| New Brunswick
| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
On October 15, 1991, territorial
elections were held to fill the 24 seats in the Northwest Territories
Legislative Assembly. The results are found elsewhere in this issue.
Highlights of Last Session
During the Eighth Session, the 11th
Legislative Assembly amended the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council
Act to include conflict of interest guidelines for MLAs.
Under the previous legislation,
MLAs were only required to declare a conflict of interest if they had direct or
indirect financial interest in any matter in which the Legislative Assembly or
a committee of the Assembly was concerned, and were to refrain from
participating in any discussions regarding the matter in question.
The previous legislation also
placed the onus on the public for detecting any breach of the conflict of
interest legislation and subsequently applying to the Supreme Court for a
Under the new guidelines, a
financial disclosure system was established under which MLAs are required to
file a list of all assets, liabilities and financial interests with the Clerk
of the Legislative Assembly on an annual basis. The Clerk will prepare a
disclosure statement listing the nature of these assets and make the statement
available to the public.
The amended guidelines also
prohibit MLAs from using information or influence gained through their offices
for personal benefit.
Members, their spouses and
dependent children are not permitted to hold government contracts during their
term of office. Spouses and dependents are, however, permitted to be employed
by the Government of the Northwest Territories. Spouses and dependents of
Ministers and the Speaker are prohibited from being employed by the department
that their spouse is directly responsible for.
Ministers and the Speaker will be
restricted from operating a business or from outside employment during the
member's term of office. After they cease to be a Minister or Speaker they are
restricted for 12 months from holding a contract with or lobbying for
remuneration with a government department they were responsible for during
their last 12 months.
As in the previous legislation,
there are provisions calling for disclosure and withdrawal on matters being
discussed by the Legislative Assembly, committees, Executive Council or the
Management and Services Board in which the MLA has a conflict of interest.
All members are prohibited from
accepting remuneration or gifts in connection with their duties. They can
accept gifts received in the line of duty as a matter of protocol or social
obligations. Any gifts valued at more than $400 become the property of the
office and not the member.
The guidelines also establish an
enforcement system. Complaints of conflict of interest will be examined by
investigators appointed by a Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of
Interest. The investigators will inquire into the matter and either dismiss the
complaint or refer it to the committee for a full, public hearing. If the
committee finds that the member contravened the Conflict of Interest
provisions, it can recommend to the Legislative Assembly any of a wide range of
sanctions including declaring the MLA's seat vacant.
The legislation is not designed to
replace previously existing civil remedies and criminal sanctions which
continue to apply to the conduct of all MLAs. The new law establishes a code of
conduct and additional sanctions appropriate to the public trust placed in
Partners in Constitutional
The Government of the Northwest
Territories and aboriginal people want to be partners in the development of
Canada's Constitution. That was the message Michael Ballantyne, Richard
Nerysoo and John Ningark of the NWT Special Committee on
Constitutional Reform brought to Ottawa on May 1, 1991.
Appearing before the Special Joint
Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Process of Amending the
Constitution of Canada, the three NWT politicians stated that for 10 years,
they have sought an equal voice with other Canadians.
Chairman Ballantyne and Mr. Nerysoo
and Mr. Ningark of the NWT Special Committee on Constitutional Reform suggested
that a national plebiscite would provide federal and provincial governments
with the necessary mandate to initiate constitutional reform.
Mr. Ballantyne outlined six
principles which the Special Committee on Constitutional Reform believed should
be entrenched in federal, provincial and territorial legislation and used to
govern the amending process:
Governments must have a clear
mandate to proceed with any fundamental changes to the Canadian Constitution.
Any new amending formula must
guarantee that Canadians will be involved at all stages of significant
Any new amending formula must
ensure that a significant majority of members of each legislature are required
to ratify amendments. A free vote would be part of this approach.
Any new amending formula must
clearly and carefully balance the role of the executive arm of the government
with the role of Canadians and their elected representatives sitting in
Aboriginal nations must have a
guaranteed role in any constitutional amendment process that affects aboriginal
Any changes to the current amending
formula or any new formula must provide for the involvement of territorial
residents and their elected representatives in matters that directly affect
constitutional developments in the territories and the role of territorial
residents in national affairs. Any new amending formula that might involve
regional representation must recognize the Northwest Territories and Yukon as a
distinct region within Canada, and not as an interest group to be consulted in
some other, less formal way.
Site Dedication Ceremony
The Legislative Assembly held a
dedication ceremony June 27, 1991, on the site where the Assembly's new
building is being constructed.
The new Legislative Assembly is
scheduled to open during the summer of 1993.
