| British Columbia
| New Brunswick
| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
The Second Session of the 53rd Legislative Assembly, which
opened November 26, 1996, adjourned December 19 for a two-week Christmas recess
and reconvened on January 7, 1997. The House adjourned on January 17 to allow
for public hearings on a White Paper proposal for a new Education Act. The
House reconvened on February 4 and continued until prorogation on February 28,
1997, for a total of forty sitting days. The Government maintained a heavy
legislative agenda, bringing forward 91 Bills during the session, all of which
received Royal Assent. Among the measures adopted were the following.
Bill 23, An Act to Amend the Municipal Assistance Act
was introduced by Municipalities, Culture and Housing Minister Ann Breault. The
legislation provides the framework for the implementation of a new formula for
calculating the amount of unconditional grants to municipalities. The Bill
underwent intense scrutiny in the House and was the subject of a prolonged
opposition filibuster and two rulings.
The government maintained that the new formula would
provide a more equitable method of distributing funds to the various
municipalities and result in more funding to those communities that need it
most. Some communities, however, would see a drop it the funding they receive
from tli,e provincial government. The Bill proposed to put the actual mechanics
of the formula into regulation. However, after intense debate, the government
introduced an amendment incorporating the new formula into the body of the Act.
Bill 44, implementing the new 15 per cent Harmonized
Sales Tax, was introduced in the Legislature on February 4 by Finance Minister
Edmond Blanchard. Opposition parties delayed passage of the Bill for over two
weeks, reviewing components of the Bill clause-by-clause in Committee of the
Whole. In response to a proposal by Opposition Leader Bernard Valcourt, the
Bill was amended to require that any change in the rate of tax or in the tax
base would require the Minister to introduce a resolution in the Legislative
Assembly. The new 15 per cent Harmonized Sales Tax came into effect April 1st
in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and replaced the federal Goods
and Services Tax and Provincial Sales Tax.
Bill 71, the Province's new Clean Air Act, sets new
controls on air pollution and provides inspectors with greater powers to deal.
with pollution problems. The Act supports and promotes the protection,
restoration, enhancement and wise use of the environment.
Bill 77, the Education Act, introduced by the
Minister of Education James Lockyer on February 18, replaces elected school
boards with school-based parent councils and provincial boards of education.
Introduction of the bill followed five days of public hearings in January by
the Standing Committee on Law Amendments. The Committee reviewed the government
White Paper, Proposal for the New Brunswick Education Act, which outlined the
framework of the proposed new Education Act. Over 100 groups or individuals
appeared before the Committee or submitted written briefs.
Six Private Bills were introduced during the session
of which five received Royal Assent. Among the bills passed was Bill 59, An Act
to Amend an Act Respecting the New Brunswick Medical Society and the College of
Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick, which includes provisions
establishing a code of conduct for medical doctors to guard against sexual
abuse of patients.
NDP Leader Elizabeth Weir introduced four Private
Member's Public Bills, including a proposed Charter of Environmental Rights and
Responsibilities which would provide legal guarantees of rights to clean air
and water. A Bill entitled Public Participation Act would ensure that citizens
can freely exercise their democratic rights of freedom of speech, freedom of
association and demonstration, and would prohibit harassment lawsuits against
environmental groups, activists or citizens organizations. None of the four
bills introduced by the NDP Leader passed the second reading stage.
The First Report of the Standing Committee on
Procedure tabled November 27, 1996, recommended a change in the Assembly's
sitting hours. With relatively minor variations, the present schedule had been
in operation since 1988, with the House frequently sitting until 11:00 p.m. and
resuming the following day at 8:30 a.m. The adjusted hours will allow continues
to sit Tuesday through Friday but will sit only one evening per week-Thursday.
Under the new schedule the House sits at 1 o'clock p.m. on Tuesdays but retains
the early 8:30 o'clock morning start time Wednesday through Friday.
The House also concurred with an opposition
recommendation that the government consider providing advance budget briefings
to the Official Opposition and its staff on budget day. The practice has been
that budgetary information is made available to the press under strictest
:secrecy, several hours before the budget is tabled.
The Select Committee on Demographics submitted a
report that examines and evaluates public policy implications of demographic
changes and emerging trends on New Brunswick as it enters the twenty-first
century. The report identifies future demographic changes and their potential
policy implications for the province. The report contains recommendations
dealing with declining births, aging population, low immigration, and the
distribution of the population across the province.
The Final Report of the Select Committee on Electoral
Reform outlined 63 recommendations aimed at improving and modernizing the
electoral process in New Brunswick by simplifying and standardizing the
election process, by making it easier for citizens to cast a ballot, by giving
the Chief Electoral Officer increased discretion in determining voting
procedures, and by opening the door for the use of new technologies. One major
recommendation. is the development of a continuous Registry of Electors to
serve for all elections and remove the necessity of mandatory enumeration.
However, the Committee recommended that enumeration not be eliminated entirely,
but that it be retained as an optional method to be used in exceptional
circumstances, at the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer.
The Final report of the Select Committee on Gasoline
Pricing was submitted on March 26. The Committee was appointed in response to a
general dissatisfaction with the level of gasoline pricing in the province and
a concern that gasoline prices were not reflecting the province's relatively
low rate of motor fuel tax. The Committee carried out an in-depth review of
factors relating to gasoline pricing, including a review of all price
components and taxation levels relative to other jurisdictions and made
recommendations aimed at identifying the type of environment that will enable
the province's gasoline market to work to the benefit of consumers.
The Standing Committee on Law Amendments was active
during the session, holding public hearings to review a number of bills and
discussion papers. The Comrrlittee examined and reported on such diverse issues
as hospital corporation accountability, proposed new privacy legislation,
educational reform and a new Clean Air Act.
Elvy Robichaud resigned as Chair of the Standing
Committee on Public Accounts to take up the position of Opposition House
Leader. Dale Graham was elected to Chair the Committee.
On February 5, Albert Doucet resigned as Minister of
State for Mines and Energy. In March, Mr. Doucet was suspended from the
government caucus for public comments he made in relation to his portfolio.
