| British Columbia
| House of Commons
During the period from May 1 to July 31 the
House sat for 56 days meeting on 59 occasions. Nearly half of its time was
spent dealing with government legislation the bulk of which was introduced
after May 1. Thirty bills were introduced and twenty-three passed by July 31.
Nineteen government bills are still on the order paper. The above legislative programme
may be classified as Financial Bills (8), Policy & Administrative Measures
(30) Housekeeping Measures (4) and Special Projects (3).
The financial bills include legislation
authorizing two sets of interim supply, legislation implementing the governments
fiscal policy for 80/81, some financial housekeeping measures, and legislation
to authorize funding for several special projects.
The bills dealing with policy and
administrative matters encompass a wide range of issues few of which seem to
constitute major new programmes and all of which appear to be oriented towards
improving certain aspects of government administration.
Some of the major legislative initiatives
would likely include the Forest Amendment Act, the Employment Standards Act,
the Private Investigators and Security Agencies Act, and the Family and Child
Worthy of note also are bills dealing with
several special projects envisaged by the government including the Transpo'86 Corporation
Act, the Trade and Convention Centre Act, and the British Columbia Place Act.
These bills are designed to facilitate three large scale projects in Victoria
and Vancouver. It is likely that the debate in the House on these proposals
will spark a lively exchange between government and opposition members.
The legislature devoted a great deal of time
to the consideration of the Government's spending estimates. Progress in
processing the estimates has been modest. Eight ministerial estimates were
approved in almost 109 hours of debate yet fifteen packages of estimates remain
to be approved before the House rises for the summer. There is no time limit
for proceedings in committee of supply. The 135 hour time limit rule that was
in place before 1976 was repealed by the current administration when it came to
power. As may often be the case in supply estimates, some of the
"smaller" estimates receive a great deal of attention for obvious
political reasons. For example, the Premier's Office estimates, set at
$551,612, received 57 hours and 15 minutes of review before they were approved
on May 20, 1980. By comparison the estimates for the Ministry of Health, set at
$1,550,985,584, received 18 hours and 54 minutes of review before they were approved
on July 21, 1980. Nevertheless, the committee of supply has been extremely
A number of private members bills were given
first reading in the House but out of the six bills introduced, none were
called, and fourteen private members bills are left on the order paper.
Historically speaking, private members bills in B.C. appear to have had little.
if any, chance of acceptance. Out of the bills on the order paper, some appear
to be recycled from previous sessions and some appear very new. Two of these
private members bills may be of special interest to parliamentarians from other
On March 12 1980, Mr. Stu Leggatt, N.D.P.
member for Coquitlam-Moody, introduced Bill M202, an act respecting the
televising and other broadcasting of debates and proceedings of the Legislative
Assembly of British Columbia. If passed, this bill would authorize the
broadcasting of all of the debates and proceedings of the House. Interestingly
enough. several cabinet ministers have recently and independently endorsed in
the media the concept of broadcasting the activities of the House.
On May 8 1980, Mrs. Eileen Dailly, N.D.P.
member for Burnaby North, introduced Bill M209 an act establishing the right to
public information and the protection of individual privacy. If passed, this
bill would give B.C. its own version of freedom of information legislation.
The legislature also has ten select standing
committees. Four have been active in the period under review scheduling 19
meetings and filing 3 reports with the House. The most active committee was the
Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts and Economic Affairs. It met 8
times under the chairmanship of Ernie Hall, N.D.P. member for Surrey. The
Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders and Private Bills met 5 times
under the chairmanship of Bruce Strachan, Social Credit member for Prince
George South and has filed 3 reports in this quarter. The Crown Corporations
Committee met 5 times under the chairmanship of Jack Kempf, Social Credit
member for Omenica. It traditionally files an annual report to the House.
In addition, the House's Special Committee
on Privilege met 4 times in this period. This committee was appointed in March
to investigate a question of privilege raised by the James Nielson. The chairman
of the committee was B.R.D. Smith, while Stu Leggatt served as secretary. It
was a unique committee in the context of B.C. politics as members set aside
their partisan differences to examine an important and serious matter relating
to the freedom of interaction between an M.L.A. and his constituents. The final
report was filed in the House on June 6, 1980.
