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House of Commons
The House adjourned for its usual
winter break on December 14, 1995. It was scheduled to last until February 5,
1996. However, shortly after Bill C-110, an Act Respecting Constitutional
Amendments, was passed by the Senate and given Royal Assent on February 2,
1996, the Governor-General issued a proclamation proroguing Parliament, thus
bringing to a close the First Session of the 35th Parliament. In the days
leading up to prorogation, certain events worthy of mention took place.
On November 21, 1995, Len Taylor
raised a point of order concerning the Government’s failure to respond to the
Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable
Development within the 150-day time limit prescribed by Standing Order 109.
Under that Standing Order, whenever a committee reports to the House, it may
request that the Government present a comprehensive response. Later that day a
Government spokesperson assured the House that a response would be forthcoming
within a few weeks. The Speaker stated that if the Government’s commitment was
acceptable to the House, he would not rule on the point of order. The
Government’s response was tabled on December 14, 1995.
On December 14, Ray Speaker
rose on a point of order to ask that the Reform Party be recognized as the
Official Opposition. Mr. Speaker argued that his party was "the largest
minority party that is prepared, in the event of the resignation of the
government, to assume office" and that his party represented a broader
range of interests than the current Official Opposition, the Bloc québécois.
The Speaker of the House, Gilbert Parent, stated that he would return to
the House with a decision "if it is necessary, when it is necessary".
On December 13, 1995, the House
concurred in the 110th Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Affairs, which recommended that a revised form of Part III of the 1996-97
Estimates be used on a trial basis for six departments, as proposed by the
Treasury Board Secretariat. Earlier, on December 7 the Committee had presented
its 107th Report, informing the House of another Treasury Board Secretariat
proposal to change the vote structure of the 1996-97 Estimates. Both reports
are the result of the work of the sub-committee created to review the business
The fall of 1995 was only the
second opportunity for the Standing Committee on Finance to use the new
procedure established under Standing Order 83.1, which allows the Committee to
conduct, and report on, pre-budget consultations. On November 22, the House
agreed to a motion authorizing the Committee, or any of its sub-committees, to
travel during the week of November 27 for the purpose of holding such
consultations, and on November 28 adopted a motion to empower the Committee to
televise its proceedings from Calgary, Fredericton, Montreal and Vancouver.
Pursuant to an order made on November 21, the Committee submitted an interim
report on December 12, 1995, and deposited its final report with the Clerk of
the House on January 17, 1996. A special debate was held on December 14 to
allow the House to "take note" of the Committee’s interim report.
In its 108th Report to the House,
presented on December 8, 1995, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Affairs expessed its concern about how the Senate Standing Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs was handling Bill C-69, an Act to Provide for the
Establishment of Electoral Boundaries Commissions and the Readjustment of Electoral
Boundaries. This bill had been drafted on the instruction of the Commons
committee under a new procedure. It was the Committee’s opinion that it was
inappropriate for the Senate to insist on its amendments in the case of a bill
dealing with electoral matters. The Committee recommended that a message be
sent to the Senate to acquaint that House with its views and to ask the Senate
committee to dispose of the Bill without further delay. A motion to concur in
the report was not taken up by the House.
During clause-by-clause study of
Bill C-232 an Act to amend the Divorce Act (granting of access to, or
custody of, a child to a grandparent), at its December 7 meeting, the
Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs defeated each of the clauses,
the title and the bill itself, and decided not to report to the House. The bill
was a private Member’s bill presented by Daphne Jennings.
Thomas Hall, Procedural Clerk, Table Research and
Parliamentary Exchanges Branch
The first session of the 23rd Legislature
is scheduled to open on February 29, 1995. Premier Roy Romanow, in
announcing the date, indicated that the legislative program will be structured
upon redesigning government in the areas of health, education, social services
and local government. An estimated 100 bills are forecasted. The provincial
budget is expected in mid-March.
