| British Columbia
| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
The fall session ended on 20 December 1996 with
the Assembly having passed 47 Public Bills and 12 Private Bills. Among the more
noteworthy were the following:
bill respecting pay equity, which is designed to eliminate the salary gap due
to the systemic gender discrimination suffered by persons occupying positions
in predominantly female job classes;
bill to amend the Quebec Highway Safety Code, in order to introduce new rules
with respect to, among other things, driving without a licence or while
disqualified and driving while impaired;
bill instituting the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec, charged with making
determinations in respect of proceedings of full jurisdiction brought by
citizens against the administration, and the Conseil de la justice
administrative, to ensure the ethical conduct of the members of the Tribunal
and to examine complaints lodged against any of its members. Consideration of
this bill was not completed at the committee stage due to the Government House
Leader having tabled a closure motion to end the said proceedings;
bill providing for the elimination of the budgetary deficit of the Government
by the year 2000 and for the maintenance of a balanced budget thereafter;
bill to establish a disaster assistance fund in order to help the populations
from the recognized disaster-stricken regions following the torrential rains
that occurred in Quebec in July 1996;
a bill establishing the Régie de l’énergie, a board whose function is to fix
the rates and distribution and transmission conditions of Hydro-Quebec and natural
gas distributors. It is to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the new
board to examine complaints from consumers who are dissatisfied with a decision
made by an electric power or natural gas distributor concerning rates or
Amidst a number of procedural questions
raised during this period, the Chair was asked to rule on the receivability of
a motion moved by the Prime Minister, which reads as follows:
THAT the National Assembly reiterate that
the office of Lieutenant-Governor is fundamentally symbolic and is a heritage
of the colonial past of Quebec and of Canada;
THAT the National Assembly take into account
the fact that the events surrounding the recent appointment of the
Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec have proven that the appointment process employed
until this day is of a nature to bring about controversy and to interfere with
the proper functioning of institutions;
THAT the National Assembly reiterate its
role as the guardian of democracy as expressed by the people of Quebec;
THAT the National Assembly express the wish
that the office of Lieutenant-Governor be abolished; nevertheless, given that
the provisions of the Constitutional Act imposed upon Quebec render impossible
the abolition of this office at the current time, the National Assembly
requests that the Federal Government henceforth appoint as titular of the
office of Lieutenant-Governor the public figure democratically designated by
Several colleagues from the various
Parliaments of the Commonwealth were consulted regarding this question and
would no doubt be interested in being informed of the decision rendered.
This motion was ruled in order on the
grounds that, if it were carried, it would modify neither the Canadian
Constitution nor the Act respecting the National Assembly, since it merely
expresses a wish or desire, which is not prohibited by any rule. Furthermore,
it questions neither the conduct nor the character of the current titular of
the office of Lieutenant-Governor nor those of his predecessors but rather
expresses an opinion of a general nature on the role and the functions of this
Moreover, despite the fact that an analysis
of the motion reveals that it contains motives and arguments, which is contrary
to Standing Order 191, several precedents indicate that the Chair has been
quite tolerant regarding this matter. Hence, this question shall have to be
re-evaluated within the framework of parliamentary reform.
Regarding this matter, the Speaker of the
National Assembly, Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, tabled in the House a
document containing proposals for a first stage of the reform concerning the
timetable and calendar of the Assembly and of the parliamentary committees. The
Committee on the National Assembly held a deliberative meeting during which
it decided to establish a work group which was asked to submit to the
Subcommittee on parliamentary reform recommendations to modify the Standing
Orders of the National Assembly. Various measures are foreseen to improve the
passage stage of bills and a new schedule should be put to the test upon the
resumption of proceedings, in March, with the objective of reducing the evening
and night sittings to a minimum.
During the Christmas holidays, as has been
the custom for a certain number of years, the Youth Parliament, the Student
Parliament and the Student Forum, three events which allow our college and
university students to take a hands-on approach to parliamentary life, took
place in the National Assembly Room.
Amongst the more notable political events is
the election of Nicole Léger, the Parti Québécois candidate, in the
December by-elections held in the riding of Pointe-aux-Trembles. Mrs.Léger is
the daughter of former Parti Québécois Minister, Marcel Léger.
During the same period, the Member for Prévost,
Daniel Paillé, who sat as a Government Member, announced his withdrawal
from the political scene. The Members of the Official Opposition, for their
part, lost an esteemed colleague, the Liberal Member for Beauce-Sud, Paul-Eugène
Quirion, who passed away on 24 December 1996.
The party standings of the National Assembly
are now as follows: 74 Members of the Parti Québécois; 46 Members of the Québec
Liberal Party; 3 Independent Members (one of which is a Member of the Action
démocratique du Québec Party); 2 vacant seats.
More recently, on 30 January 1997, Lise
Thibault was sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, to replace Jean-Louis
Roux, who resigned from this office on 5 November 1996. In the course of
her career, Mrs. Thibault, the first woman to be appointed to this office in
Québec, was the host of television programmes of a sociocultural nature and
chairman of the Office for Disabled Persons from 1993 to 1995. She is the 27th
Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec.
