| British Columbia
| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
The Fifth Session of the
Thirteenth Legislative Assembly reconvened on January 21 for the start of the 1998-99
In releasing what has been
called the final budget for the Government of the Northwest Territories on
January 22, Finance Minister John Todd spoke of opportunities, Division,
a $2 million surplus, and forging a future filled with promise. “It (the
budget) is both responsible and compassionate – striking the right balance
between responding to needs and seizing opportunities,” Mr. Todd told Members
of the Legislative Assembly in his Budget Address.
He said the Government has
worked hard to balance its budget and that he expects a small surplus from the
1997-98 fiscal year. That surplus will be used to bring down the accumulated
deficit of $41 million (at the end of 1996-97).
In presenting the Government’s
blueprint for spending, Mr. Todd announced several new programs and initiatives
aimed at ensuring that the two new territories created by Division on April 1,
1999 get off on a secure financial footing. One of the new initiatives
announced in the budget is implementation of the Public-Private Partnerships
program. This program has the potential to increase the Government’s annual
$140 million investment in public infrastructure by up to $100 million in each
of the next two years.
Mr. Todd also announced the
government’s intention to apply an additional $40-$50 million over the next two
years under the Accelerated Home Ownership Program Delivery to help address the
North’s housing shortage. He also announced plans to introduce the Northwest
Territories Investment Tax Credit. This credit is intended to encourage the
private sector to market shares of NWT businesses to northern taxpayers and
encourage northern investors to purchase shares in up-and-coming northern
However, the budget did not just
focus on developing and stabilizing the economy. It also put new dollars into
social programs. Mr. Todd introduced the NWT Child Benefit aimed at putting
more money into the hands of low income families.
The Government intends to enhance
the Income Support Food Allowance by making $1 million available to adjust the
rates paid for food allowances within the Income Support program. Mr. Todd
reminded Members that Division is little more than a year away and said the
budget “will create the foundation on which to build two viable, financially
Within days of the budget’s
release, Members began their department by department review of the Main
Estimates. The review is expected to continue through the end of February.
Prior to the Budget session,
Members held a special one sitting on December 2, 1997 to discuss national
unity and in particular the Report of the Special Committee on National Unity.
The House unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Calgary Framework
Agreement with special attention to Northern and aboriginal issues. The Special
Committee on National Unity co-ordinated the process for consulting with
Northerners that included questionnaires, constituency meetings, an interactive
Web Site and electronic responses.
Committees spent much of
November and the first part of December reviewing draft departmental budgets
and business plans prior to their presentation in the Legislative Assembly as
part of the 1998-99 Budget Address and Main Estimates review process. The
Standing Committee on Government Operations also held public hearings on Bill
1: Power Corporation Act and Bill 2: An Act to Amend the Public
Utilities Act. Both Bills deal with plans for the Northwest Territories
Power Corporation following division of the NWT. The Bills propose a
corporation that is shared by the new Nunavut and Western Territory
governments. Another round of hearings is planned before the Committee
will be reporting back to the House.
Progress towards the creation of
two new territories continues with many decisions left to be made. However, the
groundwork for both new jurisdictions is starting to be laid. In Nunavut,
leaders met in Iqaluit in January and agreed that the first Nunavut Legislative
Assembly will have 19 Members based on single-member constituencies. The Office
of the Interim Commissioner has recently selected the new deputy ministers and
a Clerk of the Legislative Assembly for the new Territory that should
facilitate the advance work necessary to have a new bureaucracy in place by
April 1, 1999.
Western MLAs have also reached
agreement on the number of Members to be elected in 1999. Residents in the
western Territory will elect 14 Members in October, 1999. Current MLAs will
continue in office until their current term expires in the fall of 1999.
Members of the Constitutional Working Group continue with their work towards
drafting a new constitution for the new Western Territory. A second round of
public consultations is expected to begin in March and leaders hope to have a
ratified constitution that can be sent to the Federal Government for their
Public Relations Officer
The Fourth Session of the 36th
Legislature commenced on Thursday, November 27, 1997, with the reading of the
Speech from the Throne by the Lieutenant Governor, Yvon Dumont.
Mr. Dumont is in the final year of his term as Lieutenant
Governor, and this is likely the last time he will be opening a legislative
session in Manitoba.
In the Speech, the Government
paid tribute to the many Manitobans who worked so hard to combat the severe
spring flooding. In addition, the Government indicated plans to:
- propose a strengthening of the national equalization
- propose measures to strengthen federal support to
health, education and training and family programs;
- reinvest funds expected to be freed up as a result of
the introduction of the National Child Benefit;
- support principles to avoid discriminatory federal tax
and expenditure policies;
- and support the development of a new long-term national
Other initiatives targeted in
the Throne Speech included: proposed changes to the City of Winnipeg Act;
the introduction of an Employment Standards Code to consolidate the
existing Employment Standards Act, The Payment of Wages Act and The
Vacations With Pay Act, and also changes to The Elections Act and The
Elections Finances Act.
