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The 38th Legislature opened on May 8, 2007 with the election of the President
and Vice-Presidents of the National Assembly. An agreement reached between
the three parliamentary groups represented at the Assembly provided for
temporary rules concerning the election of the president by secret ballot.
Michel Bissonnet, the Member for Jeanne-Mance-Viger, who was the only Member
standing as a candidate, was thus declared elected to the office of President.
On motion by the Premier, Fatima Houda-Pepin, the Member for La Pinière,
and Jacques Chagnon, the Member for Westmount Saint- Louis, were declared
elected respectively as First and Second Vice-President. Marc Picard, the
Member for Chutes-de-la- Chaudière, was elected as Third Vice-President
on motion by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Mario Dumont.
The spring sessional period was primarily devoted to the debate on the
opening speech delivered by the Premier, the debate on the budget speech
and the consideration of the estimates of expenditure for the fiscal year
ending March 31, 2008. Furthermore, the National Assembly passed three
private bills and nine public bills, two of which concerned Acts that were
adopted last year. On June 21, 2007, the Assembly adjourned its proceedings
until Tuesday, October 16, 2007.
A few hours before the beginning of the first sitting of the 38th Legislature,
on Tuesday, May 8, 2007, the Member for Pointe-aux-Trembles, André Boisclair,
announced his resignation as Leader of the Parti Québécois. The following
day, the Members of this political grouping elected the most senior Member
of the National Assembly and Member for Abitibi-Ouest, François Gendron,
as interim Leader of the Second Opposition Group.
The Assembly is currently composed as follows: Liberal Party, 48 Members;
Action démocratique du Québec, 41 Members; Parti Québécois, 36 Members.
Rulings and directives from the Chair
Within the context of the first minority government in Québec since 1878,
it goes without saying that the rules governing the proceedings of the
National Assembly needed to be adapted accordingly. Shortly after his appointment,
President Bissonnet addressed his colleagues in the following terms: With
this 38th Legislature, a new and different form of governance has emerged
at the National Assembly of Québec. We are all accountable for this new
composition of the House before the population of Québec.
During this short period of parliamentary work, the Chair rendered nine
directives, most of which concerned time allocation to the parliamentary
groups. The main criterion on which the Chair based its directives was
that of distribution of speaking time in proportion to the number of seats
held by each parliamentary group in the Assembly. However, it is important
to mention that the lead role played by the Official Opposition was taken
into account as regards the distribution of questions during Oral Questions
and Answers, which constitutes one of the most important exercises in parliamentary
control. With regard to the examination of the estimates of expenditure
in committee, the Chair took into consideration the fact that the Government
accepted to adjust its strict proportionality criterion to give the opposition
more speaking time. It is the first time that the Chair of the Assembly
was required to rule on the distribution of speaking time in committee.
On May 25, 2007, President Bissonnet gave a directive in answer to questions
concerning the possibility of introducing amendments during the debate
on the budget speech. The Standing Orders do not allow the introduction
of amendments to the motion by the Minister of Finance for the Assembly
to approve the budgetary policy of the Government nor to the budget. They
do, however, provide for the possibility for Members to introduce want
of confidence motions during the debate on the budget speech. It is not
possible for the Government to amend its own budget during this debate.
Persons who are interested in reading the summaries of these directives
are invited to consult the Votes and Proceedings of May 10 and 25 and of
June 8, 19 and 20 on the Internet site of the National Assembly at the
following address: www.assnat.qc.ca.
Temporary amendments to the Standing Orders
On May 24, President Bissonnet tabled a document entitled Proposal for
Temporary Amendments to the Standing Orders and the Rules for the Conduct
of the Proceedings in the National Assembly Regarding Committee Membership
and the Quorum of the Assembly, arising from the proceedings of the Committee
on the National Assembly. The Assembly then carried the motion by the First
Vice-President for the adoption of these amendments for the duration of
the 38th Legislature, notwithstanding the prorogation of the session.
From June 3 to 6, the President of the National Assembly welcomed the President
of the Senate and the President of the House of Deputies of the Republic
of Haiti, Joseph Lambert and Pierre Éric Jean-Jacques. This meeting provided
an opportunity to discuss the organization and proceedings of the Québec
and Haitian Parliaments in order to better harmonize future partnerships.
The 15th edition of the Young Democrats' Tournament was held on April 21
and 22. This quiz game organized by the National Assembly brought together
over 300 students from Secondary 4 and 5 and college. During this activity,
contestants were able to test their knowledge regarding the history of
democracy in the world and, more particularly, the political history and
parliamentary system of Québec.
Last May 6, 125 pupil-Members of the 11th Legislature of the Youth Parliament
adopted two bills concerning recycling and computer instruction. This parliamentary
simulation is intended for 6th grade elementary students.
On Thursday, June 7, 2007, the Lieutenant-Governor Designate, Pierre Duchesne,
was sworn in as 28th Lieutenant-Governor of Québec during a solemn ceremony
presided over by the Secretary General of the Government, Gérard Bibeau,
in the presence of the Premier Jean Charest.
Bernard Pinard, former Member for the electoral division of Drummond from
1952 to 1956 and from 1960 to 1973, passed away last June 16 at the age
of 84 years. Mr. Pinard held important ministerial offices in the cabinets
of Jean Lesage and Robert Bourassa until 1973, when he was named a judge
of the provincial court and president of the transportation tribunal.
Mémoires de députés is a series of programmes broadcast on the National
Assembly Channel. It is produced entirely by a National Assembly team,
in collaboration with journalist Gilles Morin, who was a parliamentary
correspondent in Québec City for over 30 years, and with the Amicale des
anciens parlementaires du Québec (fellowship of former Québec parliamentarians).
Each of the Mémoires de députés programmes features interviews with former
Québec Members, who recall with sensitivity and a touch of humour the more
memorable moments of their careers. This series is available on the Internet
site of the National Assembly at the following address:
The fifth edition of Political Book Day in Québec took place on May 23,
2007 under the theme Des idées à votre portée (ideas within reach). Numerous
activities were held throughout the day, which concluded with a ceremony
in which the Prix de la Présidence de l'Assemblée nationale was awarded
to Martine Tremblay for her book entitled Derrière les portes closes :
René Lévesque et l'exercice du pouvoir (1976-1985). This award recognizes
quality, originality and interest in a publication submitted by a Québec
publisher and concerning politics in Québec.
Secretariat of the Assembly
The Standing Committees
On May 24, 2007, the National Assembly introduced certain amendments to
its Standing Orders for the duration of the 38th Legislature. The purpose
of these amendments is essentially to harmonize committee membership with
the current situation brought about by a minority government and the presence
of a third parliamentary group. The new rules provide that committees will
henceforth be composed of five members from the parliamentary group forming
the Government, four from the Official Opposition and three from the Second
Opposition Group. In the latter case, only two of the three members will
have the right to vote.
Furthermore, the amendments to the Standing Orders specify the distribution
of committee chairmanships and vice-chairmanships among the parliamentary
groups. It was therefore agreed that the following five sector-based committees
would be chaired by Members from the parliamentary group forming the Government:
Committee on Social Affairs
Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Committee on Public Finance
Committee on Institutions
Committee on Transportation and the Environment
It was further decided that the chairmanship of the following three committees
would be taken by Members of the Official Opposition:
Committee on the Public Administration
Committee on Planning and Public Domain
Committee on Labour and the Economy
Lastly, both of the following committees will be chaired by Members of
the Second Opposition Group:
Committee on Culture
Committee on Education
It should be mentioned that the distribution of committee vice-chairmanships
respects this proportion, with the exception of a second vice-chairmanship
at the Committee on Institutions, which will be taken by a Member of the
Second Opposition Group. This Committee now has a chair and two vice-chairs.
