| New Brunswick
| House of Commons
The first session of the
Thirty-Fifth Legislature opened on October 11, 1990 with the Throne Speech by
the Honourable George Johnson, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.
In the speech the government, a
Progressive Conservative majority led by Premier Gary Filmon, presented
as its program the building of a strong economy, preserving quality health,
education and social services and, while remaining committed to a united Canada
with a strong federal Government, striving to secure constitutional reforms
"so that the needs and concerns of the less populous regions of Canada are
heard more clearly and with more effect."
Specific commitments were made to
freeze personal income tax and attract investment, the latter to be achieved by
such initiatives as a Manitoba Ambassadors Program, tapping the expertise and
networks of former Manitobans to assist in finding investors and developing
markets. An import profile and Industrial Capabilities Registry will also be
established to identify potential markets and suppliers. Ways of fostering
employee ownership will be looked at as an alternative to plant closings and
Technological changes and innovations
will be addressed by a skills training strategy, Workforce 2000, and by
reconstituting the Manitoba Research Council as the Manitoba Innovations
Council, with priority to provide expertise in technological research and
Regional and sectoral strategies
will address the specific needs of northern and rural Manitoba, with the
government strengthening rural infrastructure, expanding off-farm income
opportunities, and establishing a Northern Development Commission for the
purpose of securing sustainable economic growth. The government will also
continue to pressure Ottawa to develop a social assistance program for grain
producers, and institute initiatives to strengthen the farm economy, including
more aggressive marketing to find new and expanded markets.
Under social priorities, health
care is to continue to be the top spending priority of the government,
improving mental health services and taking initiatives to "address the
special needs and barriers to health services of the multicultural community."
Another priority will be programs aimed at supporting the family, with the
establishment of a Family Violence Court to deal with wife, child and elder
abuse, the introduction of a home video classification system, and a strategy
to deal with youth drug abuse, including the immediate establishment of a
12-bed treatment centre for adolescent women.
In terms of environmental issues,
the emphasis will be on a sustainable development strategy and an increase in
the level of recycling in Manitoba through the continued use of the
Environmental Innovation Fund, and the establishment of a Paper Collection and
The Filmon government also stated
it is prepared "to take the initiative when it comes to national renewal
through constitutional negotiations." In this regard it will be advocating
an Equal, Elected and Effective Senate as an element of renewed constitutional
agreement, and will establish an all-Party Constitutional Task Force to seek
further public input on the province's constitutional priorities.
Finally, noting that over the last
two years the Manitoba Legislature had fallen behind the normal legislative
cycle, resulting in last year's Estimates being approved only ten days before
the fiscal year was over, the government outlined a very limited legislative
agenda for the current Session. It will focus on passage of the Budget and
Estimates and the introduction of legislation to ensure the provincial sales
tax and the proposed GST would be applied side by side and not one upon the
In addition, a new Residential
Tenancies Act will be introduced. Such an Act died on the order paper when
the last Session ended. Critics of the government claimed Filmon's Progressive
Conservatives were reacting to the concerns of landlords, particularly with a
clause allowing the province to place liens on property in order to recover
money it spent repairing buildings whose landlords had failed to comply with
The government will reintroduce an
amendment to The Labour Relations Act to repeal Final Offer Selection
(FOS), a form of arbitration where, upon application either by the union or the
employer, workers vote to decide whether to ask a third party to resolve their
contract dispute. The "selector" then chooses the final offer of one
of the two parties. After a long debate last Session, the then minority PC
government was unable to repeal FOS.
Both the Leader of the NDP
Opposition, Gary Doer, and the Leader of the Liberals, Sharon
Carstairs felt the Speech from the Throne focussed essentially on business
and the economy, with little emphasis on social services, education, or the
unemployed. Charging that the speech reveals a right-wing, pro-business agenda,
Doer said, "If you read between the lines, this Speech from the Throne
could have been written by Brian Mulroney himself. It's the same blind
reliance on business. They never remember that in Manitoba the government has
to have its hand on the wheel."
Mrs. Carstairs was concerned that
people were scarcely mentioned in the speech. "All governments are facing
a dilemma over how to maintain social services. It's obvious this government
has made the decision not to maintain the same level of social services."
