Since the mid-1930s the Alberta
Legislature has been dominated by a single party: Social Credit from 1935 to
1971, then the Progressive Conservatives from 1971 to the present. Prior to
1986 only once did the opposition have more than twenty seats. The last time
the Liberal Party elected a member was in 1967. The New Democrats had never
elected more than two. In 1986 the electorate returned sixty one Conservatives,
sixteen New Democrats, four Liberals and two members of the Representative
Party. Has the composition of the new House changed the way the legislature
operates? One member from each party was asked what, if any, changes have taken
place in the Assembly. Greg
Stevens (Conservative) has represented Banff-Cochrane since 1979. Pam Barrett
(New Democrat) is the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands. Bettie Hewes (Liberal)
represents Edmonton Goldbar. Ray Speaker is the member for Little Bow and
Leader of the Representative Party of Alberta. The interviews were done in May
1987 by John McDonough, Director, Legislative Research Service of the
Legislative Library and Gary Levy.
What prompted you to get into
politics in the first place.
Greg Stevens: As manager of the Banff townsite during the
1970s I became involved in negotiations with federal officials over the issue
of autonomy for the townsite. It was my first real experience with the
political process. As a matter of fact, I first met Premier Peter Lougheed
around this time. His family leased a residence in the townsite and one day I
got a call informing me the Premier would be over to pay his rent. I met him
again when I became Vice President of the Alberta Housing Corporation. In 1975
the Corporation built virtually the entire town of Fort McMurray, some 2600
housing units. I then moved back to Calgary where I was involved in the
planning and construction of senior citizen housing projects.
The sitting member was retiring. I
went over to talk to David King, a former minister and a friend of the family.
He spent about an hour going over all the reasons not to run - stress, money,
lack of privacy. Then I asked him why he was in public life. He went on for
three hours about the positive benefits. I decided to seek the nomination and
was elected in 1979.
Bettie Hewes: After many years with the Edmonton Social
Planning Council and having sat on numerous boards and commissions, I was
elected to the Edmonton Municipal Council in 1974 and served for ten years. In
1984 I received a call from the Minister of Transport, Lloyd Axworthy, who was
looking for someone to serve as Chairman of Canadian National. He wanted a
person not representative of Bay Street, a westerner, a woman and someone who
could run a board. I filled all those qualifications and was appointed. Following
the change of government in Ottawa in 1985 my position was not renewed. Some
people think that was what motivated me to run for political office but not so.
I was simply becoming dismayed with what was happening in Alberta and felt
compelled to run.
Ray Speaker: My father was actively involved in the
Social Credit Party. I used to help him by driving people to the polls and so
on. From 1959 to 1962 I attended the University of Alberta and became Leader of
Social Credit on campus. (Joe Clark, Grant Notley and Jim Coutts were active in
other parties at that time.) I got to know Premier Ernest Manning and after
graduation worked for him to revitalize constituency associations in the south
of the province in preparation for the upcoming 1963 election. When Speaker
Peter Dawson passed away I decided to seek the nomination in Little Bow.
Pam Barrett: I first got involved in politics when I
was twelve years old and I learned at school about Tommy Douglas and the
Medicare issue. I was convinced that equal access to services, regardless of
ability to pay, should be provided to secure the social services safety net. I
have been involved in politics and the New Democratic movement ever since. I
had been a researcher for the New Democrats when we were the Official
Opposition and developed a very keen interest in issues within provincial
jurisdiction. It was Grant Notley who asked me to be a candidate. I felt this
was an excellent endorsement and I carried my commitment to seek elective
office after his death.
How did the role of MLA
correspond to what you expected?
Bettie Hewes: It was certainly different to city council
where every person acts for him or herself. The existence of government and
opposition teams is very different from what you find at City Hall.
Another difference arises from the
fact that individuals tend to run on the basis of what they would do as a
government. Less thought is given to a role in opposition. You have to debate
with the government knowing that you are not going to win. When you are
championing a cause in which you believe you have to decide between scoring
political points or working with the government to try to resolve issues.
Greg Stevens: My experience was atypical in that I went
directly into the cabinet. When the House started, the opposition went right
after the new ministers. The Premier had made some trips to Hawaii and as the
minister responsible for government personnel, they questioned me about issues
relating to government travel and conflict of interest. I received some advice
from the Clerk's office, from colleagues and from the Premier's office but in
the House, you are really on your own.
