| British Columbia
| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
Since the signing of the Memorandum
of Agreement by the Government and Opposition House Leaders following the 1993
provincial general election, there have been two sittings of the Assembly each year:
one commencing before February 15, and the other commencing before October 21.
This year the adjournment period was shorter than usual as the Assembly
adjourned on May 23, and reconvened on August 14, 1996. This summer sitting
was, however, quite short as the Assembly adjourned late on August 27, 1996. As
a result of the August sitting, the Assembly was not reconvened in October.
A major reason for the early
sitting was to give effect to the recommendations contained in the June 21,
1996 final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission which was chaired by Edward
R. Wachowich, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta. After the
Commission members were appointed on June 28, 1995, the Commission held two
rounds of public hearings throughout the province and produced an interim
report. The Commission recommended the addition of one electoral division in
Edmonton and one in Calgary. To offset the addition of these two constituencies
(the total number of seats had to remain at 83), the Commission recommended
that the southern Alberta electoral division of Cardston-Chief Mountain be
merged with surrounding constituencies. It also recommeded that the electoral
division of Chinook in eastern Alberta be amalgamated with surrounding constituencies.
The Commission also proposed several boundary changes to existing
Bill 46, the Electoral Divisions
Act, was introduced in the Assembly on August 14, 1996 by Brian Evans,
Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The Bill mirrored the recommendations
of the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Although several Members of the
Legislative Assembly expressed serious concerns with the Bill, notably that it
reduced representation from rural Alberta, there were no substantive amendments
to the proposed electoral divisions. The only amendments to the Bill concerned
name changes for certain electoral divisions. The Bill passed third reading on
August 27, 1996 and comes into force on proclamation.
During the brief summer sitting,
the Government brought forward Supplementary Estimates which were considered
and approved by the Committee of Supply. One item in the Supplementary
Estimates was an additional $20 million for the Department of Health. Apart
from Bill 46 and the Appropriation (Supplementary Supply) Act there were
two Government Bills introduced during the summer sitting; Bill 49, Gas
Utilities Amendment Act, 1996 and Bill 47, Reinvestment Act. Bill 47
amended the Balanced Budget and Debt Retirement Act by accelerating the
paydown of Alberta’s net debt to eliminate it by 2010, created a Family Tax
Credit and reduced tax rates for aviation and railway fuel. Both Bills were
passed before the Assembly adjourned.
The Assembly also passed two
Government Bills that were held over from the spring sitting; Bill 41, Water
Act, and Bill 44, Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Amendment Act.
Private Member’s Business
In the September 1993 amendments to
the Standing Orders, a new procedure was adopted for considering Private
Members’ Bills. Now, each Bill must receive 120 minutes of debate at second
reading and in Committee of the Whole, unless the relevant vote occurs sooner.
A Private Member’s Bill must be called in Committee of the Whole within 8
sitting days after it receives second reading. If the Bill is reported by the
Committee of the Whole, it is to be moved for third reading within 4 sitting
days, at which time it is to receive 60 minutes of debate unless it is voted
upon sooner. The first Private Member’s Bill proposed by an Opposition member
to receive second reading was Alice Hanson’s Bill 216, Victims of
Domestic Violence Act which received second reading on May 15, 1996. The
Bill would create additional legal remedies for persons complaining of domestic
As the Assembly adjourned on May
23, 1996, the Bill was not called in Committee of the Whole until August 21,
1996. The sponsor proposed several amendments to the Bill in the Committee of
the Whole. After some debate, Jocelyn Burgener (PC MLA, Calgary Currie)
moved that "the Chairman do now leave the Chair" which, under
Alberta’s Standing Order 64, is always in order and is to be decided without
debate. The motion was agreed to, therefore the Committee did not make a report
and the Bill was dropped from the Order Paper. The seldom used procedural
measure received considerable media attention and was the subject of a point of
order by the Opposition House Leader on August 22, 1996. While the Deputy
Speaker was reluctant to comment on proceedings in Committee of the Whole, he
indicated that the Bill was properly removed from the Order Paper in keeping
with parliamentary practice.
Alberta’s Legislative Assembly has
always been very permissive with respect to tablings. The time for tablings
occurs in the Daily Routine before Question Period. The Official Opposition
used the procedure on August 14 and 15, 1996 to table over 100 documents on the
two days. The Deputy Speaker, Don Tannas, intervened numerous times to
remind Members that no statements were allowed when tabling documents except
for a brief description of the document. In response to a point of order raised
by Stan Woloshyn, Minister of Public Works, Supply and Services, the
Deputy Speaker ruled on August 20, 1996 that some of the tablings were "no
more than typed messages." He ruled that the practice should not be
allowed to continue. He admonished Members for tabling documents more than once
and indicated that correspondence tabled must be signed and dated. For the
remainder of the sitting, the volume of tablings decreased considerably.