On March 20, Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Paul Duffie announced that he was stepping down from Cabinet in order to spend
more time with his family. He was first elected in 1987 and has served as
Minister of Education and Minister of Municipalities, Culture and Housing. He
will continue to represent Grand Falls Region in the House. Bernard Richard,
Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs, will serve as acting
Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
The Second Session of the 23rd Legislature opened with
a Speech from the Throne on March 6, 1997. Six priorities were identified by
the Government as the focus of the new session:
- investing in jobs and the economy;
- investing in the quality of education and training;
- investing in children and reducing child poverty, both as part of a
far-reaching and progressive welfare reform;
- ensuring a secure, stable health system;
- renewing the province's highways and transportation system; and
- preserving fiscal responsibility.
The creation of jobs was cited by both opposition
parties as a priority for the coming session. The Progressive Conservatives
maintained that the key to job creation was tax relief, reiterating their 1995
campaign call for the Provincial Sales Tax to be reduced to 7% from 9 %. The
Liberals indicated that they would raise the public's concerns over health
care, education and the condition of highways and further that they would hold
the government to their promises in these areas.
Saskatchewan's fourth consecutive balanced budget was
tabled by Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon on March 20th. The budget outlined
the three components to the government's fiscal plan: balancing tax reduction
with strategic new investments in people, health and education and reducing the
province's long-term debt.
The Liberal Opposition noted that even after the tax
cuts, Saskatchewan residents continue to pay more in taxes than when the NDP
came to power and that the increased spending on health and education would not
cover inflationary and personnel costs. Of further significance was the 2%
reduction in the provincial sales tax From 9% to 7%. This had been a major
feature of the Progressive Conservative party's platform and was cited as the
reason why three PC members, led by leader Bill Boyd, voted in favour of the
The Standing Committee on Crown Corporations is
celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first series of meetings in 1947. The
passage of The Crown Corporations Act in 1945 greatly increased the number of
government-owned entities. The Standing Committee on Crown Corporations was
created as the venue for the post-fac:o examination, similar to the scrutiny
that took place in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts at the time. The
committee did not commence its regular review agenda until 1947 as many of the
Crown corporations' had not completed a fall year's operation until then. The
Committee devoted 1946 to finalizing its terms of reference and reviewing what
financial records did exist to that date.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts recently
elected a new chair. Gerard Aldridge assumed the chair on January 6, 1997
following the resignation of Rod Gantefoer. Mr. Gantefoer has relinquished his
membership on the committee.
Renovations to Legislative Building
The passage of time and the extremes of prairie
weather have taken their toll on the Legislative Building. Cracks have appeared
in walls throughout the building and stone fragments have fallen off the
exterior. The foundation beneath the North, South and East wings is shifting,
putting additional stress on the foundation of the Dome. As a result, the
Saskatchewan Property Management Corporat:.on has announced that a restoration
project will begin later this year to address these major structural
deficiencies. The Legislature was built between 1908 and 1912 with a final cost
of construction of approximately $1.8 million. Other than ground floor
renovations in the 1960's and 70's and the reinforcement of the West wing
foundation in 1983, no substantive structural work has been done. The project
is expected to last four years with $5 million designated for 1997 phase alone.
The restoration will also afford an opportunity to upgrade the building's fire
code and handicap accessibility standards. Some offices will be relocated during
the project and some roadways restricted but legislative and public access will
not be diminished.
New Member - New Positions
The start of the new session saw Jack Hillson
introduced into the Assembly as the new member for North Battleford. Mr. Hillson
won a by-election last November. Also in November, Jim Melenchuck was elected
as the new leader of the Liberal Party in Saskatchewan, assuming the role Ron
Osika had filled on an interim basis. Because Mr. Melenchuck does not hold a
seat in the legislature, Ken Krawetz is the recognized Leader of the Opposition
while Rod Gantefoer is the Opposition House Leader.
On April 25th Andy Renaud announced his resignation
as Minister of Highways and Transportation effective April 28, 1997 citing
health reasons. Clay Serby, :Minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Property
Management Corporation and the Liquor and Gamin Authority has added the
Highways and Transportation portfolio to his duties for the interim.
Internet Web Site
On February 24th, the Legislative Assembly launched
its presence on the Internet at www.legassembly.sk.ca. The site contains a wide
variety of information including educational materials for school children,
information on visits to the Assembly, services provided by the Legislative Library,
the addresses of elected Members and links to their caucus web pages. The
administration of the Assembly is outlined while the Provincial Auditor, the
Ombudsman and the Children's Advocate have provided reports and facts on their
During legislative sittings, daily updates of the
Order Paper, Votes and Proceedings, Hansard, first reading bills, progress of
bills and consideration of the estimates will appear on the web site. Committee
minutes, reports and verbatims and legislative publications from previous
sessions are also available. The site is written in HTML format so that it can
be fully cross-searched using our search engine page.
The British Columbia Legislature began the second
session of the 36th Parliament on March 24th with the Speech from the Throne.
Lieutenant Governor Garde Gardom delivered the speech, which outlined a number
of government priorities. The Speech stressed job creation, including promises
to create 21,000 jobs in the forest sector by the year 2001 and 12,000 jobs for
youth. The government also indicated its intention to begin developing regional
strategies for job creation in the province, and to investigate the feasibility
of moving to a shorter work week to combat the problem of overwork fir some
employees during a period of high general unemployment.
Just a day after the Throne Speech, Finance Minister
Andrew Petter tabled the government's 1997-98 budget. It forecasts a deficit of
$185 million, with total government expenditures of $20.5 billion. Health care
was the curly area in which spending was substantially increased; it is
scheduled to rise by some $300 million. The budget featured a modest 2% cut in
the provincial income tax rate and a continuation of freezes on tuition fees
and auto insurance and hydro rates. However, it also included a number of fee
increases for such things as provincial fines, ambulance services, and safety
On April 17, Premier Glen Clark announced that an agreement
had been signed between the provincial and federal governments regarding joint
stewardship of west coast fisheries. The agreement creates a Canada-BC Council
of Fisheries Ministers, which will oversee management and conservation of the
fishery. As well, a new Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council will be
set up to provide independent analysis and advice to both governments on
conservation measures and protection of habitat.