Specific areas of concern raised
in the Throne Speech also included educational and employment concerns for
Aboriginal Youth, debt load problems for post-secondary students, funding for
the implementation of recommendations to deal with domestic violence, and
recommended changes to the Young Offenders Act.
During the eight day Throne
Speech debate, Opposition Leader Gary Doer moved a motion of
non-confidence in the government, which contended that the government failed to
meet the needs of Manitobans by:
- failing to provide adequate and timely compensation to
Manitobans who were driven from their homes by the Red River flood;
- failing to respect the rights of Manitobans victimized
- forcing Manitobans to bear the costs of privatizing the
Manitoba Telephone System,
- failing to respond to Manitoban’s frustrations over the
lengthy waiting lists for medical procedures and surgeries,
- failing to implement key recommendations of the Pedlar
- failing to implement the key recommendations of its own
report on the Health of Manitoba Children,
- failing to prepare Manitoba youth for the 21st Century
by committing to stable funding for the public school system,
- failing to support the Canadian Wheat Board as a single
desk seller, and
- failing to implement the recommendations of the
Aboriginal Justice Inquiry while cutting funding to Friendship centres and
to the ACCESS and BUNTEP programs.
The motion of non-confidence was
negatived on a recorded division on December 8, while the motion for An Address
in Reply was agreed to on a recorded division on December 9.
In addition to consideration of
the Throne Speech Debate, 18 pieces of government legislation were introduced
and given First Reading, and also had Second Reading commenced, while one
Private Member’s Bill was introduced and had First Reading agreed to. The
Assembly concluded sitting on December 11, but prior to rising agreed by
unanimous consent that the Assembly would not sit during the period March 30,
1998 to April 3, 1998, and further agreed that consideration and passage of the
Interim Supply Bill would take place prior to the adjournment of the House on
Thursday, March 26, 1998.
Unity Task Force
The Manitoba Legislative Task
Force on Canadian Unity held hearings in a number of Manitoba communities in
January, including Pine Falls, Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Brandon,
Dauphin, Norway House, Thompson and The Pas. The All Party Task Force,
chaired by Professor Wally Fox-Decent, heard from a number of
presenters, and received replies to a questionnaire from 13,000 Manitobans,
nearly 80% of whom supported the endorsement of the framework agreed to in
Calgary by a majority of the Provincial and Territorial Leaders. The Task
Force is now drafting a report, which is expected to be released in March.
The proceedings of the National
Assembly's autumn session ended on 19 December 1997, following the passage of
38 public bills and 8 private bills. They included:
- A bill amending the Quebec Pension Plan to establish
new rates of contribution which will increase gradually until the year
- A bill amending the Act Respecting Labour Standards
to prohibit work from being carried out by employees under the age of 16
between the hours of 11.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m., with the exception of
- A bill amending the Courts of Justice Act to
reduce to not more than 270 the number of judges at the Court of Quebec.
- A bill that establishes a mandatory process that is to
precede the fixing of the remuneration of the said judges.
- A bill to amend the Act respecting the Caisse de
dépôt et placement du Québec so as to eliminate restrictions on the
Fund's acquisition power and on its investment power. It also allows the
Fund to form subsidiaries to engage in new activities and permits the
appointment to the Fund's board of directors of two persons who do not
reside in Québec.
- A bill to amend the General and Vocational Colleges
Act by establishing obligatory tuition fee for students who are not
Quebec residents enrolled in programs leading to a college degree.
- A bill to amend the Act respecting financial
assistance for students by providing, among other things, for the
repayment by the Minister of Education of a portion of the loan if the
borrower completes a program of studies within the time prescribed and
obtains official certification thereof.
- A bill creating a new government department for the
regions – the Ministère des Régions. It provides for the
accreditation of local development centres and regional development
councils and establishes a regional development fund.
- Two other bills abolished the Quebec Sports Safety
Board, the Quebec Highway Authority, the Committee on Music Studies, the
Committee on Drama Studies, the Timber Scalers Examination Board, the
Pipefitters Examination Board, the Electricians Examination Board, the
Telecommunications Board, the House of Science and Technology Corporation,
the Quebec Transport Corporation, and the Transport Research and
The amendments to the Standing
Orders that were tabled in the Assembly last spring and which were again
carried by the Assembly upon the resumption of proceedings in October 1997 were
extended until 11 March 1998. Furthermore, the Speaker tabled two documents
containing his proposals for parliamentary reform. The subjects reviewed in
these documents concern the election of the Speaker and of the Deputy Speakers,
the procedure for accelerated passage of bills and motions, petitions, oral
questions with debate and the presence of witnesses in parliamentary committee.
With regard to the Standing
Orders of the National Assembly, the objective is to have both the French and
English versions available on our Internet site by the time the Assembly
resumes its proceedings in March.