More than 100 dignitaries, invited
guests and members of the public turned out for the ceremony, held at the site
of the new Legislative Assembly near the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage
Residents of the NWT - the only
Canadians without a permanent Legislative Assembly building - will no longer
have to pay rent on temporary facilities. Commissioner Norris added that
residents of the NWT will benefit from the new building through improved
services for MLAs.
The New Session
More than 76 percent of 21,021
eligible electors (16,053) turned out to vote on October 15. Two new electoral
districts were created while two former districts disappeared. The new
districts are Yellowknife Frame Lake and Keewatin Central, the latter
consisting of the communities of Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove. Rankin Inlet was
formally part of the electoral district of Aivilik, while Whale Cove was part
Pine Point and Hudson Bay were the
electoral districts which were eliminated. Hudson Bay was incorporated into the
electoral district of Baffin South. The electoral district of Pine Point was
eliminated due to the closure of the mine and town of Pine Point.
Following the election all 24 MLAs
gathered at the Legislative Assembly Chamber in mid-November to meet in public
as the Territorial Leadership Committee, and for the First Session of the 12th
Members of the 12th Legislative
Assembly made a significant departure from tradition when they decided to make
public the process for selecting the Speaker, Government Leader and Executive
Council. The decision was in response to a public call for more open and
On Tuesday, November 12 the
Leadership Committee elected Yellowknife North MLA Michael Ballantyne as
Speaker. Later that day, the MLAs elected Nunakput MLA Nellie Cournoyea
as Government Leader – the first Aboriginal woman to hold such a post in
Canada. Prior to the election by secret ballot, Ms. Cournoyea and Sahtu MLA Stephen
Kakfwi fielded question from the remaining 22 MLAs for more than four
On Wednesday, November 13, the
remaining seven members of the Executive Council were elected by all 24
members. Government Leader Cournoyea announced ministerial assignments for her
eight-member Cabinet on November 22.
The First Session of the 12th
Assembly opened November 13. Commissioner Dan Norris said in his Opening
Address that he believed it was an appropriate occasion to note the rapid
nature with which changes and improvements to the shape and size of the
Legislature have been achieved in the Northwest Territories.
Commissioner Norris noted that in
1951, there were only three elected Members on the Northwest Territories Council.
The number of elected members, as opposed to those appointed by Ottawa,
continued to increase over the years until 1975 when residents of the NWT went
to the polls to choose a fully-elected, 15-member Legislative Assembly. In
1986, the Government Leader assumed chairmanship of the Cabinet.
Brad Heath, Communication Services, NWT Legislative
The year 1991 was the fourth and
final year of the historic one-party Legislative Assembly. The Spring Session
of 25 days represented one of the shorter sessions in the history of the
province. On August 22, 1991, the 51st Legislative Assembly was dissolved.
Final results of the election held
on September 23 were: Liberals, 46; Confederation of Regions, 8; Progressive
Conservatives, 3; and New Democrats, 1. Both the Leader of the Progressive
Conservative Party, Dennis Cochrane and New Democratic Party Leader Elizabeth
Weir were elected to the Legislative Assembly while Confederation of
Regions Party Leader Arch Pafford lost his election bid in the riding of
The election resulted in the defeat
of three Liberal Cabinet Ministers: Deputy Premier and Minister of
Intergovernmental Affairs, Aldéa Landry, former Minister of Commerce and
Technology and Chairman of the New Brunswick Power Corporation, Al Lacey;
and Minister of Municipal Affairs, Hubert Seamans.
Two weeks after the election, which
saw the Confederation of Regions emerge as the Official Opposition, Premier Frank
McKenna unveiled his new Cabinet. In an effort to trim the size of the
bureaucracy, and to improve efficiency, Premier McKenna combined several
government departments, thus reducing his 24-Member Cabinet to 18.
Premier McKenna became President of
the Executive Council and Minister responsible for the Regional Development
Corporation, in addition to his existing responsibilities as Minister
responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
For the first time in New
Brunswick's history, a woman has been named Speaker designate of the Assembly.
Speaker designate Shirley Dysart, a former teacher, was first elected to
represent Saint John Park in 1974. She was re-elected in 1978, 1982, 1987 and
1991. She served as Interim Leader of the Liberal Party for two months in 1985.
She was appointed Minister of Education on October 27, 1987 and served in that
capacity until October 8 when she was nominated Speaker, succeeding Frank
Branch. Mrs. Dysart's appointment brings to five the number of women in
Cabinet level positions, an all-time high in New Brunswick.
