of the Progressive Conservatives, labelled the presentation as a
last chance budget the last chance this government has of restoring its fiscal
credibility after years of fiscal irresponsibility, economic mismanagement and
a string of disastrous budgets which crippled an economy already in
recession." Miss Carney went on to criticize the government for its
deficit, claiming its size might very well impede the recovery. This accusation
formed part of the Conservative amendment motion which also condemned the
government for high unemployment and increased tax burden.
Nelson Rills, the finance critic of the New
Democratic Party criticized the budget as a "do not take action"
budget. He said the proposals of the Minister of Finance ignore the problem of
high unemployment while selectively stimulating the business sector. Instead,
it should be the policy of the government, as it is of the NDP, to develop a
long-term economic recovery programme, a long-term strategy in order to develop
those sectors of our economy which ought to be developed in the best interest
of Canadians." He moved a sub-amendment faulting the government for its
failure to stimulate consumer demands and create job programmes.
The Budget and the "Leak"
Even before the Minister of Finance made his
budget speech, he was confronted with demands for his resignation because of an
inadvertent pre-budget leak which occurred when a cameraman photographed pages
of the speech during a photo opportunity in his office one day before the
speech was to be presented to the House.
While failing to obtain the consent of the
Speaker to recognize a prima facie question of privilege or to allow an
emergency debate on the matter, the opposition Progressive Conservatives
nevertheless challenged the Prime Minister during the Question Period to take appropriate
action. The protests of the opposition became more vehement when it was
discovered that the budget was changed in respect of the job creation
programme, which was increased by $200 million. Erik Nielsen, the Leader of the
Opposition, subsequently gave notice of a motion to have a special Commons
committee conduct a full inquiry into the whole affair.
Of the eleven bills passed by the House of
Commons between February and April, most had to do with financial and economic
matters. Two bills, C-131 and C-132, are part of the government's six and five
restraint policy and limit the increases for old age security payments and
family allowances during the next two years. Two other legislative measures
were appropriation acts; others dealt with supplementary borrowing authority
and grants and loans to small businesses. By far the most significant of these
"money" bills was C-139 which amended the Income Tax Act. It was a
whopping measure, almost 300 pages in length and incorporating more than one
hundred tax changes, some of which were originally recommended by Allan
MacEachen, the former Minister of Finance, in his budget of November 1981.
On April 12, the House passed Bill C-142,
the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act, which increased deposit insurance
to $60,000 from $20,000. The proposal was introduced by Paul Cosgrove, the
Minister of State for Finance. last January. Originally retroactive to January
17, the House accepted an amendment by Donald Blenkarn to make it effective
back to January 4, the first banking day of the year.
One non-financial bill to be adopted by the
House recently was C-141 sponsored by Mark MacGuigan, the Minister of Justice.
It amended certain provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act and received
third reading March 29. The bill broadens protection for pregnant women and
seeks to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace for federal employees. In
addition it forbids discrimination against both mentally and physically
handicapped people in all areas under federal jurisdiction.
Many of the standing committees of the House
were occupied during these past months with studying departmental estimates.
The main spending estimates of the government were tabled in the House on
February 22, by Herb Gray, the President of the Treasury Board. The task of the
standing committees has been assisted in recent years by the new format of the
estimates which are now presented in three parts. Part 1 is the Government
Expenditure plan, Part 11 the Estimates proper and Part Ill the Program
Expenditure Plans which provides detailed program information by department or
ministry. This year 47 volumes were tabled as Part Ill. At the same time, Mr.
Gray announced that changes would be made to Part 11 in consultation with
In addition to studying estimates, the
Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs issued in late March its report
on solicitation and prostitution. Under the chairmanship of Claude-André Lachance
the committee held numerous hearings to investigate a problem which seriously
troubles many larger cities. The committee's report recommends five basic
changes to the Criminal Code. On one issue, there was clear unanimity among
committee members and that was to make clients equally liable to prosecution as
the prostitutes themselves. The majority of the committee recommended changes
to the federal law in respect of this disparity. Furthermore, the committee
wants the offering or acceptance of an offer to engage in prostitution in a
public place to be punishable by a $500 fine or a 15 day prison term. To give
teeth to this proposal, the Committee urged that the definition of "public
place" be broadened to include vehicles in public places and also private
places open to public view. In considering the alarming problem of child
prostitution, the committee recommended that the involvement of anyone under
the age of 18 in such acts or solicitation should be made punishable either by
summary conviction or by indictment. Finally, the committee suggested that the
operation of the proposed amendments should be reviewed by a committee of the
House within three years of their coming into force.
The Chairman of the Special Committee on
Standing Orders and Procedure, Tom Lefebvre presented another report to the
House on March 29. This one examines committee structure and puts forward a
plan for its reorganization on a model which resembles that used in
Westminster. Instead of referring legislation to a standing committee, the
report advised that it should be sent for study to an ad hoc committee which
should be set up within five days after the House has given approval to the
bill in principle. The chairmen of these committees, according to the report,
should be selected from an all-party panel chosen by the Speaker. It further
recommended that the size of these committees be limited to twenty members and
that these committees be disbanded upon completion of their study. Such a
system, it is held, would allow members a better opportunity to participate in
the scrutiny of legislation which is of interest to them and would enable the
standing committees, already overburdened, more time to examine the estimates
and other tabled documents of the different government departments and
A special committee to act as a
Parliamentary Task Force on Pension Reform has been struck by the House. The
committee consists of nine members under the chairmanship of Douglas Frith. The
basis of its study is the green paper "Better Pensions for Canadians"
issued by the government late last year. The problems of inflation protection
of pensions, of expanding mandatory pension arrangements and of financing the
Canada Pension Plan, are three of the specific problems that will be examined
by the committee which is expected to submit its final report by the end of the
The provisional standing orders adopted by
the House last December permit committees to request a reply from the
government to any of its reports or recommendations. Thus far, two committees
have made such a request; the Public Accounts Committee and the Special Joint
Committee on Official Languages. According to standing order 69(13) the
government has a maximum of 120 days to prepare a comprehensive report.
