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| Alberta | Ontario | Yukon | House of Commons |

Yukon

The fourth session of the 24th Legislative Assembly was adjourned on April 15, 1981 with the reconvening set for November 12, 1981.

During the adjournment legislative activities largely centred around the Special Committee on Food Prices which was established for the purpose of "investigating existing marketing practices in Yukon at both the wholesale and retail levels and reporting on and recommending means by which retail and wholesale price spreads between Whitehorse and Vancouver and between Whitehorse and Edmonton may be reduced."

The Committee held seven days of public hearings in Whitehorse and also spent a week travelling to outlying communities to learn of specific local problems. Blame for high food costs has been attributed to a variety of factors including: freight rates, energy costs, labour costs, profiteering, and the lack of a positive agricultural policy on behalf of either the territorial or federal governments. The story told, of course, depended very much upon the actor who had the stage.

The Committee spent most of October and early November drafting its report which will probably be tabled during the fall sitting.

As reported in the People section of this issue, Mr. Roger Kimmerly won the October 13, 1981 by-election in the electoral district of Whitehorse South Centre for the New Democratic Party. Combined with the September 16 announcement by Maurice Byblow, an Independent representing the electoral district of Faro, that he was joining the NDP, the by-election result elevated the NDP to the status of Official Opposition.

Upon the reconvening of the House on November 12, the NDP will hold a total of three seats and its leader, Tony Penikett, will take over from Ron Veale of the Liberal Party as the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Aside from the seat shuffling to the left of the Speaker the by-election result did not materially affect the composition of the House as the Progressive Conservatives still hold 10 out of 16 seats. The remaining three seats in the Opposition are held by two Liberals and one Independent.

Patrick L. Michael Clerk
Yukon Legislative Assembly

Alberta

The fall sittings of the third session of Alberta's 19th Legislature began on October 14th. The first major order of business was debate on Premier Peter Lougheed's motion that "the Assembly approve in principle the operations of the government since the adjournment of the spring sitting". Mr. Lougheed began his 'state of the province' address by stressing the priority of the "people programs" that the government has been involved in over the summer months. Alberta's position on foreign investment and Canadianization, interest rates, housing, the energy negotiations, and the constitution were then presented by the Premier.

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced by the government. Some of the Bills that received first reading include: The Alberta Insurance Amendment Act, to remove an insurer's right to recover the costs of an accident or loss caused by an insured who was impaired; The Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Special Appropriation Act 1982-83, to appropriate 30% of natural resource revenue to the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund as is done each year; The Students Loan Guarantee Amendment Act to increase the limit of the guarantee by the province from $35 to $100 million; The Senior Citizen Housing Amendment Act, to get municipal participation in the operating costs of senior citizen lodges; a Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, to increase pensions for the permanently disabled. Other Bills have been introduced to amend existing Acts relating to mental health councils, hospitals, land expropriation, mortgage brokers, and inspection of day care centres. As a sequel to the NDP's public hearings into the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, Grant Notely (NDP) introduced Bills to amend the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Act, and filed a report of the hearings.

The opposition members have introduced two Bills of potential import regarding rules applying to members: Mr. Notely introduced The Code of Ethics and Conduct Act, which deals with the members' disclosures of assets and the rules with respect to lobbying after a member has left the legislature. Mr. Ray Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, proposed a Conflict of Interest Act, which would define the concept of conflict of interest" as it applies to MLAs, members of cabinet, former members of cabinet, senior officers of boards and agencies, as well as to the civil services.

On October 15th, the opposition leader raised a point of privilege regarding a statement made by the Attorney General, the Hon. Mr. Neil Crawford, in the Committee of the Whole before the adjournment of the spring sittings. Mr. Ray Speaker suggested that a breach of privilege had occurred in that he perceived a contradiction in statements made by the Attorney General to the Assembly during the previous sitting, and a subsequent argument made on behalf of the Attorney General before the Court of Queen's Bench. The Speaker ruled that there had been no breach of privilege in that the Attorney General's statements made during the spring sittings, were merely opinions, and that these could not later be turned into falsehoods by statements made later by counsel acting for the Attorney General.

The opposition leader also attempted to 'designate' a rather unusual motion on October 15. The motion proposed to be designated (under a Standing Order giving the opposition that right) was as follows:

Be it resolved that the Assembly has no confidence in the hon. member for Whitecourt because of his unethical participation in a cabinet vote and decision establishing new boundaries for the city of Edmonton, which caused property owned by the hon. member to become part of the city of Edmonton.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Gerald Amerongen, expressed concern about the attempt to get unanimous leave or to introduce by oral notice a motion that was not urgent and especially one of the nature of the motion proposed. Unanimous leave was refused, and the motion was then designated, within the provisions of the Standing Orders, for debate the following week.