One change that will be evident in
the Legislature is the presence of eight fewer members. Revised constituency
boundaries came into effect at the last election with a reduction in the number
of seats from 66 to 58. The New Democratic Party has a majority of 42 seats
with the 10 Liberals members forming the Official Opposition. The Progressive
Conservatives have 5 members. The Assembly will also have a single independent
member as result of former Liberal leader Lynda Haverstock’s departure
from the Liberal caucus.
Two members of the Standing
Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics of the Legislative Council of
New South Wales, Australia, accompanied by their Deputy Clerk, visited the
Assembly from January 23 to25. They were gathering information on how different
jurisdictions regulate members’ ethics and conduct, in preparation of their
committee developing a code of conduct for Members of the Legislaitve Council.
In 1993 the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly adopted a Code of Ethical Conduct
for Members of the Legislative Assembly, a new conflict of interest act, and a
conflict of interest commissioner.
Margaret A. Woods, Clerk Assistant
The Second Session of the 36th
Legislature commenced on December 5, 1995. It was a brief return consisting of
the Speech from the Throne and the following customary eight days of debate.
The House recessed on December 15 for the holiday season and is expected to
reconvene during the first week of April.
The Throne Speech noted the
Government’s record of the past eight years, emphasizing that its fiscal
management had been "prudent" and that it had been successful in not
increasing any major taxes. The Speech also referenced the balanced budget
legislation, passed in the previous session, which the Government considers a
key tool in maintaining their fiscal approach.
The Speech also contained the
Government’s criticism of upcoming cuts in federal spending that will particularly
affect the health care and education budget. In terms of upcoming endeavours,
the Throne Speech referenced the establishment of certain task forces and
councils. These include a task force to review issues and policies affecting
rural Manitoba and a task force to examine civil litigation and ways in which
to reduce its inefficiencies. The Government also plans to establish a Manitoba
Information Highway advisory council and to introduce legislation to establish
a post-secondary advisory council.
The Government intends to conduct a
comprehensive review of The Child and Family Services Act. And as a hint
of the upcoming legislative agenda, the Throne Speech indicated the
Government’s intention to introduce legislation that would require greater
disclosure of expenditure of public sector institutions and organizations.
In response to the Throne Speech,
the Leader of the Official Opposition, Gary Doer, was critical of the
Government’s record and believed that the initiatives set forth in the Throne Speech
were inadequate to meet the challenges facing Manitoba. In a motion to amend
the Address-in-Reply, Mr. Doer raised a number of matters that the Opposition
believe have created a loss of trust and confidence, by Manitobans, in their
Government. These matters included the Opposition’s claims that: the Government
had broken its election promise to keep open community hospital emergency rooms
for 24 hours a day; the Government had not implemented a plan for
post-secondary education for the 21st century; the Government could have
prevented a significant loss of jobs in Manitoba and; the Government had been
inactive on aboriginal issues and sustainable development. The Opposition’s
amendment was defeated on a recorded vote.
A sub-amendment was also moved, to
the Address-in-Reply, by Kevin Lamoureux, one of the three Liberal
Independent Members. Mr. Lamoureux’s amendment was also one of non-confidence
in the Government. This motion was defeated on a voice vote.
A significant development in the
reform of the Rules of the House is underway in Manitoba. A "Memorandum of
Understanding" was signed in December 1995, by all three Parties
represented in the House in which a number of proposed rule changes were laid
out in principle. The changes are to be on a one year trial basis commencing
the Spring of 1996.
One of the major changes proposed
is a fixed legislative calendar. A certain number of weeks have been agreed to
for both Spring sittings and Fall sittings of the House, with a set time for
the Spring recess date and a set time for the conclusion of the Fall sittings.
As in other jurisdictions, a set calendar brings to an end the difficulties
that sometimes occurred when the end of a session was unknown, such as lengthy
filibusters and rushing legislation through its final stages over long days and
into late nights. Other proposed changes include agreement to essentially
devote the Spring sittings to dealing with the Throne Speech, the Budget, the
detailed consideration of the estimates and the financial bills. In addition,
unless otherwise agreed to by House Leaders, all Government legislation for the
whole session is to be introduced during the Spring sittings. The Fall sittings
are to be devoted to the remaining stages of the consideration of legislation
and passing all bills through to a vote on third reading by the conclusion of
the session. The House is not to sit on Fridays but that day will be devoted to
Length of speaking time in debate
is to be shortened from 40 minutes to 30. Private Members’ business is to be
enhanced with the plan for a committee to recommend which Private Members’
bills and resolutions will be debated and voted upon. Non-political statements
are to be abolished and replaced with Members’ Statements which allow for
Members to address the House on any topic for no more than two minutes. As rule
changes have been long awaited in Manitoba, the remainder of the Second Session
should prove to be quite interesting.