The Standing Committee on Privileges and
Elections has been empowered by the House to investigate charges of contempt of
Parliament against the Montreal Gazette for articles concerning Bryce Mackasey.
In stories which appeared in the newspaper in between March 10 and 12, it was
alleged that Mr. Mackasey had acted as a paid lobbyist on behalf of an
engineering firm recently declared bankrupt. On March 17 Mr. Mackasey
categorically denied the allegations and requested that the Standing Committee
on Privileges and Elections, currently chaired by Maurice Foster, investigate
the issue. On March 22 the Speaker, Mme Jeanne Sauvé ruled that the complaint
constituted a prima facie breach of privilege which cleared the way for the
House to consider a motion directing the committee to study the subject.
Matters of Procedural Interest
The issue involving Mr. Mackasey came up as
the House was still discussing ministerial conflict of interest guidelines.
This became a topic of debate between the government and both opposition parties
from mid February through most of March. It arose from allegations raised by
the opposition concerning a former minister, Alistair Gillespie, and several
others still in the cabinet. The opposition alleged that Mr. Gillespie had
benefitted from preferential treatment for a consortium he represented and
thereby violated the government's own conflict of interest guidelines. The
government denied there was any substance to the charges. Nonetheless, the
opposition continued to raise the issue. The opportunities available to the
opposition, as demonstrated in this case, belie somewhat the notion that
initiative in the House rests exclusively with the government. The opposition
frequently brought up the matter during Question Period in the latter half of February.
Two non confidence motions on conflict of interest, one presented by Ed
Broadbent, Leader of the NDP, on February 24, the other by Erik Nielsen, Leader
of the Opposition, on March 21, were debated in the House and defeated. The
issue was also raised on other occasions as a question of privilege, statements
by members and during the adjournment motion. Such persistence reflects the
political dimension of parliamentary life.
Table Research Branch
House of Commons
The Assembly reconvened on February 24 when
departmental spending estimates for the 1983-84 fiscal year were tabled. At the
same time the Budget was presented by Finance Minister Vic Schroeder. The
government emphasized creating and protecting jobs as its number one priority.
A $200 million Jobs Fund was established to finance job creation efforts by the
government and to entice co-operation from the federal government,
municipalities and the private sector. Expenditures were forecast at $3.3
billion, a 15.9% increase over the previous year's spending, while revenues
were forecast at $2.7 billion. A freeze on the gross income of cabinet
ministers and a 2% maximum pay raise for senior civil servants was pledged.
Revenues were augmented by a 1% increase in sales tax for a total of 6%, a 1. 1
c per litre gasoline tax increasing it to 7.5o per litre, a 1 % increase in
corporation tax for a total of 16% and increases in tobacco taxes and liquor
Opposition Leader Sterling Lyon during the
Budget debate accused the government of total absence of management control. He
cited the increase in provincial unemployment, the government employees' wage
agreement, the early lifting of a hydro rate freeze and increasing taxation as
examples of no policy or direction. Premier Howard Pawley responded by
emphasizing the Jobs Fund which was designed to improve the co-ordination of
all government job creation measures while ensuring long-term benefits to the
economy as well as employment growth. He also criticized the opposition,
charging that they offered no alternatives to the unemployment difficulties
facing the province.
Triggered on March 4 by Speaker James
Walding's successive recognition of two government backbenchers during Oral
Question Period, Mr. Lyon advised the Speaker that he had lost the confidence
of the Opposition. After a warning by the Chair, Mr. Lyon continued and then
made a statement regarding a pre-Christmas ruling. When he refused to withdraw
the remarks, he was named and, on a motion introduced by the House Leader,
Roland Penner was suspended for an unprecedented four sitting days.
A heavy legislative agenda accumulated well
into the session. Notably, legislation prescribing the compulsory use of
seatbelts and motorcycle helmets elicited immediate opposition from some
community interests. Conflict of interest legislation was proposed to require
disclosure in matters of pecuniary interest by members of the Legislative
Assembly and cabinet, their spouses and dependants resident in their
households. The bill proposes that members must withdraw from voting on, and
refrain from influencing, matters from which they could profit. It seeks to
give the courts an adjudicating role and to set out a penalty of
disqualification from office. Proposed amendments to The Legislative Assembly
Act seek to enhance members' allowances and services, especially by increasing
funding for constituency service. Various bills related to family law were
introduced. Manitoba residency requirements for the ownership of farmland in
the province, proposed in The Farm Lands Ownership Act, continued to receive
Opposition criticism. Considerable public representations were made on The
Surface Rights Act. The Manitoba Oil and Gas Corporation Act also generated
significant opposition discussion.
The opposition repeatedly raised the matter
of participation of two cabinet ministers and six government backbenchers in a
demonstration against United States involvement in the Nicaraguan conflict at
the U.S. Consulate Building in Winnipeg. The government charged that the issue
was blown out of proportion and stated that the ministers were acting on their
own behalf and not on the behalf of the administration.
The Crow Rate was a leading issue in April.
The House unanimously adopted a resolution identical to one passed by the
Saskatchewan Assembly, rejecting the proposals by federal Transport minister
Jean-Luc Pépin. As well, the Standing Committee on Agriculture held public
meetings throughout the province on the issue.
Legislative Assembly of Manitoba