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Senate and House of Commons
Among the highlights of the period under
review (May-July 1981) were reports by two special parliamentary task forces
established last year. The report of the Special Committee on Alternative
Energy and Oil Substitution was tabled in the House by the chairman. Tom
Lefebvre, on May 12.
The committee examined Canada's present
hydrocarbon-based energy system and how that system might evolve over the next
half-century. A number of alternative energy sources, (biomass, wind, solar, ocean,
geothermal and fusion energy), technologies (heat pumps, fuel cells,
co-generation, coal conversion, district heating, small-scale hydroelectric
generation and non-conventional propulsion), and energy currencies or carriers
(hydrogen and electricity) were considered. The main recommendation was that
Canada move towards an energy system based primarily upon hydrogen and
electricity with hydrocarbons to be almost completely displaced in the long
term as sources of energy. The federal government should be prepared to spend
up to one billion dollars over the next five years to establish Canada as a
world leader in hydrogen technology.
The committee recommended that a Ministry of
State for Alternative Energy and Conservation be created under the Ministry of Energy,
Mines and Resources. It further recommended that the new ministry be divided
into four sections responsible for conservation, solar energy, methanol, and
other alternatives. To promote the development of hydrogen systems in Canada,
the committee also recommended that a commission, to be known as Hydrogen
Canada, be established to act as a lead agency. Canada's new alternative energy
corporation, Canertech, which is presently a subsidiary of the federal crown
corporation Petro-Canada, should report to the proposed ministry of state upon
becoming an independent crown corporation.
Among the committee's 65 recommendations.
the development of alcohol fuels from biomass, research on electric vehicles
(possibly based on a metal-air battery), thermal storage in solar systems and
the development of small-scale energy systems for remote communities were also
highlighted. Exploitation of Western Canada's oil sands was accorded an
important but not pivotal role in future energy supply and the committee was
squarely against coal replacing oil as Canada's principal source of energy in
the next century. The committee recommended against coal liquefaction as a long
term energy option for Canada but some liquefaction plants could be developed
provided they had stringent environmental safeguards. These would earn foreign
exchange, generate skilled employment and technological expertise and provide a
supplementary source of synthetic fuel in an emergency.
On June 22, Jesse Flis, chairman of the
Special Committee on a National Trading Corporation, presented that committee's
report to the House. The report noted that merchandise exports account for 25%
of Canada's GNP, Yet Canada has been losing ground in terms of its share of
world trade – dropping from 4.9% in 1972 to 3.4% in 1979. Many Canadian
manufacturers, capable of and interested in exporting, lack the financial and
human resources to develop new markets. They have nowhere to turn for
assistance. The committee's analysis of the existing situation led it to the
conclusion that Canada needs a new kind of trading vehicle to take Canadian
goods to foreign markets. After considering a number of alternatives it
recommended that the federal government sponsor development of a Canadian
This corporation should take the form of a
shared enterprise drawing financial strength and support from the public sector
and a commitment to sound commercial practices from private owners. According
to the report the role of the Canadian Trading Corporation should encompass
both exports and imports. it should have the ability to trade in all products,
including the export of capital projects; it should offer a complete set of
general trade related services and it should concentrate efforts on the
countries which constitute the growth areas for world trade.
The report also contained a number of
recommendations designed to assist Canada's existing trading community. It
called for improvements to market intelligence and policy information to give
Canadian businesses and decision-makers access to the information they. need to
pursue export opportunities and develop trade strategies. Export financing and
insurance schemes should also be modified to put Canadian exporters on an equal
footing with their international competitors. Government programs to foster
export growth should be rationalized to eliminate confusion and overlap.
Innovative programs to promote export education and give businesses access to
the services of trade specialists should be introduced.
The parliamentary task force on North-South
Relations presented a supplementary, report on May 14 in which it repeated
recommendations made in its main report presented last December. The report,
tabled by, the chairman, Herb Breau, also informed the House of actions taken
to inform Canadians about the problem of international development. The
government's response to the report was tabled in the House on June 15 by the
Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mark MacGuigan. The same day a debate
was held on the subject. It marked the first time the government had formally
replied to a report of the special task forces.