In the weeks following the election of the parliamentary committee chairs
and vice-chairs on May 25, committee members held deliberative meetings
to receive training regarding committee operations and to organize their
proceedings for the coming months. This was also an opportunity to form
the steering committees of each committee. The steering committee sees
to the organization of proceedings between sittings and is composed of
three Members representing each parliamentary group as well as of the committee
On May 30 and 31, the Committee on Public Finance proceeded, as it does
each year, with the continuation of the debate on the budget speech for
a period of 10 hours.
Subsequently, the parliamentary committees were mandated to examine the
estimates of expenditure of the ministries and agencies. This activity,
which generally takes place in April, took place between 8 and 18 June
this year, owing to the holding of the general election. Upon the conclusion
of their mandate, the committees had spent over 170 hours examining and
adopting the estimates of expenditure for 2007-2008.
As regards the clause-by-clause consideration of bills, it should be noted
that on May 29 the Committee on Social Affairs examined Bill 1, An Act
to establish the Fund for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. The Fund
will notably be used to fund activities, programmes and projects that foster
healthy eating and physical activity as well as to improve services to
persons with a weight problem. On June 1, the Committee on Planning and
the Public Domain began the consideration of Bill 6, An Act to amend various
legislative provisions respecting municipal affairs. The consideration
of this bill, which more particularly introduces changes in the urban agglomeration
powers exercised by Ville de Longueuil and Ville de Québec, took place
over the course of eight sittings and ended on June 26.
For more information regarding parliamentary committee proceedings, please
visit the Internet site of the Québec National Assembly at the following
Secretariat of committees
Translation: Sylvia Ford
Secretariat of the Assembly
The Assembly completed its spring session on schedule on May 17. The adjournment
brought to a close the first session of the House under the sitting calendar
adopted last October.
The session saw the introduction of 72 public bills and the passage of
67 of them. In addition, two Private Bills were considered and enacted.
Last fall's changes to the standing orders implemented an elaborate process
specifying deadlines by which bills and estimates had to be introduced
along with minimal periods of consideration in order for them to be brought
to a final vote before the spring adjournment. The process necessitated
the compilation of complex statistics which in the end were not availed
to as the bills and estimates were permitted to proceed through all stages
by agreement of all members.
Shortly after the House adjourned for the summer, Premier Lorne Calvert
announced a significant reorganization of his cabinet. The shuffle included
the reassignments of veteran ministers and the appointment of five new
ministers, three of whom will be joining cabinet for the first time. The
shuffle was prompted in part by the decision of a number of ministers and
backbench members to not seek reelection.
Leading the changes was the appointment of Pat Atkinson as the new Finance
minister. Maynard Sonntag assumed the Industry and Resources portfolio
in addition to his current duties at First Nations and Métis Relations.
Buckley Belanger moved to Highways and Transportation while Warren McCall
took on Advanced Education and Employment. The reorganization also included
the reassignment of secondary duties amongst several members of the cabinet.
The three new members of cabinets are Ron Harper as Minister of Corrections
and Public Safety, Lon Borgerson with the Regional Economic and Co-operative
Development portfolio and Sandra Morin at Culture, Youth and Recreation.
Judy Junor and Kevin Yates returned to cabinet and were respectfully assigned
the Crown Investments Corporation and Community Resources responsibilities.
Minister Yates will also serve as Government House Leader.
The May cabinet shuffle necessitated changes to the chairmanship and membership
of several committees. As a result, a series of committee meetings were
held in early July to elect Glenn Hagel as the chair of the Crown and Central
Agencies Committee, Doreen Hamilton as the chair of the Economy Committee,
Eldon Lautermilch as the chair of the Human Services Committee and Andrew
Thomson as the chair of the Intergovernmental Affairs and Infrastructure
Committee. The chair of the Private Bills Committee is currently vacant
as a result of the Judy Junor's resignation.
Elwin Hermanson, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, tabled its second
Report on May 16. The report covered the committee's deliberations between
December 2005 and May 2007. During that period, the committee reviewed
38 chapters covering twenty-five departments and agencies and considered
99 recommendations. The committee also reviewed and approved the Business
and Financial Plan of the Provincial Auditors for the 2006-07 and 2007-08
fiscal years. The committee's efforts to improve the accountability and
transparency in the use of public resources were aided in the past year
by the receipt of a new quarterly report prepared by the Provincial Comptroller.
This report outlines any incidents of losses that occurred in departments
or Treasury Board Crown corporations.
The Public Accounts Committee devoted some time after the session ended
to review two documents that outlined its mandate and operating practices.
These were first adopted in 1992 and have now been updated and condensed
into a Manual on Procedure.
In late April, the Standing Committee on the Economy was approached by
the Minister of Government Relations, Harry Van Mulligen, pursuant to Rule
146(2), to undertake an enquiry into the state of internal trade in Saskatchewan.
The request was prompted by the province's high dependency on trade both
internationally and domestically within Canada and the April 2006 signing
of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between
Alberta and British Columbia.
The minister requested the committee to respond to two questions:
a) What specific impediments to internal trade, including interprovincial
investment and labour mobility, are problematic for provincial interests;
b) What practical solutions and/or intergovernmental mechanisms have been
identified as best suited to addressing trade impediments?
The committee held public hearings in Regina and Saskatoon to hear from
47 organizations, institutions, associations and private citizens. Thirty
additional organi- zations chose to forward written submissions. The committee's
report summarizing the testimony it received was tabled by the chair, Doreen
Hamilton, on June 28.
The Standing Committee on House Services directed its steering committee
to consider various procedural matters over the summer adjournment. Some
of these changes arose out of a need to modify how the 2006 Rule changes
had operated during the past session. Subsequently, the steering committee,
headed by Speaker Myron Kowalsky, initiated a broader review of the Rule
book to address inconsistencies and out dated procedures. It is anticipated
that the steering committee will report its recommendations to the full
committee in the fall.
Information and Privacy Commissioner
As part of his mandate, the Information and Privacy Commissioner tabled
reports over the session outlining his concerns on the provisions and implications
of five public bills. These reports were passed on to the committees where
the bills were referred for their consideration.
Margaret (Meta) Woods
The Senate was the centre of attention throughout the spring of 2007 as
tension increased between the Upper Chamber and the minority government.
Two pieces of legislation in particular, one a private members' public
bill and the other a budget bill, were the focus of considerable and often
Private Members' Business provides a forum for debate on issues important
to the public and is frequently used as a vehicle for legislative and policy
changes, often in competition with the government's agenda. It is an important
role in a minority government and knowing that another election is always
imminent adds a sense of urgency to the situation. Bill C-288, a Private
Members' Public Bill to implement the Kyoto Protocol, had been contentious
since it arrived in the Senate in February. Senators opposed to the bill
at second reading disagreed with the extent of the role played by private
members' legislation in influencing government policy. They were critical
of Bill C-288 because its passage would commit the Government to implement
the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, within an impossible timeframe. On
May 17, the Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee reported
the bill without amendment. Still, Conservative Senators opposed to the
bill attempted to prevent a final vote by proposing a series of amendments
at third reading.