The Standing Committee on Privileges
and Elections met in January to consider applications for the position of
Provincial Ombudsman and to interview candidates. As a senior officer of the
Legislative Assembly, this position is to be selected by a Standing Committee
of the House.
Judy White, Clerk Assistant, Manitoba Legislative
Last fall the National Assembly sat
for only fourteen days between November 28 and December 15, 1995. The
referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec, which took place in October, accounts
for the fact that this part of the session was so brief. Nevertheless, the
Assembly passed 28 bills, of which 25 were public bills.
The legislation dealt with areas
such as manpower and labour relations, agriculture, the construction industry,
the protection of the environment, transport and income security.
In the latter two cases, the
Government had to move a motion suspending certain rules of procedure in order
to allow the passage of two bills. The first bill established the Agence
métropolitaine de transport and contained various provisions regarding the
operation and the development of public transportation and of the suburban
train services in the Montreal region. The other bill modified the Act
Respecting Income Security, particularly with regard to eligibility for
certain financial support programmes.
During debate on a motion moved by
the Minister of Employment, Louise Harel, regarding manpower adjustment
and vocational training programmes, the Chair was asked to rule on the
receivability of a sub-subamendment moved by the Liberal Member for
Châteauguay, Jean-Marc Fournier.
Deputy Speaker Pierre Bélanger
declared that he could not allow comments regarding the receivability of the
motion by the Member, nor could he allow the Assembly to rule on this motion
since the concept of sub-subamendment does not exist in our Standing Orders. A
motion to amend a subamendment is not provided for in any precedents or
practices of the Assembly.
On December 13, 1995, Speaker Roger
Bertrand tabled a directive regarding the use of laptop computers in the
Assembly during its proceedings. He acknowledged the fact that communications
systems have evolved tremendously over the past decade and accepted the
principle of the use of such equipment within the confines of the Assembly, as
long as its utilization neither interferes with Members’ discourse, nor disrupt
Among the political events that
marked the beginning of 1996 was the departure of Premier Jacques Parizeau
from public life.
Mr. Parizeau was first elected in
1976 to represent the riding of L’Assomption. He was then appointed Minister of
Finance and Minister of Revenue, while he also held the office of Chairman of
the Treasury Board. In November 1984, he resigned both as Minister and as
Member. He returned to the political scene in March 1988, after being chosen to
lead the Parti Québécois. Re-elected on September 25, 1989, he once again took
a seat in the National Assembly, this time as Leader of the Official
Opposition. When the Parti Québécois regained power on September 12, 1994, Mr.
Parizeau served as Premier of Quebec until his recent resignation.
Following the path of their leader,
two other Government Members, Denis Lazure and Francis Dufour,
also announced their retirement from politics.
Premier Lucien Bouchard was
sworn in on January 29, 1996, the same day he announced his Cabinet, which
includes 22 members. There are 10 newcomers and 6 former ministers have
returned to the backbenches. The new government leader has chosen to
restructure the Cabinet by appointing four superministers to supervise the
following priorities of the Government: Economy and Finance; Employment and
Solidarity; Natural Resources and Metropolitan Montreal. Furthermore, a numer
of secretariats (for family, elders, youth etc.) formerly under the
jurisdiction of the Executive Council have been distributed among the sectoral
ministries. Finally, the Prime Minister has abolished the position of regional
delegate since each region is now represented by a member of Cabinet.
The Deputy House Leader, André
Boisclair was appointed Minister responsible for Immigration, Cultural
Communities, Consumer Protection, Access to Information and Human Rights. At
age 29, Mr.Boisclair is the youngest Member to accede to the Cabinet in the
history of Quebec.
