| British Columbia
| New Brunswick
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| House of Commons
The first session
of the Fifty-fifth Legislature which adjourned December 19, 2003, resumed on
March 30 when Finance Minister Jeannot Volpé (MLA for
Madawaska-les-Lacs) delivered the 2004-2005 budget address. The Minister noted
that the first budget of this Legislature was sending a clear message:
“we must live within our means and we must focus on priorities.” He
stated that the budget continues to invest in the top priorities of New
Brunswickers: health and senior care, education and children, jobs and
prosperity. The Minister noted that the budget provides more money in the
classroom and at the bedside, and less on administration.
The 2004-2005 Budget includes:
- record levels of
spending on health and senior care ($2.06 billion) and education ($1.15
- key investments
in the Prosperity Plan for innovation, learning and small business;
- no new taxes and
no tax increases; realization of savings and efficiencies in government
- elimination of duplication and overlap;
- redirection of
realized savings to front-line care and services;
- a balanced budget for 2004-2005 with a modest reduction in net debt of $2.4 million.
noted that the budget will be balanced over the four-year period 2000-2001 to
2003-2004 with an anticipated cumulative surplus of $161.8 million, in
accordance with balanced budget legislation – the first time that the
balanced budget legislation has been met over a four-year cycle.
In his response
to the 2004-2005 Budget, Opposition Leader and Finance Critic Shawn Graham (MLA
for Kent) criticized the government for failing to outline its vision in a new
Throne Speech. He noted that the House had sat only 16 days since the June 2003
election and the government had limited its legislative agenda to a two-page
speech on insurance. He also criticized the government's lack of transparency
for changing the way civil service employees are accounted for, noting that the
new workforce profile will no longer show department FTEs and fiscal year
changes. He claimed that the budget was vulnerable as it was based on revenue
projections that were too optimistic, a health budget that was far too low, and
wage freezes that might never happen. Mr. Graham predicted that the government
would be in a deficit position by the end of the first quarter.
On April 2,
Opposition House Leader Kelly Lamrock (MLA for Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak), in
rising on a question of privilege cited media reports that the government had
begun to reduce the number of positions in the civil service, as outlined in
the government’s budget. The Member submitted that by taking this action,
prior to the budget being considered and approved by the House, the government
has either breached the rule of anticipation, or had obstructed or impeded the
House in the performance of its functions, which had resulted in an offence
against the authority or dignity of the House.
In a decision
delivered April 7, Speaker Bev Harrison (MLA for Hampton-Belleisle) noted that
Members are free to debate and criticize the budget and to approve or reject
the estimates for each department and are not obstructed or impeded in the
performance of their duties.
On March 31,
Brenda Fowlie, Minister of the Environment and Local Government (MLA for
Kennebecasis) introduced an amendment to the Clean Water Act which proposed to
provide municipal employees with the authority to issue exemptions from the
Wellfield Protected Area Designation Order, to streamline the application of
the order at the local level, delegating municipal employees with the authority
to issue exemptions, thus improving administrative efficiency.
Protected Area Designation Order helps safeguard the drinking water supplies of
municipalities that rely on groundwater as their primary source of drinking
water. The order identifies the list of land use activities that can either be
carried out or that are restricted at varying distances from the production
wells of designated wellfields.
Mrs. Fowlie also
introduced An Act Respecting Sunday Shopping which would allow municipalities
to decide whether retail businesses open for Sunday shopping. The Bill proposes
to eliminate the requirement that municipalities apply to the Municipal Capital
Borrowing Board for an exemption to allow Sunday shopping and will empower
municipal councils with bylaw-making authority regarding retail opening on
Sundays in their jurisdiction. The proposed legislative changes will also
prohibit retail businesses from being open on any of New Brunswick’s
prescribed days of rest, unless otherwise exempted under the Days of Rest Act.
session, Opposition Leader Graham (MLA- Kent) introduced the Fiscal Transparency
Act, which proposed a two-pronged approach to the province’s financial
1. The Auditor
General would undertake a financial review of the provincial finances at the
three and a half year mark of a government’s term and present a report within
60 days to ensure that voters and Opposition parties have the most up-to-date
and impartial financial information before heading to the polls. In the
case where an election is not called at the four-year mark, the Auditor General
would begin another financial review at the four and a half year mark.
2.2 The Minister
of Finance would provide an updated statement of the province’s finances
to the Auditor General within 60 days of the end of each quarter of the fiscal
year. The Auditor-General would then forward a copy of these statements
to the Legislative Assembly along with any comments he or she feels necessary.
The Bill was defeated at the second reading stage.
On April 20,
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Brad Green, QC (MLA for Fredericton
South) introduced the Securities Act. The Minister stated that the new Act will
provide a modernized securities regulatory system that is harmonized with
securities legislation in other Canadian jurisdictions. As a result, securities
laws in New Brunswick will be familiar to market participants across Canada and regulation will be more consistent, fair and cost effective. The Bill will
provide operational flexibility through an industry funded Crown Corporation
called the New Brunswick Securities Commission made up of a quasi-judicial
tribunal and a separate operational tier of permanent, specialized staff. The
Bill has two thrusts: to encourage confidence and investment in New Brunswick business and to protect investors. The establishment of the New Brunswick
Securities Commission fulfills a major commitment made by government.
On April 21,
Opposition Leader Graham introduced the Child and Youth Advocate Act noting
that such an advocate was a key recommendation in the child welfare report
Children Come First. The Bill proposes a child advocate who would inform the
public and government of the needs and rights of children and youth; ensure
that adequate services are provided to children and youth; advise the
government on services affecting children and youth; ensure that the voices of
children and youth are heard in the political process generally; and report
directly to the Legislative Assembly much in the same manner as the Ombudsman.
The Bill has received first and second reading.
Committee on Crown Corporations held four days of hearings in March to review
issues surrounding the agreement to secure a supply of Orimulsion at the
Coleson Cove Generating Station in Saint John. The Committee was charged with
examining whether there were any failures in the decision making process that
led to the court action against Venezuelan oil companies by NB Power. The
Committee heard from 13 individuals, including present and former officials of
NB Power, the Department of Energy and other government departments. The
Committee is reviewing the transcripts from over 40 hours of testimony and is
expected to report back to the House with its findings.
On April 2, 2004,
the Select Committee on Public Automobile Insurance chaired by NDP Leader Elizabeth
Weir (MLA for Saint John Harbour) tabled its final report. The Committee was
asked to look at the various public automobile insurance systems in Canada and identify the most suitable model of public automobile insurance to ensure fair,
accessible and affordable automobile insurance for all New Brunswickers, in the
event a decision is made to move to a public system.
things the Report recommended a made-in-New Brunswick model of public
automobile insurance that offers extensive coverage at an affordable rate for
all drivers with:
- no reference to
age, gender, marital status, territory, payment history or lapses in insurance
to determine insurance costs;
- rates to be
determined by driving record, vehicle usage, vehicle make and model, optional
- oversight of the
public utilities board for mandatory and optional insurance rates; pure,
no-fault injury benefits with no option to sue;
- drivers licences
to continue to be sold by Service New Brunswick;
registration and insurance sold through brokers and agents at a 7 per cent
- mandatory vehicle
coverage, additional injury and income replacement benefits, third-party
liability coverage and collision, theft and comprehensive sold by the Crown
corporation through private sector agents and brokers;
- additional injury
and income replacement benefits and third-party liability coverage to be sold
by private insurers in competition with the Crown corporation.
During the spring
sitting and for the first time in recent history, Members made use of a
“Pairing Book,” maintained at the table in accordance with an
earlier recommendation of the Standing Committee on Procedure, to indicate that
they would not take part in certain recorded divisions in the House. The
Members honoured their pairing arrangement; however, the Speaker was not called
upon to break a tie. The last time that the Speaker was required to give a
casting vote was on August 5, 2003.
30, 2004, Question Period became the only part of the assembly’s
proceedings available to the public through the local community
programming. The daily Question Period will not be carried live; it will
be aired on the community cable channels across the province at 4 p.m. each day
that the legislature is in session.
Assembly is working in consultation with Rogers Cable, Rogers Television and
Télévision Rogers staff to determine the feasibility of launching
an independent New Brunswick provincial legislature television service,
available to both cable and satellite television distributors. This service
would provide coverage of legislative proceedings from prayers to daily
adjournment, and would also include committee proceedings.
provincial legislature television service would continue the 1988 initiative of
televising the proceedings of the House. In the interim, online webstreaming of
House proceedings (video and audio) is available on the assembly’s website.
four-week sitting, the House was adjourned on April 23 until May 4, 2004.
Standings in the House are: 28 Progressive Conservatives, 25 Liberals, 1 New
Democrat, and 1 vacancy.
Diane Taylor Myles, Researcher
The Second Session
of the 38th Manitoba Legislature resumed on March 1, 2004 with a two week
sitting. A number of Bills were debated during this period, with two
receiving Royal Assent on March 11, 2004:
Bill 7 –
The Criminal Property Forfeiture Act – enables a police chief or the
commanding officer of the RCMP in Manitoba to apply to the Court of Queen's
Bench for an order forfeiting property to the government. Property may be
forfeited if the judge is satisfied that it was acquired as a result of
unlawful activity or it is likely to be used to commit certain unlawful
Bill 8 –
The Employment and Income Assistance Amendment Act (One-Tier Assistance for
Rural and Northern Manitoba) – amends the original Act so that the
provincial government can assume responsibility for providing assistance to
people who used to receive assistance from municipalities. The Bill contains
transitional provisions to deal with issues that will arise when responsibility
for assistance is transferred from municipalities.