Even some simple things are not
apparent to the neophyte. One day a colleague sent me a note suggesting I
introduce a grade nine class from my riding who were in the gallery. I did not
know how to do that, so he wrote it out for me. While I was speaking, another
rather mischievous colleague sent a note over saying, "you are doing great
but your fly is open". There is no formal school for MLA's but gradually
you learn the ropes.
Ray Speaker: The first role of a representative is to
get to know his or her constituents, their problems and their personal pursuits.
Constituents often have good ideas and it is important that we not prejudge
them. We need to support their individual initiatives and not thwart their
personal pursuits. Of course, my constituents give me the right to pursue my
own objectives in terms of new legislation. That can be a frightening
responsibility. You can ruin democracy if there is too much confidence in the
Pam Barrett: Having been a researcher, I was aware of all
the facets of the job of an MLA. I had to provide information that would serve
those functions; the researchers often acted as surrogate MLA's, doing case
work and attending functions. The difference between my job as a researcher for
this office and as an MLA is strictly one of time. As a researcher, I would
probably spend only two evenings a week in what might be described as overtime
and one extra day every other weekend. As an MLA, I put in time every evening,
with the possible exception of Friday, and sometime every weekend. I use Friday
evening for a marathon sleep to recharge my batteries.
A larger opposition must have changed the tenor of
Greg Stevens: Yes. Twenty two members is certainly
different from two. We have a format whereby the first two questions go to the
Leader of the Official Opposition who is also allowed three supplementaries. A
government member may also get a supplementary. Next the Leader of the third
party gets a question followed by three supplementaries and again the other
parties are allowed a supplementary.
This means that for nearly thirty
minutes we deal essentially with three issues. Sometimes it is boring and
certainly it can be frustrating to individual private members wanting to ask a
question on a different issue. Government members are criticised for
"tennis lobs" but I often have tough questions I want to put to the
ministers but I cannot get the floor.
Bettie Hewes: I do not like the format although it was
negotiated and agreed upon by all the parties at the start of the session. By
the time we get our turn there may have already been ten or twelve questions,
counting supplementaries. Three supplementaries are time consuming.
I find cabinet ministers tend to
read long answers. Sometimes the Speaker cuts them off. This could be done more
often I think.
Question Period is very seductive.
It is the only part of the proceedings covered by the media. We must learn to
craft our questions. They tend to be too academic in their search for information
and therefore they may not have the strongest political effect.
Ray Speaker: I think the new format is good and fair. I
give credit to the government and the official opposition for accepting it. It
provides the opportunity for backbenchers to ask questions and the potential
for adversarial dialogue. However the Speaker keeps us close to the rules. As
we near an election, issues become more focused and we may see more of a go for
the throat approach.
Pam Barrett: Government ministers
do not like scrutiny. They manipulate Question Period by taking six or seven
minutes to respond to a question that may have taken one minute to deliver.
This is an abuse by the government of the spirit of the Standing Orders of this
Assembly; it reflects very poorly on them.
I also object to the number of
government backbenchers who are recognised for questions. Many days, government
members get more questions after the designated leaders' questions than do the
opposition members. Government members through their caucus have exclusive
access to the reasoning behind government decisions, this is where their
questions should be put. They should not abuse the valuable time of Question
Period which should be overwhelmingly given to opposition questions.
I believe that we are a rare
legislature in that we permit supplementary questions to a main question from
members of all caucuses. Although this was a reasonable procedure for a very
small opposition, with a larger opposition it is a waste of time. It interferes
with the ability of any caucus to introduce new subjects for scrutiny. I
believe we should limit supplementary questions. I would propose a plan where
the originator questioner gets two supplementaries to the main question and
that is it. If anyone else wants to get on that subject they have to do it in
the order that they are recognised with an entitlement to two supplementary
questions of their own. It has been to the government's advantage to have their
members stand up to pose sweetheart supplementaries to the hard questions posed
by the opposition.
How important is the size of an
opposition in determining whether it is effective?
Greg Stevens: I don't think numbers matter that much. It
is quality that counts. I think there is a real problem in the way that the opposition
assigns specific members to shadow particular cabinet portfolios. I wonder how
their constituents feel, when their MLA only speaks on certain issues he or she
has been assigned to shadow whereas the constituent may be interested in a far
broader range of issues. Would that constituent feel well represented?