At the same time, Bill C-52, the Government's Budget Bill, also met with
resistance as it made its way through the Senate during the latter part
of June. The duty of the Senate to scrutinize legislation as an independent
chamber of sober second thought and its constitutional right to amend
any bill including a budget bill like Bill C-52 were challenged by those
who wanted it passed quickly without amendment. While it is unusual for
the Senate to amend a budget bill, it is not without precedent. Even so,
supporters of Bill C-52 argued it was inappropriate for the Senate to try
to change a budget adopted by the elected House of Commons. Resistance
to the bill came from Senators representing the Atlantic provinces and
Saskatchewan who claimed the budget reneged on the terms of the 2005 Atlantic
Accord. With the role of the Senate to represent and protect regional interests,
these senators moved several critical amendments to the bill at third reading.
By June 21, however, the Government reached an agreement with the Senate
to pass Bill C-288 in return for adopting Bill C-52 without amendment.
On June 22, in the presence of the Prime Minister, the Governor General
gave royal assent to 16 bills, including Bill C-288 and Bill C-52, in a
traditional ceremony held in the Senate Chamber. Six other pieces of legislation
were granted royal assent by written declaration on May 3 and May 31 by
the Governor General.
On April 25 Senator Tommy Banks raised a point of order in which he questioned
the propriety of removing members without replacements from the National
Security and Defence Committee. In his ruling on May 9, Speaker Noël Kinsella
found the removal of committee members without immediate replacements consistent
with the Rules of the Senate and part of Senate practice. At the same time,
however, the Speaker suggested that it would be appropriate to ask the
Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament Committee to consider changes
to this practice and make recommendations to the Senate.
Senator Claudette Tardif, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, rose on a point
of order on May 16 to complain about two interventions made during Senators'
Statements. In her opinion, they violated the Rules of the Senate because
they were about a matter on the Order Paper for discussion later that day.
Although Senators' Statements is not a period for debate, Speaker Kinsella
believed the statements were simply expressions on a matter considered
to be of public consequence and ruled them in order on May 17.
A question of privilege was raised on May 16 by Senator David Tkachuk about
a meeting of the Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee
which took place when the Senate adjourned on May 15 and lasted only six
minutes. The Senator argued that his ability to discharge his duties in
committee was impaired by the limited time available to go from the Senate
Chamber to the committee room. The Speaker agreed and ruled on May 29 that
there was a prima facie case of privilege established and the matter was
referred to the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament Committee
for investigation and report.
The Official Languages Committee released two reports. In its Seventh Report,
tabled on May, 8, the Committee found it was not able to identify the source
of the presumed leak of its Fifth Report. The Eighth Report contained ten
recommendations to ensure the protection of language rights when a federal
agency head office moves from a bilingual to a unilingual region. Entitled
Relocation of Head Offices of Federal Institutions: Respect for Language
Rights, it was tabled in the Senate on May 16.
On May 10, the Human Rights Committee tabled its Twelfth Report entitled
Canada and the United Nations Rights Council: At the Crossroads. In it,
the Committee recommended ways to help the Government build a more effective
Human Rights Council and noted Canada's responsibility to implement its
own human rights obligations at home in order to maintain its role on the
Council. Also, on May 10 the Transport and Communications Committee tabled
the results of its study on the Canadian Television Fund in its report
entitled The Challenges Ahead for the Canadian Television Fund. Five recommendations
to guarantee the viability of Canadian programming and assure support for
Canadian television programs were made by the Committee.
The quality and delivery of safe drinking water to First Nations communities
was the subject of the Eighth Report of the Aboriginal Peoples Committee,
tabled on May 31. It put forward a recommendation to have the Department
of Indian Affairs and Northern Development conduct an audit of water system
facilities. The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee released
its Twelfth Report also on May 31. The committee proposed ways to improve
future large-scale evacuations based on its assessment of the evacuation
of Canadian citizens from Lebanon during violent conflict in July 2006.
The Sixth Report of the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
Committee, tabled on June 6, put forward amendments to the Rules of the
Senate to provide for the reinstatement of bills from the previous session
of the same Parliament.
In its continuing study of fiscal balance, the National Finance Committee
tabled its Seventh Report, a second interim entitled The Vertical and Municipal
Fiscal Balances on June 21. The committee's first interim report on horizontal
fiscal imbalance and the Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing
programs was released in December 2006.
In a report tabled on June 12, the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs recommended
the Canadian War Museum review and consider alternate ways or presenting
its display relating to the allied strategic bombing campaign in Europe
during the Second World War.
Motions urging the Government to take a leadership role in eliminating
nuclear weapons and to sever diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe were adopted
by the Senate on May 3 and May 8 respectively. On May 17 the Senate concurred
with the resolution of the House of Commons to apologize to survivors of
Indian Residential Schools for the trauma they suffered.
The Senate met in Committee of the Whole on June 19 to pose questions to
Christiane Ouimet concerning her nomination as Public Sector Integrity
Commissioner and later that same day passed a motion approving her appointment.
An agent of Parliament, Ms. Ouimet is responsible for the administration
of the new Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act which came into force
on April 15, 2007.
Tribute was paid to the Honourable Dan Hays, P.C., who resigned on June
30 after serving the Senate for 23 years. As Deputy Leader of the Government,
Speaker of the Senate and Leader of the Opposition, he was highly respected.
Senator Hays was also an active member of several committees, including
the Special Committee on Senate Reform. He most recently authored Renewing
the Senate of Canada-A Two-Phase Proposal, a discussion paper on the future
of the Senate.
The Spring Sitting of the Third Session of the Twenty-Sixth Legislature
adjourned on June 14, 2007, after 45 sitting days for a total of just over
251 sitting hours. By the conclusion of the sitting, 27 Government Bills
and one Private Member's Public Bill were passed by the Assembly. Nineteen
Government Bills, three Private Members' Public Bills, and one Private
Bill were left on the Order Paper in addition to other Private Members'
Private Members' Public Bills
The Private Members' Public Bill passed by the Assembly was Bill 203, Service
Dogs Act, sponsored by Rob Lougheed (PC, Strathcona), which prohibits discrimination
against persons with disabilities who use a certified service dog by allowing
such individuals to be accompanied by an accredited service dog in all
areas open to the general public. The Bill also includes a provision for
a mechanism to identify service dogs. It received Royal Assent on June
Policy Field Committees
Four Policy Field Committees were created by temporary Standing Order amendments
during the Spring sitting. The temporary amendments include a provision
whereby a Bill can be referred to one of the new committees by way of a
motion by a Member of Executive Council immediately after the Bill has
been read a first time or immediately after the Bill has been read a second
time. Two Government Bills, Bill 1, Lobbyists Act and Bill 2, Conflicts
of Interest Amendment Act, 2007, stand referred to the Assembly's new Standing
Committee on Government Services. In addition, Bill 31, Mental Health Amendment
Act, 2007, and Bill 41, Health Profession Statutes Amendment Act, 2007,
stand referred to the new Standing Committee on Community Services. Bills
1, 2 and 31 were referred after second reading and Bill 41 after first
reading. The committees must report back to the Assembly on or before the
first week of the Fall 2007 Sitting which is scheduled to commence on November
On July 11, 2007, the Minister of Environment requested the Standing Committee
on Resources and Environment review key issues affecting the Beverage Container
Recycling Regulation, which expires on October 31, 2007. These include:
beverage container collection system issues;
unredeemed deposits; and
exemption of milk containers
The Minister has asked that the committee complete its review by mid-October
The Standing Committee on Managing Growth Pressures had its initial orientation
meeting on August 13, 2007. Although nothing has been referred to the Committee
to date, at its next meeting, the Committee will be reviewing various issues
within its mandate with the objective of identifying priority areas for
The Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and
Printing has been assigned the task of reviewing the temporary Standing
Orders and recommending additional changes or reforms. The committee must
report to the Assembly by the conclusion of the fall 2007 sitting regarding
the process used for Committee of Supply and by February 2008 with respect
to the other temporary amendments to the Standing Orders.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts will be meeting outside of session
in September for the first time in its history.