To deal with the expected increase
in workload and to make scheduling of legislative duties easier, Premier
McKenna designated two Deputy Speakers; Michael McKee and Reg
Since 1988, the McKenna government
has adjourned the Spring Session of the Legislature to a fall date, allowing
for the early introduction of the Capital Budget. On October 17, Government
House Leader J. Raymond Frenette announced that the First Session of the
52nd Legislative Assembly would open on February 11, 1992. By holding a February
sitting - the first in 25 years - the government plans to continue the practice
of introducing the Capital Budget in advance of the fiscal year.
Loredana Catalli Sonier, Clerk Assistant, New Brunswick Legislative
The Fall meeting of the House,
which began on September 23, has been marked by developments on the
constitutional front, the government's efforts to deal with the lingering
recession, Speakers' rulings on the propriety of police visits to the
Legislative Building, changes in ministerial and parliamentary
responsibilities, and a busy committee schedule.
On the first day that the House
met, Mike Farnan was appointed First Deputy Chair of the Committee of
the Whole House. Murray Elston, elected as interim leader of the Liberal
Party earlier in the Summer, was recognized as the Leader of the Opposition. On
November 19, James Bradley became the new interim Liberal Leader and
Leader of the Opposition.
The government made three major
announcements concerning the Ontario economy. On September 23, Premier Bob
Rae informed the House that economic renewal would be the focus of his
government's efforts. He stated that the Ontario government would seek to
improve the climate for job creation and investment, and to increase the level
of trust between the federal and provincial governments. He also informed the
House that he would be meeting with the Premier's Council on Economic Renewal
to discuss the economy and to ask for its advice on economic policy.
On October 2, Treasurer Floyd
Laughren informed the House that the government would reallocate funds in
order to meet the increased cost of social assistance, firefighting in northern
Ontario, and pensions for Ontario teachers, all of which have become more
costly than anticipated due to prevailing economic conditions. Additional
funding will also be provided for farm assistance and the Ontario Human Rights
Commission. The Treasurer also announced that economies would be secured by
reducing operating budgets for the ministries; by ministries having to absorb a
portion of their current salary budgets; and by delaying funding for local
school boards, the new wage protection programme, and pay equity. The Treasurer
indicated that these measures would enable the government to deal with the
recession, ensure greater equity and fairness, and promote economic renewal.
On November 19, Mr. Laughren
informed the House of changes in the province's revenue picture as a result of
the decline in personal income tax revenues. He informed the House that the
province would be eligible for federal adjustment payments which would help
offset some of the revenue loss. However, the province would still be left with
a shortfall for this fiscal year's budget. Therefore, the Treasurer announced that
there would be a freeze on certain purchases by all ministries; the province
would be selling its share in SkyDome; and the province would be selling
surplus properties and receipts of dividends from Crown corporations. Mr.
Laughren was confident that these measures would enable the province to manage
its fiscal pressures.
On the constitutional front, the
Premier made a major announcement in the House on September 26 concerning
constitutional reform and the federal constitutional proposals. He summarized
the basic principles that the government considered important in dealing with
the issue of constitutional reform. First, the process of reform had to be
open, and had to involve all Canadians. Second, the process of constitutional
reform had to strengthen the unity of the country. Third, the Constitution had
to allow all Canadians to see their interests and aspirations reflected in it.
Fourth, the Ontario government had to continue to develop a comprehensive
network of social programs. Finally, the economy had to continue to play an
important role in addressing the problems of national unity. In closing, the
Premier reiterated that the federal proposals and constitutional reform would
be the subject of intense negotiations and discussions.
On November 25, Lieutenant Governor
Lincoln Alexander gave Royal Assent to 32 bills. The Premier, the Leader
of the Opposition and Don Cousens, on behalf of the Leader of the
Progressive Conservative Party, paid tribute to Mr. Alexander as it was
probably the last time he would enter the Chamber as the Lieutenant Governor.
Twenty-two of the bills that received Royal Assent were related to the health
professions. Of great interest to the health profession was an amendment to
Bill 43, An Act respecting the regulation of Health Professions and other
matters concerning Health Professions, which gave native Indians greater
autonomy in providing traditional aboriginal healing services. Another of the
bills which received some media attention was Bill 56, An Act respecting the
regulation of the Profession of Midwifery, which established the College of
Midwives of Ontario, and recognized midwifery as a profession.
Bill 115, An Act to amend the
Retail Business Holidays Act and the Employment Standards Act in respect of the
opening of retail business establishments and employment in them, also
received Royal Assent on this day. The bill allowed for the opening of retail
stores on Sundays, during the month of December.
