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House of Commons
The sittings of the House of
Commons between March 8, 1993 and the end of April may have been few in number,
but were nonetheless more procedurally eventful than many of the other, more
lengthy blocks of sittings during this session. Time allocation was used
several times, the Speaker ruled two items to be prima facie cases of
privilege, a Member was named, committee witnesses were expelled and their
testimony expunged, the House Management Committee tabled its report on
parliamentary reform, the Finance Minister brought down probably the last
budget of this Parliament, and, pursuant to the provisions of the Parliament
of Canada Act, the Board of Internal Economy tabled by-laws to govern the
functioning of the House of Commons.
From a procedural perspective, the
proceedings of the House connected with the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) were indeed extraordinary. During Question Period on March 24, 1993, David
Barrett stated that the Government had "lied" about the work of a
committee studying the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Member repeated
the remark several times, but despite numerous requests from the Speaker that
the comment be withdrawn, Mr. Barrett refused to do so. After discussion about
respect for the institutions and rules of Parliament, Speaker Fraser stated
that he had no option but to "name" the Member. Mr. Barrett
consequently withdrew from the House for the rest of the day. This was the
first instance since his September 1986 election as Speaker that Mr. Fraser had
named a Member.
On the following day, March 25, the
item scheduled for debate was the second reading stage of the NAFTA bill.
During Routine Proceedings, a motion was moved to proceed to Orders of the Day,
the effect of which would be to move directly to begin the debate on Bill
C-115, An Act to implement the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Having put the question on the motion and having heard no opposition raised,
the Deputy Speaker (Andrée Champagne) declared the motion carried.
Several Members then intervened to say that they had in fact voiced their opposition,
but the Chair had not heard them. They subsequently requested that another vote
be taken on the motion. After several minutes of discussion, during which the
Minister of Finance began his speech over a background of repeated shouts of
"Point of Order", the Deputy Speaker ruled that the vote had been
taken definitively and declared the matter closed.
Less than one week later, the
Government invoked time allocation on the second reading debate of the NAFTA
legislation. Bill Blaikie rose on a point of order and requested that
the Speaker refuse to put the question on the time allocation motion, because
sufficient debate had not yet been held on the bill. After considerable
discussion in the House, the Speaker ruled on March 31 that the Government had
followed the rules in place regarding the procedure, and stated: "I have
to advise the House that the rule is clear. I cannot find any lawful way that I
can exercise a discretion which would unilaterally break a very specific
rule." Consequently, the question was put on the motion, and it was
adopted. The debate on the second reading of the bill continued for the rest of
the sitting, and at the end of the day the House adopted the motion for second
reading and referral to a committee.
Another event which received
considerable attention over this period concerned the proceedings of the
Legislative Committee on Bill C-113, the Government Expenditure Restraint
Act. On March 11, NDP MP Cid Samson rose on a question of privilege
to bring to the House's attention events which had occurred in the committee
the day before. On March 10, Mr. Samson explained, a representative of the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had appeared
before the committee. During his appearance, the witness made comments to which
several members took objection, and following the refusal of the witness to
heed the requests of members to withdraw the remarks, the committee agreed to a
motion to expel the witness and to expunge his testimony from the record. Mr.
Samson argued that the committee had taken actions beyond its authority because
the testimony of witnesses before committees is privileged; because the
correction of the record, which is within the power of the committee, cannot
extend to the expunging of whole sections of the verbatim transcript, and
because a majority of the committee's members had acted to silence the witness.
Mr. Samson then asked that the motion to expunge the testimony be declared null
and void, that the testimony in question be restored to the record, or
alternatively that the witness be invited to appear again before the committee,
that a declaration be made that "the destruction or expunging of a record
of a committee is unacceptable, unparliamentary and a breach of our privileges
as Members of Parliament", and that the question of the conduct of certain
members of the committee be referred to the appropriate committee for proper
After hearing comments from the
Chairman and other members of the committee, the Speaker reserved his ruling.
On March 16, the Speaker ruled. Prefacing his remarks with a comment about the
Chair's reluctance to interfere with the proceedings of a committee except in
certain exceptional cases, the Speaker dealt with each of the objections raised
and ultimately ruled that the actions taken by the committee were within its
powers. The event, therefore, did not constitute a question of privilege.
While several other questions of
privilege were also raised during this period, only two were ruled to be prima
facie cases by the Speaker. On February 24, Derek Lee rose on a
question of privilege to argue that the government was in contempt of
Parliament for not having tabled an Order in Council by the time specified in
the provisions of the Customs Tariff. He also noted that he had raised a
similar argument in 1992 on the very same matter. The next day, the document in
question was tabled. On a related question of privilege, Lloyd Axworthy
rose March 29 and stated that the Government had not tabled a response to a
report of the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade
within 150 days, as requested by the committee in accordance with the Standing
On April 19, the Speaker ruled on
both matters. Stating that the eventual tabling of the Order in Council
"does not correct the situation or resolve the fundamental problem",
the Speaker explained that procedures outlined in orders of the House and in
laws passed by the House must be respected because "…Members cannot function
if they do not have access to the material they need for their work and if our
rules are being ignored and even statutory instruments are being
disregarded". He then ruled that in his opinion the House should have an
opportunity to examine the matter of late tabling of items and ruled that there
was a prima facie case of privilege. Mr. Lee was then given leave to
move the following motion: "That the matter of the non-observance of the
tabling requirements for Order in Council PC1992-2715 and other documents in
the House of Commons be referred to the Standing Committee on House
Management." The motion was adopted and the matter is currently before the
The second item ruled to be a prima
facie case of privilege concerned remarks made by Bloc Québécois Member Benoît
Tremblay about one of the Presiding Officers of the House, Charles
On March 16, Gilles Bernier
rose on a question of privilege to bring to the attention of the House an
article in a local newspaper, the Beauport Express, in which Mr. Tremblay
was quoted as having said "Charles DeBlois, one of the acting speakers of
the House, is a party to collusion to restrict our party's right to speak in
Ottawa". Since Mr. Tremblay was absent the day the issue was raised, the
Speaker reserved on the matter until the time that Mr. Tremblay could speak to
it. The next week, Mr. Tremblay explained his remarks and noted that what he
had meant was that in accepting a position as a Presiding Officer, Mr. DeBlois
had accepted to apply the rules of the House which did not confer on the Bloc
Québécois official party status.
The Speaker requested that the
Member withdraw the remarks unequivocally, but Mr. Tremblay did not do so,
instead continuing to explain that he had not meant to question the
impartiality of Mr. DeBlois. The Speaker eventually ruled that the remarks
called into question the dignity of the House and found that there was a prima
facie case of privilege. A motion to refer the matter to the House
Management Committee, moved by Mr. Bernier, was then put to the House and
adopted. Two days later, Mr. Tremblay rose in the House and unequivocally
withdrew the remarks about Mr. DeBlois.
