| British Columbia
| New Brunswick
| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
On 19 June 1996, the National
Assembly adjourned its proceedings for the summer break having held 41 sittings
since the beginning of the new session. During this period, a considerable
number of bills were passed, including 37 public bills and 8 private ones. This
includes a bill creating the Ministère de la Métropole, whose mission is to
promote and support the economic, cultural and social development of
The Assembly also examined a bill
respecting pay equity. The purpose of this bill is to redress the salary
discrimination suffered by persons occupying positions in predominantly female
job classes. The bill is currently being considered in committee, where special
consultations are also being held. As regards the bill establishing a universal
drug insurance plan, it was passed following the suspension of certain rules of
Under the plan, every person residing
in Quebec who is registered with the Quebec Health Insurance Board will benefit
from basic coverage for the cost of pharmaceutical services and medications.
The bill sets out the contributions to be made to the financing of the basic
plan by the persons covered, who may be required to pay a co-insurance amount
of not more than 25 % of the cost of the pharmaceutical services and
medications provided up to a maximum contribution of $750 for a one-year
The provisions of this Act come into
force on January 1,1997. However, persons aged 65 and over as well as welfare
recipients are subjected to these provisions as of August 1, 1996 and thus have
to pay a premium and a deductible amount according to their income.
The passage of two other bills
should also be highlighted: a bill that amends the Charter of Human Rights
and Freedoms in order to secure the right to equality, without exclusion
based on sexual orientation, as regards the establishment of contracts and
plans relating to insurance, retirement pensions or other social benefits; and
a bill that amends the Civil Code with respect to the obligation of
support, which corrects what was considered to be an injustice towards elderly
persons who were obliged to pay support to relatives other than those in the
In addition these of legislative
measures, Members were also asked to approve the budgetary policy of the
Government following the Budget Speech delivered on May 9, 1996 by the Minister
of Finance, Bernard Landry.
Numerous directives were issued by
the Chair in the last few months. Indeed, many procedural cases were brought to
the forefront at various legislative stages of the debates on the controversial
bill implementing the prescription drug insurance. The Chair thus denied a
point of privilege by the Official Opposition House Leader regarding the
advertisement that was published in several Quebec newspapers on the new
prescription drug insurance plan proposed in this bill. The latter criticized
the publicity for failing to mention the role of the Assembly and of its
Members with respect to the procedure followed for the passage of bills.
Mr. Speaker stated that campaigns
undertaken by the Ministries and public bodies in order to inform the
population of governmental decisions did not constitute a prima facie
contempt of Parliament. Nevertheless, government publicity regarding a bill
that is still being considered by the National Assembly should mention the role
of the National Assembly and of its Members with respect to the procedure
followed for the passage of such new measures. Further to this ruling, Mr.
Speaker tabled copies of letters he had sent to both the Prime Minister and the
Minister of Health and Social Services regarding this matter.
Following the tabling of an audio
cassette by a member of the Official Opposition, Speaker Jean-Pierre
Charbonneau stated that tabling shall be limited to hand-written or printed
documents until the proper storage, reproduction and distribution of
audiovisual documents can be assured for an extended period of time.
Among recent political events
worthy of mention, it should be noted that the Member for Iberville, Richard
Le Hir, announced his decision to leave the Parti Québécois and sit as an
independent, as of April 30, 1996. On June 18, 1996, the Member for
Pointe-aux-Trembles, Michel Bourdon, announced in the Assembly his
retirement from political life. Mr. Bourdon had been elected under the banner
of the Parti Québécois in the general election on September 25, 1989 and had
been re-elected in September 12, 1994.
Before the adjournment of
proceedings for the summer, the Members of the Assembly welcomed two new
colleagues to the National Assembly, both of whom were returned in the
by-elections of June 10, 1996. They are the Parti Québécois candidate in
L’Assomption, Jean-Claude Saint-André, and the Liberal Party candidate
in Outremont, Pierre-Étienne Laporte.
Consequently, the party standings
of the National Assembly are as follows: 74 Parti Québécois; 47 Liberals; 3
Independents (including one Member of the Action démocratique du Quebec Party);
and 1 vacant seat.
More recently, the federal
government announced the appointment of Jean-Louis Roux to the office of
Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec. Mr. Roux replaces Martial Asselin, who
had held this post since August 9, 1990.
relations the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jean-Pierre Charbonneau,
tabled the reports of several parliamentary missions undertaken by Members of
During the spring, a delegation was
sent to Toronto to participate in the 5th Annual Assembly of the Ontario-Quebec
Parliamentary Association (A.P.O.Q.). At the end of May, during a visit to
France, the Speaker of the Quebec National Assembly signed a memorandum of
agreement with the President of the French National Assembly. Also, a Quebec
delegation attended the meeting of the Committee on Energy and the Environment
of the Eastern Regional Conference of the Council of State Governments, held in
Boston, Massachusetts, on May 31, and June 1, 1996.
The Assembly resumes its
proceedings on Tuesday, October 15, 1996, while the parliamentary committees
recommenced their activities in August.
Nancy Ford , National Assembly Secretariat, Translated by
As in past years, May and June have
been a time of intense activity especially as regards the consideration of
bills. Some forty bills were examined during over eighty committee sittings
and, many bills required the holding of special hearings.