National Assembly Secretariat
Translated by Sylvia Ford
From November 1, 1996 to January 31, 1997,
Quebec’s parliamentary committees were active in fulfilling various mandates
undertaken on orders of referral from the National Assembly or on their own
As is the case each year the autumn session
was very busy. After adjourning for the holidays, the various committees
resumed their activities in mid-January. Fifty-two bills were examined during
101 sittings, several of which involved special consultations. In addition, as
is the custom every two years, elections were held to assign committee chairs
and vice-chairs. Here is an overview of the most noteworthy mandates pursued by
The Committee on the National Assembly met
on November 24 principally to discuss parliamentary reform. It created a
working group that is to propose Standing Order amendments to the subcommittee
on parliamentary reform.
The Committee on Culture held five working sessions.
It also heard the chairman of Quebec’s access to information commission, on the
Commission’s 1995-96 annual report.
The Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and
Food held two sittings on Bill 53, An Act respecting reserved
designations and amending the Act respecting the marketing of agricultural,
food and fish products.
The Committee on Planning and
Infrastructures spent considerable time–8sittings totalling more than 36
hours – examining Bill 12, An Act to amend the Highway Safety Code and other legislative
provisions: nearly 60 organizations and individuals were heard. Bill 43, An Act
respecting off-highway vehicles, concerned a similar sphere of activity. In the
case of these two bills, as well as Bill 59, An Act to amend the Act respecting
the conservation and development of wildlife, and Bill 67, An Act to establish
an administrative review procedure for real estate assessment and to amend
other legislative provisions, special consultations were required before the
bills underwent clause-by-clause consideration.
The Committee on Social Affairs examined
Bill 35, the Pay Equity Act. Employer representatives expressed reservations
about the proposed legislation, but it had been long awaited by women’s groups.
The Committee also completed its general consultation on the reform of the
Quebec Pension Plan.
The Committee on the Budget and
Administration undertook clause-by-clause consideration, over 4 sittings, of
Bill 3, An Act respecting the elimination of the deficit and a balanced budget.
In December, the Committee also tabled a report following consultations
concerning the Act respecting market intermediaries.
The Committee on Labour and the Economy held
special consultations and undertook the detailed consideration, during 5
sittings totalling more than 31 hours, of Bill 50, An Act respecting the Régie
On December 6, the Committee on Education
published a report on the conditions for academic success at the secondary
level, entitled Les conditions de la réussite scolaire au secondaire, as part
of a mandate undertaken on its own initiative. It also devoted 4 sittings to
the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 62, An Act to amend the Professional
Code with regard to the committees on discipline of the professional orders.
The Committee on Institutions resumed
the consideration of Bill 130, An Act respecting administrative justice.
However, as a result of a closure motion, the bill was brought back before the
House before its examination could be completed. The Committee also devoted 6 sittings
to special consultations and the detailed consideration of Bill 77, An Act to
amend the Police Act and other legislative provisions. The long-awaited Bill
61, An Act to amend the Act respecting the Ministère de la Justice and other
legislative provisions concerning the management and disposition of proceeds of
crime, was also examined. In addition, the Committee heard the Minister of
Justice on the subject of justice among Native peoples, the Public Protector on
his annual report, and the Deputy Minister of International Relations within
the scope of the Act respecting the accountability of deputy ministers and
chief executive officers of public bodies.
Members of the Legislative Assembly opened
the Fourth Session with a short four-day sitting at the end of November. The
Session was highlighted by the introduction of four bills, commonly known as
the Family Law Bills.
Reform in this area began ten years ago when
a Ministerial Working Group consulted people in communities across the North.
The four Bills put before the House received First and Second Reading in
November and were subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Social
Programs for public review. Committee Members are planning to travel to
regional centers across the NWT in April, May and June to consult with
After a Christmas break, MLAs returned to
the House January 21, 1997. Finance Minister John Todd presented his
second budget on January 27, 1997 and told MLAs it represents the final stage
of the two-year Deficit Recovery Plan announced last year. He also said
implementation of the spending plan means the government will return to a
balanced budget position.
The 1997-98 budget calls for expenditures of
$1.155 billion, while total revenues are estimated to be $1.164 billion,
marking the first time in four years that the government will not run an annual
deficit. Mr. Todd said the government is projecting a small surplus of almost
$9 million for 1997-98.
However, he cautioned Members that the
government is not out of the woods yet and that more cost-effective ways of
doing business still have to be found due to increased demand for services and
programs, primarily in the social program areas.
One Bill, Supplementary Appropriation Act,
No. 2, 1996-97, received passage in the November sitting of the Legislative
Assembly. This Bill makes supplementary appropriations for the fiscal year
ending March 31, 1997.
Several other Bills are also currently before
the House and it is anticipated some will receive passage before the Fourth
Session concludes. This legislation includes:
Administration Statutes Amending Act: proposes to make minor amendments to four
Acts that relate to the administration of justice in the NWT The four Acts are
the Fine Option Act, the Judicature Act, the Jury Act, and the Justices of the
Statutes Amending Act: amends six Acts that relate to various aspects of
municipal governance in the Northwest Territories including a section that will
provide for the transfer of GNWT programs and services to municipal
Act, 1997-98: authorizes the government to make operations and maintenance
expenditures and capital expenditures for the fiscal year ending March 31,
of Debts Act, 1996-97: authorizes the forgiveness of debts under Section 25 of
the Financial Administration Act.
