Recognition of Leader of the Opposition,
Speaker Gerald Amerongen, Alberta, November 16,1984
Background: The untimely death of Mr Grant Notley left the
Legislature without a leader of the Official Opposition. The New Democratic
Party now had only one member and there were two independents.
The Ruling (Speaker Gerard Amerongen): There appear to be three
possibilities (1) to designate the Independents as the Official Opposition,
which would make the leader of the Independents the Leader of the Official
Opposition; (2) to designate the hon. Member for Edmonton Norwood, (Ray Martin,
NDP); (3) to designate no one as Leader of the Opposition and to arrange a
sharing of salaries as permitted by section 47 of the Legislative Assembly Act.
None of these would be totally wrong; neither would any of them be totally
As recently as March 11, 1983, it was
necessary to deal with such a question in a different context. As is well
known, we had at that time an opposition consisting of two equal parts. Because
of that equality within the House, it was necessary to try to find outside the
House a possible basis for selecting an Official Opposition.
Such a basis was found in the results of the
1982 provincial general election. These results show that New Democratic party
candidates in that election received a far greater number of votes than those
cast for any other non government party. Hence it seems likely to the point of
certainly that a larger number of voter concerns from around the province, and
thus a larger amount of work, would be directed to the NDP members rather than
to the Independents.
It therefore seemed just and equitable that
the additional funding and staffing provided for the Leader of the Opposition
should go to the leader of the New Democratic Party, and that is what was done
on the basis of the statement made to this House on March 11, 1983.
That statement also acknowledged that the
election of an Official Opposition at that time rested on a very narrow basis
and that a change in opposition numbers in the House could or would result in
changing the designation of an Official Opposition. In this regard the
following points must be recognized: (1)The present change in number in the
opposition has not resulted from a resignation, retirement, or change of allegiance
in this House but from the sudden death of a member (2)The number change may be
temporary, depending on the result of a by-election which must be held by April
17, 1985. (3)The Legislative Assembly estimates approved by this Assembly last
spring provided Official Opposition funding for the current fiscal year to
March 31, 1985, on the basis of the NDP being the Official Opposition. (4)As a
result of that funding, certain staffing and other arrangements are in place.
(5)There is no provable reason to assume that the preponderance of opposition
work resulting from certain voter concerns or inquiries will now shift from the
NDP to the Independents. (6)The statement on the Official Opposition made to
this House on March 11, 1983, was not intended to refer to a temporary or
short-term change in numbers. The simple reason is that such a very temporary
situation was not expected or even foreseen. (7)The designation of the hon.
Member for Edmonton Norwood as Leader of the Opposition would mean, in effect, a
leader in this House without followers in the House. When the late and
respected Ernest Watkins was the only member of his party in this House, he
remarked in regard to the possibility of his being designated a leader in the
House that he could talk to himself, he could be beside himself, but he could
not lead himself. (8)What we are concerned with here, however, is a special
workload and function deriving in part from our Standing Orders. This function
is quite apart from leading a group. In other words, here we are not concerned
so much with leadership of a group in the House but with additional functions,
staffing, and funding which should be available to someone in the opposition.
Referring now to the Legislative Assembly
Act, section 47, there is authority for the Speaker to divide among two or more
members the salary which would otherwise be payable to the Leader of the
Opposition, if there were one. Under the circumstances, this would not solve
the problem and would not give us a Leader of the Opposition as contemplated in
our Standing Orders. What has occurred to this House is a disruption which
should be minimized to the extent possible.
It is not for a Speaker to guess when either
a general election or a by-election may be held. However, there are certain
legal and practical considerations which are known to anyone who cares.
Accordingly it seems safe to say that the date of the by-election will be very
much closer to the end of the fiscal year than we are today. Disruption in
staffing, funding. and other arrangements will likely diminish as we get closer
to the end of the fiscal year.
Pending the outcome of the forthcoming
by-election, and for all the foregoing reasons, I recognize the hon. Member for
Edmonton Norwood as Official Leader of the Opposition for the time being.