Other Committee Activity
The Standing Committee on Regional
Development, chaired by, Iréné Pelletier. asked for and received permission for
a Subcommittee to spend about one week in Quebec to study the impact of
policies and programs of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion. The
Standing, Committee on Communications and Culture. chaired by, Robert Gourd.
recommended that the government consider asking the Auditor General to conduct
a comprehensive audit of all CBC operations.
On June 23, the Standing Committee on Public
Accounts examined the observations and recommendations of the Auditor General
with respect to the organization of the House of Commons. The committee did not
recommend any further changes in the recently reorganized administration
although it noted the changes were still experimental at this stage. It will
review the situation at the end of the fiscal year to determine whether
satisfactory, progress has been made by the senior management in achieving its
objectives. It asked that an action plan and timetable for the implementation
of policies and procedures recommended by the Auditor General be provided to
the Committee so that progress can be monitored.
In a report to the House on June 15 the
Standing Joint Committee on Regulations and Other Statutory Instruments
objected to the use of a dollar vote in an Appropriation Act to establish VIA
Rail Inc. It called upon the government to introduce a VIA Rail Canada Bill to
give Members of Parliament an opportunity to debate the future and structure of
railway passenger services in Canada and the manner of their management and
control. The committee claimed that the procedure used to establish VIA Rail
violated one of the guidelines established by the committee and approved by,
Parliament, for the scrutiny, of statutory instruments.
The Standing Committee on Health, Welfare
and Social Affairs. chaired by Marcel Roy, has been considering the 1979 report
of the Canadian Commission for the International Year of the Child and it
presented its report on July, 8. The committee called for establishment of a
Secretariat for Children's Affairs with ongoing responsibility for issues
affecting children. It also recommended the convening of a federal-provincial
conference on children's issues to deal with national standards for child care
and adequate funding of child care centres, national measures for child
protection, and various programs to strengthen the family and promote good
On July 9 the Special Joint Committee on
Official Languages headed by Eymard Corbin and Senator Lowell Murray presented
a report. The committee is making an in-depth study of the operation of the
Qfficial Languages Act since its adoption more than a decade ago. The committee
noted that certain concepts contained in the Act, such as significant demand
for French languages services are too vague and are being interpreted
differently, by different federal departments and agencies. It suggested the
phrase "where numbers warrant would be preferable. This would not leave
the onus on the minority language group to formally, request services in their
language. The committee suggested that in the light of mans. departments' poor
record for deciding which areas should have bilingual services, this
responsibility should rest with the cabinet which would act on recommendations
from the Commissioner of Official Languages. The committee also recommended
that by, 1983 all designated bilingual positions be filled by, truly bilingual
staff rather than the present practice of allowing unilingual staff to be
appointed as long as they agree to take language training.
On June 30, the Standing Committee on
Privileges and Elections, chaired by Maurice Foster. presented its report on
the subject matter of Bill C-237, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. The
main recommendation was that the government consider extending proxy voting
privileges to accommodate more of' those who are unable to vote on election
day. The committee also called on the government to change the Act so that
polls would be opened simultaneously and kept open concurrently in all time
zones across the country. This change would alleviate situations whereby
results of the elections from one area of' Canada were being published in other
areas before the polls closed.
In the two months before the summer
adjournment several non-controversial bills and one highly controversial one
went through both Houses and received Royal Assent. The non-controversial ones
included, among others: an act to provide special early retirement provisions
for Air Traffic Controllers; an amendment to the Currency and Exchange Act to
permit the government to issue gold currency; a bill to promote oil conservation
by offering grants to individuals and industries that convert to non-oil
sources of energy; an amendment to the Canadian Home Insulation Program to
assure that no new residential unit receives federal assistance if heated by
oil unless no other reasonable alternative energy exists; a bill to implement
an air transportation agreement signed by Canada and six other nations who have
agreed to sever air links with any country that does not respect its
international obligations regarding hijacking; a bill to provide a summer
residence for the Leader of the Opposition; and a bill to increase the salaries
of members of parliament and provide a new formula for future increases. The
aformentioned legislation all went through the House with very little opposition.