Two significant items concerning
the internal functioning of the House of Commons were tabled during this
period. The Standing Committee on House Management presented its Eighty-First
report, in which it made recommendations for some substantial reforms to the
existing rules and practices. Specifically, the committee recommended that new
guidelines be established for Question Period, including the adoption of a
modified roster system for Ministers; that there be added to the proceedings a
one-hour question and answer period for a Minister to be held outside the
regular hours of the House; that the Standing Orders be amended to provide for
special debates on current events; and that the current legislative process be
modified in several ways: bills would go to a committee for examination after
first reading, not second reading; legislation (except for supply bills and
bills of an urgent nature) would be introduced at least three months before the
Government requested adoption; and the process for obtaining Royal
Recommendations for bills, and the Royal Assent ceremony would be changed.
The committee also suggested that
the procedures governing Private Members' Business and the adjournment
proceedings be modified; that two additional Presiding Officers (for a total of
six) be chosen and that two of these six Officers be chosen from the Opposition
ranks; that there be a new Standing Joint Committee on the Library of
Parliament; that the Board of Internal Economy develop proposals for
wrap-around programming for parliamentary channel to be reviewed by the
Standing Committee on House Management; that the Speaker be given more discretion
regarding the choice of individuals who would make Members' Statements; that
the Speaker be the one to decide whether or not time allocation or closure was
appropriate in a particular circumstance; and that Members be allowed to make
statements for a portion of the time employed during a 30-minute division bell.
This report has not yet been concurred in.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Parliament
of Canada Act, the Board of Internal Economy tabled on April 19, 1993 the
first set of by-laws for the House of Commons, which detail among other things
the rules regarding members' allowances, services and rights, the jurisdiction
of House Officers, and the services to be provided to parties.
On the financial front, on April 26
Finance Minister Don Mazankowski brought down what could likely be the
last budget of this Parliament. The House also debated several supply day
motions, including those condemning the government for "its abandonment of
aboriginal families and children" (March 10); for "policies regarding
jobs and job creation, post-secondary education and job training and retraining
that are having the effect of robbing a whole generation of young Canadians of
their legitimate aspirations" (March 18), "for its policies that have
stifled economic growth, destroyed Canadian jobs and exacerbated the
recession" (March 22); "for policies which have decimated the economy
forcing company closures resulting in job losses for Canadian workers"
(April 22); and for the "lack of leadership, the evasion of accountability
and responsibility and the inadequate credibility of the Minister of National
Defence that have exposed members of the Canadian Forces on difficult and
sensitive peace-keeping missions to unnecessary vulnerability and that
contribute to the gravity of national fiscal problems by her persisting in the
acquisition of enormously expensive equipment designed for missions no longer
contemplated" (April 29).
In yet another supply day motion it
was moved that the House recognize the Government's economic plan, including
the Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Goods
and Services Tax, as a failure (March 15). Supplementary Estimates (C) 1992-93
and Interim Supply for the fiscal year 1993-94 were also adopted during this
On the legislative front, a Special
Joint Committee of the House of Commons and the Senate was established to study
Bill C-116, Conflict of Interest of Public Office Holders Act. The
following bills were passed by the House of Commons at third reading: C-73, Canada
Post Corporation Act amendment, which contains provisions to allow Canada
Post to create an employee share ownership plan for its 57,000 employees; C-83,
Carriage of Goods by Water Act; C-92, An Act to amend the Income Tax
Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act,
the Tax Rebate Discounting Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act and certain
related Acts, which implements a number of changes first announced in the
February 1992 budget; C-93, Budget Implementation (Government Organization)
Act, 1992 which winds up and/or transfers to existing or new government
institutions the functions of such bodies as the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council, the Agricultural Products Board, Enterprise Cape Breton
Corporation, Emergency Preparedness Canada, the Petroleum Marketing Agency, and
the office of the Director, Veterans' Land Act, and which merges the functions
of such agencies as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police External Review Committee
and the RCMP Public Complaints Commission into an Independent Review Commission
for the RCMP, and the functions the Canadian International Trade Tribunal and
the Procurement Review Board into an International Trade and Procurement
Tribunal; C-97, Marine Insurance Act; C-102, An Act to amend the
Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Customs Act, the
Criminal Code and a related Act which includes measures developed to deal
with cross-border shopping, tobacco smuggling and tobacco tax evasion; C-114, Canada
Elections Act amendment, which, among other things, changes several of the
current voting rules to allow more Canadians to exercise their voting rights,
limits third party advertising, prohibits the publication of opinion surveys 72
hours before election day and places more stringent requirements on candidate
nominations; C-117, Borrowing Authority Act, 1993-94; C-371, National
Child Day Act; S-8, Motor Vehicle Safety Act and S-17, Intellectual
Property Law Improvement Act. The following items received Royal Assent between
March 8 and April 30: C-69, Criminal Code 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, which contains provisions to assist people in
collecting family support payments; C-95, Farm Credit Corporation Act;
C-99, Small Business Loans Act amendment; C-104, Saskatchewan Treaty
Land Entitlement Act; C-111, Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act, which
makes it illegal to sell cigarettes to those under the age of 18; C-113, Government
Expenditure Restraint Act, No. 2, 1993; C-119, Appropriation Act No. 4,
1992-1993; and C-120, Appropriation Act No. 1, 1993-1994.
Barbara Whittaker, Procedural Clerk, Table Research Branch
The First Session of British
Columbia's Thirty-fifth Legislature was prorogued on the morning of March 18,
1993. It was a busy session, running for 112 days, during which 95 bills were
introduced. Of these, 83 were passed - 81 public bills and 2 private bills.
Legislative highlights included the Freedom of Information and Protection of
Privacy Act and a new Labour Relations Code.
The opening of the Second Session
had an unexpected interruption on the afternoon of March 18, 1993.
Approximately two hundred protesters occupied the Parliament Buildings and
broke into the chamber, interrupting the Lieutenant Governor's delivery of the
Speech from the Throne. The group eventually agreed to leave the buildings and
the proceedings continued after an hour and a half delay.
On March 19, 1993 David Mitchell
rose on a matter of privilege. He stated that the incident on opening day
constituted a serious contempt of Parliament and asked the Speaker to make a
ruling on the matter. On March 24, 1993, Speaker Joan Sawicki ruled that
the events of March 18, 1993 did amount to a prima facie case of breach
of privilege. Her decision was based in part upon Section 5 of the Legislative
Assembly Privilege Act in which breach of privilege is defined as actions
which "obstruct, threaten or attempt to force or intimidate members of the
Following this decision, Mr.
Mitchell moved a motion that recognized the rights of Parliament, condemned the
abuse of those rights, and authorized the Legislative Assembly to take further
action with respect to the interference of proceedings on March 18.
The Government House Leader, Moe
Sihota, condemned the actions of the protesters and reaffirmed the
government's commitment to making the Legislature open and accessible to all
British Columbians. He recommended that the Assembly await the results of the
police investigation into the incident before taking further action. The House
Leader of the Official Opposition, Jeremy Dalton, endorsed the comments
of the Government House Leader. The motion was adopted by the Legislative
In the Speech from the Throne, the
Harcourt government outlined the challenges it faces in the coming year. These
include controlling spending growth, capping the deficit, reforming the health
care system, building a sustainable economy, and resolving land use conflicts.