Act to Amend the Student Financial Assistance Act: amends the Schedule to the Student
Financial Assistance Act to increase the maximum aggregate of the principal
amounts that may be outstanding in respect of all loans made under the Act.
Following the abbreviated Session last
November, Members began two weeks of intensive Committee meetings to review the
Draft 1997-98 Main Estimates before breaking for Christmas.
Since returning to the House in January,
Committees have continued on-going reviews of budgets, business plans, Bills
and other initiatives of the territorial government, including discussions on
matters such as affirmative action, the Business Incentive Policy, Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy legislation, and a proposal to amalgamate
the three infrastructure departments.
The Standing Committee on Social Programs is
preparing to launch an intensive review, this spring, of the Family Law Bills.
This is one of the key legislative initiatives that Members of the Thirteenth
Assembly will undertake during their term in office, apart from matters relating
to Division of the NWT, and the creation of two new territories in 1999.
In mid-December the Government of the
Northwest Territories provided its response to the second comprehensive report
from the Nunavut Implementation Commission. The NIC is a ten-member commission
established to advise the federal and territorial governments and Nunavut
Tunngavik, the Inuit land claim group, on the creation of the Nunavut
Members of the Nunavut Caucus met February
16 and 17 with Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development, Don Morin, Premier of the Northwest Territories and
officials from Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated at the Sixth Nunavut Leaders’
Summit in Cambridge Bay. Leaders agreed that the Nunavut Legislative Assembly
will have a minimum of 20 Members and a maximum of 22 and that the first
election will be held in January or February, 1999 to ensure an Assembly is in
place for April 1.
Gender parity – equal representation for men
and women in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly – was one of the more
controversial topics discussed at the Summit. Leaders have agreed to hold a
plebiscite to allow Nunavut residents to decide whether the Legislative
Assembly should have dual-member constituencies based on equal representation
of men and women.
In the western Territory, the federal and
territorial governments have agreed to fund the Constitutional Working Group
through February and March, 1997 which will enable officials to begin public
consultations on "Partners in a New Beginning," the Draft
Constitution Package released last October. A plebiscite is expected to be held
later this year to ratify a revised Constitution and to choose a name for the
Ronna S. Bremer
Public Relations Officer
As reported in the winter edition of the
Canadian Parliamentary Review, the Manitoba Legislative Assembly sat beyond its
anticipated November 7 adjournment date, primarily for the continued
consideration of Bill 67 – The Manitoba Telephone System Reorganization and
Consequential Amendments Act. This Bill provided for the sale of the Manitoba
Telephone System and led to a government and an opposition with very strongly
held and opposing views on the bill and its disposition.
Over 185 persons made presentations at the
nine Standing Committee meetings held, a high number by Manitoba standards. At
one committee meeting, a filibuster by the opposition critic resulted in a
meeting that started at 6:30 p.m. on November 5 still going on the next
morning, and eventually adjourning at 9:26 a.m. on November 6, another Manitoba
Once the bill came back to the House for
Report Stage, over 40 amendments were proposed by the Opposition to the Bill,
and it began to be obvious that the House might not complete consideration of
the Bill before the end date for the session which was specified in the
provisional rules as being November 28. The Government House Leader raised a
point of order in the House on November 18 asking for an interpretation of the
provisional rule which states that all government bills would normally receive
a vote not later than the last day of the fall sittings of the Legislature
(November 28). On November 21, the Speaker ruled that in order for the House to
complete all of the business before it by the end of the fall sittings, that
she would schedule votes on Report Stage and Third Reading on November 27 and
28 respectively. The votes were held on those days. Royal Assent was then
granted to Bill 67 by the Lieutenant Governor, and the House was prorogued.
The date for the opening of the Third
Session of the 36th Legislature was set for March 3, 1997.
In the days immediately preceding the
December adjournment, the Senate concluded consideration of five government
bills. While these bills dealt with important topics none of them generated
significant controversy or sustained opposition. All went through committee
study without amendment and were subsequently adopted and passed by the Senate.
Of the five, Bill C-63 will probably have the most immediate impact on citizens
in the coming months. It amended the Canada Elections Act as well as the
Parliament of Canada Act and the Referendum Act. Among other things, the bill
authorizes the establishment of a permanent register of electors. It also
reduces the general election period from 47 days to 36 and institutes a
staggered voting schedule so that an election outcome could not be determined
before all polls have closed across the country.
Another bill was the object of considerable
debate at third reading. Bill C-45 amends section 745 of the Criminal Code
dealing with judicial review of parole ineligibility. The purpose of this bill
is to make the process of obtaining a parole more difficult for anyone
convicted of murder or high treason after they have served fifteen years of a
life sentence. Under the terms of the Act, the jury authorized to consider a
parole request now must reach a unanimous decision rather than the two thirds
vote required previously, and, in the case of multiple or serial murderers, any
rejection by the jury will not be subject to judicial review. Indeed, the bill
provides that any application for court review will have to be screened first
by a judge to determine if it has a reasonable chance of succeeding before the
application could proceed to a full hearing.