The House recessed from March 11 to April 14, 2004 when the full spring session
Greg Selinger (NDP - St. Boniface) delivered the first budget of the
government's second mandate on April 19, 2004. The total operating
expenditure for the 2004-2005 Budget came in at $7.5 billion, an increase of 2%
over 2003-2004. Highlights of the budget, as outlined in a government
news release, included:
The first budget
in the history of Manitoba's balanced budget legislation projected to balance
and pay down debt without drawing on the Fiscal Stabilization Fund;
personal income tax, property tax and business tax cuts that have totalled $385
million annually since 2000;
strategic health care investments to address wait times, improve emergency room
service, and ensure an adequate supply of health care professionals;
opportunities for youth through a new graduate scholarship program and by
continuing the tuition rebate at colleges and universities, keeping tuition 10
per cent lower than 1999.
On April 20,
2004, Leader of the Official Opposition Stuart Murray (PC - Kirkfield Park) moved an amendment to the main motion stating that the Budget failed to provide
Manitobans with any vision or hope. Mr. Murray's motion described a
number of failures in the budget, including:
- Failing to
provide a long-term economic plan to grow the economy and create real and
- Failing to
provide a long-term tax reduction strategy;
- Failing to address
the need to have bold, innovative and meaningful reform in health care; and
- Failing to
provide adequate supports to Manitoba's agricultural sector
(Independent Liberal - River Heights) moved a sub-amendment to Mr. Murray's
amendment on April 22, 2004, expressing concern over failures in the areas of
water stewardship and sports funding as well as the general management of the
province's fiscal resources.
non-confidence motions were both defeated in the House at the end the eight day
of budget debate on April 28, 2004, while the main budget motion carried during
the same sitting.
Once debate on
the budget concluded, consideration of the expenditure estimates began in three
concurrent sections of the Committee of Supply. Our recently revised
Standing Orders allow for a maximum of 100 hours for consideration of the
departmental expenditure estimates. This extended debate will consume
several weeks of House business before MLAs focus their attention fully on the
consideration of Legislation for the remainder of the Spring Session.
Intersessional Bill Committees
In a departure
from usual practice, several Bills were referred for Committee consideration
during the winter intersessional periods in February and March of 2004.
Generally in Manitoba, Bills are referred for committee consideration during
the months when the House is in session. This year however, six Bills
were referred during this period to two different meetings of the Legislative
Affairs committee. One of the meetings included public presentations from
concerned citizens and all six Bills were reported back to the House for
Concurrence and Third Reading.
provisions of our new sessional calendar the Manitoba Legislature may not sit
past the Thursday of the second full week of June. The House may sit
again from the first Monday after Labour Day to the Thursday of the first full
week of December.
At the time of
writing there are 50 Bills listed on the Order Paper for consideration at
various stages of the legislative process.
Rick Yarish, Clerk Assistant /Clerk of Committees
On March 23,
2004, in answer to a request made by the Action Démocratique du
Québec Member for Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, the President gave the
following directive concerning the effects of the arrival of a fifth
independent Member on the allocation of speaking time:
as regards Oral
Questions and Answers, the Chair, while basing its decision on precedents, will
continue to grant two questions per five sittings to the independent Members.
These questions will be allotted to the independent Members as a group,
regardless of their political affiliation;
as regards the
speaking time granted to the independent Members during limited debates, there
is no reason to change the general rule according to which the global speaking
time is allotted to these Members as a group.
Chair reserved the possibility of further addressing the question on the basis
of the actual impact that the arrival of a fifth independent Member could have
on the use of speaking time that is allotted to the independent Members.
Colloquia, Seminars, Conferences
From February 21
to 29, 2004, the National Assembly welcomed a delegation of four Moroccan
parliamentarians: Member Driss Lachgar, head of the delegation, as well as
three vice-chairmen of the House of Representatives of Morocco, namely Messrs.
Rachid Medouar, Ahmed Lakir and Mohamed Mouhib. They were accompanied by two
directors of the House of Representatives and two delegates of the National
parliamentarians took part in some twenty deliberative meetings on the
parliamentary, institutional and administrative organization and proceedings of
the National Assembly.
On the occasion
of International Francophonie Week, which was held from March 14 to 20, and in
the wake of Commonwealth Day, which was observed last March 8, several Quebec
parliamentarians welcomed in their ridings diplomats from member countries of
the Francophonie and the Commonwealth. During these meetings, the Quebec parliamentarians and their guests exchanged information pertaining to their various
fields of expertise.
Close to 140
participants hailing from 26 Quebec general and vocational colleges took part
in the Twelfth Legislature of the Student Forum, a parliamentary simulation
which took place from January 11 to 15, 2004 at the Parliament Building. Of this number, over one hundred played the role of Members of the National Assembly.
Legislature, the parliamentarians of the Student Forum drafted a budget
statement and ministerial statements, took part in the oral question periods
and introduced three bills. The proposed legislation concerned the rights and
obligations of citizens, public transportation and a Quebec natality policy.
The college students had the opportunity of examining these bills in committee
before giving them final passage after a debate in the National Assembly Room.
On February 19
and 20, 2004, 76 Secondary 3 and 4 students from 19 high schools in a dozen
regions of Quebec took part in the Second Legislature of the Young People's
Parliament. For two days, the students had the chance to learn more about the
role of Members and about past practice and customs relating to parliamentary
procedure and the legislative process.
Among the bills
that were drafted and proposed by the students, three were chosen to be
introduced and debated. The first proposed the creation of youth communication
organizations, the second dealt with the abolition of general training at the
college level, while the third bill concerned certain specific measures to
ensure the quality of water. The latter bill was adopted by the members of the
Last January, at
the auction of the Rosanna Seaborn collection, the National Assembly acquired
historical documents relating to the Patriots and the Rebellions of 1837 and
documents will thus be added to the impressive collection of historical
documents relating to the Patriots belonging to the National Assembly after
being analyzed, catalogued and, if need be, restored in the coming months:
- a speech by
Louis-Joseph Papineau delivered at the Institut canadien de Montréal in
- a document entitled À tous les électeurs du Bas-Canada (Quebec, 1810);
- a brochure including the text of the 92 resolutions (Quebec, 1834);
- a compilation of
British parliamentary documents on the union of Upper and Lower Canada (London, 1840);
- the report on the
trial of Member and Patriot Joseph Cardinal (Montreal, 1839);
- a document
entitled Report from the Select Committee on the Civil Government of Canada (London, 1829);
- the manifesto of
an association going by the name of Constitutional Association of Montreal (Montreal, 1837).
Assembly worked together with the Quebec and Federal institutions committed to
conserving the political heritage in order to safekeep within public
collections the most valuable elements of this important collection.
In March 2004, an
official announcement was made confirming the classification as historical
property of the collection containing 3660 brochures and rare books constituted
by Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau (1820-1890). Author and political figure of
the 19th century, recognized for his contributions to literature, the public
administration and education, Mr. Chauveau was the first Premier of Quebec
the oldest of the National Assembly, was acquired in 1892 and includes valuable
editions of famous European printers, including Albe, Elzévir, Estienne,
Jenson and Crispin, books dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, works
written in Amerindian languages, books of sermons given by Protestant
preachers, as well as works written by Chauveau himself. Remarkable owing to
its size and rarity, the collection represents an important contribution to the
intellectual history of 19th century Quebec and a collective wealth, henceforth
classified as historical property and registered in the Québec register
of cultural property.
The Member for
Nelligan, Russell Williams, resigned on March 9, 2004. A Member of the National
Assembly for close to 15 years, Mr. Williams was vice-chairman of the Quebec
Section of the Eastern Regional Conference (ERC) of the Council of State
Governments and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health and Social
Services. He was appointed president of Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical
Companies (Rx&D) on March 31, 2004. Since March 16, 2004, the Liberal
Member for Mégantic- Compton, Daniel Bouchard, has been sitting as an
independent Member. Finally, on April 28, Marc Bellemare resigned as Minister
of Justice and Member for Vanier. The membership of the Assembly now stands as
follows: Quebec Liberal Party 73, Parti Québécois 45, independent
Members 5 and two vacant seats.
Passing of Claude Ryan
passed away on February 9, 2004. Member for Argenteuil from 1979 to 1994, Mr.
Ryan held several important parliamentary and ministerial offices. He was
elected Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party on April 15, 1978 and was
Leader of the Official Opposition from May 9, 1979 to August 10, 1982. In the
Bourassa and Johnson cabinets (Daniel junior), between 1985 and 1994, he was
Minister of Education, Minister of Higher Education and Science, Minister
responsible for the application of the Charter of the French Language, Minister
of Public Security and Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Johanne Lapointe, Secretariat of the Assembly,
At the beginning
of 2004, the standing committees carried out several orders of reference by the
Assembly as well as orders of initiative and statutory orders.
Initiative and Statutory Orders
framework of its mandate on food safety in Quebec, the Committee on
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food received 80 briefs and heard 49 individuals and
organizations. The Internet site of the Committee enabled citizens to take part
in the proceedings via an on-line consultation using a form containing 21
questions. One hundred and twelve citizens submitted their opinion to the
Committee. The tabling of the final report is scheduled for the month of June
framework of its orders of surveillance of agencies, the Committee on Public
Finance heard the chief officers of the Commission administrative des
régimes de retraite et d'assurances (CARRA) and those of Investissement Quebec. The Committee also held special consultations to hear several persons concerned by
these two governmental agencies.
The Committee on
Culture continued its public hearings as part of a general consultation on the
document entitled Reforming Access to Information: Choosing Transparency. After
having heard some forty organizations last fall, the Committee members held
close to a dozen deliberative meetings to prepare the final report that is to
be tabled this spring and that will address the various issues related to the protection
of personal information and access to information.
The Committee on
Institutions heard the Minister for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs and
Native Affairs during a deliberative meeting in order to discuss the creation
of the Council of the Federation. Also, the Committee has decided to place on
the Internet site of the National Assembly the 134 briefs submitted in the
course of the previous Legislature (in March 2003) by various organizations,
experts and citizens concerned by electoral representation procedure, which
will be the topic of upcoming debates. Finally, the Committee carried out a
mission in Northern Quebec in February 2004. Eight Committee members met with
members of the Cree, Inuit and Jamesian communities in the Chibougamau, Nemiscau,
Radisson and Kuujjuaq regions. The Committee thus reviewed the implementation
and future prospects of the Northern Québec Development Policy, which
dates back to 2001, and of the agreements signed with the Cree and Inuit
Nations in 2002 (Paix-des-Braves and Sanarratik).
