| British Columbia
| New Brunswick
| House of Commons
On Tuesday, March 19,
Lieutenant-Governor Gilbert Finn delivered the fourth and possibly last
Speech from the Throne of the 51st Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.
The government proposes strategies and
discussion in the areas of education, social services, business and environment
as well as initiatives in the area of political reform.
The government will invest in the
development of New Brunswickers by implementing a public kindergarten,
increasing literacy and access to training courses and by strengthening
opportunities for aboriginal peoples.
Those in need will receive support
through a number of initiatives including a new Food Nutrition Policy,
additional day care, enforces maintenance for court ordered support payments
and attendant care to increase independence for the disabled.
Proposed economic investment
includes an Entrepreneurship Education Program for both the school system and
the university to establish links with the business community and to foster
positive entrepreneurial attitudes. Initiatives are planned through a new Food
Production and Processing Policy. The largest road construction program in the
history of the province is proposed.
The government will appoint a
Commission on Land Use and the Rural Environment and will introduce a number of
A Commission on Representation and
Electoral Boundaries will be established to consider electoral reform and
address provisions for improved representation of aboriginal peoples.
Finance Minister Allan Mahers
fourth budget, brought down on Tuesday, April 2, did not include layoffs.
Instead it deals with the financial problem created by federal cutbacks through
curbing spending while investing in people and creating jobs.
The Budget will reduce the size of
the government while protecting the health and education systems and the social
The government proposes to freeze
wages for one year for elected representatives, the civil service, school and
health care systems; restrict grants to municipalities; reduce departmental
allocations; downsize the public sector through attrition; and recover higher
costs on selected government fees. Restraint measures proposed in this year's
budget include a roll-back in the salary increases of all cabinet ministers and
MLAs retroactive to January 1, 1991. Individual expense account limits for the
Premier and cabinet ministers, will be reduced by 25 per cent.
Grants under the Political Process Financing
Act will be frozen at the previous year's level. Per diems for MLAs will also
be frozen and stipends for Members serving on Boards and Commission will be
reduced by 4.6 per cent.
Funds from the Arterial Highway
Trust Fund will be used to modernise the highway system and the Environmental
Trust Fund for a broad range to environmental activities.
The government will increase basic
rates for social assistance; increase care for the disabled; implement a plan
to eliminate the unfunded liability of the Public Service and Teachers' Pension
Plans; provide funding for the Bi-Capitol Theatre Project and the New Brunswick
Museum; and provide financial assistance to the Congrès mondial acadien, and
international homecoming for Acadians planned for 1994. It will increase
personal income tax for those in the $100,000 income range; increase the
standard corporate tax rate; and increase motor vehicle fees.
The government continued the
practice established last session which accorded the Leaders of the Registered
Political Parties the privilege of appearing at the bar of the House to ask
questions and present petitions.
The Legislative Assembly in
conjunction with the Association of Clerks-at-the-Table in Canada sponsored the
Second Annual Student Legislative Seminar, March 22-24. Clerk of the
Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Claude DesRosiers, a guest Speaker,
presided over the Model Parliament
held on the last day of the Seminar.
Several Members of the Legislature
have already indicated that they will not be candidates in the election which
is expected to be called before fall: Minister of Housing, Peter Trites,
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Morris Green, Kal Seaman, Harold
Terris, Doug Harrison and Pete Dalton.
Loredana Catalli Sonier, Clerk Assistant , New Brunswick Legislative
After the Christmas interlude,
following the raucous debate over the passage of the GST legislation, the
Senate has slowly reverted to cautious co-operativeness on both sides. Early in
the new year, tension over C-43, the abortion legislation, created temporary
but deep new divisions along non-partisan lines, blurring somewhat the
divisions over the GST. By mid-April, the Senate was proceeding in a manner
reminiscent of the days prior to the hotly contested legislation seen in the
last year or so. Whether this renewed attitude will continue remains to be seen
as both Houses await the anticipated prorogation and Throne Speech of the new
Twenty-three pieces of legislation
have passed and received Royal Assent since the Senate resumed work in January.
Of note were Bill C-40, An Act Respecting Broadcasting; and Bill C-84, An Act
to Privatise Petro-Canada. Bill C-79, An Act to
amend the Parliament of Canada Act,
also received Royal Assent after amendments were adopted by the Senate and
agreed to by the House of Commons.
Bill C-43, An Act Respecting
Abortion, was the object of intense interest by those deeply involved in the
issue, both inside and outside of Parliament. A tie vote on January 31 resulted
in the bill being defeated.
The Social Affairs, Science and
Technology Committee issued a report entitled "Children in Poverty",
March 6, 1991 as a follow-up to the report "Child at Risk" published
a number of years ago.
The Committee on National Finance
tabled "The Program Evaluation System in the Government of Canada".
In its continuing review of government expenditure under the theme "Value
for Money", the National Finance Committee was to ascertain the extent to
which evaluation findings, as opposed to political and other factors, were
taken into account when decisions were made to cut programs. The Committee
concluded that in order to improve the accountability of the government to
Parliament it may be sufficient to improve the existing system of program
evaluation rather than to scrap it and start over. They stressed, however, that
future improvements in the system will require the mandate and capabilities of
the Office of the Comptroller General to be strengthened significantly.
The Fisheries Committee tabled
"Canadian Lobster: A Marketing Challenge", which outlined the steps
it feels the Government should follow in order to make Canadian lobster
products more competitive abroad. Moreover, it exhorts the
industry to co-operate in
developing generic marketing strategies and intelligence.
Blair Armitage , Committee Clerk, The Senate
The second session of Manitoba's
Thirty-fifth Legislature opened on March 7. Lieutenant-Governor George Johnson
read the Speech from the Throne emphasising the government's commitment to
managing the impact of the recession on Manitoba while protecting vital social
services: Health Care, Education, and Family Services. "With minimal
revenue growth, reduced federal transfers and growing interest costs, the province
is in danger of becoming ensnared in a trap of spiralling debt costs that will
rob us of our chance for economic prosperity and limit our ability to protect
even the most fundamental social services," he said.
To achieve the goal of fiscal
responsibility, the speech outlined three key elements. These included internal
reform of government to reduce administration and duplication and to develop
innovative management approaches; clear spending priorities that will
distinguish between what people "would like," and what they
"need," the government to provide; and a 3 percent envelope for
public sector wage settlements.
The Throne Speech stressed that
agriculture, health care, post-secondary education, and other areas which rely
on equalisation funding are being seriously affected by declining federal
support with the erosion of transfer payments. The government indicated it
would do everything in its power, including seeking out additional legal
vehicles, to fight such fiscal actions by Ottawa. To this end, a special
Cabinet Committee for Federal Provincial Economic Relations will be
Specific initiatives announced in
the speech focus on plans for community-based services, programs to deal with
issues of substance abuse, and the care and treatment of people suffering from
mental illness. In education, a new finance model will be looked at, school
boundaries will be reviewed and the province's three community colleges are to
be incorporated under individual Boards of Governors.
