| New Brunswick
| House of Commons
The legislative Assembly resumed
sitting December 1, 1992, following a six--month adjournment. During the
eight--day fall sitting, the House passed the 1993--1994 Capital Budget,
considered and passed 39 Government Bills and 3 Private Bills, and debated and
adopted a number of resolutions, including a resolution to enshrine in the
Constitution the principle of the equality of the English and French linguistic
communities of the Province.
On December 4, Dennis Cochrane,
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, rose on a matter of privilege
requesting a ruling from the Speaker with regard to the vacancy of the seat in
the Legislative Assembly for the riding of Carleton North.
In reserving her decision, Speaker Shirley
Dysart advised the Assembly that she had received a certificate of
conviction of Fred Harvey, Member for Carleton North for an offence
under subsection 111(1) of the Elections Act. This subsection makes it
an offence of illegal practice for any person to induce or procure any other
person to vote at an election, knowing that such person is for any reason not
qualified to vote at the election.
Under paragraph 119(c) of the Elections
Act, the seat of a Member of the Legislative Assembly convinced under the
Act for any offence that is a corrupt or illegal practice is vacated at the
time of such conviction. On December 8, Speaker Dysart delivered her ruling.
She informed the House that a Notice of Appeal had been filed on behalf of the
Member for Carleton North appealing his conviction.
Speaker Dysart cautioned that it
would be imprudent for Members of the Legislative Assembly, in the absence of
special circumstances, to move to vacate the seat of a Member under section 119
before the normal right of appeal had been exhausted or expired. The Speaker
ruled the matter sub judice and asked Members to refrain from bringing
it forward in debate or otherwise.
The Standing Committee on Law
Amendments which had been reviewing the Outfitters Act and suggested
changes to the Right to Information Act held public hearings in November
and December. The Outfitters Act was passed during the 1990 session of
the Legislature and has never been proclaimed. The Act would regulate
outfitting activities within New Brunswick, with respect to the licensing and
disciplining of outfitters. An "outfitter" is defined in the Act as
"a person who provides or offers to provide hunting, angling or canoe
trips to paying customers." The Outfitters Act would limit the
number of outfitters in terms of the available fish, wildlife and recreation
resources and the number of outfitters currently in the industry.
The Standing Committee on Law
Amendments presented its report on December 10.
The Committee recommended that
proclamation of the Outfitters Act be held in abeyance until such time
as the issues are considered and appropriate amendments to other Acts are
brought to the Legislature dealing with the substantive issues identified in
the public hearings.
The Committee recommended that the Right
to Information Act be extended to school boards and hospital boards and
that consideration be given to the need to amend the exceptions listed in
section 6 of the Act to accommodate the appropriate particular activities or
organizations of the added bodies.
Three Bills introduced during the
fall sitting were referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments for a
more detailed consideration including Bill 89, An Act to Amend The
Residential Tenancies Act, Bill 115, An Act Respecting the Balancing of
the Ordinary Revenues of the Province and Bill 121, Personal Property
On December 1, 1992, the Select
Committee on Representation and Electoral Boundaries, mandated to review the
interim report of the Representation and Electoral District Boundaries
Commission, presented its interim report to the Legislative Assembly.
The Committee recommended:
That the number of electoral districts be set at (55) fifty--five, one of
which will consist exclusively of the Fundy Isles because of their geographic
and representation uniqueness.
That the average number of voters per electoral district be set at
(9411) nine thousand four hundred and eleven.
That the allowable variation for voter populations is electoral
districts be set at plus or minus (25%) twenty--five per cent with the
exception of the proposed Fundy Isles constituency.
That the Representation and Electoral Boundaries Commission not initiate
further consultations with the aboriginal community with reference to their
representation in the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick unless the native
community requests such a consultative process.
The Standing Committee on
Legislative Administration which had been reviewing Members' benefits and
support services presented a report on December 11, 1992.
Subsequently, A Discussion Paper
entitled New Brunswick Legislative Assembly Members' Services was tabled
in the House and referred to the Committee for public input. The Discussion
Paper deals with a number of issues concerning Members' services and proposes
various options for consideration. The Legislative Administration Committee
will seek public input on Members' services and benefits before presenting a
final report to the Legislative Assembly.
On the last day of the session, Michael
McKee (Liberal), an eighteen--year veteran of the Legislative Assembly,
resigned his seat in the Assembly. Mr. McKee was first elected to the
Legislative Assembly in 1974 to represent the riding of Moncton North and won
re--election at general elections held in 1978, 1982, 1987 and 1991. Mr. MacKee
served during the Fifty--First Legislative Assembly as Minister of Labour and
Minister responsible for Multiculturalism. Following the 1991 election, Mr.