In its report on the bill, the Legal and
Constitutional Affairs Committee added an observation which proposed that the
Minister of Justice take whatever measures are available to advise victims’
families of the changes to section 745.
The three other bills that were adopted by
the Senate involved amendments to the Labour Code respecting minimum wage (Bill
C-35), the implementation of a free trade agreement with Israel (Bill C-61) and
a bill consolidating responsibilities within federal jurisdiction for the
better management of Canada’s oceans (Bill C-26). All five bills became law
December 18, 1996 when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court came to the
Senate as the Deputy to the Governor General to give Royal Assent to them.
When the Senate came back in early February,
it found itself again the focus of media attention as it struggled with
controversial aspects of Bill C-41, a proposal to amend a series of related
Acts including the Divorce Act . When the bill had been debated at second
reading in late November, there had been little to suggest that the bill would
become so controversial. In sponsoring the bill, Senator Rose-Marie Losier-Cool
spoke about the basic intent of the bill which is to establish a framework for
the use of guidelines to calculate child support which would be instituted
subsequently through regulations and to provide new mechanisms to improve the
enforcement of support orders. With respect to the new enforcement mechanisms
the Senator mentioned how the data bases of Revenue Canada could be used to
track down defaulting support payers and how the denial of passports and
certain federal licenses could be used as an effective enforcement tool.
Senator Anne Cools also
participated in the debate to urged reconsideration of the premises of the bill
in order to concentrate on the care needed by the children of divorced parents.
Senator Duncan Jessiman expressed general support for the bill, but he
did have some reservations about the intent to disallow support payments as a
deductible income tax expense.
The bill was then examined by the Standing
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The Committee held eleven
meetings over a period of two months and heard from the Minister of Justice,
officials from the department and a number of witnesses speaking for themselves
or representing different groups interested in the bill. At its final meeting,
February 12, the Committee adopted three amendments to the bill which were
reported to the Senate the same day. The three amendments delete the statutory
requirement for a non-custodial parent to provide post-secondary education,
ensure that the guidelines recognize the obligation of both parents to support
their children and allows for the adjustment of support payments in cases of
shared custody. The report also contained as appendices three letters the
Committee received. The first was from the Minister of Justice supporting a
commitment to establish a joint parliamentary committee this session to study
access and custody issues in the Divorce Act, a second from the Deputy Minister
of Justice agreeing to make certain changes to the draft guidelines and a final
one from the Government Leader in the Senate, confirming support to the
proposal to allow the Social Affairs Committee to monitor the implementation
and application of the bill.
The Senate proceeded to consider the
adoption of the report on Bill C-41 immediately after it was presented. The
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Mabel DeWare explained the purpose
behind the three amendments. She also noted the general dissatisfaction of the
Committee which had been required to work through this complex social
legislation without adequate time to do the job properly. Following some
additional comments, the Senate adopted the report and debate on third reading
took place the next day, February 13.
During the course of his remarks, Senator
Jessiman reviewed a series of questions, some of the history surrounding
the examination of the bill, and the objections he still had to parts of the
bill. Despite any reservations, he felt that the Senate should vote for the
bill as amended. During the course of her remarks, Senator Cools proposed three
other amendments which were subsequently negatived in a recorded vote 17 to 34.
Bill C-41 as amended by the committee report, was read a third time and passed
On February 13 the Senate also adopted Bill
C-5 dealing with the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and two other related
statutes. The bill had originally come from the House of Commons in late
October, 1996 and received second reading before the end of the same month. It
was not reported out of Banking, Trade and Commerce, however, before February 4
when the Chairman, Senator Michael Kirby, presented the Committee’s
proposals to amend the bill. In addition to the eleven amendments, the
Committee report included a twenty-seven page document outlining the
Committee’s observations and recommendations concerning a broad range of issues
relating to consumer bankruptcy.
In speaking to the report February 12,
Senator Kirby explained why they had rejected certain proposals made to
the Committee by several witnesses and he also described briefly the process of
consensus that led to the formulation of the fourteen draft amendments to Bill C-5
and how the Committee next proceeded to work out a negotiated agreement with
the Government on the ten amendments recommended in the report. Both he and
Senator David Angus who spoke on the report the following day,
acknowledged that while Bill C-5 makes substantial progress in the area of
bankruptcy law, much still remains to be done. The Committee is committed to
reviewing other aspects of the part of the law next year when the Canada
Business Corporations Act comes again before Parliament. Bill C-5 as amended
and passed by the Senate was then returned to the House of Commons for its
Most enacted legislation in Parliament
emanates from the Government. This is because non ministerial parliamentarians,
either from the Senate or the House of Commons have limited opportunities to
initiate substantive bills since they usually involve an expenditure which, in
turn, requires a royal recommendation that can only be obtained by a Minister
of the Crown. In addition, Senators are further handicapped because any bill
involving an expenditure by the Government must originate in the House of
This limitation on the right of members to
bring in bills that appeared to require government funding was the basis of the
point of order raised by Senator Richard Stanbury to a bill
introduced by Senator David Tkachuk The bill in question is Bill S-12,
an Act providing for self-government by the First Nations of Canada. The
Speaker ruled on the point of order the very day that the Senate returned from
the Christmas adjournment. After reviewing the arguments that had been made,
the Speaker, Gildas Molgat, rejected the point of order. He stated that
he could find no part of the bill that actually appropriated any money from the
Consolidated Revenue Fund. Even with respect to portions of the bill that
implied a possible expenditure, the Speaker noted that no facts had been
presented to determine whether this would be financed through a new charge or
through existing appropriations already authorized under another Act. Without
sufficient evidence that Bill S-12 as drafted provided an appropriation or
created a new charge, the Speaker concluded that he had no authority to prevent
debate on the bill. "Accordingly, its fate rests with the Senate
itself." (Editor’s note: The text of this ruling will appear in the summer
issue). Two weeks following this decision, Bill S-12 received second reading
and was referred to the Aboriginal Peoples Committee.