The government restated its commitment to the provision of vital services,
especially health care and education.
The 1993 budget was introduced in
the House by the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations, Glen Clark
on March 30, 1993. Spending on social services was increased by 17 per cent
over last year; education 3 per cent; health care 4.2 per cent; and debt
servicing 18 per cent.
The Premier and Cabinet Ministers
have taken a 5 per cent pay cut, and the 1992 freeze on MLAs salaries will be
continued. In addition, seven government boards and commissions and five
percent of all senior management positions will be eliminated. The provincial
sales tax is being increased one percentage point to 7 percent and applied to
more items and services. Tobacco, fuel and corporate taxes on large
corporations are also increasing. The personal income tax surtax for those
earning more than $60,000 will increase in January, 1994. Low income families
will receive a sales tax credit, and be exempt from an increase in medical
A multi-year plan to invest in and
improve the province's economy was announced prior to release of the budget.
The plan, titled BC 21, was introduced in the House as Bill 3, The Build BC
Act. Its aim is to promote projects that build infrastructure such as
highways, schools, and health care centres; target government investment to
regions hardest hit by the economic downturn; and invest new expenditures to
develop innovative approaches to investment and job creation.
In response to the Speech from the
Throne and the Budget, the interim Leader of the Official Opposition, Fred
Gingell, was critical of the proposed tax increases. He stated that taxpayers
are unwilling to pay more in taxes when the government is not making
significant cuts in its spending. He reprimanded the government for not having
a long-term economic strategy and cutting spending to the wealth-creating
ministries such as Agriculture; Economic Development, Small Business and Trade;
and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
The Leader of the Third Party, Jack
Weisgerber, was also critical of the Speech from the Throne and the Budget.
He attacked the government for providing teachers, health care workers and
government employees with wage increases.
On March 25, 1993, the Special
Committee of Selection tabled its report and thirteen Select Standing
Committees were appointed. Seven committees had been active during the First
Session, six of which had not completed their work by prorogation. These issues
were re-referred in the Second Session.
The Select Standing Committee on
Health and Social Services was authorized to recommend regulations concerning
the sale of tobacco products to minors. The Committee conducted four public
meetings and heard from eighteen witnesses representing anti-smoking groups and
retailers. Sixty-two written submissions were received from doctors, boards of
health, and many concerned citizens. The Chair of the Committee, David
Schreck, tabled the Committee's report on March 26, 1993. It recommended
that the minimum age for purchasing tobacco be raised to eighteen years, and
that cigarette packages contain a minimum of twenty cigarettes. The penalties
for non-compliance by vendors includes suspension of the tobacco licence and a
maximum fine of $100,000.
The Select Standing Committee on
Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills is
examining the results of the October, 1991 British Columbia referendum and
determining whether recall and initiative processes would be appropriate for
this province. In the fall of 1992, the Committee heard from academics who
specialize in direct democracy and electoral reform and examined the use of
recall and initiative in other jurisdictions. The Committee also began an
extensive schedule of public meetings. To date, the Committee has received 165
written submissions and 205 verbal presentations.
The Select Standing Committee on
Aboriginal Affairs is conducting a review of the First Citizens' Fund Loan
Program. The Program, established in 1988, offers loans with a fifty percent
deferred contribution to Aboriginal entrepreneurs wanting to establish or
expand a small business. After familiarizing themselves with the Loan Program
and issues relating to Aboriginal economic development, the Committee members
travelled to the province's eight economic development regions to consult with
Aboriginal leaders and entrepreneurs, clients of the program, and staff from
its delivery agencies. The Committee has heard from approximately 130 witnesses
and received 88 written submissions. It is expected to submit a report to the
Legislative Assembly in May, 1993.
The Select Standing Committee on
Forests, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources is examining the issue of lumber
supply to remanufacturers. After touring a number of remanufacturing plants in
British Columbia and Washington State, the Committee held eleven public
hearings throughout the province. One hundred and thirty-eight witnesses,
representing both major forest companies and remanufacturers, appeared before
the Committee and 131 written submissions were received. The Committee is
expected to submit a report to the Legislative Assembly in June, 1993.
The Select Standing Committee on
Economic Development, Science, Labour, Training and Technology is examining the
implications of the North American Free Trade Agreement for British Columbia
and Canada. During an initial round of hearings, the Committee heard
presentations from academics, public interest groups, and representatives of
business and labour. The Committee's first report was tabled in the Legislative
Assembly on April 29, 1993. It contained some preliminary observations and
questions for further discussion. Thirteen public hearings are scheduled to be
held throughout the province in April and May and a final report is expected to
be presented to the House in June, 1993.
The Special Committee to Appoint an
Information and Privacy Commissioner has been authorized to select and
unanimously recommend to the Legislative Assembly, the appointment of British
Columbia's first Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Committee received
222 applications and will be conducting interviews in May. A report
recommending the successful candidate is expected to be tabled in June, 1993.
The Select Standing Committee on
Justice, Constitutional Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations has been
authorized to examine the report of the 1992 Compensation Advisory Committee
and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly regarding the fixing of
salaries for judges of the Provincial Court. The Committee is expected to table
its report in June, 1993.
The Select Standing Committee on
Public Accounts has been authorized to examine the 1993 Annual Report of the
Auditor General. Specific topics for consideration include Crown Societies, the
purchase of Environmental Laboratory Services by the Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks, and three value-for-money audits conducted by the Ministry of
Social Services. The Committee is expected to table its report in June, 1993.
The mid-year Executive Committee
meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was held in Victoria from
March 28 to April 3, 1993. Twenty-six delegates from seventeen Commonwealth
countries attended the meeting. The delegates discussed the importance of
promoting mutual co-operation among Commonwealth countries and international
agencies when addressing economic, social, environmental and human rights
issues. The Executive Committee also set the agenda for the 39th Commonwealth
Parliamentary Conference to be held in Limassol, Cyprus from September 3-11,
1993. The meetings were productive and the delegates enjoyed the opportunity to
visit the host city of the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
Adrienne Cossom, Committee Researcher, Office of the Clerk of
The National Assembly resumed
deliberations on March 9, 1993, pursuant to the Standing Orders. On the first sitting
day the Leader of the Official Opposition, Guy Chevrette, advised the
Chair of his intention to rise on a question of privilege. The alleged contempt
of the Assembly consisted in the failure by twenty-one ministries and
government agencies to report to the Assembly on their activities by the
deadline stipulated in their respective constituent acts, thereby not only
breaking the law but also depriving the Members of the Assembly of information
to which they are entitled.
After taking the question under
advisement, Speaker, Jean-Pierre Saintonge, ruled it in order several
days later, noting that there was a prima facie case of contempt. He
pointed out when announcing his decision that for the Assembly to rule on the
substance of the question, the Member who had alleged the breach of privilege
must present a notice of motion for each separate instance, stating the grounds
and the name of the person whose conduct was at issue. Twenty-one priority
notices of motion appeared on the Order Paper for March 17, standing in
the name of the Opposition House Leader, to be debated the following day.