In November 1997, the Minister
of Relations with Citizens and Immigration asked the Speaker to render a
decision on whether freedom of speech privilege allows a Member, while
delivering an address in the Assembly, to disclose personal information, in any
form - during a speech or when quoting, tabling or displaying a document.
In a decision issued on 13
November 1997, the Speaker stated that the privilege of freedom of speech is
the least disputed as well as the most fundamental of a Member's rights,
whether in the Assembly or in Committee. This constitutional privilege applies
not only to the speech delivered by a Member, but also to any other act that he
may accomplish in the performance of his parliamentary duties, including the
tabling of documents. Though important, this privilege may however be limited
by the rules for parliamentary debates.
No rule of parliamentary
procedure specifically provides for the respect of the right to privacy,
although this right is protected by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
and by various other statutes. However, these statutes cannot have
precedence over the constitutional right of freedom of speech. In any case, the
Speaker does not have the authority to interpret statutes, save and excepting
those containing rules of parliamentary procedure.
Although from a legal point of view
Members are granted considerable immunity in the performance of their
parliamentary duties, the Chair formally requested that all Members consider
the fundamental rights of individuals when tabling a document or acting within
the framework of parliamentary debates.
On November 18, Cancom,
Vidéotron and the Quebec National Assembly signed a memorandum of agreement
establishing the Parliamentary and Institutional Affairs Network. This new
network, which shall begin broadcasting on 1 October 1998 - subject to the
approval of the CRTC and to the ratification of a final agreement - aims to
promote, throughout North America and the West Indies, the democratic
institutions of Quebec. Its purpose is to allow other countries to become
better acquainted with the National Assembly, its origins, its history and its
functioning, and to understand the duties of its 125 Members and the role that
they play in the democratic process.
In addition to the proceedings
of the National Assembly and committees, the new network will also broadcast
the official and protocolary events of the Assembly or of the Government and
public interest events such as conventions, seminars, forums, press
conferences, Government agency hearings or communiques intended for Members'
constituents. Finally, it should be noted that the programme schedule and
broadcasting shall be provided by the National Assembly.
On December 9, 1997, the Speaker
announced that the National Assembly will be hosting the annual assembly of the
Council of State Governments (CSG) from December 2-9, 1999. This will be the
first time that the CSG holds a meeting outside of the United States.
The Liberal Member for the
riding of Argenteuil, Régent L. Beaudet, resigned on December 18.
Following his departure, the standings in the National Assembly are as follows:
75 Members of the Parti Québécois; 6 Members of the Québec Liberal Party; 3
Independent Members (1 Member of which is from the Action démocratique du
Québec Party); 1 vacant seat.
On February 17, 1998, Prime
Minister Lucien Bouchard requested that the Speaker take the necessary
measures for the National Assembly to meet as a matter of urgency and thus hold
extraordinary sittings beginning at 10.00 o'clock a.m., on Wednesday, 18
February 1998, in order to introduce and pass a bill with respect to the
reduction in manpower costs in the municipal sector. The summoning was
cancelled in the hour preceding the scheduled time for proceedings to begin on
Wednesday morning, the Prime Minister having determined that there no longer
was an element of urgency regarding this matter since several agreements had
been reached in various municipalities throughout Quebec, especially in the
Secretariat of the
Assembly Translation by Sylvia Ford
Traditionally, the fall session
brings about a period of intense parliamentary activity. The months of November
and December were no exception, though there were variations with respect to
the orders undertaken by the Committees. Legislative business, which is usually
most significant at this time, was not as abundant, since only some thirty
bills, including private bills, were given consideration. Several among these,
however, required the holding of special consultations. The ice storm which
swept down on many Quebec regions obliged the postponement of most of the
parliamentary activities scheduled for the month of January.
Pursuant to the Act
Respecting the Accountability of Deputy Ministers and Chief Executive Officers
of Public Bodies, the Committee on Public Administration heard several
deputy ministers and chief executive officers of public bodies. This led to the
tabling in the Assembly of a report on the conclusions and recommendations
following the hearing of deputy ministers and chief executive officers of
public bodies with regard to their administrative management. The Committee
made several recommendations, more specifically with respect to internal
auditing in the Quebec Government. This Committee also held eight sittings for
the purpose of examining financial commitments.
The Committee on Culture
concluded its general consultation on the five-year report of the Access to
Information Commission on the implementation of the Act Respecting Access to
documents held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information and
of the Act Respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private
Sector. Furthermore, it held special consultations and public hearings on
the report entitled A Large Library for Quebec, prepared by a committee
which was commissioned to examine the possibilities of establishing such a
library. Over thirty organizations were heard on the subject.
For its part, the Committee on
Transportation and the Environment examined the orientation, activities and
management of the Waste Recovery and Recycling Board, thus carrying out an
order of surveillance of public agencies. It also gave clause-by-clause
consideration to Bill 179, An Act to amend the Act Respecting the
Conservation and Development of Wildlife.