On October 24, 1990, Finance
Minister Clayton Manness introduced the Filmon government's third budget
to the Legislative Assembly, 16 months after the last one. In presenting the
budget, Mr. Manness stated that what is required is to build for the future by
managing equitably, creatively and reasonably, providing "the quality
public services so essential to meet the needs and aspirations of
However, the Finance Minister added
that "A true spirit of co-operation and partnership will be essential, as
Manitoba moves through this difficult period ahead. All of us must pull
together. Businesses must be especially prudent and reasonable in all their
decisions. Labour must be more farsighted in its demands. Governments must
learn to provide needed services more efficiently. It is simply not realistic
to add to the tax burdens facing Manitobans, individuals and businesses
Highlights of the budget included:
$30 million in Retail Sales Tax relief for consumers (with the
government's decision to apply the provincial tax alongside the GST)
Payroll Tax Credit of up to 0.3% of an employer's payroll for costs
related to employee training
no increase in personal income taxes
12.5 cent increase on a pack of 25 cigarettes
extension, to December 31, 1991, of existing 1.5% special mining tax and
a program of tax reduction for new small businesses for their first five years.
The government also announced a 7%
increase, over the previous year's budgeted level, in combined funding for
health care, education and family services: $148 million more for health
programs, an additional $48 million to support family services, and an increase
of $37 million for education and training. There is also a 6% increase in
funding for the Environment Department, a 174% increase in the Environmental
Innovations Fund, and $800,000 for the International Institute for Sustainable
Development located in Winnipeg.
To reduce the estimated deficit to
$283 million, $100 million was withdrawn from the Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a
fund created in 1988-89 to help cushion shortfalls in periods of exceptionally
slow revenue growth. Total revenue for the province of Manitoba is estimated to
be near $4.8 billion, up $140 million from last year, while total spending for
1990-91 is estimated at $5.1 billion, up 5.8%.
While Gary Doer, Leader of
the Opposition, felt the budget was prepared by people with their heads in the
sand while the recession takes place, the New Democratic Party did not
introduce a non-confidence amendment. However, Sharon Carstairs and the
Liberals did a 10-point amendment, charging that the government had failed to
portray accurately and clearly the financial affairs of the province, failed to
take any action to stem the destructive tide of bankruptcies in Manitoba, and
failed to address the challenges faced by post-secondary educational
institutions. On November 1, 1990, the amendment was defeated and the budget of
the newly formed majority Progressive Conservative government was approved.
Ray Serwylo, Production Assistant, Hansard Services,
Manitoba Legislative Assembly
The Legislative Assembly resumed
October 30, 1990, following a four-month adjournment. In New Brunswick, a long
standing belief has developed that if a Member presents a petition and complies
with the Rules of the House, he agrees with it and supports it. On the first
day of the fall sitting, the Speaker was asked to clarify the practice with
regard to the presentation by Members of petitions with which they may not
necessarily approve or support. The Speaker in his ruling agreed that many
members present petitions, not so much as a reflection of their position, but
as a service to their constituents. He made it clear that in consenting to
present a petition to the House, a Member does not necessarily commit himself
to the views expressed in it.
Leaders of the registered political
parties in New Brunswick continued to take advantage of changes in House
procedure to ask their own questions of Ministers. The 30-minutes provisional
question period follows the Daily Question Period.
Another significant change in
procedure adopted in the fall sitting allows leaders of registered political
parties to present petitions in the House during the Ordinary Daily Routine of
On November 1, Minister of Finance,
Allan Maher, continued the practice of tabling his government's Capital
Budget for the next fiscal year during the fall session.
"The early introduction of the
Capital Budget continues to be a very successful measure" claimed the Minister,
adding that "it means there is sufficient time for projects to be well
planned and allows contractors to make full use of the construction
For the third year in a row, the
1991-92 Capital Budget meets its target of $300 million plus a supplemental $30
million for highways.
The 1991-92 Capital Budget included
funding for agriculture, alcoholism and drug dependency, education,
environment, fisheries, health, higher education, tourism and transportation.
A record $193.75 million has been
allocated for capital projects in the Department of Transportation in 1991-92.
Of this amount, $137.75 million or 71% will be spent in upgrading the
Trans-Canada Highway and other major routes in the province. While the province
was making significant progress with its own resources, the Minister further
stated that "an agreement with the federal government remains essential to
fund a much needed four-lane Trans-Canada Highway system."