McKee was elected Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Committees of the Whole
After sitting forty--eight days,
the first session of the Fifty--second Legislative Assembly was prorogued on
December 11, 1992.
Loredana Catalli Sonier, Clerk Assistant (Procedural)
This fall the National Assembly sat
for only seventeen days between November 24 and December 21, 1992. The
referendum on the Charlottetown Constitutional Accord, which took place on
October 26, accounts for the fact that this part of the session was so brief.
Nevertheless, the Assembly passed 28 bills, of which 21 were public bills.
The resumption of the session was
marked by the resignation of the Government House Leader, Michel Pagé,
who is now working for a major private corporation. He was replaced as
Government House Leader by the Minister of the Environment, Pierre Paradis,
while the Minister of Higher Education and Science, Lucienne Robillard,
became acting Minister of Education.
The economy was the main topic of discussion
among Members, especially during question period. In fact, the government was
questioned on several occasions on the following subjects: the economic
recovery plan, the opening of gambling casinos, the liquidation of Les
Coopérants insurance company, the effects of the break--up of the Steinberg
grocery store chain, the impact of the GATT negotiations on Quebec agriculture,
the signature of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the
United States and Mexico and the possible sale of the Provigo food giant to
American interests. The last of these was also the subject of the only
emergency debate this fall.
Other subjects that aroused
Members' interest during this period were the right of immigrants to attend
English schools, the review of Bill 101 (Charter of the French Language), the
statute governing commercial advertising and the new government requirement
that health insurance cards contain photographs of the holders. Relocation of
the Hôtel--Dieu hospital centre away from the downtown core of Montreal was
also discussed on a number of occasions. This move was even the subject of the
only debate set down by the members of the opposition.
A number of bills of an economic
nature were tabled. The Act to amend the Act respecting hours and days of
admission to commercial establishments certainly produced the liveliest
debates in the Assembly and among members of the public. This Bill is designed
to allow stores to open on Sundays and every evening during the week. The
Government House Leader had to invoke a motion for suspension to ensure that
this Bill and three others would be passed.
Two of these bills involved further
steps to reform the division of responsibilities between the government and
municipalities, as announced by the Minister responsible, especially with
respect to the maintenance of the local highway network.
As regards Bill 61, the Act to
amend the Environmental Quality Act, the Government House Leader opted to
have the Bill considered in detail by a Committee of the Whole rather than by a
committee of the Legislature, despite the fact that it was contentious. As a
result, the Committee of the Whole had to innovate on many occasions and adapt
the rules applying to committees of the legislature to its needs.
An Act respecting the Conseil
des ainés was passed before Christmas. The main purpose of the Conseil is
to promote the rights and freedoms of the elderly and participation by them in
the life of the community. The creation of this body is assured while the
debate on the imposition of a two--dollar patient's contribution on
prescriptions for the elderly is still continuing in the Assembly.
The passage of two bills relating
to culture is worthy of note. The first provides for the creation of the
Department of Culture to replace the former Department of Cultural Affairs and
gives the Minister responsible powers over heritage, the arts, literature,
cultural industries and public libraries. The Minister may also develop a
policy to integrate the arts with architecture and the environment.
The second bill creates the Conseil
des arts et des lettres du Québec, which will be responsible for supporting
creation, experimentation and production in the fields of literature, the
artistic trades and the visual arts and promoting the diffusion of these arts
in Quebec, the rest of Canada and abroad.
We should also note the tabling by
a government Member of a bill designed to promote the disclosure of unlawful
activity on the part of a public agency or a business that is contractually
bound to the agency. This Bill also contains rules to protect persons who
disclose such information.
In order to give effect to requests
to withdraw notices of motion or Private Bill Notices, the Speaker has issued a
private ruling to the effect that prior notice of a bill or motion may be
withdrawn at any time from the Order Paper by means of a written request to the
Secretary General or an oral request made during the sitting to the Speaker.
On December 17, 1992 the National
Assembly held an official ceremony to commemorate the first sitting of the
first Parliament of Lower Canada. This ceremony formed part of the activities
of the Bicentennial of Parliamentary Institutions in Quebec. In 1792 the
members proceeded to elect their first Speaker, Jean--Antoine Panet,
before debating the use of the English and French languages in the Assembly.
The last official activity in the
celebration of the Bicentennial ran from January 21 to 24, 1993. This was the
1992--1993 Student Forum on Parliamentary Institutions, the purpose of which
was to introduce students from colleges throughout Quebec to the life and work
of elected members and the operations of the National Assembly. The activities
for the students took the form of a simulation of parliamentary work.
Jean Bédard et Nancy Ford
National Assembly Secretariat
In Quebec the fact that the
National Assembly resumed work on November 24, 1992, some four weeks later than
its fall schedule would normally have required, did not mean that committee work
Thus, on November 4, the Education
Committee undertook a general consultation to examine the state of college
education in Quebec.