On June 22, 2007, Premier Ed Stelmach announced the appointment of Ron
Stevens as Deputy Premier and the addition of three Members to Cabinet.
Yvonne Fritz was named Associate Minister of Affordable Housing and Urban
Development, Cindy Ady, Associate Minister of Tourism Promotion, and Gene
Zwozdesky, Associate Minister for Capital Planning.
Clerk of Journals/Table Research
With the House scheduled to adjourn for the summer break on May 31, 2007,
Government House Leader Michael de Jong introduced a motion in accordance
with the Legislative Assembly's Standing Order 81 (b) to invoke time allocation
limits for three Government Bills left on the Order Paper. Two of the bills
cited for time allocation limits passed with unanimous support from both
sides of the House.
To abolish mandatory retirement at the age of 65, Attorney General Wally
Oppal introduced Bill 31, Human Rights Code (Mandatory Retirement Elimination)
Amendment Act, 2007. The legislation, which applies to both public and
private sector employers, supports a key recommendation of the Premier's
Council on Aging and Seniors' Issues.
Similarly, measures to strengthen consumer protection laws governing the
sale of new homes were also supported by both the Government and Official
Opposition. Bill 34, Homeowner Protection Amendment Act, 2007, strengthens
the licensing requirements for residential builders and enhances enforcement
provisions and penalties administered under the Act.
The final piece of legislation debated during the Spring Session under
a time allocation limit was Bill 37, Legislative Assembly (Members' Remuneration
and Pensions) Statutes Amendment Act, 2007. Stemming from the report tabled
with the Speaker by the Independent Commission to Review MLA Compensation,
sets the basic salary for B.C.'s MLAs at $98,000 (a 28.8 percent increase);
links stipends payable for additional duties as a percentage of a Member's
increases the stipends payable to the Premier, members of the Executive
Council, the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Assistant
Deputy Speaker, parliamentary and caucus officer positions, and Chairs
and Deputy Chairs of Select Standing and Special Committees; and
re-institutes a defined benefit pension plan for all Members.
Bill 37 also provided Members the opportunity to permanently and irrevocably
opt out of both the revised compensation package as well as the new pension
plan by submitting a request in writing to the Speaker within one week
of the bill receiving Royal Assent. Members electing to opt out would
continue to receive their existing remuneration and RRSP contribution framework.
In speaking to Bill 37, Mr. de Jong stated that issues pertaining to MLA
compensation are fraught with political quicksand. As the Legislative
Assembly had, in 2005, unanimously adopted then quickly repealed a
less-lucrative pay and benefits package developed by the Legislative Assembly
Management Committee, Mr. de Jong added that the government respected that
the integrity of the report needed to be preserved by not succumbing to
the temptation of beginning to pick and choose from the report's recommendations.
Noting that the Premier's 54 percent increase in compensation would only
serve to "further alienate politicians from the public," the Leader of
the Official Opposition Carole James voiced her party's opposition to the
Bill. Official Opposition House Leader Mike Farnworth spoke against the
Bill's opt-out clause, stating that it was incredibly cynical to link
the exorbitant pay increase to pension benefits for all Members.
Ultimately, members of the New Democratic Party caucus voted against the
enhanced pay and benefits package. However, no Members from either party
elected to opt out of the package by the June 7, 2007 deadline. Instead,
Members within the NDP caucus have indicated that they will donate their
basic salary increase to select charities within their constituencies.
Six Government Bills received First Reading and were left on the Order
Paper for continued debate in the fall sitting. The parliamentary business
left outstanding includes legislation to ensure British Columbia's compliance
with the provisions of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement
between British Columbia and Alberta (TILMA); a bill to protect consumers
from abusive lending practices and limiting fees and interest rates charged
by the payday loan industry; and legislation re-organizing the transportation
governance structure within Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture
On May 16, 2007, the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture released
its final, two-volume report. During its 18-month inquiry into the aquaculture
industry in British Columbia, the Committee travelled to 21 communities
along B.C.'s coast; collected 814 written submissions; received testimony
from over 80 expert witnesses; visited 16 aquaculture sites and aquaculture-related
facilities; and commissioned a comprehensive economic study of the wild
and farmed salmon industries.
Chaired by Opposition Member Robin Austin, the Opposition majority on the
Committee made 52 recommendations, including:
a time-referenced transition to ocean-based closed containment, to be implemented
with transition assistance and incentives for the industry;
no fish farms north of the northern tip Vancouver Island;
changes in the monitoring and regulatory frameworks to prevent perceptions
a provincially supported pro-active marketing strategy which will promote
the evolving industry; and
locations designated for shellfish aquaculture which minimize competition
with residential and recreational use.
Government members on the Committee opposed the recommendations contained
in the report. Deputy Chair Ron Cantelon opposed the report on the basis
that the technology recommended by the Committee does not currently exist
anywhere in the world.
The Chair of the Committee tabled the report in the House on May 16, 2007,
but did not seek leave to move of a motion to adopt the report. Rather,
Mr. Austin has given notice of a motion standing in his name to adopt the
report on the order paper.
Appointment of a new Auditor General
Precipitated by the resignation of acting Auditor General Arn van Iersal,
the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts renewed its search for
a new Auditor General. On May 28, 2007, the Legislative Assembly approved
a motion to appoint John Doyle as British Columbia's next Auditor General.
Mr. Doyle previously served as the deputy Auditor General of Western Australia
and was the Head of the School of Accounting and Finance at the University
of Notre Dame in Fremantle (Perth).
Mr. Doyle will be joining the Office of the Auditor General later this
fall. In the interim, Errol Price has been appointed as the acting Auditor
Committees Research Analyst
Manitobans went to the polls on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 to vote in the province's
39th general election. Once the polls closed and the ballots were counted
the NDP emerged with 36 members and a third majority government. The Progressive
Conservatives won 19 seats to retain official opposition status while the
Manitoba Liberals won back the two seats they had held in the previous
Of note in the election results were the high proportion of women elected.
At 32%, the Manitoba Legislature now has the largest proportion of female
members of any Legislature in Canada.
The inaugural sitting of the first session of the 39th Manitoba legislature
ran from June 6th to June 14th, 2007. On opening day George Hickes (NDP
- Point Douglas) was acclaimed as Speaker of the House. First elected to
the Chair in 1999, this will be Mr. Hickes' third term as Speaker. The
session also saw the passage of a Throne Speech and Interim Supply measures,
as well as notification that the government will reintroduce 22 bills from
the last legislature during the fall sitting.
Changes to the Legislative Assembly Act also passed during this short sitting.
The amendments provide that the Speaker of the assembly continues to hold
office when the house is dissolved, providing continuity when house proceedings
are interrupted, for example, in the event of an election. The amended
act will also ensure the speaker's compensation better reflects the challenges
of the position.