The Committee on Social Affairs was
particularly busy. It held a series of special hearings under a mandate,
undertaken on its own initiative, to examine the functioning of the bodies and
agencies having a role to play in the use of prescription drugs in Quebec. In
addition, pursuant to section 8 of the Act respecting the accountability of
deputy ministers and chief executive officers of public bodies, the
committee heard the chairman of the Quebec medical council. The committee also
undertook detailed consideration of a number of bills referred by the House,
such as Bill 116, An Act to again amend the Act respecting health services
and social services, and Bill 33, An Act respecting prescription drug
insurance and amending various legislative provisions, for both of which
the committee held special hearings before beginning detailed consideration. In
each case however, the committee’s examination was suspended when, claiming the
urgency of the situation, the Government House Leader tabled a motion to suspend
the rules of procedure and recalled the bills to the House.
The activities of the Committee on
the Budget and Administration included a ten-hour continuation of the debate on
the Budget Speech, begun in the National Assembly. The committee also held
public hearings, under a mandate pursuant to the Securities Act, to
study the advisability of maintaining the Act in force or of amending it.
The committee also devoted time to
the consideration of Bill 36, An Act to amend the Financial Administration
Act and other legislative provisions, and Bill 32, An Act to amend the
Act respecting the Ministère du Revenu, which required the holding of
special hearings prior to detailed consideration. The committee’s examination
of Bill 32 was suspended when the Bill was recalled to the House following the
tabling of a motion to that effect by the Government House Leader.
The Committee on Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food examined Bill 23, An Act to amend the Act to preserve
agricultural land and other legislative provisions in order to promote the
preservation of agricultural activities, one of the main objectives of
which is to protect the right of farmers to farm in agricultural zones, while
promoting harmonious relations with neighbouring residential areas.
The Committee tabled reports in the
National Assembly on the subject of accountability and the supervision of
public bodies, after hearing the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Food and the executive officers of five agencies operating in its policy field.
The reports and the recommendations they contain will be taken under
consideration by the National Assembly when the session resumes in the Fall.
The Committee also elected a new vice-chairperson, Cécile Vermette, to
replace Michel Bourdon.
The Committee on Culture engaged in
detailed consideration of Bill 28, An Act respecting the Société de
télédiffusion du Quebec and amending the Act respecting educational programming
and other legislative provisions and Bill 18, An Act respecting the Ministère
des Relations avec les citoyens et de l’Immigration and amending other
legislative provisions. It also heard the chairman of Quebec’s access to
information commission in connection with the commission’s 1994-95 annual
report pursuant to the Standing Orders of the National Assembly. Several
working sessions were devoted to the mandate undertaken on the Committee’s
initiative to investigate issues associated with the implementation of the
information highway in Quebec.
The work of the Committee on Institutions
was devoted chiefly to a number of legislative mandates, including examination
of Bill 51, An Act respecting the implementation of international trade
agreements, and Bill 20, An Act to amend the Legal Aid Act, and Bill
25, An Act to amend the Civil Code as regards the obligation of support.
It also continued its detailed examination of Bill 130, An Act respecting
administrative justice, besides holding public hearings on a study document
proposing amendments to be made to the Election Act.
The Committee on Planning and
Infrastructures examined several bills concerning the municipal sector,
including eight private bills, and other bills in the environment and wildlife
sector. It also considered Bill 1, An Act respecting the Ministère de la
Métropole, which establishes a government department responsible for the
economic, cultural and social development of Greater Montreal.
The Committee on Labour and the
Economy examined Bill 129, An Act to amend the Act respecting lotteries,
publicity contests and amusement machines in respect of international cruise
ships, Bill 27, An Act to amend the Labour Code, Bill 26, An Act
respecting the Ministère du travail, and Bill 117, An Act to amend the
Lastly, the Committee on Education
completed a consultation paper entitled "Conditions for Successful
Completion of Secondary-level Education" which was made public in June. It
was prepared as part of a mandate, undertaken on the Committee’s own
initiative, to inquire into the conditions for the successful completion of
secondary-level education and to develop appropriate proposals and
recommendations. The Committee will continue its mandate by holding special
hearings in August.
Interpellations took place in
several committees in the month of May, including the Committee on Labour and
the Economy on the subject of labour relations in Quebec, the Committee on
Planning and Infrastructures on the subject of regional development, the
Committee on Social Affairs on the subject of prescription drug insurance and
child day-care services, and the Committee on Education on the subject of the
establishment of linguistic school boards throughout Quebec.
After the July recess, the
committees will undertake a number of mandates in August and September,
including nine public hearings.
Line Béland, Secretary of the Committee on Planning and
Infrastructures, Committee Secretariat
The Third Session of the 13th
Assembly reconvened May 1 with the release of Building a Foundation for the
Future: The Northwest Territories’ Agenda for Change. The 19-page document
outlines the Government and Legislative Assembly’s blueprint to 1999. The
report clearly identified 10 priorities for the Territorial Government and
includes a method for evaluating progress throughout the process.
May 2 was budget day in the
Territories with the release of Finance Minister John Todd’s first
budget and the first budget of the 13th Assembly. The release of the Capital
and Operating and Maintenance budgets was delayed to allow new MLAs an
opportunity to have input into the budget and the cutbacks necessary to
eliminate the deficit.
Mr. Todd started his Budget Address
by saying the government has to change the way it does business and that would
mean reductions in all areas. He said with the changes proposed in the 1996-97
budget the deficit would be $43 million rather than the projected $150 million,
leading to a balanced budget in 1997-98.
The $1.2 billion spending plan for
1996-97, down $70 million from those forecast a year earlier, also included a
number of new initiatives aimed at diversifying the Northwest Territories’
economy. Some of the new initiatives introduced in the budget include a $5
million Community Initiative Program, establishing creative partnerships with
aboriginal groups, businesses and other levels of government and $5 million to
set up a Mortgage and Loan Company.