The Fisheries Renewal Act was introduced in the House
on April 30. Designed to complement the fisheries agreement, the bill provides
for a Crown agency to promote conservation, protection and enhancement of fish
resources. The agency's directors would include representatives from fishers,
First Nations and other industry interests, and its mandate will be to make
investments in fisheries diversification and development, to train industry
workers, and to give assistance to the industry for long-term economic
The government has also introduced a bill to
encourage donations of food from restaurants to food banks. The bill would
place limits on liability to potential donors.
Three standing committees are active this session.
The Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs continues its deliberations
on the Nisga'a Agreement-in-Principle and related treaty process issues. The
Committee, chaired by Ian Waddell, wrapped up its public hearing process in
early March, after holding 31 public hearings and receiving 560 submissions. It
is anticipated that the Committee's report will be delivered to the Legislative
Assembly in late May or early June.
The Special Committee on the Response to the Gove
Report continues to receive briefings on the government's administrative
changes to the provincial child protection system. A Ministry of Children and
Families was created last fall as part of significant reforms to the system,
pooling resources and responsibilities that previously had been spread across
several ministries. The all-party Committee, chaired by Evelyn Gillespie, has
been receiving briefings on the changes by ministry officials and by Children's
Commissioner Cynthia Morton, Ombudsman Dulcie McCallum, and Child, Youth and
Family Advocate Joyce Preston.
The Public Accounts Committee also is meeting this
session. It is scrutinizing the provincial Public Accounts from last year, as
well as a number of reports by the Auditor General.
On February 28th, Jack Weisgerber announced his
resignation as leader of the British Colimbia Reform Party. At the same time,
he indicated his intention to remain a Member of the Legislative Assembly for
the remainder of the 36th Parliament. First elected in 1986 under the banner of
the Social Credit Party, Mr. Weisgerber served as Minister of Native Affairs from
1988 to 1991, a time when the provincial government began the process of
negotiating treaty settlements with First Nations. He also served briefly as
Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Following the Social
Credit's defeat in 1991, he became the leader of the Reform Party of BC.
Liberal Wilf Hurd announced on April 28th that he was
resigning as a Member of the House in order to contest a seat in the federal
election on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada. Mr. Hurd was first elected
in 1991 when the Liberals formed the Official Opposition, and held posts as
party whip and forestry critic.
House of Commons
The second session of the 35th Parliament ended on
April 27, 1997 when the Governor General, at the request of the Prime Minister,
announced the dissolution of Parliament.
The business of Parliament in terms of legislation
was particularly hectic during the final week before dissolution. Six bills
were passed at third reading and, on April 25, the Deputy Governor General gave
Royal Assent to twenty government bills, to Bill C-300, a private member's bill
sponsored by Jack Fraser concerning the establishment of a Canadian
Peacekeeping Service Medal, and to private bill S-15, An Act to amend An Act to
incorporate the Bishop of the Arctic of the Church of England in Canada.
However, Bill 6216, intended to prevent negative option billing, died on the
Order Paper following a week of stormy debate and a wide variety of procedural
tactics, during which neither the bill's sponsor, Roger Galloway, nor the
official opposition, pulled any punches.
There were no supply days during the period ending
June 23, 1997 and the last opposition day was March 12, 1997. On t 1at day, the
House passed Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31,
1997 and the interim supply for the period ending March 31, 1998. It should be
noted that the interim supply passed covered nine-twelfths of the total Main
Estimates, not the usual four-twelfths.
On April 9, the House passed motion M-267, on the
Order Paper under Private :Members' Business. The motion, moved by Daphne
Jennings and subsequently amended on motion of Suzanne Tremblay, added a new
Standing Order 97.1 to require any committee to which a Private Member's public
bill has been referred to report the bill to the House within six months from
the date of the bill's reference to the committee. A committee must now report
back to the House in all cases and may even recommend that the House proceed no
further with the bill.
On dissolution, the Address in Reply to the Speech
from the Throne was still on the Order Paper. Customarily, once the motion has
been passed by the two houses, the respective Speakers go to Rideau Hall to
present the engrossed Address to the Governor General.
On April 22, Stéphane Dion, President of the Queen's
Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, informed
the House in a ministerial statement of his intention to put on the Notice
Paper a draft constitutional amendment resolution, aimed at amending section 93
of the Constitution Act, 1867 to enable the Quebec government to establish
anglophone and francophone linguistic school boards.
Following the tabling of the budget on February 18,
John Nunziata rose on a question of privilege regarding budget secrecy. Mr.
Nunziata contended that, by allowing journalists to reveal the contents of the
budget 15 minutes before beginning his speech, the Minister of Finance was
going against past practice whereby budget papers were not distributed before
the stock markets closed. Moreover, Mr. Nunziata claimed that members'
privileges are infringed when the information is released prematurely. The
Speaker ruled on March 6. Citing rulings by Speaker Sauve and Speaker Fraser,
he reminded the House that "a breach of budget secrecy has nothing to do
with parliamentary privilege."
On March 11, John Bryden rose on a question of
privilege regarding the work of the Standing Committee on justice and Legal
Affairs. Mr. Bryden was of the view that the committee has misinterpreted
Standing Order 108(2) in making its decision to consider the subject matter of
Bill C-46, even though the bill appeared on the Projected Order of Business. In
practical terms, it was impossible for Mr. Bryden or any other member wishing
to take part in the debate on this bill to be both in the House to debate the
bill at second reading and in committee to put questions to the witnesses. On
March 20, the Speaker told the House that committees "are free to set
their own priorities, establish work plans and schedule their business"
and that all business printed Dn the Projected Order of Business is not
necessarily taken up in the House. While the Chair did not find that a case of
privilege had been made, the Speaker said that, in keeping with the spirit of
the McGrath reform, committees could .perhaps keep projected House business in
mind when planning their work.