The former Speaker Roger
Bertrand as well as the former Deputy Speaker Pierre Bélanger also
joined the Cabinet. Mr. Bélanger will be replacing Guy Chevrette as Government
House Leader. When the session resumes on March 12, 1996, elections will be
held to fill both offices left vacant following these nominations.
On December 14, 1995, the Office of
the National Assembly concurred in a new organizational plan of the National Assembly’s
administration. This plan represents the two main operating sectors of the
National Assembly, namely the parliamentary sector, which encompasses the
various services directly involved in the planning, the organization and the
progress of proceedings both in the Assembly and in Committees, and the
administrative sector, which consists of the entire administrative support
Under this new structure, the
Secretariat of the Assembly Branch, the Secretariat of Committees Branch, the
Parliamentary Procedure Research Branch and the Legislative Library answer to
the Secretary Assistant’s Office Responsible for Parliamentary Affairs.
Human Resources, Financial
Resources, Material Resources, the Debates, Broadcasting and Publication
Branch, the Security Division, Property Management and Restaurant Services, as
well as Computer and Support Services are under the Secretary Assistant’s
Office Responsible for Administrative Affairs.
Within the framework of this
administrative shuffle, Jean Bédard was appointed director of the
Secretariat of the Assembly.
Nancy Ford, National Assembly Secretariat, (Translated
by Sylvia Ford)
Between November 1, 1995 and
January 31, 1996, the Committees of the National Assembly held hearings to consider
and inquire into matters in a variety of fields, acting either on orders of
reference from the Assembly or on their own initiative.
In all, 48 orders of reference or
orders of initiative were completed by the committees during the three-month
period. During the month of December, as is usually the case at that time of
year, the bulk of the work involved the consideration of bills. The committees
examined twenty-two bills, including the bill to create the Agence
métropolitaine de transport, which required the lengthiest examination. The
Committee on Planning and Infrastructures devoted seven days to this one bill,
designed to provide the Montreal Metropolitan Region with an authority to
oversee the development, coordination and promotion of public transportation.
The Committee on Social Affairs
examined the bill to amend the Act respecting income security, intended to
change the conditions governing the payment of social aid benefits, although
the bill was recalled by the Assembly after only three sittings in committee
before examination had been completed. Another major piece of legislation,
which introduced changes to the terms and conditions for the partial
reimbursement of property taxes to agricultural producers, required five days
of examination by the Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food before it
was returned to the Assembly for the subsequent stages leading to enactment.
Also during this three-month
period, the members of the Parliamentary Committees were called upon to hold
hearings pursuant to other orders of reference.
For example, the Committee on
Culture tabled a report containing 45 recommendations on the future of the
Québec television broadcasting authority, (known as Radio-Québec) on December
8, after holding three days of public hearings and several study sessions in
November and December 1995.
The Committee on the Budget and
Administration heard the Auditor General of Quebec at three different sittings
during its consideration of his latest annual report. The Committee on Institutions
also devoted two days to examination of the annual report submitted by the
Public Protector of Quebec.
For the first time, the Committee
on Social Affairs examined the annual reports of the regional health and social
services boards, established in 1991, which are required to appear before the
Committee once every three years to submit their reports. In addition, the
Committee organized a public hearing to examine the operations of the bodies
that supervise the sale and consumption of prescription drugs.
The Committee on Labour and the
Economy assumed a role seldom assigned to a parliamentary committee when it
heard the parties to a labour dispute, in this case the City of Montreal and
its blue-collar workers.
Acting on its own initiative, the
Committee on Education invited the co-chairs of the Estates General on
Education to present the interim report produced following hearings held
throughout Quebec, at which the persons most closely associated with the field
of education were called upon to make their views known.
Lastly, nine sittings were held
during the month of January to scrutinize the financial commitments of the
various government departments and bodies.
