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House of Commons
On February 2, 1999, Bill C-306,
An Act to amend the Bank Act (bank charges), in the name of Denis
Paradis (Brome–Missisquoi, Lib.) was placed on the order of precedence of Private
Members’ Business, pursuant to Standing Order 87(6). Pursuant to changes in the
Standing Orders adopted on November 30, 1998, this was the first application of
the new Standing Order which allows an item to be placed on the order of
precedence when the sponsoring Member has obtained the signatures of 100
Members supporting the item in question. This Standing Order makes it possible
to avoid the random draw. On February 2, the sponsor of Bill C-306 was changed
to Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil–Soulanges). The Bill was later designated a
Points of Order, Questions of
Privilege, Routine Proceedings
On February 8, Speaker Gilbert
Parent gave his ruling on the point of order raised by John Cummins
(Delta–South Richmond, Ref.) concerning the interpretation of Standing Order 39
regarding Questions on the Order Paper. The ruling dealt specifically
with issues relating to the length of the questions, the number of questions
allowed and the length of time taken by the government to answer and the perceived
failure to receive factual answers. The Speaker ruled that proper
procedure was followed in the request made to the Member to divide his
question, and that while the 45-day limit causes problems for both sides of the
House, the Chair has no authority to intervene in this area. He also
stated that the Chair cannot comment on the quality or the factual content of
the answers provided by the government to questions. The Speaker
concluded by saying that this issue might be of interest to the Standing
Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. He also reminded the government that
it is responsible for the quality and accuracy of the answers and that it can
inform Members if the 45-day deadline is not being complied with.
On March 4, in the course of a point
of order, Pierrette Venne (Saint-Bruno–Saint-Hubert, BQ) stated that
former Speaker John Fraser had struck a committee which dealt with the
matters of vocabulary, proper dress in the House and the importance of mutual
respect amongst members. She suggested that the committee be
re-established. Speaker Parent suggested in turn that if Members
would like to support the re-establishment of such a committee, perhaps the
best place to discuss its creation would be with the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs.
On March 15, Inky Mark
(Dauphin–Swan River, Ref.) rose on a point of order with regard to a possible
breach of Standing Order 106(3) by the Chair of the Standing Committee on
Canadian Heritage. The Member argued that on February 18, 1999, he had
submitted a letter, pursuant to S.O. 106(3), to the clerk of the Committee,
asking that a meeting of the Standing Committee be convened for the purpose of
hearing testimony from a former National Arts Centre director. Although
the Standing Order said that such a meeting must be convened within ten sitting
days of the receipt, the Member alleged that the Committee Chair had still not
convened such a meeting after twelve days. After hearing other Members,
the Speaker asked for clarification from the Member on the matter. The
Speaker stated that since the Standing Committee had met as a whole in camera
and since there was no requirement that the meeting be held entirely on the
subject requested by the Member, the requirement of the Standing Order had been
On February 18, the Speaker
heard questions of privilege raised by John Reynolds (West
Vancouver–Sunshine Coast, Ref.), Jim Pankiw (Saskatoon–Humboldt, Ref.), Roy
Bailey (Souris–Moose Mountain, Ref.) and Garry Breitkreuz
(Yorkton–Melville, Ref.) concerning picket lines set up by members of the
Public Service Alliance of Canada blocking access to Parliament Hill and its
buildings. The Members argued that they and their staff were denied
access to their offices and considered this to be a breach of privilege and an
impediment to carrying out their function as Members of Parliament. Mr.
Pankiw added that, in his case, he was assaulted when trying to access his
After hearing other Members, the
Speaker ruled on the case of the Member for Saskatoon–Humboldt and reserved his
decision on the other cases. He declared that he found a prima facie
case of contempt in the case of the molestation of the Member for
Saskatoon–Humboldt and invited him to move a motion so that the question could
be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The
motion was moved and agreed to.
On April 14, the 66th
report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs dealing with
this matter was presented and adopted in the House.
Questions of privilege were also
raised on several occasions concerning the publication in newspapers of
sections of draft reports under consideration before certain standing
committees. Some Members declared this a breach of privilege for the members of
the committees and all Members of the House.
On December 1, Yvan Loubier
(Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot, BQ) raised another question of privilege concerning the
leak of information contained in a yet untabled report of a standing committee.
The Speaker said that he was becoming less patient with regard to this issue.
He suggested that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs deal
with this issue and come back to the House with recommendations. If this was
not possible, the Speaker said he might consider requesting a debate in the
House on this issue.
On April 21, the Speaker
returned to a question of privilege raised by Bob Mills (Red Deer, Ref.)
on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, regarding the premature disclosure to the media of
the government response in a report of the Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs and International Trade prior to its tabling in the House, as well as
the problem of the distribution of the report to opposition members. As
requested by the Speaker the day before, Don Boudria (Leader of the
Government in the House of Commons, Lib.) reported to the House on the matters
In reviewing this matter it is
clear to me that the government could serve the House better by improving and
standardizing the method of responding to committee reports, when required, by
Standing Order 109. I have therefore directed my officials to prepare new
guidelines for departments with a view toward assuring that the needs of
the House remain the principal objective of such responses.
This case certainly demonstrates
that some attention has to be given to the government’s internal security. In
addition, it exposes some errors in judgement and courtesy which, quite
frankly, embarrass me, for which I have apologized and about which I have taken
steps to correct. There was however, and I say this sincerely, no attempt to
deprive the House of any information to which it is entitled. Indeed it was the
opposite that was intended, that is to say, to maximize the information
available to the House.
After discussions, the Speaker
summarised the remarks made by the Government House Leader and hoped that the
proposed solutions would solve this problem in the future. He also hoped that
the upcoming report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
regarding leaked reports would provide solutions. He then ruled that there was
not a question of privilege at this time. On April 28, Marlene Catterall
(Ottawa West–Nepean, Lib.) presented the 73rd Report of the Standing
Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the premature disclosure of
On April 28, the Speaker
returned to the question of privilege raised by Mike Scott (Skeena,
Ref.) on April 26, 1999, with regard to David Iftody’s (Provencher,
Lib.) comments about an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee on
Indian Affairs and Northern Development on April 13, 1999. Mr. Iftody admited
having made such comments during Question Period the previous week, and stated
that he should not have made reference to the in camera meeting.
He therefore offered his apologies to the Chair, to members of the House,
to members of the Standing Committee and, most importantly, to the member for
Skeena. The Speaker declared that he accepted the apology and the matter
On several occasions during
Routine Proceedings, Members of the Opposition moved that certain standing
committee reports be concurred in, specifically the 48th report of
the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning broadcasting
of committee meetings. Debate arose, and a Member moved that the House do now
proceed to Orders of the Day or that debate adjourn. A vote, preceded by a
thirty-minute bell took place. The principal reason these motions were moved
was to focus the attention of the House on the issue of broadcasting committee
meetings. On April 29, another such debate arose. Bob Kilger
(Stormont–Dundas–Charlottenburgh, Lib.) moved that the House do now proceed to
Orders of the Day. Randy White rose on a point of order to state that he
had discussions with the Government House Leader who indicated that he was
prepared to seriously discuss the issue of broadcasting committee proceedings
and therefore he would not force a vote on the motion to proceed to orders of
the day. The motion was subsequently agreed to.
On Thursday, March 25, during Routine Proceedings, Randy White (Langley–Abbotsford, Ref.) moved that the
14th Report of the Standing Committee on Justice
and Human Rights, presented on Wednesday, October 28, 1998, be concurred in. The
main subject of the debate focused on the decision of the Committee to reject
Bill C-251, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the
Corrections and Conditional Release Act (cumulative sentences), standing in
the name of Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East,
Lib.). Mr. White later moved that the debate be now adjourned. The motion
was agreed to on a recorded division. During debate on a similar motion, Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Ref.) moved that the
member for Mississauga East now be heard. The motion was agreed to.