On March 4, Gilles Duceppe rose on a question of
privilege regarding a Health Canada advertisement. The advertisement in
question, a copy of which was tabled in the Douse by unanimous consent,
referred to the anti-tobacco "legislalion", even though the House had
not yet passed Bill C-T!, the Tobacco Act. According to Mr. Duceppe, this was false
advertising. The Speaker ruled on March 13. While he hoped that in future those
"whose duty it is to approve the wording of communications to the public
for a minister" will ensure that there is no "ambiguity in the choice
of terms", the Speaker could not conclude that the advertisement in
question was a breach of the privileges of the House.
Debate of the Government's 1997-98 Capital and
Operating and Maintenance Budgets dominated much of the Legislative Assembly's
time during the Fourth Session which resumed in late January. Detailed scrutiny
of the Government's spending plan forced Members into extended sitting hours
and some Saturday sessions.
But the budget was not the only issue occupying the
Legislature's agenda in the six-week session. Members also appointed Elaine
Keenan Bengts, a long-time Northerner, as the first Access to Information and
Protection pf Privacy Commissioner for the Northwest Territories. Ms. Keenan
Bengts has operated her own law firm in Yellowknife for the past 10 years.
The Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission was also
appointed in March. The threemember Commission is chaired by J.E. Richard, a
Member of the Legislative Assembly in the 10th and 11th Assemblies and currently
a justice with the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. The Commission
will make recommendations on the boundaries, names and representation of new
electoral districts for Nunavut. Commission members are to file a report with
the Legislative Assembly by June 30, 1997.
Following the adjournment of the Fourth Session in
early March most Members returned to their home constituencies with the
exception of Premier Don Marin and Nunakput MLA Vince Steen. They were part of
a small delegation from the NWT, who in April, spent two weeks in three Asian
cities (Hong Kong, Seoul, and Taipei) promoting the Aurora Fund, an immigrant
investor fund established to raise funds to help develop businesses in the
The House resumed sitting on May 27 for a brief
Session before the summer break.
Committee activity was also quiet through much of
March and April except for the Standing Committee on Social Programs. Committee
members visited regional centres in the NWT in the spring to conduct public
hearings on the proposed Family Law Bills. The Bills - the Family Law Act, the
Children's Law Act, the Child and Family Services Act, and the Adoption Act -
were introduced in the Legislative Assembly last November. The Committee is
expected to report back to the House on the Bills this fall.
Division of the Northwest Territories continues to
proceed with government departments developing plans for dividing the territory
in 1999 and a number of other initiatives.
In the western territory Members of the
Constitutional Working Group have been busy visiting communities in the region
to consult people on the Partners in a New Beginning package presented last
MLAs in the western Arctic have also joined forces
with representatives of the business community and aboriginal organizations in
forming the Western Leaders Coalition. This group is responsible for protecting
the interests of the West in Division planning, especially as it relates to
federal financing arrangements after 1999.
Plans in the Nunavut territory also continue to
develop. The appointment of Jack Anawak, former MP of Nunatsiaq, as Interim
Commissioner of Nunavut is viewed as a positive and integral step towards the
creation of the new territory.
Residents in Nunavut will also go to the polls on May
26 for a Public Vote on Equal Representation of Men and Women in the Nunavut
Legislative Assembly. The vote will determine if the Assembly will elect one
male and one female MLA from each constituency.
Public Relations Officer
The Third Session of the 36th Legislature started off
;n the traditional manner on Marcn 3,1997 with the reading of the Speech from
the Throne by Yvon Dumont, the Lieutenant-Governor. However once His Honour
left the Assembly Chamber, the rest of the proceedings were anything but
typical. Following the Prayer, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Gary
Doer, rose on a matter of privilege and moved "that the Speaker be removed
from her position and that passage of this motion by the House would require
that the Speaker resign immediately." Madam Speaker Louise Dacquay ruled
that the subject matter of the motion was so important that the House should
deal with the matter immediately, and put the motion to the House for debate.
Instead of the traditional early adjournment of the
House on Opening Day following the passage of several routine motions, the
Legislative Assembly sat until 10 p.m. that night to consider the motion,
requiring MLAs to forgo the traditional receiving line of dignitaries and
attendance at several opening day receptions.
The matter of privilege continued as the first order
of business on the following sitting day. During consideration of the motion,
Gary Kowalski moved an amendment requiring a secret ballot election of a
Speaker based on the provisions contained in the British Columbia Standing
Orders for the secret ballot election of the Speaker. The amendment and the
motion for a matter of privilege were negatived on recorded votes on March 4,
and the House proceeded to consideration of the Address in Reply to the Speech
from the Throne.
The provincial budget was delivered by Finance
Minister Eric Stefanson on March 14, 1997. The budget projected a surplus of
$26.8 million, and marked the third consecutive year that a budgetary surplus
was forecast. In delivering the budget address, Finance Minister Stefanson
stated that for the first time since the 1950s, payment was going to be made to
reduce the provincial debt, as $75 million was earmarked for repayment of the
accumulated provincial debt. He also noted that major taxes had not been
increased in Manitoba for the last decade, that Manitoba had the second lowest
rate of unemployment in the country, and that there were 20,800 more jobs in
Manitoba than one year earlier.
In speaking to the budget motion, Gary Doer, Leader
of the Official Opposition, moved a non-confidence amendment, contending that
the budget withheld needed investments for health, education, children and
aboriginal people while increasing tax breaks and business subsidies. Mr. Doer
further argued that the government was using the sale of public assets to
advance the government's political interest. Kevin Lamoureux moved a
subamendment, highlighting concerns with health care, freezes to the level of
funding for public education, and funding shortfalls to post-secondary
education. The sub-amendment and the non-confidence amendment were negatived on
March 25, with the budget motion achieving passage on the same day.
Following adoption of the budget, the Legislative
Assembly spent 2 days considering Bill No. 10 -The Interim Appropriation Act,
1997. The Bill provided for the expenditure of 1.69 billion dollars, the amount
of funds required to keep government departments operational until departmental
expenditures are approved by the estimates process. The Bill received Royal
Assent on March 27, 1997. Following Royal Assent, the Assembly agreed to an
adjournment until April 7, 1997.
When the Legislature resumed sitting the estimates
process began. Manitoba's rules provide for 240 hours for the consideration of
the estimates of the various government departments, with the Committee of
Supply sitting in two separate sections simultaneously, to accomplish this
scrutiny. The consideration of departmental estimates has been the main focus
of the session so far.