In his Budget Address, Mr. Todd
said the Northwest Territories is open for business and will do all it can to
attract new dollars to the territory. There were no new taxes or tax increases
announced in the budget.
In conjunction with the passing of
the 1996-97 Capital and Operating and Maintenance budgets, the Legislative
Assembly also passed Bill 10, The Budget Measures Implementation Act.
This Bill made legislative changes — amending several Acts and repealing two
others — necessary to implement the budget and help the government meet its
Numerous bills also received
passage in the May sitting including the first Private Members Bill of the 13th
Assembly. Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus brought forward Bill 5,
An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. The amendment requires motorists to
use headlights or daytime running lights of a vehicle at all times. Other
legislation that received passage included:
Appropriation Act, 1996-97: authorizes the government to make
operations and maintenance expenditures and capital expenditures for the fiscal
year ending March 31, 1997.
An Act to Amend the Legislative
Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 2: requires a Member of the Legislative Assembly to file a
supplemental disclosure statement where there is a change in his or her
financial circumstances as reported in the annual disclosure statement.
Loan Authorization Act: authorizes the government to make loans to
municipalities for 1996-97.
An Act to Amend the Legislative
Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 3: eliminates cost of living increases in respect of allowances
and constituency expenses paid to Members and to roll-back the increase made to
the amount of the allowances and constituency expenses on April 1, 1996.
Statute Revision Act: provides for the appointment of a Statute
Revision Commissioner and for the preparation, approval and coming into force
of the Revised Statues of the Northwest Territories, 1998 and the Statutes of
After May’s month long session most
Members of the Legislative Assembly headed home to spend some time with their
families but many have been called back for committee work. Five members of the
Government Operations Committee travelled with Finance Minister John Todd
to the Maritimes as part of the Investment Search Sub-Committee. The
sub-committee is looking for new ways to attract investment capital to the
Other Committees also met during
June and July including the Working Group on the Western Constitution, the
group drafting a constitutional package for the Western Arctic after division
of the N.W.T. in 1999.
The Governor General of Canada, Romeo
LeBlanc and Madame Diana Fowler LeBlanc were the guests of honor at
a luncheon in the Legislative Assembly June 20. The luncheon was hosted by
Speaker Sam Gargan and Goo Arlooktoo, Deputy Premier of the
David Hamilton, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, hosted
the Conference of Canadian Election Officials, electoral officials from across
Canada, at a four-day conference in July where election issues and new
initiatives for elections were discussed.
The Northwest Territories also
hosted the Seventh Annual Visitors Services National Conference with delegates
from seven provinces and the host territory attending. Delegates work in Public
Relations and Visitors Services offices at Legislative Assemblies across the country.
Ronna Bremer, Public Relations OfficerNorthwest
Territories Legislative Assembly
The First Session of the 23rd
Legislature adjourned on June 25, 1996, after 17 weeks and 80 sitting days. A
total of 127 bills were introduced, including 4 private members’ bills and 20
opposition public bills. Ninety-eight of the 103 Government public bills and
all of the private members’ bills received Royal Assent. Health care reform and
funding of the provincial health districts, together with the issues of union
preference tendering and the Government’s Crown Construction Tendering
Agreement (CCTA), the organization of rural governments and measures to protect
the public from dangerous offenders were the main areas of debate during the
session. Two major filibusters (the Liberals on health care and the
Conservatives on the CCTA) and a government motion which extended sitting hours
(10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, except Friday) marked the last month of
New Elections Act
Through Bob Mitchell, minister
responsible for the Elections Act, the Government proposed the first
comprehensive revision of election law in Saskatchewan since 1971, by
introduction of Bill No. 92, An Act respecting Elections. The minister
stated that the bill addressed three main subjects areas: firstly, the bill
provides substantial improvement in the accessibility of the right to vote;
secondly, increased accountability for candidates, campaign managers and
provincial parties and thirdly; enunciation of clearer rules respecting election
expenditures. The bill was the subject of broad consultation with all the
political parties represented in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly before
introduction so it was not expected to be controversial. However, when
questions were raised by the media about alleged "secret trust funds"
maintained by the Conservative and New Democratic parties, Liberal Leader Ron
Osika pressed for a public inquiry and postponement of the bill. The
minister stated that the controversy was over the interpretation of the
reporting provisions of the existing act rather than a problem with the
proposed bill. Bill No. 92 was passed on June 25th and is expected to come into
force in January 1997. The matter of the trust funds is currently being
investigated by the Chief Electoral Officer.
On June 17, Ned Shillington,
the Government House Leader, raised a question of privilege with respect to
comments made by Ron Osika, the Leader of the Opposition during oral question
period on June 14. Mr. Shillington claimed the comments attacked the conduct
and integrity of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, Derril McLeod.
Mr. Osika accused the commissioner of being in a conflict of interest for being
"heavily involved in a company that may have donated funds to the New
Democratic party" and requested the Premier to remove Mr. McLeod from his
position. Speaker Glenn Hagel took notice of the question and delivered
his ruling the following morning.
In finding that a prima facie
matter of privilege had been established, the Speaker reminded Members that the
Conflict of Interest Commissioner is an officer of the Assembly who is entitled
to the protection customarily accorded to such officers. The Speaker indicated
that by statute the Commissioner can only be disciplined or removed from office
by an order of the Assembly and not by the Premier. The Speaker concluded by
stating that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition were capable of
undermining the personal credibility and professionalism of the commissioner
and could impede his capacity to serve the Assembly. Prior to the Speaker’s
ruling, Mr. Osika did withdraw the remarks and offered an unqualified apology
to the Commissioner. This gesture was accepted by the Assembly.