To help the farm economy, an
Agricultural Diversification Task Force will be created, while in the
environmental, telecommunications and information industries there will be an
increased emphasis on development. A high priority also will be maintained for
"the successful health industry and aerospace strategic initiatives!'
Premier Gary Filmon's government
indicated it will be presenting a comprehensive package of legislation to the
House in this session. Major amendments to The City of Winnipeg Act will be
presented to reduce the size of City Council and to create new ward boundaries.
Proposed amendments to The Public Utilities Board Act would allow service to be
discontinued to natural gas customers with delinquent accounts.
In the Throne Speech the government
noted that it anticipates tabling several significant reports in the Assembly
during this session.
These include reports from the Task
Force on Governance of Francophone Schools, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, the
Review on Domestic Violence and the Manitoba Constitutional Task Force. Also to
be tabled will be Manitoba's first State of the Environment report, a benchmark
document which will assist governments in assessing the progress this province
is making towards sustainable development.
Gary Doer of the New Democratic Party,
Leader of the Official Opposition, and Liberal Leader Sharon Carstairs both
moved amendments to the Motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the
Throne. Their motions expressed non-confidence in the government primarily for
failing to stimulate economic growth, eroding the quality of health care,
education and family services, and neglecting to address the concerns of
farmers, and northern and aboriginal people. Both were defeated.
In the House a number of bills have
been introduced to date to deal with the government agenda outlined in the
Throne Speech. These include The Mines and Minerals and Consequential
Amendments Act, which contains the first changes to this legislation in almost
40 years. The proposed amendments are intended to encourage private sector
investment consistent with sustainable development initiatives, and to clarify
the rules under which developers must operate in Manitoba.
The Mental Health Amendment Act,
introduced by Health Minister Don Orchard, is designed to strengthen the rights
of mental patients. The proposed amendments would give the closest relative of
an involuntary mental patient, instead of the public trustee, the right to make
decisions about the patient's treatment. The proposed legislation would also
ease the way for professional bodies representing psychiatrists, psychologists,
or psychiatric nurses to conduct, where necessary, more thorough reviews of the
professional conduct of members of these professions by gaining greater access
to confidential mental health records.
The Interim Appropriation Act,
1991, and The Legislative Assembly Amendment Act received Royal Assent early in
The Legislative Assembly Amendment
Act freezes MLA basic remuneration at the current rate of $41,946 until March
31, 1992 and reduces the amount of the constituency and access allowance which
would have been payable on April 1, 1991 by 10 percent. It also prescribes the
terms and conditions on which a member, "...on ceasing to be a member, may
acquire for his or her own use property purchased with a constituency and
access allowance" and reduces the number of annual householder mailings
each member may have printed and mailed, at government expense, from three to
Finance Minister Clayton Manness
stated that "At a time when we are asking all Manitobans to tighten their
belts, it is only appropriate that we as legislators take a leadership role and
not expect others to take steps that we are not prepared to take
As a result of actions taken by
government security staff to restrict access to the Legislative Building during
a major student demonstration protesting funding cuts for post-secondary
education, two related matters of privilege were raised by members of the New
In both instances the Speaker ruled
that no matter of privilege existed. In addressing the issues raised by the
motions, he stated that it had not been demonstrated that the events described
were part of a proceeding in parliament nor that these events had interfered
with any member's ability to carry out his parliamentary responsibilities.
In elaborating on his ruling the
Speaker cited a Supreme Court of Canada decision which stated that "the
liberty of access which the public has to attend the proceedings of the House
of Assembly and its Committees and to visit the precincts and rooms of the
House is not a right but a license or privilege capable of being revoked.- In
conclusion, Mr. Speaker said that "...there is no inherent right for any
person under any circumstances to enter this or any other public
Speaker Denis Rocan then
announced that he would meet at the earliest opportunity with the three House
Leaders and the Minister of Government Services to resolve the issues of
security and access to the Legislative Building.
On April 16, Gary Filmon's
Progressive Conservative government presented its fourth budget. In introducing
the government's fiscal strategy, Finance Minister Clayton Manness stated that
"Manitobans have all the government they can afford. It is time for us to
live within our means."
He then outlined the key economic
indicators for the province. Total anticipated revenue, including transfers of
$20 million from Lottery revenues and $125 million from the Fiscal
Stabilisation Fund, is $4.9 billion, 2.5 percent above last year's estimate.
Overall spending is up $160 million or 3.2 percent, with particular priority
given to Health, Family Services, and Education and Training, while the deficit
is expected to be $324 million.
Specific items in the budget
include no increase in retail sales tax, nor personal or corporate income tax.
However, tobacco tax is increased by one cent per cigarette and gasoline tax by
1.5 cents per litre, with the environmental protection tax levied on nonreturnable
beer cans increased from 5 cents to 10 cents.
While the government did not
harmonise the Manitoba retail sales tax with the goods and services tax in this
budget, Mr. Manness gave notice that his officials will be carefully studying
the full implications of doing so for future consideration. Another new
taxation initiative is the conversion of provincial tax credits into regular
monthly payments for social allowance recipients.
As a work force adjustment
strategy, the budget provided for a significant staffing reduction of some 958
staff years, or about 5 percent of the total provincial Civil Service. Through
a combination of early retirements, normal attrition, and work force adjustment
incentives, between 375 and 450 permanent layoffs are expected in the Civil
In response to the budget address, Gary
Doer criticised the government for what he saw as removal of
"investment in our public infrastructure system," at the same time
that the private sector is falling apart like a house of cards."
Similarly, Sharon Carstairs felt that "Cuts to funding for infrastructure
in the areas of transportation, communication and education will cripple our
economy in the future, as will cuts to programs providing start-up capital to
new and high value-added businesses."
Both opposition parties moved
amendments of non-confidence in the budget. However, these were defeated by the
majority PC government on April 25, and the motion approving "in general
the budgetary policy of the Government" was subsequently passed.
The beginning of the new session
saw some changes in Cabinet, with two first-term members accepting positions. Linda
McIntosh, Member for Assiniboia, was named to the Co-operative, Consumer
and Corporate Affairs portfolio and Eric Stefanson, Member for Kirkfield
Park, was appointed Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
Other changes included the
appointment of Richard D. Balasko as Chief Electoral Officer, a position
he had held on an acting basis for almost two years, and a new
Sergeant-at-Arms, with Dennis Gray replacing Clifford Morrissey who
W.H. (Binx) Remnant, Clerk, Manitoba Legislative Assembly
In April 11, 1991 the Fourth
0Session of the Twenty-first Legislature resumed after being adjourned since
June 22, 1990. Through the introduction of some twenty bills in the course of
the following two weeks, the government put forward an agenda for the session
that included agricultural support, deficit elimination, and a series of
Election of Speaker
In recalling the Legislative
Assembly, Premier Grant Devine announced that the first order of business would
be to implement new rules for the election of Speaker by secret ballot. On
April 4, the Special Committee on Rules and Procedures met to consider election
rules and procedures proposed by government House Leader Grant Hodgins. In his
remarks to the committee (chaired by the Speaker), Mr. Hodgins outlined the
main features of his proposal as follows:
All Members except Ministers and Leaders of recognised political parties
are eligible for election;
An eligible Member can become a candidate by filing a written
declaration with the Clerk;
The vote would be conducted by secret ballot;
A candidate must receive a majority of votes cast to be elected;
The Clerk will preside for the election.