This consultation coincided with
the 25th anniversary of passage of the General and Vocational Colleges Act
and the creation of the first public colleges. During the 16 sittings devoted
to public hearings, the last of which took place on December 18, 1992, the
Committee examined 222 briefs and heard some 109 interested persons and
organizations; this involved more than 103 hours of work.
It seems that, given the large
number of briefs received, this is one of the consultations that have aroused
the greatest public interest in a mandate of a Standing Committee of the
Assembly since the legislative reforms of 1984 were adopted. In fact, it came
third after the consultation on the draft Health and Social Services Bill (266
briefs) and the Bill respecting the Proposed Policy on Culture and the Arts
The detailed study of Bill 141 to
reform private education was the other item in the activities of this
The main feature of the intensive
sitting in December was the completion of legislative mandates.
In fact, 29 bills were referred to
committee for detailed study and 60 sittings or more than 187 hours of work
were devoted to improving the bills submitted. The examination of two of these
bills was not completed because the Assembly passed a closure motion.
Several of the bills examined in
committee are worthy of attention.
First, there was Bill 59, An Act
to amend the Act respecting hours and days of admission to commercial
establishments, to allow businesses to open on Saturdays and Sundays from
8:00 am to 5:00 pm and to extend opening times during the week from 8:00 am to
9:00 pm. Discussion of this Bill, especially the provisions allowing Sunday
opening, meant that, although four sessions totalling more than 26 hours of
discussion were devoted to the Bill, the Economy and Labour Committee was not
able to complete its task before it was recalled by the Legislature.
Quebec business was also affected
by two other bills examined by this committee, namely, Bill 48, An Act to
amend the Act to promote the capitalization of small and medium--sized
businesses, and Bill 49, An Act respecting certain regulations made
pursuant to the Act respecting Quebec business investment companies. Three
sittings were sufficient to complete these two items of business.
In the field of transportation the
Development and Facilities Committee had to examine two major bills. The first,
Bill 46, an Act to amend the Act respecting the Société de
l'assurance--automobile du Québec, was essentially designed to authorize
the corporation to pay $275,000,000 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund following
the contribution announced in the 1992--1993 Budget Speech. Bill 57, which
primarily concerned the division of responsibility between the Department of
Transport and municipalities for the management of the highway network, was the
subject of a closure motion following more than 18 hours of discussion in
After four sittings, however, the
Committee was able to complete its examination of Bill 55, an Act to amend
the Act respecting municipal taxation and other legislative provisions,
which had provoked a number of disputes. This Bill has the effect, except in
excluded municipalities, of requiring individuals who own cars to pay an annual
contribution to fund certain public transportation services.
Furthermore, the Committee is still
examining Bill 56, an Act to amend the Act respecting land use and
development and other legislative provisions, which came before it on
However, following the amendments
made by Bill 18 to the Act respecting farm income stabilization insurance,
the Quebec Régie des assurances agricoles has been given the power to negotiate
loans for the purpose of concluding transactions relating to financial
contracts and instruments. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Committee
devoted one sitting to an examination of this Bill.
In the Social Affairs Committee two
bills deserve particular attention. The first was Bill 51, which created the
Conseil des ainés and gave it the primary task of promoting the rights and
interests of the elderly and participation by them in the life of the community
and advising the Minister on questions relating to the elderly. The second,
Bill 30, an Act to amend the Supplemental Pensions Plan Act, removed the
four--year ban on payment of all or part of any surplus assets of retirement
plans to employers who are parties to such plans. This Bill attempts to resolve
the highly complex question of the ownership of surpluses in retirement funds,
which have been estimated to amount to $12,000,000,000, by creating a framework
for labour--management negotiations concerning the distribution of these
surpluses. If the parties fail to reach agreement on distribution of the
surpluses, an arbitration board will render a definitive decision.
The Culture Committee, for its
part, examined Bill 52, an Act creating the Department of Culture, and
Bill 53, which created the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, an agency
that will to some extent be the provincial counterpart of the Canada Council.
December was a very busy month for
the Institutions Committee. First, it examined an imposing item of legislation,
Bill 28, an Act respecting the implementation of the Reform of the Civil Code,
697 articles of which were improved in 319 amendments. Bill 42, an Act
respecting the implementation of certain provisions of the Code of Penal
Procedure and amending various legislative provisions, with its 686
sections, also required several hours of discussion.
Finally, Bill 11, an Act to
amend the Consumer Protection Act and other legislation, and Bill 14, an
Act to amend the Code of Civil Procedure regarding family mediation,
completed the Committee's legislative duties. All these items required 19
sittings and more than 42 hours of work.