Following the example of previous sessions, during this sitting the House
unanimously passed a sessional order establishing a year long legislative
calendar. As agreed to in the sessional order, the house will sit during
the following dates over the next year:
September 25, 2007 to November 8, 2007 - To conclude the current budget
process (including the consideration of departmental estimates) and to
address the bills re-introduced from the previous session.
November 20, 2007 to December 6, 2007 - Beginning with a throne speech
commencing the second session of the 39th Manitoba legislature.
April 9, 2008 to June 12, 2008 - To consider the next budget and legislative
In addition to these start and end dates, the sessional order also lays
out a series of other dates during session by which times certain steps
in the legislative and budget processes must be completed.
During the height of a warm and wonderful Manitoba summer, Speaker Hickes
hosted the very successful 45th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
(CPA) Canadian Regional Conference from Wednesday, July 25th, through Saturday,
July 28th 2007.
Clerk Assistant /
Clerk of Committees
The Second Session of the 38th Parliament was prorogued on June 5, 2007.
The House had a very busy spring session approving a number of important
bills after they were reported back from various Standing Committees of
the Legislative Assembly.
On May 10, 2007, the Premier asked the Auditor General to conduct a special
assignment under Section 17 of the Auditor General Act to review the grant
decision making processes with respect to the Ministry of Citizenship and
Immigration strategic year-end investments for the fiscal period 2005-2006
and 2006-2007. The Auditor presented his report to the Premier on July
A statutory dissolution date of September 10, 2007 is set for the current
Parliament with a fixed general election date of October 10, 2007.
The Standing Committee on Estimates met on its' regularly scheduled times
to consider the 2007-2008 printed Estimates of ministries and offices following
the introduction of the budget on March 22, 2007.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs considered three
Government bills namely Bill 187, An Act respecting Budget measures, interim
appropriations and other matters. Two days of public hearings were held
in April followed by a day of clause-by-clause consideration in May and
the bill was reported back to the House with certain amendments. The Committee
also considered Bill 203, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act and the
Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act, 2001 and
to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill deals with increases
in fines and penalties for impaired driving and street racing as well as
the forfeiting of a vehicle used to engage in unlawful activities. Public
hearings were held on May 3 with clause- by-clause consideration on May
10, 2007 before the amended bill was reported back. The Committee also
considered Bill 174, An Act to enact the Taxation Act, 2007 and make complementary
and other amendments to other Acts. Public hearings were held on May 15
with clause-by-clause on May 17, 2007 and the bill was reported with certain
The Standing Committee on General Government considered two Government
bills: Bill 184, an Act to protect species at risk and to make related
changes to other Acts. The bill deals with the protection and recovery
of species at risk in Ontario and replaces the existing Endangered Species
Act. Two days of public hearings were held followed by one day of clause-by-clause
consideration and the bill was reported back to the House with certain
amendments. The Committee also considered Bill 212, An Act to amend the
Education Act in respect of behaviour, discipline and safety. The bill
repeals sections of the Education Act that deal with the suspension and
expulsion of pupils and adds bullying as an activity that could lead to
suspension or expulsion. Students that have been suspended will be required
to attend a program for suspended students that will be provided by the
school board. Public Hearings were held on May 14 and 16, 2007 with clause-by-clause
consideration on May 28, 2007 and the amended bill was reported back to
the House on May 29.
The Standing Committee on Government Agencies continued to meet to consider
intended appointments and also continued with its mandate of reviewing
Agencies. On May 28, 2007, the Committee tabled a report on the Workplace
Safety and Insurance Board.
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy considered two Government bills:
Bill 165, An Act to establish and provide for the office of the Provincial
Advocate for Children and Youth. This bill proposed to establish the position
of Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth which would be an officer
of the Legislative Assembly. The Committee held two days of public hearings
on the bill and after clause-by-clause consideration, reported the bill
back to the House with certain amendments. The bill was ordered for Third
reading but the Order was subsequently discharged and the bill re-committed
to the Committee for further review at which point, one additional amendment
was considered and adopted. The Committee also considered Bill 198, An
Act to amend the Ontario Water Resources Act to safeguard and sustain Ontario's
water, to make related amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002
and to repeal the Water Transfer Control Act. The Committee held one day
of public hearings and pursuant to the time allocation motion passed by
the House, held one day of clause-by-clause review.
The Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly considered the following
Private Members Public Bills: Bill 161, an Act respecting employment Agencies;
Bill 164, an Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002, the Environmental
Protection Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and Bill 67,
An Act to amend various Acts to require a declaration with respect to the
donation of organs and tissue on death. In addition, the Committee also
conducted public hearings on a government bill: Bill 218, An Act to amend
the Election Act and the Election Finances Act and to make related amendments
to other Acts. This bill was reported back to the House with certain amendments.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts met to review the Annual Report
of the Auditor General pursuant to its mandate.
The Standing Committee on Social Policy considered Bill 171, An Act to
improve health systems by amending or repealing various enactments and
enacting certain Acts. The Committee held two days of public hearings
on April 23 and 24, 2007. After three days of clause-by-clause consideration
in May, the Committee reported the bill back to the House with certain
On July 10, 2007, Ernie Parsons, Member for Prince-Edward Hastings, resigned
from the Legislative Assembly. On July 26, 2007, Mike Colle resigned as
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
The First Session of the 56th Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, which
opened on February 6, 2007, prorogued on Friday July 6, after sitting a
total of 79 sitting days. The last session to approach this number of sitting
days was in 1975, when the First Session of the 48th Legislative Assembly
met for 78 days.
The House sat long hours during the session. In addition to the regular
sittings days which lasted until 6 p.m., there were 26 evening sittings
which generally lasted until 10 p.m. In total, the House sat for over 476
hours during the session, a 66% increase over the previous session which
met for 287 hours. Over 156 hours were spent considering the budgetary
estimates in Committee of Supply and over 70 hours were spent considering
legislation in Committee of the Whole.
The Government, led by Premier Shawn Graham, introduced 74 Bills during
the course of the session, all of which received Royal Assent. The Ombudsman
Act was amended and a revised Child and Youth Advocate Act brought in to
ensure the proper functioning of these offices and to provide greater access
to information. One of the most significant pieces of legislation was Bill
17, An Act to Amend the Off-Road Vehicle Act. The Bill was introduced by
Public Safety Minister John Foran . The Bill, which received Royal Assent
on June 26, prohibits the operation of off-road vehicles, including all-terrain
vehicles, dirt bikes, dune buggies, motorized vehicles and amphibious vehicles,
by youth under the age of 16, except as otherwise provided. Youth 14 or
15 years of age are permitted to operate off-road vehicles under certain
conditions, one of which requires the operation of an appropriate-sized
machine. Exceptions would also permit the operation of off-road vehicles
on closed courses by youth under the age of 16. The Bill was the subject
of much debate and numerous petitions in opposition to the Bill were presented
in the House.
The Official Opposition under Leader Jeannot Volpé introduced a number
of Bills for the consideration of the House. Bill 60, An Act to Amend the
Industrial Relations Act, was introduced by Margaret-Ann Blaney (PC, Rothesay)
on May 9 and subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments
for review. The Member stated that the proposed changes would better protect
New Brunswick workers and would prevent employers from circumventing their
responsibilities under the collective bargaining process by shifting work
from unionized businesses to nonunionized businesses. It was noted that
the process, referred to as "double-breasting," has already been addressed
by legislative changes in most other Canadian jurisdictions. The Standing
Committee on Law Amendments met to review the matter and is expected to
receive submissions from the public in the fall. The Committee is chaired
by T.J. Burke, Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs and Attorney General.