Only the bill to increase members salaries required a recorded vote. It passed
by a vote of 159 to 10.
The controversial bill was C-57, which
amended the Excise Tax Act and the Excise Act and provided for a revenue tax on
petroleum and gas. The bill was reported back to the House by the Standing
Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs in early June. No less than
135 amendments were proposed at this stage and even after the Speaker grouped
them for purposes of discussion and debate, there were still about 45 motions
to be disposed of. After several days debate the government introduced a motion
to allocate time for the remainder of the report stage and for third reading.
On June 19 at 9:00 p.m. members began voting on the motions, a procedure that
took more than two hours and included eleven recorded divisions. The bill
received third reading on June 22 by a vote of 134 to 84.
The usual motion to adjourn the House for
the summer recess came in the midst of a nation-wide postal strike. The
Official Opposition said they were prepared to keep the House in session as
long as necessary to settle the strike. In a move unprecedented in Canadian
parliamentary history, the government invoked closure to force a vote on its
adjournment motion. Finally in the early hours of July 18 the motion was
adopted and the House recessed until October 14.
On Friday, July 3, the first session of
Ontario's Thirty-second Parliament recessed for the summer. It was an unruly,
factious session in which the after effects of the March 19 election (which
returned the Progressive Conservative Government of Premier William Davis to a
majority position after six years of minority rule) were evident. Symptomatic
of the general rancour were several challenges to rulings of the new Speaker,
John Turner; the naming of Opposition Leader Stuart Smith for refusing to
withdraw remarks adjudged unparliamentary; divisions on first readings of
bills; and a procedural dispute which resulted in the division bells being rung
for seven hours until the House reached its normal adjournment time of 10:30
In presenting his third budget to the
legislature, on May 19, Treasurer Frank Miller stressed that it was a
"realistic fiscal framework" for encouraging private sector growth
and maintaining the high level of services provided by the province. The
Treasurer indicated that controlling the size of government and striking
"a more appropriate balance" between revenue and expenditure were
important priorities in the budget.
The budget speech detailed a number of
previously announced economic programmes co-ordinated by the Board of
Industrial Leadership and Development (BILD), such as energy development,
transportation improvement and manpower training. The Treasurer also
highlighted successes in the small business development corporation programme
and announced several improvements to it, aimed at improving access to risk
capital and managerial expertise for small business.
The Treasurer predicted a rate of real
growth of 2.4 per cent in the provincial economy in 1981, up from a .2 per cent
decline in 1980. In addition, he expects unemployment to fall marginally to 6.6
per cent of the labour force. The budget revealed that total spending for 198182
would increase by 12.2 per cent to $19.4 billion. The projected deficit is $997
million; in order to keep the deficit at this level, the Treasurer indicated
that an additional $603 million would be raised through new tax measures.
The principal tax increases were a four
point rise in the personal income tax, from 44 per cent to 48 per cent of the
basic federal tax; a 15 per cent increase in health insurance premiums; and
increases in taxes on gasoline, beer and cigarettes, which are now to be taxed
on an ad valorem (percentage of value) basis. Stating that he wished to
maintain a favourable investment climate, the Treasurer did not increase
corporate income or capital tax rates.
Liberal Finance critic David Peterson
described the budget as a singularly unimaginative document except in
extracting money from the taxpayer's hide". In his reply to the budget,
Mr. Peterson dismissed BILD as containing "not a single job creation
target, very few price tags and a few recycled ideas", and explained some
of the proposals comprising his party's industrial strategy. Mr. Peterson also
warned that the province was threatened with a serious fiscal squeeze as a
result of funding recent deficits by borrowing from government pension plans.