The first day was devoted to a
lengthy procedural debate on whether the motions were in order. The Speaker
informed the Assembly that a private ruling had been handed down in the
presence of the House Leaders setting out conditions for the consideration of
the twenty-one motions. The conditions were as follows: Each instance had to be
the subject of one motion, which could be neither amended nor divided and which
could not call for any penalty. Penalties, if any, would be determined by the
Assembly, taking into account the recommendations of the National Assembly
Committee. The mover of the motion and the person named were each to be given
twenty minutes to speak, after which the Committee would be convened by the
Speaker to enquire into the matter. It would hold one enquiry into all the
alleged instances of contempt. The Assembly would vote on the Committee's
report and then on each of the motions, and finally on motions proposing
penalties, if any.
After an agreement was reached
among the House Leaders on how to organize the proceedings on the motions, they
were considered as follows: Mr Chevrette, as the mover, was allowed to speak
for twenty minutes to introduce all the motions. Then the Assembly met in
Committee of the Whole to consider each of the motions, in the presence of the
Minister concerned. When debate ended, Mr Chevrette introduced a non-amendable
motion in place of a conclusion and recommendation. The Assembly concluded the
matter by adopting the report of the Committee of the Whole and Mr Chevrette's
motion reiterating the importance for parliamentarians of timely access to all
information on the activities of ministries and government agencies.
Three issues are of special concern
to the government and have occupied a dominant place in the proceedings so far:
First, the language question. The
Quebec government has until December 31, 1993, to decide whether or not it will
renew for another five years the invocation of the Constitution's
"notwithstanding" clause that permits Bill 178 to limit the use of a
language other than French on commercial signs. In the course of the
deliberations the government plans to examine the findings of the United
Nations Human Rights Committee, the official text of which will be published in
May. The UN Committee apparently found that Bill 178 violated the freedom of
expression guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. Another aspect to be considered is access to English-language schools
for immigrant children.
Negotiations with public sector
employees. The President of the provincial Treasury Board is suggesting, among
other things, a two-year wage freeze for civil servants.
The economy. In Question Period
there has been reaction from all sides on the federal budget, and varying
degrees of disquiet have been expressed about the debt load and the high
Spring in Quebec is not just the
season of tulips. Like the rest of Canada, it is also the season when the
government's proposed spending comes under scrutiny. On March 24 the President
of the provincial Treasury Board, Daniel Johnson, tabled estimates for
1993-94 of $41,087,000.00. This is an increase of 0.9 per cent over last year.
Only the debt and the income security sector have gone up: spending on health
care, social services, education and all other programs has gone down.
Among other topics arousing
considerable interest during Question Period has been the current restructuring
at the Ministry of Transport, the result of transferring some 33,000 kilometres
of highway from the Ministry to local municipalities, which will now be
responsible for maintaining them.
The legislation to reform
post-secondary education is the most important legislation introduced so far
during this part of the session. Two major bills have been brought in, amending
or repealing a number of statutes on institutions of higher education, such as
cégeps, private colleges and universities.
The first of these two bills would
set up a board to study the evaluation of post-secondary education. Its mandate
would be to examine educational institutions' policies on evaluating learning
The second would amend the General
and Vocational Colleges Act, especially with respect to cégeps' internal
organization. It would explicitly authorize cégeps to get involved in applied
research, provision of technical assistance to business, technological
innovation, regional development and international co-operation, and it would
also empower the government to establish curricula for the cégeps.
The intention is to make changes at
the secondary level as well, to ensure consistency and continuity in Quebec's
education system and eliminate duplication.
Lastly, a highlight of the session
so far has been the return to parliamentary activity of Premier, Robert
Bourassa, after a convalescence of several months during which the Deputy
Premier, Lise Bacon, assumed leadership of the government in his stead.
Nancy Ford and Jean Bédard, Assembly Secretariat
The fall session was cut short by
the referendum campaign, but in December the National Assembly gave six of its
eight committees general mandates to hold hearings and adjourned its work,
leaving the committees considerable scope for activity.
The result was that even though the
Assembly was not sitting, the period from February 1 to April 15 was extremely
busy for the committees. They held no fewer than 93 sittings, of which 49 were
hearings and another eight were special inquiries.
As usual, the Land Use and
Infrastructure Committee wasted no time in idleness, despite the fact that it
had not been given a general mandate to hold hearings. It set aside four
sittings to consider five private bills on municipal matters, five further
sittings for a financial review, and one sitting for consultations on the
future of the regions. With respect to public bills, the Committee completed
its consideration of Bill 56, amending the Act respecting land use
planning and development, an undertaking it had begun in December.
Consultations were held as part of the consideration process. Bill 56 proposes
a number of changes to the Act in particular its environmental provisions.
The Committee also considered
Bill 62, amending the Act respecting transportation by taxi. The aim of the
Bill is to regulate services of transportation by taxi and limousine more
appropriately, and to clarify the conditions under which transportation
provided by volunteers in the context of charitable activities is exempt from
the Act's provisions. Consideration of the Bill involved hearing from invited
Lastly, the Committee approved
Bill 75, abolishing the Société d'aménagement de l'Outaouais. Its powers and
role will now be entrusted to the Communauté urbaine de l'Outaouais.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and
Food Committee devoted one sitting to a financial review and at another
approved two bills: Bill 76, amending the Agricultural Products, Marine
Products and Food Act and repealing the Act respecting the bread trade, and Bill 69, amending the Animal Health
Protection Act. The latter Bill deals mainly with domestic animals and
animals kept in captivity.
The Social Affairs Committee
wrapped up hearings on alternative therapies in early March. It received 86
briefs, of which 33 were presented in the course of four hearings. The
Committee had three aspects to consider: professional recognition of certain
alternative therapists (and mechanisms for recognizing therapists without
professional status); informing the public; and the contribution of the public
health-care system to the development of alternative approaches. Appearing
before the Committee were proponents of traditional medicine and methods,
supporters and practitioners of new, so-called "alternative"
therapies, and consumers' rights groups.
The Committee then went on to
consider a bill making a number of amendments to Quebec's pension plan. Among
them are eligibility to receive a surviving spouse's pension, division of a
retirement pension between the beneficiary and his or her spouse, and new
conditions governing duration of eligibility to pay disability insurance
premiums. This Bill, which has 112 clauses, was the subject of special hearings
so that it could be approved with amendments in three sittings. The Committee
then carried out a financial review, and held consultations on the Hôtel-Dieu
Hospital in Montreal.
One of the notable activities
during this period was the hearings on the funding of public services. The
mandate to hold the hearings had been given to the Budget and Administration
Committee on December 2, and it devoted eleven sittings to the process
(February 2-18). One of the unique features of the process was that three
Ministers had been designated members of the Committee: the Minister of
Finance, the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Revenue. The
Committee received 82 briefs and invited 73 of the people or groups responsible
for them to appear before the Committee and say what they thought the system
needed and what the public expected (and was prepared to be taxed to pay for)
in the way of services.