On October 15, Murray Elston
raised a question of privilege in the House, concerning a visit by members of
the Ontario Provincial Police to his office in the Legislative Building. Mr.
Elston felt that the visit prevented him from carrying out his work and that it
infringed on his parliamentary privileges. On October 17, Speaker David
Warner ruled that no privilege had been breached, but indicated that
"police forces cannot, as of right, interview an occupant of the
legislative precinct"; they had to obtain the consent of the Speaker. In
closing, the Speaker stated, that in future, the failure to comply with the
procedure set out in his ruling might constitute a breach of privilege or a
contempt. In a related ruling delivered on October 23, the Speaker indicated
that his authority did not extend beyond the legislative precinct with respect
to a question of privilege raised by James Bradley.
The Select Committee on Ontario in
Confederation, under its new Chair, Dennis Drainville, continues to be
very active. It conducted four weeks of hearings during July and August. After
the hearings at Queen's Park, the Committee split into two groups and travelled
to western and northern Canada to hold informal meetings with legislators from
other jurisdictions. Similar meetings were held in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
From October 17 to 19, the
Committee sponsored a conference in Toronto which was attended by 130
delegates, representing a broad cross-section of social, economic, and cultural
groups and organizations. Several members of the legislature also participated
in the conference. The delegates discussed a broad range of constitutional
topics in a series of workshops. A report on the conference was prepared by the
facilitator and will be used by the Committee to help guide them in preparation
of their final report.
The Committee also held a joint
meeting with the federal Special Joint Committee on a Renewed Canada in the
Legislative Chamber at Queen's Park. The meeting allowed members of both
committees to exchange their views on constitutional issues.
After the release of the federal
constitutional proposals, the Committee held hearings throughout the month of
November to hear from selected organizations. The Committee examined Ontario's
role in relation to the proposals put forward by the federal government. The
Committee is expected to report to the House in February 1992.
Over the summer, the Standing
Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, chaired by Ron Hansen, held
hearings on the 1991-1992 provincial budget. The Committee has been working on
a report to the House on the subject. In the near future, the Committee will
likely be conducting pre-budget consultations, and will conduct a review of
The Standing Committee on
Administration of Justice, chaired at first by Drummond White, and more
recently by Mike Cooper, held public hearings during the Summer
Adjournment to consider Bill 115, An Act to amend the Retail Business
Holidays Act and the Employment Standards Act in respect of the opening of
retail business establishments and employment in them. The Bill seeks to
amend the Retail Business Holidays Act with respect to the operation of
retail business establishments on Sundays and other holidays and to amend the Employment
Standards Act with respect to employment in retail business establishments.
The Committee held hearings in Collingwood, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, North Bay,
Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Windsor, London, Hamilton and Toronto. The
Committee is currently engaged in clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.
The Committee anticipated holding
public hearings on four interrelated bills. Bill 74, An Act respecting the
Provision of Advocacy Services to Vulnerable Persons, seeks to establish a
framework for the provision of social advocacy services to benefit persons who,
because of disability, have difficulty in expressing or acting on their wishes
or in ascertaining or exercising their rights. Bill 108, An Act to provide
for the making of Decisions on behalf of Adults concerning the Management of
their Property and concerning their Personal Care, deals with property
management and personal care decisions made on behalf of mentally incapable
persons. Bill 109, An Act respecting Consent to Treatment, deals with
consent to treatment administered by health practitioners. Bill 110, An Act
to amend certain Statutes of Ontario consequent upon the enactment of the
Consent to Treatment Act, 1991 and the Substitute Decisions Act, 1991,
would repeal the Mental Incompetency Act and amend 23 other Acts. The
hearings on these bills are expected to continue into the Winter Adjournment.
The Standing Committee on Public
Accounts, chaired by Robert Callahan, is continuing its review of drug
and alcohol treatment centres. It is visiting treatment centres in the Toronto
area. Half of the members of the Committee travelled to the United States
during August to visit five treatment centres used by Ontarians. Since the
start of the Session, the full Committee has continued this review. The
Committee hopes to report on the facilities this winter.
The Standing Committee on Resources
Development, chaired by Peter Kormos, considered Bill 70, An Act to
amend the Employment Standards Act to Provide for an Employee Wage Protection
Program and to make certain other amendments. The Committee held one week
of public hearings and one week of clause-by-clause consideration.