One implication of this policy, he said, is that the government finds itself
raising taxes not to foster creation of wealth but to finance the province's
Bud Wildman, the Treasury spokesman for the
New Democratic Party, assailed what he considered the budget's guiding
principles, Inequity and futility". He maintained that the government's
economic policy does not deal with the serious structural weaknesses of the
Ontario economy, particularly its branch-plant nature. Mr. Wildman cited former
federal Finance Minister John Crosbie's appraisal of the budget as "a
pretty grim concoction", and was particularly critical of what he
considered a decline in social services resulting from government economic
policy. The fundamental solution, he suggested, was "public sector development
of our publicly owned resources".
One of the tax bills, arising from the
budget, The Gasoline Tax Amendment Act, was the subject of considerable
controversy and a lengthy debate in which thirty-three of fifty-five opposition
members spoke during seven days of debate. Critics of the bill saw its ad
valorem features as government profiteering" on inflation and a reversal
of the government's commitment to low energy costs. Discontent was also
registered at the bill's provisions which would enable the government to alter the
gas tax by, regulation.
Among the more significant government bills
before the House was the proposed new Ontario Human Rights Code. A similar bill
had been given second reading prior to the election (and was summarized in an
earlier issue of this Review). Public hearings were begun on this bill in the
Social Development Committee and are to resume in September.
Labour Minister Robert Elgie brought other
important legislation before the House in addition to the Human Rights Code.
One bill provided substantial increases to Workmen's Compensation benefits.
Another bill improved severance pay (one week's wages for each year of service)
for workers who lose their jobs in plant shutdowns, if more than 50 employees
with at least 5 years of service are let go. Improved severance benefits had
been the principal recommendation from the Select Committee on Plant Shutdowns
and Employee Adjustment. While welcoming the legislation, opposition members
criticized its limits, which leave many laid off workers without legal right to
Bill 89, The Consolidated Hearings Act.
streamlines the public hearing process required by such provincial statutes as
The Environmental Assessment Act, The Municipal Act, and The Expropriations
Act. A single hearing may, now be held to consider various aspects of a project
or undertaking in place of a series of hearings each dealing with one specific
phase of a project.
A highly controversial bill was an amendment
to The Public Hospitals Act which permits the cabinet to appoint a
"hospital supervisor" to run a hospital in place of the local board
if the cabinet feels such an appointment is "in the best interest of the
public". The bill followed swiftly after the release of an independent
report which made serious criticisms of the administration of a large Toronto
hospital. Opposition members objected strenuously, that the measure was an
entirely. unwarranted subversion of local autonomy, in the operation of
hospitals, conveying unusual power on the minister.
Shortly before the summer recess, amendments
were passed to The Legislative Assembly Act and The Executive Council Act
granting increases to members. The principal changes were an additional $5,500
in annual indemnity and $2,000 in tax free allowance for all members, who now
receive $30,000 indemnity and $10,000 allowance. Salaries and additional
allowances for the speaker, ministers and party leaders were increased roughly
$2,000. Among the other changes, parliamentary assistants' indemnities were
raised from $6,500 to $7,200 and committee chairmen now receive $3.900 a year,
an increase of $600.
Some of these raises were above those
proposed in the February report of the Commission on Election Contributions and
Expenses. Government House Leader Tom Wells indicated during the second reading
debate that an alternate mechanism was being considered for the next review of
member's allowances and indemnities, although for the time being, at least, the
Commission will remain responsible for the review.
As has been the case for a number of years,
committees continue to do much of the detailed work of the Ontario legislature.
In addition to conducting many hours of estimates debates, and holding public
hearings on bills such as the new human rights code. committees continue to be
involved in special studies. The Social Development Committee carried out a
brief inquiry, into the problems of urea formaldehyde foam insulation and
produced a unanimous report encouraging the government t( expand its testing
programme and ex pressing grave concern at the lack o federal government action
in response to the problem.
A less harmonious episode was the Justice
Committee's response to the collapse of several provincially chartered,
financial institutions. Prior to the election, the committee had been engaged i
a highly detailed scrutiny of this issue, but opposition demands that the
committee investigation be resumed were rejected, at least temporarily, by the
majority of committee members.