This year's capital budget lifted a
moratorium on the construction of gymnasium facilities to existing schools and
earmarked funds for school gymnasium projects and the construction of much
needed new schools.
In the area of the environment,
fiscal 1991-92 will see an increase of almost 50% in capital spending to
support construction of vitally needed water and waste water systems in
municipalities. A total of $18 million in funding has been set aside for water
supply and waste water treatment projects, as well as solid waste management.
Finally, the government made good on
its promise to accelerate funding for a number of existing hospital projects by
announcing the completion and opening of the two new regional hospitals in
Edmundston and Campbellton in 1991-92, along with the new hospital in Tracadie.
A total of $18.1 million was provided in capital improvements and equipment for
Twenty-nine new pieces of
legislation were introduced during the eight-day fall sitting. Noteworthy among
the Bills introduced were the Ambulance Services Act and a new Beverage
Both pieces of legislation are the
result of extensive public consultation through hearings of legislative
The Ambulance Services Act
ensures that a basic quality and level of ambulance service is available
throughout the province, with provisions that will ensure the development of a
balanced and integrated system of ambulance services. The proposed Act will
transform the transportation ambulance service into a health service.
The Beverage Containers Act
represents a totally new approach to beverage container management in the
province. The new Act proposes to implement a deposit and return system. The
comprehensive deposit refund system ensures that retailers will only sell
beverages in containers that can be either refilled or recycled. Beverages
covered under the new Act will include all soft drinks and alcoholic beverages
such as beer, wine, liquor, and fruit and vegetable juices. Vendors of such
products will be granted a period of exemption from the provisions of the Act
to allow additional time for developing packaging compatible with the new
legislation. Recognizing that implementation of the Act would require
significant changes by manufacturers, distributors, bottlers, retailers,
private recycling firms, the solid waste commission, nonprofit recyclers and
consumers throughout the province, the government announced that all concerned
stakeholders would be provided with a full opportunity to discuss the
legislation in detail before its implementation.
The government referred the Beverage
Containers Act, after second reading, to the Law Amendments Committee for
Also introduced during the fall
sitting were amendments to the Official Languages of New Brunswick Act
which establishes that parties to proceedings before courts and tribunals have
the right to be heard by a court or tribunal which understands the official
language in which each party has chosen to proceed.
A number of discussion papers were
tabled in the House and referred to Standing and Special Committees of the
Legislature for public hearings.
A discussion paper entitled
"Private Woodlots: Considerations for Future Action" was tabled and
referred to the Special Committee on Economic Policy Development for
consideration and public input.
As a result of the government's
review of human rights legislation, Minister of Labour, Mike McKee,
tabled a discussion paper entitled "Towards a World Family: A Report and
Recommendations Respecting Human Rights in New Brunswick". The paper,
containing 152 recommendations, was referred to the Standing Committee on Law
Amendments for public consultation.
As promised in the Throne Speech at
the opening of the session, the government tabled a "Discussion Paper on
the Right to Information Act" and referred it to a Special
Committee of the Legislature for public hearings.
Also tabled in the House by
Education Minister, Shirley Dysart, were documents relative to the
implementation of a Kindergarten Program announced by the government prior to
the start of the fall sitting.
Committees of the Legislature are
expected to maintain full and busy schedules during the recess of the House
and, as expected, have already begun scheduling public hearings in the month of
Loredana Catalli Sonier, Clerk Assistant (Procedural), New Brunswick
Among the more prominent pieces of
legislation introduced thus far in the second session of the 22nd legislature
is the Financial Consumer's Act. This piece of legislation deals
exclusively with the sale of financial products and services to consumers. Four
features make up the essence of the Financial Consumers Act: required
disclosure of important information to the consumer by the seller; increased
options for consumers to seek redress when they have been improperly treated;
specifically identified consumer responsibilities; and plain language
requirements for financial documents.
The Lieutenant Governor has also
granted Royal Assent to the Individual's Rights Protection Amendment Act.
The legislation reforms the province's human rights legislation and contains
fifteen amendments to the former Individual Rights Protection Act. The
major changes include the addition of mental disability as a protected ground,
the extension of protection from sexual harassment to domestics and live-in
farm workers, and the protection of all pregnant women from gender
The Lieutenant Governor granted
Royal Assent to the Premier's Council on Science and Technology Act.