Comings and Goings
On October 5, 1996, Stan
Schumacher, Speaker of the Assembly, announced that he would not be seeking
re-election in the next provincial election. The Speaker’s constituency of
Drumheller had been merged with the riding of Chinook under the Electoral
Divisions Act. Mr. Schumacher was elected Speaker on August 30, 1993. He is
the first Alberta Speaker to be elected by secret ballot of the Members. He has
served as MLA for Drumheller since the 1986 provincial general election. Prior
to being elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly, he was a Member of
Parliament from 1968-1979 for the constituency of Palliser.
Several members of the Cabinet have
also recently announced that they will not be seeking re-election. They are: Jim
Dinning, Provincial Treasurer, Brian Evans, Minister of Justice and
Attorney General, Ken Rostad, Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental
Affairs, Jack Ady, Minister of Advanced Education and Career
Development, and Dianne Mirosh, Minister responsible for Science and
Prior to the summer sitting, Mary
Anne Balsillie was sworn-in as the Member for Redwater. She won a May 21,
1996 by-election which was necessitated by the resignation of Nick Taylor
who was called to the Senate on March 7, 1996.
Members of the Thirteenth Assembly
reconvened in Yellowknife on October 2 to hear Premier Don Morin say
that the government was on track to meet its overall budget target of a $43 million
deficit for the 1996-97 fiscal year.
Mr. Morin said securing the
Northwest Territories financial future was the primary focus of the government.
He said although many of the decisions they have made are not popular that it
was important to stay on course to build a strong foundation for the future.
He also said the government and
ordinary Members have to work together to develop a more effective and
efficient government and at the same time securing a stronger economic future
for people of the Northwest Territories.
MLAs echoed the theme of Mr.
Morin’s comments about working together. After the opening three days of
Session were dominated by questions regarding Cabinet’s decision to reallocate
capital spending, MLAs passed a motion of censure against Cabinet. Members said
Cabinet should have consulted with ordinary MLAs before moving spending for
capital projects in the middle of a fiscal year.
Another motion also called on
Cabinet to develop and adopt a policy by November 1, 1996 that ensures any new
capital projects over $250,000 not in the capital expenditures for that fiscal
year could not proceed without consulting MLAs and Standing Committees.
Other highlights of the abbreviated
Session included an announcement by Resources, Wildlife and Economic
Development Minister Stephen Kakfwi that the territorial government had
signed a socio-economic deal with Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. (BHP). The
company has received approval to proceed with Canada’s first diamond mine,
which will be located 310 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife.
Mr. Kakfwi said the deal will
ensure that people of the North have access to training, employment and
business opportunities associated with the diamond mine.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim
Antoine also tabled a draft constitutional document for the new western
Territory entitled: Partners in a New Beginning. He said it is hoped the
package – which outlines a proposal for a new government structure bringing
together public government and aboriginal self-government – will stimulate
public discussion in the new western Territory on what people want to see in a
constitution prior to implementing Division in 1999.
Five bills were considered and
received Royal Assent during the October Session including:
Electoral Boundaries Commission
Act: provides for the
establishment of two electoral boundaries commissions to review the existing
electoral boundaries that will comprise Nunavut and the new western Territory
An Act to Amend the Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act: provides that the term of an Interim and Privacy Commissioner appointed
before March 31, 1999, expires on March 31, 1999. The Bill repeals a provision
that deems employees of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
to be members of the public service, and also repeals a provision requiring
that the directory produced under the Act contain a general description of the
various categories of records controlled by public bodies.
Supplementary Appropriation Act
No. 1, 1996-97: makes
supplementary appropriations for the Government of the Northwest Territories
for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997.
An Act to Amend the Public
Trustee Act: provides that
excess interest earned by the investment of the common fund will be paid into
the Consolidated Revenue Fund, rather than into a special reserve fund.
Business Corporations Act: replaces the Companies Act and the Companies
Winding-Up Act, which will continue in force until March 31, 1999 to afford
existing companies an orderly transition to the new regime.
Two weeks of Committee meetings,
consisting mostly of reviews of departmental business plans for the 1997-98
fiscal year, followed the prorogation of the Third Session.