Later, Yvan Bernier
(Bonaventure–Gaspé–Îles-de-la-Madeleine–Pabok, BQ) moved that the House do now
proceed to Orders of the Day. The motion was agreed to on a recorded
On April 19, the Committee reported the Bill to the House
with amendments. These amendments resulted in stripping the Bill of its title
and the clauses. Bill C-235, An Act to amend the
Competition Act (protection of those who purchase products from vertically
integrated suppliers who compete with them at retail), was reported to the
House in the same manner. Report stage amendments that would reinstate the
bills’ titles and clauses were immediately put on notice in the Notice Paper as both bills await debate at report
Emergency Debate –
On March 18, the Speaker gave the floor to Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk–Interlake, Ref.) so that he
could explain his request for an emergency debate pursuant to S.O. 52. The
Member requested that an emergency debate be held concerning a strike affecting
grain handling in the West. The Speaker reserved his decision and later
ruled that the request met the requirements of S.O. 52 and ordered the debate be
held at 8:00 p.m. Later, during Government Orders, Mr. Boudria rose on a
point of order and moved that the debate be held after proceedings on the
adjournment debate were completed, that no quorum calls or dilatory motions or
requests for unanimous consent be received by the Chair. After debate, the
motion was agreed to.
On March 23, the Government attempted several times and
without success, pursuant to S.O. 56.(1), to have adopted a motion for a special
order to debate at all stages Bill C-76, An Act to
provide for the resumption and continuation of government services. At the
beginning of Government Orders, Mr. Boudria moved closure on the motion,
pursuant to S.O. 57, in order that the debate on it not be further adjourned.
Closure was agreed to on a recorded division and debate on the motion for a
special order continued until 11:00 p.m. as required. At that time, the
motion was adopted and debate began on Bill C-76 and continued until the next
morning when the bill was read a third time and passed. Royal Assent was given
on March 25.
Take Note Debate
Following the adoption of a special order regarding the
debate and disposition of Government Business No. 23 (Kosovo), Mr. Boudria moved
a take note motion on the tragedy in Kosovo. Preston
Manning (Leader of the Opposition, Ref.) moved an amendment that was ruled
in order. John Nunziata (York South–Weston,
Ind.) rose on a point of order to ask if there would be a vote on the amendment.
The Speaker reminded the Member that there would not be a vote because of
the special order concerning the disposition of the motion adopted earlier this
day. Later, Peter MacKay
(Pictou–Antigonish–Guysborough, PC) moved a sub-amendment which was ruled in
order. Mr. Nunziata again rose on a point of order to question the
acceptance of amendments to a motion that would not be voted on. The
Deputy Speaker, Peter Milliken, explained the
practice regarding the acceptability of amendments to a motion. The debate ended
at 8:00 a.m. the following day.
On April 21, Speaker Parent informed the House that the
Clerk had received from the Chief Electoral Officer a certificate of the
election of Rick Limoges (Windsor–St. Clair, Lib.).
Mr. Limoges was introduced by Prime Minister Jean
Chrétien and Herb Gray. Mr. Limoges was elected
on April 12, following the death of Shaughnessy
On April 29, the House began its business at 2:00 p.m. due
to the Address to Parliament made by the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel. The Address and related
remarks made by Prime Minister Mr. Chrétien and the Speakers of both Houses of
Parliament were printed as an appendix to the Debates.
Fireworks lit up the skies in both Yellowknife and Iqaluit
at midnight (EST) on March 31st marking the
creation of two new territories in Canada's North, Nunavut and a new Northwest
Territories. The months of February, March and April marked the culmination of a
hectic and challenging period in the lives of many Northerners and the
realization of a dream for the people of Nunavut with the creation of their new
Preparation for the two new territories and related
celebrations dominated the final days of the NWT Legislative Assembly prior to
March 31st with a number of division-related
pieces of legislation being passed. Speaker Sam
Gargan also recognized the efforts of the Nunavut MLAs, both current and
Matters related to a new and smaller NWT Legislative
Assembly were also a key focus for the 14 Members remaining in the NWT
Legislature reduced from the previous 24-Member Legislature including the
election of two new Cabinet Ministers on March 29th. The last of the Nunavut Ministers resigned that
same day and the new Ministers were sworn in on March 30th.
Elected to Cabinet were Thebacha MLA, Michael Miltenberger and Nunakput MLA, Vince Steen, both of whom were elected in the 1995
General Election. The selection of these two Ministers brings the number in
Cabinet to six down from eight in the previous government. Premier Jim Antoine also shuffled cabinet portfolios reflect
the changes made necessary by the departure of the Nunavut Ministers.
Members of the new NWT Legislative Assembly reconvened the
Seventh Session on April 13th. The main agenda
item at this time was the presentation of the 1999-2000 budget. On Monday, April
19th Finance Minister Charles Dent made his budget address and tabled the
1999-2000 Main Estimates.
Constitutional issues and the timing of the next General
Election continue to be areas of discussion for Members of the Legislative
Assembly. The Government applied for and was granted a five-month extension on a
judgement that required the Legislature to redraw its electoral boundaries when
the Court deemed that three of the existing constituencies unconstitutional if
left unchanged due to the extreme variances in population between the
constituencies. The judgement originally required the Legislature to address the
situation by April 1st.
Members then proposed legislative amendments to add five
new seats, three in Yellowknife and one in each of Inuvik and Hay River. That
draft legislation, An Act to Amend the Legislative
Assembly and Executive Council Act, has been referred to Committee after
second reading and a decision is required by the September 1st deadline. Once a decision has been made the date
for the next General Election will be set.
The final days before the creation of Nunavut and the new
Northwest Territories also saw the passage of several pieces of division-related
legislation. These included:
- Division Measures Act, 1999: This Bill amended the Business
Corporations Act, Document Registry Act, Personal Property Security Act and Securities Act to implement plans and service agreements
relating to the establishment of Nunavut.
- Nunavut Statutes Amendment Act, 1999: This Bill adjusted the laws of Nunavut by amending
various statutes that were duplicated for Nunavut by the Nunavut Act. The amendments came into force on
April 1, 1999. The statutes included those such as the Public Service Act, Income
Tax Act and Workers' Compensation Act.
- Northwest Territories Power Corporation Division Measures
Act, 1999: This Bill amended the Northwest
Territories Power Corporation Act to enable the corporation to carry on
its business in Nunavut and the NWT.
- Interim Appropriation Act, 1999-2000: this Bill provided interim funding for the Government
of the NWT for the period between April 1st
and June 30th in advance of the approval
of a budget for the new NWT.
The creation of a new NWT has also meant changes for the
Committee structure within the Legislative Assembly. The seven Ordinary Members
all sit on the Standing Committee on Government Operations. This committee
reviews all government-wide issues and financial matters pertaining to the
Legislative Assembly. Other committees have also been amalgamated and the number
of representatives on each committee has subsequently decreased.
Committees spent much of their time both before and after
division reviewing the Government's 1999-2000 Draft Main Estimates and business
The Special Committee on Western Identity continues with
its work to establish new symbols for the NWT. The Committee is currently
working with artists to design a new Mace for the Legislative Assembly and work
will soon begin on a new flag and Coat-of-Arms.
Public Relations Officer
The Ontario Legislative Assembly ended its 2nd Session in an unusual way – it failed to pass the
1998 Supply Bill, the first time in Ontario's history that a Session has been
prorogued before the annual financial cycle has been completed.
This occurrence, and the procedural intrigue that produced
it, each had their roots in a disputed issue of internal House management which
also caused the failure of the customary final-day accords among the Parties
that were to have seen to a smooth and productive end to the Session.
On the intended last day of the Session, plans were made
for the Lieutenant Governor Hilary Weston, to enter
the Chamber for Royal Assent and to deliver a prorogation speech following the
completion of the day's business.
Among the items to be completed was the Supply bill. After
being debated at 2nd reading, however, the bill
was unexpectedly referred to a standing committee. Opposition members employed a
little-used rule that requires a bill to be referred to a standing committee if
12 members stand in their places; 12 did. The government had no control over the
matter save to choose which committee would get the referral. Moreover, the
Standing Orders impose a 5-day waiting period before committees can consider
referred bills and, it being the last day of the sitting, there was no
opportunity for the bill to be dealt with and returned to the House before the
Following the referral of the Supply bill to committee, the
House continued to meet and dealt with a large number of other issues. However,
the ongoing dispute over the House management issue continued to feed into the
other House proceedings and, eventually, what was to have been a relatively
short, routine debate on a motion to carry items of business over to the next
Session became much more than that. A large portion of the evening sitting was
spent debating the motion, and the debate continued right up to the appointed
hour of adjournment, 12:00 midnight. The Speaker did as the Standing Orders
provide: he adjourned to the House to the next Sessional day – a Sessional day
that had not been planned since all business was to have been completed and the
Session was to have been prorogued. The intended Royal Assent and prorogation in
the Chamber by the Lieutenant Governor could not occur that evening.