While supporting the proposition,
Opposition House Leader Dwain Lingenfelter questioned what he described
as a sudden desire on the part of the government to elect a Speaker so close to
the end of the current Legislature. He suggested that the government's
motivation was to improve its political image before the up-con-ting general
election. The government stated its motivation was to heighten the impartiality
of the Chair by making the selection process non-partisan. The committee did
adopt the rules, which were agreed to by the Assembly on April 11. For his
part, Speaker Arnold Tusa stepped down from the Chair to accommodate the
wish of the House to elect a Speaker under the new rules. On April 12 the new
rules were implemented and Mr. Tusa was declared elected by acclamation.
After the election of Speaker, the
Assembly immediately turned its attention to the pressing question of the
province's disputed electoral boundaries. Since the passage into law of The
Representation Act, 1989 and The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act in August
1989, there has been much controversy whether certain provisions of these acts
are constitutionally valid, particularly the rules for determining constituency
redistribution. In December of 1990 Attorney General Gary Lane referred the
matter to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, under authority of section 2 of The
Constitutional Questions Act, to decide whether the variance in the size and
distribution of the province's electoral boundaries infringed on citizens'
voting rights. On March 6, 1991, the Court concluded that the legislative
framework at issue did infringe on the voting rights guaranteed under the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The immediate consequence of the
ruling was that the electoral process, which had already begun by virtue of the
fact that Premier Devine's government is in its fifth year since the last
election, was put into a state of flux. Nominations in many of the new
constituencies had already begun so those candidates suddenly found themselves
contesting seats that have an uncertain future.
The Court of Appeal decision was
appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is expected to hear the case on
April 29. In the meantime the Assembly reconvened and on April 12 the
government introduced new legislation to revise the electoral boundaries in
accordance with the Saskatchewan Court ruling. During the debate on Bill 52, An
Act to provide for the Division of Saskatchewan into Constituencies for the
Election of Members of the Legislative Assembly, Attorney General Gary Lane
stated that if the Supreme Court overruled the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal,
then the election would be fought on the basis of the 1989 boundaries. The bill
proceeded and received Royal Assent on April 16 but not before the Opposition's
democratic reform critic, Bob Pringle, expressed a view that Bill 52 signified
the government's "scrambling attempt to resolve electoral chaos," in
the face of what he described as its record of "disregard for democratic
rights." Needless to say, the many Members of the Assembly who have
already gone through the nomination process now await the decision of the
Democratic reform, as the
government hoped to symbolise with its new rules for election of Speaker, is to
be a significant issue during the balance of the fourth Session. At various
times both the Conservatives and New Democrats have made pronouncements about
legislative and political reform. In November of 1990, the Premier issued a
paper called New Realities and the Public Process in which he stated that the
public expects open and accountable government. In January of this year, the
Opposition released its latest reform paper entitled Democratic Reform for the
1990s, which contains twenty proposals for change. Both sides of the Assembly
have introduced reform legislation.
During the ensuing debates on this
issue, the Opposition has questioned the sincerity of each government proposal,
arguing that democratic reform is simply a "deathbed repentance" in
the last months before an election. The government continues to maintain that
its reforms are made in the "spirit of openness," which was asked for
by the people through "Consensus Saskatchewan" (the advisory body
set-up by the government in 1990 to gauge public opinion on a variety of
In November of 1990 the Minister of
Finance, Lorne Hepworth, began the government's reform initiative with
the announcement that it was the government's intention to improve public
accountability through changes to the Provincial Auditor Act. He has followed
through with Bill 53, An Act to amend The Provincial Auditor Act, which is
designed to enhance the independence of the Provincial Auditor. Accordingly,
the Bill prescribes many changes including the review of the Auditor's budget
by the Assembly's Board of Internal Economy. Historically, this was done by the
executive arm of government even though the Auditor is an Officer of the Legislative
Assembly. It should be noted that this particular change has been implemented
for the current fiscal year.
The Act also provided for the
expansion of the Auditor's mandate to enable "value-for-money"
audits, so that the efficiency of the government's administration of public
funds can be measured. In addressing the Bill, Opposition Members welcomed the
changes but qualified their support for the amendments by arguing that in the
past the government had "vilified" the Provincial Auditor for
performing his duty but, in anticipation of an election, they now promote
Another element o f the
government's "legislative package of democratic reforms," is a pair
of freedom of information bills. The Attorney General introduced both Bill 70,
An Act respecting a right of access to documents of the government of
Saskatchewan and a right of privacy with respect to personal information held
by the government of Saskatchewan and Bill 71, An Act respecting a right of
access to documents of local authorities and a right of privacy with respect to
personal information held by local authorities, with the remark that the bills
are to enhance the spirit of open and accountable government at both the
provincial and local levels. In both cases, he stated that the measures
effectively balance the public right of access and the personal right of
privacy. The Opposition's democratic reform critic, Mr. Pringle, argued that
the main focus of the bills is exemptions to the kinds of information which the
government does not want to make available to the public. He maintained that
Saskatchewan's freedom of information policy would be the weakest in Canada if
the Minister's bills are adopted in the present form. At the beginning of the
current session Mr. Pringle had himself introduced a freedom of information
A further reform initiative is Bill
69, An Act respecting Referendums and Plebiscites, which is designed by the
government to provide a mechanism for direct input of the public on major
issues. In explaining the Bill, the Attorney General stated that the proposed
binding referendum process and non-binding plebiscite process would provide an
exact opinion of the electorate on any given matter. For a referendum to be
binding, at least 50 per cent of the eligible electorate must vote and the 60
per cent or more of those must vote the same way. The Minister also made the
distinction between a referendum, which can be put forward only by cabinet, and
a plebiscite, which can be put forward by the public but is not binding.
Opposition critic Herman Rolfes questioned whether the government was really
interested in participatory democracy when its legislation gives cabinet
discretionary power over calling a referendum.
Part of the Opposition's own reform
package is Bill 68, An Act to amend The Legislative Assembly and Executive
Council Act, put forward by Mr. Pringle to limit to six months the period
between the time a seat in the Assembly becomes vacant and when a by-election
must be called. The Opposition points out that of the four present vacancies,
two of the constituencies have been without a member for 15 months and the
other two have been vacant for nine months. At present there is no stipulation
when by-elections must be called and the Premier has defended his government by
arguing that by-elections would be pointless so close to a general election.
On April 22, Lorne Hepworth
delivered a budget that contained a financial plan that the Minister claimed
would lead Saskatchewan to fiscal recovery. Noteworthy was the announcement
that by 1993-94, his government would balance the provincial budget.