The next session which is expected
to continue into the New Year, will be dominated with discussion on
constitutional development in the two new territories, Nunavut and the new
western Territory, following Division of the Northwest Territories in 1999.
Ronna S. Bremer, Public Relations Officer
A significant event marked the
beginning of autumn when, on 2 October 1996, the former Premier of Québec, Robert
Bourassa, passed away after having waged with great courage an unyielding
battle against cancer.
Over the twenty-five year span of
his political career, Mr. Bourassa was to become the youngest Premier in the
history of Québec, having been elected to this office for the first time in
April 1970, at the age of 36. He had already been sitting as a Member of the
National Assembly for four years when he was chosen to be Leader of the Québec
Liberal Party a few months prior to his party taking power. He remained Premier
Over and above the duties and
functions of Premier and of chairman of the Executive Council, he also held, at
that time, the offices of Minister of Finance and of Minister of
After having begun, in November
1976, a period dedicated to study and reflection, during which he was guest
professor and lecturer in Québec as well as abroad, namely in the United
States, in France and in Belgium, Mr. Bourassa made a comeback on the political
scene in 1983 by being chosen a second time to lead his party. Following a June
1985 by-election, he once again took a seat in the National Assembly, this time
as Leader of the Official Opposition. The Liberal Party regained power in 2
December of the following year and Mr. Bourassa served as Premier without
interruption until his retirement from political life early in 1994.
Having written several works,
notably on energy in the North, his name remains closely linked to the
development of hydroelectric power in the James Bay Region. In order to
underline his accomplishments in this important sector, the National Assembly,
upon resumption of its proceedings on October 15, carried a motion, which was
jointly moved by Premier Lucien Bouchard and Official Opposition Leader Daniel
Johnson, recommending that the main facilities of the LG-2 Site henceforth
bear his name. Moreover, this sitting was dedicated exclusively to paying a
final tribute to the former Premier.
Regarding legislation, close to
forty public and private bills were introduced in the Assembly for possible
passage before the adjournment for the holidays, whereas a certain number of
bills previously introduced remain on the Order Paper. Amongst the
latter, it should be noted that a bill on pay equity, which was the object of a
special consultation, is currently undergoing clause-by-clause consideration in
parliamentary committee. This bill is designed to eliminate the salary gap due
to the systemic gender discrimination suffered by persons occupying positions
in predominantly female job classes.
In order to translate into action
its desire to help the populations from the recognized disaster-stricken
regions following the torrential rains that occurred in Québec in July 1996,
the Government introduced a bill to establish a disaster assistance fund. The
clause-by-clause consideration of this bill has been completed.
It should also be mentioned that a
bill providing for the elimination of the budgetary deficit of the Government
by the year 2000 and for the maintenance of a balanced budget thereafter has
been passed in principle.
Since the resumption of proceedings
in October, a limited number of procedural questions have been raised. On two
occasions, however, an amendment by the Government to a motion moved during
Business Standing in the Name of Members in Opposition was ruled out of order
by the Chair on the grounds that, in both cases, the amendment introduced a
principle that was not included in the main motion.
Within the framework of a
parliamentary reform project, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jean-Pierre
Charbonneau, tabled in the House a document containing proposals for a
first stage of the reform concerning the timetable and calendar of the Assembly
and of the parliamentary committees.
In November, several events marked
the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the Québec parliamentary Press
Gallery: one was the publishing of a collection of anecdotes; another the
unveiling of a monument located near the building where the ninety-odd members
of this association, one of the oldest press organizations in the world, have
During this same period, six
Members of the Parti Québécois celebrated their twentieth anniversary of
uninterrupted political life. On the other hand, the senior Member of the
Assembly, the Liberal Member for Mont-Royal, John Ciaccia, has been
sitting as a Member since 1973. The Members to whom tribute was paid are: Jacques
Brassard, Guy Chevrette, Jean Garon, François Gendron,
Jean-Pierre Jolivet and Denis Perron.
Furthermore, Jean-Louis Roux,
who had been sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor of Québec on 12 September 1996,
resigned from this office on 5 November 1996.
Finally, the Secretariat of the
Assembly has just recently published the bound volume of the Votes and
Proceedings of the National Assembly, in both French and English, for the
period covering the 1st Session of the 35th Legislature,
that is, from 29 November 1994 to 12 March 1996.
Moreover, for the computer
proponents, the Votes and Proceedings as well as the Order Paper
of the Assembly, published in French and in English, are now available on the
Internet, thus allowing for rapid access by a greater number of clients.