The Committee on
Labour and the Economy heard the chief officers of the Fonds national de
formation de la main-d'œuvre to examine its financial statements and its
latest annual reports, pursuant to the Act to foster the development of manpower
Committee on Public Administration carried out the following accountability
mandates: to hear the chief officers of the Centre de conservation du
Québec on the annual management report 2002-2003 of this Government
agency (the members also visited the facilities of the Centre, whose mission is
to contribute to the preventive conservation and restoration of the
architectural heritage of Quebec); to hear the Deputy Minister of Health and
Social Services concerning mental health services; to hear the Deputy Minister
of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Parks concerning the document entitled
Étude benefice-coût de la Corporation Innovation-papier; to hear
the Deputy Minister of the Environment concerning water monitoring and control.
Orders of Reference by the Assembly
committees held several public consultations this winter pursuant to orders by
The Committee on
Education held a general consultation on the issues surrounding the quality,
accessibility and financing of Quebec universities. This mandate stems from the
debate currently underway on the financing of Quebec universities in comparison
with other Canadian universities. A working paper was published (contains some
forty specific questions) and 92 individuals and organizations submitted a
brief. The Committee held 19 hearings during which 87 briefs were presented.
As regards the
Committee on Social Affairs, three consultations were held on the following
subjects: Bill 11, concerning intercountry adoption (2 individuals and groups
heard), the working paper entitled Adapting the Pension Plan to Quebec's new
realities (29 individuals and groups heard), and Bill 38, concerning the Health
and Welfare Commissioner (27 individuals and groups heard).
The Committee on
Institutions held special consultations on Bills 4 and 35, which amend the Act
respecting administrative justice. The first bill in particular establishes
that proceedings brought before the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec shall be
heard and determined by a single member, and the second bill creates the
Administrative Review Tribunal of Quebec. Seventy-one groups were heard by the
Committee with regard to these bills. The Committee also was given the mandate
to hold special consultations on the white paper on private security in Quebec (9 groups had been heard as at April 9, 2004) and on Bill 21, which amends the Civil
Code and the Code of Civil Procedure as regards the determination of child
support payments (13 groups heard).
During two full
days, the Committee on Labour and the Economy heard the head officers of
Hydro-Québec in order to examine its strategic plan 2004-2008.
The Committee on
Culture held a general consultation on the three-year immigration plan 2005-2007
with reference to the document entitled La planification des niveaux
d'immigration 2005-2007. This document proposes three scenarios with regard to
the number of admissions for this three-year period. The Committee heard 50
individuals and groups.
Committee on Public Finance held a general consultation on the document
entitled Report from the working group on the Québec Government's role
in venture capital. Eighty briefs were presented and 61 individuals and groups
were heard by the Committee.
Robert Jolicoeur, Secretariat of
committees, Translation: Sylvia Ford, Secretariat of the Assembly
The 2004 Spring
Sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly began on March 25. Pursuant to
Standing Order 74 the government introduced all the bills it wanted to see
dealt with during this sitting by the fifth sitting day, April 1. Subsequently,
pursuant to Standing Order 75, the three House leaders met to determine the
length of the sitting. On April 5 the government House leader, Peter Jenkins (Klondike, Yukon Party) informed the Assembly that the House leaders could not reach
agreement on the length of the sitting. As a result the Speaker, Ted Staffen,
declared, pursuant to Standing Order 75(3), that the 2004 Spring Sitting would
last 30 sitting days, the 30th sitting day to be May 18, 2004.
introduced six bills. These bills were:
- Bill No. 8, Third Appropriation Act, 2003-04;
- Bill No. 9, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05;
- Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05;
- Bill No. 43, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
- Bill No. 44, Act to Amend the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act; and
- Bill No. 45, Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act.
member's bills were also introduced. The leader of the third party, Pat Duncan
(Porter Creek South, Liberal), introduced Bill No.103, Heritage Fishing and
Hunting Act. The leader of the official opposition, Todd Hardy (Whitehorse
Centre, NDP) introduced Bill No. 104, Act to Amend the Public Service Act.
Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05
Bill No. 10 is
the government's main appropriation act for the fiscal year, 2004-05. The
amount to be appropriated is $705.7 million, making it the largest budget in Yukon's history.
The Sitting got
off to an unusual start when, on the first sitting day, the official opposition
House leader, Gary McRobb (Kluane, NDP) asked for the unanimous consent of the
Assembly to move a motion of urgent and pressing necessity. The intent of the motion
was to suspend the Orders of the Day, which was Second Reading of Bill No. 10,
the budget speech. Instead, Mr. McRobb proposed that the bill move directly to
Committee of the Whole. At the root of Mr. McRobb's request was his assertion
that so many of the government's spending priorities had become public
knowledge by way of news releases that Second Reading was no longer necessary.
Mr. McRobb did not receive unanimous consent to move his motion. The Premier
and Finance Minister, Dennis Fentie (Watson Lake, Yukon Party) delivered his
budget speech later that day.
Of the $705.7
million the allocation that has proved most contentious is the government's
plan to spend $1.5 million for pre-planning for the construction of a bridge
across the Yukon River at Dawson City. In making this commitment the government
said it was fulfilling an election promise. It also touted the economic
benefits of a 'fixed link' that would tie the North Klondike Highway (Whitehorse to Dawson City) to the Top of the World Highway (Dawson City to the border with
the United States). The government also argued that building a bridge would, in
the long term, be more economical and less environmentally damaging than
maintaining the current ferry service.
did not argue categorically against the bridge construction. However,
opposition members argued the government's election promise was the study the
construction of a bridge, not to build one. They also said the government's
estimate for bridge construction, $25 million, was too low and that the final
cost could be double that figure. A third point raised by opposition members
was that Dawson City was more in need of a sewage treatment facility than a
bridge. Dawson City's current practice of discharging effluent into the Yukon
River, it was argued, is an environmental problem, but could also cause legal
or political problems given the existence of environmental regulations and
treaties with the United States. Finally, the opposition argued that Mr.
Jenkins, a former mayor of Dawson City, had exercised undue influence over the
government's decision to give the bridge high priority.
The issue has
consumed a considerable amount of time during the Oral Question Period, and
Committee of the Whole debate on Bill No. 10. It was also the subject of debate
on April 7 during government private member's business. At that time the
Assembly debated a motion brought forward by Brad Cathers (Lake Laberge, Yukon Party) that urged the government to carry through with the project. Opposition attempts
to amend the motion by making the bridge's construction contingent on the
approval of a special committee or the prior construction of other
infrastructure (i.e., a sewage treatment facility) have not been successful.
Debate on the motion adjourned after more than four hours.
Bill No. 104, Act to Amend the Public Service Act
Bill No. 104
represents the official opposition's attempt to bring in 'whistle blower'
legislation. This involves adding a part to the Public Service Act that would
provide a process by which government employees could lodge complaints and have
them heard, and be protected from retaliation.
During debate at
Second Reading on March 31 the minister responsible for the Public Service
Commission, John Edzerza (McIntyre- Takhini, Yukon Party) introduced an
amendment. This was procedurally unusual in that amendments to bills are
usually done at the committee stage. However this amendment was in order as it
proposed amending the motion for second reading of the bill, not the bill itself.
The effect of the
amendment to the motion for second reading was to send the bill to a select
committee, should it pass second reading. This is not the normal course for a
bill in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Due to its small size (18 members) bills
are usually dealt with in Committee of the Whole, rather than special, select
or standing committees.
In putting the
amendment forward government members argued that the bill was of such
importance that it required a more elaborate process than for other
legislation. This process would allow for input from the Public Service
Commission, the government employees union, and the general public before the
bill became law. Opposition members argued that the bill did not require a
different process and that the amendment was an attempt to bury the bill.
Opposition members noted that Committee of the Whole can, by motion, hear from
The amendment to
the motion for second reading passed over the objections of the opposition.
Debate at second reading on the motion as amended stands adjourned. It is up to
Mr. Hardy, as sponsor of the bill, to bring it back for further consideration
on a day when opposition private members' business has precedence.
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Committee on Public Accounts held public hearings from February 3-5, 2004.
These were the first public hearings held by the Committee since 1999.
Witnesses from government corporations, the Workers' Compensation Health and
Safety Board and Yukon College appeared before the Committee. The focus of
discussion was each entity's mandate, the degree to which this mandate is being
fulfilled and what performance measurements are used to ensure the mandate is
being fulfilled. Other issues, such as accountability to the Legislative
Assembly, stakeholders and the public at large, were also discussed. The
evidence provided at the public hearings is augmented by written responses to
specific questions the Committee put to the operational heads of these entities
in advance of the public hearings. The Committee is currently drafting its
report, which it intends to table during the 200 4 Spring Sitting.
Floyd McCormick, Deputy Clerk
Prince Edward Island
On Tuesday, March
30, 2004, the First Session of the Sixty-second General Assembly re-opened for
the Spring Sitting.
The Hon. Mitch
Murphy presented his first budget address as Provincial Treasurer on March 30.
Health and Social Services expenditures continued to account for the largest
share of the provincial budget at $428 million, or 40.2% of the total
expenditure of just over one billion dollars; followed by Education at $222.6
million, or 20.9% of the total. Tax measures included raising the capital
tax on financial corporations from 3% to 5%, increasing the gasoline tax and
the health tax on cigarettes. The Provincial Treasurer also announced a
comprehensive overhaul of the taxation regime, to be completed this fiscal
year, as part of an economic development strategy.