At the request of its Conservative
members, the Committee then examined the delivery of service by the Workers'
Compensation Board under Standing Order 123, which permits a Committee to
consider a matter designated by one of the Parties for up to 12 hours. This
report will probably be released in November. At the request of its Liberal
members, the Committee then examined the crisis in the oil and grainseed
sectors of the agricultural economy under another Standing Order 123
designation. The Committee held public hearings on the matter, hearing from a
number of agricultural groups. The Committee's report should be issued in
In August, the Standing Committee
on General Government, chaired by Remo Mancini, completed public
hearings on Bill 121, An Act to revise the Law related to Residential Rent
Regulation. Clause-by-clause consideration of the bill commenced in late
October and continued in November.
The Committee also completed
consideration of a matter designated pursuant to Standing Order 123 relating to
the closure of 14 land registry offices in Ontario. The Committee completed a
report on the matter on October 24.
The Standing Committee on
Government Agencies, chaired by Robert Runciman, continued to spend much
of its meeting time on the scrutiny of intended appointees to Ontario
government agencies, boards and commissions. It also reviewed the operation of
the Ontario Municipal Board, 2 District Health Councils, TVOntario, and the
Eastern Ontario Development Corporation. A report is in preparation for
presentation in the Fall meeting period.
The Standing Committee on the
Legislative Assembly, under its chair, Noel Duignan, completed its
three-year review of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy
The Standing Committee on Social
Development has been conducting public hearings and clause-by-clause
examination of Bills 43 to 64 inclusive, which regulate the health professions.
On November 7, Bill 135, An Act to provide for the Payment of Physicians'
Dues and Other Amounts to the Ontario Medical Association, was referred to
the Committee. The purpose of the bill is to make the payment of amounts for
the Ontario Medical Association's dues and assessments compulsory for all
practising physicians. The Committee is in the process of reviewing the matter.
Tonia Grannum, Research Assistant, Committees Branch
June 18, 1991 saw the adoption of
an omnibus package of amendments to the Rules of the Senate of Canada, marking
a turning point in what has been a bitter procedural struggle between the
Conservative and Liberal senators. Ever since the Liberals left the Government
side of the Senate in 1984, they had used their considerable majority to
confound the Conservatives' desire to see legislation passed in an expeditious
manner. The passage of time slowly altered the balance of power in the Senate
as the mandatory retirement age of 75 years left seats open to the Prime
Minister to fill with individuals committed to supporting Government policy.
When the Prime Minister requested the Crown to invoke Section 26 of The
Parliament of Canada Act, allowing a further appointment of eight senators,
which would give the Conservatives a voting edge in the Senate, it was
initially assumed that the Government would at last have its will pressed home.
The Rules of the Senate, as they
were then constituted, did not foresee the need for a formal method of ensuring
that the business of the Senate came to an efficient conclusion. As a result
the Liberals used procedural manoeuvers to retard the business before the
Senate. After one tactic, which left the bells of the Senate ringing unheeded,
Speaker Guy Charbonneau took the controversial decision to set an
arbitrary limit on the ringing of the bells and the vote took place without the
Liberals in attendance. Provisional rules negotiated and agreed upon by both
Parties saw the Senate through the remaining debate over the GST and other
contested legislation and the year ended in an uneasy sense of apprehension.
Prorogation of the 2nd Session of
the 34th Parliament left the Senate with its old rules. The Conservatives'
response was the First Report of the Standing Committee on Rules and Orders,
presented to the Senate June 11, 1991.
The primary focus of the amendments
proposed and subsequently adopted was the orderly, unimpeded progression of the
Senate's daily business, especially that determined to be "Government
Business". To this end, strict time limits with little or no room for
extension are in place to govern the flow of business past Senators'
Statements, Routine Business, Question Period and Delayed Answers to Questions
in order that the item Government Business might be reached, within a certain
amount of time. Aside from the time limits mentioned above, further restraints
on how questions of privilege and points of order may be raised, when they may
(or may not) be raised and when they may (or may not) be dealt with were
instituted. Furthermore, the Speaker is now empowered to intervene directly in
debate without the invitation of a member and to render a ruling without
invitation from a member. Prior to the amendments, it was a matter of
contention whether this were the case or not and now, in addition to this
clearly defined role of intervention, the speaker may, if he or she deems the
situation warrants it, suspend the sitting of the Senate for a period not
exceeding three hours in order to allow tempers to subside.
Another rule change of note
enshrines the prestudy of bills as an acceptable procedure. Immediately upon
being named Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Allan J.