Nancy Ford, National Assembly Secretariat, Translated by
In keeping with its Standing
Orders, the National Assembly adjourned from June 19 to October 14. The
intervening period has traditionally been used by Members, at least in the last
twelve years or so, to engage in Committee work after a few days’ holiday or
constituency work, allowing the parliamentary committees, beginning in August,
to undertake various tasks and carry out mandates on their own initiative while
activities in the House are suspended.
The summer and early autumn of 1996
were no exception, and indeed the volume and intensity of committee activities
were unusually high. Between August and November, the committees carried out
eight detailed examinations, five public consultations, four special
consultations, five examinations of financial commitments, six examinations of
public agencies and eight working sessions. In all, thirty-six mandates,
fourteen referred by the Assembly and twenty-two undertaken on committee
initiative, led to the holding of eighty committee sittings. An overview of
these mandates follows.
The Committee on Planning and
Infrastructures examined two public bills concerning municipal finances and the
environment, and three private bills concerning municipalities. The committee
also devoted two sittings to hearing the Deputy Minister of Transport, and six
sittings to a public hearing on a bill to amend the Highway Safety Code.
The Committee on the National
Assembly met in a working session devoted to a detailed proposal for a reform
of the National Assembly’s standing orders presented by Speaker, Jean-Pierre
Charbonneau. The proposal addressed the question of scheduling in the
House and in committees, especially the hours and dates of sittings, time
limits on speeches, and the organization of certain types of proceedings. The
proposed reform would abolish the regular evening sittings that are still a
feature of the Quebec parliamentary system. The Committee agreed to set up a
task force of Members and advisors to consider the issues. The proposal
presented by Mr Charbonneau includes three further topics namely the operation
of the Assembly and its committees, major parliamentary processes and the
composition of the Assembly and the status of its members. A working document
giving a more detailed account of each of the three topics will be presented in
the spring of 1997.
The Committee on agriculture,
fisheries and food completed a mandate, undertaken on its own initiative, to
study the marketing of sports fishing products in the Lake St. Pierre region,
while the Committee on Social Affairs held two special consultations, the first
to study the setting of child support payments and the other to examine Bill
35, An Act respecting pay equity, a bill that attracted considerable
attention during the preceding parliamentary session. The Committee on Social
Affairs also held six sittings devoted to public hearings on a reform of the
Québec Pension Plan.
The Committee on the Budget and
Administration began its work in September. It examined the first part of the
Auditor General’s report, the activities of the public works agency known as
the Société immobilière du Québec, and a bill to amend the Taxation
Act. In late September it studied the five-year report on the
implementation of the Act respecting market intermediaries. The
Committee on Culture held a first series of public hearings on Bill 40, An
Act to amend the Charter of the French Language, and another on issues
surrounding the development of Quebec’s information highway, spread over ten
sittings. This mandate, undertaken on the committee’s own initiative, involved
the production of a consultation document that was made available on the
Assembly’s web site: (www.assnat.qc.ca).
The Committee on Education also
held a series of public hearings, on its own initiative, on the conditions
governing the successful completion of secondary-school studies.
After examining certain financial
commitments, the Committee on the Economy and Labour elected to scrutinize the
activities Hydro-Québec under its powers of supervision of government agencies.
Preparatory work for this mandate is currently in progress and the examination
will begin soon. The Committee on Institutions also acted to supervise the work
of government agencies and their administrators when it heard the Deputy
Minister of Justice and the directors of the Coroner’s Office and the alcohol,
racing and gambling board known as the Régie des alcools, des courses et des
jeux. It also completed an examination of Bill 130, An Act respecting
administrative justice, and held public hearings on the draft bill for the
implementation of the latter Act.
C.A. Comeau, Secretary of the Committee on Education,
House of Commons
When the House resumed sitting on
September 16, Jack Ramsay raised a question of privilege concerning the
decision of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs not to report John
Nunziata’s Bill C-234 to the House after considering it and defeating every
clause. When he came back to the House with his ruling on September 23, the
Speaker characterized this question not as a matter of privilege but as a
He pointed out that there was a
remedy available to the House since a member could give notice of a motion to
require a committee to report a bill by a certain date, and that motion could
be moved during Routine Proceedings under the heading "Motions".
Notice of such a motion was given
by Mr. Ramsay on October 24, after his motion to report the private Member’s
bill was defeated in the Justice Committee. When Mr. Ramsay moved his motion
under Routine Proceedings on November 4, the Government raised a point of order
questioning whether this motion could be moved at that time. The Speaker
reserved his decision and directed that the motion retain its place on the
Order Paper until the Chair ruled on the matter.