Retail Sale of Tobacco Products
Committee on Social Development was directed by the Legislative Assembly in
December 2003 to hold public hearings across the province regarding the retail
sale of tobacco products and report its findings back to the Legislature.
The Committee held six meetings to plan its work, to hear presentations and to
review written briefs. In total, the Committee heard from 72 groups and
individuals on this topic. The Committee's report was tabled on April 20,
2004, and recommended that legislation be introduced as soon as possible to
prohibit the sale of tobacco products in municipal and provincial government
buildings, educational institutions, sports and recreational facilities, and
all health facilities, including pharmacies and retail establishments located
adjacent to, or within 20 metres of a pharmacy. Other recommendations
included adding a health warning to mandatory signage for establishments
selling tobacco products, and a complete ban on tobacco displays by 2006.
The complete report is available on line at www.assembly.pe.ca.
April 15, 2004, the Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Philip Brown, quoted from an
email document during debate, immediately prior to tabling it. Specifically,
he read aloud the sentence, “And any Liberal nose picking welfare crud
who condemns him deserves to be loaded on a plane and sent to Moscow, where he
can truly live out his Socialist fantasy.” The Leader of the
Opposition, the Hon. Robert Ghiz, rose on a point of order, calling the
language used by Mr. Brown in tabling the document objectionable, and asking
Mr. Brown to retract his remarks. Further, Mr. Ghiz called for the
Minister's resignation for his implied support of the “racist, intolerant
and extremely offensive” contents of the document.
day, the Minister apologized to the House for the tabling of the email document
and disavowed its contents but did not apologize for his use of the
objectionable words. On the next sitting day, Mr. Speaker, Hon. Gregory
J. Deighan, ruled the words used in debate to be unparliamentary and requested
the Minister of Tourism apologize, to which the Minister complied.
Chief of Staff to the Premier, and Deputy Minister, resigned effective April 6,
2004. Subsequently, Mr. McQuaid has announced his intention to seek the
Conservative Party of Canada nomination in the riding of Cardigan. Mr.
Patrick Dorsey has been named Acting Chief of Staff and Deputy Minister.
on Executive Council Committee
reported, on November 12, 2003, during debate on the motion for election of
deputy speaker, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition requested that Speaker
rule “as to whether or not a conflict exists between an honourable member
serving as deputy speaker while at the same time serving on a cabinet
committee.” In his ruling, Mr. Speaker referred the matter to
the Standing Committee on Privileges, Rules and Private Bills, saying,
“While I am guided by the Rules of this House with respect to the matter,
I feel that careful consideration of the question is warranted by the Standing
Committee on Privileges, Rules and Private Bills in ensuring that members
themselves have an opportunity for input into defining the role and
responsibilities of the deputy speaker and in determining an acceptable level
of independence and impartiality for the office.”
Committee on Privileges, Rules and Private Bills met to consider the matter and
tabled its report in the Legislative Assembly on April 16, 2004. The
Committee was of the opinion that to apply the same test of impartiality and
independence to the Office of the Deputy Speaker as that imposed on the Office
of the Speaker would an unfair burden to place on the Deputy Speaker given the
amount of time that the Deputy Speaker actually sits in the Chair and presides
over the House. Further such restrictions would serve to inhibit the
ability of the Deputy Speaker to openly and effectively represent the view of his
or her constituents.
By motion of the
Opposition House Leader, the Committee's report was referred to the Committee
of the Whole for further consideration. It remains on the Order Paper.
Youth Forum on Public Affairs
Premier Pat Binns,
Chair of the Council of the Federation, announced in the Legislature on April
27, 2004, that this summer, the Council of the Federation will bring together
two participants from each province and territory across Canada for a Youth
Forum aimed at increasing youth engagement in Canadian public affairs.
The Council of the Federation will cover all travel costs for the Forum to be
held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Participants (ages 19-22) will be
selected through an essay writing contest that will be administered in Prince Edward Island by IPAC, the Institute for Public Administration of Canada.
Marian Johnston, Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees
Nunavut's second general election took place on
February 16, 2004. A total of 82 candidates were nominated in the territory's
19 constituencies. An acclamation took place in the constituency of Rankin
Inlet North. Elections Nunavut, the independent office responsible for the
conduct of territorial elections, reported that voter turnout was approximately
the same as in 1999, when the first general election was held.
Two women and
seventeen men were elected to serve as Members of the Second Legislative
Members were: Peter Kattuk (Hudson Bay), Hunter Tootoo (Iqaluit Centre), Ed
Picco (Iqaluit East), Paul Okalik (Iqaluit West), Patterk Netser (Nanulik),
Peter Kilabuk (Pangnirtung), Olayuk Akesuk (South Baffin), Jobie Nutarak
Members were: Steve Mapsalak (Akulliq), Louis Tapardjuk (Amittuq), David Alagalak
(Arviat), David Simailak (Baker Lake), Keith Peterson, (Cambridge Bay), Joe Allen Evyagotailak (Kugluktuk), Leona Aglukkaq (Nattilik), Levi Barnabas (Quttiktuq),
Tagak Curley (Rankin Inlet North), Levinia Brown (Rankin Inlet South-Whale
Cove), James Arreak (Uqqummiut)
Barnabas and Curley are former Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Barnabas served a partial term of office in Nunavut's First
Assembly. Mr. Picco has been a sitting legislator in the NWT and Nunavut
Legislatures since 1995.
On March 5, 2004,
the nineteen Members-Elect gathered under the auspices of the Nunavut
Leadership Forum to select the Speaker, Premier and members of Cabinet. The
Forum took place in the Chamber of the Legislative Assembly, and was open to
the public to observe.
The first order
of business was the selection of Mr. Nutarak as Speaker of the
Okalik and Mr. Curley were nominated to serve as Nunavut's Premier. Following
speeches from both candidates, all Members of the Legislative Assembly posed
questions to each individual. Shortly after 4:00pm, Speaker-elect Nutarak
declared Mr. Okalik the winner of the secret ballot vote.
A total of eleven
Members accepted nominations to serve as Ministers. Seven members were elected.
The First Sitting
of the Second Assembly took place on March 9. Formal motions to confirm the
selection of the Speaker, Premier and Cabinet took place during the sitting.
Later that day, the swearing-in ceremony for the Cabinet took place, during
which Ministerial portfolios were announced. A major re-organization of the
Government of Nunavut's departmental structure was also announced by the
Premier as part of the portfolio assignments.
Both of the
Legislative Assembly's elected women were assigned high-profile portfolios. Ms.
Brown, a former Nunavut Arctic College administrator and member of Rankin
Inlet's hamlet council, was designated as Nunavut's Deputy Premier and Minister
of Health and Social Services.
Ms. Aglukkaq was
assigned the role of Government House Leader and Minister of Finance. Minister
Aglukkaq's legislative career began during high school in the 1980s, when she
served as a Page in the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. A
former Deputy Minister, Aglukkaq has also served as the Deputy Clerk of the
Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.
Akesuk, Kilabuk and Picco were assigned portfolio responsibilities for
Environment, Community & Government Services, and Education, respectively.
Kilabuk is also the Minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation.
was assigned responsibility for Economic Development & Transportation.
Minister Tapardjuk is Minister of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth and Minister
of Human Resources.
Standing Committees play an important role in Nunavut's non-partisan system of
Mr. Barnabas was
elected as Chair of Full Caucus, a body which encompasses all 19 MLAs. Mr.
Mapsalak was elected Co-Chair. Mr. Evyagotailak was elected as the Chair of the
Regular Members' Caucus, a body which includes all ten MLAs who are not
Ministers. Mr. Arreak was elected Co-Chair.
Mr. Netser was
elected Deputy Speaker. Mr. Arreak and Mr. Evyagotailak were elected Deputy Chairpersons
of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Curley, Mr.
Peterson and Mr. Tootoo were elected to the Assembly's Striking Committee.
Messrs. Curley, Peterson and Tootoo also serve alongside Speaker Nutarak and
Minister Kilabuk on the Management and Services Board of the Legislative
reconvened on May 12. One of the first items of business was the establishment
of the Legislative Assembly's Standing Committees. Five Standing Committees
were established by motion:
- Government Operations and Accountability, chaired by Hunter Tootoo;
- Health and Education, chaired by David Alagalak;
- Infrastructure, Housing and Economic Development, chaired by Tagak Curley;
- Ajauqtiit, chaired by Steve Mapsalak; and
- Rules, Procedures and Privileges, chaired by Hunter Tootoo.
Assembly recommended, by way of motion, the re-appointment of the Integrity
Commissioner of Nunavut, Robert Stanbury, PC, QC, for a five-year term of
On May 17, the
2004 Report of the Auditor General to the Legislative Assembly was tabled in
the House by Speaker Nutarak. In Nunavut, the annual reports of such
independent House officers as the Auditor General, the Languages Commissioner,
the Chief Electoral Officer, the Integrity Commissioner and the Information and
Privacy Commissioner are generally referred to Standing Committees for
On May 18,
Minister Aglukkaq delivered her first Budget Address, wearing a pair of kamiks
made by Elder Mamie Oniak of Kugluktuk. The government's 2004-05 main estimates
and departmental business plans were subsequently referred to the Committee of
the Whole for detailed scrutiny.
Alex Baldwin, Director, Research and Library Services
The Third Session
of the 37th Parliament, which opened on February 2, 2004, was expected to be a
short one. With a new Prime Minister in office, it was understood that business
would have to move quickly if the Government expected to complete its
legislative agenda before an election was called. So it was early in the new
session when the Senate was launched into its legislative work. Two bills in
particular that had died on the Order Paper when the Second Session prorogued
remained important to the new Government. One was critical to the timing of the
election and the other fulfilled a Government commitment made by the former
Prime Minister and his successor to create a new federal ethics commissioner.
The passage of these bills would hold the attention of the Senate until spring.