MacEachan has led the opposition to the established practice of sending an
order of reference to committees of the Senate directing them to study subject
matters which related directly to legislation being studied in the House of
Commons. As a result, the length of time needed for the passage of legislation
was increased as senators required more time in committee with a bill, since
they had not had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the subject
prior to the arrival of the bill. Defenders of returning to the traditional
procedure of waiting for the arrival of legislation argue that hard work and
valuable interventions, often incorporated in bills before they left the House
of Commons, were going unnoticed and unacknowledged by the public. Proponents
of prestudy argue that it speeds up the process and has a greater potential for
influence since interventions made by the Senate are more likely to be favourably
received when the bill is in committee in the House of Commons than after the
House of Commons has gone through the long process of debate and compromise
necessary to pass a bill.
Finally, the Standing Committee on
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration has been given a new standing
order of reference. This committee, which is charged with the responsibility of
reviewing the administration of the Senate and with formulating policies
governing the administration of the Senate (subject to the adoption by the
Senate of its reports) must now conduct its deliberations in public meetings.
The committee will only be allowed to go in camera under specific
Anyone interested in acquiring a
copy of the new Rules of the Senate of Canada may contact the office of the
The prorogation of Parliament and
the subsequent advent of the 3rd Session of the 34th Parliament had a profound
effect on the committees of the Senate. As noted above, the balance of senators
representing the Parties in the Senate changed dramatically from the balance at
the beginning of this Parliament. When the Speech from the Throne was delivered
and the Senate was in the process of some routine house keeping motions, the
Conservatives moved the constitution of the Committee of Selection which would
then sit to devise the assignment of senators to the various standing
committees of the Senate. It passed without comment and the Conservatives had,
by naming in the motion the senators sitting on the committee, gained ultimate
control over that committee and, consequently, the balance of senators on the
remaining committees. The Liberals, after realizing the import of this
In the Committee of Selection,
Senator Royce Frith (then Deputy Leader and now Leader of the Opposition
in the Senate) argued that despite the fact that the committee had been
established by the Senate, it had been done at a time when senators were
distracted by the upheaval that follows a Speech from the Throne and that past
practice had been breached when actual names had been appended to the motion.
Had he noticed this anomaly at the time, he argued, he most certainly would
have objected. Furthermore, he argued, it had been improper of the
Conservatives to assign themselves a clear majority on the committee when, in
fact, they did not enjoy a clear majority in the Senate.
The Committee of Selection went
ahead with its work, over the objections and subsequent withdrawal of the
Liberals from the committee. The Conservatives decided to submit a report to
the Senate naming senators representing the Conservative party in proportions
that would give them a majority on each committee but, where the Liberals had
not submitted names for given committees, the report also left the positions
vacant. This gave an opening to Senator MacEachan to argue on procedural
grounds that the report was flawed since it failed to conform to its duty to
appoint a full complement of senators as demanded in the Rules. In addressing
Senator MacEachan's point of order, the Speaker called attention to past
reports which failed to nominate full complements and ruled that the numbers
found in the Rules constituted a maximum number of senators, not an obligatory
The Liberals boycotted participation
in all but a few of the committees of the Senate for a time. By December 1,
1991, the Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders was the only
standing committee of the Senate for which there had been no Liberal senators
nominated. The Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations was awaiting
only the report of the Committee of Selection. The Fisheries Committee was the
only committee without a Chairperson.
Of the committees that have forged
ahead, a number have done some interesting work. The National Finance
Committee, besides carrying on its regular work of examining estimates is
looking into various aspects of Public Service 2000 and has had two separate
representations from the Privy Council and expects to continue with Treasury
Board, the Canadian Centre for Management Development, the Forum on Public
Policy and, after Christmas, other witnesses such as the Public Service
Commission and the Auditor General.
It is the Joint Committee for the
Scrutiny of Regulations, however, which has made something of a splash with its
work. In its second report, the Joint Committee took the hitherto unprecedented
step of recommending the revocation of a departmental regulation. The rules
governing the mandate of the Joint Committee dictate that unless the Government
responds with legislation to the contrary, the report of the Joint Committee is
to be heeded and the relevant regulations revoked. After reviewing the
regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture, the Joint committee
found that portions directly contravened the financial prerogatives of
Parliament. When it rains, it pours. Close on the heels of the second report of
the Joint Committee came its third report, which calls for the revocation of
certain sections of the Indian Health Regulations. The Joint Committee found
them to be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to
fail the test of certain of the Joint Committee's scrutiny criteria.
Senator John Lynch-Staunton
has succeeded Senator William Doody as Deputy Leader of the Government.
Senator Frith has replaced Senator MacEachan as Leader of the Opposition, as
mentioned above, and taking Senator Frith's place as Deputy Leader of the
Opposition is Senator Gildas Molgat. Finally, Senator Jacques Hébert has
assumed the duties of Whip for the Opposition from Senator William Petten.