Details include measures to control
public sector wages, internal government spending and the harmonisation of the
provincial sales tax with the federal government's goods and services tax. The
Minister also indicated that a number of assistance programmes such as the
Mortgage Protection Plan and Urban Revenue Sharing would be cut-back as well as
the budgets of all government departments except Agriculture, Health and Education.
Those three areas remain a priority for the government. As well, the government
will spend $133.3 million on the GRIP and NISA agricultural programmes.
Separate bills on these programmes have been introduced in the Assembly and
have become the central agricultural issue to date.
The Leader of the Opposition, Roy
Romanow, responded to the Budget address with an indictment of the Devine
government's nine years of deficit budgets and the province's accumulated debt
of $5 billion. In his address, Mr. Romanow responded to the main points of the
budget and announced his own six point plan for economic recovery.
Members Pay and Severance
In response to the present economic
situation and public pressure, the Board of Internal Economy has decided to
roll-back Members' salary increases for 1991 and to eliminate the Members'
The salary roll-back means that
Members will not receive the usual cost of living adjustment this year on their
annual indemnity or expense allowance, nor will the adjustment be applied to
the allowances for additional duties paid to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker,
Leader of the Opposition, committee chair persons, etc. The government also
announced that Ministers and Legislative Secretaries would not be receiving pay
In Saskatchewan there has been much
public criticism and political controversy over the severance allowance Members
had been eligible for since May of 1988. Under the abolished plan, severance
was paid according to the average of the Member's highest four years of income,
divided by 12 and multiplied by the number of years they had been a Member. A
Member's severance could be no less than half a year's salary and no more than
a full year's salary.
Gregory A. Putz, Clerk Assistant, Saskatchewan Legislative
The Third Session of the
Twenty-second Legislature began on March 14, 1991 with the reading of the
Speech from the Throne by the Hon. Gordon Towers. Mr. Towers, a former
Member of Parliament was installed as the new Lieutenant-Governor on March 11.
He replaced the Hon. Helen Hunley, who served as Lieutenant-Governor for
the Province of Alberta for six years.
Among the initiatives outlined in
the Throne Speech, and subsequently passed by the Legislature was the
establishment of a Select Special Committee of the Legislature, which will
conduct public hearings on the constitutional future of Canada from May 24 to
June 1. This 16 member all-party committee will solicit input from Albertans
across the province in order to identify their priorities for constitutional
reform. The Legislative Assembly will develop a position on the issue after the
hearings have taken place.
The first step towards these talks
was taken back in August 1990, when the Constitutional Reform Task Force of
Alberta was created. The Task Force, composed of 10 Conservative MLAs, heard
from 13 constitutional experts from across Canada. These presentations helped
lay the foundation for the discussion paper, Alberta in a New Canada, published
in February 1991. The document provides a discussion of the nature of the
Canadian federal system of government and outlines some of the constitutional
problems Canada is facing.
On March 25 the Solicitor General
released the Rolf and Cawsey Reports, both of which address native issues in
Alberta. The Commission of Inquiry - Policing in Relation to the Blood Tribe
was the result of a public inquiry established in 1989 headed by Assistant
Chief justice Rolf. Relations between the RCMP and the Blood Reserve in
Southern Alberta were investigated.
Mr. Justice Cawsey chaired the Task
Force on the Criminal justice System and its impact on the Indian and Metis
people of Alberta. This Task Force, established in January of 1990 under the
auspices of the Governments of Alberta and of Canada, produced the document
justice on Trial, which includes recommendations for profound change to the
provincial justice system.
Proposed legislative changes
announced in the Speech from the Throne include amendments to the Legislative Assembly
Act. Certain recommendations from the Conflict of Interest Review Panel report
of February 1990, including the establishment of an ethics commissioner will be
Laura Mensch and Theresa Roy, Legislative Interns, Alberta Legislative
Following the resumption of the
Ontario Legislature on March 18 after the Winter Adjournment, members heard a
number of government announcements elaborating on themes of the November 20
Throne Speech "
On March 20, the Solicitor General,
Mike Farnan, stated that in view of the Ontario Court of Appeal's
decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Retail Business Holidays Act,
he would be introducing new amendments to the Act to observe a common pause
day. This Act deals with the days of operation of retail stores in Ontario.
Most retail stores are closed on Sundays and other enumerated holidays. There
are exceptions for certain types of stores, essential services, Sabbatarian
exemption and, also for those who observe a day of worship other than Sunday.
The second major announcement by
the Solicitor General dealt with the introduction of a new employment equity
regulation to the Police Services Act. The regulation proposes to increase the
representation of four groups in the police services across Ontario. The groups
are racial minorities, aboriginal persons, women and persons with disabilities.
The minister stated that the regulation will provide for fair and equitable
employment opportunities for civilian and uniformed police service employees.
He further stated that his Ministry would provide support in the implementation
of this regulation and they would also monitor the implementation of the
regulation with the view to applying sanctions against police services if they
do not comply.
Bud Wildman, Minister of Natural Resources, and also
Responsible for Native Affairs, announced that the government has proposed to
negotiate with the Algonquins of Golden Lake to resolve a land claim that has
been outstanding for more than 200 years. His statement outlined an intent to
enter land claim negotiations with the Algonquins of Golden Lake by June 1991
and, to develop agreements with the Algonquins of Golden Lake on hunting and
fishing for food in the area they claim as their traditional territory.
The minister acknowledged that the
Algonquins of Golden Lake territorial claim includes large parts of the Ottawa
Valley, including Algonquin Park, and that the Algonquins of Quebec also claim
lands from the province of Quebec. The negotiations would require the
involvement of all three levels of government. However, the minister stated
that if the federal government was not prepared to be involved, then Ontario
would proceed to negotiate on a bilateral basis in those areas of provincial
The Environment Minister, Ruth
Grier, announced 2 major programmes regarding the government's commitment
relating to reducing, re-using and recycling (3R) of waste resources. In her
first announcement on waste reduction, the minister outlined her plan, (1) to
implement strong regulatory measures to reduce at the source the flow of
valuable waste resources now going into landfill disposal sites; (2) to develop
new financial and technical systems to divert waste resources from the landfill
sites into product use and re-use; (3) to aid in the creation of markets for
materials recovered through 3R programs; and (4) to introduce public education
programs on the 3Rs.
The second major programme
announcement dealt with the problem of waste disposal capacity in the Greater Toronto
Area (GTA). The minister proposed that the waste must be disposed of as close
as possible to the source of its generation. Legislation will be introduced to
establish a new public authority which will have the responsibility of finding
a new long-term landfill capacity. The authority is expected to reinforce
individual, community and industrial responsibility and action on waste
reduction. The minister recognised that in spite of aggressive waste reduction
efforts, the capacity of existing short-term facilities could be exhausted
before the long-term sites are in operation.