Office of Speaker
The past few months have presented an
unusual set of challenges for the presiding officer. Harvey Schroeder, Speaker
of the House, was sidelined after a heart attack at the end of March and is
still recovering at his Chilliwack home. Walter Davidson, Social Credit M.L.A.
for Delta, who was only appointed Deputy Speaker on February 29 1980, assumed
most of the Speaker's duties after April1, 1980.
The session has been a busy one for the
chair. Mr. Speaker was required to deal with nine points of order, four alleged
questions of privilege, and six urgency motions. He was required to give 14
rulings, several of which were challenged by the opposition and subsequently
sustained by the government's majority. Due to the slim working majority of the
government (4 seats) and a number of illnesses in the government ranks, Mr.
Davidson has been required to serve both as Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The
latter position traditionally requires service as chairman of committee of
supply. Thus the period has quite likely been an intense learning experience
for the Deputy Speaker.
During this period several special events
occurred. On May 7 1980, the government called Motion 10 from the order paper.
This motion, moved by Prime Minister Bill Bennett, seconded by Opposition
Leader Dave Barrett, was designed as B.C.'s position on national unity in
anticipation of the May 20 referendum in Quebec. It read:
Conscious of the great achievements of
Canada's past, confident in the promise of its future, and desirous of
maintaining a country united from sea to sea, this House reaffirms its
commitment to Canada and its desire to continue to pursue those reforms which
are necessary to provide the opportunity for the people of all the regions of
our land to reach their full potential within a united country:
And this House joins all Canadians in
expressing to the people of Quebec our love of country, our desire for
continued unity, and that they continue to be, with us, a part of our great
It was unanimously approved on May 8, 1980.
On July 2, Prime Minister Bennett announced
in the legislature that he was hosting a joint meeting of the Alberta and B.C.
cabinets. This meeting was subsequently held on July 11, 1980. It was labelled
as an historic exchange between the governments of the two most western
In the House on June 4, Mr. Speaker tabled
the first annual report of the Ombudsman for the year ended December 31, 1979.
On July 7, Mr. Speaker announced that four M.L.A.s would constitute the B.C.
delegation to the National Conference of State Legislatures convening in New
York City. On July 29, the House commenced two daily sittings, in the hope of
earning an earlier recess but by the first week of August the House was still
Speaker's Office British Colombia
The Legislative Assembly was prorogued on
June 17 ending the longest single session in Saskatchewan's histoy after 81
sitting days. The session prolonged by acrimonious debate on the Department of
Northern Saskatchewan estimates, lengthy debate on a bill giving the province
further powers over telecommunications through its Crown corporation Sask Tel,
and by, a 41 hour filibuster by the two members of the Unionest Party against
Bill 105. Th I s bill amended the Legislative Assembly Act in such a manner as
to deprive the Unionest Party of third party status in the Assembly and to make
the party, ineligible for certain grants and allowances.
The Members of the Legislative Assembly
Conflict of Interests Act first passed in 1979, was amended to require present
Members to make their initial declaration of their interests by August 15,
1980. An update declaration must be filed each year thereafter. Other
substantial pieces of legislation passed during the session included a bill to
provide for the preservation, interpretation and development of certain aspects
of heritage property, amendments to environmental legislation to give the
department strengthened regulatory powers, to establish ecological reserves and
to provide for environmental impact assessments to accompany new developments.
A new Department of Economic Affairs was established and legislation to change
the fuel tax to a percentage of retail price was passed similar to the steps
taken in Quebec and Manitoba. Labour standards legislation was amended to
provide for paternity leave of six weeks to fathers at the birth of a child.