Despite the fact that prorogation in these circumstances
would cause the loss of the Supply bill and all of the other items that were
scheduled to be carried over, the government proceeded with its plans to
prorogue the 2nd Session and did so the next
day, by Proclamation, immediately following Royal Assent in Her Honour's office
of the 25 bills that were to have been assented to in the Chamber the previous
With the Session prorogued, consideration now turned to the
procedural and legal ramifications of the failure of the Supply bill to pass,
and what steps might have to be taken in the next Session to renew or repeat the
financial cycle for the 1998-1999 fiscal year. However, it was discovered that a
section of the Ministry of Treasury and Economics
Act appeared to solve the problem. The section, which has been in existence
since 1906 (originally in the Audit Act)
serendipitously and remarkably predicted exactly the extremely unusual situation
that had occurred, but which never had before: while the House had received and
passed the Budget, received the estimates and supplementary estimates, referred
them to the Standing Committee on Estimates, received the report of the
Committee and concurred in all the estimates and supplementaries, the sole last
element to complete the cycle did not happen – the Supply bill had died on the
Order Paper. The relevant section in the Act states that when precisely this
sequence of events has occurred, the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may proceed
to authorize the payments concurred in by the House; this previously existing
provision was perceived to be a suitable legal substitute for the principle that
all appropriations need to be authorized by statute. While a Supply Act did not pass to give the legal authority for
the government to spend public money, the government decided that, in the
precise circumstances the Legislature experienced, the Ministry of Treasury and Economics Act did vicariously
give that authority.
Prior to the end of the fiscal year, with the House
prorogued, the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council invoked this Section of the Ministry of Treasury and Economics Act, and by
Order-in-Council the 1998-1999 Budget of the Province of Ontario was perfected.
The Legislature met again on April 22, 1999 to commence the
3rd Session of the 36th Parliament at which the Lieutenant Governor
delivered the final Throne Speech of the Parliament. The House met for 7 days,
during which it speedily passed 4 public bills, 2 of which had been incidental
victims of the procedural predicament that had marked the end of the previous
Session. Renewed in the 3rd Session, The Vintners Quality Alliance Act and the Child and Family Services Amendment Act were debated
and passed. The VQA Act establishes an appellation
of origin designation for Ontario wines, which fulfills the legal and
administrative preconditions necessary for these products to be accepted in
markets abroad, particularly in European Union countries. The Child and Family Services Act amendments served to
clarify that the paramount purpose of the Act is to ensure the best interests,
protection and well-being of children, and that this be the uppermost criteria
to be considered in making court orders and in all interventions relating to the
welfare of a child.
On the last day of the Session, May 4, the House received
the 1999-2000 Budget, delivered by Finance Minister Ernie Eves (PC/Parry Sound). Immediately prior to the
next day's meeting of the House at 1:30 p.m., Premier Mike Harris, announced that the Lieutenant Governor had
dissolved the House for a general election to be held on Thursday, June 3.
The members of the 37th
Parliament who will be elected on that date will return to a Legislative
Assembly considerably smaller than its predecessor –- 103 seats, 27 fewer than
the last Parliament as a result of the passage of the Fewer Politicians Act. Ontario's electoral districts
now share boundaries and names identical to the federal ridings in the Province.
In preparation for the revised House, the Legislative Chamber will be slightly
reconfigured to take advantage of the increased space by repositioning member's
desks in two-by-two fashion and slightly widening the floor between the opposite
sides of the House. The Chamber will not only seem more spacious and better
laid-out, but it will also show a new colour since some of the worn broadloom,
furniture and fittings will be traded for replacements sporting the traditional
parliamentary green. Together with other changes elsewhere in the Legislative
Building that have seen original floors restored, lighting improved and
life-and-safety features added, such as fire-escape corridors and stairwells,
the overall effect will be one of a noble, proud and historic building renewed
for and ready to do duty in the new millennium.
Clerk of Journals and Procedural Research
Ontario Legislative Assembly
Saskatchewan legislators returned to the Chamber on the
morning of March 15th, 1999 to prorogue the
3rd Session and to open the 4th session later that day. With a general election
widely speculated for this year, the legislative load proved to be light in
comparison to recent years. All 45 of the government's bills introduced received
Royal Assent while none of the 50 Private Members' Bills proceeded past first
A special morning sitting took place on Thursday, April
8th as the Assembly debated and passed The Resumption of Services (Nurses - SUN) Act. This
purported to legislate the province's nurses back to work after their services
were withdrawn earlier that morning. The back to work legislation was not
honoured by the nurses, who continued to withhold their services for several
more days. Subsequently, an agreement was reached between the nurses' union and
the representatives of the Health Boards for the nurses to return to work while
The session was adjourned on May 6th after only 36 sitting days. Recent sessions have
averaged 72 days in duration.
The light legislative load evident in the House was also
reflected in the work of committees. Most standing committees met only once or
twice during the session. The Committee of Finance, in which the budget
estimates are reviewed, sat for a total of 37 hours to approve the budget. This
was considerably lower than the 68 hours it sat last year to complete the supply
On April 20, 1999 the Saskatchewan Assembly took the
unusual step of moving towards expelling one of its own members. Jack Goohsen (Cypress Hills) was convicted on April of
19th of an offense under section 212(4) of the
Criminal Code. A sentencing hearing is to be
scheduled later this year. Saskatchewan law permits a Member to be suspended or
his seat declared vacant if a majority of MLAs vote in favour. After moving such
a motion on April 20th, the Assembly agreed to
postpone the vote for 24 hours to afford Mr. Goohsen the opportunity to respond.
Mr. Goohsen subsequently submitted his resignation to the Speaker and the motion
The first Social Sciences Teachers' Institute on
Parliamentary Democracy was held with great success on April 18th to 21st. Both the
participating teachers and the MLAs felt that the intensive three and a half
days of meetings and activities went a long way to explaining the parliamentary
process and the responsibilities of the individuals who work within
Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan
The First Session of the thirty-sixth Legislature opened on
March 2, 1999, a week before the scheduled opening provided for in the Standing
Orders of the Assembly. In addition to electing its Speaker by secret ballot for
the first time (Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, Member for
Borduas, was re-elected to this office), the Assembly, early on in the session,
introduced and passed two bills amending the Act
respecting the National Assembly:
The first bill, introduced on the first sitting day,
increases from two to three the number of Deputy Speakers of the National
Assembly, the first two being elected from among the Members forming the
Government (Raymond Brouillet and Claude Pinard were reelected) and the third from among
the Members forming the Official Opposition (the elected Member, Michel Bissonnet, thus resumes a position he had held
from 1989 to 1994).
The second bill changes the composition of the Office of
the National Assembly, increasing by two the number of its members and fixing
the quorum at five. This same bill also provides a procedure for the replacement
of the President of the Assembly in case of absence, inability to act or
vacancy; specifies certain rules applicable to the regular personnel hired to
assist, for research and support purposes, a party represented in the National
Assembly; and provides that an additional indemnity be paid to the caucus
chairman of the Official Opposition.
Following the passage of these two bills, the Assembly's
Standing Orders referring to the office of Deputy Speaker had to be amended in
order to comply with the provisions of the said bills.