The public service was the focus of
the deliberations of the Budget and Administration Committee, which first
examined Bill 47, an Act respecting the payment of a retirement allowance
and other benefits and amending the Act respecting the Government and
Public Employees Retirement Plan, and later Bill 66, an Act to amend
various legislative provisions respecting pension plans in the public and
parapublic sectors and amending other legislative provisions.
On December 15 the Committee began
its examination of Bill 198, an Act respecting the limitation on hiring in
public agencies and the accountability of government managers and directors of
public agencies. One unique feature of this Bill was the fact that it was
piloted by Henri--François Gautrin, the member for Verdun, and a member
of the governing party, although he is not in the Cabinet.
To complete this brief examination
of the principal legislative tasks of the committees, we note that only four
private bills, two concerning estates and two others concerning municipalities,
were examined by the appropriate committees in the last four sittings held for
The National Assembly Committee
held two working sittings to review the membership of the Economy and Labour
Committee and the Institutions Committee and the distribution of voting rights
on these committees among the groups represented in the Assembly and to decide
various current issues.
In addition to these committee
activities during the current quarter, we should also note that in January the
Development and Facilities Committee will devote three sittings to an
examination of the financial commitments of the Department of Transport and the
Economy and Labour Committee will take two sittings to examine those of the
Department of Industry, Trade and Technology.
Furthermore, it should be noted
that shortly before the Assembly adjourned on December 21 six of the eight standing
committees were asked to consult the public on a number of questions. The first
of these consultations was to begin on February 2, 1993.
The Budget and Administration
Committee will conduct a general consultation and hold public hearings on the
funding of public services in Quebec; the Education Committee on the draft Bill
to amend the professional Code and other legislation governing the professions;
the Economy and Labour Committee on Hydro--Quebec's draft development plan for
1993--1995; the Culture Committee on Bill 68, an Act respecting the
protection of personal information in the private sector; the Social
Affairs Committee on alternative therapies and the Institutions Committee on
the North American Free Trade Agreement. As this report was written, these
committees were in the process of organizing their activities.
Denis Lamontagne, Secretary, Social Affairs Committee
The Legislature resumed the Fourth
Session of the Twenty--Second Legislature on January 25. This special 3--week
sitting was called by the new Premier, Ralph Klein. The main issue dealt with
by the House was Bill 55, the Electoral Divisions Statutes Amendment Act
Albert's electoral boundaries have
been under review since 1989. The Select Special Committee on Electoral
Boundaries was established in August of 1989, and was charged with the mandate
of consulting with Albertans to obtain their view on electoral boundaries in
Alberta. On November 26, 1990, this Select Special Committee tabled its report
in the House. This report, submitted by the all--Party Committee, was a
reflection of this public process in combination with a review of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In its report, the Select Special Committee
on Electoral Boundaries made the following recommendations:
the number of electoral divisions remain at 83
in establishing electoral divisions the following factors should be
considered: sparsity and density of population; community interests such as
Indian reservations, Metis settlements, special areas, and improvement
number of municipalities, school boards, and hospital boards in an area;
geographical features including road systems.
no sitting members of the Legislative Assembly should be part of the
Electoral Boundaries Commission.
The committee also established that
the population size of at least 95 per cent of the electoral divisions must be
within a variance of plus or minus 25 per cent of the average of electoral
division population size in Alberta. The final recommendation made was that
electoral divisions be designed either as single municipality divisions or as
The legislature then established an
independent Commission to transform the recommendations into new electoral
boundaries. Five members of the general public served on the Commission as well
as Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer.
The Commission elected to use a
plus or minus 10 per cent variance rather than the plus or minus 25 per cent
variance which was recommended by the Legislative Assembly and approved by the
Supreme Court of Canada on the Alberta Court of Appeal. The final report tabled
by the Commission consisted of five individual reports, one from each of the
Commission's members. Due to the lack of a majority decision, the Legislature
passed a motion relegating the duty of drawing Alberta's electoral boundaries
back to an all--party Select Special Committee on Electoral Boundaries.
The new Select Special Committee
consisted of seven members of the government, four members of the Official
Opposition and one member of the Liberal Opposition. The Official Opposition
and the Liberal Opposition, however, declined to participate in the Select
Special Committee. The two opposition parties cited concerns of a perceived
conflict of interest with Members of the Legislative Assembly directly drawing
their own electoral boundaries.
The Select Special Committee on
Electoral Boundaries studied and drew heavily upon the documents, submissions,
transcripts, research and data from the work of the previous Select Special
Committee on Electoral Boundaries (1989--1990), and the Electoral Boundaries
The Select Special Committee
recommended that the number of electoral divisions in Alberta remain at 83.