A second question of privilege
concerning the Conflict of Interest Commissioner was raised by Liberal MLA Gerard
Aldridge on June 19. He claimed that the Commissioner’s position on the
board of directors of a corporation which had criticized him served to impair
the performance of his parliamentary duties. Mr. Aldridge voiced concerns about
the commissioner’s ability to perform his duties impartially, particularly with
regard to the confidential financial disclosure statements all MLAs must submit
to the commissioner. In his ruling to the House the following morning, Speaker
Hagel noted that Mr. Aldridge had not identified or demonstrated any present or
past improper conduct of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner but had rather
expressed his doubt in the commissioner’s ability to perform his duties
impartially. As such, the Speaker stated that the complaint did not constitute
an interference or obstruction in the member’s ability to carry on his
parliamentary functions. Accordingly, Speaker Hagel ruled that a prima facie
question of privilege had not been established.
Changes in Members’ Salaries and
In December 1994, the Assembly
appointed Stirling McDowell to head the Independent Committee on MLA
Compensation (Salaries and Allowances). The Committee reported its
recommendations to the Board of Internal Economy in the Spring of 1995 (for
details see Canadian Parliamentary Review, Summer 1995). The
recommendations, which were agreed to in principle, were not expected to be
formally adopted until the fall in order to give the committee time to clarify
certain matters. In the meantime membership changes on the Board resulting from
the provincial general election caused further delays.
On March 5, 1996, the Board agreed
to adopt the McDowell recommendations effective July 1, 1996. With the
legislative session having already commenced, the July 1 implementation date
was meant to give Assembly staff sufficient time to establish new
administrative structures and re-orient Members, caucuses and their respective
staffs. However, the implementation date proved to be controversial. The
Conservative caucus asked for an immediate implementation date. Conservative
leader Bill Boyd argued that the delayed implementation date provided an
approximately $4,000 bonus for MLAs while government members maintained that
July 1st implementation of "McDowell" still meant an overall
reduction in remuneration rather than a windfall. Both sides of the issue
presented figures to support their respective arguments. To make their point,
Conservative Members decided to forgo an equivalent amount in sessional per
On June 12, Doug Anguish
announced his resignation as Minister of Labour and as the Member for North
Battleford effective July 1, 1996. Mr. Anguish served previously as a Member of
Parliament and had been a Member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly since
October 1986. He has accepted a position outside the political arena in the
Responsibility for the Labour
portfolio will be handled by Robert Mitchell, who will continue
in his role as Minister for Post-Secondary Education and Skills Training.
Margaret Woods, Clerk Assistant
The House recessed on June 6, 1996,
bringing to a close a fairly raucous Spring sitting that was characterized by the
introduction of a heavy legislative agenda, debate of estimates, highly
polarized ideological debates and a strike by public home-care workers.
The Government brought forward a legislative
package of 75 bills which were all moved for Second Reading before the recess,
as required by the Provisional Rules. Considered by some to be the most
far-reaching legislative package of the Filmon Government to date, it includes
a number of bills that are expected to have a significant impact upon
Manitobans and their province. These bills include:
Bill 67 – The Manitoba Telephone
System Reorganization and Consequential Amendments Act – this legislation
will prepare the crown corporation for sale as had been announced by the
Government earlier in the year.
Bill 26 – The Labour Relations
Amendment Act contains amendments that affect the relationship between
unions and their members. These proposed changes include requirement of 40% of
a new union’s membership in order to apply for certification; full financial
disclosure of all unions; and the option of a member to designate his/her dues
to a charity of one’s choice.
Bill 72 – The Public Schools
Amendment Act (2) comes after a review of the 40 year-old collective
bargaining process for determining Manitoba’s teachers’ salaries. The
legislation maintains the no-strike and lock-out element but provides allowance
for an arbitrator to consider the ability of a school division to pay. As well,
the bill provides for two different methods for resolving disputes; the first
one involves using, if necessary, a government conciliator before binding
arbitration and the second option involves using, if necessary, a mediator who
would also act as the arbitrator. For the first option, both parties must agree
to the process, however, the second option allows for one party to choose this
method after a minimum notice period has occurred.
Bill 49 – The Regional Health
Authorities and Consequential Amendments Act establishes 10 regional health
boards as authorities to plan and direct health services in their respective
Bill 76 – The Gaming Control and
Consequential Amendments Act is a follow-up to one of the recommendations
of a Working Group on the issue of Gambling in Manitoba in proposing the
establishment of a gaming commission to provide regulatory control of gambling
in Manitoba and provide policy research and advice on its social and economic
Bill 31 – The Livestock Industry
Diversification and Conseqential Amendments Act is that legislation which
will provide for Manitobans to legally engage in game farming and ranch native
wildlife, namely elk. As just a sketch of the legislative agenda, the Fall will
prove to be busy as some 67 bills have yet to go through committee.
A five-week strike of provincial
home-care workers was the background for a highly politically-charged House
which contributed to a number of procedural matters that arose in the recent
sittings. On April 22, 1996, David Chomiak raised a matter of privilege
alleging that the Minister of Health misled the House about information related
to Home Care services and privatization plans of such and that the Minister had
proved incompetent in handling the matter and related issues. On April 29,
Speaker Louise Dacquay ruled that there was no prima facie
evidence of a breach of privilege as there was no proof of deliberate intent to
mislead the House and that allegations of mismanagement by a Minister was not a
basis for privilege.