This Act establishes a Council of influential Albertans whose responsibility it
is to advise the government on matters of Science and Technology.
On March 22, 1990, Provincial
Treasurer Dick Johnston introduced what was labelled a "deficit
reduction budget". In presenting his budget, Mr. Johnston pledged to
reduce the province's deficit by one billion dollars. He further stated that
the quality of the province's core programs would not be affected by the
government's spending cuts. Highlights of the budget included:
no increase in personal income taxes.
tax expenditures directed to the corporate sector would be reduced by
about $350 million in 1990-1991.
an increase in the fuel tax by two cents per litre.
an increase in the tobacco tax of twenty cents per cigarette package.
a two percent tax on the capital of banks and other financial
The Alberta Government
Telephones Reorganization Act introduced by the Minister of Technology,
Research and Telecommunications Fred Stewart will lead to the eventual
privatization of "Alberta Government Telephones". The sale will take
place over a period of several years with the government retaining control of
AGT for a limited arrangement to Albertans and the government will also limit
the amount of foreign ownership in the company.
A review panel studying conflict of
interest guidelines for MLAs, chaired by Chief Judge of the Provincial Court Edward
Wachowich has released its report. The report called for an "ethics
commissioner" to supervise the actions of cabinet ministers and MLAs.
New Democrat MLA Stan Woloshyn
raised a point of privilege in the legislature on April 9. Mr. Woloshyn accused
Tory MLA Steve Zarusky of being in a conflict-of-interest regarding an
industrial development in which Mr. Zarusky held a financial interest. Mr.
Zarusky then raised a point of privilege, stating that his privileges as an MLA
were breached by Mr. Woloshyn's allegations. Mr. Woloshyn later raised his own
point of privilege, stating that his privileges as a Member of the assembly
were breached by Mr. Zarusky's actions.
Speaker David Carter later
ruled that no prima facie case of privilege had been shown by either Mr.
Zarusky's or Mr. Woloshyn's actions.
Mr. Patrick Ledgerwood was
reappointed as Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer. Mr. Ledgerwood has served as
a Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces for a number of years after graduation
from the R.C.F. staff college in Toronto.
On April 6, 1990 the "Alberta
Greens" were officially registered as a provincial party in the province.
Thomas Neufeld, Legislative Intern
House of Commons
The House of Commons resumed its
sitting on September 24, 1990, faced with a number of potentially volatile
issues. At the request of the Government, a Special Order Paper was published
for the 24th, to permit the House to move immediately to the consideration of
two motions, one regarding the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, and the other to
allow a debate on the situation involving the Mohawk peoples and the Canadian
Forces at Oka and Châteauguay. The opposition parties contended throughout the
first weeks of the sitting that the Government should have recalled Parliament
during the summer recess in order to deal with these two crises. Questions of
privilege were raised, but the Speaker ruled that the Government's decisions were
political ones and not matters of privilege.
The air of tension escalated as
Members returned to a House that included for the first time Members sitting as
part of the Bloc Québécois. The Speaker was asked from the first day to rule on
a number of questions regarding their privileges in the House. Over the first
two months, these have included questions from the Bloc Québécois regarding
their seating in the Chamber, their right to recognition during Question
Period, on Ministers' statements and during debate, and questions from members
of the recognized parties concerning the validity of the oaths of allegiance
sworn by members of the Bloc Québécois.
On November 1, 1990, the Speaker
ruled on this last question which was raised by Jesse Flis on October 3.
Mr. Flis contended that Gilles Duceppe had disavowed his oath of
allegiance by participating in a ceremony outside the House in which he had
declared his loyalty to the people of Quebec. The Speaker reminded the House
that Mr. Duceppe had stated that he had mocked neither the Parliament of Canada
nor the Queen, and pointed out that the swearing of the oath was a
constitutional obligation which a Member is required to fulfil before being
permitted to take his or her place in the House.
The House has also been affected by
the events unfolding in the Senate over the fall months. The discord resulting
from the efforts of the Government to have the GST legislation dealt with by
the other place spilled over into the daily business of the Commons. Questions
on the GST and the appointment of eight new Senators under a never-before-used
section of the Constitution dominated Question Period for several weeks, as the
opposition challenged the legitimacy of the Government's actions.