The Labour Minister, Bob Mackenzie,
introduced new amendments to the Employment Standards Act. The first amendment
is to establish a programme that will cover workers whose employers have failed
to pay wages, vacation, severance and termination pay. The second amendment
will enable the government on behalf of employees, in cases where an employer
does not or cannot pay, to obtain the money owed to them from the directors and
officers of the company by extending the liabilities that presently exist under
the Ontario Business Corporations Act. The third amendment will establish a
new, quicker appeals procedure for both workers and employers to deal with all
the aspects of the Employment Standards Act.
The minister also stated that the
government will be allocating $175-million to the fund for its first 18 months
of operation retroactive to the 1st of October, 1990. Employees of bankrupt or
insolvent private companies can claim up to $5000 from the fund and it is
expected that 50,000 employees will benefit during that period.
The Premier, Bob Rae, announced the
establishment of two new advisory councils: the Premier's Council on Health,
Well-being and Social Justice; and the Premier's Council on the Economy and
Quality of Life. These new councils will build on the initiatives of the
previous Premier's Council on Health Strategy and the Premier's Council
(Technology). They will have an expanded and strengthened mandate to provide
the government with advice and research towards the development of long-term
strategies to deal with the major challenges that face Ontario. These councils
will be chaired by the Premier and the membership of the councils will include
approximately 25 representatives of the public, along with several key cabinet
Zanana Akande, Minister of Community and Social Services,
announced that her Ministry would implement a new comprehensive reform
programme that would fast-track the report of the Social Assistance Review
Committee (SARC) (1988). The review committee issued a wide-ranging report that
contained 300 recommendations aimed at fighting poverty and assisting people
The minister also announced that
the government would create a special fund of $1-million to ease pressure on
food banks. The fund can be used for a variety of programmes to help reduce the
dependence on food banks. The latter announcement came under criticism from
both the Official Opposition and from representatives of food banks in Toronto.
The members' criticism was directed to the government's statement that they
would not be able to eliminate all food banks by 1995. The members believe that
the proposed fund would perpetuate food banks and not eliminate them as the
government had promised.
Elaine Ziemba, Minister of Citizenship and also Minister
responsible for Senior Citizen's Affairs, will introduce legislation regarding
advocacy for vulnerable adults. The proposed legislation will provide a voice
for those who may have difficulty in expressing themselves because of
disability and who do not have the support and assistance of their family and
friends. The Minister further stated that the government would spend up to $20
million to establish a new advocacy commission and hire approximately 150
advocates to assist seniors, former psychiatric patients and people with AIDS,
dementia and Alzheimers Disease.
Premier Rae's cabinet suffered its
first loss with the dismissal of Peter Kormos, Minister of Financial
Institutions and Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, following a
number of incidents. The minister had announced that the government planned to
eliminate sexism in advertising and at the same time it was revealed that one
of his policy advisors was convicted of spousal assault. The minister also
appeared fully clothed as a Sunshine boy in The Toronto Sun newspaper. The
Premier stated that he did not dismiss Peter Kormos for one particular incident
but rather for his poor judgement.
Evelyn Gigantes resigned as Minister of Health on April
19,1991, after she revealed in Question Period the name of a man whose personal
health records had been the subject of a news story.
Mike Farnan, Solicitor General, came under intense
criticism when it was learned that a member of his constituency office staff
wrote a letter to a justice of Peace and signed the minister's name to the
letter. Subsequently, during question period it was disclosed that the
minister's staff had written a second letter to a Justice of Peace requesting a
review of a case. The Attorney General requested that the RCMP investigate this
matter and the report will be forthcoming. The Premier strongly supported his
minister and reiterated that the minister did not write the letters, did not
authorise the letters and did not sign the letters, therefore he did not ask
for Mr Farnan's resignation.
In the Spring meeting period,
during the debate on Bill 4, An Act to amend the Residential Rent Regulation
Act, 1986, the Government House Leader, Shelley Martel, introduced a time
allocation motion which provided for one further day in the Committee of the
Whole House and one day for third reading debate. This motion was viewed as
unusual by the other two parties because the members of the government when
they were in opposition had opposed this type of procedural motion. Debate on
the motion was ended when the Minister of Housing, Dave Cooke, moved
For only the 3rd time in our
recorded history on May 2, 1991, Gilles E. Morin, Deputy Speaker, became
the 3rd presiding officer in the House to cast his vote on a motion for second
reading of a Private Members' Public Bill (previous occasions being Speaker
Charlton on April 22, 1904, and Speaker Edighoffer on January 16, 1986).
Richard Allen, Minister of Colleges and Universities,
announced major adjustments to the Ontario Student Assistance Programme. The
following changes will came into effect immediately and will apply to the
coming academic year: (1) students will receive a 5% increase in allowance
costs to offset escalating living costs and OSAP will be adjusted to
accommodate tuition fees; (2) the maximum grant for disabled students will be
increased to $3,550; (3) child care allowance benefits for married students
will be increased from $100 to $700 per-term; (4) contributions for spouses of
married students will be reduced to approximately $1,100 on a combined salary
of $28,000; (5) OSAP residency requirements for students who are permanent
residents and Canadian citizens will be made the same; (6) part-time students' transportation
and personal living allowances will be increased; (7) changes will be made to
the way Ontario utilises the Canada Loan Program; (8) the Ontario graduate
scholarships will be increased by $100 from $1,200 to $1,300, and the amount of
the scholarships will be increased to $3,766.
On April 29, Floyd Laughren,
Treasurer of Ontario and Minister of Economics, introduced the new government's
first budget. It contained the following tax increases: surtax on individuals
who earn over $84,000; surtax on gas-guzzling cars increased from $200 to
$7,000; 1.7 cent per litre increase for gasoline; 42 cents per package increase
on cigarettes; 5 cent increase per litre on liquor, beer and wine. The
government will increase its spending as follows: $215 million increase for
welfare; $150 million increase for housing; $175 million for a fund for
laid-off workers; $125 million infusion for the pay equity system; $30 million
to improve salaries for child care workers; $4.5 Billion for capital
expenditures for schools, hospitals, transit systems, and municipalities; $28
million for the blue boxes and composting programme; and will pursue a
crackdown on CHIP payments for out- of-country health services.
Not all of the announcements in the
Assembly were of a political or economic nature. The Speaker, David Warner,
announced that the Legislative Assembly had commissioned two plays, "Je
m'appelle Julie" and the "Life and Times of Orlando Q. Guffy,
MPP". These mini-musicals mix original and documentary material and music
highlighting the social and political life and times of Ontario and Toronto a
century ago when the current Legislative Building was being constructed. The
plays were written by Theresa Sears and David Switzer, with
original music composed by Paul Shilton. The French lyrics and text for
the show are the creation of Pierre Trudel. The show will be performed
in the Legislative Building until August 31.
The Select Committee on Ontario in
Confederation was established on December 20,1990 and is chaired by Tony
Silipo. Its mandate is to review and report on "the social and
economic interests and aspirations of all the people of Ontario within
Confederation; and what form of Confederation can most effectively meet the
social and economic aspirations of the people of Ontario." The Committee
held hearings in 20 locations across the province. All of these hearings were
broadcast live on the Parliamentary Network. The Committee's interim report
contained the opinions and views of the public, and was reported to the
Assembly on March 21,1991.