The flooding situation in Manitoba has had an impact
on the sittings of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. By agreement of the
House, the usual Monday night and Friday morning sittings have not been held,
in order to allow MLAs -to be in their constituencies during this critical
time. In addition, Private Members' Business has been temporarily waived, as
have the provisions for quorum requirements and the number of MLAs required to
request recorded votes, with all such votes to be deferred until a time agreed
upon by the House Leaders. These provisions are in effect on a week by week
basis until the flooding situation improves.
To date, the government has introduced 33 Bills.
Given that the provisional rules expired on November 30, 1996, Manitoba has
reverted to its old rules, meaning that there is no longer a sessional
calendar, nor is there a requirement for government legislation. to be
introduced by a certain date. In addition, speaking times in debate revert to
40 minutes from 30 minutes, and the House once again has sittings on Monday
nights and Friday mornings. Members' Statements no longer exsist, and Speaker's
rulings on emergency debates (MUPIs) are subject to challenge once again.
Brian Pallister resigned his seat on April 28, 1997,
in order to run as a candidate for the Progressive Conservatives in the federal
election. Mr. Pallister had first been elected to the Manitoba Legislative
Assembly during a by-election in September 1992, and had been re-elected during
the general election of 1995. From May 9, 1995 to January 1997, he served as
Minister of Government Services.
Upon resumption of proceedings on March 11, 1997, the
National Assembly carried a motion for the adoption of amendments to its Rules
These amendments aim first of all to modify the
schedule of the Assembly so that, during regular hours of meeting, the Assembly
and the Committees no longer sit in the evening. Consequently, the Assembly now
meets from Tuesday to Thursday from 10:00 o'clock a.m. to 6:00 o'clock p.m.,
the proceedings being suspended from 12:00 o'clock noon until 2:00 o'clock p.m.
In contrast with the previous stipulations, the hours of meeting are the same
for each sitting day of the Assembly. Furthermore, on motion by the Government
House Leader, the Assembly may also resolve to meet on a Monday from 2:00
o'clock p.m. to 6:00 o'clock p.m., as well as to continue sitting at 8:00
o'clock p.m. for the purpose of hearing the Budget Speech or a supplementary
statement with respect to the Budget.
The parliamentary committees, on the other hand, may
meet, during the regular hours of sitting, Mondays from 2:00 o'clock p.m. to
6:00 o'clock p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 o'clock a.m. to
6:00 o'clock p.m., with a suspension from 12:00 o'clock noon to 2:00 o'clock
p.m., and Fridays from 9:00 o'clock a.m. to 12:00 o'clock noon.
The rearrangement of the Assembly schedule also
affects the extended hours of meeting, which shall henceforth take place over a
period of four weeks rather than three, beginning on May 25 and ending on June
23. Nevertheless, during this period, sittings may not go beyond midnight. In
principle, the Assembly would meet four days a week, from Tuesday to Friday,
starting at 10.00 o'clock a.m., and there would be two suspensions during a
given sitting: the first from 1.00 o'clock p.m. to 3.00 o'clock p.m. and the
second from 6.00 o'clock p.m. to 8.00 o'clock p.m. The Assembly could also, on
motion by the Government House Leader moved during the stage of Routine
Proceedings providing for Motions Without Notice, decide to meet on Mondays
according to the same schedule.
Further to the implementation of this new schedule,
during regular hours of meeting, the Assembly shall take Routine Proceedings at
2.00 o'clock p.m. and, during extended hours of meeting, it shall continue to
do so at 10.00 o'clock a. m.
The debates with respect to Business Standing in the
Name of Members in Opposition are equally displaced from Wednesday afternoon,
after Routine Proceedings, to Wednesday morning from 10.00 o'clock a.m. to
12.00 o'clock noon. This now fixes the amount of time allotted for these
discussions, which was previously difficult to determine, due to the varying
length of time taken for Routine Proceedings.
Still within the framework of the parliamentary
reform, the Assembly also adopted, last April 10, amendments to the Rules for
the Conduct of Proceedings in Committees.
The primary aim of these amendments is to create a
new parliamentary committee, the Committee on Public Administration. This
committee is chaired by a Member of the Official Opposition and consists of
permanent members appointed by the Committee on the National Assembly, as well
as of temporary members designated by the whips Df their respective
parliamentary groups and who may serve on the committee for a single meeting or
throughout the proceedings with respect to some particular matter. This constitutes
a new practice.
Although the current Standing Orders already provide
for the temporary replacement of a member in he aforementioned situations,
eight temporary members are now per;nanently appointed to this specific
committee, which shall henceforth exercise certain functions that had formerly
been under the jurisdiction of the other Standing Committees with regard to the
examination of the financial commitments of the various ministries. It shall
also hear the Auditor General each year on his annual report, as well as the
persons who come under the Act respecting the accountability of deputy
ministers and chief executive officers of public in order to discl:.ss their
administrative management and, if need be, such other administrative matters
falling within the terms of reference of these ministries or agencies as shall
have been noted in a report rom the Aud:.tor General or the Public Protector.
Due to the establishment of this new committee, the
Committee on the Budget and AdIrLinistration shall now be referred to as the
Committee on Public Finance.
Furthermore, the Committee on Planning and
Infrastr-actures has been replaced by two new committees, namely the Committee
on Planning and the Public Domain and the Committee of Transportation and the
Environment. The Assembly now has a tota1 of eleven committees, as compared to
The terms of reference of certain committees have
also been redistributed. The Committee on Institutions now has the duty to
hear, on an annual basis, the Director General of Elections and the Public
Protector, bodies which are under the direct authority of the National
The amendments also change the membership of the
committees, which now consist of not more than ten permanent members, whereas
in the former Standing Orders, this was the minimum number of members allowed.
However, if an independent Member wishes to become a member of a particular
committee, the number of members of this committee is increased to twelve.
These provisional amendments to both the Standing
Orders and the Rules for the Conduct of Proceedings in Committees are in effect
until 22 October 1997.