This resulted in 39 multi--municipality divisions, 20 Calgary divisions, 18
Edmonton divisions, two Lethbridge divisions plus one division each for Fort
McMurray, Medicine Hat, St. Albert, and Sherwood Park. Four divisions were designated
as Special Consideration Electoral Divisions and permitted to exceed the
plus/minus 25 per cent variance due to their extensive size, sparse population
density and distance from the Capital.
The recommendations of the Select
Special Committee were presented in Bill 55. It received first reading on
January 25 and second reading on February 8. Several amendments, including name
changes were passed at the Committee of the Whole stage on February 10. Bill 55
received third reading February 12 and received Royal Assent on February 16.
The new electoral boundaries have been sent to the Alberta Court of Appeal for
an advance ruling on their acceptability under the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
One of the results of this
legislation is two additional seats for the City of Calgary and one additional
seat for the city of Edmonton, the two major cities, in the province. These two
cities, which contain 54 per cent of the province's population will now have 46
per cent of the seats in Albert's 83 seat assembly. The most populous riding in
Alberta will be Edmonton--Strathcona with a population of 37,961. The least
populous will be the riding of Chinook with a population of 15,815.
Jessica Benjamin and Suresh
Mustapha, Legislative Interns
With the demise of the
Charlottetown Accord on October 26, 1992, there was no need to re--convene the
Legislature to consider the Accord. Instead, the Government could continue with
its planned legislative timetable. The Fourth Session of the Thirty--Fifth
Legislature was opened on Thursday November 26, 1992. The Speech from the
Throne was read by Chief Justice Richard Scott as Lieutenant--Governor George
Johnson had not been well enough to take part in the Opening Day
The House sat for fifteen days
before calling a Christmas recess. The Throne Speech debate lasted for the full
eight days allowed by the Rules of the House. Non--confidence amendments were
moved by the Official Opposition NDP and the Second Opposition Liberals and
were defeated. The remaining House business included the introduction and at
least first reading of twenty public bills, thirteen of which were Government
Bills. The remainder were Private Members Bills. The most controversial to date
was The Retail Businesses Sunday Shopping (Temporary Amendments) Act. The bill
retroactively amended the current Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act,
which allowed retail business with four or less employees to be open Sundays
from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., to allowing businesses with more than four employees
to also be open at the same time. This temporary change covers the time period
from November 29, 1992 until April 6, 1993.
The Official Opposition was
strongly opposed to the legislation for many reasons. A primary one was the
Government's decision to allow temporary Sunday shopping prior to passage of
the bill by the Legislature. The Leader of the Second Opposition, Sharon
Carstairs, allowed for a free vote in her caucus as she believed that it
was an issue which her caucus members should be able to vote on according to
their own conscience. However, the Liberals were also concerned because the
Government did not follow the usual legislative processes and raised this as a
Matter of Urgent Public Importance on the second day of sitting, before the
bill was introduced. Speaker Rocan ruled that the issue did not meet the
criteria for a matter of urgency. Twenty--two Members spoke to the Bill at
Second Reading and on the last day of sitting, the question was put, passed on
division and thereupon referred to a Committee of the House. The Opposition had
indicated its wish for inter--sessional committee meetings and public hearings
on the bill. This, however, has not occurred.
The House was adjourned on December
16, 1992 until March 1, 1993.
Since Manitoba's last Legislative
Report, more changes in House membership were announced. Reg Alcock
(Osborne) announced on November 12, 1992 that he will seek the Liberal
nomination for the federal riding of Winnipeg South, currently held by Progressive
Conservative MP Dorothy Dobbie. Mr. Alcock has served in the Provincial
Legislature for five years as the Liberal's Critic for Finance and Industry,
Trade and Tourism. Elijah Harper (Rupertsland), announced his resignation
on November 27, 1992. Mr. Harper, representing the aboriginal peoples'
opposition to the Meech Lake accord, became well know for his role in blocking
the consideration of the Accord in the Manitoba Legislature. He currently is
considering running in the next federal election. Judy Wasylycia--Leis
(St. Johns) announced on January 27, 1993 that she is planning to seek the NDP
nomination for the federal riding of Winnipeg North, currently held by Liberal
MP Rey Pagtakhan. Ms. Wasylycia--Leis has been the Deputy Leader of the
Provincial NDP and their Health Critic.
Despite the short sitting, it did
not take long before Members took up their adversarial roles, keeping Speaker Denis
Rocan busy maintaining order. One particularly acrimonious debate in
Question Period motivated Gerry Ducharme, Minister of Government
Services, to rise on a Mater of Privilege. Steve Ashton, Official
Opposition House Leader, accused the Minister of lobbying Cabinet Members on
behalf of insurance agents in Manitoba. Mr. Ducharme asked Mr. Ashton to
provide proof of his allegations or withdraw and apologize. After taking the
matter under advisement, Speaker Rocan ruled that the matter was not one of
privilege as it did not impinge upon Mr. Ducharme's ability to carry out his
parliamentary work. Further, the matter was raised with regard to him as a
Minister and not as a Member. Speaker Rocan, however, did rule that the
personal charge was unparliamentary and that Mr. Ashton must withdraw the
charge. He did so.