All the previous standing committees were
carried over into the new parliament; six of eight are chaired by government
members elected for the first time on March 19th. Two select committees were
not renewed in the new parliament: the intensely political Select Committee on
Plant Shutdowns and Employee Adjustment, and the well-known Select Committee on
Ontario Hydro Affairs. Premier Davis did, however, express the view that a
special committee on energy might be a worthwhile venture.
A new select committee has been struck to review
the mammoth 10 volume report of the Royal Commission on The Status of Pensions
in Ontario. Chaired by Prince Edward-Lennox, MPP, Jim Taylor, the committee
will sit throughout the summer grappling with what is emerging as one of the
fundamental issues of the 1980s pension reform.
Ontario Legislative Assembly
The first session of Quebec's 32nd
Legislature was short. It started May 19th and ended June 18th. during which
time the National Assembly sat seventeen days while parliamentary commissions
convened forty-seven times.
In his opening speech, Lieutenant Governor
Jean-Pierre Côté indicated that the April 13th general election saw the return
of two party representation. This, he told members, would somewhat alter the
operation at the National Assembly, but he was sure members would be able to
maintain the climate of dialogue and efficiency which have always marked
Quebec's parliamentary institutions. In fact, the government's legislative
program and budget for the 1981-82 fiscal year were adopted in an atmosphere of
calm without obstructions or lengthy night sittings.
At the start of the session Claude
Vaillancourt, barrister and member for Jonquière, was again elected Speaker of
the Assembly, while Jean-Pierre Jolivet, a union representative, was confirmed
as Deputy Speaker. Réal Rancourt, a farmer and MNA for the county of
St-François since 1976, was chosen as second Deputy Speaker.
As dictated by tradition, the Inaugural Message
was delivered by Premier René Lévesque who said that the second mandate of the
Parti québécois would require an attitude of courageous realism by everyone.
"We will have to sail cautiously the treacherous waters of the 80s",
consequently, while maintaining and increasing the measures we have already
adopted since 1976, we will also have to select all our new programs with the
utmost care and with the knowledge that it is now unthinkable to keep adding
them indefinitely to all those which already exist, as was the practice in the
Mr. Lévesque explained a program which
centered on economic development, and the protection of the rights and powers
of the province of Quebec. On the constitutional question, Mr. Lévesque
reiterated that he would fight to the end in order to cheek the federal plan to
unilaterally repatriate the Constitution. He said that under the guise of
granting citizens a new charter of rights, the federal government was making an
unprecedented attack on the jurisdiction of the Quebec National Assembly which
would limit and control it, specially in the field of education.
The Leader of the Opposition. Claude Ryan,
did not table a non-confidence motion against the government's policy but he
listed the values he would like to see upheld by Quebec and its government. He
committed himself to bringing them out repeatedly in future debates. He
described as overly cheerful Mr. Lévesque's presentation on Quebec's economy
and the role the government intends to play in that sector. In his opinion, it
will be necessary to rely more upon the initiatives of business leaders and
private sector workers to generate the economic activity and the many jobs
Quebec needs. Commenting on the social and family aspects of the government's
program. Mr. Ryan said that the government will have to ensure that its
initiatives are part of an overall plan which had yet to be clearly outlined.
Finally, the member for Argenteuil said that
it seemed to him reasonable and wise to wait for the Supreme Court's decision
on the constitutionality of the federal package before considering any other
steps. He added that his party did not want a charter of rights which would be
unilaterally imposed by one level of government, in this case the federal
government, but believed that such a charter was a perfectly legitimate
objective for a country with a federal system like Canada. Subject to
hard-nosed negotiations regarding the definition of rights to be protected, it
should be possible to work out a satisfactory political and moral foundation
for the existence of an united country.