Budget Speech and Legislation
The traditional twenty-five-hour debate on the Budget
Speech was among the more noteworthy events of the parliamentary session
currently underway. It was delivered by Finance Minister Bemard Landry last 25
March, just a week after the tabling of the Estimates of Expenditure for the
1997-98 fiscal year.
The projections announced at that time by the
Minister indicate an expenditure budget of $39.7 billion, $5.9 billion of which
shall be taken up by the debt service. The Government thus foresees achieving
its goal of reducing the deficit, which would decrease by $1 billion in
comparison with this year, to reach S2.2 billion at the end of the current
fiscal year, pursuant to the objectives of the Act respecting the elimination
of the deficit and a balanced budget which was passed last year.
All Government sectors are asked to participate in
the effort to reduce expenses. The initial plan calls for a reduction in labour
costs totalling $831 million, which should be obtained thanks to the
implementation of a voluntary departure programme that would allow for the
retirement of 15,000 unionized public sector workers.
In order to follow up on this intention, during the
course of an extraordinary sitting held on Friday, 21 March 1997, the
Government House Leader moved a motion to suspend certain rules of procedure in
order to pass a bill respecting the reduction of labour costs in the public
sector and implementing the agreements reached between the Government and the
unions for that purpose.
In the course of the ensuing debate, the Official
Opposition House Leader raised a point of order in which he indicated that,
contrary to the provisions of Standing Order 184, the bill in question had not
been distributed when the motion to suspend certain rules of procedure was
moved. He added that the accords referred to in the bill, as well as the
collective agreements that it modified should also be a part of this
In his decision, Mr. Speaker stated that the bill
should indeed have been distributed when the motion to suspend certain rules of
procedure was moved. He nonetheless specified that Standing Order 184 required
only the distribution of the bill itself and that there was no obligation to
also distribute the documents mentioned in the text or in the headings of this
bill. Accordingly, in compliance with this ruling, the motion to suspend
certain rules of procedure had to again be :moved.
The Official Opposition House Leader then raised a
second point of order in which he indicated that the explanatory notes of the
bill contained arguments and recitals, which is contrary to Standing Order 233.
Mr. Speaker stated in his ruling that a section of
the explanatory notes did indeed constitute recitals and that, consequently,
this portion would have to be withdrawn. He added that explanatory notes
consistent with his ruling would have to be distributed as soon as possible,
and, in any event, before the introduction of the bill.
On April 15, 1997, with the unanimous consent of the
Members present, the National Assembly carried a motion requesting that the
Federal Parliament amend the Constitution in order to promote the establishment
of linguistic school boards in lieu of denominational school boards. An
amendment to the preamble of this motion was moved by the Official Opposition,
and aimed to reaffirm the rights of the English-speaking community of Quebec in
matters of education, as well as the management and control of English language
educational facilities which are financed through public funds. The proposed
amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867, stipulates that paragraphs (1) to (4)
of section 93 do not apply to Quebec, a modification which would remove
Quebec's obligation to maintain catholic and protestant school structures in
addition to linguistic school boards.
Regarding political events, the seat left vacant by
the death, in December 1996, of the Member for Beauce-Sud has been filled by
Diane Leblanc, the Liberal F'arty candidate returned in the by-elections held
on 28 April last. In the Electoral Division of Prevost, Luc;ie Papineau was
elected under the banner of the Parti Quebecois.
A short time before these new Members took their
places in the National Assembly, the Members from the Government group were
saddened by the sudden demise, on 23 April, of their colleague from Duplessis,
Denis Perron. Mr. Perron, who was elected in 1976 and faithfully reelected
since then, represented a riding located in Northern Quebec whose expansive
territory put great demands on the elected representative.
Also, following the annulation of the election held
on September 12, 1994 in Bertrand this seat, which was filled by Liberal Robert
Thérien, is henceforth vacant. Two other Members of the Liberal Party, France
Dionne and Yvon Charbonneau, from the ridings of Kamouraska-Temiscouata and of
Bourassa, have also resigned in order to run for office in the June 2, 1997
The political parties at the National Assembly stand
as follows: 74 Members of the Parti Quebecois; 44 Members of the Quebec Liberal
Party; 3 Independent Members (one of which is of the Action democratique du
Quebec party), and 4 vacant seats.
Secretariat of the Assembly
Translated by Sylvia Ford
The Legislative Assembly witnessed some significant
changes over the last three months: the introduction of two budgets, the
dissolution of the House and subsequent re-election of the Progressive
Conservative government, the re-emergence of the New Democratic Party as a
third party in the House, the election of a new Speaker, and the introduction
of several new Bills.
5th Session of the 23rd Legislature
The two day long 5th Session of the 23rd Legislature
began on February 10 with the Speech from the Throne given by the Lieutenant
Governor, H. A. (Bud) Olsen. The following day, Provincial Treasurer Jim
Dinning introduced a budget forecasting a surplus of at least $144 million in
1997-1998, and estimating that the debt pay-down could be over $800 million in
the same period, depending on fluctuations in energy prices and corporate
income tax. As a result of the Balanced Budget and Debt Retirement Act passed
in 1995, any year-end surplus must be applied to reduce the province's net
debt, which was estimated to be $3.5 billion at the end of the fiscal year. The
Budget called for spending increases of $128 million for the Department of
Health, $91 million for the Department of Education, and $68 million for the
Department of Advanced Education and Career Development. After the Budget
Speech, Premier Klein stated to the Assembly that he had requested that the
Lieutenant Governor dissolve the Legislature, and announced that a provincial
election would be held March 11. The government later stated that, pending an
election victory, it would re-introduce the budget in substantially the same
At dissolution, the Progressive Conservatives held 54
of 83 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberal Opposition, led by Grant
Mitchell, held 29 seats. (Election results in vol. 20, no. 1 of the Canadian
Parliamentary Review). The election resulted in a gain of 9 seats for the
Progressive Conservatives for a total of 63 seats. The Liberals lost 11 seats
giving them 18 seats in total, while the New Democrats, without representation
in the Assembly since the 1993 provincial election, won 2 seats. The New
Democrat win saw the return to the Assembly of Pam Barrett, MLA for
EdmontonHighlands between 1986 and 1993, and party leader since September 1996.