The Committee was also the scene of
an unusual occurrence for the National Assembly, when it considered and
approved a public bill introduced by a backbencher. This was Bill 198, An
Act respecting limitations on hiring by government agencies and the
accountability of civil servants and managers of public agencies.
Consideration of this Bill began on December 15, and six further sittings were required
for it to be approved as amended. The Bill's purpose is to restrict the
replacement of employees of the government or of public agencies who leave
their jobs. It provides for a 20-per-cent reduction in managerial staff and
would make senior civil servants accountable for their duties and mandates to
committees of the Assembly.
The Committee also began
consideration of a bill amending the Taxation Act, held a sitting to
study the Auditor General's Report, carried out a financial review, and held
consultations on tobacco smuggling and illicit tobacco sales.
The Cultural Affairs Committee also
held hearings on a bill that has aroused considerable protest and just as much
expectation. This was Bill 68 on the protection of personal information in the private
sector. Its main purpose is to establish rules governing personal information
gathered and kept by private-sector enterprises, based on the provisions of
Quebec's Civil Code regarding protection of personal information. The
Committee received 41 briefs and heard 38 of them presented in the course of
six sittings. It goes without saying that the Bill was opposed by financial
institutions, insurance companies and credit bureaus, while consumer protection
and civil rights groups supported it, and even called for certain provisions to
The Education Committee started
this period with a financial review and by considering and approving a bill
amending the Act respecting the accreditation and financing of students'
associations. The Act allows for the accreditation of individual
associations, or a federation of associations, at a university, depending on
whether the students concerned are undergraduates, graduates or continuing
The Committee also held eight
hearings under its general mandate. The subject was a draft bill amending the Professional
Code, and the Committee heard from 55 of the 60 people and groups who
submitted briefs. The draft bill is designed to strengthen and accelerate the
process for handling complaints from the public by the disciplinary committees
of professional associations. The handling of sexual abuse and harassment
complaints by certain groups of professionals was also on the agenda.
The Economy and Labour Committee
began the month of February with a consideration of two bills, of which the one
amending the Labour Code was the occasion for a special inquiry during
which the Committee heard from six groups. However, the Committee's key
activity was undoubtedly its hearings on Hydro-Québec's proposed development
plan for 1993-1995.
When Hydro-Québec brings a
three-year development plan before the Committee the latter holds broad public
hearings that always attract a great deal of publicity and public
participation. The mandate was entrusted to the Committee at the end of
November and 88 briefs were received. The 17 hearings (February 28-March 25)
were televised in their entirety and gave 84 individuals and groups the
opportunity to respond to all aspects – social, economic and environmental – of
The hearings were followed by a
special inquiry at which the Committee heard from the Minister of Industry and
Commerce and executives of the Société générale de financement (SGF). The
debate was about a proposal by the Société to invest in the petrochemical
sector. Under its constituent legislation, the SGF's investments must reflect
either a specific provision in the Act or a directive from the Minister
of Industry and Commerce. It was such a directive that was before the
The Institutions Committee was not
idle either. After a financial review it held hearings on the North American
Free Trade Agreement. The original free trade agreement between Canada and the
United States was the occasion of massive consultations in a special format
where non-parliamentarians could participate in the Committee's discussions.
This time, although the hearings were open to all, they attracted more modest
participation: the Committee received 20 briefs and held three sittings at
which it heard from 18 groups.
From April 20 to the beginning of
May, the eight committees have been busy with the annual consideration of the
estimates, a process which according to some MNAs resembles an Olympic
marathon. In Quebec, ministry and agency estimates submitted for the
parliamentary approval must be considered and approved in committee. The
Standing Orders provide a total envelope of 200 hours, limited to a maximum of
20 hours for any one ministry. The division of this time among the various
ministries is decided by an agreement of the House Leaders, which the Speaker
communicates to the Assembly. One feature of this period of activity is that
the Assembly sits only for routine business, including Question Period, and may
not, except in emergencies, debate legislation. This enables four committees to
sit simultaneously. Under the Standing Orders, consideration of the estimates
should be complete within 10 consecutive days but the deadline has almost never
been met and this year 13 sitting days have been allocated. At the end of that
time, the estimates for the National Assembly itself are considered in plenary
session and all the committee reports are tabled at once.
Christian Comeau, Committee Clerk, Quebec
During the first 31 days of the 2nd
session, members of the 52nd Legislative Assembly approved 53 of 59 pieces of
legislation, scrutinized the estimates for a $3.9 billion Ordinary Account
budget, debated 19 motions, tabled a number of documents, and welcomed a new
member, before adjourning May 7.
On March 16, Opening Day, Premier Frank
McKenna presented John Lebans, newly-elected Member for Moncton
North. A Liberal, he was elected in a February 15 by-election to fill the
vacancy created by the December 11, 1992 resignation of Michael McKee.
Mr. McKee, who has since been appointed a Judge of the Provincial Court, held
the seat for the Liberals since 1974.
The Throne Speech, delivered by
Lieutenant-Governor Gilbert Finn, emphasized the need for New
Brunswickers to become more self-reliant and focused on four major policy
areas: economic development and job creation; education and training; fiscal
responsibility, and maintenance of quality life in a healthy, clean and safe
The government promised to
prioritize employment opportunities under the single Partners
"Umbrella" Program emphasizing partnerships between government,
employers in all sectors, and communities.
Educational and training priorities
would be drawn from the reports of the Commission on Excellence in Education and
would include early childhood initiatives, help for special needs students,
Distance Education and revision to the Student Aid Program.
Priority would be given to
balancing the provincial budget, reducing the net debt, increasing productivity
in the public service and containing health costs while delivering vital
Two days later, Official Opposition
Leader Danny Cameron, described the Throne Speech as "…a box of
band-aid programs that fail to address the economy and which, one must assume,
exist only to confuse and procrastinate with respect to job creation."
Mr. Cameron reiterated his position
of a year ago on official bilingualism, stating that he was: "unmoved by
the Premier's defence of official bilingualism, including its cost, and that my
party did not agree with that principle."
On the entrenchment of the
constitutional amendment that recognizes equality of the two linguistic
communities, he stated: "Clearly, this amendment has failed the other
minorities of this province: the aboriginal and other ethnic groups … Until
this amendment has been declared unconstitutional, or rescinded, it will
continue to be an instrument of segregation, mistrust and intolerance."
He criticized the government for
managing the economy by raising taxes and user fees, cutting health and
education services, and levying a fuel tax charge to help defray the cost of
the Northumberland Strait fixed crossing.
Mr. Cameron suggested that the
government examine alternatives to the present system of electricity, including
the use of natural gas, the purchase of electrical power from utilities in
Quebec and Labrador, and the partial privatization of NB Power, to help reduce
the public debt.