On October 22 Myron Thompson
rose on a point of order to complain that he had been refused permission to
give notice of a motion at a committee meeting. Mr. Thompson was on the list of
associate members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and
had, in that capacity, been named a substitute member at the October 21
meeting. The Committee has an internal 48-hour notice requirement for new items
of business, and the Chair had refused Mr. Thompson’s notice on the grounds
that as a substitute he might not be present at the next meeting to move the
motion. The Speaker promised to look into the matter.
Chuck Strahl rose on the same question on October 28,
since as Whip of the Reform Party he was responsible for naming substitutes to
committees. Mr. Strahl had discussed the matter with the Committee chair, who
had maintained her position. The Speaker ruled on November 7 that the Standing
Orders of the House, in establishing the status of associate member, did not
create two classes of committee members with different rights. Consequently, a
committee should not through its internal rules create a distinction between a
permanent member and an associate member acting as a substitute.
On October 28 the Government House
Leader moved that Peter Milliken be appointed Deputy Chairman of
Committees of the Whole, replacing Bob Kilger, who had recently been
named Chief Government Whip. The Reform Party immediately questioned whether
such a motion could be moved without notice. The Speaker ruled that that had
been the practice of the House. The Reform Party subsequently moved an
amendment to substitute the name of Daphne Jennings, arguing that the
Government had promised during the last election that it would appoint an
Opposition member to the Chair. When the debate resumed the next day, the
Government invoked closure. The amendment was defeated and the main motion
adopted on recorded divisions.
The Standing Committee on Procedure
and House Affairs is currently looking at two bills which will affect the way
federal elections are conducted. Bill C-63, An Act to amend the Canada
Elections Act and the Referendum Act, was introduced by the Government on
October 21 and referred to the Committee before second reading the next day.
And a private Member’s bill introduced by Anna Terrana, Bill C-307, An
Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (polling hours), was given second reading
and referred to the Committee on October 28. The Government bill would
establish a permanent register of electors and shorten the election campaign
period by setting 36 days, instead of the current 47 days, as the minimum. Mrs.
Terrana’s bill would stagger polling hours so that the election would not be
decided before the West has finished voting. The Government has stated that it
supports the principle of Mrs. Terrana’s bill.
Standing committees have been
conducting consultations outside the Ottawa area on a wide variety of subjects.
The Justice Committee has held hearings on the Young Offenders Act in many
regions of the country, while the Transport Committee and the Natural Resources
Committee have each done two-week cross-country tours, the first looking at
transportation, trade and tourism and the other studying natural resources and
rural development. The Finance Committee spent a week travelling during the
pre-Budget consultation process, this being the third year they have conducted
such a study. The Foreign Affairs Committee has also travelled to several
countries in Europe on circumpolar affairs. The Human Rights Committee, on the
other hand, has used videoconferencing to hear witnesses in Brussels,
Washington, London, and Vancouver.
As promised in the spring, the
Reform Party opposed appropriation for the Senate when the Government’s request
for approval of its 1996-97 main spending estimates was taken up on September
18. This led to a debate on the role of the Senate and the need for reform,
after which the Senate appropriation was carried on a recorded division.
On September 23 Roger Galloway’s
Bill C-216, which amends the Broadcasting Act to outlaw negative-option
billing by cable companies, was narrowly concurred in at report stage and given
third reading on recorded divisions.
The Commons Chamber was recently
the scene of an unusual ceremony. On October 1 the House, by unanimous consent,
went into committee of the whole after Question Period to pay tribute to
approximately 80 medallists from the 1996 summer Olympic Games and the
Paralympic Games. The medallists were invited onto the floor of the House where
they were individually introduced by the Speaker, who also said a few words
honouring their accomplishments.
The fifth edition of the Précis
of Procedure was published in September. This latest edition has been
revised by the Table Research Branch to reflect changes to the procedures of
the House since the fourth edition appeared in 1991. Copies may be purchased
through the Canada Communication Group—Publishing.
The Précis is also available
on the Parliamentary Internet Site (http://www.parl.gc.ca).
Thomas Hall, Procedural Clerk, House Proceedings and
Parliamentary Exchanges Directorate
With the Assembly adjourned for the
winter, legislators’ attention has shifted to the work of standing committees,
while the main issue for the government lies in responding to a projected
provincial budget deficit.