The Standing Committee on
Government Agencies chaired by Bob Runciman resumed its traditional task
of reviewing the operations of a selected number of agencies. The Committee
received new responsibility referred by the House on December 20, 1990: its new
mandate is to review the intended Order-in-Council appointments to Ontario
government agencies, boards and commissions. The Committee will operate under
provisional rules for six months, and it will review, recommend and report to
the House by May 16 on its mandate and permanent Standing Orders. During the
adjournment the Committee devoted its time to review the intended appointees
of: the Chair of The Liquor Control Board of Ontario; members of the Niagara
Escarpment Commission; and the entire membership of the new Fair Tax
The Standing Committee on the
Legislative Assembly, chaired by Noel Duignan commenced its
comprehensive review of the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of
Privacy Act, 1987. The first phase of the proposed public consultation began in
February. The second phase is expected to be held during the Summer
The Committee travelled to Ottawa
to review the process followed by its federal counterpart in undertaking their
comprehensive study of access to information and protection of privacy
legislation. While in Ottawa, the Committee also met with M.P.s and House of
Commons officials to review security measures and infrastructure in Parliament,
and to study the provision of members' services and facilities. The Committee
also surveyed matters relating to members of the legislature and their services
and facilities, the operation of the television broadcast system, and security
in the parliamentary precinct. The Standing Committee on Administration of
justice, chaired by Drummond White, met during the adjournment to
consider a number of matters. The Committee held public hearings during the
week of 11 February 1991 on Bill 17, An Act to amend the Law related to the
Enforcement of Support and Custody Orders. The purpose of the bill is to
provide for automatic deduction of support payments from the people required to
pay support. The bill is before the Committee of the Whole House for
The Committee also considered the Premier's
Conflict of Interest Guidelines which require Ministers and parliamentary
assistants to divest themselves of, "-any asset, liability or financial
interest which causes or could appear to cause a conflict of interest; and all
business interest except where the minister satisfies the Premier that the
interest has been fully disclosed, that undue hardship would be created by
divestment, that retaining the interest is not inconsistent with the public
interest and that the minister has given appropriate undertakings to avoid a
conflict in respect of the interest". Witnesses before the Committee
included the Premier and other current and former ministers. The Committee is
continuing its deliberations during the Spring meeting period and will report
to the House its comments and recommendations.
The Standing Committee on Finance
and Economic Affairs, chaired by Jim Wiseman conducted its annual
Pre-Budget Consultation hearings during the Adjournment. During these hearings,
the Committee received many presentations from organizations, individuals and
ministries. The Committee's report was presented to the Assembly on March 18.
It contained many recommendations and also included dissenting opinions from
the Liberal and Progressive Conservative Parties.
The Committee is currently studying
the issue of cross-border shopping. Following public hearings, it will present
a report to the House containing its recommendations on ways in which the
province can act to attempt to alleviate this problem.
The Standing Committee on Resources
Development, chaired by Bob Huget considered a designated matter under
the provisions of Standing Order 123, sponsored by Ted Arnott. The issue
under consideration was to review invasive exotic plants and animal species, in
particular zebra mussels and purple loosestrife infesting the Great Lakes and
Ontario's inland waterways. The Committee invited a number of expert witnesses
from Ontario and the United States, as well as witnesses from the utility and
recreational sectors to discuss possible control measures to stop the spread of
these exotic species. The Committee will present its report during the Spring
meeting period. On April 17 1991, the Chair resigned and Peter Kormos
was elected as the new Chair.
The Standing Committee on General Government,
chaired by Remo Mancini considered Bill 4, An Act to amend the
Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986. The purpose of this legislation is to
limit the circumstances under which landlords may obtain rent increases above
the annual guideline. Section 8 of the bill caused some controversy because it
contains a retroactivity clause to October 1, 1990. Five weeks of public
hearings were conducted across the province from January 15 to February 15,
1991. Following the completion of public hearings, Bill 4 was reported to the
Assembly on March 18, 1991
The Committee is holding hearings
on a designated matter under Standing Order 123, sponsored by David Turnbull
to-review ... the methods employed by the Ministry of Treasury and Economics in
generating its fiscal plan projections and an examination of the factors which
contributed to the variance between the 1990 Ontario budget fiscal plan and
economic projections and current projections and of how that variance compares
to any variances experienced in prior fiscal years in Ontario and in other
Canadian provinces." The Committee will present its report later in the
Spring meeting period.
The Standing Committee on Social
Development, chaired by Elinor Caplan held public hearings on 3 Bills.
Bill 12, An Act to amend the Education Act, and Bill 13, An Act to amend the
Ottawa-Carleton French-Language School Board Act were amended and reported to
the House on March 18,1991. On April 8th, the Committee dealt with a private
members' bill, Bill 22, An Act to provide for Certain Rights for Deaf Persons.
The Bill was reported to the House on April 9th.
During the Adjournment, the
Committee considered two designated matters under Standing Order 123:
"Children's Mental Health Services in Ontario", and "Multi-Year
Plan for Deinstitutionalization of Developmentally Handicapped People in
Ontario." After the hearings, reports were presented to the House on March
The Standing Committee on Public
Accounts, chaired by Bob Callahan held hearings during the Adjournment
to consider a number of sections of the Provincial Auditor's Report relating to
3 universities (Trent, Guelph, and Toronto) and 2 school boards (York Region
Roman Catholic Separate School Board and Lakehead Board of Education). The
officials of the universities and boards were invited to appear before the
Committee to discuss the Provincial Auditor's audits and the changes that they
had instituted since the audit. The Committee will present its report to the
legislature later in the session.
The Standing Committee on
Estimates, chaired by Cam Jackson met during the Adjournment to review the
estimates of 6 ministries and offices: Ministry of Energy, Ministry of
Community and Social Services, Ministry of Treasury and Economics, Ministry of
the Environment, Office Responsible for Senior Citizens' Affairs, and Ministry
of Northern Development and Mines. This was the first time that estimates were
reviewed during a period when the House was not meeting.
Franco Carrozza, Committee Clerk, Ontario Legislative
The Fifth Session of the
Thirty-fourth Parliament of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
commenced on May 7, 1991 with the Speech from the Throne by Lieutenant-Governor
David C. Lam.
The Speech noted the passing of
John Davis, PC, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. His
distinguished career in public service spanned four decades, first as a Member
of Parliament from 1962-1974 and since 1975 a Member of the British Columbia
Legislative Assembly. His legacy will include a ministry building to be built
in Victoria in his honour.
The Speech referred to public
confidence in the administration of justice in the Province to the effect that
the "process ... is fair and impartial... for decisions relating to
charges against persons of high public profile". The Report of the
Ombudsman, Stephen Owen, entitled "Discretion to Prosecute
Inquiry" is to be implemented by the Attorney General so that
"directives from the Attorney General to the Deputy Attorney General
regarding policy on prosecutions must be in writing and published". It
also referred to the Government's intention to use the method of referendums so
that the people of the Province "have the opportunity directly to help our
elected representatives establish government priorities".