The Committee on Social Affairs
gave clause-by-clause consideration to Bill 39, An Act Respecting the
Protection of Persons Whose Mental State Presents a Danger to Themselves or to
Others. Public hearings and special consultations had been held with regard
to this bill in the spring of 1997. The Committee also studied Bill 176, An
Act to amend the Act Respecting the Ministère de la Santé et des Services
sociaux and the Act Respecting the Régie de l'assurance-maladie du
The Committee on Labour and the
Economy gave clause-by-clause consideration to Bill 149, An Act to Reform
the Quebec Pension Plan and to amend Various Legislative Provisions, as
well as to Bill 172, An Act to amend the Act Respecting Labour Standards.
The Committee on Public Finance
was particularly busy this past fall session. It gave consideration to Bill
164, An Act to amend the Act to Facilitate the Payment of Support; Bill
162, An Act to amend Various Legislative Provisions Concerning Retirement;
Bill 165, An Act to amend the Taxation Act, the Act Respecting the
Ministère du Revenu, the Act to Facilitate the Payment of Support and
the Act Respecting the Quebec Pension Plan; and Bill 168, An Act to
amend the Act Respecting the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. It
also examined Bill 161, An Act to amend the Taxation Act, the Act
Respecting the Québec Sales Tax and Other Legislative Provisions. This bill
was reported to the Assembly before its clause-by-clause consideration in
Committee had been concluded by means of a motion to suspend certain rules of
procedure moved by the Government House Leader. The bill provides for, among
other things, a 1% sales tax increase on January 1, 1998 as well as new tax
measures with respect to the income of tip employees. Furthermore, this
Committee held an interpellation on increased control regarding the underground
The Committee on Education
examined three important bills. Public hearings and special consultations were
held regarding two of these bills, namely Bill 166, An Act to amend the
General and Vocational Colleges Act and Other Legislative Provisions, and
Bill 180, An Act to amend the Education Act and various legislative
provisions. After several hours of consideration in Committee, Bill 180 was
reported to the Assembly before its clause-by-clause consideration had been
concluded following a motion moved by the Government House Leader. The
consideration of Bill 170, An Act to amend the Act Respecting Fnancial
Assistance for Students, was also underway when it too was included in the
motion by the Government House Leader to conclude the proceedings of certain
Committees. This Committee also held an interpellation on the situation
regarding financial assistance to students in Québec.
The Committee on Planning and
the Public Domain examined several bills, certain of which were preceded by
special consultations. Among these were Bill 160, An Act to amend the Act
Respecting Safety in Sports and Other Legislative Provisions, and Bill 173,
An Act to Establish the Special Local Activities Financing Fund and to amend
the Act Respecting Municipal Taxation. The latter, as was the case for
Bills 161 and 180, was reported to the Assembly before its clause-by-clause
consideration was completed. This Committee also held hearings prior to the
clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 175, An Act to amend Various
Legislative Provisions Concerning Municipal Affairs. Lastly, it gave
clause-by-clause consideration to four private bills and to two private
members' public bills.
The Committee on Institutions
gave clause-by-clause consideration to Bill 163, An Act to amend the Public
Curator Act and Other Legislative Provisions Relating to Property Under the
Provisional Administration of the Public Curator, to Bill 151, An Act to
amend the Courts of Justice Act, and to Bill 185, An Act Respecting the
Election of the First Commissioners of the New School Boards and amending
Various Legislative Provisions. This Committee also held an interpellation
on electoral reform in Quebec.
The Committee on Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food gave clause-by-clause consideration to Bill 158, An Act
to Repeal certain Acts Permitting the constitution of Legal Persons in the
Agricultural Sector and to amend Various Legislative Provisions.
Finally, the Committee on the
National Assembly held a sitting for the purpose of establishing a schedule in
view of the examination of proposals to amend the Standing Orders of the
National Assembly. The first sittings were to be held last January but had to
be postponed due to the ice storm.
Clerk of the Committee
on Planning and the Public Domain and of the Committee on Transportation and
Translation by Sylvia Ford
Secretariat of the
The 1st session of the Twenty
Fourth Legislature resumed for a brief three-day sitting on December 8, 1997 to
consider a motion concurring with the principles embodied in the Calgary
Framework. Popularly known as the Calgary Declaration, it is the agreement
reached by 9 Premiers and 2 Territorial Leaders in September 1997 which
enunciates certain principles meant to guide discussions on national unity.
After the September agreement, the government embarked upon a public
consultation process to obtain the views of Albertans. The motion introduced by
Premier Ralph Klein concurring with the principles of the Calgary
Framework noted that it was not an amendment to the Constitution as any
constitutional amendment would require the approval of Albertans in accordance
with the Constitutional Referendum Act. The motion was agreed to
unanimously on December 10.