Doris Arsenault, Coordinator
On February 18, the governing New
Democratic Party selected a new leader to replace the departing Mike
Harcourt. As expected, Employment and Investment Minister, Glen Clark won
handily on the first ballot, defeating former Social Services Minister, Joan
Smallwood, backbencher Corky Evans, and two other candidates.
Given that the government is in the
fifth year of its mandate, election speculation around the capital is naturally
at a fever pitch. The latest date for an election is October, with another
possible time being spring. Thus, March may bring the customary reconvening of
the House for its spring session or an election campaign.
Following the release of the report
by Judge Thomas Gove into the state of British Columbia’s child
protection system, the provincial government has announced that the current
Deputy Minister of Education, Cynthia Morton, will be appointed to act
as a transition commissioner to oversee the implementation of the report’s
recommendations. It was announced that during her three-year term, she will
report directly to the Premier, but her work also will be communicated to an
all-party legislative committee.
The term of office for Members’
Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ted Hughes is complete. In his final
report, he makes a number of recommendations regarding the legislation for
which the Commissioner is responsible. These include broadening the scope of
the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act to cover other forms of ethical
conduct, so as to enhance public confidence in the integrity of government. As
well, Mr. Hughes advocates including senior public servants within the ambit of
the legislation, to prevent the possibility of their using their offices for
The Public Accounts Committee
released a report on public sector accountability and performance. The 217-page
report, written in collaboration with the Auditor General and Deputy Ministers’
Council, recommends substantial changes to the legislative committee system. In
particular, the Committee recommends a realignment of committee mandates to
better reflect broad policy sectors. In addition, it recommends that debate on
the government’s spending estimates take place in standing committees after the
passage of the appropriation bill. This is designed to allow committees to meet
inter-sessionally, and for members of the committees to focus more extensively
on program review and substantive outcomes, rather than simply on fiscal inputs
to ministry programs.
The Special Committee to Appoint a
Chief Electoral Officer completed its work in December. In its report, it
unanimously recommended the appointment of Robert Patterson to become
the province’s first fully independent C.E.O. Mr. Patterson had served as
C.E.O. under the previous legislation, and will continue in an acting capacity
until the legislature formally votes to approve the committee’s recommendation.
Under recent changes to the Election Act, the C.E.O. has new
responsibilities for monitorng political parties’ compliance with financing and
disclosure provisions, as well as responsibility for administering the Recall
and Initiative Act. The Chief Electoral Officer serves for two general
elections plus one year.
The Select Standing Committee on
Forests, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources completed its examination of the
business plan of Forest Renewal BC, a Crown agency established to direct
training and investment programs in the forest industry in the province.
Neil Reimer, Committee Clerk
Though the Senate sat just nine
days from December, when it adjourned on the 15th for the holidays, to February
2nd, when the two year long session was prorogued by the Government, it was an
intense period of activity. A dozen bills, some of them of considerable
importance, received third reading and were passed. The Government tried again
unsuccessfully to secure the passage of its bills on Electoral Boundaries
Readjustment and the Pearson International Airport Agreements. The special
committee charged with the inquiry into the Pearson Airport presented its final
report just two days before adjournment, still enough time to allow for a brief
but useful debate. In addition, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing
Quebec as a distinct society and, after an intense week of hearings by another
special committee, also passed Bill C-110, dealing with constitutional amendment.
Finally, two committees presented reports on subject matter studies that were
adopted before the session was prorogued.
Of the dozen bills that were
passed, two deserve particular attention. Both offer evidence of the quality of
debate in the Senate focused on important issues that is rarely appreciated
beyond the walls of the chamber. The first is Bill C-103, An Act to amend
the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act, sent to the Standing Committee
of Banking Trade and Commerce in early November and reported back to the Senate
December 5, with one amendment. By its title, the bill seemed to be fairly
innocuous and unimportant, but it was hardly insignificant as the debate on the
reported amendment proved. At issue, on one level, was whether the Government
could assert a role in protecting cultural sovereignty by limiting split-run
editions of magazines and if so, under what terms and conditions.