A rather alarming incident took
place in the Chamber on October 17, 1990, and preoccupied the House for several
days following. Students sitting in the public gallery during Question Period
chose to express their opposition to changes to the student loans program by
pelting the floor of the House with rice and macaroni. The following day the
Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, Albert Cooper
rose on a question of privilege in which he alleged that Howard McCurdy,
the Member who had been putting a question to the Government at the time of the
incident, had had prior knowledge of the students' plans, and was therefore in
contempt of Parliament. Mr. McCurdy vociferously denied any involvement in the
episode. The Speaker gave his ruling on the 6th of November, in which he stated
that the word of an honourable Member is paramount in the House of Commons, and
that Mr. McCurdy's denial closed that aspect of the matter.
The Speaker went on to express his
concern over the incident itself, and invited Mr. Cooper to put to the House a
modified version of his motion to send the matter to the Standing Committee on
Privileges and Elections for consideration. The motion was agreed to and the
matter is now before the Committee.
The activities of various standing
committees have been affected by events which have taken place since the
resumption of the session. On October 5, 1990, the Chief Government Whip, Jim
Hawkes, presented the 49th report of the Striking Committee, detailing the
membership of the standing committees as required by Standing Order 104. The
House at that time refused to give unanimous consent to allow the motion for
concurrence to be put. The existing membership lists will continue in effect
until such time as the report is concurred in.
Two standing committee chairmen
have tendered their resignations recently, Garth Turner as Chairman of
the Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Government Operations Standing Committee
on September 18, 1990, and Pat Nowlan as Transport Committee Chairman on
October 15, 1990.
Meanwhile, several points of
privilege have been raised by Members of the opposition regarding the failure
of various committees to hold meetings and deal with the business before them.
The time of the House has otherwise
been occupied with several important and contentious pieces of legislation,
among them the Hibernia Development Project Act (Bill C-44), the Canadian
Environmental Assessment Act (Bill C-78) and the Petro-Canada Public
Participation Act (Bill C-84).
As the House looks towards
Christmas and the New Year, attention will almost certainly be focused on the
Citizens Forum on Canada's Future. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
announced the creation of the forum, to be headed by Keith Spicer, on
November 1, 1990. The Liberal and New Democratic party leaders expressed guarded
support for the measure, and will no doubt monitor the committee's progress
carefully over the coming months.
The population of statues on
Parliament Hill was increased by one on September 26 with the unveiling of the
memorial to the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson. The House of Commons
suspended its sitting for an hour that afternoon to allow Members to attend the
ceremony honouring the former Prime Minister.
Other comings and goings on the
Hill have taken place in the Chair of the House and on the Board of Internal
Economy. Charles DeBlois, Member for Beauport–Montmorency–Orléans, was
appointed Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole House at the
sitting on Tuesday, October 2, 1990. The nomination was supported by the
Liberals and the NDP, but two independent Members associated with the Bloc
Québécois refused to give their consent to the government motion, since they
had not been consulted. The motion was agreed to on a recorded division.
Recent appointments to the Board of
Internal Economy have included Harvie Andre, the Government House Leader
and Gilles Loiselle, President of the Treasury Board on September 26,
1990. David Dingwall, Liberal Member for Cape Breton–East Richmond and
Whip of the Official Opposition, was appointed to the Board on October 4, 1990,
replacing Herb Gray.
Chris Trauttmansdorff, Procedural Clerk, Table Research Branch
On September 6, 1990, the
electorate shocked many observers by electing, for the first time in Ontario history,
a New Democratic Party government, and a majority one at that. The NDP, under
leader Bob Rae, won 74 out of 130 seats with 1,509,506 votes or 37.57%.
This compares to only 19 seats and 25.8% of the vote garnered in the 1987
election. The Liberals, formerly the governing party and now the Official
Opposition, won 36 seats with 1,302,134 votes and 32.4% (as compared to 95
seats and 47.2% in 1987). Under their new leader, Michael Harris, the
Progressive Conservatives – who had governed Ontario for 43 years up until 1985
– remained in third position with 20 seats, receiving 944,564 votes or 23.5%.
In 1987, the PCs held only 16 seats with 24.7% of the vote. Two other
groupings, the Family Coalition Party and the Confederation of Regions Party,
stood next with 2.76% and 1.89% of the popular vote respectively. Total voter
turnout of 4,070,654 represented 64.4% of all eligible voters.