In accordance with an agreement reached
between the three parties represented in the Assembly, unanimous consent was
given to suspend certain Standing Orders so that the "National Unity"
motion was the only matter of business before the House after the daily routine
The second session commenced on
January 27, 1998 with the reading of the Speech from the Throne by the
Lieutenant Governor, H. A. (Bud) Olson. A major theme of the Throne
Speech was reinvestment. A primary focus for reinvestment is to be education
for which it was announced that expenditures would increase 13 percent over the
next three years. Increases were also announced for health care, social
services and advanced education. It was also announced that for the next three
years, the Government will direct the first $1 billion of any annual surplus to
pay down the provincial debt, the next $250 million to one-time initiatives in
Albertans' priority areas with any remaining surplus going to pay down the
Prior to the start of session,
the Government House Leader and Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Jon
Havelock, announced 41 Bills that the Government planned to introduce
during the session.
Bill 1, Protection of
Children involved in Prostitution Act, was introduced by the Premier on the
opening day. The Bill complements the Child Welfare Act by providing
that children under the age of 18 years involved in prostitution are to be
treated as victims of sexual abuse. The Bill enables police officers to
apprehend children involved in prostitution and creates a mechanism to place
them in care. At Committee of the Whole, amendments proposed by the government
and the official opposition to the Bill were accepted. It was given Royal
Assent on February 26, 1998. Bill 2, Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act,
1998, amends the legislation in respect to the reporting requirements of
Members of the Legislative Assembly. The Bill is based on the recommendations
of the Report of the Conflicts of Interest Review Panel. Bill 13, Alberta
Personal Property Bill of Rights, provides that provincial enactments
authorizing the acquisition of permanent title to tangible personal property
are of no force or effect unless a process exists for compensation. The Bill
contains certain exemptions to the principle.
On February 12, 1998, the
Provincial Treasurer, Stockwell Day, presented Budget 98 in the
Legislative Assembly. Some of the highlights of the Budget are:
- Tax rates for Alberta taxpayers will decrease by 1.5
percentage points from 45.5 per cent of federal tax to 44 per cent effective
January 1, 1998.
- Spending on programs will increase in 1998-99 by 3 per
cent to a total of $13.9 billion. Total spending, including debt servicing
costs, will increase to just under $15 billion.
- Primarily owing to lower energy prices, (projected at
US $17.50 per barrel of oil, Cdn. $ 1.70 per thousand cubic feet of
natural gas) provincial revenues are projected to decline by $1.5 billion
to a total of $15.2 billion. The surplus for 1998-99 is projected to be
- The surplus for 1997-98 is forecast to be approximately
- Spending on Education will increase by 5.7 per cent to
a total of $3.2 billion. Spending on Advanced Education and Career
Development will increase by 3.1 per cent to $1.2 billion and spending on
Health will increase by 4.8 per cent to $4.2 billion.
- The maximum payment under the Alberta Family Employment
Tax Credit will double to $1,000 a year for a family with two children
earning between $19,000 to $25,000. The tax credit for one-income families
earning $30,000 with two children will rise from $300 to $800.
In other developments, Gerrald
Gwynn Scott Sutton was recommended to be Alberta's 6th Ombudsman by the
Select Special Ombudsman Search Committee chaired by Paul Langevin, MLA
for Lac La Biche - St. Paul. He was appointed Ombudsman effective April 1, 1998
by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Mr. Sutton served with the RCMP for 32
years where he held a number of positions. On February 23, 1998, the Assembly
passed a motion confirming Mr. Sutton's appointment.
At the invitation of Speaker Ken
Kowalski, and in anticipation of Alberta officially being accepted as an
Associate Member of the Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue
française (AIPLF), the Section Presidents of the America Region held their
spring meeting in Edmonton on March 9. The America Region of the AIPLF brings
together parliamentarians from Canada, Haïti, Louisiana, Maine, Manitoba, New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec and Saint Lucia.
Members of the Alberta Legislative Assembly will have an opportunity to meet
the Section Presidents at a luncheon hosted by Speaker Kowalski and at a dinner
hosted by the AIPLF where they were joined by representatives of the Alberta
After a recess that followed a particularly
eventful spring and summer sitting of the Ontario Legislature, the House
resumed in late Fall for a final sitting leading to the prorogation of the 1st
Session of the 36th Parliament.
First among the orders of
business was the introduction by the Minister of Labour, Jim Flaherty,
of a bill that provided compensation to the parents of children who were unable
to attend school (or a daycare facility within a school) as a result of the
10-day province-wide withdrawal of services by Ontario's 126,000 teachers in
November. The bill made provision for parents to claim up to $40 per day for
each day of the strike, to be paid by school boards from the payroll and other
savings that were realized during the work stoppage. Later press reports
indicated that on the order of 70% of eligible Ontario families filed claims of
up to the maximum $400.
During the work stoppage, the
government took out advertisements to communicate directly to the public its
side of the dispute over education reform. Some Members of the Assembly took
issue with the ads, considering them inappropriately partisan and alleging that
they represented an abuse of public funds.