Speaking on behalf of the report
and the amendment was Senator Michael Kirby, the Chairman of the
Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee. In a tightly presented case made
December 7, the Senator, who is a member of the Government party, sought to
persuade his colleagues to accept an amendment to a Governement bill that had
already been adopted by the House of Commons. The amendment had the effect of
exempting Sports Illustrated from certain provisions of the law because,
as he assessed it, the publisher was being singled out by the fact that the
law, once enacted, would be effective from 1993 and not from the date it
received Royal Assent, a practice that the Senator considered to be dangerous
and possibly unconstitutional.
Among those who spoke against
Senator Kirby’s position were Senator Keith Davey, a supporter of the
Government, and Senator Lowell Murray, a prominent member of the
Opposition. Rising to speak shortly after Senator Kirby had concluded, Senator
Davey briefly recounted the long history of the Government’s successful policy
to promote the domestic magazine industry that was now being threatened by a
loophole created by developments in communications technology. The Senator
maintained that failure to pass this law would jeopardize the policy and expose
the domestic industry to unfair competition. He further argued that the bill
was not retroactive and that the effect of the amendment was to grant Sports
Illustrated a privileged status under the law. For his part, Senator
Murray, speaking December 12, reiterated some of the arguments of Senator Davey
and challenged the position taken by Senator Kirby that Sports Illustrated
deserved the license to publish 12 split runs a year as a form of compensation
for the retrospective character of the bill.
In the end, the report on the
amendment was easily defeated in a recorded division, 24 to 51, and the bill
obtained third reading and passage after a short debate on December 14.
Bill C-110, the measure committing
the federal Parliament to recognizing regional vetoes in considering amendments
to the Constitution, provoked not only good debate but some spirited debate as
well. The two-day second reading debate occurred just before the Christmas
adjournment. After Senator Joyce Fairbairn, the Leader of the
Government, moved second reading and spoke about the Government’s objectives in
proposing this legislation, other senators joined the debate with their
estimates of the merits or weaknesses of the bill. The debate became more
charged when the Senate assessed the report of the special committee that had
been struck to review the bill. The report proposed three critical amendments
including a sunset provision to lapse the law in 1997. Once Senator Noel
Kinsella, the Chairman of the Special Committee, had moved the adoption of
the report, 18 other Senators participated in the debate over two days. Despite
some media speculation about the close outcome of the vote, the results were
somewhat anticlimactic. The report was defeated by 48 to 36, and the
unamended bill received third reading and was passed almost immediately
Motions and Rulings
Two bills that did not receive
Royal Assent before prorogation were Bill C-69, the Electoral Boundaries
Readjustment Act, and Bill C-22, the Pearson International Airport
Agreements Act. In an attempt to have the Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Committee report on them, the Government attempted for a second time to
propose a motion fixing a reporting date for the Committee. On December 6,
Senator Alasdair Graham, the Deputy Leader of the Government, moved two
separate motions to have the Committee report these orders of reference by
December 13. After the motion respecting Bill C-69 had been proposed, Senator
Kinsella, the Opposition Whip, raised a point of order and claimed that since a
similar motion had already been defeated, the Government’s motion was out of
order. To make it acceptable, in the view of the Senator, it would be necessary
to rescind the previous decision. Following further debate on the point of
order, Speaker Gildas Molgat ruled that the motion was in order because
the present motion fixed an entirely different date for the committee’s report
and, therefore, it was not substantially the same question.
Buoyed by the Speaker’s ruling, the
Government then proposed a motion to have Legal and Constitutional Affairs
report Bill C-22, again by December 13. The following day, December 7, the
Senate adopted a motion to vote on the two motions at the end of the day on
December 12. In the end, the Government’s efforts were for naught. In two
separate recorded divisions, the motions were defeated: 44 to 50 (Bill C-69)
and 45 - 49 (Bill C-22).
As part of the Government’s
response to the Quebec referendum, the Senate debated over several days, a
motion moved by the Leader of the Government similar to one that had been
proposed in the House of Commons recognizing Quebec as a distinct society and
affirming that the Senate would be guided by this reality. While members
admitted the significance of this resolution, passionate debate seemed to be
reserved for Bill C-110. Approval for the resolution was given by the Senate
There were several committee
reports presented or tabled in December and February. Certainly the report that
attracted most of the attention was the final report of the special committee
examining the Pearson Airport Agreements. It was presented to the Senate by its
Chairman, Senator Finlay MacDonald, on December 13.