Legislative Assembly Saskatchewan
The fourth session of the 31st Quebec
Parliament was prorogued shortly after midnight on June 19 by
Lieutenant-Governor Jean-Pierre Côté. The 115th sitting of the National Assembly
went down as the longest ever by a Quebec Parliament. It began on March 6, 1979
under the watchful eye of television cameras which. for the first time, were
broadcasting parliamentary debates to the homes of Quebecers. Suspended on
April 15 for the referendum campaign. sessional activities resumed on June 3
and were briskly conducted. Thirty-seven sittings of parliamentary committees
in sixteen days made it possible to study budgetary credits and bills which the
government of Prime Minister René Lévesque wanted passed before the summer
vacation. In all parliamentary committees sat 322 times during the session.
The Constitutional Problem
It was inevitable that the constitutional
problem would be raised in the National Assembly following the May 20th referendum.
The leader of the Official Opposition, Claude Ryan, asked for a special debate
to discuss the attitude which the government planned to adopt at the First
Ministers' conference on the constitution. The debate took place with the
unanimous consent of the Assembly within the framework of the budget speech
debate which had not yet ended.
In a six-point statement, Mr. Ryan noted
that Quebecers expected a sincere commitment on the government's part to
promote the reform of Canadian federalism while firmly defending Quebec's
interests and respecting the fundamental principles of federalism including the
will of the citizens of Quebec to remain within Canada. He submitted that
Quebecers expected from the government a clear commitment to participate in an
active, positive, constructive and creative manner in the search for solutions
which could make the Canadian federal system more just, more democratic, more
dynamic and more acceptable to Quebec and to citizens from all other parts of
Canada. He asked the government if it was prepared to meet these requirements.
Speaking in the same vein. the Interim
Leader of the Union Nationale, Michel LeMoignan, stressed the need to convene
the parliamentary, committee on the constitution in an attempt to obtain a
concensus from all parties with respect to Quebec's true stand on the
constitution. Camil Sarnson, Leader of the Democrats, maintained that the
government could not negotiate in good faith an option contrary to its own and
declared that an election should be called.
The Prime Minister replied that Quebecers
had given Canada another chance and that, as the government, his party must,
honestly and in good faith, discuss with the other provinces in order to see if
federalism can finally enable two different nations to find and experience for
themselves and for their citizens this equality of rights and opportunities
without which nothing will be resolved.
Mr. Lévesque stated that he had committed
himself, to putting his government's program on the back burner and to seek, as
positively and as honestly as possible, the eventual solution within the
system. He pledged to keep this commitment. He said the past was a guarantee of
the future and that in the past four years. his government had never duped the
citizens of Quebec who had put their trust in him and had no intention of
deceiving them now. The Leader of the Government then went on to list the
traditional claims that all previous governments had made and said he also
intended to make them.
Draft Bill on the National Assembly
The President of the National Assembly,
Clément Richard, presented to the Assembly a draft bill intended to update the
status of the legislature. He explained that the draft bill grouped together
and modernized a series of existing legislative provisions which over the years
and following successive amendments,. had come to lack cohesion and unity.
Certain provisions found in other piece, of legislation which fit in better
with the National Assembly, Act have also been incorporated..
The draft bill also proposed several new
elements to members of the National Assembly, elements which. in certain cases,
have been requested for a long time and which reflect the evolution of
tradition and parliamentary customs.
If the draft bill is passed, the opposition
will be represented on the National Assembly Executive Council. It is riot
presently represented on the Committee on Internal Economy which oversees
administrative duties. Moreover, the bill provides for the appointment of' a
legal consultant for the Assembly. The consultant would be appointed upon a
proposal from the Prime Minister and with the approval of two thirds of the
members of the National Assembly.. This person, would be responsible for
providing any Member who so requests with a written consultative notice based
on the conformity of his official actions with provisions governing conflicts
of interest. A member would not be committing an offence if he had previously,
submitted a request and had received a notice that his actions did not contravene
the provisions respecting conflicts of interest, provided that the alleged
facts supporting his request had been submitted in a complete and accurate
The Committee on the National Assembly met
subsequently to form a subcommittee which was given the mandate to proceed with
the study of the draft bill. This subcommittee is chaired by Speaker Richard
himself. Members include Claude Charron the Government Leader, and MNAs Guy
Chevrette, Roland Dussault, Gilles Michaud, Fernand Lalonde, Harry Blank, Serge
Fontaine, and Camil Samson. The designated substitutes are Messrs. Richard
Guay, Adrien Ouellette (PQ) and Yvon Brochu (UN). The Leader of the Official
Opposition, Mr. Gérard D. Lévesque, who is also the dean of the Assembly, is an
ex-officio member of the subcommittee. The subcommittee will begin sitting
during the month of August.