The Budget for 1981-82
Following the debate on the Inaugural
Message, the Minister of Finance, Jacques Parizeau, tabled his budget for
1981-82. Quebec's expenditures for this fiscal year will amount to 520.02
billion, an increase of 12.8% corresponding to the inflation rate.
Budgetary. revenues are expected to be
$17.05 billion. The Minister of Finance expects a surplus of $980 million in
extra-budgetary operations, which will reduce the deficit by the same amount.
The budget operations deficit is estimated at 52.9 billion and the total loans
at 52,74 billion. The Government will borrow $1.1 billion from the Caisse de
dépôt et placement du Québec, some $400 million through the issuing of savings
bonds and approximately $51.2 billion from traditional financial markets.
Among legislation adopted during this
session, there is (at last, some will say) the Highway Safety Code, a complete
reform of the old Highway Code. Four ministers. including the current Minister
of Transport, Michel Clair, have, in the last few years, been responsible for
revamping the Code. Mr. Leclair remarked that his predecessors, Messrs. Raymond
Mailloux, a Liberal, under whose authority, this task had been initiated, Lucien
Lessard, Péquiste, who presided over the preparation of the preliminary draft
and Denis de Belleval who was minister at the time of the final draft share the
credit for this overall rewriting of the Code, the first since 1942.
Implementation of the new Highway Safety Code will be staggered over the next
few months. When the new regulations are enforced, they, will be backed up by a
publicity and information campaign.
The National Assembly also approved a bill
which allows the Société d'habitation du Québec to administer an "Access
to Residential Property Program" in compliance with a government
commitment to this effect. This program covers existing housing and mobile
homes. To be eligible, an applicant must have a child less than 12 years of age
and never have owned a principal residence. He will be able to buy a single
dwelling, a condominium or some form of co-op housing, at a maximum price of
less than $60,000.00. For duplexes and triplexes, the price will be increased
to $100.000.00 and $130,000.00 respectively.
Government financial aid will be granted in
the form of interest reduction on the first $10,000.00, $6,000.00 or $4,000.00
of the mortgage loan according to whether it is a new or existing housing unit
or a mobile home. For the first year, the government will assume all interest
costs, for the second year, two thirds of these costs and for each of the three
subsequent years, one third of these costs up to a maximum of $5,500.00 for new
housing unit, $3,000.00 for an existing unit and $2,000.00 for a mobile home.
An additional mortgage rebate of $2,000.00
is provided upon the arrival of a second child and another $4,000.00 for each
subsequent child. According to the opposition, this program is substantially
different than the one to which the government had agreed and it will not
achieve the stated goal.
The Assembly gave second reading to Bill 15,
an act to abolish mandatory retirement at age 65 or after a certain number of
years of service with a firm. According to the sponsor of the bill, Dr. Denis
Lazure, Minister of State for Social Development, this obligation constituted a
discriminatory measure which it is time to eliminate. f he opposition gave its
consent in principle and the government hopes to have this bill adopted during
the fall session.
Finally, a bill introduced by Yves Duhaime,
Minister of Energy and Resources, proposes an amendment to the Hydro-Quebec
Act, to provide this corporation with an authorized social fund of $5 billion
divided into 50 million shares, each having a nominal value of $100.00 and to
insure that these shares are part of the Quebec public domain. The bill has
been referred to the Committee on Energy and Resources which will meet in
September to hear witnesses and study. the legislation.
On June 18th, a few hours before the session
adjourned, the members on both sides of the House joined together in
congratulating Mr. Gérard D. Lévesque, the member for Bonaventure and House
Leader for the Opposition, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary of
parliamentary service. The Leader of the Opposition and the Premier both
stressed the exceptionally, dignified, courteous and efficient way in which Mr.
Lévesque has represented his riding and his region in the Assembly as well as
the contribution he has made to the quality of parliamentary work and political
debates in general for a quarter of a century.
Chief, Revision Section
Journal of Debates
Since the last report, the legislature
continued to deal with the government's legislative programme and spending
estimates for fiscal 81/82. The House adjourned on July 7 after a four month
session and is not likely to reconvene before the end of this year.