Following the introduction of the
provincial budget soon after the May election, Finance Minister Andrew
Petter announced the likelihood of a deficit, contrary to initial
information in the budget itself. Over the ensuing weeks, the deficit was
projected to be approximately $750 million. Opposition critics questioned why
the government claimed, up to and immediately after the provincial election,
that the budget would be balanced. Premier Glen Clark and Mr. Petter
responded that revenue, particularly from stumpage rates charged to forest
companies, was significantly reduced from earlier projections, and that this
was the cause of the reassessment.
Actions to date in response to the
deficit projection include notice that approximately 3,500 civil service
positions will be eliminated through attrition, layoffs and early retirement;
restrictions on business travel by government employees; and freezing vehicle
and furniture purchasing government-wide.
Unrelated to the budget issue, the
Social Services ministry was dissolved and its functions split into two new
ministries. The Ministry of Human Resources, under former Social Services
minister Dennis Streifel, will maintain responsibility for income
assistance programs, while the new Ministry of Children and Families has
authority in the areas of child health, welfare and protection; the new
minister is Penny Priddy. A number of program areas from other
ministries, such as Health and Attorney General, have been transferred to this
new ministry, in order to centralize the provision of child- and youth-centred
services delivered by the provincial government. These changes were among those
advocated by Cynthia Morton, a former deputy minister who had been
appointed Transition Commissioner for Child and Youth Services. Her report also
made recommendations respecting the process for reviewing deaths of children in
care of the government; in this regard, a new Children’s Commissioner, external
to child-serving agencies, will review all children’s deaths in the province
and investigate those found to be suspicious or unusual. Following the release
of the report, Ms. Morton was selected to fulfill the role of Children’s
Several standing and special
committees continue their work. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee has embarked
on an ambitious public hearing schedule, visiting seventeen communities through
November and December, with further hearings contemplated for the new year. The
committee is charged with receiving input and making recommendations on the
agreement-in-principle signed between the federal and provincial governments
and the Nisga’a people, who reside in the Nass Valley in northwestern British
Columbia. In addition, the committee is receiving input on the process of aboriginal
treaty negotiations in general.
The Parliamentary Reform Committee
is continuing its review of British Columbia’s conflict of interest
legislation, particularly the appointment process and structure of the office
of Conflict of Interest Commissioner. The committee also is authorized to
conduct a search for a new Commissioner.
Other active committees include the
Forests Committee, which is examining the annual business plan of Forest
Renewal BC, a crown corporation responsible for re-investing timber revenue
into the forestry sector; the Public Accounts Committee; and the Special
Committee on the Response to the Gove Report, which is receiving briefings on
the progress of work by the former Transition Commissioner for Child Services
and the new Ministry of Children and Families.
In addition, the Legislative
Assembly Management Committee has appointed a panel of five individuals from
various walks of life to review compensation levels provided to MLAs. The
Citizens’ Panel is due to report its recommendations by the end of January
Reform BC leader and MLA, Jack
Weisgerber, has announced his intention not to lead his party into the next
provincial election. The former Social Credit cabinet minister became leader of
the provincial Reform Party following the 1991 election. For the majority of
that Parliament the Reform caucus was comprised of four members, but, following
the election this May, the party now holds only two seats. Mr. Weisgerber
intends to remain a Member of the House until the next election.
Neil Reimer, Committee Clerk
The 2nd Session of the 36th
Legislature reconvened for the Fall Sittings on September 16, 1996. At this
point over 60 bills were still at the 2nd Reading stage. Thus, the focus of
House business, since September, was on debate at 2nd reading of these bills.
Two days were also used for consideration of the new vehicle of Opposition Day
motions. The first motion considered was one that had originally been proposed
in the Spring regarding the strike by provincial Home Care workers and the
second was on the issue of the Canadian Wheat Board and its status as a single
desk selling agency. These were each debated on separate days, following
Routine Proceedings, as called by the Government House Leader, and each was
The controversial nature of some of
the government’s legislation was evident in that hoist amendments were moved by
the Opposition on three of the bills at their respective 2nd Reading stages;
this is not a common occurrence in Manitoba. As well, over 600 people were
registered to speak to the various bills at the committee stage. The bills
drawing the largest number of public presentors were:
Bill 67 - The Manitoba Telephone System Reorganization and
Consequential Amendments Act;
Bill 26 - The Labour Relations Amendment Act;
Bill 72 - The Public Schools Amendment Act (2);
Bill 49 - The Regional Health Authorities and Consequential
Bill 32 - The Council on Post-Secondary Education Act; and
Bill 36 - The Social Allowances Amendment Act.