During the session, Question Period was dominated by issues relating to
the Caisse Populaire in Shippagan, the government's self-sufficiency agenda,
increases to personal and business taxes, a new education plan entitled
When Kids Come First, power rate increases, and the health care policy
for the province.
To ensure the smooth running of the House during future sessions, the Government
reintroduced a report of the Standing Committee on Procedure originally
presented during the Third Session of the 55th Legislature. The report
proposes numerous changes to the Standing Rules to facilitate and expedite
the transaction of business in the House. If implemented, the new rules
would cap debate on departmental estimates at 80 hours and allow the Opposition
to set the agenda on Thursdays with regard to Opposition Members' Business
(Opposition Members' Public Bills and Motions). To allow for further consideration,
Government House Leader, Stuart Jamieson, seconded by Opposition House
Leader Bev Harrison, amended the concurrence motion to state that the amended
rules would not come into effect should a subsequent report recommending
alternative rule changes be presented within the first two sitting days
of the next session.
On July 5, the House appointed two new Select Committees.
The Select Committee on Wellness will be charged with stimulating dialogue
and discussion among citizens and stakeholders on the importance of wellness
and the benefits of adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles. The Committee
will meet with citizens and stakeholders throughout the province and report
to the House with recommendations on promoting public engagement and ownership
The Select Committee on Life Long Learning was appointed in recognition
of the continuing need to maintain a highly skilled and educated workforce
in New Brunswick and to ensure that all citizens have the skills required
to participate fully in society. The Committee will have jurisdiction to
examine and report on all aspects of the education system in the province.
As its first task, the Committee will inquire into and report on the status
of literacy in New Brunswick and make recommendations to the House on measures
to improve literacy levels in the province.
The two major Standing Committees are expected to be very busy in the fall.
Meetings have been scheduled for the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations,
chaired by Roy Boudreau (L, Campbellton- Restigouche Centre), beginning
the second week of September. In late September and October the Standing
Committee on Public Accounts will meet to review the activities and finances
of the various government departments. The Committee is chaired by John
Betts (PC, Moncton Crescent).
The Legislative Assembly Security Detail under Sergeant-at-Arms Daniel
Bussières continued to implement further measures to ensure the security
of Members, staff and visitors. Over the past number of years the security
detail has incrementally been equipped with state of the art monitoring
and detection instruments which complement the guard functions. All visitors
to the Assembly must now pass through a metal and explosives detector and
have baggage and apparel electronically screened prior to entering the
main building. In addition to the existing guard force under the Corps
of Commissionaires, the Legislature has created four new Security Detail
Officer Positions falling directly under the Sergeant-at-Arms.
The indemnities, expenses and pensions payable to the 55 elected Members
of the Legislative Assembly are currently under review by the MLA Compensation
Review Commission. The commission was mandated on March 23, 2007 to undertake
this review by the Legislative Administration Committee. Under the Honourable
Patrick A.A. Ryan, a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick,
the MLA Compensation Review Commission will examine: indemnity(salary);
non-taxable expense allowance; pension eligibility; re-establishment allowances
for Members defeated, resigned, or not re-offering; and expense allowance
for career re-training.
On May 15, 2007, Governor General Michaëlle Jean and her husband Jean-Daniel
Lafond made their first official visit to the province. The welcoming ceremony,
which took place on the front grounds of the Legislative Assembly, included
a review of a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute. Her Excellency addressed
the 55 Members of the Legislative Assembly, and the people of New Brunswick,
in the historic Legislative Assembly chamber and signed the Assembly Guest
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees
Prince Edward Island
The Sixty-second General Assembly was dissolved on April 30, and a provincial
general election was held on May 28, 2007. At dissolution, the Progressive
Conservative party held 23 seats, and the Liberals, 4. The election resulted
in a complete reversal, with the Liberals winning 23 of the 27 electoral
districts, and the Progressive Conservatives, 4 seats.
Former Premier Pat Binns, was re-elected but on August 30th he was named
Canada's Ambassador to Ireland. Much of his former cabinet was defeated,
with the exceptions of Jim Bagnall, who held the portfolio of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Mike Currie, former Minister of Development
Ron MacKinley, Dean of the Prince Edward Island House, was returned to
the Legislative Assembly for the eighth time. He was first elected in
a by-election in December 1985.
The Liberals received 52.93% of the popular vote; and the Progressive Conservatives,
The Green Party, not a registered political party at the time of the previous
general election in 2003, fielded a slate of 18 candidates and captured
3.04% of the popular vote. The fourth political party, the New Democrats,
had 15 candidates and received 1.96% of the popular vote. Only two candidates
ran as independents, and they received 0.73% of the popular vote.
During the Third Session of the Sixty-second General Assembly, Bill No.
38, An Act to Amend the Election Act, received Royal Assent on April 27,
2007. Among other things, the Bill provides for general elections to be
held on the second Monday in May in the fourth calendar year following
ordinary polling day in the most recent general election. This means that
Islanders are scheduled to go to the polls next on May 9, 2011.
It's said that politics is a way of life on Prince Edward Island, and the
voter turnout for the general election would seem to support this view.
A total of 97,810 residents were eligible to vote and percentage voter
turnout was 83.5%.
Over the past 40 years, there has been only one general election where
voter turnout dipped below the 80% mark in 1982, when only 78.2% of voters
cast their ballots. Only four years later, the highest percentage turnout
was reached in 1986, with 87.6% voter turnout.
First Session Sixty-third General Assembly
The First Session of the Sixty-third General Assembly opened on July 6,
2007, and adjourned to the call of the Speaker that same day. Prince Edward
Island does not have a parliamentary calendar; however, it is anticipated
that the Legislative Assembly will be recalled in late summer or early
The new Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is Kathleen Casey (District
14, Charlottetown-Lewis Point). As there was only one member seeking the
speakership, a secret balloting procedure was unnecessary, and she was
declared elected by acclamation. She is the 40th individual to serve in
the capacity since Prince Edward Island joined Canada in 1873.
Several appointments were made at the opening. Paula Biggar (District 23,
Tyne Valley-Linkletter) was appointed Deputy Speaker. Prior to her election
to the Legislative Assembly on May 28, 2007, she was an educational assistant
with the Western School Board. She has been a municipal councillor and
a volunteer in many areas of community life, including the Tyne Valley
and Area Development Corporation, the Friends of Stewart Memorial Hospital,
the Home and School Association, and various organizations dedicated to
Warrant Officer J.A. (Al) McDonald, C.D., was appointed Sergeant-at-Arms;
and Sergeant Maurice R. Fitzpatrick was appointed to the new position of
Clerk Assistant and
Clerk of Committees
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Third Session of the Forty-Fifth General Assembly resumed on March
Four recently elected Members took their seats for the first time: Keith
Hutchings (Ferryland), Tony Cornect (Port au Port), Dwight Ball (Humber
Valley) and John Dinn (Kilbride).
The new Member for Labrador West, Jim Baker elected on March 13th, took
his seat on April 24th.
Chuck Furey, Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner of Members' Interests
resigned on March 28. Premier Danny Williams announced on April 23rd that
the House would be asked to confirm Paul Reynolds as Mr. Furey's successor.