Among the other bills introduced by the Government during
the first two months of the session are the following:
- regarding electoral reform: An
Act respecting the obligation to identify oneself before voting provides
that electors at a provincial, municipal or school election or in a
provincial, municipal or school referendum will be required, before voting, to
produce as identification either their health-insurance card, driver's licence
or probationary licence, passport or any other document determined by
- regarding justice: An Act to
amend vavious legislative provisions concerning de facto spouses amends
the Acts and regulations that contain a definition of the concept of de facto
spouse to allow de facto unions to be recognized without regard to the sex of
the persons concerned; and the Act to amend the Civil
Code as regards names and the register of civil status specifies that the
choice of the parents prevails as far as the assignment of a name to a child
is concerned and transfers, from the registrar of civil status to the Attorney
General of Québec, the power to bring the matter before the court if the name
chosen clearly invites ridicule. As well, a rule is established whereby
surnames and given names containing characters which do not exist in the
alphabet used in French will be transcribed into that alphabet.
- regarding finance: two bills giving effect to the reform
of the Government accounting policies announced in the Budget Speech of 1998
were tabled: firstly, An Act respecting
Financement-Québec, which establishes a financing authority to be known as
Financement-Québec, whose primary object is to provide financial services to
the public bodies of the education and health care networks, in particular by
granting loans to them. The financing authority may, in addition, provide
technical services in the field of financial analysis and management; and
secondly, the Act respecting Immobilière SHQ,
which establishes a housing authority to be known as Immobilière SHQ, a legal
person with share capital established in the public interest. The mission of
the housing authority will be to acquire residential immovables, together with
the related rights and obligations, in particular the immovables belonging to
the Société d'habitation du Québec, and put them at the disposal of municipal
housing bureaus and other non-profit organizations so that they may operate
them. Its mission will include acquiring the rights and obligations arising
from loans granted by the Société d'habitation du Québec to municipal housing
bureaus or other non-profit organizations.
- regarding natural resources: An
Act concerning the construction of infrastructures and equipment by
Hydro-Québec on account of the ice storm of 5 to 9 January 1998 gives
legal validity to the said construction.
- regarding research: An Act
respecting the Ministère de la Recherche, de la Science et de la
Technologie, provides for the creation of the said Ministry.
In March, the Minister of Finance tabled in the Assembly
the Estimates of Expenditure for 1999-2000; the estimated expenses total $43.5
At the same time, the Speaker tabled a summary of the
Estimates of Expenditure of the National Assembly. The expenses of the
institution for the coming year are estimated at $72.3 million and the number of
employees is as follows: 322 permanent and 159 casual.
The 1999-2000 budget of the Government of Quebec was
presented by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday, 9 March 1999. The Minister
declared that the zero deficit objective had been attained a year ahead of
schedule, that already in 1998-1999 there was no longer a deficit - for the
first time in forty years - and that the Government intended to uphold this
result in 1999-2000. In addition, he stated that the budget furthered priority
reinvestment in health and education, important initiatives with respect to job
creation, the development of Québec culture, and a decrease in personal income
On April 15, 1999, the Office of the National Assembly
appointed Cécilia Tremblay as Assistant
Secretary for Administrative Affairs, following the departure of François Côté, who is now Assistant Secretary at the
Québec and Youth Summit. At the time of her nomination, Mrs. Tremblay was
Director of Building Management and Restaurants at the Assembly.
On Wednesday, April 28, 1999, Mr. Bouchard's cabinet
underwent its first modification: Rita
Dionne-Marsolais, who until then was Minister of Revenue, handed in her
resignation to the Prime Minister after an unfavourable recommendation was
issued by the Access to Information Commission regarding the disclosure of
certain information contained in Revenue Ministry files. The Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of State for the Economy and Finance is the head of this
Ministry for the time being.
Secretariat of the Assembly
Translated by Sylvia Ford
Secretariat of the Assembly
On February 16, 1999, the Third Session of the 24th Legislature began with the Speech from the Throne
read by Lieutenant Governor H. A. "Bud" Olson. The
Throne Speech emphasized reinvestment in health, education, advanced education,
social services and infrastructure in an effort to "strike the right balance".
The spring sitting adjourned on May 18, 1999.
The Provincial Treasurer, Stockwell
Day, presented the Government's 1999-2000 provincial budget on March 11.
- a 2.2% total expenditure increase to $16.2 billion and a
1.6% increase in total revenue to $16.9 billion.
- the budget estimates the price of oil at $13.50 (U.S.) a
barrel in 1999-2000.
- an increase of 21% or $935 million for Health over three
- education and Advanced Education will see a reinvestment
over the next three years of $598.7 million and $209 million respectively.
- an increase of $381 million for Child and Family Services
and $270 million for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.
- a $450 million increase for infrastructure funding over
three years. This additional annual funding will serve as basic capital for
cities and will also be used for transportation infrastructure programs.
- a plan to eliminate Alberta's net debt by the year 2000.
- a three-year tax reform package which would end the
deficit-elimination surtax by 2002
- a proposal for Alberta to move to a single provincial
income tax rate of 11% in 2002, with an increase in personal and spousal tax
On February 24, 1999, the Official Opposition Government
House Leader, Gary Dickson, (Lib) MLA for
Calgary-Buffalo, raised a question of contempt regarding the exclusion of
Members who wanted to attend the Health Summit in Calgary on February 25-27,
1999. Delegates of the Health Summit, chaired by former ombudsman Harley Johnson, were given an opportunity to discuss
and make recommendations relative to the health care system. Speaker Ken Kowalski found there was not a prima facie question of privilege partly because the
Health Summit was a government sponsored event, not a parliamentary proceeding.
During the spring sitting, 39 Government Bills had been
introduced in the Assembly. Some of the more noteworthy Bills were:
- Bill 1, Fiscal Responsibility
Act, introduced by Premier Ralph Klein on the
opening day of session. The Bill sets out a schedule for repaying Alberta's
accumulated debt within 25 years. Under the Bill, deficits remain illegal.
- Bill 15, Natural Heritage
Act, introduced by Ty Lund, Minister of
Environmental Protection. This Bill, which has gained a great deal of
notoriety, proposes to streamline Alberta's protected area legislation,
establish a revised system of classes of protected and recreation areas and
clarify the purpose and management requirements of each class. Opponents have
claimed that it does not provide adequate protection from industrial
activities in parks and protected areas.
- Bill 25, Insurance Act,
introduced by Marlene Graham, (PC) MLA for
Calgary-Lougheed. This Bill will modernize the financial regulation of
insurance companies and market conduct for insurance companies.
- Bill 35, Government Fees and
Charges Review Act, introduced by Provincial Treasurer Stockwell Day. This Bill requires that all fees and
charges presently in place in the province be reviewed. There are
approximately 800 charges identified in the Bill which are validated. The
Treasurer indicated that the review would be conducted by a committee composed
of MLAs and representatives from the private sector. The Bill is Alberta's
response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Re: Eurig Estate.
- Bill 36, Gaming and Liquor Amendment Act, 1999,
introduced by Pat Nelson, Minister of Economic
Development. This Bill gives the Alberta government the authority to direct
the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission on policy issues. A recent Court of
Queen's Bench decision quashed earlier orders by the Commission to remove VLTs
in certain municipalities. As well, the Bill provides legislative authority
for the Government to terminate VLT agreements within communities. The Bill
validates the results of municipal plebiscites in favour of removing VLTs.
- Bill 38, Constitutional
Referendum Amendment Act, 1999, introduced by Jon
Havelock, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Bill 38 would require
that a referendum be held before legislation using the notwithstanding clause
may be introduced. This referendum requirement does not apply when the
legislation deals with who may marry.
- Bills 15 and 38 were still before the House when the
Assembly adjourned on May 18, 1999.
A record number of Written Questions and Motions for Return
on the Order Paper throughout this session have consumed most of the time set
aside for consideration of Private Members' Public Bills on Wednesday
afternoons. Nevertheless, one Private Member's Bill, Bill 202, Farming Practices Protection Statutes Amendment Act,
1999, introduced by Tom Thurber (PC), MLA for
Drayton Valley-Calmar, was passed and received Royal Assent. This Bill requires
that the land use by-law of a municipality contain policies protecting
agricultural land as well as a method of providing written notice to the owners
of land situated adjacent to agricultural operations.
On February 10, 1999 the report by the Auditor General, Peter Valentine, on the 1994 Refinancing of West
Edmonton Mall was released. The report found there was no evidence that elected
officials had ordered Alberta Treasury Branches to provide financing to West
Edmonton Mall. Treasury Branches has commenced legal action against the owners
of the Mall and others concerning financing issues.