On March 31, Finance Minister Alan
Maher, delivering his sixth budget in as many years, reiterated the
province's commitment to fiscal and financial responsibility — limiting growth
in ordinary account spending to 1.7% (after adjusting for accounting changes),
the lowest growth in decades; keeping taxes below other provincial averages;
keeping Ordinary Account deficit at $41.5 million, down $95.8 million from the
previous year; and establishing conditions to balance ordinary revenues and
expenditures in the next 12 months.
Included in the budget's fiscal
plan: balanced budget legislation, increased efficiency resulting in $70
million saving, adjustments to essential programs, tax changes to ensure equity
and fairness, and a moratorium on construction of new capital facilities. On
the expenditure side, the minister stated the government would limit funding
for new or enhanced programs except for those already announced such as the
Excellence in Education program; control spending on the capital account;
address the question of local government in rural areas through the Commission
on Land Use and Rural Environment; reduce the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal
transfers envelope by $8 million in the 1994 municipal fiscal year; review the
Prescription Drug Program, assist the Department of Income Assistance to live
within its budget; increase access to Community Colleges; freeze salaries for
the Premier, cabinet ministers and MLAs, remove an additional 500 full time
equivalent positions in government (through attrition, redeployment, and
reorganization where possible).
To increase revenue the government
will have the federal government collect provincial sales tax at the border,
eliminate the $1 prepared meal exemption, redefine the term "basic
groceries" in line with federal definition, limit the exemption for
clothing and footwear to purchases of $100 or less; extend sales tax to
recreational services and purchases made by status Indians (with exemption from
sales tax on goods and services purchased on or delivered by the vendor to
reserve lands) increase personal income tax and property tax on freehold timber
and farm woodlots, eliminate the senior citizen $200 property tax allowance to
those with ability to pay, increase the province's share of net video lottery
Finance Critic Brent Taylor,
in responding to the Budget Speech April 2, 1993, took issue with the reforms
to health care and education; abandonment of the arterial highway trust fund;
capping of the environmental trust fund; absence of tax increase on
corporations; an $8-million cut in the municipal transfers envelope; closed-door
public consultation process; changes in taxes on freehold timberland, sports
equipment, recreational services, personal income, and increased profits from
video lotteries, and questioned the government's ability to provide proper and
accurate figures on which to base their fiscal reasoning.
Mr. Taylor claimed this budget did
not apply the burden of taxation fairly on all sectors of the economy — it
taxed homeowners, farmers, seniors, children's candy, athletes, woodlot owners,
fertilizer, newspapers, school supplies, and meals.
He maintained that the government
"instituted a broadly based
tax on paid-up capital of corporations, thereby raising tens of millions of
dollars. It could have closed frilly departments, such as the Department of Intergovernmental
Affairs, thereby saving about $1 million. It could have reclaimed its portion
of the L'Acadie Nouvelle trust fund, which would have put $4 million back into
the treasury. It could have removed the new car privileges from many Cabinet ministers
and top civil servants, which would have saved the province hundreds of
thousands of dollars. It could have further reduced the size of Cabinet by at
He commended the government's
elimination of 23 agencies with another 23 reduced to 6 through amalgamation
and agreed with the decision to apply sales tax to all off-reserve purchases by
New Brunswickers, regardless of race.
On April 13, two weeks after the
budget had been brought down, Premier McKenna rose in the House to state in
response to the Native blockade of the TransCanada Highway: "…we cannot
develop fiscal policy on the basis of roadblocks." Several days later the
Finance Minister clarified the government's position: "The government is
prepared to consider some form of a limited rebate program for Natives living
on-reserve for certain purchases where evidence is supplied indicating the
goods were taken to the reserve and consumed there."
Among the documents tabled was the Proposed
electoral districts brief descriptions May 1993, by the Representation and
Electoral District Boundaries Commission. The guiding principles for the new
electoral map were effective representation, relative equality of voting power,
community of interest; history, economic activity, social, linguistic and
cultural values and affinities; size of riding and communication links; natural
barriers, population trends and gravitational patterns to larger centres;
proposed names to identify with communities.
The Commission has scheduled public
hearings on the proposed electoral map for May and June and will table its
final recommendations with the Legislature's Select Committee on Representation
and Electoral Boundaries.
Three bills introduced last session
and referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments for public input were
reintroduced and passed. An Act to Amend The Residential Tenancies Act
and the Personal Property Security Act were recommended while the terms
of Balance Budget Period in An Act Respecting the Balancing of the Ordinary
Expenditures and Ordinary Revenues of the Province were changed from
"five years to four years beginning April 1, 1996 and ending March 31,
2000 and that the term of four years be one legislated time period to be
provided continually after that".
During the one day sitting of
Committee of the Whole, 48 Bills were considered and reported. Two bills, Bill
37, An Act to Amend the Prescription Drug Act, and Bill 30, An Act to
Amend the Clean Water Act, were the focus of the most discussion in
The former provides the Minister of
Health and Community Services with the authority to be reimbursed by
pharmaceutical manufacturers for costs associated with determining whether or
not to list a drug produced by the manufacturer in the New Brunswick Therapeutic
Drug Formulary and Interchangeable Products List and with the authority to
limit in a calendar year the maximum aggregate amount of a drug to which a
beneficiary is entitled under the prescription drug program. The latter, Bill
30, deals primarily with changes to the process used to designate municipal
water supply watersheds as protected areas.
Among the Private Bills passed was An
Act to Amend an Act Respecting the New Brunswick Medical Society and The
College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick, which authorizes the
College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick to enter into arrangements
with the physician licensing authorities of the other Atlantic provinces to
promote uniformity in Atlantic Canada in the area of peer assessment.
Elizabeth Weir, Leader of the New Democrats, introduced
two Private Members' Public Bills, which received second reading and stand
referred to the Committee of the Whole: Bill 16, An Act to Amend An Act
Respecting the New Brunswick Medical Society and the College of Physicians and
Surgeons of New Brunswick and Bill 21, An Act Respecting a Day of
Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace. The overall goal
of Bill 16 is to deter and reduce sexual abuse of patients by physicians by
requiring reporting and better disciplining of abusers.
Social issues and health care
occupied by far the most legislative time, the latter dominating three of
fourteen days during discussion of estimates in Committee of Supply, and much
of Question Period.
By contrast, the House resolved
itself only once into a Committee of the Whole to consider 48 of the 49 Public
Bills introduced, more than half of which had been introduced two days earlier,
prompting the Opposition to introduce a motion requesting that:
"the matter of the time
required in the Standing Rules to pass legislation be referred to the Standing
Committee on Procedure so it may bring forth recommendations with respect to
how this Assembly can better serve the public by allowing for more time for
comment between the first reading and third reading of Bills."
Dennis Cochrane, Leader of the Progressive Conservative
Party, in closing remarks to the House on May 7, reminded the government that
155 days had gone by since the vacancy in the constituency of Carleton North as
a result of the December 3, 1992 conviction under the Elections Act of
Liberal Member Fred Harvey. Premier McKenna has since announced a
by-election date of June 28.