Crime and violence; openness and
accountability in the public sector; native land claims; combating catastrophic
illnesses from infectious diseases; issues related to women in the workplace,
home and the community; commercial back country recreation; and environmental
programs and enforcement were other matters raised in the Speech that the
Government intends to focus upon during the coming year.
The Fourth Session, which adjourned
on July 27,1990 resumed on March 11, 1991 proroguing on March 22, 1991. In
total there were 114 separate sittings; 95 Government Bills of which 88
received Royal Assent; 46 Members' Bills, none proceeding beyond First Reading
and one being ruled out of order on March 1991(Clean Environment Enforcement
Act - M202); and 4 Private Bills all of which received Royal Assent. Committee
of Supply, in the Fourth Session, completed its work on July 25,1990.
Among the Government Bills
receiving Royal Assent were Members' Conflict of Interest Act; Constitutional
Amendment Approval Act; Compensation Fairness Act; Job Protection Act;
Employment Standards Amendment Act, 1991; and Taxpayer Protection Act. All
Members' Bills were introduced by the Official Opposition and ranged in subject
matter from the British Columbia Recycling Act to An Economic Bill of Rights
for Women to An Act for Better Child Care to a Forestry Research and
The Select Standing Committee on
Public Accounts had its First Report presented to the House on July 25, 1991 by
Darlene Marzari, Chairperson. The Report contained seven
recommendations, six of which refer to the management of the retention and
disposal of the operational records of government in accordance with the
records schedules, standards and guidelines described by the Operational
Records Classification System. The system was approved by the Public Documents
Committee chaired by John Bovey, Provincial Archivist. The system is
intended, among other objectives, to provide more consistency, conformity and
continuity with the disposal dates, retention periods and final disposition
across government of publications, files and related material. The remaining
recommendations raised the "cut-off limit" for reporting salaries in
the Public Accounts to $35,000.00 per year.
The Committee met 10 times for a
total of 12.7 hours in an effort to examine the Public Accounts (1988-89) and
the Annual Report of the Auditor General (1990), prepared by George Morfitt,
FCA. The Committee last met on July 24, 1990 and Members anticipate its
reconstitution early in this Fifth Session.
On March 19, 1991, Graham Bruce,
Chairman of the Select Standing Committee on Forests and Lands presented the
Committee's Second, and final Report to the Legislative Assembly on the matters
of the Vancouver Log Market and Part 12, of the Forest Act respecting log
exports. The Report contained five recommendations. Considered a major
departure from recommendations promoted by earlier government and private
sector reviews in the establishment of a British Columbia Log Market, in
particular, "that the Government consider ways of expanding the Vancouver
Log Market including the practicality of a British Columbia Log Marketing
System to transact the sale of logs harvested from Crown Lands in British
Columbia". Further respecting the issue of selling logs were
recommendations "establishing a process whereby all timber harvested from
Crown Lands not consumed in the licensee's production facilities be offered for
sale on an expanded British Columbia Log Marketing System" and, "that
selling prices collected from transactions on a provincially expanded log
marketing system be used to establish relative prices for the purpose of
determining stumpage rates under the comparative value pricing system used by
the Ministry of Forests". The Committee intends to promote a greater
opportunity for sellers to capture the highest price, for buyers throughout the
Province to participate in the market and to disseminate market information.
The Committee concludes "that
forest tenure arrangements, as they are currently structured in British
Columbia, limit the scope for competitive market driven adjustments that would
otherwise direct the flow of logs to their highest end-valued use. Your
Committee suggests that, until a largely market driven mechanism is introduced
that will facilitate such an objective, the issues that it has explored under
its mandate will have to be revisited on a continual basis".
The Committee's Second Report
"conveys the belief that it is most appropriate to seek a means of
introducing a greater level of competition to the Province's forest industry
through changes in the way the Province allocates access to it's timber
The exporting of logs from the
Province, being the second matter referred to the Committee, generated two
recommendations each eliminating the ability of logs to be exported without
first being offered for sale in British Columbia.
On March 13 ' 1991, Nick Loenen,
Chairman of the Select Standing Committee on Finance, Crown Corporations and
Government Services presented the Committee's First, and final Report on the
matter of the Financial Planning and Advisory Industry in the Province of
British Columbia. Undergoing various membership changes throughout its inquiry
conducted over a period of three years, the Committee made six recommendations,
ranging from the establishment of a limited regulatory regime to regulate the
industry, to the basic objectives and principles which should guide the reform,
the precise clarification of policy considerations, to consumer education. The
31-page report includes a model financial planning disclosure statement which
is intended to be used recognizing that variations should be tolerated given
the diverse nature of financial planning in the Province.
The Fifth Session is witness to an
amendment to the Standing Orders related to Committees: The Select Standing
Committees on Economic Development, Transportation and Municipal Affairs;
Labour and Justice; Tourism and Environment; Forests and Lands; Energy, Mines
and Petroleum Resources;
Agriculture and Fisheries; Health,
Education, Social Services, Housing and Women's Issues; Finance, Crown
Corporations and Government Services; Public Accounts; Standing Orders and
Private Bills; Constitutional Matters and Intergovernmental Relations; and, Ethical
Conduct and Conflict of Interest. The latter two are new Committees which the
Government says are to receive related issues during this current session.
The last two weeks of the Fourth
Session saw the introduction of live televised broadcasting of the proceedings
of the Legislative Assembly. An interim plan incorporates five television
cameras and operators until, as the Board of Internal Economy approved, a
permanent fixed system can be installed. Distribution extends throughout the
Province using the various cable system companies.
In April 1991, William N. Vander
Zalm resigned as Premier of the Province, while retaining his seat, as a
result he said, of an inquiry he requested to be undertaken by E.N. Hughes,
Acting Commissioner, Conflict of Interest. The Social Credit Caucus selected
Rita Johnston to lead the party as Premier. She becomes the first women premier
in the history of Canada.
There are several notable name
changes to the Cabinet: Minister of Women's Programs and Government Services and
Responsible for Families; Provincial Secretary and Responsible for
Multiculturism and Immigration; and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and
The Acting Conflict of Interest
Commissioner in a brochure published for MLAs describes the new Members'
Conflict of Interest Act as "defining standards of official conduct for
Members of the Legislative Assembly; providing mechanisms for the early
identification and resolution of potential conflicts of interest; investigating
alleged conflicts of interest; and publicly disclosing the financial interests
of Members of the Legislative Assembly". The Commissioner's role is
portrayed as "an advisor to members" where each member "is
required to meet with the Commissioner at least: annually to review the
disclosure of' the members' interests and general obligations imposed by the
Act and for the Commissioner "to undertake inquiries into alleged.
contraventions of the Act."
Bob Williams, MLA, originally elected in 1966 for the
New Democratic Party resigned his seat in May of this year.