On March 16, 1999, Speaker Kowalski held a ceremony and
reception in the Legislature to recognize la Semaine de la Francophonie. At the
ceremony, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs Minister, David Hancock, announced the creation of a provincial
Francophone Secretariat. Denis Ducharme (PC) MLA for
Bonnyville-Cold Lake was named chair of the Secretariat. The Secretariat will
act as a liaison between the Government and the Francophone community as well as
represent the latter within the Government. It will also represent the
Government in various organizations as well as aid in the negotiation of
federal-provincial agreements in order to promote the French language and
The final report of the Select
Special Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Review Committee
was tabled on March 19 in the Legislature by Gary
Friedel, (PC) MLA for Peace River and Committee
Chair. The Committee made 81 recommendations to amend the Act based on feedback
from public consultation. Bill 37, Freedom of
Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 1999, which was passed
by the Assembly, contains some the proposed amendments.
On February 15, 1999, a searchable database was added to
the Legislative Assembly of Alberta's web site so that Bills and amendments of
the current session could be reviewed by those with Internet access. This new
database provides the status and text of Bills currently before the House. The
Bills can be found on the menu at www.assembly.ab.ca.
The first annual Mr. Speaker's Alberta Youth Parliament in
Edmonton was held on April 15 and 16 at the Legislature. The program was a joint
project of the Alberta-Northwest Territories Command of the Royal Canadian
Legion and the Legislative Assembly Office. Command President, Tom Barton, served as Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker,
Ken Kowalski, presided as Speaker. Eighty-three
grade 10 students from all parts of Alberta came to Edmonton for two days to
experience life as an MLA and learn about the parliamentary process by acting as
Members. Each student represented one of Alberta's provincial constituencies.
Fourteen grade 10 social studies teachers from across the province participated
in the teachers' component of the program.
Senior Parliamentary Counsel
During the period from early March to mid-May more than
twelve bills received third reading. These span a wide range of subjects
including emergency legislation to return government employees to work, a bill
setting out the framework agreement on aboriginal land management and another
bill establishing the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Perhaps, the most hotly
debated bill this spring was Bill C-40 dealing with extradition. It was the
subject of considerable debate at the third reading stage when several
amendments were proposed. Aside from bills, the Senate debated some committee
reports on non-legislative issues. Finally, the Senate bid farewell to the last
Senator appointed to serve for life and saluted another who now represents the
new territory of Nunavut.
The emergency legislation to have government blue-collar
employees return to work following a walkout of nine weeks was considered by the
Senate over two days, March 24 and 25. The bill was presented for debate in the
Senate even as the President of the Treasury Board reached a settlement with the
unions. To facilitate the speedy consideration of the bill, it was referred to
Committee of the Whole after second reading. On Thursday, March 25, the Senate
convened at the unusual hour of 9:00 a.m. to sit as a Committee of the Whole to
receive statements from the Minister, Marcel Massé,
and also representatives from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
Afterwards, the bill was reported to the Senate without amendment and the third
reading motion was adopted soon after Senator Edward
Lawson's amendment of a three-month hoist was rejected in a recorded vote 26
to 38. Bill C-76 received Royal Assent later the same day with several other
bills including two supply bills.
Bill C-49, the First Nations Land
Management Bill, ratified a framework agreement that will provide authority
to 14 First Nations who have signed the agreement to manage, develop, and
conserve their land outside the constraints imposed by the Indian Act. As Senator Thelma
Chalifoux explained March 16 when she moved the second reading motion, the
bill will allow the participating First Nations to undertake various projects
without having to seek prior approval of the Minister of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development. Instead, they will have flexibility to move quickly when
economic opportunities arise enabling them to create jobs and promote economic
growth at the local level.
After several days of debate, the second reading of the
bill was adopted and it was referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal
Peoples April 13. One month later, the bill was reported back to the Senate with
amendments. In presenting the report, the Chair of the Committee, Senator Charlie Watt, indicated that the committee would be
undertaking a study later in the year to address the complex issue of
matrimonial property and the rights of aboriginal women. With leave of the
Senate, the report was adopted the same day and the bill proceeded immediately
to third reading which was also adopted after some debate.
Bill C-49 was not the only item of legislation dealing with
aboriginal issues considered by the Senate during this period. In early March,
the Senate passed Bill C-57 to create a single-level trial court system for the
new Territory of Nunavut. The territory came into official existence April 1
and, in accordance with the provisions of Bill C-39 adopted in June last year,
Senator Willie Adams became the Senator for Nunavut
leaving a vacancy for the seat representing the Northwest Territory.
Another legislative item that was enacted this spring was
Bill C-43 creating the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. During debate, Senator
Sharon Carstairs, the Deputy Leader of the
Government, reviewed some of the evidence heard by the National Finance
Committee during its month long study. A principal objective in creating the new
Agency, she explained, is to enable it to implement operational processes that
currently restrict Revenue Canada particularly with respect costs savings and to
staffing policies. The issue of staffing and the need to assure recognition of
the merit principle was raised in subsequent debate and Senator Roch Bolduc and then Senator Terry Stratton moved separate amendments to ensure its
application to the new Agency. Both amendments were defeated in recorded
As already noted, Bill C-40, dealing with the matter of
extradition, was the focus of an intense twelve-day debate that cut across party
lines. It began April 14 when, after Senator John
Bryden moved third reading of the bill, Senator Jerry Grafstein spoke to two amendments he proposed to
the bill. One amendment sought to oblige the Minister of Justice to secure
assurances that anyone extradited from Canada would not face the death penalty;
the second amendment aimed at fast tracking the judicial process for individuals
accused of war crimes.
Much of the debate on Bill C-40 concentrated on the first
amendment. In his remarks April 22, Senator Serge
Joyal viewed the amendment as an effective way to avoid an indirect
reinstatement of capital punishment that had been permanently abolished in
Canada since 1976. In his assessment, it was vital to limit any discretionary
authority that could be exercised by the Minister of Justice in dealing with
extradition cases. Otherwise, he argued, Canada would be complicit in indirectly
supporting the death penalty contrary to current Canadian law as well as to
international treaty obligations to which Canada was a signatory. This position
was disputed in a speech made by Senator Raynell
Andreychuk on May 4. In her judgment, Bill C-40 would not put in question
Canada's international treaty commitments respecting support for basic human
rights nor would it re-open the question of the death penalty within Canada.
Speaking to what he described as a "first class debate"
Senator Noel Kinsella, Deputy Leader of the
Opposition, noted the complexity of the issues involved and the disadvantage of
debating them on the floor of the Senate. Consequently, the Senator proposed a
motion to refer Bill C-40 together with the amendments to the Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs for further consideration and evaluation.
In the end all the motions in amendment were handily
defeated in recorded votes. What was notable, however, was variation and cross
party voting on the different questions. Several Liberals, Conservatives and
Independents voted without apparent regard for any presumed partisan
allegiances. For example, Senator John
Lynch-Staunton, Leader of the Opposition, voted for Senator Kinsella's
motion, against Senator Grafstein's first amendment, and for his second
Another distinctive feature of Bill C-40 was that it
occasioned the only significant procedural ruling by the Speaker during this
period. When Senator Grafstein had originally raised his amendments April 14,
they were available in one language only. This led to a point of order by
Senator Bolduc who also questionned the references Senator Grafstein had made to
the views of Mme. Louise Arbour, an Ontario court
justice currently serving as the Prosecutor at the International War Crimes
Tribunal in The Hague. As it happened, the point of order did not impede debate
on the bill since Senator Grafstein quickly apologized for presenting his
amendments in one language and just as readily withdrew any suggestion about the
opinions of Mme Arbour.