On December 10, the Speaker made a ruling
explaining the practice relating to the debate on non-government items on the
Order Paper that had been adjourned in the name of a particular Senator. The
Leader of the Opposition, Senator John Lynch-Staunton had raised the
question on a point of order December 4. The Speaker ruled that while the item
stands adjourned in the name of a designated Senator, it does not mean that the
item cannot be debated without the Senator’s consent whenever the item is
called at a subsequent sitting. On the contrary, the Senator who adjourned the
item has only reserved the right to speak on it first when the item is called,
but that right is forfeited if the Senator declines to speak when another
expresses a desire to debate the motion. Should the item be again adjourned,
the Senate can agree to let it stand in the name of the Senator who had
previously adjourned it or it can be adjourned in the name of the Senator who
adjourned the debate that day.
In another ruling, made December 16, the
Speaker declared out of order the proposal of Senator Noel Kinsella to
amend the motion of Senator Colin Kenny to refer Bill C-29, the MMT
bill, to the Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. The
purpose of the amendment was to authorize the Committee to prepare an interim
report answering certain questions about a chemical additive to gasoline before
reporting the .bill. The Speaker explained that the motion to refer a bill to a
committee is moved without notice or amendment following adoption of second
reading. Any amendment proposed to a motion referring a bill to committee would
be out of order. Moreover, the Speaker observed that in this particular case,
the amendment had the character of a substantive motion which would normally
require notice. In the end, the bill was referred to the Committee and the
motion seeking an interim report was moved separately.
Finally, the Speaker made a comment
following an attempt by Senator Lowell Murray to move a motion referring
the subject of the Somalia incident to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Because the motion sought to refer "the question of the adequacy of
response of the chain of command of the Canadian Forces …", Senator Murray
claimed that no notice was required since, according to rule 59(2) the
"referral of a question to a committee" does not require notice. The
Speaker replied that notwithstanding the Senator’s claim, one day’s notice is
required. The Senate, however, permitted the motion to proceed by leave without
notice. The next day, February 13, when the motion was called for debate, the Speaker
reiterated his position that the motion was in reality a substantive motion
that required notice. Senator Murray, for his part, acknowledged that he
had inadvertently misinterpreted the rule.
Deputy Principal Clerk
Table Research and Journals Branch
House of Commons
On November 19 the Reform Party raised a
point of order questioning the procedural acceptability of amendments made by
the Senate to Bill C-42, an Act to amend the Judges Act. The Government had given
notice of a motion that the amendments be read a second time and concurred in.
The Reform Party argued that the amendments were appropriate to a private bill,
but not to a public one, since they would introduce provisions dealing with a
single individual. After hearing comments from the Government, Speaker Gilbert
Parent ruled that the Speaker of the House of Commons could not judge the
procedural acceptability of what is done in the Senate and that it was for the
House itself to decide whether it accepted the amendments. The Reform Party
subsequently moved an amendment to the Government motion to declare that the
House of Commons disagreed with the Senate amendments in part for the reason
given in their point of order. Another Member of the same party then proposed a
subamendment asking the Senate to respond to the House’s message by June 19,
1997, but the Chair ruled the subamendment out of order on the grounds that it
seemed to be an order to the Senate and introduced an element foreign to the
amendment. The Reform amendment was defeated and the Government motion carried.
In the last issue it was reported that the
Government had questioned the procedural acceptability of a motion moved
on November 4 by Jack Ramsay that would deem Bill C-234 to be reported
to the House without amendment on the tenth sitting day after the motion’s
adoption. The Speaker had reserved his decision. Bill C-234, a private Member’s
bill introduced by John Nunziata to amend the Criminal Code, had been
deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs on March
12, 1996, when it was reinstated from the first session. The Committee had
subsequently decided on two occasions not to report the bill to the House.
In his ruling on November 21 the Speaker
found that the motion was procedurally acceptable and compared it to the
procedure of referring estimates to standing committees while deeming them to
be reported within a specified time and the use of time allocation at committee
stage, which also deems bills to be reported without amendment by a specified
time. On December 12 Mr. Ramsay moved his motion and, following a brief debate,
the motion was defeated on a recorded division.