A record number of members were
newly elected: 71 out of 130 (including 3 who had sat in previous parliaments).
Twenty- eight women were elected, an increase from 21 in the previous House.
Twenty sit on the government side, 5 are Liberals and 3 are PCs.
Premier David Peterson was
defeated in his own constituency of London Centre by newly-elected NDP member Marion
Boyd. In his place, former party leader and provincial Treasurer Robert
Nixon was selected at a caucus meeting on September 13 to serve as interim
leader of the Liberal caucus until the party chooses a new leader next year.
Mr. Nixon, now the dean of the House as well as interim Leader of the
Opposition, has represented the southwestern Ontario riding of Brant-Haldimand
for 28 years.
On October 1, Ms. Boyd was among a
record 11 women appointed to Premier Rae's cabinet. The swearing-in of the
25-member cabinet – including 12 newly elected members – took place in
ceremonial and celebratory fashion before a large audience in the 1,700 seat
Convocation Hall of the University of Toronto. Just outside the building, or in
the nearby committee rooms of Queen's Park, many more spectators watched the
proceedings on television. In his address, Premier Rae pledged that his
government would aim "to set taxes fairly, to spend wisely, to fight
inequality, to promote justice, and to guard against institutional arrogance
and the abuse of power wherever we may find it". Shortly after naming his
cabinet, Premier Rae appointed 32 members as parliamentary assistants.
Six weeks after the election, the
government's standing was reduced from 74 to 73 seats as one member, Tony
Rizzo, left the NDP caucus to sit as an Independent. The departure
immediately followed press reports of violations of provincial labour laws by
Mr. Rizzo's bricklaying companies.
Election of Speaker
The summoning of the 35th
Parliament of Ontario on Monday, November 19, saw another historic first: the
nomination and contested election of a Speaker from among the members. The
election process was presided over by the Clerk of the Legislature, Claude
DesRosiers. Four candidates were nominated and appeared on the first ballot:
Gilles Morin, Jean Poirier, Norm Sterling and David
Warner. Each member wishing to vote printed the name of his or her
candidate on an authorized ballot paper and deposited the paper in a ballot box
on the Table. After the conclusion of voting, ballots were counted in secret by
the Clerks-at-the-Table in the presence of one member of each of the recognized
parties in the House. The Clerk announced that no member received a majority of
the votes cast and that a second ballot would take place. At the conclusion of
counting of the second round, the Clerk announced the election of Mr. Warner as
Speaker. Speaker Warner is a secondary school teacher and veteran legislator,
having been previously elected in general elections of 1975, 1977 and 1985,
(and defeated in alternate election years 1981 and 1987).
Referring to this hopscotch
pattern, Speaker Warner began, "As I was saying before I was so rudely
interrupted some three years ago…". He went on to pledge his all to
ensuring "an atmosphere of mutual respect", indeed, a
"model" legislature "where calm and reason can be the order of
the day and personal invective has no place."
On motion by the Government House
Leader, Shelley Martel, other officers of the House were later appointed
as follows: Gilles Morin, Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee; Karen
Haslam, First Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House; Noble
Villeneuve, Second Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House.
On November 20, the Lieutenant-
Governor, Lincoln Alexander, read the first Throne Speech of the NDP
government. The Speech promised "an ambitious pace of change", and
reminded Ontarians that "politics is about far more than what we can all
get: it is also about what we owe each other. Too many people have been left
out and need to be included. The values of community and solidarity have been
undermined and ignored. Quite simply, there is too much poverty and inequality
Addressing issues of integrity in
government, the Speech promised: clear standards of conduct for ministers,
members of the legislature and senior government officials; "whistle
blowing" guidelines to protect public employees; new conflict of interest
legislation for provincial and municipal politicians; a fairer process for
appointments to agencies, boards and commissions.
As one recession-fighting measure,
the government announced the immediate allocation of $700 million for public
works maintenance and renovation. The government also pledged to introduce a
wage protection fund for the workers of bankrupt companies; support for labour
adjustment committees in industries affected by dislocation; and stronger
measures on layoff notice, severance and other adjustment issues.