On January 22, 1993, Manitobans
received the long--awaited announcement of the appointment of a new
Lieutenant--Governor. Yvon Dumont succeeds Dr. George Johnson.
Mr. Dumont, 42 has been president of the Manitoba Metis Federation since 1984.
A respected member of his community, Mr. Dumont has been involved in advancing
the rights of his people since the 1960s. He recently came to national
prominence as one of four aboriginal leaders who worked with the First
Ministers in negotiating the Charlottetown Accord. As well, he was instrumental
in the movement to have Louis Riel recognized as a national hero in the
House of Commons. Mr. Dumont will take office on March 5, 1993.
Judy White, Clerk of Committees, Manitoba Legislative
House of Commons
From late 1992 to early 1993,
political watchers focused as much on the events occurring outside the House as
they did on those inside. A Cabinet shuffle, the sometimes vociferous debates
on several pieces of legislation and, of course, the announcement of the
upcoming resignation of the Prime Minister were but a few of the many items
that kept the media, Parliament and the public buzzing.
When the House resumed sitting on
November 16, Members proceeded with their discussions on the Immigration
Act, the Public Service Act, the Budget Implementation Act, the Patent
Act and on issues surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement. As
the sittings continued throughout December and into the new year, the House
adopted a constitutional amendment to give equal status to the English and
French linguistic communities in New Brunswick, and held a special debate
concerning the humanitarian relief efforts in Somalia.
During the Supply day debates in this
period, the Opposition called for a general election (November 20); requested
that the House reject any North American Free Trade Agreement (December 1);
stated that the Government's policy of denying unemployment insurance benefits
to workers who quit their jobs or who are dismissed is "too severe",
"too tough for people", "puts people in a desperate
situation", "goes beyond fairness", is "extremist" and
"right--wing" and is therefore unacceptable to the Canadian people
(February 3); and condemned the Government for its "…continued adherence
to is failed economic policy of trickle--down misery" (December 7); for
reneging on its commitment to Canadian farmers by having changed certain
policies (February 9); and for "…its continued failure to establish and
adhere to a clear and high standard of public sector ethics…" (February
17). Also on the financial front, the Auditor General's Annual Report
and the Auditor General's report to the Senate and House of Commons on
matters of Joint Interest were tabled, the Government gave a major economic
policy statement on December 2; and Supplementary Estimates A and B for the
fiscal year 1992--93 and Main Estimates for the fiscal year 1993--94 were
In early December 1992, Don
Boudria rose on a question of privilege concerning the matter of alleged
threats made against a witness who had appeared before the Sub--committee on
Recodification of the General Part of the Criminal Code (a Sub--committee of
the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General). On November 24,
1992, Cheryl Eckstein had appeared before the Sub--committee and during
her presentation had played a videotape of a Nazi film "I Accuse",
which portrayed euthanasia in a positive light. (This video clip had been a
part of a program entitled "Selling Murder." Based on a British
production, this program had been aired on the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation's (CBC) program The Fifth Estate.) Following her appearance
before the Sub--committee, Mrs. Eckstein had a conversation on December 3, 1992
with Kelly Chrichton, the executive producer of The Fifth Estate,
during which Ms. Chrichton explained the copyright issues involved in using
footage from the CBC's program, raised concerns about the use of a CBC program
out of context, and in association with a particular cause or point of view,
and then allegedly threatened legal action on behalf of the CBC because of the
testimony given before the committee. Mrs. Eckstein contacted Don Boudria
after her discussion with Ms. Chrichton.
In his argument before the House,
Mr. Boudria contended that witnesses before committees enjoy the same
privileges as Members of the House and are therefore accorded the temporary
protection of the House. He added that if such threats as were apparently made
against Mrs. Eckstein were left unchallenged, it could imply that witnesses
before committees could not testify without the threat of being sued or
intimidated, a security which they have had "from time immemorial".
The Member noted that the telephone call between Mrs. Eckstein and Ms.
Chrichton had been independently verified by a journalist, and concluded by
stating that because the Committee in question had adjourned its meetings for
the next few months, he would be effectively prohibited from raising this matter
in committee. Two other Members of the House also rose to speak on the matter,
one of whom argued that the central item at issue could be seen as one of
copyright, and that this matter should be reviewed by the Standing Committee on
House Management. Following the discussion, the Speaker ruled that there
appeared to be a prima facie breach of privilege, and added that while
matters arising from committee are normally referred back to the committee,
"…my own feeling is that under the circumstances which have been explained
to me that is not the convenient or appropriate thing to do at this time."