Before debate began, the Speaker rose to express his concern about the propriety of such a motion. He stated that the motion was unusual in that it purported to condemn a member and might have an effect on the good name of the member. He indicated that the motion would have to proceed within very narrow bounds, limited by the fact that a public enquiry into a closely related matter (possible breaches of confidentiality with regard to the establishment of the new boundaries of the City of Edmonton) had yet to report. Furthermore, he pointed out that the motion probably contravened Standing Order 39 which requires that a substantive motion be written and have no preamble. This motion, the Speaker felt, contained a "backhanded preamble" in the use of the phrase, "because of his unethical participation. Notwithstanding the serious reservations, the Speaker, seeking to permit the greatest latitude as to the subject matter, allowed the debate to proceed within narrow limits. Following debate, the motion was lost.

On October 19th, Mr. Thomas Sindlinger. Independent Member for Calgary Buffalo, rose on a point of' order to ask the Speaker to clarify his position of neutrality in the House. Mr. Sindlinger's concern had arisen out of some public comments that the Speaker had made to a number of visiting British Parliamentarians with reference to the constitution. The Speaker defended his remarks, and his position of neutrality, by suggesting that the present constitutional package, if adopted, would impair the operation of the parliament of Alberta. He stated that, "if the rights of a parliament are threatened, as the rights of this parliament are, surely not only each member of that parliament, but also the one who has been elected to serve in the Chair, has not only the right, but perhaps even the duty ... to speak up in favour of the protection of those rights. It would seem to me that that is as little a departure from impartiality for the Chair as any act of loyalty by a Speaker towards his province or his country might be."

The Special Select Committee on Surface Rights has been perhaps the most active committee since July, as it travelled to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and West Germany as well as to various points in the United States on a fact-finding mission, having previously met with farmers and community leaders throughout Alberta. The purpose of the trip was to determine the practices followed in other countries regarding land acquisition and land use along power line and multi-use corridors. As well, open-pit mine areas were visited, and at a meeting with the German firm, DuWag, the committee had the opportunity to discuss European Light Rapid Transit systems. The Surface Rights Committee continues to meet for the purpose of finalizing its report for tabling prior to the conclusion of the session.

Nancy Pawelek & William Shores
Legislative Interns
Alberta Legislative Assembly

Ontario

With the House in Summer Recess from July 3 to October 13, the principal legislative activity during the period under review was the work of various standing and select committees.

The Select Committee on Pensions met throughout August and September, hearing deputations and formulating opinions on the 163 recommendations of the (Haley) Royal Commission on the Status of Pensions in Ontario. Shortly after the House resumed, Chairman James Taylor (Prince Edward-Lennox) tabled the Committee's first report which proposed, among other things: that immediate increases be made to the federally-funded Guaranteed Income Supplement to relieve the plight of elderly single persons; that employees be granted statutory representation on pension management committees; and that specific steps be taken to improve portability of pensions and reduce vesting requirements. The Committee will be meeting again in January to complete this work.

Two other pieces of legislation were the subject of intensive committee review, and the focus of substantial controversy. The Resources Development Committee spent several weeks hearing groups and individuals commenting on Bill 7, the proposed new Ontario Human Rights Code. In addition to bitter divisions evident among the persons who appeared before the Committee, serious criticisms of the bill were voiced by the Government backbenchers. Labour Minister Robert Elgie introduced amendments to clarify points at issue and to meet criticisms; by the time of writing, the bill had not yet been reported from the Committee.

At the same time, the Administration of Justice Committee was considering a contentious bill to establish a police complaints board for Metropolitan Toronto. Opposition Members of the Committee, together with a number of groups which made representations to the Committee, strongly objected to provisions of the bill which, in effect, authorized the police to themselves conduct the initial phases of investigation of complaints.

Several of the more specialized committees, including the Select Committee on the Ombudsman, and the Procedural Affairs Committee, also met to consider various matters. The latter Committee also travelled to Sacramento to review the procedures of the California Legislature, and the Members' Services Committee visited the House of Commons and the Quebec National Assembly to learn about the facilities available to Members in these jurisdictions.