In keeping with a developing custom
in the Senate when dealing with particularly controversial subjects, the final
report contained separate majority and minority submissions. The majority
report found that the negotiations and signed contracts concluded before the
last General Election to be proper and the claims of the Nixon Report to be
virtually without foundation.
The minority report arrived at
quite a different conclusion. It determined that the Nixon Report was based on
sufficient information to justify its recommendation to cancel the
redevelopment contracts. The minority report further contended that the
Agreements were contrary to the interests of the taxpayers and the travelling
While the Senate witnessed some
vigorous debate on the report during the last two days of the session, the
Opposition also indicated that the controversy was not yet settled and that the
subject would be placed before the Senate again in the new session.
Two other committee reports on
non-legislative matters were presented and adopted by the Senate before the end
of the session without debate. The first was an assessment made by the Social
Affairs, Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Senator Lorne Bonnell,
of a Special Commission report on restructuring the reserve forces as a
component of national defence. The second report, presented by the Senator Eileen
Rossiter, Chairman of the Committee on Fisheries, examined the current
situation of the Atlantic groundfish fishery. In December, Senator Earl
Hastings resigned as Chairman of Internal Economy Budgets and
Administration for health reasons. The new Chairman is Senator Colin Kenny
who had served previously with the Committee earlier in this Parliament as well
as in the last Parliament.
Charles Robert, Office of the Clerk
The Ontario Legislature found
itself in unusual circumstances in November 1995, drawing the attention of viewers
across the country. On November 29, the Minister of Finance, Ernie Eves
was scheduled to make an economic statement. Many members of the legislature
attended a lock up to review the content of the statement in advance of its
delivery. The lock up was still in effect at the time the House opened and
through Routine Proceedings. During Routine Proceedings, Dave Johnson,
Chair of Management Board introduced Bill 26, An Act to achieve Fiscal
Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring,
Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government’s
Economic Agenda. Bill 26 was an omnibus bill that amended several existing
Acts and provided for three new statutes.
The following day, November 30,
several members raised points of order with respect to the process of
introduction of Bill 26 and its omnibus nature. On December 5, 1995, the
Speaker, Allan K. McLean gave a detailed ruling on the procedures that
had been followed, and the orderliness of an omnibus bill.
The Speaker ruled that there was
nothing procedurally wrong with the manner in which Bill 26 had been
introduced. In doing so, he pointed out that, while other jurisdictions have
notice requirements for introduction of bills, we in Ontario do not.
As to the omnibus nature of the
bill, the Speaker admitted to the House that this matter was of greatest
concern to him. He cited several rulings made by other Speakers both in Ontario
and in other jurisdictions in which they too had expressed concern over the
introduction of omnibus legislation. He concluded however, that it is not
within the authority of the Speaker in the absence of clear guidelines or
direction from the House to split or disallow omnibus legislation. The Speaker
called upon members of the House to "break ground in this area and develop
guidelines and policy as to the acceptable form and content of omnibus
On December 6, after being called
in to the House for a division, members of the opposition refused to vote. This
was in contravention of Standing Order 28(c) which provides that every member
present at the time of a division must vote. The Speaker then began to ask
members individually to indicate their vote. The first member, Bernard
Grandmaître refused, and as established by precedent, the Speaker named him
and asked him to withdraw from the Chamber. Mr. Grandmaître complied. The
Speaker then followed the same procedure for the next member, Alvin Curling.
Mr. Curling refused to withdraw from the Chamber and the Sergeant-at-Arms Thomas
Stelling had to report to the Speaker that force would be necessary to
remove the member.
What followed has been widely
reported. Mr. Curling remained in his seat surrounded by members of the
opposition and refusing to withdraw throughout the night. Finally, at 10:15
a.m. on Thursday, December 7, Mr. Curling withdrew and the House adjourned at
10:20 a.m. until Monday, December 11.