The Resolution confirming the appointment of Mr. Reynolds was passed under
Closure on June 5th.
The Fourth Session of the Forty-Fifth General Assembly opened on April
24th and the Budget was introduced two days later.
Report of Commission
On June 7th the Green Report was released publicly having been submitted
to the Premier on the 4th. The Report entitled Rebuilding Confidence -
Report of the Review Commission on Constituency Allowances and Related
Matters had been awaited with great anticipation as the House of Assembly
and the administration were anxious to get started on the implementation
of the expected recommendations.
The Commissioner made 80 recommendations designed to clarify the rules
which apply to Members in respect of the way in which they conduct their
affairs, to restructure the administrative operations of the Assembly establishment,
to enhance financial controls and to create a regime of public account-
ability. It is hoped that the recommendations when implemented will help
ensure that the difficulties which led to the striking of the Commission
do not recur.
On the last day of the sitting the House passed unanimously the legislation
recommended by the Commissioner: An Act Respecting the Effective Administration
of the House of Assembly, The Standards of Conduct of Elected Members,
and Their Ethical and Accountable Behaviour.
There is much work to be done to ensure that the recommendations are in
effect by October 9th, 2007 the date of the next General Election in the
On August 29 the new House of Assembly Management Commission (formerly
the Commission of Internal Economy) held their first meeting under the
requirements of the House of Assembly Integrity, Accountability and Administration
Act. The meeting was open to the public and was telecast live.
Apart from the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration
Act the most significant piece of legislation passed by the House was the
Bill entitled An Act Respecting FPI Limited which provided for the repeal
of the Fisheries Products International Act and the sale of the Company's
assets upon proclamation of the legislation.
Constituency Allowance Overpayments
On July 23rd the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary charged Wally Andersen,
MHA, (Torngat Mountains) one of the Members found by the Auditor General
to be in receipt of constituency allowance payments in excess of his entitlement,
with fraud, uttering a forged document and breach of trust. Mr. Andersen
is scheduled to appear in court on September 18th. Mr. Andersen has advised
that he will resign from the House on September 5th.
On August 24th former MHA Jim Walsh was charged with fraud over $5000,
breach of trust, uttering a forged document and fraud on the government.
Mr. Walsh is scheduled to appear in court on October 23.
On August 28th former MHA Randy Collins and the former Director of Financial
Operations of the House of Assembly, Bill Murray, were charged with fraud
over $5000, breach of trust, uttering a forged document and fraud on the
government. Mr. Collins is scheduled to appear in court on October 30th
and Mr. Murray on October 16th. The Government is also suing Mr. Murray
for, inter alia, breach of trust.
Also on August 28th Ed Byrne, former Minister of Natural Resources was
charged with fraud over $5000, breach of trust, and uttering a forged document.
Mr. Byrne is scheduled to appear in court on October 25th.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary announced on 31st that they would not
be laying criminal charges against Percy Barrett, MHA (Bellevue), one of
the Members who was found to be in receipt of excess constituency allowance
payments. Mr. Barrett had stated previously that he would be repaying any
amounts he had received in excess of his allowance entitlement. Mr. Barrett
stated at a news conference on September 4th that he felt vindicated by
the decision of the R.N.C.
The Government has said that it will be suing to recover any monies paid
inappropriately to the MHAs and the former MHA mentioned in the reports
of the Auditor General. The Government has also filed a statement of claim
against the former Director of Financial Operations of the House of Assembly,
alleging breach of trust, inter alia, and will seek repayment of any monies
found to be owing to the Treasury from the former Director of Financial
Photo of Speaker Bennett
In July the House of Assembly marked an event of historical interest thanks
to the persistence of librarian Trine Schioldan. When Trine came to work
at the Legislative Library it was brought to her attention that the collection
of Speakers' portraits encircling the floor of the Assembly chamber was
incomplete. There was no likeness of Thomas Bennett (1788-1872), who occupied
the office of Speaker from 1834-1837. It took three years of international
research to locate a photograph in the collection of Robert Bayley, a distant
relative of Thomas Bennett, living in England. Mr. Bayley travelled to
the Province in June and presented the photograph to the Speaker on June
27th. Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires has been commissioned by the House
of Assembly to paint a portrait of Thomas Bennett which will hang in the
House of Assembly Chamber among those of his colleagues 170 years after
his tenure as Speaker.
The House adjourned on June 14th having passed 32 Bills and is not expected
to sit again before the October 9th General Election.
House of Commons
With public opinion polls continuing to indicate that no political party
enjoyed sufficient support to form a majority government, it was clear
to most observers by mid-May that there was little appetite on either side
of the House for a spring election. Increasing rancour and obstruction
followed. The latter was most evident in opposition-controlled committees,
which saw filibusters, boycotts, cancelled meetings, non-confidence motions
and refusals by government Members to stand for election as Chair.
Tensions also rose between the two Chambers culminating on June 19, 2007,
when the Senate concurred in a report (presented on June 12, 2007) recommending
that Bill S-4 (An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure)),
as amended, not be proceeded with at third reading until such time as the
Supreme Court of Canada has ruled with respect to its constitutionality.
The decision effectively neutralized this key element of the government's
In June several government bills were before the Senate, however there
was last-minute, accelerated passage of nine uncontroversial bills along
with Bill C-52 (An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled
in Parliament on March 19, 2007).
Former Liberal Minister and interim Opposition Leader Bill Graham rose
in the House on June 19, 2007 to announce his resignation, effective July
2nd. This announcement led to a rare moment of harmony and civility in
the Chamber, as representatives of all parties rose to offer tributes to
a colleague esteemed by Members of every political stripe. Following Mr.
Graham's resignation, four other members have resigned, which, when combined
with earlier vacancies, will lead to a number of by-elections this Fall
including two that have been announced in Quebec for September 17, 2007.
As the summer adjournment approached, resistance to the passage of the
Budget Bill (Bill C-52) was fuelled by opposition from three provincial
premiers to budgetary provisions respecting equalization payments. This
opposition was underscored by the decision of Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey
to vote against the motion to concur in the bill at Report Stage on June
5, 2007, with the result that he was expelled from the Conservative caucus
and now sits as an Independent.
The general aversion to the confidence crisis that would inevitably have
followed the defeat of a budget bill such as C-52 led to its third reading
and passage on June 12, 2007. This passage of the bill may have been motivated
by the government's insistence that it would not hesitate to recall the
House during the summer should the bill fail to clear the House and then
the Senate without amendment and in a timely fashion.
The cooperation of the Senate in the latter regard allowed the House to
rise on June 20, 2007, seemingly to the great relief of Members on all
sides. The price of this co-operation was apparently the government's acquiescence
in the passage at Third Reading in the Senate of Bill C-288 (Kyoto Protocol
Implementation Act), a private Members' bill sponsored by Liberal Pablo
Rodriguez. Opinions differ as to what, if anything, the Act obliges the
government to do, particularly since the Speaker had previously ruled against
the requirement for a Royal Recommendation. The bill purportedly obliges
the government to introduce a new climate-change plan within two months
to honour Canada's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
In an epilogue to the above, at a ceremony in the Senate on June 22, 2007,
ten bills, including Bill C-52, received Royal Assent.
Finally, a new legislative initiative worthy of note is Bill C-56 (An Act
to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation)), which
was introduced in the House on May 11, 2007 but had not yet been debated
when the House rose for the summer. The bill proposes to add 22 new seats
to the House of Commons to take account of population growth and redistribution.