The Progressive Conservative campaign focussed
largely on the Government's record ~md in particular, the elimination of the
deficit. A recurrent theme was that they had kept their promises. The Liberals
and New Democrats focussed on the quality of the health-care system. One issue
that emerged at the start of the campaign concerned Video Lottery Terminals
(VLT's). Some municipalities were holding or considering plebiscites on VLT's.
Under the Municipal Government Act, residents can petition their municipal
council to hold a plebiscite. The Liberals favoured an outright ban of the
machines. The Progressive Conservatives opposed a province-wide plebiscite but
indicated that they would respect the votes of the municipalities.
An interesting result of the election was the
domination of Edmonton ridings by the opposition parties. Of 19 ridings in the
City of Edmonton, 15 were won by the Liberals, 2 by the New Democrats, and 2 by
the Progressive Conservatives. Conversely, the Liberals won only 3 seats in the
rest of the province; one just outside the City of Edmonton, one in Calgary,
and one in Lethbridge. Also noteworthy is the increase in female representation
in the Assembly. Prior to March 11, women comprised 20.5% of all Members. There
were 22 women elected on March 11 accounting for 26% of the seats in the
1st Session of the 24th :Legislature
On April 14, the 24th Session began with the election
of Ken Kowalski as Speaker. Mr. Kow alski is the 11th Speaker of the
Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and the second to be elected by secret ballot.
Other presiding officers also e .ected by secret ballot were Don Tannas, Deputy
Speaker and Chairman of Committees, and Judy Gordon, Deputy Chairman of
On April 21 the new Provincial Treasurer, Stockwell
Day, presented the government's post-election budget in the Assembly. The
budget forecast a surplus of $154 million, which could run as high as $750
million depending on energy prices and corporate taxes. The post-election
budget revised the estimate for the price of oil from $19 U.S. per barrel to
$18.50 U.S. per barrel. The net debt is projected to stand at S3.5 billion at
the end of 1997-1998 and at $2.58 billion at the end of 1999-2000. The goal of
the government is to eliminate the net debt by 2005-2006, the 100th anniversary
of the creation of the province. The budget gave priority to the areas of
education and health, which account for 63% of provincial spending, with health
care being allocated an additional $20 million on top of the increase announced
in the February budget.
On March 26 Premier Klein announced his new 19 member
Cabinet. As noted Mr. Day, formerly Minister of Family and Social Services as
well as Government House Leader, is the Provincial Treasurer. Patricia Black,
the former Minister of Energy, is the Minister of Economic Development and
Tourism. Steve West, former Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, is
now Minister of Energy. Walter Paszkowski, former Minister of Agriculture, Food
and Rural Development, is Minister of Transportation and Utilities.
Returning Members maintaining their previous
portfolios include: Shirley McClellan, Minister of Community Development;
Halvar Jonson, Minister of Health; Ty Lund, Minister of Environmental
Protection; Gary Mar, Minister of Education; Murray Smith, Minister of Labour;
Stan Woloshyn is Minister of Public Works, Supply and Services; and Pearl
Calahasen, Minister without Portfolio responsible for Children's Services.
New to Cabinet are the following returning Members:
Jon Havelock, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Government House
Leader; Ed Stelmach, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development; Clint
Dunford, Minister of Advanced Education and Career Development; Dr. Lyle Oberg,
Minister of Family and Social Services; and Lorne Taylor, Minister of Science,
Research and Information and Technology. Two new Edmonton area MLA's have been
appointed to the Cabinet: Iris Evans as Minister of Municipal Affairs, and
David Hancock as Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs.
At the same time he introduced his new Cabinet, the
Premier announced the formation of two new standing policy committees, one on
jobs and the economy, and the other Dn education and training. The purpose of
the Standing Policy Committee on Jobs and Economy is to review and make
recommendations on policies, programs, and legislation, and to hear public
submissions relating to the economy, natural and energy resources, and research
and technology. The mandate of the Standing Policy Committee on Education and
Training is to review and snake recommendations on policies, programs, and
legislation, and to hear public submissions relating to education, advanced
education, and career training. The standing policy committees are bodies
appointed by the Government to address issues in certain areas with the aim of
assisting the Government in setting policy and are not committees of the
Assembly. These two additional committees bring the total number of standing
policy committees to seven.
At the time of writing, not all of the Government's
legislation has been introduced. Among the Government bills introduced are: the
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, which extends
the provisions of the Act to all public educational institutions, health
authorities, and municipalities, and rescinds the provisions applicable to
The Meat Inspection Amendment Act reduces the broad
powers of provincial meat inspectors who can currently, without warrant, enter
any premises or building and inspect any animal or meat present. The amendment
requires that an inspector now obtain a warrant to enter a private dwelling in
which it is believed that the processing or storage of meat is taking place.
The Election Amendment Act repeals the prohibition on
political parties, political candidates, or other persons from advertising on
any broadcasting facility on the day preceding an election and the day of an
election. This Bill brings Alberta legislation into line with a 1996 ruling by
the Alberta Court of Appeal which struck down a ban contained in the federal
Election Act on political advertising in the days leading up to an election.
Robert H. Reynolds
The pace of legislative business picked up during
March feeding speculation that the Government was preparing for an early election.
In April, the pace became an all out sprint. In the ten sitting days between
the return from the Easter adjournment April 8 and the final day of sitting
April 25, seventeen bills were introduced from the House of Commons. Of these,
all but two were speedily adopted and passed. Most of these bills were not
particularly controversial; they were debated briefly at second reading and
were quickly reported from committee without amendment. Among the legislative
measures that were adopted in these last weeks were bills on bankruptcy,
criminal code amendments including criminal organizations, and financial
institutions. On what proved to be the final sitting day of the 35th
Parliament, April 25, twenty two bills received Royal Assent.