Between 1967 and 1971 when you had
an Official Opposition grow from six to ten MLA's, they were seen as standing
together to represent Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Now with the three
opposition parties the public sees that each is trying to secure its own moment
in the sun. This split among the opposition parties is to the advantage of the
Numbers also matter in the sense
that we on the government side have to be much more careful. There are now only
thirty-four private members to ensure that there will be a quorum of twenty in
the House at all times.
Bettie Hewes: Our caucus has
divided up the requirements, leaving each individual member with a huge
In terms of our responsibilities
outside of the House, each member has an active constituency life. This is made
difficult by the fact that during session, each of the four MLA's is tied down
to the House. It is difficult to get away from Edmonton to find out what is
going on throughout the rest of the province and it is almost impossible to
cover all of the issues that one would like. The MLA is spread very thin and
has to the difficult balancing act of deciding between what you must do and
what you should do.
Numbers count in terms of the
visibility, viability and health of the opposition. With twenty-two members,
the opposition looks better; it's more obvious to the public that there is a
vital opposition that can be a realistic alternative to the government. Some
have remarked that the heckling during Question Period and the more aggressive
parry and thrust of debate across the floor is affecting the decorum of the
House. They say it is deteriorating to the level of the Federal Parliament. The
Liberal Leader has a very ready wit, and a very humorous turn of phrase. This
may be unsettling to some. However, these are important basic human exchanges.
To stifle this flow of communication, to try to extract the emotions from the
House, would not be positive. The debate would become constipated. Part of the
opposition's role is to get the government ministers standing on one foot. It
is easier to knock them down that way and we may discover something very useful
as a result.
Ray Speaker: Yes numbers matter. The more people you
have, the more issues you can raise and investigate. If there are only four or
five people, you need to become an authority on so many things and it is so
difficult to have all the pertinent facts at your finger tips. With more
members there is a greater opportunity to study and develop issues. The result
is greater accountability.
In the past, when the opposition
was small, and while I was the Leader of the Official Opposition, the various
opposition groups would have informal discussions over strategy. This was
particularly evident during the all night debate in 1981 over the Heritage
Savings Trust Fund. Here Grant Notley (NDP Leader), Tom Sidlinger (Independent,
previously a member of the P.C. caucus) and I openly worked together. I would
be reluctant to do that now. I am not a socialist, I want to see a small
"c" conservative government returned to this province. Any support
that I would give to the ND's would simply strengthen a left wing alternative.
In fact, the ND's now have the numbers and they feel that they are large enough
to carry the ball by themselves.
The timing is also important. If
Peter Lougheed had led the Conservative party in 1950, he would never have
gotten anywhere. But he appeared on the scene at a period of political, social
and economic transition in Alberta. The new generation of people didn't
remember the roots of the Social Credit Party. They were looking for something
more exciting. It was a period of violent social upheaval. People no longer
looked to a leader who embodied a strong religious tradition, who was stable
and conservative. There was a minor recession in early 1970. The Provincial
government reacted by tightening the purse strings; although this may have been
correct fiscally, it was not popular. Lougheed thus had three very powerful
factors operating in his favour.
Today we are in a new period of
social and economic change. However, it is the economic change that is so
violent. This is obvious when one examines the oil and gas industries,
agriculture, small business, individual jobs. Alberta is again in a period of
transition. There is political instability and political opportunity. The voter
is looking for someone to help him out of this mess.
Pam Barrett: Numbers matter just in terms of having a presence.
The political will to have that presence felt does not rely on massive numbers.
We had a two-man Official Opposition from 1982 to 1986; the effect of that was
to return a sixteen- member Official Opposition after the 1986 election. Two
members were able to have a substantial effect on what went on in the House,
so, in my opinion, quality certainly takes precedence over quantity.
This two member opposition had to
anticipate every possible manoeuvre under recognised parliamentary procedure
that could hold up any bill or motion. We spent hours preparing hoists,
amendments, reasoned amendments, debates on the actual motion itself, fleshing
out every possible detail to use to advantage, the maximum amount of
parliamentary time. We had to know procedure inside-out in order to effect this
type of strategy, but it worked. We also had to anticipate every Speaker's
ruling and to live with some rather strict limitations decided by the Speaker.