On May 13, 1996, during Oral
Questions, the Opposition House Leader, Steven Ashton, moved for
adjournment of the House, contending that the unresolved home care dispute was
creating chaos in Manitoba’s health care system and that the Government must
immediately attend to finding a resolution. Speaker Dacquay ruled the motion
out of order as Manitoba’s rules require that a motion to adjourn the House may
not be moved until the Orders of the Day had been entered upon. Mr. Ashton
challenged the ruling and it was sustained on a formal vote. Following this, Kevin
Lamoureux raised a matter of privilege contending that Mr. Ashton, in
moving the adjournment motion, the subsequent challenge to the ruling and the
ringing of the bells for an hour, represented wilful disobediene to the rules
of the House and obstruction of the House. The Speaker ruled on May 23 that
there was no prima facie evidence of a breach of privilege as Mr.
Ashton’s actions did not represent a wilful and persistent disobedience of the
rules of the House.
One of the most difficult
situations the Speaker had to deal with was on May 14, 1996, when the disorder
in the House became so disruptive and grave that she recessed the House for
about two hours. This occurred during debate on Manitoba’s first Opposition Day
motion, however the excessive disorder seemed to be a culmination of many
factors including the lack of resolution on the Home Care workers’ strike and
the highly polarized positions over the strike and related issues. Upon return
to the House, a number of points of order were raised regarding language and
actions that had allegedly been said or occurred prior to the recess. Speaker
Dacquay took the matters under advisment but with the language in question
subsequently not evident on the Hansard tapes and with some of the points of
order raised too late, the points of order were ruled out of order.
The frustration of the Opposition
reached its peak on June 3, 1996, following a ruling by the Speaker regarding
alleged language used by the Minister of Education and Training, Linda
McIntosh, as it related to the May 14th events. The Speaker ruled that the
words allegedly spoken by the Minister were not evident on the Hansard tapes.
Following a challenge to this ruling by the Opposition, Mr. Ashton rose on a
matter of privilege and moved a motion of non-confidence in the Speaker. The
matter was dealt with immediately and following a number of speakers, the
motion was defeated on division.
Judy White, Clerk Assistant, Manitoba Legislative Assembly
House of Commons
When the Leader of the Opposition, Michel
Gauthier, opened debate on a supply day opposition motion on May 16, he
announced that he was splitting the speaking time for Members of his party.
This meant that the second speaker on the motion would also be a member of the
Bloc Québécois and that he or she could move an amendment. Consequently, the
Government raised a point of order to question whether this was an appropriate
application of Standing Order 43(2) which allows a Member’s 20-minute speaking
time to be shared with another Member of the same party. The Acting Speaker, Bob
Kilger, later reminded the House that it had become common practice for
Members to share the first speech on supply days and that there had been other
occasions when speakers who were sharing their time had each moved a motion. He
then ruled that it was in accordance with the Standing Orders and with practice
for the mover to share speaking time with another Member, who could then
propose an amendment. He concluded by suggesting that the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs could review the wording of the Standing Orders if
the House objected to this way of proceeding.
On June 18 the Speaker ruled on the
point of order raised by Ray Speaker on May 9 regarding a non-votable
private Member’s motion standing in the name of Don Boudria. That motion
accused Ray Speaker of attempting to put pressure on the Speaker to
recognize the Reform Party as the Official Opposition and declared that Mr.
Speaker’s actions were a contempt of Parliament. The Speaker ruled that such a
motion was procedurally acceptable under the rules for Private Members’
Business and that the Chair did not have the authority to make the motion
votable. He further pointed out that there were "procedures at the
disposal of the House to ensure that a sense of fair play prevails in all its
proceedings". Ray Speaker immediately raised a question of privilege
which, if found prima facie, would provide a way of resolving the charge
made against him by permitting the matter to come to a vote. He argued that
allowing the charge to remain unresolved would seriously affect his reputation.
After hearing from other Members, the Speaker reserved his decision. When he
returned to the question on June 20, the Speaker reminded the House that
motions regarding the conduct of Members had in the past been placed on the
Order Paper under Private Members’ Business without ever being voted on by the
House. Although he could not find there was a prima facie question of privilege,
the Speaker suggested that the Member consider pursuing the matter of the
non-votable motion with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
On June 18 the Standing Committee
on Procedure and House Affairs reported to the House regarding the question of
privilege raised by Jim Hart on March 12, which charged the Official
Opposition defence critic, Jean-Marc Jacob, of contempt of Parliament
for having issued a communiqué concerning the establishment of a military force
in an independent Quebec. The Committee concluded that Mr. Jacob’s actions were
"irresponsible" but did not constitute a contempt of the House. The
Committee added that it did not feel that Mr. Hart had acted in an entirely
non-partisan manner in raising the matter as a question of privilege.
Later that day Mr. Jacob sought the
floor to make a "solemn declaration". However, the Speaker intervened
when Mr. Jacob began to criticise Mr. Hart for having raised the question of
privilege. The Speaker reminded the House that a solemn declaration was not
intended to make additional accusations or incite debate. Another Bloc
Québécois Member subsequently rose on a point of order to demand a public
apology from Mr. Hart. The Speaker replied that the proper way of proceeding
would be to debate the report itself on a motion of concurrence, although he
agreed, at the Member’s insistence, to return to the House on the point of
order if he found it necessary to do so.