Over 50 Standing Committee meetings
were held during the Fall Sittings. Some of these were for consideration of
annual reports of crown corporations, however, the bulk of them were for
consideration of legislation.
The Fall Sittings have continued
beyond the date on which they were expected to conclude. As a result of
discussions earlier in the year regarding the revision of Manitoba’s Rules of
the House, an agreement had been reached by the House Leaders that the Fall
Sittings would begin on September 16 and conclude November 7, 1996. This would
fit with the 8 week time period, that was detailed in the Provisional Rules,
for the Fall Sittings. The Provisional Rules also provide for the Fall Sittings
to conclude no later than the last Thursday in November. (These Provisional
Rules were in effect until November 30, 1996).
Two days prior to November 7, the
Standing Committee was still hearing public presentations on Bill 67. In the
early hours of the morning, after persons present wishing to speak had been
heard, the Government wished to proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of
the bill. The Opposition Members on the Committee did not want to proceed at
that point as they had only recently received copies of proposed amendments
that the Minister expected to make to the bill and they wanted time to review
After some discussion, Steven
Ashton, the Opposition Critic for the Manitoba Telephone System (MTS),
moved a motion to adjourn and reconvene at 9:00 a.m. the following morning to
begin clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. Mr. Ashton then spoke for
almost 6 hours to this motion, right up until 9:00 a.m. the next morning. At
that point, the Chairperson ruled the motion to be redundant. The committee
eventually adjourned and met again the following day to continue consideration
of the bill.
On November 7, as the House
proceeded to deal with remaining business (condolence motions, report stage and
3rd Reading of remaining legislation), the Committee also sat, by leave, to
attempt to complete consideration of Bill 67. Yet again, the Committee did not
finish by the end of that day and the House, itself, was sitting past its
normal adjournment hour. After some dispute in the House about the scheduling
of a final committee meeting for Bill 67, the Government House Leader moved to
adjourn the House. The motion carried on a recorded vote. The Committee met the
following day and completed consideration of Bill 67, with the adoption of over
50 amendments to the bill.
The House, despite not having
completed its business within the 8 weeks planned for the Fall Sittings,
returned on its next regular sitting day. Mr. Ashton rose in the House, after
the Prayer, to state that there was a question as to the legitimacy of the
House sitting. According to his interpretation of the provisional rule in
question, his party would have had to agreed to extend the sitting past the 8
weeks and they had not agreed to this. The Speaker ruled that the
interpretation of the Rules in question were that the concluding date of the
session was the last Thursday in November; therefore, the House could still sit
as that date had not been reached. The ruling was challenged and sustained on
Thus, the House has continued to
sit and all other legislation received Royal Assent. The one outstanding item
for the House to complete is Bill 67. The Government adjourned the House early
on two different days when leave was not given to proceed to subsequent stages
of Bill 67. Report Stage has now been legitimately reached and 39 Opposition
amendments are on notice and debate has begun on these.
Judy White, Clerk Assistant
The Senate resumed its sittings
following the summer adjournment on September 24. While there have been a
number of bills debated in the Senate and committees have presented several
reports, the focus of the Senate’s attention this fall has been concentrated on
two specific items: the resolution to amend the constitution with respect to
Newfoundland’s school system, Term 17 of the terms of union of Newfoundland
with Canada; and Bill C-42, to amend the Judges Act.
Both items had arrived in the
Senate following quick passage by the House of Commons in June. Even before the
adjournment began, however, it was apparent that the Senate was not likely to
pass either item without thorough consideration.
On September 24, Sharon
Carstairs, the Chair of the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs,
informed the Senate that she had deposited with the Clerk the report on the
Newfoundland constitutional resolution last July 17 after the committee had
held several days of hearings in St John’s that month. Debate on the report’s
recommendation that the resolution be adopted without amendment began two days
later, when Bill Rompkey moved adoption of the report. In speaking about
the events that had led to the proposal to amend Term 17, including the
province-wide referendum, he explained why the Newfoundland government was
seeking these changes and how these changes would affect, but not abolish, the
constitutional guarantee to denominational education.
Debate on the resolution continued
October 1 when William Doody spoke against its adoption. The core of his
remarks addressed concerns for the guaranteed rights of religious minorities.
In his view, "no government should be allowed to abolish, diminish or
erode minority rights without the consent of the minorities involved." In
the hope of having the House of Commons reconsider its position, he proposed an
amendment to the resolution to provide a safeguard to preserve established
rights to denominational schools "where numbers warrant".