The first day of the Fall Sitting was marked by a statement from Premier William Davis announcing that the Ontario Energy Corporation, a Crown corporation, had acquired 25 per cent of the shares of Suncor Incorporated, the Canadian subsidiary of Sun Oil Company of Pennsylvania. This purchase was made at a cost of 650 million dollars. The Premier stated that this initiative signalled "a commitment by this government to contribute to crude oil self-sufficiency for Canada and to provide Ontario with a stronger voice in the determination of energy policy in this country". Dr. Stuart Smith, the Leader of the Opposition, was sharply critical of the acquisition, arguing that it would produce few jobs in Ontario and do very little to secure future oil supplies for the province. New Democratic Members have supported the Government's initiative, while remaining critical of the Government for refusing to acquire equity in other resource firms.

On October 15, a resolution was passed, with strong support of all three parties, which may prove to be one of the most significant items of private Members' business ever debated in the Ontario Legislature.

Conservative MPP Alan Robinson (Scarborough Ellesmere), seconded by Liberal Remo Mancini (Essex South), moved a resolution calling for legislation which would make it mandatory for young children to be protected by seat belts or child restraint devices. Children under 5 were excluded when the use of seat belts was made mandatory in 1976. Mr. Robinson cited chilling statistics on the number of injuries and deaths among young children involved in auto accidents and dramatic evidence that the use of child restraint devices can sharply reduce such tragic occurrences. The positive response to Mr. Robinson's resolution from other MPPs and in the media as well may have a strong effect on the Government's willingness to act in this matter.

Graham White
Clerk Assistant
Ontario Legislative Assembly

Senate and House of Commons

The House of Commons resumed on October 14, 1981 after an adjournment of nearly three months. The last two weeks of October dealt largely with three issues; a bill to regulate oil and gas interests; questions relating to the high interest rate and the problems it is causing for homeowners; and opposition attacks on VIA rail for cutbacks in passenger service. A long debate on this last issue occurred on October 26 during a motion to concur in a report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and other Statutory Instruments which dealt with the procedure used to establish VIA rail in the first place.

During the recess a number of Committees were active including the Task Force on Employment Opportunities for the 1980s chaired by Warren Allmand. The Report of the Task Force, tabled on October 14, contained 186 recommendations designed to alleviate problems caused by serious shortages in certain critical skilled trades as well as to eliminate mismatches in the labour market whereby labour shortages and high unemployment exist side by side.

Among other things it recommended that: There should be a National Council of Employment and Training Ministers to better co-ordinate federal and provincial programs and to implement a national employment and training plan; the Federal Government, with the provinces, should pursue the goal of full employment and adopt an industrial strategy linked to employment and training policies; Governments and the private sector should take steps to correct negative attitudes to blue-collar trades; to provide more instructors (Including older workers) for technical training; to make available up-to-date machinery and equipment for training; to reallocate resources to courses offering the greatest employment opportunities; and to establish a continuing education system where an individual can retrain and upgrade throughout a lifetime; The Federal Government should continue to fund direct job creation programs in areas of high unemployment but always with a training element; reaffirm its commitment to eradicating functional illiteracy; provide assistance to basic adult education and job readiness; expand the Critical Skills Training Program; continue assistance to post-secondary education with priority to skills shortages; permit those on unemployment insurance to pursue further education, training and retraining when this is related to skill shortages; reintroduce its program to assist co-operative education; and increase considerably the number of places for coop students in the federal government.

On October 15 the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Forestry, Coline Campbell, presented the Report of its Sub Committee on Acid Rain. The Sub Committee, which was chaired by Ron Irwin, called acid rain the greatest environmental threat in Canadian history. The report looked at the sources of acid rain and its effects on agriculture, fishing, forestry and other industries in each province. It also examined the problem of monitoring acid rain and the legal and international aspects of the problem. The thirty-eight recommendations ranged from the very general to the specific. For example it said that grants from the National Energy Program's Utility Off-Oil Fund for conversion of oil-fired electricity plants to coal be made conditional upon the installation of the best available emission control technology for oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, it called on three companies, INCO, Falconbridge Nickel Mines Limited and Noranda Mines Limited to reduce their sulphur dioxide emissions over a five-year period; it recommended that the Clean Air Act be amended to enable the federal government to develop national emission standards to cover sources of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides resulting in inter-provincial air pollution and acid rain. According to the report Environment Canada, in co-operation with other appropriate authorities should continue and expand public awareness and information about acid rain. For their part Canadian parliamentarians should try to have the subject discussed at inter parliamentary conferences, particularly those involving the United States.

On August 31 the Special Task Force on Federal Provincial Fiscal relations released its report. For further information on this document see the publications section of this issue.

The Editor


Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 4 no 4
1981






Last Updated: 2019-07-15