The difference between the present
legislature and the previous one is that we are now more able to make our
presence felt outside of Question Period. We can spend time and effort on the
rest of the Orders of the Day. We develop successive arguments to be used on a
sustained basis in a way that was virtually impossible for two people because
of limitations on the number of occasions in which a member could speak
Are there any distinctive
features about the way your caucus is organised?
Greg Stevens: The major difference
between the Lougheed caucus and that of Don Getty is that Premier Getty chairs
almost the entire meeting. Mr. Lougheed often started the meeting but then left
and handed over the role of Chairman to the Government Whip. Premier Getty acts
as chairman for most of the meetings, and generally remains for the entire
meeting. This means that he gets to hear directly the views of the MLA's from
across the province. During the session, caucus meets for one-half hour every
day with the exception of Thursdays, when it meets for the entire morning.
Often when there isn't an evening sitting, there will be an additional caucus
meeting. When the House is not in session, caucus meets for two full days every
month, usually a Thursday and a Friday. The agenda is circulated ahead of time.
If an MLA has a particularly urgent matter of business, he can call the
Chairman of Caucus (the Premier) and have that item placed on its agenda.
Caucus committees are a very
important part of the process. There are a number of subject matter committees
such as Forestry, Agriculture, Health and Social Affairs, Economic Affairs and
Education. Each member makes a selection of the committees he or she wishes to
serve on. They will not automatically serve on those committees as the decision
is made elsewhere. We are often left wondering why we were chosen to sit on a
particular committee. These committees meet with the appropriate minister, and
hear the various interest groups concerned with the committee's agenda. It is
imperative that legislation be brought before the appropriate committee. If it
does not receive the support of the committee, it is in serious difficulty.
Legislation has been dropped because of opposition from a committee and has
been redrafted in response to the committee's criticisms. This is where you
will see blood on the ground; this is where the MLA's have their clout.
Bettie Hewes: Our caucus meets every day at eleven
o'clock to work out the that day's activities with the two senior researchers
and the communications director. We must be alert to and aware of the issues
that are likely to arise that day and we plan the major thrust of our Question
Period. We need to anticipate what will be the first two questions of the
Outside of the session, we try to
meet once a week. This is often difficult as the members are very active in
their constituencies. We have prepared major events outside of the capital in
both the north and south of the province. Last year we convened special caucus
meetings in Grande Prairie and Lethbridge devoted to the regional concerns of
Ray Speaker: When Social Credit was the government so
much of the responsibility was in the hands of the Premier and the Cabinet that
the backbenchers took very little opportunity to introduce new legislation or
new ideas. When Harry Stromm was Premier, he asked for ideas to improve the
role of the backbenchers. Although a committee was established, it made no
As a small opposition, we
originally tried to cover all areas of concern that people would bring to us
concerning any and all government departments. The unfortunate result was a
lack of focus. Our research staff were engaged in massive projects which we
often could not use.
Now we take each department of
government and decide upon a maximum of three subjects with respect to that
department, often only two will be covered in depth. We develop a careful and
detailed background on each of these areas. We can then be well prepared to
deal with specific questions and this is more effective.
Pam Barrett: There is a Strategic Planning Committee of
Caucus which consists of the Leader, House Leader, Whip, Edmonton Caucus
Chairman, Caucus Chairman and one other member elected by the Caucus. It meets
every day to determine our strategy for that day; this is followed by a meeting
of the full caucus in which the planning committee's recommendations are laid
out, and are either approved or amended. In addition, we meet once a week as a
full caucus, for half a day, not to deal with strategy as much as issues. The
politics and philosophy of every individual is set forth; however as we all
subscribe to the basic philosophy of the New Democrats these meetings are
characterized much more by cohesiveness than by division.
At the end of session, the caucus
begins by meeting every two weeks, we may then decide to change this to once
every three weeks and as a new session approaches we return to the format of
every other week.
Do you foresee any transfer of
influence from government caucus committees to committees of the Assembly?
Greg Stevens: I have not sensed that the opposition have
been pushing for policy oriented committees with the exception that the
Liberals wanted the Public Accounts Committee to meet when the House is not
sitting. However, the committee did not have the funds for that.
The Members' Services Committee
pretty much has a free rein and acts in the interests of the members provided
the actions fall within the appropriate guidelines. The Heritage Savings Trust
Fund Committee's recommendations are listened to and may have an effect on
government decisions. There have also been special committees from time to time
such as the Workman's Compensation Committee, as well as the Committee on the
Constitution, on reform of the Senate, etc.