At the request of the several Senators, the Speaker made a
statement regarding the issues raised through the point of order. On May 11,
Speaker Gildas Molgat explained the nature of Senate
practice respecting amendments. Though Senate rules are silent on any
requirement to present amendments in both official languages, the Speaker noted
that a recent precedent acknowledged its importance and he suggested that the
Senate should continue to follow this practice. As to the references to Mme
Arbour, the Speaker did not accept the point of order since the comments about
her did not constitute a personal attack on a judge nor did they involve an
unwarranted intrusion of a public servant in a matter of government public
policy. Nonetheless, the Speaker expressed understanding for the motives that
prompted concern about references to judges and the courts. The independence and
integrity of the courts, the Speaker said, should not be undermined by
inappropriate characterizations made during the course of debate in the Senate.
In addition to considering numerous bills, the Senate also
debated some committee reports. Two of these reports were presented by the
Committee of Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders. This committee together with
the Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration are the only
standing committees that are permitted to initiate studies without a direct
order of reference from the Senate. On March 4, Senator Shirley Maheu, the Chair of the Committee presented its
eighth report dealing with the rules to be applied to the operation of joint
committees. Much of the work relating to establishing a common set of rules had
been done in the previous Parliament. This report supported that work and
proposed that the leadership of both Houses get together to discuss the minor
differences that have still to be resolved. The report was adopted March 9.
The other report of the Privileges Committee, the tenth
report, presented March 10, seeks to allow independent Senators, those who are
not affiliated to any political party, full membership on the standing
committees. Rule 91 permits all Senators to attend Senate committees, but only
those nominated by the Selection Committee and endorsed by the Senate are
recognized as members of the standing committees. The report proposes to modify
this practice by allowing independent Senators an opportunity to participate in
committees as members entitled to move motions and to vote. One independent
Senator, Senator Marcel Prud'homme, has long
advocated such a policy and more than once he urged the Senate to adopt the
report. Despite several days of debate, the Senate has yet to come to a final
The Agriculture Committee tabled its eighth report March
11, involving a subject that attracted considerable media attention. Senator Leonard Gustafson, the chair of the committee, tabled
an interim report assessing the safety risks of rBST a growth hormone used to
stimulate the milk production of dairy cows. While the subject was the source of
some debate, the report itself was not made the object of a concurrence motion.
After serving more than 33 years in the Senate, Senator Orville Phillips of Prince Edward Island retired. The
Senator was the last of those who had been originally appointed to serve for
life. It marked the end of a stage in the evolution of the modern Senate. This
fact, plus his long years of in public life, was the subject of many warm
tributes offered March 24 just days before Senator Phillips gave up his seat
April 5 upon attaining the age of 75.
Deputy Principal Clerk
Of note this spring, the B.C. Legislature continued the
3rd Session of the 36th Parliament, rather than proroguing and beginning a
new session. The continuation of the session enabled the timely passage of the
historic Nisga'a Final Agreement Act, which also
gave rise to two procedural matters of interest: one concerning the committee
stage rules of debate for bills carrying agreements negotiated under Crown
prerogative, and one concerning the government's use of a time allocation
motion. The Legislative Assembly also received Auditor General George Morfitt's report, "A Review of the Estimates
Process in British Columbia", and heard the Speaker, Gretchen Mann Brewin, rule on four questions of
privilege relating to the findings in the report. Also arising out of the
report, Finance Minister Joy MacPhail announced the
creation of an Advisory Panel on the Estimates Process in British Columbia.
Finally, Legislative committees are active this spring, having been able to
continue their work from the earlier part of the session without needing to be
The Nisga'a Final Agreement Act
As reported in an earlier edition, the Nisga'a Final Agreement Act (Bill 51) received first
reading on November 30, 1998, the first day of a special fall sitting of the
Legislature was called expressly for B.C. legislators to debate the Nisga'a Final Agreement Act. The bill had proceeded
part way through committee stage when the House recessed on February 1st, 1999,
in order for Gordon Wilson, who had been appointed
the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs three days prior, an opportunity to
familiarize himself with his new ministerial responsibilities.
Before calling committee stage on January 14, the Chair of
the Committee of the Whole House noted that the peculiarities of Bill 51, as the
vehicle for passing an Agreement negotiated by the Crown, would require members
to pay special attention to the rules of debate during committee stage. The Nisga'a Final Agreement formed a schedule to Bill 51,
whose body enacted ancillary legislation to conform to various aspects of the
agreement. Bills of similar types have been passed by the Canadian Parliament –
including the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, 1988 – and by the U.K.
Parliament – such as the British North America Act,
1949 and the Canada Act, 1982. In each of these
cases also, the committee Chair has needed to remind members about protocols for
As stated by the Chair, Bill
Hartley, the role of the House in the committee stage proceedings on Bill 51
was to "debate, accept, reject or amend the bill, but subject to technical
amendments, [not to] amend the agreement." The Chair continued, explaining that:
[o]n a proposed motion to amend the agreement during the
Free Trade Agreement debate in the Canadian House of Commons in 1988, the
Speaker ruled as follows: "I wish to remind the member that treaty-making power
is within the prerogative of the Crown, and therefore the agreement itself
cannot be amended." In Beauchesne's fifth edition, citation 778 states: "When a
bill is introduced to give effect to an Agreement and the Agreement is scheduled
to the bill as a completed document, amendments cannot be made to the schedule.
An amendment to the clauses of the bill for the purpose of withholding
legislative effect from the document contained in the schedule is in order; also
as are amendments to those clauses which deal with matters not determined by the
document contained in the schedule."
In the case at hand, the Chair will not accept amendments
to the schedule, other than purely technical amendments to ensure that the
schedule contains the correct text. The Chair will not accept amendments to
sections of the bill which have the effect of amending the schedule but will
accept amendments to sections of the bill that are relevant and otherwise in
The House resumed its special sitting on Nisga'a Final Agreement on March 29, picking up its
committee stage debate. After eight days in committee, on April 12, the
government gave a time allocation notice of its intention to apply closure
pursuant to Standing Order 46 if all stages of the bill had not passed by 6 p.m.
on April 22.
On April 21, the House passed, under closure, a government
time allocation motion. This motion enabled the Chair of the Committee to put
the questions, seriatim, on the main operative sections, sections 3 to 10, of
the Nisga'a Final Agreement Act on April 22, and
then to put, after a recorded vote on each of section 3 to 10, a single question
to complete committee stage and to dispose of all remaining business relating to
the Nisga'a Final Agreement Act, including the
motion to report the bill. This motion also provided that these questions were
to be decided without amendment or debate. Report stage and third reading
proceeded immediately upon receipt of the report from Committee of the Whole,
and proceedings were brought to a conclusion at 5:45 p.m. with every question
being put forthwith for the disposal of report stage and third reading. The bill
passed by a vote of 38 to 32, again along party lines.
Bill 51 was the first instance in the history of British
Columbia of time allocation having been used.
Process in British Columbia
The long-awaited Auditor General's report entitled "A
Review of the Estimates Process in British Columbia" was tabled in the House on
March 16 this year. The report was issued in response to questions raised in
1996 about the credibility of Budget '96, particularly with respect to the
government's forecasting of a budget surplus of $16 million for the 1996/97
fiscal year. Budget '96 was introduced in the House on April 30, 1996 by
then-Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull, immediately
prior to the dissolution of the Assembly. Budget '96 also assumed a high profile
as the basis of the NDP's election campaign that spring, and was tabled again as
the provincial budget by the new NDP Finance Minister, Andrew Petter, on June 26, 1996 after the election. The
re-elected NDP had to defend the budget almost immediately after forming its new
government, since the updated forecast from the financial results for 1995-96
fiscal year, tabled on July 2, 1996, indicated a $235 million deficit instead of
the $16 million surplus forecast immediately before the election.
In the fall of 1996, Auditor General George Morfitt formally announced that his office would
review the estimates process, including its governance and management aspects.
By looking at both, the Auditor General's office would have the contextual
information necessary to understand the fundamental issues underpinning the
budget process, and therefore Budget '96.
In light of the Auditor General's mandate as an Officer of
the British Columbia Legislature, which does not extend to determining the guilt
or innocence of individuals or challenging government motives, Mr. Morfitt's
report commented on the two questions about Budget '96 that were within his
authority to answer: did Budget '96 conform with legislation and other relevant
authorities; and did it include complete and reliable information on government
plans and forecasted surpluses for 1995/96 and 1996/97?