The President of the National Assembly did
not allow the Minister of Justice, Mr. Marc-André Bédard, to replace a bill
which had been given first reading with a new version containing many
amendments to the original text. Bill 83 in December 1979 proposed various
amendments to the civil procedure code, the Civil Code and the Social
Assistance Act. After its adoption during first reading, the Minister of
Justice received many requests to include new elements in the proposed bill.
Several changes were introduced. making it necessary to reprint the bill for
The Bill was reprinted, but kept the same
number and name. When the minister tabled the new printed version of the bill
on June 11, Liberal MNA Claude Forget objected that it was technically a new
bill since substantial changes had been made and that it should have been
tabled under another number, after having been put on the order paper.
In handing down his decision, Speaker
Richard, invoked two sections of the Standing Orders which mention instances
where reprinting is not only permissible, but mandatory. In these two cases,
the act of reprinting the text makes the bill conform to what the legislator
has proposed or decided and adds no new elements. In short, the purpose of
reprinting is to facilitate the reading of a bill which, after having undergone
certain phases and modifications, might still undergo further changes.
In the case of Bill 83, MNAs had already had
an opportunity to express their views during first reading, in accordance with
section 117 of the Standing Orders. If new provisions are introduced by means
of a reprinted bill, it can be claimed that MNAs have not been given the
opportunity, during first reading, to express their opinions clearly. all the
more so given that the explanatory notes to guide them in their voting are
slightly different from those in the original bill. As the protector of the
rights of all Members, the President could not accept the reprinted version of
the bill. The bill was reintroduced for first reading under number 183 at the
following sitting and was subsequently adopted after undergoing the various
stages of procedure. Among other things, the bill stipulates that an alimony
collector appointed by the Minister of Justice can seize personal property and
act as a creditor in various collection procedures.
There will be no enumeration of electors in
ridings for which the seat is vacant in the National Assembly if by-elections
are held before the next general election. Bill 111, an Act to amend certain
electoral provisions, stipulates that the electoral lists in effect at the time
of the referendum of May, 20, 1980, will be used for any by-election held
between now and the dissolution of the current Parliament. Under another
section of the bill, the Chief Electoral Officer can conduct an enumeration as
soon as possible after a by-election has been held. Moreover, the new bill sets
the exact time for recording a voter's name on the electoral list. The section
covering this procedure in the previous bill stipulated that in order to be
allowed to vote, a person's name must appear on the electoral list at the
polling station near his residence the day the revision of the lists is
Significant amendments were made to
legislation respecting elections in certain municipalities and to the Cities
and Towns Act by Bill 105. Introduced by Guy Tardif, Minister of Municipal
Affairs, the bill extends provisions regarding the division of municipalities
in electoral districts to municipalities with a population of 20,000 or more.
It also makes mandatory, in municipalities of 20,000 or more, the provisions
governing the financing of municipal political parties and candidates for
municipal elections. Adopted on division. The bill increases by approximately
24% the remuneration scale of municipal officials. It also provides for the
indexing of these scales each year beginning January, 1, 1981. Municipal
councils must also hold a question period at each meeting, and Municipal
council members must submit a statement of their financial interests within
sixty days following their election.