On June 20 a Reform Party Member, Chuck
Strahl, moved concurrence in the Committee’s report and another Member of
the same party, Ray Speaker, moved an amendment to recommit the report
with instruction to amend it so as to recommend that the House find Mr. Jacob
in contempt of Parliament. The Government later moved the adjournment of the
debate and that motion carried on a recorded division. The concurrence motion
now appears on the Order Paper under Government Business and can only be called
for further debate when the Government wishes.
On June 19 Marlene Catterall,
chair of the Sub-Committee on the Business of Supply, presented two reports
from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The 23rd report
contains the Sub-Committee’s review of the pilot project undertaken by the
Treasury Board Secretariat to produce revised Part III Estimates documents for
The report approves the Treasury
Board proposal to expand the pilot project to sixteen departments and to
introduce additional information documents. The 24th report provides a statement
of the Sub-Committee’s goals and the principles guiding its study of the
Business of Supply, as well as summarizing the evidence obtained to date and
outlining some proposals under consideration. The House concurred in the 23rd
report on June 20.
Bill C-216, a private Member’s bill
sponsored by Roger Gallaway to amend the Broadcasting Act so as
to prohibit negative-option billing by cable companies, was given second
reading on April 29 and sent to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
The Bill was reported to the House with an amendment on June 3. However, the
progress of two other private Members’ bills has been blocked by the standing
committee to which they were referred after second reading.
The Standing Committee on Justice
and Legal Affairs voted not to report Bill C-234 and Bill C-245 to the House.
On June 19 John Nunziata announced in the House that he intended to
raise a question of privilege in September about the Committee’s decision on
his Bill C-234, which would have amended the Criminal Code respecting
Bill C-245, sponsored by Daphne
Jennings, would have amended the Divorce Act with respect to
grandparents’ access to their grandchildren. Ms. Jennings gave notice on June
17 of a private Member’s motion to amend the Standing Orders to require a
committee on a private Member’s bill to report either the bill or a
recommendation that the bill not be proceeded with.
The Standing Committee on Finance
was asked by the Government to study the relevant provisions of the Income
Tax Act after the May report of the Auditor General revealed that Revenue
Canada had authorized the tax-free transfer to the United States of large sums
of money held in family trusts.
The Standing Committee on Public
Accounts then launched its own inquiry into the incident brought to light by
the Auditor General. The Committee decided to swear in all witnesses, including
the Auditor General and officials of Revenue Canada. The Department has also
been pressed in the Committee for the name of the family involved, but
officials have maintained that the Income Tax Act binds them to secrecy.
Private Member’s Bill C-243,
sponsored by Ian McClelland and previously introduced as Bill C-319 in the
First Session, was concurred in at report stage, given third reading, and
passed on May 15. The Bill, which is now before the Senate, would amend the Canada
Elections Act with respect to the reimbursement of election expenses.
On May 29 past and present members
of the Senate and House of Commons assembled in the Commons Chamber, where the
Governor General and the Prime Minister unveiled commemorative plaques marking
the service of men and women who have served in Parliament since 1867. The
plaques were paid for by members of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance
Association. The 68 plaques—one for the Senate and the Commons in each
Parliament from Confederation to the 34th—were later installed in the new
Visitor Welcome Centre on the ground floor of the Centre Block. The Centre,
which opened in June, allows visitors to learn a bit about Parliament before
touring the building housing the Senate and the House of Commons as well as the
Library of Parliament. All visitors to the building must now pass through
airport-type security screening, which was formerly used only for visitors to
the galleries. The plaques and the Welcome Centre were the initiative of the
Commons Speaker, Gilbert Parent.
On May 31 the Government proposed a
constitutional resolution amending Term 17 of the Terms of Union of
Newfoundland with Canada. The House agreed to sit into the evening on Monday,
June 3, if necessary, in order to dispose of the resolution. The resolution was
adopted without amendment on a recorded division. Term 17 concerns religious
Thomas Hall, Procedural Clerk, House Proceedings and
Parliamentary Exchanges Directorate
The Legislative Assembly met on
June 25th for the first time since the general election of May 28th. The
expectation was for a short summer session, with priority given to passing a
budget and ministry estimates, with comparatively little in the way of
legislation. As it happened, 20 bills were passed by the House, with the
majority of House time being devoted to Estimates debate and other budgetary
matters. The session ended on August 15th after 34 sitting days.
As expected given the close party
standings in the House, a number of votes were narrowly decided, primarily on
bills and amendments. However, the governing NDP was able to successfully carry
all the votes necessary.
One of the more controversial
pieces of legislation passed by the House was the Electoral Boundaries
Commission Amendment Act, which guides the Commission in its regular
ten-year review of the province’s electoral districts. The Act increases the
number of districts from 75 to 81, in response to British Columbia’s growing
population. Opposition members opposed the bill, arguing that the increse was
unnecessary. The last boundary revision occurred in 1988.
The other major package of
legislation was introduced as several bills known as BC Benefits. The bills
addressed various facets of social assistance programs, including youth
training, welfare and child care.
A number of standing committees
will be active during the fall and winter. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee
will be holding public hearings into the Agreement-in-Principle signed between
the Province, the Government of Canada, and the Nisga’a Nation. The committee
is charged with making recommendations on the Agreement and how land claims
negotiations in general might best be concluded.
The Parliamentary Reform committee
will be conducting a review of the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act, in
particular making recommendations on the appointment process of the Conflict of
Interest Commissioner. Following this review, the committee is authorized to
undertake a search for a new Commissioner or Commissioners to replace Ted
Hughes, who has remained in the post in an acting capacity.