On February 12 the Speaker interrupted a
question addressed to the Minister of National Defence, whom Chuck Strahl
accused of being involved in a "cover-up" by closing down the Somalia
inquiry. After Question Period the Speaker asked Mr. Strahl to withdraw the
accusation and named him for disregarding the authority of the Chair when he
refused to do so. Mr. Strahl was then ordered to withdraw from the House for
the remainder of that day’s sitting. This is the second time in this session
that the Speaker has named a Member.
The Standing Committee on Health held
marathon sessions between December 5 and ll to consider Bill C-71, the tobacco
bill, and report it to the House before the Christmas adjournment. But some
standing committees were at work even during the adjournment period. The
Finance Committee met in January to study Bill C-70, the bill to create a
harmonized sales tax. The Committee was thus able to report the bill when the
House returned on February 3. A sub-committee of the Standing Committee on
Justice and Legal Affairs also met in January to consider the draft firearms
regulations tabled by the Government, and the Committee’s report was tabled on
February 21. Other committees meeting in January were the Standing Committee on
Environment and Sustainable Development, considering Bill C-65 for the
protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction, and
the Standing Committee on Transport, continuing its study on transportation,
trade and tourism.
On December 2 the Government introduced the
same constitutional resolution amending the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with
Canada that the House of Commons had adopted in June 1996. This was made
necessary because the Senate had not adopted an identical resolution within the
time provided under the Constitution Act, 1982. On December 4 the resolution
was adopted a second time without amendment on a recorded division.
The House passed a Government bill that will
affect the way federal elections are conducted. Bill C-63 establishes a
permanent register of electors and shortens the election campaign period. The
bill was amended to include provisions based on Bill C-307, a private Member’s
bill introduced by Anna Terrana, to stagger polling hours so that an
election will not be declared decided before the West has voted. Bill C-63 was
before the Senate when the House adjourned for seven weeks on December 13, and
it was widely reported that the House would be recalled just before Christmas
to consider any amendments made by the Senate. That did not occur and the bill
received the Royal Assent on December 18.
Two private Members’ bills were given third
reading and passed by the House in the period from mid-November to
mid-December, and both received the Royal Assent on February 19, 1997. Bill
C-270, sponsored by Peter Milliken, amends the Financial Administration
Act regarding the use of Governor-General’s warrants when the House of Commons
is not sitting. And Bill C-202, introduced by Dan McTeague, provides for
the establishment of a National Organ Donor Week in Canada.
House Proceedings and Parliamentary Exchanges Directorate
The British Columbia Legislative Assembly
has been adjourned since August of last year and is now preparing to begin the
second session of the 36th Parliament. During this time, a number of notable
events have occurred, and several legislative committees have been active.
An ongoing issue that has garnered
significant attention is the attempt by a Kelowna businessman to sue the
governing New Democratic Party. His lawsuit alleges that government members
committed fraud under the Election Act by knowingly disseminating inaccurate
information about the state of the province’s finances. Legal counsel for the
NDP contested the validity of the suit, but on February 28th a Supreme Court Justice
decided that it could proceed. This would mark the first time in Canada that a
government has been sued by a citizen over claims made during an election
The cabinet of Premier Glen Clark was
given a small shuffle late in 1996 following the resignation of Education
Minister Moe Sihota. He resigned in December following an investigation
into phone calls he made to the Motor Carrier Commission on behalf of a friend,
Liberal MP Herb Dhaliwal, who had applied for a limousine license. Paul
Ramsey moved over to Education, while two new faces appeared at the cabinet
table: Cathy McGregor, a Kamloops MLA who takes over the Environment
portfolio, and Mike Farnworth from Port Coquitlam, who is responsible
for Municipal Affairs and Housing.
In early March, the Select Standing
Committee on Aboriginal Affairs concluded Phase II of its extensive public
hearings schedule. The committee, charged with making recommendations on the
Agreement-in-Principle with the Nisga’a people and on the treaty process in
general, held 30 public hearings and received over 500 submissions from a wide
range of aboriginal and non-aboriginal witnesses. The committee will present
its report to the House in late March or early April.
On January 31, the Citizens’ Panel released
its report on compensation to Members of the Legislative Assembly. The Panel,
composed of five private citizens, was appointed last September and charged
with reviewing MLAs’ base pay and allowances and recommending a pension plan or
equivalent. The Panel’s report recommends raising Members’ salary from a
current base of $32,812 plus $16,406 tax-free allowance to a straight taxable
level of $69,900. The report also recommends increases to Members’ constituency
office, communication, and sessional accommodation allowances. The Panel
recommends eliminating committee salaries of $100 per meeting and increasing
the deduction for absence from House to $300 per day. The report is currently
before the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC), which is
responsible for deciding upon implementing the report.
The Parliamentary Reform committee has
received and begun reviewing applications for the position of Members’ Conflict
of Interest Commissioner. The Forests Committee continues its examination of
the annual business plan of Forest Renewal BC, a crown corporation created to
reinvest funds into the province’s forest industry. The Special Committee on
the Response to the Gove Report has been monitoring changes in British
Columbia’s child protection system, particularly the mandate and organization
of the Ministry of Children and Families, created last fall. The Public
Accounts Committee has met several times since the New Year, examining a number
of reports issued by the Auditor General’s Office.