Other Chamber business
Opposition motions considered between May 3 and June 22, 2007, included
those on the topics of gas prices, Canada's Clean Air and Climate Change
Act and Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords.
The Main Estimates 2007-2008 were concurred in on June 7, 2007, whereupon
the government introduced Bill C-60 (An Act for granting to Her Majesty
certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial
year ending March 31, 2008). All motions respecting the Bill were then
agreed to on division and at each stage.
On June 13, 2007, a Ways and Means motion to introduce an Act to amend
the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement
Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes
of Canada, 2005 was deemed adopted by the House.
Finally, as a result of the new rules concerning Private Members' Business
combined with the dynamics of a minority parliament, an increasing number
of Private Members' Bills have completed the legislative process and have
received Royal Assent. Such occurrences were extremely rare in previous
parliaments and have brought more attention to Private Members' business
and the bills being proposed by individual Members.
On May 31, 2007, a motion pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 limiting consideration
by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
of Bill C-44 (An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act) was agreed
to, fewer than 25 Members having risen to object. Opposition House Leader
Ralph Goodale rose on a point of order a few minutes later to object to
the use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of a committee. Deputy
Speaker Bill Blaikie agreed and ruled that the motion had indeed been out
On Wednesday, June 6, 2007 the 53rd Report of the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs was presented in the House. The report recommended
additions to Standing Orders 31 and 37 limiting the number of interventions
by Independent Members during Statements by Members and Oral Questions.
Unanimous consent for concurrence in the report was sought and denied.
Three Independent Members, Louise Thibault, André Arthur and Joe Comuzzi,
subsequently rose to object to the changes proposed in the report. The
Speaker replied that proposed changes to the Standing Orders were a matter
for the House, not the Speaker, to decide. No motion for concurrence in
the report has yet been debated.
On Friday, June 8, 2007, Ruby Dhalla, rising on a question of privilege,
charged that Deepak Obhrai had threatened and intimidated her during a
meeting of a parliamentary friendship group on Thursday, June 7, 2007.
The Deputy Speaker, having expressed doubts about the authority of the
Chair to rule on statements made either in the Chamber nor in Committee,
took the matter under advisement. On June 13, Mr. Obhrai rose in the House
to address the question of privilege which then obviated the need for a
The 20th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2007) was
presented to the House and concurred in on June 15, 2007, in response to
a request, addressed to Speaker Peter Milliken on June 5, 2007 by RCMP
Chief Superintendent Paulson, that the House of Commons waive parliamentary
privilege to facilitate a criminal investigation into allegations that
Deputy Commissioner Barbara George had committed perjury during testimony
before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
The report strongly re-affirmed the exclusive right of the House to determine
whether and when to waive privilege, insisting that until such a determination
has been made all testimony by witnesses before its Committees is protected
by parliamentary privilege, and therefore is unavailable for any other
use in or for any other legal proceeding or process, including investigations.
The report also underscored the principle that it is primarily the responsibility
of the House to pursue and punish allegations of perjury and contempt of
By virtue of its concurrence in the report, the House declined to waive
parliamentary privilege for the purposes of any criminal investigation
of perjury founded on the testimony given by Ms George or any other witnesses
before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
The work of Standing Committees was periodically disrupted during the months
of May and June 2007 by growing tensions resulting from the ability of
the opposition effectively to control the agenda of each committee. The
following incidents are illustrative of this.0
On May 3, 2007, Chair Leon Benoit abruptly declared a meeting of the the
Standing Committee on International Trade adjourned when the Committee
adopted a motion over-ruling his decision to exclude evidence concerning
the integration of North American energy supplies. After Mr. Benoit and
the other Conservative members of the Committee had left the room, the
Members remaining continued to hear from the scheduled witness off the
record with Vice-Chair Lui Temelkovski presiding informally.
Also on May 3, 2007, Hockey Canada Officials appeared before the Standing
Committee on Official Languages at the insistance of opposition Members
of the Committee to submit to questioning regarding the decision to name
Shane Doan captain of Team Canada at the world hockey championships. Government
Members used the opportunity to dissociate themselves from the decision,
which had provoked a strong negative reaction both in the media and from
The cancellation of a May 8, 2007 meeting of the Standing Committee on
Official Languages by Chair Guy Lauzon, led to the adoption, at a meeting
held on May 15, 2007 pursuant to Standing Order 106.(4), of a motion of
non-confidence in the Chair. Opposition Members had charged Mr. Lauzon
with acting unilaterally to exclude evidence unfavourable to the government.
A new Chair could not be elected as none of the Conservative Members of
the Committee would agree to stand for election. Extended negotiations
between the parties finally brought the resulting impasse to an end on
May 31, 2007, with the election of Steven Blaney as Chair.
On May 10, 2007, in an attempt to exclude evidence in respect of the censoring
of documents on detainees in Afghanistan, Conservative Mike Wallace filibustered
a five-hour meeting of the Standing Committee on Access to Information,
Privacy and Ethics. The filibuster ended only after the arrival of reporters
at the meeting.
A meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was
held up for nearly two hours on May 17, 2007, as Conservative Joe Preston
filibustered in order to thwart the Committee's consideration of a motion
for concurrence in a recommendation of the Subcommittee on Private Members'
Business that Bill C-415 (An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement
workers)), a private Member's bill standing in the name of Liberal Mario
Silva, be declared non-votable.
Coincidentally, the May 17th filibuster also prevented the committee from
dealing with an NDP motion seeking to compel the government to nominate
a Conservative Member to replace Mr. Lauzon as Chair of the Standing Committee
on Official languages.
At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on
June 5, 2007, Conservative David Anderson attempted to block a motion on
the government's policies with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board by proposing
an amendment to the motion and addressing the Committee for fifty minutes
in support of it.
Bob Mills, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable
Development resigned on June 14, 2007, rather than allow the Committee
to hear evidence critical of the government's climate-change targets. No
other Conservative Member of the Committee would agreed at that time to
stand for election as Chair. The resulting impasse was resolved on June
19, 2007, with the opposition Members co-operating to re-elect Mr. Mills
Tensions concerning committees rose further when it was discovered that
the Chief Government Whip had circulated a secret handbook for government
committee chairs, outlining strategies to make committees operate in the
On June 4, 2007, representatives from all parties rose to pay tribute to
Bloc Québecois MP Michel Gauthier on the occasion of his retirement from
On June 6, 2007 the House unanimously adopted a motion that this House
request that the Government of Burma release the Leader of the National
League for Democracy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi,
from house arrest, which has been imposed on her since 1989.
Similarly, on June 8, 2007, a motion that the House send a message to
the Parliament of Lebanon to urge it to reconvene in order to establish
the Special Tribunal to try those accused of the assassination of Rafiq
Hariri was adopted by unanimous consent.
On June 12, 2007, the Government House Leader tabled the certificate of
nomination and biographical notes of Mary Elizabeth Dawson, nominee for
the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. Pursuant
to S.O. 111.1(1), the matter was referred to the Standing Committee on
Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. In its Fifth Report, presented
on June 14, 2007, the Committee recommended that the nomination be concurred
On June 12, 2007, the government also tabled the certificate of nomination
and biographical notes of Christiane Ouimet, nominee for the position of
Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The matter was referred to the Standing
Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, and on June 14, 2007,
the committee's Ninth Report was presented and deemed concurred in by unanimous
Table Research Branch
House Proceedings Directorate