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Fourth Annual Canadian Presiding Officers` Conference Winnipeg Manitoba

Speaker Myrna Phillips of Manitoba was host to the fourth annual conference of presiding officers held in Winnipeg from January 30 - February 1, 1987. Some nineteen Speakers, Deputy Speakers and one Speaker designate attended the conference along with several Clerks and other observers.

The topics on the agenda included parliamentary privilege, points of order, oral question period, decorum, language and speech content, and the ceremonial and procedural role of the Speaker.

The first session featured a special guest, Joe Maingot, former Law Clerk of the House of Commons and presently with the Law Reform Commission of Canada. He spoke on the question of parliamentary privileges and immunities, a subject of particular interest to presiding officers.

Unlike the adversarial nature of many federal-provincial meetings, these conferences provide a valuable forum for members of an unique profession to discuss common problems with their colleagues.

During the course of the meeting a number of thoughtful questions and comments were raised by various Speakers. For example: Has question period evolved from its original purpose as an accountability session into a training ground for ministers and now with television, into something little more than a "killing ground" having little resemblance to the original purpose for which it was introduced? The Speakers also discussed possible approaches to the problem of a lack of understanding of parliamentary procedure among parliamentarians and the population in general.

There was an interesting discussion on whether, in the long run, it is better to retain order by refusing to recognise disorderly members rather than expelling them and giving more publicity to their actions. The point was made several times that there are significant differences in what a Speaker can do in a large Assembly like the House of Commons and in smaller ones like many of the provincial ones. Nevertheless there was general agreement that what goes on in the House of Commons affects the behaviour of members in the provinces.

In keeping with the informal and frank nature of the discussions no verbatim transcript of the conference was kept. The serious nature of the discussions can be inferred from the willingness of so many busy individuals to take a week-end out of 'their schedule to come to Winnipeg in mid winter to consider the nature and problems of the Speakership. Speaker Phillips and her staff did everything possible to make it a most enjoyable two days.

New Speakers

On December 3, 1986, Arnold Tusa was elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Saskatchewan replacing Herb Swan who was named to the cabinet Mr. Tusa, 46, was born at Cupar, Saskatchewan and is now farming in the community. He holds a Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Saskatchewan and taught school in his constituency prior to his election to the Assembly in 1982.

In British Columbia the new Speaker is John Reynolds. A business man, Mr. Reynolds was first elected to the House of Commons in 1972. He served actively on a number of committees including Health and Welfare, Housing, Sport and Fitness, Transportation, and justice and Legal Affairs. He was appointed to the shadow cabinet by both Robert Stanfield in 1974 and Joe Clark in 1976.

After leaving federal politics he was elected to the British Columbia Legislature in 1983. He was chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and later Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

Appointments and Retirements

A former provincial cabinet minister, Dr. George Johnson, has been appointed Lieutenant-Governor in Manitoba. Born in Winnipeg in 1920, Dr. Johnson attended the University of Manitoba. He served in the Navy from 1941 to 1945 and for many years carried on a general medical practice in Gimli, Manitoba. First elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1958, he served as Minister of Health and later Minister of Education before returning to private practice in 1969. In 1978 he became Chief Medical Consultant to the Health Department with the rank of Associate Deputy Minister.

In Nova Scotia the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Arthur Donahoe, announced the appointment of a new Clerk, Roderick MacArthur, and Assistant Clerk Cherry Fergusson. Mr. MacArthur is a graduate of Dalhousie Law School and was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1974. He has practised law in Armapolis Royal since that time. He is Solicitor for the town of Annapolis Royal and the Annapolis Royal Development Corporation. A member of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission he serves on the Board of Big Brothers of Annapolis County.

Ms. Ferguson is a native of Pictou, Nova Scotia and a graduate of Mount Allison University and Dalhousie Law School. She holds a Masters of Law Degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and was the recipient of several academic awards and scholarships. Admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1973 she was General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Limited. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Dalhousie Alumni Association and a lecturer in Law-Medicine at Dalhousie University Medical School.

The British Columbia Legislature also has a new Clerk Assistant. He is Craig James, formerly Clerk Assistant with the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly. A native Saskatchewan, he studied at the University of Regina and received a Master of Library Science from the University of Wales. Mr. James served in the Saskatchewan Legislative Library prior to joining the Table as Clerk Assistant. He has been Secretary to the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committee.

The Nova Scotia House of Assembly noted the retirement of its Clerk, Dr. Henry Muggah. He had served for many years with the Attorney General's Office where he was a ... legislative draftsman. He retired in 1972 but soon took up a part time position with the Council of Maritime Premiers. He was hired as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and soon became well known and liked by Nova Scotia legislators and fellow Clerks across Canada. Dr. Muggah was the first Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Canadian Parliamentary Review.

In Alberta the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Dr. David Carter, announced a reorganisation of the Legislative Assembly Office. He noted that he had received the resignations of Bohdan Stefaniuk as Clerk and Robert Bubba as Clerk Assistant along with that of the Director of Administration. Speaker Carter said "none of the resignations reflect upon the conscientiousness or integrity of these gentlemen. We thank them for their past service and wish them well in their future endeavours."


Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 10 no 1

Last Updated: 2020-09-14