It was only a
week into the new session when Bills C-5 and C-4 arrived in the Senate. Bill
C-5, which brought forward the coming-into-force date of new electoral
boundaries to April 1, 2004, had been reinstated in the House of Commons at the
same stage in the legislative process as it had reached when the Second Session
was prorogued and was sent to the Senate immediately. After first reading on
February 11, Senators who spoke during six days of debate at second reading
reiterated many of the same arguments they had already put forward in the fall
of 2003. To facilitate its passage this time, however, the Government imposed
time allocation and within one month the bill had passed all stages and on
March 11 was granted Royal Assent by written declaration.
The passage of
Bill C-4, to create independent ethics officers for the Senate and the House of
Commons, was equally important to the Government. The former Bill C-34 had been
stalled in the previous session when the Senate amended the bill at third
reading and sent it back to the House of Commons just before prorogation. The
initial dissatisfaction of the Senate with the appointment process of the
Senate Ethics Officer by the Governor in Council carried over into the debate
on C-4. Senators continued to be concerned with maintaining the independence of
the Senate as the institution and the right to govern its own affairs.
Ultimately, it was a suggestion made by Senate Government Leader Jack Austin
that won the support of the Senate. He proposed that the party leaders in the
Senate compose a list of names for submission to the Governor in Council. After
nine days of second and third reading debate, Bill C-4 received Royal Assent on
Not only were
Government bills from the previous session reintroduced in the House of
Commons, but private members’ public bills as well. Five were given first
reading in the Senate on February 3 and three of these, Bills C-212, C-260 and
C-250, passed all stages in the Senate and were given Royal Assent. This was
unusual since it is rare for private members’ public bills to actually
become law. That this happened is due to the practice in the House of Commons
of carrying over bills from one session to another within a Parliament.
respecting user fees, provided for parliamentary scrutiny and approval of user
fees set by regulatory authorities. The Senate’s main concern was the
lack of a Senate role in the proposed legislation. This was addressed by the
National Finance Committee which amended the bill to provide for an identical
role for the Senate and its committees and resolved, without issue, when the
House of Commons concurred in the Senate amendments. Bill C-260, An Act to
amend the Hazardous Products Act, added cigarettes that are not fire-safe to
the prohibited products list and was passed on March 30. Both bills received
Royal Assent on March 31.
C-212 and C-260 which moved easily through the Senate, Bill C-250, an amendment
to the Criminal Code, proved to be more contentious. The purpose of the bill,
to add “sexual orientation” to those groups protected against the
spread of hate propaganda in the Criminal Code, was a sensitive subject.
Critics believed the bill was unnecessary, arguing that individuals were
already protected by existing laws in Canada. Others thought the concept of
“sexual orientation” vague. Still others felt the bill endangered
freedom of religion. Peppered with points of order and Speaker’s rulings,
it took nine days of full debate at second reading before the bill was referred
to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on February 20. Even at third
reading, progress of the bill was slowed down by repeated demands for recorded
that finally brought an end to the debate was unprecedented. On April 27,
Progressive Conservative Senator Lowell Murray introduced a motion to limit
debate and to set a time for the disposition of the bill. His action was
unusual because the Rules of the Senate allow for the government to move time
allocation motions on government business, but this was the first time a
Senator had attempted to move a motion like this on a private members’
bill through a motion enacting a special order. Debate was restricted even
further when immediately following Senator Murray, Senator Serge Joyal moved
the previous question. It was the adoption of the previous question motion on
April 27 that forced the Senate to make a decision on the disposition motion
which cleared the way for the Senate to complete the final stages of the bill.
Third reading was given to the bill on April 28 and Royal Assent on April 29.
Royal Assent ceremony took place in the Senate Chamber on March 31 with the
Governor General, Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson, in attendance. As well as
C-4, C-212 and C-260, two appropriation bills, C-26 and C-27 were assented to
on that day. Other bills that received Royal Assent by written declaration were
C-6, C-13 and C-18 on March 29; C-16 and S-15 on April 1; C-8 and C-14 on April
22; and C-21 on April 29.
During the first
three months of the Third Session the Speaker gave a total of 12 rulings.
Nine of these were delivered during two weeks in February when there was a
ruling almost every day starting on February 12, just seven days into the new
On February 12,
John Lynch-Staunton rose of a point of order to protest that the decision in
the Debates of the Senate and the Journals of the Senate of the day before did not
reflect what had really happened during second reading of Bill S-7, An Act
respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003.
He argued that
what the Speaker had said, which resulted in the defeat of the bill at second
reading, was not what had occurred at all and maintained that there had been a
vote to adopt the motion for second reading. In his ruling later that day
Speaker Dan Hays noted that while there was some confusion as to what had taken
place, in his opinion, the bill was properly on the Order Paper. Another point
of order followed immediately, this time by David Tkachuk who complained
about the use of laptops in the Senate Chamber. The Speaker ruled that since
the Rules of the Senate suggest that electronic devices can be used as long as
they do not produce any sound, the point of order was unfounded.
On the following
day, Anne Cools rose on a point of order claiming that the
procedure for the adjournment of debate on Bill C-250, An Act to amend the
Criminal Code (hate propaganda) on February 12 altered the name of the Senator
who had adjourned the debate. The question was whether an intervention made by
a Senator constituted debate. In his ruling, the Speaker found the proceedings
related to the intervention within the rules and the Order Paper remained
In her point of
order raised on February 11, Lorna Milne objected to the use of the word
“corruption” in a notice of inquiry. She thought the language
provocative and believed it was meant as an insult to the Government and a
personal attack on the new Prime Minister. Although the Speaker did not
disallow the inquiry in his ruling on February 16, he cautioned Senators to use
good judgement in drafting motions and inquiries so that they do not provoke
Two rulings were
delivered on February 19. The first was in response to Eymard Corbin who
rose on a point of order on February 13. Senator Corbin did not interpret
new Rule 131(2) of the Rules of the Senate to mean that the Senate could request
a government response to a committee report adopted in a previous session. The
Speaker ruled on February 19 that since he could not find any procedural reason
why Senators could not debate and decide such motions on their own merit, there
was no point of order. Later that same day, the Speaker ruled on a point of
order that had been raised by Jean-Robert Gauthier on February 16. Senator
Gauthier objected to an amendment proposed to a motion that he had moved
authorizing the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament Committee to
report on Senate practices with respect to petitions. The Senator maintained
that the amendment, which deleted the text of his motion and replaced it with
another, should be introduced as a separate motion and not as an amendment. In
his ruling, the Speaker noted the ambiguity of the wording and intent of the
amendment, but ruled there was not reason to rule it out of order on procedural
of order were raised on February 20 with respect to the agreement for a
standing vote on second reading of Bill C-5, to amend the Electoral Boundaries
Readjustment Act. After a short suspension, the decision of the Speaker was
that, in the absence of an agreement for when the standing vote would take
place, the vote would take place at 5:30 that afternoon, in accordance with
Rule 39(4)(b) of the Rules of the Senate.
Just as second
reading was about to begin on Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Parliament of
Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer), Noël A.
Kinsella rose on a point of order. He argued that C-4 was not a reprint of Bill
C-34 from the previous session, as stated on the cover of the bill. The
Speaker, however, declared that the Senate could not question the validity of
proceedings of the House of Commons and it was up to the Commons to decide how
to characterize the bill and not the Senate.
In his point of
order on February 24, Senator Tkachuk contended that the Senate had seriously
breached its rules by passing two motions on Friday, February 20, after the
automatic adjournment of the Senate.
explained that the Senate could waive its own rules with unanimous consent
which in this case had been given. His ruling was that there was no point
argued in his point of order of March 23 that Bill S-7, An Act respecting the
effective date of the representation order of 2003 should be discharged from
the Order Paper because it dealt with the same subject as Bill C-5 which had
been given Royal Assent. Speaker Dan Hays agreed with Senator Kinsella and
ruled that Bill S-7 be discharged from the Order Paper.
On March 30,
Senator Corbin raised a point of order respecting the general time limit on
speeches. He believed that a senator who had finished speaking did not need to
respond to a comment from another senator and asked the Speaker to provide
clarification of this rule. The Speaker’s ruling was that the Rules of
the Senate provide for questions or comments from other senators with the
permission of the Senator who has the floor.
rose on a question of privilege on April 27 to protest that the recent
proceedings on Bill C-250 breached the privileges of Senators who were deprived
of their right to debate. She asserted that the imposition of
“closure” on a private members’ bill was irregular and out of
order and that the Speaker had acted improperly in recognizing the Senator who
had moved the motion for the previous question over several others who had also
sought to be recognized. On April 28, the Speaker pro tem ruled that although
the motion for the disposition of a private members’ bill was unusual, it
did not violate the rules and practices of the Senate. She noted the confusion
about the operation of a previous question motion but ruled the confusion did
not invalidate its use. For these reasons, the Speaker pro tem concluded there
was no basis for a prima facie case of privilege.
reports adopted by the Senate early in the session are requests to approve
budgets for special studies. The Agriculture and Forestry Committee, Banking,
Trade and Commerce Committee, Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
Committee, Fisheries and Oceans Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, Human
Rights Committee, National Security and Defence Committee, Official Languages
Committee, Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee and the Transport
and Communications Committee all received the Senate’s approval to begin
reported on special studies. The Transport and Communications Committee tabled
its first interim report on the impact of public policy on the Canadian news
media on April 1. The Fourth Report of the contains the committee’s
findings after one year of public hearings.
The Fourth Report
of the Fisheries and Oceans Committee was also tabled on April 1. Entitled
“Nunavut Fisheries: Quota Allocations and Benefits”, it calls upon
the Government of Canada to act on the agreement it signed with the Government
of Nunavut in August 2000.
Emergencies: Canada’s Fragile Front Lines”, the Third Report of the
National Security and Defence Committee, was tabled on March 30. The Report,
part of a series investigating the security of Canadians, examines what
planners and practitioners are doing to prepare for national emergencies.