A point of privilege on this
matter was raised in the House, and the Speaker, Chris Stockwell, was
again called upon to rule on the issue of government advertising. After
reviewing the ads, the Speaker ruled, in part, that "the ads may represent
an aggressive challenge to opposing views put forward by others, but I do not
believe they caused any of us to come here without the uncontested ability to
continue the debate on this issue, nor can it be argued that the respect due to
this House is diminished by the wording of the ads. Therefore I find that a
prima facie case of privilege has not been made out."
In closing, however, the Speaker
reiterated the concern he had expressed on a number of previous occasions about
the tone and propriety of similar government ads, and strongly urged "this
and any future government to consider the power and influence that they wield
when they send their messages to the broad public."
The strike itself, mentioned
above, occurred as a result of concerns by teachers about the scope and nature
of changes to the provinces' education system proposed in Bill 160, the Education
Quality Improvement Act, which was returned to the House following public
hearings by the Standing Committee on Administration of Justice, chaired by Gerry
Martiniuk (PC/Cambridge). The bill represented a significant re-organizaton
of the provinces' education system, addressing education governance, finance
and labour relations; class sizes; province-wide standards and outcomes
In the final weeks of the 1st
Session, the House gave third reading to a number of bills that were
significant elements of the Mike Harris government's reform agenda:
- the Services Improvement Act concerned the
realignment of welfare and public education funding between the province
- the Fair Municipal Finance Act instituted an
Actual Value Assessment system for property taxes, based on the market
value of properties on June 30, 1996
- the Development Charges Act, which made
provision for the recovery of the costs of public infrastructure in new
A number of other bills designed
to reduce duplication and red tape and to streamline processes in a number of
government ministries were adopted.
An interesting procedural
occurrence transpired concerning a motion by the Government House Leader that
provided for the House to meet beyond the parliamentary calendar for one
additional week. On the last day of the normal meeting schedule of the House,
the motion to extend the calendar was debated. When the question was put on the
motion, a recorded division was called. During the ringing of the division
bells, the Chief Whip of the New Democratic Party filed a request under the Standing
Orders for the vote to be deferred to the next Sessional day. The Speaker
accordingly deferred the vote and the House continued with other business.
However, since the calendar motion had not passed, the next regular sessional
day lay far ahead in March of 1998, an obvious defeat of the government's
desire for the House to continue meeting in December.
Later the same day, the Speaker
received an Order-in-Council causing him to reconvene the House on the
following Monday for the transaction of public business. When the House did
meet on that day, it conducted the deferred vote on the House calendar
extension motion, which passed, and the Assembly met one additional week. On
December 18, 1997, Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, Hilary M. Weston, attended
in the legislative Chamber to give the Royal Assent to 16 bills and to deliver
the prorogation speech. No specific date for the commencement of the 2nd
Session of the 36th Parliament was announced, but the House is widely expected
to reconvene following the Easter break.
Clerk of Journals and
The committees of the Ontario
Legislature were kept busy during the fall session and of note was the tabling
of the following committee reports.
The Select Committee on Ontario
Hydro Nuclear Affairs completed its investigation of Ontario Hydro's nuclear
operations and tabled its report in mid-December. The Committee's deliberations
included visits to the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear power
developments as well as two days of public hearings in those regions.
The Standing Committee on Social
Development tabled its report entitled "The Impact of the Conservative
Government's Funding Cuts on Children and Children's Services in the Province
of Ontario", which included recommendations for improving the current
system of children's services.
The Standing Committee on
Estimates completed its review of selected ministries and offices, which
included the Office of Premier, in mid-November.
During the winter recess, the
1997 Annual Report of the Provincial Auditor was considered by the Standing
Committee on Public Accounts while the Standing Committee on Finance and
Economic Affairs conducted two weeks of pre-budget consultations and prepared
its report. Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production,
which addresses the potential for conflict between the production techniques of
farmers and neighboring non-farm residents; was considered by the Standing
Committee on Resources Development. The Committee traveled to Belleville and
Guelph and utilized video-conferencing to hear from New Liskeard.
On February 10th,
1998, the province’s beautiful Parliament Buildings were centre stage for a
celebration marking their 100th anniversary. The first session in
the new buildings was held February 10th, 1898, following five years
of construction to replace the outmoded wooden buildings known as the
“birdcages”. A special one-day legislative session was held to mark the
centenary, during which reflections were offered on the province’s political
history, and a bill was passed recognizing the Ex-MLA’s Association of British
Following the session, the
buildings were opened to the public, including areas usually restricted such as
the cabinet chambers. The estimated 4,000 people who thronged through the
buildings during the afternoon were treated to information displays, musical
entertainment, and staff dressed in period costumes. An interactive web-site
will be launched in April to provide on-going information about the buildings
and their history.
On February 18, Premier Glen
Clark announced a major cabinet shuffle. The number of portfolios increased
by three to nineteen, with the separation of previously-amalgamated ministries.
There is now a separate fisheries ministry, headed by Dennis Streifel.