He invited Mr. Boudria to move the appropriate motion, and with the agreement
of the House, the matter of the threats made against Mrs. Eckstein was referred
to the Standing Committee on House Management.
The Committee heard testimony from
Mr. Boudria, Mrs. Eckstein and Ms. Chrichton and, as was noted in its report
tabled in the House on February 18, 1993, much of the testimony related to the
question of the copyright of video materials. The report explained the role and
importance of parliamentary privilege with regard to witnesses before
committees, and concluded with the following observations:
In her testimony, Ms. Chrichton
acknowledged the right of Mrs. Eckstein to say whatever she wanted to the
Sub--committee. The Committee concludes that at the time of the telephone
conversation Ms. Chrichton and her advisors were unaware of the law of
Parliament regarding the protection of witnesses before parliamentary committees.
The Committee is concerned that this lack of knowledge may have influenced the
In order to abrogate parliamentary
privilege, an express provision in a statute is necessary. As the Copyright
Act contains no mention that it applies to the House of Commons, it can be
concluded that the Act does not apply to parliamentary proceedings, and that a
Member or a witness may quote a work without first obtaining permission of the
holder of the copyright. Another way of viewing the matter is to say that the
usual remedies available for breach of copyright are not available in the case
of parliamentary proceedings. (This would be in addition to the normal defences
to charges of copyright violation, such as fair dealing.) It would be useful
for Members and witnesses to acknowledge the source of materials that they use,
and to give full credit to the authors or creators.
The Committee acknowledges the
concerns of the CBC and Ms. Crichton regarding the journalistic integrity of
their work. At the same time, it appears that they may have been over--zealous
in asserting these concerns in the present case. It is important that the
rights of Parliament be acknowledged, and that witnesses not be
"chilled" by the prospect of legal action over their use of copyrighted
There is not sufficient evidence in
this case that intimidation of a witness occurred such as to justify a finding
of contempt of Parliament. We believe that the appearance of the witness before
the committee was a salutary exercise and provided an opportunity for the
parties to explain their actions and motivations.
The Committee believes that Mrs.
Eckstein was entirely correct to bring this matter to the attention of Mr.
Boudria, and we wish to express our thanks to Mr. Boudria for raising the
question of privilege. It has provided us with an opportunity to reiterate the
general principles regarding interference with witnesses appearing before
parliamentary committees. This is a very serious matter. It is important to the
functioning of Parliament, and of parliamentary committees, that witnesses not
be intimidated or interfered with in any way whatsoever. It is important that
organizations such as the CBC understand and respect parliamentary privilege
insofar as it relates to witnesses.
The committee recommends that the
Speaker write to the CBC and to Ms. Crichton advising them of the contents of
this report. (Standing Committee on House Management, Sixty--fifth Report, Minutes
of Proceedings and Evidence, February 18, 1993, Issue 46:10)
The report was concurred in on
February 25, 1993.
Broadcasting issues also formed
part of another House Management Committee report, this one dealing with the
broadcasting of House of Commons proceedings. In its 57th Report, tabled on
December 4, the Committee commented on the positive responses to the
experimental camera angle guidelines which had been used for a few months, and
noted the importance of the continued monitoring and study by the Committee of
the broadcasting of proceedings. Accordingly, the Committee recommended that
the House continue to use the new wider camera angles in the broadcasting of
Question Period and the taking of divisions, and that the Standing Committee on
House Management continue to monitor and work with the broadcasting staff of
the House of Commons to produce a more accurate visual image of the House. The
Committee concluded by requesting that these recommendations be adopted as the
permanent practice of the House of Commons. The report was concurred in on December
The House Management Committee also
presented its 55th and 56th reports, which recommended, respectively, changes
to committee memberships for certain standing committees and changes to the
list of Members at Large for the Economics Envelope. The presentation of the
reports on November 27 was followed by the adoption of a motion of the House to
permit, notwithstanding any special or Standing Order of the House, the
incumbent chairmen and vice--chairmen of the committees to continue in office until
the committees concerned order otherwise. In cases where the chairman and/or
vice--chairman ceased to be members of a committee as a result of concurrence
in the report, the committee would, of course, proceed to the election of a new
chairman as its first order of business, and to the election of new
vice--chairmen as the committee deems necessary.