The Third Report
of the Foreign Affairs Committee entitled “Mexico: Canada’s Other NAFTA Partner (Volume 3)”, is the latest of a broad review of the trade
relationship between Canada and the United States of America and between Canada and Mexico. The Report was tabled on March 29.
On April 15, the
Agriculture and Forestry Committee tabled its Fourth Report entitled “The
BSE Crisis—Lessons for the Future”. The Committee studied issues
related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Canada and proposed policies for
the longer term.
Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee examined security within the
parliamentary precincts and tabled its report in the Senate on April 22.
A motion to commemorate
the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide was adopted in the Senate on March
Terry Mercer, former National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada and Jim
Munson, a Canadian journalist who had been in the PMO entourage, were
introduced on February 2. Tributes were paid to former Senators Margaret Jean
Anderson who died on December 8, Sister Mary Alice (Peggy) Butts who died on
March 6 and Ernest Cottreau who died on March 7. Jack Wiebe announced his
resignation from the Senate on January 31. Thelma Chalifoux retired on February
8, Gérald-A. Beaudoin on April 15, Al Graham on May 21; Brenda Robertson
on May 23; and Douglas Roche on June 14, 2004.
Mary Mussell, Senate Journals
Sitting of the Fourth Session of the 25th Legislature commenced on February 17,
2004 with the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Lieutenant Governor of
Alberta, Lois Hole. The speech centred on the impact the energy industry has
had on Alberta. It also focussed on initiatives to build the province's
future as Alberta approaches its centennial in 2005. Education and protection
of children were key themes. Other elements included:
the creation of
an Alberta office in Washington, D. C. to advance the province's interests on
issues such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE);
a Life Sciences
Institute to coordinate research taking place across the province in areas such
as agriculture, environment, health and water research.
The speech also confirmed
the Government's ongoing commitment to the fiscal principles of the
Sustainability Fund and to continued debt reduction. (Since 2003, year-end
surpluses are deposited into the Alberta Sustainability Fund. Withdrawals from
the Fund can only be made if revenue from non-renewable resources is less than
At the time of
writing, 30 Government Bills, 1 Private Members' Public Bill and 4 Private
Bills had been passed by the Assembly.
Some of the Bills passed during the Spring Sitting include:
Bill 1, Alberta
Centennial Education Savings Plan Act, establishes the Alberta Centennial
Education Savings Plan. Under the plan the Government will contribute $500 to a
registered education savings plan for every child born to or adopted by an Alberta family beginning in 2005, provided that the parents open a registered education
savings plan in the child's name. Additional contributions will be made by the
Government at ages eight, 11, and 14, as long as the contributions are matched.
The Bill received some criticism from both a Government Private Member and some
Opposition Members who argued about the fairness of the application of the
legislation only to children born in 2005 and after.
Senatorial Selection Amendment Act, 2004, amends the current Act which expires
at the end of this year. The Bill extends the Act to December 31, 2010. This
allows the Alberta Government to hold Senate elections beyond 2004.
Bill 22, Election
Statutes Amendment Act, 2004. This Bill makes numerous amendments to four Acts:
the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, the
Alberta Personal Income Tax Act, and the Alberta Corporate Tax Act. These
amendments are based on recommendations made by Alberta's Chief Electoral
Officer. In addition to minor housekeeping matters, the Bill has measures to
ensure the accuracy of elector information, protect elector privacy, and
improve flexibility in the use of special ballots in advance polls. The Bill
also amends contribution limits for both individual candidates from $1,500 to
$2,000 and candidates of registered parties from $7,500 to $10,000.
Contribution limits for individual constituency associations will be increased
from $750 to $1,000. As well, limits for party constituency associations will
be increased from $3,750 to $5,000. The Opposition expressed some reservations
with these increases, particularly the increase from $200 to $500 in a
candidate's nomination deposit. They argued that this would discourage
candidates from participating in elections. Other concerns were expressed with
regard to unique identifier numbers which would allow the Chief Electoral
Officer to assign to electors a unique and permanent identifier number to be
used to assist in distinguishing an elector from another or to verify their
information. The Opposition expressed the view there was no need for this
identifier and questioned whether it would lead to Internet voting. One
provision supported by the Opposition was the amendment improving the use of
special ballots in advance polls.
Private Members' Business
The issue of
Private Members' Business has led to some discussion in the Assembly as to the
priority of various items in the area. In Alberta, Private Members' Business is
dealt with on Monday afternoons following the daily routine and from 8:00 p.m.
to 9:00 p.m. Monday evenings. The time allocated in the afternoon is set aside
for Written Questions and Motions for Returns followed by Private Members'
Public Bills. The first hour of the evening is devoted to Motions Other Than
Government Motions. As a result of a significant number of Written Questions
and Motions for Returns being placed on the Order Paper by Opposition Members,
very little time has been available to debate Private Members' Public Bills.
Private Members' Public Bills
Members' Bill was passed during the Spring Sitting at the time of writing.
Bill 201, Safety
Codes (Barrier-free Design and Access) Amendment Act, 2004, sponsored by Rob
Lougheed (PC, Clover Bar-Fort Saskatchewan), amends the Safety Codes Act by
enabling the creation of a new barrier-free design and access council as part
of the Safety Codes Council. The Bill also provides an opportunity for input
regarding safety codes for persons with disabilities. It comes into force June
Other Private Members' Public Bills on the Order Paper include:
Bill 204, Blood
Samples Act, sponsored by Thomas Lukaszuk (PC, Edmonton-Castle Downs), creates
a process which would allow a qualified medical practitioner to take a
mandatory blood sample from someone whose bodily fluids have come in contact
with police officers, firefighters, correctional officers, front-line emergency
workers, good Samaritans, or health care workers. The blood sample may only be
taken from someone who refuses to comply voluntarily and cannot be used in a
criminal proceeding. The Bill also includes provisions protecting the privacy
of the test.
Bill 206, Alberta
Wheat and Barley Test Market Amendment Act, 2004, introduced by Mark Hlady (PC,
Calgary-Mountain View), would amend the existing Act by providing for the
establishment of a 10-year Alberta test market for wheat and barley on a date
set by the Lieutenant Governor in Council if the Governments of Alberta and
Canada do not reach an agreement for the establishment of a test market. The
Bill would provide Alberta producers with an alternative to the Canadian Wheat
One Private Bill
which has received significant public attention is Bill Pr5, Brooklyn Hannah
George Rewega Right of Civil Action Act. The Bill, which has been referred to
the Private Bills Committee, would allow a husband to sue his wife on behalf of
their daughter. The daughter, who is three years old, is alleged to have
suffered brain damage and blindness as a result of a single vehicle accident
which occurred when her mother was pregnant. At the time of the accident, the
mother was driving a vehicle registered and insured by her husband's parents.
The Bill would allow the father, on behalf of the child, to bring a civil
action against the mother for damages arising from the accident. Such an action
is prohibited by the common law. A 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision called
Dobson clarifies that there is immunity for mothers for wrongful prenatal conduct.
The Committee heard submissions from the petitioner's lawyer, the lawyer
representing the defendants, as well as the Department of Justice. The lawyer
representing the defendants made submissions to the Committee opposing the
Bill. Similarly, the Department of Justice also voiced concerns regarding this
Bill. The Committee, which last met on April 27, 2002 has decided to defer
their deliberations on the Bill until the Fall Sitting.
On March 24,
2004, Patricia Nelson, the Minister of Finance, presented the Budget and
estimates for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Revenue for the
2004-05 fiscal year is estimated to be just under $23 billion and total
resource revenue is expected to be $4.8 billion. The Minister projected total
expenditures of $22.6 billion in 2004-05 which includes an increase of 6.1 per
cent in operating expenditures for Government programmes and services. The
Budget increases the base budget for the Department of Health and Wellness to
$8 billion, an increase of 8.4 per cent. The Department of Learning
(responsible for primary, secondary and post-secondary education) will see a
budget increase of 5.7 per cent to $5.3 billion. (An additional $216 million
will be allocated for basic education as well as another $85 million to fund colleges,
technical institutes, universities, and apprenticeship programs.) Funding for
Transportation programs will be increased to $1.0 billion and Infrastructure
program expenditures are estimated to surpass $1.5 billion.
Other elements of Budget 2004 include:
- a decrease in the general corporate tax rate from 12.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent;
- a reduction in small business tax rates from 4 per cent to 3 per cent;
- a decrease of 2.3 per cent in school property tax rates;
- a projected
economic growth rate of 3.6 per cent which is estimated to account for 43,000
- the assumption
that prices will be $26.00 US a barrel for oil and $4.20 Cdn per thousand cubic
feet for natural gas;
Minister estimated that Alberta's accumulated debt will stand at just under $3
billion at the end of the fiscal year.
Select Special Committee
On April 22,
2004, the Legislative Assembly approved a motion to appoint a Select Special
Health Information Act Review Committee to review the Health Information Act. The
all-party committee must submit its report, including any proposed amendments
to the Act, within one year of commencing its review. Broyce Jacobs (PC,
Cardston - Taber - Warner) will chair the committee.
Dr. Kevin Taft (Lib,
Edmonton-Riverview) was elected Leader of the Liberal Party on March 27, 2004.
Speaker Kowalski recognized him as Leader of the Official Opposition in the
Assembly on March 29, 2004 following the resignation of the Interim Leader of
the Official Opposition, Dr. Don Massey (Lib, Edmonton- Mill Woods).