The incident led to discussions
between the three House Leaders and an agreement was reached to refer Bill 26
to the Standing Committee on General Government for public hearings and
The new Progressive Conservative
Government of the 36th Parliament, with 63 percent of the seats in the
Legislature, increased the membership on Standing and Select Committees to 14
members. The new membership of committees preserved the proportional
representation of recognized parties in the House.
The Standing Committee on General
Government, chaired by Jack Carroll was one of the first committees in
the new Parliament to hold public hearings. On the same day as its
organizational meeting, November 2, 1995, Bill 8, Job Quotas Repeal Act,
1995, was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government.
Public hearings were held in
Toronto on Bill 8, during the week of November 16, 1995, with clause-by-clause
consideration commencing on the afternoon of November 27, 1995. The Committee
completed clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill on November 30, 1995, and
reported the Bill as amended to the House that same day.
On December 12, 1995, the omnibus
Bill 26, Savings and Restructuring Act, 1995, was referred to the
Standing Committee on General Government. Under an Order of the House, the
Committee was authorized to meet during the winter adjournment to conduct
Committee agreed to divide into two bodies to conduct public hearings
throughout the province. The full Committee chaired by Jack Carroll, was
reduced to a membership of 6, comprising 4 Progressive Conservative members including
the Chair, 1 Liberal member and 1 New Democratic member. This reduced Committee
heard deputations on all health related aspects of Bill 26.
The Evidence Sub-committee of the
Standing Committee on General Government chaired by Bart Maves (the Vice-Chair
of the full committee), comprising 5 Progressive Conservative members including
the Chair, 2 Liberal members, and 1 New Democratic member, heard deputations on
issues pertaining to all other aspects of Bill 26.
The reduced Committee and the
Evidence Sub-committee sat concurrently while holding public hearings in
Toronto during the week of December 18, 1995. During the weeks of January 8 and
15, 1996, the Committees conducted public hearings on the road, both Committees
travelled to 11 cities throughout Ontario.
Once public hearings were completed
the Evidence Sub-committee and the reduced Committee came together and met as
the full Standing Committee on General Government. The Committee conducted
clause-by-clause during the week of January 22, 1996, and pursuant to a time
allocation motion, completed clause-by-clause on January 26, 1996. The amended
Bill was reported to the House on January 29, 1996 and was given third reading
that same day. In the event that the Committee failed to report the Bill on the
date indicated, the Bill was to be deemed reported to, and received by, the
The Standing Committee as a whole
received over 1000 written exhibits, in excess of 3000 form letters and heard
from a little over 400 deputations.
The winter adjournment has been a
busy one for all committees with most conducting public hearings, and others
considering matters such as security, retail sales tax and public appointments.
The Standing Committee on
Administration of Justice, chaired by Gerry Martiniuk conducted public
hearings on Bill 19, Advocacy, Consent and Substitute Decisions Statute Law
Amendment Act, 1995. The committee travelled throughout the province and
had extensive hearings at Queen’s Park.
The Standing Committee on Resources
Development, chaired by Steve Gilchrist conducted hearings on Bill 20, Land
Use Planning and Protection Act, 1995. Prior to the winter adjournment, the
Standing Committee on Resources Development also conducted public hearings on
Bill 15, Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Health and Safety Amendment
The Standing Committee on Finance
and Economic Affairs, chaired by Ted Chudleigh conducted its annual
Pre-Budget hearings, and conducted public hearings on the draft proposal for
Auto Insurance Reform.
The Standing Committee on the
Legislative Assembly, chaired by Ted Arnott met to study the issue of
Security in Legislative precinct, in the wake of concerns raised by members in
the House over the events of opening day. The Sub-committee was assisted in its
deliberations by visits to both Quebec City and Ottawa, where they were well
briefed on security issues.
The Standing Committees on
Estimates, Government Agencies, Public Accounts and the Ombudsman also met in
accordance with their terms of reference as outlined in the Standing Orders.
Deborah Deller, Clerk Assistant and, Clerk of Committees