Blair Armitage, Committee Clerk
House of Commons
If there was one theme which could
be found in almost all of the actions and events in the House over the last
three months it was respect for the dignity of our institutions and the rights
of our fellow Canadians. Debates and discussions about gun control, violence
against women, decorum and behaviour in the House of Commons, and the
constitution and its effects on the relationships between aboriginals and
non-aboriginals, the French and the English, the rich and the poor, the elected
and their electors all, in one way or another, forced the Members of the House
and Canadians to examine their treatment of others and the importance attached
Members of the House of Commons
using such terms as "slut" and "Sambo", alleging the use of
other unparliamentary language and giving each other the proverbial finger
reflected in the House the tension and malaise which can be found in the
country at large. Some might argue that politicians are helpless to rectify
this, but nonetheless recognize the need for some kind of action to be taken.
On October 23, 1991, the Government thus introduced the following motion:
That this House recognize that it
is the national forum for the consideration of issues and challenges facing all
That this House recognizes that its
Members were elected by the people of Canada to represent them in a manner
which demands that individual Members respect one another and their democratic
right to express differing opinions;
That Canadians have expressed alarm
at the excessive partisanship and lack of decorum and civility too often in
evidence in the House;
That this House recognize that
disruptive behaviour and verbal interruptions, including abusive language,
leads to a depreciated view of and respect for the institution of Parliament
and its Members;
That the Members of this House
share in the responsibility of eliminating the use of offensive language or gestures
directed at other Members either during Question Period, debate or otherwise in
the Chamber; and
That this House supports the
Speaker's vigorous enforcement of Standing Order 16(2) and Standing Order 18;
in particular those portions which require that when a Member is speaking no
Member shall interrupt him or her except to raise a point of order and that no
Member shall speak disrespectfully or use offensive words against either House
or any Member thereof.
Amendments moved to the motion
included the following:
That the motion be amended by
deleting all of the words after the word "offensive" and by
substituting the following therefor:
—including sexist or racist
language or gestures directed at other Members, either during Question Period,
debate or otherwise in the Chamber; and
That this House confirms its
support for Standing Orders 16 and 18, and other Standing Orders and practices
of this House regarding decorum and reaffirms its confidence in the Speaker's
ability to enforce those rules and practices vigorously.
That the amendment be amended by
adding the following words after the word "Chamber":
That party leaders, House leaders
and Whips be responsible for the comportment of their caucuses,
And by adding the following words
following the word "vigorously":
That this House express its
continued support and appreciation to the Speaker for his excellent guidance of
At the time of writing, the motion
remains on the Order Paper under Government Business, and has been
debated on three separate occasions. Discussions of this motion, the
establishment of a Speaker's advisory committee to examine sexism and racism in
the House, the continuing examination of parliamentary rules and reform by the
House Management Committee and two Speaker's rulings warning the House of the
detrimental effects of unparliamentary language and of making allegations which
could tarnish the reputations of others have all led to a heightened awareness
of the effects of what is considered to be "unparliamentary" behaviour.
The importance of decorum in the
House was also brought into the spotlight by the events following a vote. On
the evening of October 30, Members were called in for a division on a Private
Members' motion respecting the collection of income tax from senior citizens.
Under the conventions of the House, a vote can be taken when the Government and
Official Opposition Whips signal to the Chair that their parties are ready for
the vote. At the request of the Whips, the bells ceased ringing before the customary
15-minute limit, and several Members arrived at the Chamber to find that they
were too late to cast their votes. Objections were raised that many Members had
been denied the opportunity to voice their opinions on a Private Members'
motion — the kind of motion usually dealt with in a non-partisan manner — but
the Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole, Charles DeBlois,
ruled that the vote had been conducted in accordance with the rules. After the
Chair occupant declared the House adjourned, the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms
proceeded to the Table, picked up the Mace, the symbol of the authority of the
House and the Speaker, and began to leave the Chamber. Port Moody—Coquitlam MP Ian
Waddell then ran up behind him and grabbed the Mace. The following morning,
several Members raised questions of privilege on the matter. After listening to
Members from all parties, including Mr. Waddell, the Speaker ruled that there
was a prima facie case of contempt of the House. Jesse Flis moved
a motion suggesting a remedy to deal with the matter. A debate ensued, and the
House ordered that at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, Mr. Waddell would be called to
the Bar to be admonished by the Speaker. This was the first time since 1913
that anyone had been called to the Bar for a reprimand.