The Throne Speech set out
commitments for the government's 5-year mandate to: achieve equitable wages for
all Ontario women; increase the minimum wage to 60% of the average industrial
wage; introduce pension reforms; revise rent review legislation; increase the
supply of affordable housing, especially non-profit housing; extend child care;
continue reform of the social assistance system; and combat violence against
women and children.
A "common pause day" was
promised to limit Sunday shopping. A Fair Tax Commission was announced to study
the establishment of a more equitable tax system.
Also to be introduced are an
environmental bill of rights and a safe drinking water act to set standards for
water treatment. A moratorium was announced on new nuclear power facilities,
while Ontario Hydro was asked to divert planned expenditures for new nuclear
development toward energy conservation and efficiency programs.
The government undertook to
introduce in the spring session a driver-owned system to deliver car insurance.
In leading the response of the
Official Opposition to the Throne Speech, Opposition leader Robert Nixon
criticized the "vagueness" of approach in the document, "very
much like the other speeches I have heard over the years…very long on
principle, some homily, quite a lot of motherhood…". After defending the
record of the previous Liberal government and the philosophical value of
liberalism, Mr. Nixon moved an amendment to the motion for adoption of the
Throne Speech to condemn the government for: its failure to fulfil commitments
made in its electoral platform, Agenda for People; for a lack of initiatives to
encourage new investment and jobs; and a failure to set policy priorities and
funding for environment, health, agriculture and northern development.
Progressive Conservative leader Michael
Harris addressed his remarks to economic problems facing the province,
distinguishing his party's response from those of either the present or former
government. PCs intend, he said, "to challenge the notion that by limiting
individual freedom through excessive taxation and an even more complex web of
bureaucracy and red tape, government is actually helping outsiders". He
too moved an amendment to condemn the government for failing, among other
items, to commit to a restraint policy to control growth and cost of government
and reduce the tax burden; and to act on needs for a new financial partnership
with municipalities, coherent regional development, preservation of farm land
and interest rate relief for farmers.
Douglas Arnott, Committee Clerk, Ontario Legislative
The Senate has seen some remarkable
events this Fall. Central to the fray has been Bill C-62, the legislation which
would implement the Government's Goods and Services Tax.
Imaginative use of the Senate's
rules – which were never designed to accommodate the special demands of
persistent partisan procedural wrangling by both sides in the Senate Chamber –
has led to confrontations familiar now to any who have followed the affair in
the media. At the heart of the matter have been some controversial decisions
taken by the Speaker, Senator Guy Charbonneau, and upheld on appeal by
the now-dominant Conservative Party senators.
Early in the Fall sitting, the
Liberal senators attempted to press the adoption of the report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which recommended the outright
veto of the bill. The Committee had held hearings across Canada in the
provincial and territorial capitals and they were marked by bitter exchanges
amongst Government and Opposition members as well as witnesses.
The Liberals wanted to push the
adoption of the Committee's report because, although they held the balance of
partisan power, a number of vacancies were extant and speculation was rampant
that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would seek Her Majesty The Queen's
permission to invoke section 26 of the Constitution of Canada, which allows for
the establishment of either one or two Senate seats for each of Canada's four
regions. With this provision in place, the Conservatives would be in a position
to finally carry the Senate without having to compromise with the Opposition.
However, the Senate rules favour not the majority necessarily, but those who
wish to prolong deliberations. The Conservatives delayed consideration of the
Committee report by raising numerous points of privilege until finally the
Prime Minister fulfilled their expectations by filling all vacancies and taking
the unprecedented step of adding eight divisional senators to the Senate
Chamber, over the course of a handful of days. In order to protest this move
the Liberals stalled Senate business over a number of days by allowing the
division bells to ring.
The Liberals finally returned to
the Chamber on October 4, 1990, where they heard the Speaker's ruling on a
special motion by Senator Royce Frith, Deputy Leader of the Opposition,
which demanded the Senate take action on a matter which he felt was a breach of
privilege. The Speaker agreed with the point of order raised by Senator Lowell
Murray, Leader of the Government in the Senate, who argued that before
debating Senator Frith's motion, a prima facie case had to be proven.