The Public Accounts Committee is
authorized to meet intersessionally and to study any reports by the Auditor
General released during this time. The Forests Committee will be examining the
annual business plan of Forest Renewal BC, the Crown Corporation established to
reinvest money into the provincial forest sector. Finally, a Special Committee
has been established to oversee the work of the Transition Commissioner for
Children’s Services, an office set up in response to the Gove Commission’s
inquiryinto child protection in the province.
Neil Reimer, Committee Clerk
Throughout this Parliament, the
Senate has attracted considerable attention, certainly more than it usually
receives. Much of this has been because the Government lacks an absolute
majority in the appointed Chamber and has seen some of its legislation closely
scrutinized and even defeated.
Towards the end of the first
session, the numerical scales just barely tipped in favour of the Government.
With the unexpected resignation of a Tory Senator and his replacement by a
Liberal appointee, the standings of the Senate became 51 Government, 50
Opposition and 3 Independent. With the support of the independents, the
Government could hope to successfully manage its legislation. At the start of
the new session in late February, the Government obtained majority
representation in all Senate standing committees. Consequently, the prospect of
delay at the committee-stage consideration of a bill virtually disappeared.
Nonetheless, the Government’s slim plurality was not enough to assure the
passage of all its legislation. This fact was highlighted dramatically with the
fate of Bill C-28, the Pearson Airport Agreements Bill.
The persistence of the Government
in attempting to cancel these agreements that had been signed just before the
previous Government was defeated at the last general election has been matched
by the Opposition attempts to fight it.
When the Government tried to move
second reading on Bill C-28 late last April, the Opposition were quick to
propose procedural objections. The first point of order claimed that the debate
could not proceed because the matter was before the courts and because passage
of the bill would nullify retroactively a valid court decision. A second point
of order challenged the procedures by which the bill had been sent from the
House of Commons to the Senate. The Opposition claimed that the bill was not
properly before the Senate because it had not actually been debated by the
House of Commons and, in addition, because it was not in the same form as the
previous version, Bill C-22 including the amendments that had been adopted by
the Senate, though not accepted by the House.
In both cases the Speaker, Gildas
Molgat, ruled that the points of order were not sufficiently proved.
Decisions of the court relating to the status of the agreements, according to
the Speaker, could not be used to prevent the Senate from considering Bill C-28
and the way in which the House of Commons adopted the bill was not the proper
concern of the Senate. Both rulings were appealed to the full Senate and were
sustained each time: 46 to 43 and 43 to 26.
Immediately following second
ruling, Senator Orville Phillips raised still another point of order to
claim that proceedings on the bill should be stopped since Bill C-28 was a bill
of pains and penalties, a type of legislation once used by the British
Parliament to impose sentences on political opponents without the benefit of a
court trial. After a brief suspension of the sitting, Speaker Molgat ruled that
Bill C-28 was in proper form and was not a bill of pains and penalties. This
time there was no appeal.
The Opposition, however, were not
prepared to give up the fight. Unable to defeat the second reading of the bill,
they challenged the report of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
and its proposed amendments to the bill. These amendments were supported by the
Government and were intended to meet any constitutional objections to the way
the Pearson Airport agreements were cancelled. This had been a major concern of
the Opposition. Nonetheless, the Opposition objected to the amendments and
claimed that the committee amendments were contrary to the principle of the
bill. Again, the Speaker ruled against the point of order and his decision was
sustained on appeal 47 to 44.
At this point, it seemed that the
Government was going to carry the day. The Government successfully secured the
adoption of a time allocation order limiting debate on the report and third
reading. Even Senator Findlay MacDonald, a staunch critic of the bill
and the chairman of the special committee inquiry into the Pearson Airport
agreement, conceded the likely outcome of the vote when he spoke of the eve of
the final vote that was scheduled for Wednesday, June 19. However, the results
were not what had been expected. The votes were 48 to 48, a tie, and in
consequence, Bill C-28 was lost.
The unexpected results of the vote
on Pearson Airport may have had a spill over effect on the proceedings relating
to the debate on the Newfoundland constitutional amendment, Term 17. Though the
Government showed a willing disposition to allow a Senate committee to sound
out public opinion in Newfoundland on the proposal to revamp the structure of
the province’s educational system before the vote on Bill C- 28, the unexpected
results of that vote together with the divided opinions on the issue of Term 17
expressed to the committee signalled potential problems. The Senate was not
recalled to debate the committee’s report and it will not resume its sittings
until September 24.
The role of the Senate as an
occasional catalyst in the legislative process was demonstrated early in this
session when the Senate passed Bill S-2, an Act to amend the Canadian Human
Rights Act (sexual orientation). The passage of this bill was relatively
easy and uncontroversial. Bill S-3 was introduced very early in this session
and was adopted before the end of April, receiving third reading April 24.
Unlike the House of Commons, the issue of sexual orientation as a protected
right under the Human Rights Code has not been a very difficult issue
with either caucus; a version of Bill S-2 had been passed in an earlier session
without much fanfare. This time, with Bill S-3 already approved by the Senate
and now in the House of Commons for consideration, the Minister of Justice
introduced Bill C-33 on April 29 and the Government pushed for its adoption in
short order. When Bill C-33 came to the Senate, it passed without any
Four Senators have resigned
recently. After more than thirty years of Senate service, Keith Davey
announced in late April that he would be resigning effective July 1 although
still five years shy of mandatory retirement. Allan MacEachen also
retired from the Red Chamber after reaching the age of seventy-five on July 6.