Chief, Revision Section
Journal of Debates
National Assembly of Quebec
Senate and House of Commons
The legislative accomplishments of the early
months of the 32nd Parliament were fairly modest although before adjournment
the government introduced two important measures: an access to information bill
and a bill to make the Post Office a Crown Corporation. Both will be dealt with
when the House resumes in the fall. A total of 25 bills received Royal Assent
including one to make "O Canada" the official national anthem. Parliament
also increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement by thirty-five dollars,
increased pensions to widows of disabled veterans, approved the government's
appropriation bill, and passed a number of bills extending present legislation
until members have an opportunity to study matters in more detail. On June 25
the Liberals defeated an NDP non confidence motion which condemned the
government for failing to lower taxes, stimulate economic growth and lower
interest rates. The motion was identical to one which brought down the previous
The House finally adjourned in the early
hours of July 23, five days later than expected because of New Democratic Party
opposition to the government announcement that the Alberta section of the
Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline would be built in advance of work on the
more northerly section. The NDP accused the government of selling out future
energy supplies without solid guarantees from the United States that the rest
of the line between Alaska and the southern states would ever be completed. The
Minister of Energy, Marc Lalonde, said the Cabinet had received assurances from
American officials that the entire line would be finished by 1985. He said
direct capital expenditures in Canada resulting from early construction would
total $1.6 billion and provide a $2 million boost to the country's balance of
payments problem. As a result of the opposition a vote was taken on an NDP
motion to delay construction until financing for the entire line was assured.
It was defeated by a vote of 153 to 28, with both Liberal and Conservative
members opposing the motion.
An announcement by Mr. Lalonde, earlier in
the session, of an increased tax on domestic and imported oil was also strongly
criticized by the opposition parties. They protested not so much the need for a
higher price, but that it was done in such a way that members had little
opportunity to discuss the increase.
A new parliamentary Task Force was established
on June 12. Like others created earlier in the session, the Task Force on a
National Trading Corporation will consist of seven members. They include Jesse
Flis (Chairman), Murray Cardiff, Ian Deans, Claude-André Lachance, Marcel Roy,
John Thomson and Brian Tobin. The Task Force will examine ways in which a
Corporation could assist small and medium sized businesses to expand their
export markets. It was instructed to submit a report by December 19, 1980.
On June 9 a Special Joint Committee of the
Senate and House of Commons was established to consider the 1978 and 1979
reports of the Commissioner of Official Languages. On July 18 the Minister of
National Defence, Gilles Lamontagne, moved that the Standing Committee on
External Affairs and National Defence be empowered to undertake a study of
future defence co-operation with the United States in the North American
Region, particularly as it relates to air defence and the NORAD agreement. The
House also approved a motion of the President of the Privy Council, Yvon
Pinard, to empower the Committee on External Affairs and National Defence to
receive and examine reports from official Canadian delegations which attend
In the Senate Maurice Lamontagne introduced
a motion to authorize the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to
consider and report upon "constitutional provisions regarding individual
and collective rights and upon the future role and composition of the Canadian
Senate and alternative constitutional arrangements compatible with true
On July 10, the Standing Committee on
Elections and Privileges presented a report on two matters pertaining to
contracts between the Minister of Employment and Immigration, Lloyd Axworthy,
and a hotel in Winnipeg in which he has a part interest. The Committee found
the Minister had no personal knowledge of changes in Timothy Leary's
immigration permit which allowed Mr. Leary to perform in the Winnipeg hotel.
Insofar as the hotel's contract with the Department for employment of
handicapped workers, the Committee found once again that the Minister had no
knowledge of the arrangement. But it recommended that in view of the wide range
of federal programs in existence the government should consider the
advisability of amending the Senate and House of Commons Act to resolve more
clearly the question of the propriety of Members of Parliament receiving
certain payments and advantages under various acts of general application.
A report of the Public Accounts Committee on
"Procedures in Cost Effectiveness" was presented to the House on July
18. The Committee found that a number of public projects failed to satisfy
criteria for minimum acceptable standards by, which to judge management
performance in capital projects. As a result it made a number of
recommendations with respect to program evaluation, capital projects, and
general ways to improve government accountability to Parliament. For example
the Committee recommended a special committee of the House of Commons be
established to review ongoing projects which have projected cost overruns. All
effectiveness evaluations, including methodology and findings should be tabled
in the House within sixty days of their completion and these should be referred
automatically to the appropriate standing committee. Cost estimates for capital
projects and analyses should be expressed in constant dollars. Guidelines
should be established to ensure that decisions taken by departmental officials
on the basis of political authority be supported by written instruction.