The Speaker thus ruled that, there being no prima facie case of
privilege, Senator Frith's motion was out of order. The Liberals responded by
promptly moving the adjournment of the house and walking out on the division
bells once again, claiming to the media that another extended
"bell-ringing" was to be expected. The bells started ringing at 2:40
p.m. on October 4. At 5:25 p.m. that same day, the Speaker ordered the doors of
the Chamber to be locked – the usual preamble to a division – and proceeded
with putting the question to the motion, which was soundly defeated, since no
Liberals were in the Chamber.
This decision led to charges by the
Liberals that the Senate had been "hijacked". Senator Frith read into
the record a letter addressed to Senate Party officials and independent
senators from the Speaker. In it the Speaker, citing "…the failure of the
mechanisms established…within the Senate to assemble senators within a
reasonable time…", announced that he would "…proceed to put the
question now before the Senate at 5:30 p.m. this day". The Speaker cited
his duty to "…protect the rights of individual senators to perform their
duties". Senator Frith stated that he received the letter at 5:00 p.m. On
a point of privilege, he asked the Speaker to justify his actions, especially
in view of the procedures outlined in the Rules of the Senate of Canada, noting
page 70 which outlines a procedure where the bells are rung until both Whips
have indicated their readiness to proceed to the vote. Following Senator Frith,
numerous senators followed claiming that since they had not received their
letter notifying them of the Speaker's intent, that their privileges had been
abused. After prolonged debate, and much emotion, the business of the Senate
stalled by the Liberal senators' refusal to hear anything put by the Speaker,
the Senate adjourned October 5, 1990.
Thanks to the peculiarities of
procedural accounting, October 9, 1990 was a particularly long day, ending nine
days later on the 18th of October. During this time, recitations of the Rules
of the Senate, extracts from the Bible, readings from procedural authorities
and presentations of petitions against the GST filled the air as Liberal
senators refused to acknowledge the Speaker and protested what they felt was an
abuse of their privileges. After protracted negotiations, provisional rules
were agreed upon which were adopted by the Senate, covering procedures for
divisions, adjournments and votes. In addition, the two sides came to an
agreement regarding the dispatch of several major pieces of legislation,
including: Bill C-28; Bill C-21, the bill amending the Unemployment
Insurance Act which had been the object of major disagreement between the
two Houses and which had been in peril of being lost; Bill C-62 at report
stage; and Bill C-44, the Act respecting the Hibernia Development Project.
Finally, and most importantly to the Conservatives, a formula allowing the
Liberals to move eight amendments with six hours' debate each to Bill C-62 on
third reading was adopted. The stage was set for a final showdown on the GST
The Liberals' amendments addressed
subjects they felt needed special attention. Included in the amendments were
appeals for special consideration of the publishing industry; children's
clothing; non-prescription drugs; the people and communities of the North;
certain services such as funeral, passenger transportation, medical and
educational, among others; the tax credit threshold; and co-operative
organizations, to name a few. Given the time-frame within which they had to
work, the Conservative senators argued, they had no choice but to defeat all
eight of the Liberal amendments, which they did.
When the eighth and final Liberal
amendment had been defeated, Senator Murray quickly stood and, in competition
with Liberal and independent senators trying to gain the floor, moved the
previous question on Bill C-62. Another uproar occurred since at least two
independent senators – Senator Stan Waters and Senator Ed Lawson
– wished to move amendments to Bill C-62 and felt they were outside the
provisions of any special order negotiated by parties to which they did not
belong. The sitting was suspended and a further deal negotiated allowing one
amendment each to the above-mentioned senators, with fixed time limits. Once
the independents' amendments had been debated and defeated, the previous
question motion was put and the final leg of the GST marathon struggle in the
Senate was begun.
To date, the Liberals have been
engaging in a prolonged filibuster, with some senators, such as Jacques
Hébert, Joyce Fairbairn and Philippe Gigantes clocking notable
time on their feet. Scheduled suspensions of the Senate's business and
"tag-team" questioning techniques where lengthy questions are posed
by colleagues in order to give the speaker time to recuperate cooperate to
assist the Liberals in stretching the time they are able to spend on their
feet. Concerns about the strain these lengthy speeches might be placing on the
health of senators were heightened when Earl Hastings abruptly curtailed
his own address, displaying symptoms of severe exhaustion.
By the time of publication of this
issue, the final determination of Bill C-62 should be apparent. With its close,
no matter what the outcome the Senate will have turned the final page on an
interesting chapter in its legislative history.
Blair Armitage, Committee Clerk, The Senate