Current standings in the House are:
Liberals, 45; Confederation of Regions, 8; Progressive Conservatives, 3; New
Democrats, 1 and Vacancy, 1.
Diane Taylor Myles, Research Officer
The 3rd Session of the 35th
Parliament opened on April 13, 1993. His Honour the Lieutenant Governor Henry
N.R. Jackman read the Speech from the Throne which outlined the
government's 10-point plan to address, among other things, fiscal management;
job creation; and respect for the environment.
By-elections on April 1, 1993
resulted in the election of two new members to the Legislative Assembly. On
April 14, 1993, Liberal Member Tim Murphy representing the electoral
district of St. George-St. David and Progressive Conservative Member David
Johnson representing the electoral district of Don Mills took their seats
in the House.
For the first time since 1969, the
Ontario Legislature has independent members in its chamber. Dennis
Drainville announced his resignation from the New Democratic Party Caucus
on April 28, 1993 and now sits as an independent member. In addition, Will
Ferguson, formerly of the New Democratic Party caucus and John Sola,
formerly of the Liberal Party caucus now sit as independent members.
In August 1992, the Standing
Committee on Administration of Justice chaired by Mike Cooper, concluded
public hearings on four government bills relating to advocacy legislation -
Bills 74, 108, 109, and 110; and on 5 October, completed clause-by-clause
consideration. In total, the Committee considered over 400 amendments to the
package. The Bills have received Royal Assent.
Public hearings were also held on
New Democratic Party Member David Winninger's Private Members' Bill,
Bill 15, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code, which would prohibit
discrimination in employment against persons aged sixty-five and over. The
Committee did not conduct clause-by-clause examination of the Bill as it was
not carried over to the third session.
During the winter recess of the 2nd
Session, the Committee held hearings on Bill 102, An Act to amend the Pay
Equity Act and Bill 169, An Act to amend the Public Service Act and the
Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act. Bill 102 establishes two
additional methods of determining whether pay equity exists for a female job
class, the proportional value method and the proxy method. Bill 169 amends the Public
Service Act to provide that individuals become public servants, civil
servants and Crown employees only by an express appointment as such. The Bills
were reported to the House with amendments.
For the 3rd Session, the Committee
elected a new Chair, Rosario Marchese, and Vice-Chair, Margaret
Under a Standing Order 125
designation, the Committee began public hearings on 31 May 1993 on the
designation by Progressive Conservative Member Cam Jackson with respect
to the issue of Victims of Crime giving particular consideration to the issue
of a victims' bill of rights. As set out in Standing Order 125, this matter
will be considered for a total of 12 hours. The Committee anticipates that it
will write its report in June.
The Standing Committee on Finance
and Economic Affairs, chaired by Ron Hansen, considered Bill 164, An
Act to amend the Insurance Act and certain other Acts in respect of Automobile
Insurance and other Insurance Matters. During the winter recess, the
Committee held public hearings in Toronto, travelled to Thunder Bay, Windsor,
Ottawa and Hamilton. In the 3rd session, the Committee, chaired by Paul
Johnson, resumed clause- by-clause consideration of the Bill.
The Committee also commenced is Pre-Budget
Consultations for 1993 during the winter recess. The Committee heard presenters
from banks, consulting firms and forecasters from other expert organizations.
The Minister of Finance and his staff, appeared before the Committee and
provided economic projections for the province of Ontario for 1993/1994 fiscal
year. The province's transfer recipients from the MUSH (municipalities,
universities, community colleges, schools and hospitals) sector also provided
input to the Committee.
Chaired by Mike Brown, the
Standing Committee on General Government, conducted public hearings on Bill 61,
Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, 1992, during the
winter recess. The Bill provided for the continuation of a residential
community on Algonquin and Ward's Islands under the stewardship of the Toronto
Islands Residential Community Trust Corporation. The Committee heard from
residents of the Toronto Islands, business people, and interested citizens from
the city of Toronto. Following the public hearings, the Committee conducted
clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill and reported the Bill to the
Legislature with certain amendments.
The mandate of the Standing
Committee on Government Agencies sets out that the Committee is charged with
the responsibility of reviewing not only the agencies, boards and commissions
but, also, the intended appointments thereto. To fulfil the responsibilities
relating to the first part of its mandate the Committee, during the winter
recess of the House, visited Science North and met with staff members. The
Committee is currently considering its draft report on the matter.
The Committee also met with
representatives from the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority and is in
the process of preparing a report on its findings.
New appointments to agencies,
boards and commissions are an ongoing process. The Committee sat two days of
each month that the House did not sit, reviewing intended appointments and
interviewing thirty-two applicants. All of the appointments were approved by
The Standing Committee on the
Ombudsman chaired by Mark Morrow, resumed consideration of its review of
the Office of the Ombudsman during the 2nd Session in October and November,
1992. The Committee met during March, 1993 to finalize and write its special
report on the Review of the Office of the Ombudsman. This special report was
tabled in the Legislature on Wednesday, April 14, 1993.
The report made 43 recommendations;
proposed major amendments to the Ombudsman Act, the mandate of the
Standing Committee on the Ombudsman; and, new reporting systems for the Office
of the Ombudsman.
The Standing Committee on Public
Accounts held four weeks of hearings during the Winter recess. The Committee
reviewed a number of areas from the Provincial Auditor's 1992 Annual Report.
These reviews included sections on Family Benefits Assistance, Elevating
Devices, and Health Registry Systems. The Committee hopes to complete these
reviews this summer. The Committee had also requested the Provincial Auditor to
conduct special audits on the Office of the Registrar General, the Workers'
Compensation Board and the Office of the Ombudsman. These special audits were
also considered by the Committee.
When the House resumed in April, Joe
Cordiano was elected Chair of the committee replacing Remo Mancini
who retired. Dianne Poole was elected Vice-Chair. The Committee has been
busy preparing for the conference of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts
Committees to be held in Toronto this summer.
The Standing Committee on Resources
Development held public hearings on Bill 96, An Act to establish the Ontario
Training and Development Board. This Bill will consolidate training under
When the House resumed in April,
the election of the Chair of the Committee proceeded with difficulty. The
nomination of government member Peter Kormos for Chair caused a lengthy
procedural debate including several attempts to raise points of order by
members of the Committee which the Clerk could not entertain. When it became
apparent that it would not be possible to elect a member as Chair, the Clerk
dispersed the Committee. Before the next meeting of the Committee, the
committee membership was changed by Order of the House and Mr. Kormos was no
longer a member of the Committee. The election of Bob Huget proceeded
The Committee has completed
clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 96 and will present a report on bicycle
helmets to the House in the near future.