Victories for backbenchers, particularly
those in opposition, are few and far between but one was achieved by a new
Member of Parliament, Pat Carney. She managed to have the rules changed to
allow "designated next of kin" instead of "spouses" to
qualify for six annual free trips to Ottawa. The question arose when Miss
Carney, who is divorced, protested that the old rule placed an unfair financial
burden on single parents. Her attempt to have the Committee on Management and Members
Services recommend a change was unsuccessful so Miss Carney appealed directly
to the Speaker, Jeanne Sauvé. On July 8, Mrs. Sauvé took the initiative in
approving the change. As a result Miss Carney ended a three-week self-imposed
boycott of the House.
The highlight of the Spring sitting of the
Ontario Legislature was the "Confederation Debate" which occupied the
entire week of May 59. Some 82 Members spoke to a resolution which stated in
we the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
commit ourselves, as our highest priority, to support full negotiation of a new
constitution to satisfy the diverse aspirations of all Canadians, and to
replace the "status quo which is clearly unacceptable; And further, we
affirm our opposition to the negotiation of
"sovereignty-association"; And, therefore, we appeal to all Quebecers
to join with other Canadians in building this national constitution; And
further, we hereby appoint a Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly of
Ontario on Constitutional Reform, to consider and report with dispatch on ways
to achieve this objective.
The entire debate received full-scale
television coverage, and simultaneous translation was provided in English and
French for Members, observers and the television audience. Many Members spoke
in both of the Legislature's official languages, and as well, speeches were
made in Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Portuguese. The debate proved a
substantial success in setting out Members' views on the future of
Confederation, and in stimulating thoughtful discussion of this crucial topic.
At the debate's conclusion, the resolution was carried unanimously. A few weeks
later the select committee was named to enquire into possible methods of
constitutional reform. By order of the House, the television coverage was
premised on the concept of an electronic Hansard"; the guidelines followed
were based on those employed in broadcasting of the House of Commons.
In a controversial ruling, Speaker John E.
Stokes took the unusual step of refusing to "see" a Member until he
apologized for remarks adjuged to have been unparliamentary.
Ed Ziemba, MPP for High Park-Swansea, had
accused two Members of, in effect, buying their seats through patronage
appointments. Over the course of several days, the Speaker gave Mr. Ziemba a
number of opportunities to withdraw his statements. When on June 2 Mr. Ziemba
persisted in his refusal, Mr. Speaker ruled that this constituted an affront to
the authority of the Chair and that the usual punishment of naming a Member for
a single day was becoming ineffective. He thus refused to recognize Mr. Ziemba
in the House, and requested committee chairman to do likewise. On appeal by the
Leader of the Opposition, this ruling was sustained by the House. Mr. Ziemba is
not prevented by this ruling either from voting in the House or from placing
written questions and notices of motion. When the House adjourned for the
summer in late June, Mr. Ziemba was still adamant about not withdrawing his
On June 10, the Government lost the vote on
second reading of a bill to establish a complaint procedure against the Toronto
police force 61 to 55. This was the first major piece of government legislation
defeated in the House for several Years. There were no indications, either
before or after the vote that the minority Conservative Government considered
the bill a matter of confidence.
Shortly, before the Summer recess, the
Standing Procedural Affairs Committee presented a report entitled
"Proposals for a New Committee System". This report makes the first
thorough appraisal of the Ontario Legislature's Committees since the Camp
Commission in 1975. Among the Committee's recommendations are proposals for
smaller committees with fewer substitutions in membership, wide terms of
reference for committees reviewing policy ad hoc committees to deal with
legislation; the establishment of a new Finance and Economic Affairs Committee
to review estimates and government economic policy; improved staff support for
The House recessed on June 19 and will
resume on October 6. Members will be very busy during the recess with committee
meetings. Literally dozens of meetings will be held by committees studying such
diverse topics as constitutional reform, nuclear waste. the operation of
Ontario Housing Corporation, the insurance industry and Government Land
Clerk Assistant Legislative Assembly