On March 16,
2004, Speaker Ken Kowalski hosted a ceremony in the Legislature Building
Rotunda recognizing Alberta's francophone community. Marking its 6th year, Les
Rendez-vous de la Francophonie is a celebration of the province's French
culture and history. Joining Speaker Kowalski during the recognition ceremony
were Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Community Development; Don Massey, MLA,
Interim Leader of the Official Opposition; Raj Pannu, MLA, Leader of the New
Democrat Opposition; Ernest Chauvet, President, Canadian Francophone
Association of Alberta; and Denis Ducharme, (PC, Bonnyville-Cold Lake, Chair,
session of the second annual Mr. Speaker's MLA for a Day took place on April 20
and 21, 2004. Twenty-eight students from across Alberta participated in the
programme which is designed to give Alberta high school students the chance to
find out what it really means to be an MLA. Through conversations with MLAs and
participation in a two day program, students find out how MLAs act as lawmakers
and community representatives. The Legislative Assembly is proud to be in
partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion, Alberta NWT Command, who sponsor
and assist with the program.
Micheline Gravel, Procedural Clerk
Legislature convened for the first time on March 18, 2004. The first order of
business was the selection of a Speaker. Doreen Hamilton (Regina Wascana
Plains) and Myron Kowalsky (Prince Albert Carlton) put their names forward for
the secret ballot election. Mr. Kowalsky emerged the victor and returned
to the office he has held since 2001. Graham Addley (Saskatoon Sutherland) and
Andy Iwanchuk (Saskatoon Fairview) were subsequently elected Deputy Speaker and
Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole respectively.
opened with the traditional ceremonies and Speech from the Throne. With the
emphasis on the longer-term, Premier Lorne Calvert (Saskatoon Riversdale)
opined that day to day decisions needed to be made within the context of the
government's vision and goals for the entire parliament, rather than the
session. The one seat majority and the province's fiscal constraints were other
underlying factors influencing the government's priorities. The priorities
identified by the government for the province's Centennial year fell under the
headings of education and opportunity, building a green and prosperous economy,
and quality of life issues.
Brad Wall (Swift Current) challenged the government's approach by noting little
emphasis on agricultural issues and no immediate education property tax relief
for rural areas. The Opposition challenged the government to encourage more
entrepreneurial investment and focus less reliance on job creation through
government and Crown corporation activity.
The question on
the Address in Reply to the Throne Speech on March 29th resulted in a tie vote.
The government's one seat majority had been temporarily lost due to the absence
of the Deputy Premier Clay Serby (Yorkton), who was undergoing treatment for
cancer. Prior to announcing how he would cast his vote, Speaker Kowalsky felt
it was appropriate to outline the principles that guided him in reaching his
decision. These included the impartiality of the Speaker, a principle that is
enshrined in both legislation and the Rules of the Assembly, and parliamentary
convention. The Speaker concluded his remarks by noting that decisions of the
legislature should taken only by a majority. In the vote at hand, one that was
a test of the Assembly's confidence in the Government, the decision of
non-confidence should be clearly stated by a majority. It would not then be
appropriate for the vote of the Speaker alone to overturn the status quo as
determined in the last election. In accordance with parliamentary tradition,
Speaker Kowalsky then cast his vote in favour of the Address.
Harry Van Mulligen (Regina Douglas Park) delivered his first budget on March
31st. The budget was billed as a commitment to prudent fiscal management while
safeguarding vital public services and programs. The budget highlighted four
areas of priority. These included:
care: An increase of $223 million in spending divided between enhanced
salaries/benefits/medical fees to attract and retain health professionals;
facilities and equipment; and prevention projects.
Children, Youth and Opportunity: a 3.8% increase in educational funding spread
over capital improvements, increasing the Post-Secondary Tax Credit, launching
the Young Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Program and 200 new child care spaces.
Communities: Additional investments in highways, revenue-sharing grants
for municipalities, the Agricultural Policy Framework and income support
program, job training and creation.
and Accountability: The government announced that the dependence on the fiscal
stabilization fund would be reduced and introduced a new GRF four-year
financial plan. In addition, the government adopted the summary financial plan
to report its financial results and projections for all departments, Crown
corporations, agencies and boards.
billed as the New Democratic government's 11th consecutive General Revenue Fund
balanced budget, Opposition finance critic, Ken Krawetz (Canora - Pelly) took issue with this claim. Pointing to the estimates, he stated that when
expenditures exceed revenues, a deficit budget is the result. Mr. Krawetz then
questioned whether the government had a mandate to increase the Provincial
Sales Tax and taxes on tobacco and bottled beer as these were not raised during
last fall's election. The Opposition also questioned the burden placed on rural
Saskatchewan, where the bulk farm gasoline and propane tax rebates were
reduced, 22 Rural Service Centres and 9 Saskatchewan Environment Offices were
to be closed, in addition to an undisclosed number of health care facility
closures and conversions.
The Budget Debate
came to a conclusion on April 8th with the votes being tied on both the
amendment and the main budget motion. Following parliamentary practice, the
Speaker cast his ballot in accordance with certain procedural principles, and
not for or against the substance of the matter, in order to avoid any
imputation on the impartiality of the Chair.
The amendment to
the Budget motion was clearly worded as a motion of non-confidence. The Speaker
was guided in his ruling by the principle that decisions on amendments should
not be taken except by a majority and that where there was no majority, the
main motion should be left in its existing form. Furthermore, in a vote that
was a test of the Assembly's confidence in the Government, the decision of
non-confidence should be clearly stated by a majority. Accordingly the Speaker
cast his vote against the amendment and declared the amendment defeated.
The question was
then put on the vote on the Budget motion itself. Once again, the Speaker
outlined the principles that guided his decision, and reiterated his position
that matters of confidence are of such importance that a decision of
non-confidence should be made clearly by a majority. Furthermore, it would not
be appropriate for the vote of the Speaker alone to overturn the status quo as
determined at the last election. Accordingly the Speaker cast his vote in
favour of the motion and declared the Budget Motion adopted.
Under the new
Rules of the Assembly, the procedures exist to refer estimates to any one of
five standing committees. The first attempt to do so on April 8th resulted in a
tie vote. At issue was the recognition that the government would not
retain its majority in a Committee of the Whole but it would in the seven
member standing committees - a fact not lost on the Opposition.
The Speaker cast
his vote against the motion, stating in his ruling that the principle applied
to motions was that, where no further discussion was possible, decisions should
only be taken by a majority. The Speaker alone should not change the status
quo, which was to continue the Saskatchewan practice of reviewing the estimates
in the Committee of Finance (a Committee of the Whole).
remained unresolved until April 27th when a second series of referral motions
were put before the House. By this date, the issue had been resolved, prompted
by Mr. Serby's return to the Assembly and an agreement having been reached
between both sides. These motions did receive the approval of the House with
both sides voting in favour. Five of the higher profile departmental estimates
(Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization; Environment, Executive Council;
Health, and Learning) were left in the Committee of Finance in order to permit
all members to participate in the review.
reviews of the new committee estimates procedure have been positive. Members
have appreciated the ability to receive answers directly from departmental
officials rather than being restricted to Ministerial responses. The smaller
memberships have also permitted two committees to meet simultaneously during
the regular afternoon sittings. This in turn has freed MLAs not involved in the
committees to attend to matters away from the Assembly. The ability to view
both proceedings simultaneously on the legislative channels or through internet
streaming has proven a further benefit to those involved in the proceedings.
Brad Wall became
the new leader of the Official Opposition Saskatchewan Party on March 15th. He
gained the position by acclamation after no other candidates came forward to
replace Elwin Hermanson (Rosetown - Elrose). Mr. Hermanson had announced his
intention to step down following last fall's general election. Mr. Wall was
first elected to the Assembly in 1999 but had previously been involved in the
political scene as an assistant to both provincial and federal politicians. He
had also worked as an economic development officer for Swift Current.
One of the first
tasks undertaken by Mr. Wall as leader was the shuffling of his shadow cabinet.
Among the new assignments were:
remains Deputy Leader and takes over as finance critic;
(Melfort) takes over as House Leader and returns to the Health critic duties he
(Humboldt) was appointed Whip;
Mr. Hermanson was
named chair of the Public Accounts Committee and Intergovernmental Affairs
On the government
side, Mr. Van Mulligen has been overseeing the business in the Assembly in his
role as House Leader. He is assisted by the Deputy House Leader, Pat Atkinson
(Saskatoon Nutana) and Whip Kevin Yates (Regina Dewdey).
Margaret (Meta) Woods, Clerk Assistant
On February 10, 2004,
Iona Campagnolo opened British Columbia's 5th session of the 37th Parliament.
The theme “bring out the best in British Columbia” was evident
throughout the Throne Speech.
The Lieutenant-Governor's address featured a new government initiative that will
see 25,000 new student spaces added to BC's colleges, universities and
institutes by 2010. Several other announcements were directed at natural
disaster prevention, which reflected the past year of fires, floods and
pestilence British Columbia had has experienced. These announcements include
promise of new strategies to combat the mountain pine beetle; actions to be
taken on the Filmon Fire Review recommendations; and an additional $16.8
million to go to the BSE and Cull programs.
As of May 17,
2004, 56 Government Bills, 5 Members' Bills and 3 Private Bills have been
introduced, making for a total of 64 pieces of legislation presented to date
during the Fifth Session..
Two key bills
introduced during the present sitting focus on labour agreements: the Health
Sector (Facilities Subsector) Collective Agreement Act (Bill 37) and the
Education Services Collective Agreement Amendment Act, 2004 (Bill 19).
Bill 37, the
Health Sector (Facilities Subsector) Collective Agreement Act required striking
health care workers to return to work as well as imposing a two-year contract
for the unionized hospital service workers. The government requested, pursuant
to standing order 81, to move Bill 37 through all three readings in one day.
The Minister of Labour Graham Bruce (Cowichan- Ladysmith) maintained that the
swift passage of Bill 37 was necessary since the normal bargaining process had
come to an impasse while a growing number of cancelled procedures, surgeries and
diagnostic tests was putting patients a risk.
The Leader of the
Opposition Joy MacPhail (Vancouver-Hastings) was critical of the government's
decision to move Bill 37 though all three readings in one night. In addition,
she objected to many of the aspects of the bill including the 15 percent wage
reduction for 43,000 unionized hospital service workers that would be
retroactive to April 1, 2004.