Debate continued throughout October
and November with more than fifteen Senators participating. On October 31, Michel
Cogger proposed a sub-amendment the purpose of which was to make more
explicit the right of denominational schools "to determine" as well
as "to direct" their educational and administrative affairs. On
November 7, Michael Kirby spoke against the need to amend the
constitution in order for Newfoundland to reform its school system and the risk
of creating a precedent to reduce minority rights that are guaranteed in the
constitution. The same day, the Deputy Leader of the Government announced that
an agreement had been reached between the Government and the Opposition parties
to decide any and all questions related to the consideration of the resolution
on Term 17 no later than November 27. When the vote was finally called, both
the sub-amendment and amendment were adopted, 47 to 35, and the main motion as
amended also passed with 46 in favour, 35 against and one abstention.
The second item that took up much
of the Senate’s time during this period was Bill C-42, an Act to amend the
Judges Act. Initially, the bill had appeared to be a simple housekeeping measure,
but it soon became apparent that there were some Senators who did not see it
that way. Anne Cools was the first to express misgivings when she spoke
on second reading before the summer adjournment and Pierre Claude Nolin
expressed similar doubts when he spoke on September 26.
The purpose of the bill, among
other things, is to allow federally appointed judges to take a leave of absence
without pay under certain circumstances in order to work with international
organisations or institutions. Specifically, the bill seemed to be aimed at
providing a statutory sanction to the a government decision to permit an
Ontario court justice to work for the United Nations in the matter of war
crimes investigations in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In fact, because the
bill seemed to be so closely linked to the circumstances surrounding this
specific case, a point of order was raised about the possibility that Bill C-42
might in fact be a private, rather than a public bill.
The Speaker ruled on the question
October 1. Gildas Molgat determined that even though the bill seemed to
involve identifiable individuals, the bill was drafted to constitute specific
policy changes to the Judges Act and therefore was a public bill.
Following the Speaker’s ruling,
Raynall Andreychuk expressed some doubts about how the bill might undermine
judicial independence. Subsequently , the bill received second reading and was
referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee which reported it
back to the Senate without amendment October 21. Third Reading debate began the
following day and it quickly became evident that some Senators remained
dissatisfied with some provisions of the bill. On the third day of debate,
Senator Nolin moved an amendment to require the Canadian Judicial Council to
approve any request for a leave of absence by a judge to perform quasi-judicial
duties with an international organisation and to allow the government to pay
any reasonable travel and moving expenses above and beyond the remuneration
normally paid to a judge. After some days of additional debate, the amendment
was withdrawn on November 7 and another proposed. The new amendment which was
adopted the same day has the effect of being limited to the case of Mme.
Justice Arbour. The bill as amended was then passed and sent back to the House
The report on Term 17, was not the
only report of a committee deposited with the Clerk during the summer
adjournment There were two others: the Seventh Report of Banking Trade and
Commerce being an interim report on corporate governance; and the second report
of the Foreign Affairs Committee examining the prospects of European
integration from a Canadian perspective. The chairman of Banking Trade and
Commerce, Senator Kirby, spoke to the first report on September 25.
During the course of his remarks,
he explained that the committee had drafted this report following a request of
the Minister of Industry to examine issues related to the upcoming amendment to
the Canada Business Corporations Act. As part of its review, the
committee heard from 50 different business witnesses across the country. From
this evidence, the committee developed a set of recommendations which, in the
view of the Chairman, would likely be incorporated into the new Act.
The Foreign Affairs report was
raised in debate on November 5 by Peter Stollery, a member of the
committee. He spoke about the evident realisation that as Europe pursues its
integration, Canada , a long time allie and trading partner, is gradually being
shut out. At the same time, the Senator raised questions about the challenging
prospects of that union given the history of the countries east and west of the
Rhine even though memories of that history are not as vivid as they once were.
The recent changes in Europe,
especially in Russia, have also created opportunities to develop new relations.
For the first time ever, the head of a foreign legislature was invited to
address the Senate from the floor of the Chamber. On September 25, Yegor
Stroyev, Chairman of the Federation Council, the Upper House of the Russian
Parliament spoke to the Senate about the profound changes gripping his country
and the prospects for democracy. He also noted the growing relationship between
the parliaments of both countries, a relationship supported through the
Canada-Russia Parliamentary Exchange Program.
A new Senator was introduced to the
Senate on October 2. He is Wilfred Moore from Nova Scotia. He was
summoned to the Senate to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Allan
MacEachen who retired in July after reaching the age of seventy-five.
Charles Robert, Deputy Principal Clerk Table Research and