The province’s new Minister of Finance is Joy MacPhail, previously
Minister of Health. Her predecessor in finance, Andrew Petter, moves to
Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Deputy Premier Dan Miller
relinquishes his Employment and Investment portfolio, but takes over a new
ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
Three new faces appear at the
cabinet table. They are Ian Waddell (Small Business, Tourism and
Culture), Jenny Kwan (Municipal Affairs), and Harry Lali
(Transportation and Highways). As well, former Speaker Dale Lovick moves
to become Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Former Aboriginal Affairs minister John
Cashore is no longer part of cabinet, having indicated his intention to
retire at the end of the current Parliament. In all, only six ministers
remained in their previous portfolios.
Several committees have
continued their work through the winter. The Special Committee to Appoint a
Police Complaint Commissioner issued its report on February 19. It recommended
the appointment of Don Morrison to become the province’s first
independent Police Complaint Commissioner. This new post was created as part of
amendments to the Police Act last summer, following a report by Justice Wallace
Oppal into policing in the province. Mr. Morrison is a senior Crown counsel
in Victoria, and has worked previously as a teacher, social worker and
consultant. His job will be to monitor a new process for complaints by the
public against municipal police officers.
The Special Committee to review
the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act has received
written submissions and held a number of public hearings. The Committee is
undertaking a comprehensive review of the Act, which provides information and
privacy rights to citizens of British Columbia. The Act applies to the
provincial public sector, including government ministries and Crown
corporations, municipalities, schools, universities and a range of other
designated public agencies.
The Parliamentary Reform
Committee continues its review of the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act.
It too has received a number of submissions, and has met with representatives
of municipalities, provincial government employees, the current Members’
Conflict of Interest Commissioner and others. A number of issues have been
brought before the Committee, including the possibility of extending conflict
of interest laws to senior civil servants and municipal officials, and
extending the scope of the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act to include
an “honesty and integrity” provision.
Recall of the House
The 3rd session of
the 36th Parliament is scheduled to begin in late March. When it
does, the first order of business will be the election of a new Speaker,
following the departure of Dale Lovick for the cabinet ranks.
The bulk of attention this past
fall on the Saskatchewan political scene has centered on the Calgary
Declaration and the public consultations emanating from it. Under an all-party
programme entitled “Saskatchewan: Finding Common Ground on Canada's Future”, a
comprehensive series of initiatives were developed to both inform the
province's citizens on the principles of the declaration while at the same time
seek their input into the process.
An Internet web site and 1-800
number were launched in October and were followed by a brochure mailed out to
all households. 8,200 citizens answered a questionnaire on the unity proposals.
Over 7,400 individuals attended the 160 face-to-face meetings held around the
province. An MLA and a citizen co-chair chaired each meeting. The results of
the public consultation process were compiled into a report released by the
Canada West Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit, research organisation
specialising in economic and public policy studies. Finally at the end of
November, a televised conference was held in Saskatoon. The conference brought
together MLAs, citizen co-chairs and independent experts to discuss the ideas
and concerns articulated by the public over the six week consultation process.
1997 Fall Session
The positive results of the
unity consultations and conference led to the desire in having the Legislative
Assembly adopt a resolution in support of the Calgary Declaration. Accordingly,
the Assembly was recalled for the week of December 15th to 19th, 1997. The
brief session marked the first appearance by the Saskatchewan Party in the
Chamber after the shifts in party membership amongst opposition MLAs the
The fall session was noteworthy
also for the negotiations that resulted in a highly structured week of motions.
Pursuant to a motion adopted on the opening day, it was agreed that routine
proceedings would take place each day but that Government Orders were to be
superseded by opposition motions except on the regular Private Members' Day on
Tuesday. On that day, the so-named Unity Resolution was moved by the Premier
and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. One representative from each of
the government, the Official Opposition, the Third Party was granted 30, 20 and
20 minutes respectively in which to make their remarks. The three Independents
were granted a total of 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes before the normal time of
adjournment, the Speaker interrupted to put the question. The goal of unanimously
adopting the principles of the Calgary Declaration by the members of the
Saskatchewan Assembly was achieved.
Each of the remaining four days
of the special sitting consisted of three timed debates moved in rotation by
the opposition parties and independent members. Debate on Official Opposition
motions was restricted to 60 minutes, Third Party motions were 45 minutes in
duration while motions moved by an independent member lasted only 25 minutes.
Each group was accorded priority on at least one day and all ended in a vote.
New Clocks in the Chamber
Two new clocks have been
installed in the Chamber, discreetly fitting into the corner alcoves nearest to
the Chair that house the television cameras. Their presence is so unobtrusive
that many members failed to notice them in the December sitting! The 24-hour
clock receives its signal from the broadcasting equipment and can be
manipulated by a timer located at the Table.