Richmond (Kamloops) accepted the government's request to move Bill 37 through
all three readings in one day. The Speaker stated, in part, that he was
persuaded that the withdrawal of the workforce had created a province-wide
crisis and that it was paramount that the workers return to work at the
earliest possible moment. Debate proceeded well into the night – until
6:34 a.m. the next morning – when Bill 37 received Royal Assent.
Bill 19, the
Education Services Collective Agreement Amendment Act, 2004 amends the
teachers' collective agreements setting them in linebringing them in line with
the School Act. The government argued that this new legislation would finalize
the terms of collective agreements between teachers and public school employers
and would help both groups prepare for negotiating new agreements in 2004. The
Opposition criticized Bill 19 for removing negotiated protections for students
and teachers related to class size, services for special needs students and
specialty services of counsellors, librarians and ESL teachers.
Another hot topic
was Bill 25, the Wildfire Act, which incorporates the existing legislative
provisions relating to fire protection into a separate act to comprehensively
address wildfire-related issues in B.C. The key objective of the act is to
clarify the specific responsibilities and obligations of not just forest
licensees but all users of the forest with respect to fire use, prevention,
control activities and rehabilitation.
Bill 3, the
Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act, establishes rules relating to
the operation of cemeteries, mausoleums, columbariums and crematoriums.
Solicitor General Rich Coleman (Fort Langley-Aldergrove) explained that the
adoption of Bill 3 would result in streamlined and enhanced enforcement tools;
clear requirements for the opening and closing cemeteries, mausoleums or
columbariums; and reduced regulatory burden on businesses. Opposition members,
however, voiced concerns that this legislation would bring increased consumer
costs for cremation, interment and burial services. The Leader of the
Opposition noted that the government and this piece of legislation brought new
meaning to the old saying: “Nothing is certain in life but death and
Private Members’ Bills
On May 6, 2004,
Lorne Mayencourt (Vancouver-Burrard) introduced, the Safe Streets Act, (Bill
M202) and the Trespass to Property Act, (Bill M203). The Safe Streets Act
proposes to ban aggressive solicitation, such as panhandling. The
Trespass to Property Act proposes to grant people who own or rent property in
cities the right to have the police remove unwanted guests from their property.
Currently, owners have to seek court injunctions to have police removed
trespassers from their property. At the time of writing, the two bills
had proceeded to second reading stage.
One of the most
active committees this spring has been the Special Committee to Review the
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Chaired by Blair
Lekstrom (Peace River South), the Committee is reviewing the strengths and
weaknesses of the current legislation and considering proposals for legislative
amendments. The Committee intends to present its report to the Legislative
Assembly by the close of the spring sitting on May 20.
Chaired by Jeff
Bray (Victoria-Beacon Hill), the new Special Committee to Appoint a Merit
Commissioner began its search for a candidate to serve as the Deputy Minister
responsible for BC Public Service Agency, and to hold office as the Merit
Commissioner for the Province of British Columbia. The Merit Commissioner is
responsible for reporting annually to the Legislative Assembly on the
application of the merit principle in public service appointments. The
successful candidate will require the unanimous support of Committee members to
have their appointment recommended to the Legislative Assembly.
On February 10,
2004, at the first sitting of the 5th session, the Leader of the Opposition
gave notice that she would raise three matters of privilege. The following day,
she raised her first point of privilege alleging that the Minister of Finance
had been in contempt of the House by announcing and implementing a change to
the rate of tobacco tax prior to the introduction of enabling
legislation. The announcement had been made in December 2003 while the
House was adjourned.
In response, the
Finance Minister objected on procedural grounds, claiming that the Member had
not raised the point of privilege at “the earliest opportunity,”
which would have been at the prorogation sitting on the morning of February 10.
In his ruling on
March 23, 2004, Speaker Richmond reported that past parliamentary practice has
been for notice of matters of privilege to be given on Prorogation day and also
on Opening day, describing both as pro forma sittings which result from
the exercise of the Royal Prerogative to summon the House. The Speaker also
concluded that the legislative measures required to implement the tax rate
increase were proposed, as the press release and other documents submitted
indicated that the measures would be presented at the next session of the
House, and be retrospective to the extent necessary.
In the Speaker's
opinion, the House had not been denied the opportunity to debate this tax
measure, notwithstanding the legislation would be retrospective to the dates
mentioned in the proposed amendment. Therefore, the transaction relating to the
Tobacco Tax Act did not constitute a breach of privilege or a contempt of the
During the fifth session,
the Speaker has also ruled on two other privilege matters. Both involved
complaints by the Leader of the Opposition that members of the Executive
Council (the former Minister of Children and Family Development, and the
Solicitor General) had misled the House. In neither instance did the Speaker
find a prima facie case of privilege.
Other Parliamentary Events
Legislative Assembly hosted 20 teachers from across the province during the
first British Columbia Teachers Institute on Parliamentary Democracy.
Activities included briefings by the Speaker of the House, Clerk of the House,
Law Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms, and Cabinet Operations staff as well as a casual
dinner with the Members of the Legislative Assembly. The Institute was regarded
to be highly successful and is expected to become an annual event.
Committee Researcher, Office of Clerk of Committees
House of Commons
convened on February 2, 2004 to open the Third Session of the 37th Parliament
with a Speech from the Throne, in which the Governor General presented the
legislative agenda of Paul Martin's government. Several bills from the previous
session were reintroduced, having not received Royal Assent before prorogation.
The Liberal caucus introduced its new three-line voting system, designed to
give Members more freedom to voice their views and those of their constituents.
The tabling on
February 10 of the Auditor General's November 2003 report on the sponsorship
program proved to be the focus of a rather tumultuous session, both in Question
Period and in committee, where the report was studied.
debates were convened to discuss issues of current concern, including the
anti-missile defence system, the mad cow crisis and the situation in Haiti. An emergency debate on the avian flu was also held.
On March 9,
Parliament played host to the Secretary General of the United Nations for the
first time since 1985. His Excellency Kofi Annan delivered an address to
Senators, Members of Parliament and other dignitaries, drawing attention to the
challenges of finding multilateral solutions to hunger, disease, human rights
violations and environmental degradation. He emphasized the importance of the
international community being adequately prepared to deal with today's threats,
government's first budget was presented by Minister of Finance Ralph Goodale on
March 23 and focused on health, providing an additional $2 billion in health
care funding for the 2003-04 fiscal year. Other announcements included a GST
refund for cities and a $4-billion emergency fund to cover unexpected events
such as the SARS outbreak. Any unused portion of that fund will go directly
toward paying down the debt. A surplus of approximately $6 to $7 billion is
anticipated for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
The focal point
of the Third Session was the inquiry of the Standing Committee on Public
Accounts into the sponsorship program. On February 12, the Committee began
studying the Auditor General's report, looking specifically at Chapters 3, 4
and 5, which concern the sponsorship program, advertising activities and public
opinion research. Hearings continued through the winter and into the spring,
with the Committee receiving testimony from various former ministers and
government officials, as well as individuals from the advertising industry. The
Committee did not present a report before Parliament was dissolved.
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food carried out a study on beef pricing, in
the context of the BSE crisis in Canada. As part of its work, the
Committee asked three companies to produce financial statements. In response to
the failure to comply with the request, the Committee recommended to the House
on May 6 that the companies be found in contempt and ordered to provide the
required documents. The House supported the Committee's recommendation and
concurred in the report the same day.
In light of the
failure of two of the companies to comply with the House order, the Committee
presented its fourth report to the House on May 13, asking that the House
impose a fine of $250,000 per day on the two companies who had still failed to
produce the documents. The House declined to concur in the report.
Privilege and procedure
On March 11,
2004, the MP for Haliburton-Victoria-Brock, John O'Reilly, and the MP for Scarborough-Rouge River, Derek Lee, raised a question of privilege relating to the
broadcast on the Parliament Hill audio network of the proceedings of the Ontario
Liberal Caucus meeting held on February 25.
The Speaker found
the matter to be a prima facie case of privilege and the question was referred
to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Committee
presented its report on the matter on April 26, 2004, finding that a breach of
privilege had occurred, but that there was no evidence to indicate that a
deliberate act had taken place. The Committee maintained that it was not up to
the Committee to determine whether the disclosure of the proceedings by Sun
Media constituted a criminal act, although MPs could pursue the matter
elsewhere if they thought this was the case.
Of the 37 bills
on the Order Paper for the Third Session, 16 were reintroduced from the second
session of the 37th Parliament. These included Bill C-4, An Act to amend the
Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and
other Acts in consequence; Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Patent Act and the
Food and Drugs Act (the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa); Bill C-10, An
Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act; and Bill C-25, An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of
wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who
disclose the wrongdoings.
Bills passed by
the House and given Royal Assent include C-3, An Act to amend the Canada
Elections Act and the Income Tax Act; C-4; C-5, An Act respecting the effective
date of the representation order of 2003; C-9; and C-24, An Act to amend the
Parliament of Canada Act.
Private Members' Business
The House renewed
the provisional Standing Orders on Private Members' Business until the 60th
sitting day of the next Parliament. These Standing Orders make almost all items
of private members' business votable.
Members' bills were passed at every stage and given Royal Assent: Bill C-205,
An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (disallowance procedure for
statutory instruments); Bill C-212, An Act respecting user fees; Bill C-227, An
Act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge; Bill
C-250, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda); Bill C-260, An Act
to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes); Bill C-411, An Act
to establish Merchant Navy Veterans Day; and Bill C-459, An Act to establish
Holocaust Memorial Day.
of Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner
and Senate Ethics Officer) and other Acts in consequence, Bernard Shapiro was
appointed as the House of Commons Ethics Commissioner on April 29 for a
On May 23, Prime
Minister Paul Martin asked the Governor General to dissolve the 37th
Parliament, so that a general election could be held on June 28.
Jean-François Lafleur, Procedural Clerk, Table Research Branch, House Proceedings