Perhaps the most newsworthy bill debated in the
Senate this spring was Bill C-71, dealing with the promotion and sale of
tobacco products. Despite the fact that there was little dispute about the need
to regulate the sale of cigarettes, especially to minors, there was some question
about the restrictions imposed on sponsorship by the tobacco manufacturers of
cultural and sporting events. After two days of debate at second reading, the
bill was referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for
clause-by-clause examination. In what is likely to become a regular feature of
Senate committee activity in the new Parliament, a good portion of the
committee's deliberations were televised on CPAC. In fact, during the first
week of hearings, the broadcast was live. In all, the Committee heard more than
sixty witnesses including different spokesmen from the tobacco industry as well
as representatives from the medical proEession and anti-tobacco groups.
Different opinions were expressed about the constitutionality of the limits imposed
by the bill on adverasing of tobacco products.
Debate on third reading of the bill began the day the
bill was reported .rom the Committee without amendment, April 15. With leave,
debate on third reading began later he same day. Numerous amendments were moved
including one proposed by Senator Colin Kenny and seconded by Senator Finlay
MacDonald that sought to establish funding for the purpose of supporting
educational programs to keep young people from smoking and to provide limited
financial support for tobacco sponsored cultural and sporting events through a
transitional period. This amendment plus the others proposed by Senator John
Lynch-Staunton, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, and
Senator Stanley Haidasz were all defeated when they were put to a recorded
division on April 16. The unamended bill then passed third reading by a vote of
75 to 1, with 2 abstentions.
Another contentious bill debated during this period
was Bill C-29 which sought to prohibit the use of a manganese-based additive to
gasoline. The bill had been referred to the Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources late in 1996 a few days after it had been
introduced from the House of Commons. It was reported without amendment by the
Committee four months later on March 4, immediately after the Committee had
presented an interim report on the use of this fuel additive. the Government
had agreed to the unusual motion to have the Committee prepare an interim
report as a means to expedite consideration or the bill at second reading, but
it did not accept the Opposition's contention that the interim report had tc be
debated and voted on before proceeding to third reading of the bill. This
dispute ber:me the object of a point of order raised by Senator Noel Kinsella
on March 4.
The Speaker, Senator Gildas Molgat, ruled on the
matter the next day, March 5. Despite the arguments made urging the Speaker to
look into the intent of the motion for the interim report, the Speaker ruled
that there was no explicit indication in the motion to debate this report
before the third reading of Bill C-29. Consequently, it was for the Senate to
decide when these two items should be debated and not the Speaker. This ruling
was appealed and was sustained by a vote of 34 to 22. As it happened, however,
the Senate did in fact adopt the interim report before giving third reading on
Bill C-29. The interim. report was adopted on March 20, while the bill itself
received third reading April 9.
Another bill worthy of note was Bill C-32, amending
the Copyright Act. The bill arrived iit the Senate March 20 and was debated at
second reading over two days, April 8 and 10. In his remarks, Senator Philippe
Gigantes, who sponsored the bill, noted that the bill created an improved
structure of fair compensation supporting authors and artists without
jeopardizi-ig cultural enterprises. The bill, he said, also addressed the
complex: matter of copyright relating to new technologies including the
information highway. On April 21, after less than two weeks, the bill was
returned by the Transport and Communications Committee without amendment. At
third reading, however, Senator Kinsella objected to the haste in which the
bill was being considered. He did not find its complex provisions to be either
balanced or equitable. To make his point, he proposed a series of amendments,
but they were all defeated on division and the bill passed third reading
without amendment on April 24.
Amidst all the legislative activity, the Senate
managed to provide more evidence of its continuing interest in minority rights
issues when it debated a resolution supporting the Montfort Hospital, a
French-language teaching hospital in Ottawa, which is threatened by closure by
the Ontario provincial government. Debate was initiated by a motion proposed by
Senator jean-Maurice Simard. Over the course of two days, more than ten
Senators spoke in support of the hospital and urged that the federal and
provincial governments "work together to find a just and generous solution
which will ensure that the Montfort Hospital may continue to serve its local
minority language community and minority French language communities outside
With a heavy legislative workload, most Senate
committees were prevented from dealing with anything but bills. There was one
notable exception, but it proved short lived. In February, Senator Lowell
Murray had moved a motion to establish a special committee to examine the
activities of the now disbanded Airborne Regiment in Somalia. The purpose of
the motion was to allow the Senate to investigate aspects of the incident that
would not be reviewed by the Royal Commission. On March 20, Senator Murray
withdrew his motion in order to make way for a similar motion sponsored by
Senator Joyce Fairbairn, the Leader of the Government which was quickly
The first meeting of the Committee under the
chairmanship of Senator William Rompkey took place April 17. Relations between
the Government and Opposition members broke down in a dispute about the
Government's plans to schedule witnesses the following week rather than proceed
as the Opposition wanted to engage legal staff to assess the documentation
which had been received by the Committee. Although nothing came of the
Committee before the dissolution of Parliament, both sides indicated a
readiness to re-establish the Committee in the new Parliament.
Not for the first time, the hurried consideration of
legislation in the closing days of Parliament prompted some comments and
objections. Some committees were obliged to meet almost constantly in order to
meet the Government's pressing deadlines. Senator Michael Kirby, the Cha:irman
of the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee, noted the frustration of Senators
in being asked to examine important legislation without allowing for sufficient
time to do the job properly. In remarks he made to the Senate April 25, he put
on record the reluctance of his Committee to act as some kind of rubber stamp
to legislation which has come to the Senate at the last minute because of the
inability of the House of Commons to manage its affairs better. He warned that
the Government should be cautious in taking the cooperation of the Senate for
granted in the review of legislation which is too important to rush through
On March 12, tributes were offered to Senator Maurice
Riel who was scheduled to leave the Senate on April 3, during this Easter
adjournment, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. Appointed to
the Senate in 1973, the Senator had played an active role in the Red Chamber
and even served as its Speaker for a time. Additional acknowledgments were made
the last day of the Parliament to three other Senators who were to retire
during the summer months. The first to retire was Senator Joseph Landry of New
Brunswick who turned seventy-five June 19. He was followed several days later
by Guy Charbonneau of Quebec, who served as Speaker of the Senate from 1984 to
1993, the longest term ever served in the position. Finally, Doris Anderson of
Prince Edward Island was obliged to leave the Senate July 5 when she too
reached the mandatory age of retirement.
Deputy Principal Clerk
Table Research and Journals