Recent months of the Ontario Legislative
Assembly’s 36th Parliament, 1st Session have provided interesting notes for
parliamentary history books. In the course of two weeks in the fall of 1996,
the Assembly had three different Speakers. In January 1997, the House was
summoned for an extraordinary sitting to consider legislation restructuring
municipal and provincial government. And a landmark Speaker’s ruling found that
a prima facie case of contempt had been established respecting Ministry
advertising that would "appear to diminish the respect that is due to the
The Three Speakers
At the opening of the fall sessional period,
the Clerk of the House, Claude DesRosiers, informed the House of the
"unavoidable absence of the Speaker." Behind the simple public
announcement lay the turmoil that beset the office of Speaker and the House
after publication of certain allegations regarding the chief presiding officer.
The Deputy Speaker, Bert Johnson, presided in the absence of Speaker Allan
Two days later, the Clerk informed the House
of the resignation of the Speaker, and oversaw the uncontested election of an
interim successor, Ed Doyle. Speaker Doyle thanked the House for this
"incredible honour" and acknowledged that his time presiding would
"be short". By prior, informal agreement among all parties, Speaker
Doyle resigned after one week.
The Clerk again called upon members to elect
one of their own as Speaker according to the election process first set out in
Ontario’s Standing Orders in 1989. Eight members were nominated: Margaret
Marland, Gilles Morin, Derwyn Shea, Jack Carroll, Chris
Stockwell, David Tilson, Gary Leadston and Floyd Laughren.
Through five and a half hours and seven ballots, nominees were dropped one by
one until the final result was announced. The Clerk advised members that they
had elected as their Speaker, Chris Stockwell.
After thanking members and his fellow
candidates, Speaker Stockwell expressed his hope, as previous Speakers had,
that "this will be a less rowdy place to be." The three party House
Leaders offered their best wishes and, in the case of Bud Wildman, their
regret at the loss of the former backbencher’s "insightful and energetic
interventions in the debate."
New Opposition Leaders
On Monday, 2 December 1996, the Speaker
advised the House that Dalton J.P. McGuinty was recognized as Leader of
Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. His selection as Liberal leader to replace Lyn
McLeod, party leader since 1992, had occurred the previous weekend at an
unusually long convention. From a fourth place start on the first ballot,
Dalton McGuinty was victorious over Gerard Kennedy when fifth ballot
results were announced at 4.30 a.m. Mr. McGuinty had served as Liberal member
for Ottawa South since his election in 1990. During his first term in
opposition, he served as critic for the Energy, Colleges and Universities, and
Native Affairs portfolios.
Prior to the naming of the new Official
Opposition Leader, the New Democratic Party had previously chosen a new leader
at their leadership convention in May 1996. Howard Hampton succeeded
former party leader, Bob Rae. First elected in 1987, he had served in
Mr. Rae’s cabinet as Attorney General (1990-1993) and as Minister of Natural
Resources (1993 to 1995).
Resignation and Reinstatement of Minister
On 9 December 1996, the Minister of Health, Jim
Wilson (Simcoe West) tendered his resignation as Minister pending
completion of an investigation by the Ontario Information and Privacy
Commissioner. His portfolio was assumed by the Chair of Management Board and
Government House Leader, Dave Johnson (Don Mills). Mr. Wilson’s
departure followed that of his former communications assistant after a Toronto
newspaper reported the alleged disclosure of a named medical doctor’s status as
"Ontario’s Number 1 biller" to the provincial health insurance plan.
The Information and Privacy Commissioner, Tom
Wright, presented his special report to the Legislative Assembly on 20
February 1997. The Commissioner found that "personal information" had
been disclosed contrary to Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of
Privacy Act. However, the investigation also concluded that the disclosure was
made on the initiative of the individual staffer and not with the knowledge of,
or at the request of, the former Minister, any other Minister’s office, or
Ministry staff. On Friday, 21 February, Mr. Wilson was again sworn in as
Ontario’s Minister of Health.
"Who Does What" Session
In a statement to the House on 4 December 1996,
Premier Michael D. Harris (North Bay) reviewed the implementation and
results of the government’s agenda to date. In the pursuit of achieving less
government spending, removing barriers to growth and investment, and doing
better for less, the government had set up the "Who Does What" panel
under David Crombie. The panel reviewed issues of governance and
provided recommendations on ending waste and duplication between the province
and municipalities. With final recommendations then expected shortly, the
Premier pledged to introduce legislation promptly for consideration at a
special "Who Does What" session of the Legislature, beginning on
Monday, 13 January 1997.
In response to the Premier’s statement, both
Opposition leaders criticized the government for cutting spending on health
care, education, women and the disabled. Liberal leader Mr. McGuinty stressed
the importance of applying not just a fiscal test but also a moral,
compassionate test to government. NDP leader Mr. Hampton welcomed the special winter
session as a chance to hold the government accountable.
The stage was set for the so-called
"mega-week". During the first four days of the special winter
sessional period, a co-ordinated series of eleven ministerial announcements
were made outlining the government’s proposed legislative and administrative
responses to the "Who Does What" panel.