He concluded that "but for [one] possible exception, I
found no action taken, or decision made, during the development of Budget '96
that was not permitted by legislation and authorities currently governing the
budgeting process in British Columbia." The possible exception referred to the
Financial Administration Act's requirement that the
Minister of Finance bring to the Legislative Assembly a statement showing the
expenditure and revenue of the previous year. Prior to the second tabling of the
budget in June 1996, the minister received legal advice to the effect that
tabling such a statement along with the budget was not necessary. Morfitt noted
in his report that this section of the Act is imprecise, and he therefore made
no further comment. On the second question, he determined that Budget '96 did
not include complete and reliable information on government plans and forecasted
Four Questions of
On March 29, 1999, four opposition members – Gordon Campbell, Leader of the Official Opposition, Gary Farrell-Collins, Liberal House Leader, Ida Chong, Liberal MLA, and Barry Penner, Liberal MLA – each introduced a motion of
privilege based on Mr. Morfitt's findings around Budget '96 as reported in "A
Review of the Estimates Process in British Columbia".
Mr. Campbell raised the first matter of privilege, stating
that the Finance Minister had breached the privilege of the members of the House
on two grounds:
In tabling a false budget, the member misled this House as
to the financial condition of the province for both the 1995-96 fiscal year and
the estimates for the 1996-97 fiscal year…. Further, the member did not present
the Legislative Assembly with a statement of revenue and expenditures of the
government for the period from the end of the last fiscal year to the most
recent date practical, as was required under the Financial Administration Act.
Mr. Campbell asserted that these actions breached privilege
in that the Minister's conduct impeded the ability of the House to scrutinize
the province's accounts, contrary to chapter 9 of May's Parliamentary Practice, 21st ed., and contrary to Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2nd ed. by Joseph Maingot, QC, which states: "The
House…is not only entitled to but demands the utmost respect when material is
placed before it for its scrutiny, investigation or study."
Mr. Farrell-Collins raised a second matter of privilege,
charging that the former Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations, Ms. Cull,
in tabling Budget '96, had knowingly misled the House with respect to the
results of the 1995-96 fiscal year and the estimates for 1996-97. Mr.
Farrell-Collins also referred to chapter 9 of May's Parliamentary Practice and Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2nd edition, page 233.
Ms. Chong raised a matter of privilege against Mr. Petter,
claiming that he addressed the House on July 29, 1996 to explain that the
previous Finance Minister's decision to raise forestry revenues in the 1995-96
budget from $1.522 billion to $1.603 billion represented an intermediate path in
the range of options presented to her. Ms. Chong challenged that statement,
claiming that Mr. Morfitt's report demonstrates that the raising of forest
revenues to that degree actually represented an additional $156 million over and
above the Treasury Board secretariat's optimistic revenue forecast.
Finally, Mr. Penner raised a fourth matter of privilege,
claiming that Premier Glen Clark, in August 1996,
had misled the Legislature with his statement that Tom
Gunton, then-Deputy Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks, had not
requested revised revenue projections for the budget planning process from the
Ministry of Finance, when, as Mr. Penner claimed, the Auditor General's "Review
of the Estimates Process in British Columbia" confirmed that in fact he had.
On April 19, the Speaker delivered her reserved decisions
on these four questions of privilege.
On the first matter of privilege, raised by Mr. Campbell,
the Chair ruled that "a prima facie case has not
been established to permit the Member to move the tendered motion." This ruling
was based on the arguments presented by the Liberal and NDP sides of the House,
the Morfitt report, and earlier decisions of the Speaker of the House delivered
on July 15, 1996 and April 3, 1997. The Speaker noted that two previous matters
of privilege on Budget '96 had not met the above test, but acknowledged that the
Morfitt report was clearly submitted as new evidence on the matter. According to
May's Parliamentary Practice, 22nd edition at page 65 and
Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia, 3rd
edition, at page 47, in order to establish a breach of privilege, it must
be demonstrated that the person or persons named deliberately misled the House.
The Speaker therefore noted that "the paramount question which the Chair must
focus on is whether or not the Morfitt report provides sufficient evidence that
one or more of the accused Members, deliberately misled the House by tabling
documents which they knew to be 'forged, falsified or fabricated with intent to
deceive the House.'" (Erskine May, 21st edition, page 188).
The Speaker accepted Mr. Petter’s presentation, which was
also confirmed by the Morfitt report, that an obligation under section 11 of the
Financial Administration Act to provide the House
with a statement of revenue and expenditures only arises where the statement
referred to is prepared and submitted to the Minister, which was not the case in
this instance. Further, the decision of the Comptroller General not to prepare
such a statement was based on legal advice from Finance Ministry staff.
On Mr. Campbell's second point, the Speaker ruled that
evidence confirms that "the extent of the disclosure was consistent with the
statutory requirements practiced in British Columbia and other Canadian
jurisdictions." Further, Parliamentary Privilege in
Canada, 2nd edition, records that in the
federal 1978 case referred to by Campbell, before the Speaker could find a prima facie case and permit a motion to be moved, there
had to have been an admission by someone in authority that a member of the House
of Commons was intentionally misled, or an admission of facts that led naturally
to the conclusion that a member was intentionally misled. Speaker Brewin ruled
that "no such admissions can be found in the material filed, or in the Chair's
opinion, can be extrapolated from the Morfitt report." Finally, the Speaker
reminded members of their duty, in the absence of incontrovertible evidence, to
accept the word of another Honourable Member.
Ruling on the second motion of privilege, raised by Mr.
Farrell-Collins, Speaker Brewin again noted that information presented to the
House was not "forged, falsified or fabricated", that actions taken by both
elected and appointed government officials around Budget '96 were permitted by
legislation and other authorities, and that no admittedly misleading information
was given to the Minister and from her to the House. The Speaker therefore
concluded that: "the Honourable House Leader's statement on the matter of
privilege contains a complaint, but falls short of meeting the standards as
outlined in the authorities which describe a deliberate misleading of the House
with documents that may have been "forged, falsified or fabricated."
Consequently, this matter of privilege cannot succeed."
The third motion of privilege, put by Ms. Chong, was
dismissed as being based on a misconception. The Speaker ruled that Ms. Chong's
allegation that Mr. Petter had misled the House on total revenue figures were
based on Ms. Chong's reading of those figures as given in the Morfitt report,
while the member's remarks under question were relating only to forest revenues.
Finally, on the fourth question of privilege, raised by Mr.
Penner, the Speaker concluded that Mr. Gunton, as one of three members of the
Fiscal Budget Steering Committee, requested that one or more additional revenue
estimates be prepared by staff based on differing expectations of commodity
prices, and that the Morfitt report confirmed that fact. However, the report
contains no evidence contravening the Premier's assurance that he had not
authorized Mr. Gunton to change revenue projections in the budget planning
process. Hence, Speaker Brewin ruled that "the Chair cannot find that the
question and answer contained in the ably presented statement of privilege
qualifies as a prima facie case."
In other business of the 3rd Session of the 36th Parliament, Joy
MacPhail, Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations, introduced the
province's budget on March 30, 1999. Highlights are an additional $615 million
in health care spending, which will fund more long-term care beds and 400 more
nurses, reduce surgery waitlists, and build and expand health care facilities;
tax reductions for small businesses to 5.5 percent effective July 1, 1999; and
an additional $45 million in core provincial education funding, which will
enabling the hiring of 300 more teachers this year, allow for new and
replacement school construction and renovation, and allow for a post-secondary
Ms. MacPhail announced on the same day that the government
would appoint an independent advisory panel - the Advisory Panel on the
Estimates Process in British Columbia - to review Auditor General George
Morfitt's recommendations for improving the budgeting and reporting processes.
The advisory panel is mandated to bring forward recommendations, including any
legislative proposals required, by September 30.
Because the 3rd Session of
the 36th Parliament continued from spring 1998
into the current legislative sittings without prorogation, legislative
committees have been able to continue their work without interruption. The
Select Standing Committee on Forests, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources is
near to completing its review of the 1998-99 Forest Renewal B.C. Business Plan.
The Select Standing Committee on Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing
Orders and Private Bills will soon table its report on the Member's Conflict of Interest Act.
The Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts has
considered the Auditor General's reports entitled "Follow-up review of 1996
Performance Audits"; "Overview of the Provincial Government's Collection of
Overdue Accounts Receivable"; "Report on Public Accounts for 1997-98"; and an
update on the province's progress in addressing the Year 2000 computer problem.
The committee has also completed draft reports entitled "Earthquake Preparedness
Performance Audit Review", "Follow-up of 1996 Performance Audits Studies", "Year
2000 Updates"; and "Public Accounts on the Internet", and "Managing the Costs of
Drug Therapies". The Public Accounts Committee also heard from Doug Enns, chair of the Advisory Panel on the Estimates
Process in British Columbia, regarding the panel's mandate, composition goals
The Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is
currently determining its recommendations based on the extensive public review
process it began in October 1997, and will likely issue its report this summer.
The members of the latter committee have also been named to the Special
Committee to Appoint an Information and Privacy Commissioner. That committee has
issued an advertisement for applications for the position, which the present
Information and Privacy Commissioner, David
Flaherty, will vacate in August this year. The Special Committee to Appoint
an Ombudsman presented its recommendation to the House on April 15. The
Committee unanimously recommended that Howard Lawrence
Kushner be appointed Ombudsman for the Province of British Columbia,
pursuant to section 2(1) of the Ombudsman Act (RSBC 1996 c.340).
The public hearings conducted by former Chief Justice Alfred Monnin into allegations of vote splitting during
the 1995 provincial election wrapped up in February, and the final report from
the hearings was released on March 29, 1999. In the report, Mr. Monnin stated
that the candidate in question had accepted money and the use of a car as an
inducement to run as a candidate, and in the process the candidate and his
campaign manager had breached sections of both The
Elections Act and The Elections Finances Act.
Given that the six month limitation period specified by legislation had expired,
Monnin stated that the matter was concluded, though he did make a number of
recommendations to avoid future occurences, including the removal of a two year
time limit for charges to be laid, the revision of election expense reporting,
improving audit measures for political parties, and the adoption of a code of
ethics by the political parties. Following release of the Monnin report, Bruce MacFarlane, the Deputy Justice Minister,
announced plans for an independent investigation to be conducted by Leonard Doust, a lawyer from British Columbia, to
review allegations of criminal wrong doing and to consider if there is any basis
for the laying of criminal charges.
The 5th Session of the
36th Legislature commenced on April 6, 1999 with
more than the usual share of excitement and controversy. Advance notice had been
given that members of the First Nations community would be staging a rally on
April 6, to protest high unemployment rates for Aboriginal people, and to demand
better housing and better roads in Aboriginal communities. In order to avoid any
potential disruption of the opening of the Session, attendees were requested to
present invitations. At one point in the rally, some protestors attempted to
push through the doors to gain entry into the building, and a number of scuffles
broke out. Police responded by arresting a number of the protestors and by
spraying pepper spray over the heads of protestors.
Inside the Legislative Chamber, it was business as usual,
at least for the early part of the afternoon, as Peter
Liba, the newly installed Lieutenant Governor read the Speech from the
Throne. Events took on a decidedly different turn, as two matters of privilege
were raised as soon as the Lieutenant Governor and the Colour Party left the
Chamber. The Premier, Gary Filmon, who rose to offer
an apology to the House for "providing information that was subsequently proven
to be inaccurate", raised the first matter of privilege. The Premier explained
that when he had given the replies during Question Period in June of 1998, he
had no knowledge that the accusations made were valid. He noted that it was
subsequently revealed during the Monnin inquiry held in late 1998 and early 1999
that the allegations raised had substance. The Premier offered an apology for
supplying information to the House that was later proven to be inaccurate. The
Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, Gary
Doer, also spoke to the matter of privilege. He concluded his remarks by
calling on the Premier to resign. Madam Speaker Louise
Dacquay took the matter under advisement, and ruled on April 15 that the
matter was not in order as a prima facie case of privilege, as the Premier had
not moved a substantive motion in raising the matter.
A second matter of privilege was raised on Opening Day by
Steve Ashton, Official Opposition House Leader, who
contended that the Premier had deliberately misled the House with replies given
during Question Period in June, 1998 on the subject of vote splitting. Ashton
noted that the Premier had given an apology over the vote splitting scheme at
the PC Party annual general meeting, however Ashton contended that the Premier
did not deal with the fact that he had misled the House, nor did the Premier
offer an apology to aboriginal people. Ashton concluded his remarks by moving
"THAT this House censure the Premier for deliberately misleading the House
regarding the vote-rigging scandal on June 23 and 24, 1998, and for the contempt
shown to aboriginal people by the Premier who has continued to fail to apologize
for his actions to aboriginal people." Madam Speaker Dacquay took the matter
under advisement, and on April 20, 1999 ruled the matter out of order as a prima
facie case of privilege, as no proof had been supplied that the Premier had
intended to deliberately mislead the House.
Two Bills received speedy passage early in the session.
Bill 2 - The Electoral Divisions Amendment Act;
which contains revised electoral boundaries and constituency names as
recommended in the December 1998 Report of the Electoral Divisions Boundary
Commission, was introduced on April 12, went through the usual stages, and
received Royal Assent on April 27. The Bill received considerable interest, as
there is wide-spread speculation that an election may be called in Manitoba
during this year. The passage of Bill 2 ensures that the new electoral
boundaries will be in place for the next provincial election.
The second Bill which received accelerated passage through
the Legislature was Bill 17 - The Elections Amendment
and Elections Finances Amendment Act, which was introduced on April 19, and
received Royal Assent on April 28.
Bill 17 contains legislative changes to The Elections Act and The
Elections Finances Act as recommended by the Monnin Report on the 1995 vote
splitting episode. The Bill calls for the Standing Committee on Privileges and
Elections to consider within 60 days of tabling, the report of the Chief
Electoral Officer on the conduct of each general election. The Bill also changes
the limitation period for prosecutions under The
Elections Act. Instead of a five year limitation based on the election, the
Chief Electoral Officer will now be able to commence a prosecution no later than
one year after the date on which the Chief Electoral Officer has reasonable and
probable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed. Several changes
have also been made to The Elections Finances Act.
Provisions are now in place so that auditors retained by registered political
parties can be removed if professional judgement or objectivity becomes
impaired. Changes have also been added to ensure that reports are in accordance
with accepted auditing standards, to ensure access to financial records, and to
ensure that financial records are maintained for a minimum of five years. The
Chief Electoral Officer will also be able to conduct periodic inspections and
audits of the records of candidates, constituency associations and registered
political parties. The limitation period for prosecutions under The Elections Finances Act has been changed, and
reports of the Chief Electoral Officer on The Elections
Finances Act will now have to be referred to the Privileges and Elections
Committee within 60 days of tabling in the House.
One other significant change that was approved by the
Legislature early in the session was the adoption of rules to provide for the
secret ballot election of the Speaker, to come into effect with the next
Legislature. The motion containing the new rules was debated and adopted on
Many Manitobans were saddened to hear of the untimely
passage of MLA Neil Gaudry, who represented the St.
Boniface constituency. Gaudry, who was first elected in 1988 and re-elected in
1990 and 1995, suffered a heart attack while attending the Festival du Voyageur
in February. Mr. Gaudry was a very popular Member whose friendships with MLAs
from all political parties transcended the bounds of partisanship. He had also
been an active participant in the APF. A motion of condolence was considered in
honour of his memory on April 26.
Vodrey, the Minister of Culture, Heritage and Citizenship, has
announced that she will not be seeking re-election. Vodrey was first elected in
1990 and re-elected in 1995 to represent the Fort Garry consituency. She has
served in the Manitoba cabinet since 1992. She served as Minister of Education
and Training, and was the first woman in Manitoba to serve as Minister of
Justice and Attorney General.
Mirwaldt has been appointed as the new Children's Advocate for
Manitoba, effective March 29. Ms. Mirwaldt had previously worked with Winnipeg
Child and Family Services Central, and has been active in social services
delivery in rural and northern settings. Under legislative changes enacted in
1998, the position of Children's Advocate is now an Officer of the Legislative