The Standing Committee on Social
Development, chaired by Charles Beer, held eight consecutive days of
public hearings (including Saturday and Sunday) on Bill 94, An Act to amend
certain Acts to implement the interim reassessment plan of Metropolitan Toronto
on a property class by property class basis and to permit all municipalities to
provide for the pass through to tenants of tax decreases resulting from
reassessment and to make incidental amendments related to financing in The
Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. Fraught with controversy when debated
over the years at the municipal level, the legislative proposals to implement
market value assessment were equally contentious at legislative committee stage
as some 175 witnesses presented their views. The Committee's consideration of
the Bill was suspended after the Minister of Municipal Affairs announced in the
House on Tuesday, 8 December 1992 that the government did not intend to proceed
until the Metropolitan Toronto government had resolved certain problems.
During the winter recess, the
Social Development Committee held four weeks of public hearings in seven
Ontario cities on Bill 101, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Long
Term Care. Among its purposes, Bill 101 sought to amend various statutes
with respect to the following matters: provincial subsidies for nursing homes,
charitable homes for the aged and municipal homes; service agreements which
operators of certain of these facilities must enter into with the Province;
control of admissions by designated placement co-ordinators; quality assurance
plans; plans of care for residents; inspections of facilities; and grants to
assist person with a disability to obtain required goods and services.
Following three days of clause-by-clause consideration in late March, the Chair
reported the Bill to the House on Wednesday, 14 April 1993.
In June, the Social Development
Committee prepared for public hearings on Bill 4, An Act to amend certain
Acts relating to Education. Included in the Bill are amendments proposed
to: make junior kindergarten mandatory by September, 1994 (with a phase-in
period allowed in some circumstances); authorize the use of American Sign
language and la langue des signes québecois as languages of instruction for
deaf and hard-of-hearing students; allow payment of education costs for
students receiving approved medical treatment out of the country; revise
provisions relating to special education; and clarify requirements relating to
disciplinary measures (suspension and expulsion).
Donna Pajeska, Committee Clerk.
The Fourth Session of the 35th
Legislature resumed on March 1, 1993. The Minister of Finance, Clayton
Manness, had intended to bring down his budget on March 18, 1993. However,
due to significant revenue reductions made known to him by the Federal
Government at a late date in the budget process, the completion of the main
estimates was delayed, deferring the budget presentation until April 6, 1993.
The Minister of Finance had hoped
to begin early consideration of certain departments' estimates which had been
completed. To accomplish this, the Government proposed a motion to the House,
that, notwithstanding the rules and practices of the House, the estimates of
the Departments of Highways and Transportation and of Family Services be tabled
and referred to the Committee of Supply prior to the referral of all main
estimates. On the day this motion was to be moved Kevin Lamoureux,
Liberal House Leader, rose on a Matter of Privilege claiming that to enter into
consideration of specific departments' estimates before all departmental
estimates were available was unparliamentary as it prevented members from
acting responsibly as legislators. After hearing from other Members, the
Speaker recessed the House and returned within the hour, ruling that there was
no prima facie case and that the matter was one of order not privilege.
Mr. Lamoureux challenged the ruling and it was sustained on a recorded vote.
The matter, however, did not rest.
At the next sitting, when the
government's motion was put to the House, Mr. Lamoureux rose on a point of order
stating that this proposed change in the estimates process would be a
"dangerous precedent". The Speaker ruled against the point of order
pointing out that many precedents exist for amending or suspending the Rules of
the House by motion on notice, as in this case. The Liberals challenged this
ruling and it was sustained on a recorded vote.
At the next sitting, the Liberals
raised the issue again as a Matter of Urgent Public Importance. After receiving
advice from the House, the Speaker ruled that it did not meet the criteria for
a matter of urgent public importance as the House had other opportunities to
debate the matter. The Liberals challenged this ruling and it was upheld on a
In the meantime, in an attempt to
find a way to begin the estimates process, Mr. Manness, in accordance with
Manitoba's rules, tabled the sequence for consideration of estimates by the
Committee of Supply. He then moved the motion to establish the Committee of
Supply. The Liberals spoke to this motion with each of the caucus members using
their full forty minutes and the Leader, Mrs. Carstairs, speaking for unlimited
time. Mrs. Carstairs spoke for five days and on the fifth day concluded her
speech in order that the House could proceed with Interim Supply. The Interim
Appropriation bill was passed on March 26, 1993 and the House recessed for the
following week for Spring Break.
The 1993-94 budget was brought down
on April 6, 1993. The budget debate continued for the full eight days that the
Rules of the House allow. An amendment, moved by the Official Opposition, and a
sub-amendment, move by the Second Opposition, were both defeated and the budget
motion passed on division. The consideration of the detailed estimates in
Committee of Supply began on the next sitting day.
By May 21, 1993, the Government had
introduced a total of 35 bills. It had indicated early on in the Session that
it planned a somewhat smaller legislative agenda than usual. In approximately
the same time period last Session, the Government had introduced 44 bills.
Several of the current bills are
potentially controversial and House and Committee consideration may require
above average time. Among these are The Public Schools Amendment Act
(Bill 16), The Public Sector Reduced Work Week and Compensation Amendment
Act (Bill 22), The Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Amendment Employment
Standards Amendment, Payment of Wages Amendment Act (Bill 23), The
Public Schools Amendment (Francophone Schools Governance) Act (Bill 34),
and The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Amendment and Consequential
Amendments Act (Bill 37).
The thrust of Bill 16 is to limit
the school tax levy to two per cent. This cap is in keeping with the
Government's overall policy of fiscal restraint which is being applied to all
areas of government.
Bill 22 will implement the
Government's decision to bring in a short work week for Manitoba civil servants
during the summer and at Christmas. The legislation applies to two twelve month
periods with the first beginning April 1, 1993. Public sector employers will
require employees to take days or portions of days off without pay, not
exceeding a total of fifteen days in one 12 month period.
Bill 23 will allow for Sunday
Shopping in Manitoba, on a permanent basis. Bill 4, introduced earlier in the
Session, had provided for a trial period of Sunday Shopping. Bill 23 extends
this trial period until September and from that time on will allow
municipalities to determine whether or not they will have permanent Sunday
shopping in their communities.
Bill 34 is legislation that
responds to a 1990 decision of the Supreme Court which interpreted Section 23
of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as granting English-Speaking minorities
in Quebec and French-Speaking minorities elsewhere in Canada, the right to
govern their own schools where numbers warrant. The bill creates a Francophone
school division that will include all areas of the province where there are
significant concentrations of persons entitled under the charter to have their
children receive primary and secondary school instruction in French.
Bill 37 introduced a no-fault
injury compensation plan for Manitobans involved in automobile accidents. The
thrust of this legislation is to provide fair compensation for accident victims
and at the same time stabilize insurance rates over the long run. Provisions of
the Bill will replace the right to sue with guaranteed compensation for all
accident victims based on their actual economic losses.
The Legislature may yet see another
member move into the federal political arena with the announcement by Justice
Minister, Jim McCrae (Brandon-West) that he will seek the nomination for
Brandon-Souris, formerly held by Tory MP Lee Clark. The most recent
change to the membership of the Legislature was the resignation of Conservative
MLA Harold Neufeld (Rossmere). That now leaves two vacant seats, the
other a result of NDP MLA Elijah Harper's resignation in November 1992.
Judy White, Clerk of Committees