Joan L. Molsberry, Committees Secretary, Legislative Assembly
of British Columbia
House of Commons
Although the House sat for only six
weeks during February, March and April, the events which occurred over these
weeks brought into question some of the most fundamental principles upon which
our parliamentary system is based. Questions of privilege concerning the rights
of parliamentary committees, points of order concerning the use of annual
Estimates to legislate and changes to the Standing Orders of the House of
Commons caused parliamentarians and parliament watchers to ask themselves about
the roles and powers of the House of Commons in the Canadian political system.
When the House resumed sitting on
February 25, 1991, the first items of business on the agenda were the Budget
presentation by the Minister of Finance and a debate on and passage of the
Borrowing Authority Bill. On the financial front, many days of debate in March
were devoted to consideration of Opposition motions, as the number of Supply
days customarily allotted for the Supply period ending March 26 had not yet
been used. The Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1992 were
tabled on February 28 and Supplementary Estimates (C) for the fiscal year
ending March 31, 1991 were tabled March 5, 1991. It was the latter, however,
which received an unusual amount of attention.
While most committees were
concerned with the examination of the Government's Main Estimates which had
been referred to them on February 28, the House was occupied with two important
interventions concerning Supplementary Estimates (C). In the first instance,
Rene Soetens asked the Speaker to rule on the admissibility of "Parliament
Senate" Vote 2c in the Supplementary Estimates (C) and "Parliament-Senate"
Vote 5 in the Main Estimates, 1991-92. Mr. Soetens argued that the Votes, which
allotted funds for the controversial $153/day attendance allowance for
Senators, were improperly before the House because they proposed to provide
money for an allowance which only could be granted by an amendment to The
Parliament of Canada Act. Other interventions were made on the matter by Rod
Murphy and Peter Milliken. After taking the matter under advisement, the
Speaker ruled on March 20, 1991 that these two Votes did in fact
provide funds for something which
should properly only be granted with a legislative amendment, and that they
should therefore be deleted from the Estimates. Supplementary Estimates (C)
were concurred in on March 25, 1991, without Senate Vote 2c.
Supplementary Estimates (C) also
gave rise to a question of privilege in the House. On March 12, 1991,
Jean-Robert Gauthier rose on a question of privilege regarding the fact that
the Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Government
Operations had not met since September, 1990 because it had no Chairman. He
argued that Members' privileges were being breached because the Committee could
not meet to examine the Votes in Supplementary Estimates (C) which had been
referred to it, most notably, the Vote allocating funds to the Citizen's Forum
on Canada's Future (The Spicer Commission). A lengthy discussion then ensued.
Later that day, the House agreed by unanimous consent to allow the Government
Whip to temporarily appoint another Government Party member to the Committee,
upon the condition that this additional individual would only remain on the
Committee until the prorogation of Parliament. until the House amended the
Standing Orders to cause a re-organisation of committees, or until the 49th
Report of the Striking Committee was adopted by the House. The following day,
Jean Charest was appointed to the Committee, and was later elected to be its
Committee matters were also the
focus of another question of privilege in the House. After several earlier
attempts to raise the matter, Derek Lee rose on a question of privilege on
February 28, 1991 to protest the fact that the requests of the Standing
Committee on justice and Solicitor General for unedited copies of reports about
escaped inmates had been refused by the Solicitor General. Noting that the
Committee had reported the matter to the House, Mr. Lee stated the then
Solicitor General had denied the Committee's request because the Minister had
been advised that to release unedited versions of these reports (one dealing
with the escape of inmate Allan Légère from a New Brunswick prison, the other
with the escape of inmate Daniel Gingras from an Alberta prison) would be in
contravention of The Privacy Act. After much discussion in the House, a
suggestion was made by Albert Cooper, the Parliamentary Secretary to the
Government House Leader, that the issue be referred for examination to the
Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. The Speaker did not rule that
the matter was a prima facie case of privilege, but the House did accept the
suggestion of Mr. Cooper, and the matter was thus sent to the Committee. The
Committee subsequently undertook an examination of the question, but it did not
report back to the House before the end of the Second Session of the 34th
The Standing Committee on
Privileges and Elections did however issue a report in this period on an
earlier prima facie case of privilege which had been referred to it - that of
the October 17, 1990 "Macaroni Capee'.
On October 17, 1990, there was a
demonstration in the Public Gallery during Question Period and a group of
students threw macaroni and protest cards onto the floor of the House of
Commons to protest the imposition of a three per cent surcharge on student
loans. The students were soon thereafter removed from the Chamber and held by
the Security force of the Commons before being released. In response to a
question of privilege raised the following day about the demonstration, the
Speaker noted the seriousness of the incident and ruled that there was a prima
facie breach of privilege. The House then agreed to a motion to send the matter
of the demonstration to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections.
When the Committee reported to the House on March 6, 1991, it suggested that
warnings be posted outside gallery entrances setting out offences people could
be charged with for misbehaviour, and that an examination be undertaken of the
sanctions at the disposal of the House to deal with those who misbehave. The
Report concluded with the following statements:
The Committee does not recommend
that any specific action be taken with respect to the participants in the
infamous 'macaroni caper" of October 17, 1990; however, the Committee
recommends that any demonstrations or disturbances that take place in the
galleries in the future should be taken very seriously, and the participants
punished or charged. It is very important that the message be clearly conveyed
that the House will not tolerate such behaviour. (Standing Committee on
Privileges and Elections, Twenty-Fourth Report, Minutes of Proceedings and
Evidence, March 6, 1991, Issue 39, p. 8)
Other committee reports which were
tabled prior to the prorogation of Parliament included the Fifth Report of the
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, entitled "The Summer of 199V,
which dealt with the incidents at Oka, Quebec; the Third Report of the Standing
Joint Committee on Official Languages, entitled "Draft of the proposed
communications with and services to
the public in either of the official languages"; and the Fourth Report of
the Standing Committee on Agriculture, entitled "Farm Debt Update -
1991". Pursuant to a Standing Order of the House, requests were made that
the Government table comprehensive responses to the first two Reports listed
Noteworthy legislative matters
during this period included the granting of Royal Assent to Bill C-79, An Act
to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, to Bill C-98, Farm Income Protection Act
and to Bill C-91, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act.
The most widely talked-about events
in the House of Commons over this period, however, were the debate on the
sweeping changes made to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and the Government's
use of closure on the debate to have the changes adopted before the end of the
Second Session of the 34th Parliament. Among the most significant changes to
the Standing Orders were changes to the parliamentary calendar, the supply
process, the committee system, the voting procedures in the House of Commons
and the procedures respecting Private Members' Business.
These new Standing Orders, which
were adopted by the House of Commons on April 11, 1991, took effect on the
first day of the Third Session of the 34th Parliament. The Second Session was
prorogued on May 12, 1991, and the Speech from the Throne began the new Session
on Monday, May 13,1991.A
Barbara Whittaker, Procedural Clerk, Table Research Branch