With the advent of this new
"technology", the Speaker was left to decide what information should
be displayed on the clocks. The Saskatchewan Assembly still has the luxury of
unlimited debate and most deliberations are not timed. The exceptions are
Statements by Members, Oral Questions and the biweekly 75-minute Private
Members' Debate. To date, only the time of day and the countdown of division
bells are displayed.
On the morning of March 9th,
1998, the Second Session of the 23rd Legislature was prorogued. The delivery of
the Throne Speech by Lieutenat Governor John E.N. Wiebe later that
afternoon opened the Third Session. Finance Minister Eric Cline was
scheduled to deliver his first budget on March 19th.
On February 4, 1998, the House
passed a motion to increase the number of votable motions, Standing Order
81(16) notwithstanding. The result of the motion was to bring to seven the
total number of votable opposition motions during the combined periods ending
March 26 and June 23, 1998.
On February 13, the Standing
Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled its 22nd Report. The Report
proposed a number of amendments to the Standing Orders with respect to the
operations of joint committees.
On March 10, the House passed a
motion amending Standing Order 95(2). The new version of the Standing Order
recognizes the practice of “right of reply” during consideration of a
non-votable item of Private Members' Business. The Member moving the item of
business may speak a second time for not more than five minutes and thereby
conclude the debate.
On February 4, 1998, Lee
Morrison (Cypress Hills--Grasslands) rose on a point of order regarding
Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act (maritime liability).
According to Mr Morrison, the Bill violated Standing Order 80, under which
“[a]ll aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada
are the sole gift of the House of Commons [and] not alterable by the Senate”.
Mr Morrison concluded by suggesting that a decision by Speaker Lamoureux in
June 1973 supported his stance.
The Speaker handed down his
ruling on February 12. Citing Erskine May, he noted that even if a bill appears
to entail expenditure, or an increase in expenditure, it is possible that the
power to incur expenditure may already be covered “by general powers conferred
by statute”. This, in the Speaker's view, applied in the case of Bill S-4.
On February 19, Lorne Nystrom
(Qu'Appelle), saying he was “shocked by the government across the way
introducing more and more legislation from the Senate”, moved an adjournment
motion at Second Reading in the House of Bill S-4, as a “protest”. The question
was put immediately and the motion was defeated.
On February 26, Michel
Gauthier (Roberval) rose on a point of order regarding the conduct of
certain Members who, he claimed, had used the Canadian flag and the National
Anthem “in a demonstration aimed at causing disorder, preventing [a fellow
Member] from exercising the right to speak and disregarding the Speaker's
orders” when a Bloc Québécois Member was getting ready to speak. On March 9,
before the Speaker had handed down a decision on Mr Gauthier's point of order, Peter
Mackay (Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough) raised a question of privilege
regarding statements attributed to certain Members in an article appearing in
the March 8 edition of the Ottawa Sun. In Mr Mackay's opinion, the
statements as quoted constituted “an overt and outrageous attempt to
intimidate...the Speaker of this House and collectively the House itself”.
After giving the Members an opportunity to clarify the situation, the Speaker
declared that he found a prima facie case and asked Mr Mackay to move referral
of the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The
question was put to the House on March 10 and the motion passed. The Speaker
has not yet ruled on Mr Gauthier's point of order.
As of March 11, 1998, eight
Bills had received Royal Assent:
- C-2, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act
- C-10, the Income Tax Conventions Implementation Act,
- C-11, An Act respecting the imposition of duties of
customs and other charges, to give effect to the International Convention
on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, to provide
relief against the imposition of certain duties of customs or other
charges, to provide for other related matters and to amend or repeal
certain Acts in consequence thereof
- C-13, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act
- C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the
Interpretation Act (powers to arrest and enter dwellings)
- C-22, the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention
- C-23, the Appropriation Act No. 2, 1997-98
- C-24, the Postal Services Continuation Act, 1997
On two occasions in February,
the House debated matters of current interest. It should be noted, however,
that these were neither emergency debates nor motions calling upon the
government to consider a particular matter. On February 4, as part of the
adjournment proceedings, Members had an opportunity to debate the ice storm
crisis for more than seven hours. Several days later, on February 9, the same
procedure was used to allow Members to debate the government's position on
Canadian participation in the event of a possible conflict in Iraq.
The House passed two resolutions
amending the Constitution, on November 18 and December 9, 1997. By amending
section 93 of the Constitution as it applies to Quebec and Term 17 of the
Newfoundland Terms of Union with Canada, these resolutions made it possible for
Quebec and Newfoundland to deconfessionalize their school boards. Parallel with
the process for adopting the two motions, two special joint committees were
struck to enable interested parties to voice their concerns.
Paul Martin (Minister of Finance) tabled the first
budget of the 36th Parliament on February 24, 1998. On February 26, the second
day of debate on the budget policy, the House met at 8:30 a.m. rather than the
10:00 a.m. stipulated in the Standing Orders, and adjourned earlier than
usual. The motion "that this House approves in general the budgetary
policy of the Government" was agreed to on March 10.