At the outset, the Minister of Municipal
Affairs and Housing, Al Leach, set the context for the week’s
announcements. He informed the House that education funding would be taken off
the residential property tax and made a provincial responsibility. The Minister
had previously (on 17 December) introduced Bill 103, An Act to replace the
seven existing municipal governments of Metropolitan Toronto by incorporating a
new municipality to be known as the City of Toronto.
John Snobelen, Minister of Education and Training, introduced Bill
104, the Fewer School Boards Act. The Bill proposes replacement of the existing
129 major school boards with 66 new "District Boards", effective
January 1, 1998, comprising 29 public, 26 separate (Roman Catholic), and 11
francophone boards. The number of trustees would be cut from almost 1,900 to
approximately 700. Trustees’ full-time salaries would be eliminated, to be
replaced by an optional honorarium of up to $5,000 per year. And every school
would be required to have an advisory school council.
On the second day, 14 January, the Minister
of Community and Social Services, Janet Ecker, announced the
re-arrangement of provincial and municipal responsibilities for social and
community health services. The funding of welfare, child care and long term
care would be cost-shared on a 50/50 basis. Responsibility would be fully
transferred to municipalities for: management and funding of social housing;
local public health programs; and delivery and financing of land ambulance
services. The province, it was stated, would assume responsibility for full
funding of Children’s Aid Societies and women’s shelters. As well, the province
would set up a Municipal Social Assistance Reserve (initially $700 million) as
a safeguard against unforeseen local economic circumstances.
Wednesday’s statements by the Ministers of
Transportation, Environment and Energy, Citizenship, Culture and Recreation,
and by the Attorney General saw more proposed transfers of responsibilities to
the municipal level. These transfers included: delivery of local transportation
services; full funding of municipal transit, municipal airports, GO Transit
(the greater Toronto area’s interurban commuter system), and local highways and
ferry services; water and sewage treatment plants; library services; and
administrative and limited prosecutorial responsibilities for minor regulatory
On the fourth day, the Deputy Premier and Minister
of Finance, Ernie Eves, introduced the Fair Municipal Finance Act. The
bill would create a municipal property tax system based on currently assessed
values, to be updated regularly. The bill would also: cut property taxes for
farmers and woodlot owners; exempt conservation areas; eliminate the business
occupancy tax; and simplify assessment appeals.
Opposition members criticized the scope and
pace of the government’s restructuring proposals, many of which were termed
"downloading" or "offloading". They were also critical of
the process by which they saw major changes being implemented with inadequate
public consultation or background studies. Liberal Gerry Phillips
estimated that "about $6.8 billion of former provincial government
responsibility" was to be transferred to local property taxes. The NDP
leader predicted that "municipalities will be stuck in the position where
they will either have to increase their property taxes significantly as our
population gets older, or they will have to cut those important health care
One of the most contentious of all the bills
considered by the House and its committees during the "Who Does What"
session was the proposal to restructure municipal government in the
Metropolitan Toronto area. Bill 103 was referred to the Standing Committee on
General Government on 30 January for consideration pursuant to a time
allocation motion passed on 29 January. During the course of five weeks of
public hearings at Queen’s Park, the Committee heard approximately 600 oral
presentations. The Committee conducted clause by clause consideration on
Thursday, 6 March, and agreed to report the Bill to the House without
amendment. According to the time allocation motion, further clause by clause
consideration is scheduled to occur in the Committee of the Whole House for one
hour after the Legislature resumes on 1 April following a brief recess.
Among the many points of order and privilege
raised in the context of "mega-week" were two questions of privilege
relating to government advertising that led to an unprecedented ruling by
Speaker Stockwell. (For the complete text of this ruling see pp. 34-36 in this
issue of the Review.) At the conclusion of his ruling, the Speaker invited the
member for Oakwood to place a motion with respect to one of the questions. Mr.
That the Government be censured by the House
for its contemptible advertising campaign and that the matter be sent to the
Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly for its consideration.
The ensuing debate saw further points of
order, a further ruling by the Speaker that the motion was in order, a proposed
amendment to restrict the scope of the motion that was subsequently withdrawn,
and an apology by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Al Leach.
At the conclusion of a second day of debate, the motion was defeated.
New Lieutenant Governor
On Friday, 24 January 1997, the Ontario
Legislative Chamber was the setting for the installation of Ontario’s 26th
Lieutenant Governor, Hilary M. Weston. The Oaths of Allegiance and
Office were administered by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, Patrick
J. LeSage. Her Honour replaces the former Lieutenant Governor, Henry N.
R. (Hal) Jackman. Before assuming the vice-regal post, Mrs. Weston served as
Deputy Chair of Holt Renfrew for 10 years, and contributed to other commercial
activities and board positions. An author and philanthropist, Mrs. Weston also
founded the Ireland Fund of Canada in 1979.
Resignation of Member
A 23-year veteran member of the Assembly,
New Democrat David Cooke resigned his seat on 31 January. Mr. Cooke was
named co-chair of the Education Improvement Commission. He served as Minister
of Education and Training during the last parliament.