Much attention was also given to
the status of women in our society and to the many kinds of violence directed
against them. Beginning with the announcement on August 15, 1991 of the
establishment of a Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women, numerous events in
and out of the House brought the issue to the forefront of debate. On October
29, 1991, Royal Assent was given to Private Member's Bill C-202, An Act
respecting a national day of remembrance and action on violence against women.
The law has the effect of making December 6, the anniversary of the 1989
Montreal massacre of 14 women at L'Ecole Polytechnique, a national day of
remembrance. Bill C-17, the gun control bill outlawing the kind of weapons used
in the massacre, received Royal Assent on the evening of December 5. Finally, a
week-long national white-ribbon campaign in which people, mostly men, wore
white ribbons to call attention to the issue of violence against women ended on
December 6, this new day of remembrance, and found the House unanimously
supporting the following motion:
That the House of Commons endorse
the White Ribbon Campaign by encouraging all men to wear a white ribbon to
signal their support in the campaign against violence against women.
Also in this period, the Government
tabled its response to The War Against Women, the report of the Standing
Committee on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs, Seniors and the Status of
Women which was released in June. In the response, entitled Living Without
Fear, Everyone's Goal, Every Woman's Right, the Government outlined its
plans and the steps it has already taken to combat violence against women.
The House was seized over this
period with many issues arising out of the activities of its committees and
other investigatory bodies. Bill C-43, Members of the Senate and House of
Commons Conflict of Interests Act, was introduced and a Special Joint
Committee was established to pre-study the subject-matter of the bill; a
Special Committee was established to review the certain sections of the Customs
Act; and the Government tabled working papers entitled "Prosperity
Through Competitiveness" and announced a Royal Commission on the Economy.
Finally, the Special Joint
Committee on Government Proposals for a Renewed Canada, the committee established
to examine the Government's constitutional reform proposals, grabbed the
headlines when administrative difficulties led to calls by Opposition members
for the resignation of one of its Co-Chairman, MP Dorothy Dobbie. The
resignation calls were not heeded, but the Senate Co-Chair, well-known Quebec
businessman Claude Castonguay, later resigned due to ill health. He was
replaced by Senator Gérald Beaudoin, the constitutional expert and law
professor who had co-chaired an earlier Joint Committee examining proposals for
a constitutional amending formula. Administrative difficulties partially
alleviated with the help of the same individual who helped revamp the troubled
Spicer Commission, Veterans' Affairs Deputy Minister David Broadbent,
the Committee resumed its work with a much reduced schedule and focus.
Constitutional Affairs minister Joe Clark also announced a series of
forums on constitutional topics to help deal with the issues in the
Government's proposals. Conferences on the subjects of the division of powers,
Senate reform, the distinct society and an economic union will be held early in
1992 in Halifax, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal respectively. A wrap-up
conference in Ottawa will conclude the exercise.
On the legislative front, the
following bills received Royal Assent:
Bill S-3, Seventh-day Adventist Church of Canada Incorporation Act
Bill S-6, Metropolitan General Insurance Company Incorporation Act
Bill C-4, Trust and Loan Companies Act,
Bill C-5, Aeronautics Act amendment;
Bill C-10, Excise Tax Act and Excise Act amendment;
Bill C-14, Port Warden for the Harbours of Quebec and Montreal Act
Bill C-16, Agricultural Products Marketing Act amendment;
Bill C-17, Criminal Code and Customs Tariff Act amendment (gun control);
Bill C-18, Income Tax Act amendment;
Bill C-19, Bank Act; Bill C-20, Budget Implementation Act,
Bill C-23, Canadian Wheat Board Act amendment;
Bill C-27, Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act;
Bill C-28, Insurance Companies Act;
Bill C-29, Public Sector Compensation Act;
Bill C-30, Criminal Code amendment (mental disorder) and National
Defence Act amendment;
Bill C-34, Cooperative Credit Associations Act;
Bill C-37, Thunder Bay Grain Handling Operations Act;
Bill C-38, Telesat Canada Reorganization and Divestiture Act;
Bill C-39, Canada Pension Plan Act, Family Allowances Act and Old Age
Security Act amendment;
Bill C-40, Postal Services Continuation Act, 1991; and
Bill C-44, Canada Labour Code amendment (geographic certification).
The following bills passed the
House of Commons:
Bill C-12, Young Offenders Act
and Criminal Code amendment and Bill C-280, Canada Pension Plan Act
amendment (disability pension).
Subject to the provisions of the
Standing Orders and an Order of the House, the House of Commons is scheduled to
resume sitting on February 3, 1992.
Barbara Whittaker, Procedural Clerk, Table Research Branch