Bettie Hewes: The legislature's committees all function
relatively well. It is important to remember that each is heavily weighted in
favour of the government. There are good exchanges among members as matters are
explored. It is the Members' Services Committee that is more likely to get into
There is a Special Committee that
studies Workers' Compensation every four years or so. I do not think it is
effective. The members do not seem to take independent positions and are
supported by expert advice only from the department. I would like to see a
committee of citizens look at the subject from a variety of points of view.
Ray Speaker: The one committee that appears to have
taken more authority is Members' Services. The transfer of power from the
government caucus to the legislature will happen only as a result of political
pressure from the public on the members. As the opposition becomes more of a
real political threat the government will become hesitant to push the decisions
of its caucus. There is the potential for improved and increased
decision-making and refining within the Legislature. This will continue to
improve as we get closer to the next election. This would be a positive change.
Pam Barrett: I do not see any movement to make
legislative committees more effective. Under Premier Lougheed some committees,
such as the one used to study the Workers' Compensation Board, were struck to
deal with matters over the life of a Legislature. The government now strikes
only internal committees, which operate in a very partisan way. For example,
there is a Health Care Review Committee; it is headed by a government MLA,
other government MLA's are members and there are citizens chosen by the
minister. Opposition members need not apply. This takes much out of the hands
of the Legislature and puts inordinate power into the hands of the government
caucus. I think the present government fears all-party committees because they
expose the matters referred to them to debate and to public scrutiny. Premier
Lougheed had a much better record in this regard; he recognised the
parliamentary importance of having an opposition and did not go out of his way
to exclude opposition members from participating in the decision-making
Are you satisfied with the procedure
used for consideration of the estimates?
Greg Stevens: In 1986, the estimates system was changed
as a result of a filibuster led by the present Leader of the Opposition. I
believe that this was a disservice to the people of Alberta.
Before ministers would be grilled
on their estimates line by line. There would be staff members in the gallery to
support the minister if needed. Indeed if he could not answer all the questions
he would have to be brought back.
What happens now is that opposition
members simply take full advantage of the rules that permit a member to speak
for thirty minutes. What we have are thirty minute speeches rather than the
tough, precise questions of the past. It is simply a matter of each side making
its thirty minute speeches and there is no stress on the ministers at all. It
is a way for the opposition to take over Hansard.
Bettie Hewes: I am very dissatisfied with the estimates
system in the Legislature. In the first place, the numbers given to the House
are not very revealing. It is difficult for an opposition member to figure out
just what we are dealing with. There is very little narrative to explain or
justify the numbers. We are not provided with specific cost figures for items,
or with a comparison of those items in past years nor are there projections of
costs into the future. Is the taxpayer getting value? Is the tax dollar being
used to buy what is needed or wanted? Was the expenditure effective? We get
lump sums with no qualifications.
There are twenty-five departments
and additional agencies which must be reviewed by the Assembly in twenty-five
sitting days. This means we have approximately two-and-one half hours to study
a department. The minister starts off with a thirty minute speech filled with
broad generalizations, followed by a thirty minute speech by the critic from
the Official Opposition. The minister may make a thirty minute response, a
government member may make a thirty minute speech. Time simply evaporates. The
current process does not allow for a detailed scrutiny of the estimates through
in-depth questioning of the minister. There is no opportunity to get to the
Ray Speaker: The problem with the budget debates and
the estimates is that they lack focus. With the set-piece thirty minute
speeches, they lack the more adversarial thrusting back and forth. Questions
and answers are not covered in depth.
The Committee of the Whole can be
very effective but that isn't the case now. With lists of members who each want
to give their thirty minute speech, nothing is focused and this takes the fire
and intensity out of the debate.
At one time we tried subcommittees
during the examination of the estimates. I did not like this. Often the deputy
minister would hold the floor and talk more than the minister. For me this was
a waste of time. We need to have this debate in the most public arena where it
might be possible to move the direction of the government.
Pam Barrett: Historically, the Committee of the Whole
has been given the mandate to deal with estimates, bills and motions at a very
detailed level. It is no longer effective, it is crucial that the Committee of
Whole be entitled to have subcommittees deal with some issues, some estimates,
some bills, and some motions.