During the last two months, the government
introduced thirteen bills. During the same period. the legislature approved
some twenty-five government bills. Three bills are still on the order paper. Of
the government bills six could be classified as major policy statements, five
as administrative measures. while two dealt with supply matters. The major
bills included an amendment to the Real Estate Act which provides for increased
consumer protection in real estate sales. As well, the government was given
it's long awaited new Financial Administration Act which is intended to bring
public sector financial management into the 20th century. British Columbians
will now have recourse to new civil rights legislation * The province's drivers
will face stricter regulations under new sections of the Motor Vehicle Act which
were introduced but laid over until the session reconvenes. Finally, the
legislature approved increased indemnities and expense allowances for MLA's as
well as increased salaries for cabinet minister's, the premier, the speaker,
and the deputy speaker. Also left on the order paper were amendments to the
Assessment Act and the Offence Act.
During the period under review, seventeen
member's bills were introduced. All remain on the order paper at first reading
stage. While many of the member's bills were recycled versions of former
attempts to influence government policy, some of the bills are relatively new.
For example, Gordon Hanson, NDP member for Victoria, introduced a bill to found
an Institute of Native Indian Languages in the province. Barbara Wallace, NDP
member for Cowichan-Malahat, introduced a bill that would seek to regulate
smoking in public places. Rosemary Brown, NDP member for Vancouver Edmonds,
introduced a bill designed to prevent sexual harassment. George Mussallem,
Chief Government Whip and Social Credit MLA for Dewdney, introduced his
Compudsman Act which is a bill designed to create an office of Compudsman with
a mandate to reduce the social, legal, and financial loss to private citizens
from the widespread use and abuse of computers. Few, if any, of the above bills
are likely to become law as the legislature has a tradition of ignoring
Two private bills were approved by the
legislature on June 15. The first, PR 401, is an Act respecting Montreal Trust
Company and Montreal Trust Company of Canada. The second, PR 402, is entitled
West Kootenay Power and Light Company Limited Act, 1897, Amendment Act, 1981. A
third private bill, PR 403, entitled an Act to amend the Vancouver City Charter
was introduced on May 29 by George Mussallem. It has not passed the committee
stage. This bill, if passed, would give Vancouver a ward system for electoral
The major activity of the legislature during
this period centered around consideration of the government's spending estimates.
The budgets for sixteen departments and agencies were approved in some 160
hours of debate after May 11. The process included some heated debates over
policy differences between the Social Credit Government and the NDP opposition
which resulted in 57 divisions in the Committee of Supply. Record level
estimates, totalling over 6 billion dollars were finally approved on the final
day of the session.
While the media asserted that a major
component of the legislature's committee system died of neglect, two
legislative committees were active. The Select Standing Committee on Standing
Orders and Private Bills, chaired by Bruce Strachan, Social Credit member for
Prince George South, met four times and filed one report in this period. The
Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts and Economic Affairs, chaired by
Ernie Hall, N D P member for Surrey, met five times and filed one report. The
Crown Corporations Reporting Committee, chaired by Jack Kempf, Social Credit
MLA for Omenica, did not meet during the entire legislative session but it
should he noted that the House itself met on at least two mornings each week in
addition to regular afternoon sittings thus giving some credence to Mr. Kempf's
claim that there was insufficient time for committee meetings during the
Mr. Speaker Schroeder was required to deal
with eight questions of privilege, five points of order, and two urgency
motions under Standing Order 35. These procedures resulted in seven rulings of
which three were challenged by Opposition MLA's and subsequently supported with
the Government's majority. Frank Howard, NDP House Leader and MLA for Skeena,
introduced Motion 16 on June 3 alleging that there was some delay in deciding a
question of privilege, however the motion was withdrawn the next day. On June
30, Mr. Speaker was required to suspend Robert Skelly, NDP member for Alberni,
for the balance of the day's sitting for refusing to withdraw an
Administrator - Office of the Speaker
Legislative Assembly of British Columbia