Other committee activities which
received considerable attention over this period include the Standing Committee
on Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Government Operations' comprehensive
review of the Lobbyist Registration Act and the examination of violence
on television by the Standing Committee on Communications and Culture. The
activity of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations was
also noteworthy. In its Sixth Report, tabled on November 19, the Committee
recommended the disallowance of a controversial 1990 Public Works Nuisance
Regulation which made it an offence for any person to demonstrate, make a
disruptive noise or distribute literature within 50 metres of any entrance to
any parliamentary building during the work week. Under the rules of the House,
the recommendation to disallow the regulation would become an Order of the
House unless it was contested within 15 sitting days. On February 1, 1993, Derek
Lee, Co--chairman of the Committee, notified the House that, as the
recommendation had not been contested, the Committee's report would be
concurred in and the regulation consequently revoked.
On February 13, 1992, the Report of
the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing was tabled in the
House. The following day, the House of Commons adopted a motion to establish an
eight--Member Special Committee to undertake a comprehensive review of this report.
On December 11, 1992, the Committee tabled its first report on the subject of
electoral reform. In it, the Committee outlined a three phase plan for its
study of the issues involved in the Report of the Royal Commission, and noted
that its first phase study had culminated in the draft bill to reform the Canada
Elections Act, which was included in the report. The amendments suggested
by the bill dealt primarily with activities undertaken by Elections Canada
prior to and on election day. Specifically, the Committee recommended changes
in systems to make it easier for Canadians to be put on the list of electors,
and to make the act of voting accessible to more Canadians. The second phase of
the Committee's study will deal with matters to be changed before the next
election, and will include an examination of issues such as broadcasting,
disclosure of information in public opinion polls, third party advertising,
decriminalization of certain election offenses and election campaign financing
on both a local and national level. Finally, phase three of the Committee's
study will focus on long--range changes to the system which, while they may not
be in place in time for the next election, are equally important. Notably, this
phase will include study of the assignment of seats to provinces, the drawing
of constituency boundaries, measures to increase the number of female
candidates and the establishment of Aboriginal constituencies. On February 22,
1993, the Government introduced Bill C--114, An Act to amend the Canada
Elections Act, which was based on the recommendations of the Royal
Commission and the report of the Committee. The Act as it is now written
includes provisions to place limits on the amount individuals and groups can
spend to promote a politician or a party; extends the four--week blackout on
political party advertising at the beginning of a campaign and in the final 48
hours to include independent advocacy groups, whether they directly or
indirectly refer to a candidate or party; and places a ban on the publication
and broadcasting of polls for the final 72 hours of the election campaign.
Several other legislative
initiatives also kept the media and parliamentarians occupied. Bills C--113, An
Act to provide for government expenditure restraint (the bill which
eliminates unemployment insurance payments for those who voluntarily quit their
jobs without cause); C--110, An Act respecting the Northumberland Strait
Crossing (the bill which sets in motion the procedures for the fixed link
between Prince Edward Island and the Mainland); and C--115, An Act to
implement the North American Free Trade Agreement were introduced during
this period. The following bills were passed by the House and are now being
studied by the Senate: C--69, Criminal Code Act amendment (air and maritime
safety); C--76, Budget Implementation (fiscal measures) Act, 1992;
C--79, An Act to amend the Divorce Act and the Family Order and Agreements
Enforcement Assistance Act; C--88, Copyright Act amendment; C--99, Small
Business Loans Act amendment; and C--111, Tobacco Sales to Young Persons
Members of the House
Events and announcements of the
last few months have brought and will bring changes to the face of the House of
Commons. In the Government caucus, Jim Edwards replaced Jim Hawkes
as Chief Government Whip and Charles Langlois assumed the duties of
Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader. In early January 1993,
a Cabinet shuffle changed the portfolios of several ministers. In late
February, former Prime Minister and current Minister Responsible for
Constitutional Affairs, Joe Clark, announced that he will not seek
re--election. And, most notably, on February 24, the Prime Minister, Brian
Mulroney, announced that he will resign as Prime Minister after a successor
is chosen in a leadership convention. The convention is scheduled to be held in
Ottawa from June 9--13, 1993.
In the House of Commons itself, Catherine
Callbeck, MP for Malpeque, resigned her seat upon her election as leader of
the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party, and her consequent swearing in as
Premier of the province. More recently, the House was saddened by the passing
away of North Vancouver MP, Chuck Cook, who died of cancer on February
23. By--elections to fill the vacancies for the constituencies of Shefford,
Quebec (held by former Bloc Québécois Member, Jean Lapierre) and
Malpeque will be held on October 25, unless, of course, a general election
precedes them. No by--election date has yet been set for the North Vancouver
riding. Party standings in the House as of March 8, 1993 were: Progressive
Conservative, 157; Liberal, 80; New Democratic Party, 44; Other (including Bloc
Québécois, Reform Party and Independent Conservative members), 11; and
Barbara Whittaker, Procedural Clerk, Table Research Branch