There has been subterranean
fighting during this Legislature over procedure which has resulted in the need
to pursue heavily political issues as opposed to detailed issues being raised
in the estimates. When there was only a two person ND opposition, it used to be
possible for the opposition members to raise some general political
observations and then proceed with some very detailed questions. The ministers
then, who felt no real political threat, would respond to the political
observations and to the questions. This process would continue for a whole
evening and was fairly easily accomplished. With the larger opposition the
government has adopted a siege mentality; they now attempt to filibuster their
own estimates! In the first place a department's estimates may not get even two
hours of debate. Under the Standing Orders, ministers may take up to thirty
minutes to present their own estimates, and they may take thirty minutes to
respond to any other speaker. The ministers are increasingly taking advantage
of this to exclude opposition speakers from getting on the floor and into the
real detailed estimates. Government backbenchers are also playing this game;
they may also speak for thirty minutes. Since the opposition may only get one
of its members into the debate in consideration of a department's estimates, it
has to try to hit every political point and some financial points within a
one-half hour presentation. It is impossible to do this at a detailed level and
get into specific votes. I put the entire blame for this on the government's
shoulders and I think they are abusing the spirit and intent of the Standing
What changes if any, would you
like to see in the services, amenities and administration of the Alberta
Greg Stevens: I like a short, tough legislative sitting.
We can do much better as a government if we can get out to the constituency. I
do not mean this in a negative way but what happens in the Legislature seems to
be irrelevant to the day to day living of most Albertans. People will ask me
when do we sit. I have even been asked when did I get back from Ottawa!
I would like to see some new way of
voting in the House. We waste so much time waiting for the eight minute bell
that calls the member to vote. Maybe some form of electronic balloting would
speed up matters. Also, I would like some change to the way we televise the
House. Presently the cameras are on a platform and occasionally they cause a
disruption. I would prefer a more automatic system, such as the one they have
in Saskatchewan. I would also like to see us fully utilise a modern computer
oriented communications system so that we would have access to the information
we need at our finger tips. I am a member of a subcommittee of the Members'
Services Committee which is examining the possibilities for change in this
Bettie Hewes: I would like to see the extension of
television coverage especially during the debates on the estimates which I
think is crucial. The debates need to be made more lively. I suggest that instead
of thirty minutes that speeches be limited to fifteen minutes per member with
the same time limit for minister's responses. It is important to get more
In this vein, the sessions of the
Legislature will need to be longer; we need both a Spring and a Fall sitting.
It may not be convenient for the government, but with a larger opposition we
simply need more time to examine the activities of the administration in depth.
I am dismayed by the number of decisions that are made when the House is not
sitting. Current policies with respect to the energy industry and serious cuts
to the civil service were made during the long period between sittings. There
was no apparent consultation with anybody. Some decisions appear to be delayed
until the Legislature is prorogued. This style of government which encourages
secrecy and the concentration of power is very provocative. The role of the
Legislature in holding the government accountable needs to be strengthened.
Pam Barrett: We are truly in the age of information,
everything is more detailed, as a result politicians who are the
decision-makers need to devote more of their time to being made aware of
detail, to scrutinise that detail, and to spend more time on the
decision-making process itself. In his campaign for the leadership of his party
Don Getty suggested eliminating the Fall sitting; this is not acceptable. At a
minimum we need a Spring and a Fall sitting of the Alberta Legislature.
Albertans pay good money to have MLA's and they deserve to get their money's
The most important part of the
Legislative Assembly's budget should be spent to ensure that democracy is
upheld and available. Our current budget is sixteen million dollars compared to
a ten and one-half billion dollar provincial budget. The government members who
serve on the Members' Services Committee decided that the Official Opposition
should take an eighteen per cent cut in its operating budget while the overall
budget for the entire province has been cut only modestly. This curtailed our
ability to respond to our public responsibilities. We are an extremely busy
office that simply cannot keep up with the phone calls, correspondence,
research requests and so forth.
Similarly what I call the
intellectual component of the Assembly's administration, i.e. the Legislature
Library and the Legislative Interns also suffered from heavy budget cuts under
the name of fiscal restraint. If the government was serious about imposing
fiscal restraint they should do it even-handedly. These cuts on a very small
budget are grossly unfair. They limit the ability of the Legislature to hold
the government to account for its actions by undermining the information
resources that are so vital to this function.