His resignation closes a remarkable political career that stretches back more
than forty years and his first election in the House of Commons in 1953.
Last March, Bud Olson gave
up his seat and became the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Another Senator to
accept a vice regal position was Jean Louis Roux who resigned after less
than two years in the Senate to become Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. There, he
will succeed Martial Asselin, also a former Senator. In fact, Mr. Olson
and Mr. Roux are the twenty-third and twenty-fourth Senators to be appointed
Lieutenant Governors of a province since Confederation.
The Government has made
appointments to fill two of the three vacancies. A former Minister of
Agriculture during the Trudeau administration, Eugene Whalen, will fill
the Ontario seat and Léonce Mercier replaces Senator Roux.
Charles Robert, Executive Assistant to the Clerk of the
The First Session of the Fifty-third
Legislative Assembly opened on February 6, 1996, with the Speech from the
Throne, by Lieutenant-Governor Margaret NorrieMcCain.
As part of the opening ceremonies,
an Aboriginal Sweet Grass Ceremony was enacted for the first time within the
walls of the Legislative Assembly. The traditional native ceremony, conducted
by Elder Margaret Paul and Elder Barb Martin, included burning a
bundle of sweetly scented grass and waving the scented smoke about the historic
chamber. The Lieutenant-Governor the Speaker, Danny Gay, Premier Frank
McKenna, and Opposition Leader Bernard Valcourt participated in the
cleansing ceremony of cedar and herb scented smoke.
The Motion for an Address in Reply
to the Speech from the Throne was moved by Carolle de Ste-Croix who, at
26, is the youngest Member of the Legislative Assembly.
The much anticipated provincial
budget, tabled in the Legislature on February 15, 1996, by Finance Minister Edmond
Blanchard, projected a fiscal surplus of $92.9 million for the 1996-97
budget year, the largest in recent New Brunswick history. Although the budget
called for no new taxes and no tax increases, it did project a reduction in the
public service of up to 750 jobs. Municipalities were also affected by a $16
million cut to transfers to local governments over the next two years.
Universities will share the burden of fiscal restraint as grants to
universities decline by $3 million a year over each of the next three years.
Spending on health care and education will increase slightly and about $180
million will be committed to highway spending. A 1.5 percent increase in
welfare payouts will commence in the fall.
Dominating the First Session was
debate on a plan introduced by Education Minister James Lockyer. It
contains far reaching educational reforms, including major amendments to the
provincial Schools Act. Considerable time was spent in the House
debating Bill 23 which would eliminate the provinces’s 18 local school boards
and replace them with two provincial boards - one for each official language.
These boards would be dominated by parent appointees and eventually advised by
a network of local and district parent councils. Official Opposition Leader Bernard
Valcourt launched a full-scale filibuster on the issue stating that the
removal of local school boards goes against the principle of quality in
education. The opposition called for public hearings on the issue, but the
Liberal government used its majority to pass the reforms. A new Education
Act is expected to be tabled in the Legislature this fall.
Also of significance were reforms
to the Insurance Act introduced by Justice Minister Paul Duffie.
The bill, which requires insurance companies to pay more toward provincial
health care costs, also includes a provision that accident victims not wearing
seat belts be compensated less than those who "buckle up." Opposition
Leader Valcourt maintained that the law would lead to higher premiums for
consumers and lower benefits to accident victims.
Several standing and select
committees were active over the summer months reviewing a number of Bills and
discussion papers relating to various topics of importance to the province. The
Select Committee on Demographics, chaired by New Maryland MLA Joan Kingston,
is examining the public policy implications of various demographic issues
affecting New Brunswick as it approaches the 21st century. A government
discussion paper referred to the committee deals with such diverse issues as
declining births, aging population, low immigration and the distribution of the
population across the province. The Committee is seeking public input and will
make recommendations to assist government in determining the type of services
that will be required in the future and the people who will need these
A general dissatisfaction with the
level of gasoline pricing in New Brunswick led the House to appoint a Select
Committee on Gasoline Pricing which will carry out an in-depth review of
factors relating to gasoline pricing. Subjects for study include a review of
price components and taxation levels relative to other jurisdictions, and an
examination of the extent of, and reasons for, price differentials within the
province. The Committee, chaired by Greg Byrne, Fredericton-Fort
Nashwaak MLA, will hold public hearings during the summer months.
The Legislature’s Standing
Committee on Law Amendments will hold public hearings to review a number of
bills and discussion papers. Bill 66, An Act to Amend the Municipalities Act
deals with legal actions being brought against municipalities for damages
caused by the escape of water or sewerage from water, sewerage or storm
drainage systems. The Committee will review Bill 83, Clean Air Act,
introduced by the Minister of the Environment. The Act supports and promotes
the protection, restoration, enhancement and wise use of the environment. It
includes a series of stated principles which spell out the central themes of
the province’s clean air legislative program. The principles emphasize the
importance of environmental ethics and an ecosystem approach to air quality
planning and regulation. They underline the priority attached to sustainable
development and the importance of both individual and corporate action to
protect the environment. The Committee will also review a discussion paper entitled
Hospital Corporation Accountability which examines issues relating to the
public accountability of the province’s regional hospital corporations.
A Select Committee on Electoral
Reform was established to review the province’s electoral laws and the
procedure relating to the conduct of provincial elections.
The House sat 38 days during the
spring sitting and granted Royal Assent to 71 Bills. When the House adjourned
on April 25th, 16 bills remained on the Order Paper for consideration when the
first session of the 53rd Legislature resumes in the fall.
Donald Forestell, Clerk Assistant