Bill 18 The Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Countermeasures Against Impaired
Drivers and Other Offenders), which gives the same status to alcohol-related
offences committed in the United States as those committed in Canada for
the purposes of suspension of drivers licences and related administrative
sanctions. It also gives the same status to offences for which the offender
is found guilty, but receives a discharge. The Bill also restricts certain
offenders to driving only motor vehicles equipped with an ignition-interlock
device after their suspensions expire.
One Bill eclipsed all others however in terms of public interest. Bill
7 The Architects and Engineers Scope of Practice Dispute Settlement Act
(Various Acts Amended), amended three Acts to address the scope of practice
dispute between architects and professional engineers.
The amendments to The Architects Act included provisions that clarify the
circumstances in which a professional engineer can do engineering work
that would also be considered architectural work; and facilitate the joint
practice of architecture and professional engineering.
The Bill also amended The Buildings and Mobile Homes Act to provide clear
authority for amendments to the Manitoba Building Code that are required
to settle the scope of practice dispute.
The amendments to The Engineering and Geoscientific Professions Act mirrored
several of the amendments to The Architects Act, including provisions for
a more timely and effective resolution of disputes between the two professions.
Ultimately supported by both the official opposition and the two independent
Liberals, Bill 7 received Royal Assent on November 30, 2005. While MLAs
debated Bill 7 extensively in the House and in committee, the level of
input from the public on this Bill was most noteworthy. During seven meetings
of the Standing Committee on Social & Economic Development, MLAs heard
183 presentations on the Bill and received 17 written submissions.
On December 7, 2005 the Standing Committee on the Rules of the House met
to discuss a number of proposed amendments to our Rules. The Committee
adopted the package after some debate, and later in the same sitting day
the House received the Committees report, concurring it in immediately.
The rules amendments included:
- changes to the Membership arrangements for the Public Accounts Committee
- increasing the number of annual mandated PAC meetings from four to six
- provisions for calling Ministers and deputy ministers as witnesses before
the PAC; and
- changes to the order of items in Routine Proceedings, moving up Introduction
of Bills as the first item in the routine.
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
The Manitoba Public Accounts Committee met on four occasions in November
and December of 2005 to consider a great volume of outstanding reports.
At the first meeting the Committee passed 10 reports, clearing up some
of the backlog. At the subsequent meetings the PAC considered Auditor Generals
reports on the Crocus Fund and an Adult Learning Centre. In addition to
debate on the content of the reports, these meetings also heard extended
debate over the interpretation of the new provisions in our rules for calling
Ministers and deputy ministers as witnesses before the PAC.
PC Leadership Contest
After five years as Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Murray recently
announced his intention to resign as leader of the Progressive Conservative
party. On November 5, 2005, delegates to the partys annual convention
voted on the resolution Do you want a leadership convention. While 55%
of members defeated the resolution, Mr. Murray still requested a leadership
convention be held. On November 14, Mr. Murray announced that he would
not enter the leadership race and would step down once the party chose
a new leader. The Party set the leadership convention for April 29, 2006
in Winnipeg, with a provision for a second vote, if necessary, on May 13,
In late September 2005, John Loewen (PC Fort Whyte) resigned his seat
in the provincial Legislature and announced his intention to seek the Liberal
party nomination in the federal riding of Charleswood St. James Assiniboia.
In the subsequent provincial by-election in the Fort Whyte riding held
on December 13, 2005, Hugh McFayden returned the seat for the Progressive
The current standings in the Manitoba House are: NDP 35, Progressive Conservative
20, Independent Liberals 2. Barring an early emergency sitting, the House
is set to resume for the spring sitting on March 6, 2006.
Clerk Assistant /
Clerk of Committees
The Fall Sitting of the First Session of the 26th Legislature adjourned
on December 1, 2005 after 11 sitting days. By the conclusion of the sitting,
18 Government Bills and one Private Bill were passed by the Assembly. During
the Fall Sitting, the Assembly also approved supplementary estimates totalling
$1,770,397,000 for 13 departments.
Notable Bills passed during the Fall Sitting include:
- Bill 43, Alberta Resource Rebate Statutes Amendment Act, 2005, introduced
by Shirley McClellan, Minister of Finance, allows the Government to provide
Albertans with a $400 per person resource rebate.
- Bill 46, Criminal Notoriety Act, introduced by
Mary-Anne Jablonski (PC,
Red Deer-North), prohibits criminals from any financial gain they may receive
by recounting their crimes through books, movies, television or the Internet.
- Bill 50, Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, 2005 (No. 2), introduced
by Richard Magnus (PC, Calgary-North Hill), provides workers' compensation
benefits to firefighters who suffer a myocardial infarction within 24 hours
of responding to an emergency.
- Bill 54, Alberta Centennial Education Savings Plan Amendment Act, 2005,
introduced by David Hancock, Minister of Advanced Education, amends the
Act by extending the $100 Registered Education Savings Plans grant payable
to children at ages 8, 11 and 14 who were born in Alberta in 2005 and beyond,
to now include all Alberta children turning 8, 11 and 14 years of age.
One Private Bill was passed during the Fall Sitting. Bill Pr4, Brooklyn
Hannah George Rewega Right of Civil Action Act, allows this child to commence
an action against her mother for injuries sustained in a traffic accident
that occurred prior to birth. The daughter is alleged to have suffered
brain damage and blindness as a result of a single vehicle accident that
occurred when her mother was pregnant. The Bill allows the father, on behalf
of the child, to bring a civil action against the mother for damages arising
from the accident.
In the Spring, the Standing Committee on Private Bills deferred its consideration
of Bill Pr4 until the Fall in order to allow the Government time to consider
whether it would introduce similar legislation to deal with this matter.
During the Fall Sitting, the Government introduced Bill 45, Maternal Tort
Liability Act, which provides a narrow exception to the current common
law by allowing the right of compensation for a child who sustains prenatal
injuries as a result of the negligent driving of his or her mother. The
Bill also contains provisions to protect mothers by prohibiting claims
against them beyond the limits of their insurance policies. Bill 45, however,
was not retroactive and therefore would not allow Brooklyn to proceed with
her claim. As a result, the Committee recommended Bill Pr4 proceed with
amendments based on the limitations outlined in the Government Bill. The
Bills received considerable media attention as they are both legislative
precedents in Canada.
On May 17, 2005, the last regular sitting day of the Spring Session,
Blakeman, Official Opposition House Leader, gave notice that she would
be raising a question of privilege on the next regular sitting day regarding
an alleged altercation that took place in the Members' lounge behind the
Chamber between a member of her caucus, Rick Miller (Lib, Edmonton- Rutherford),
and a member of the Government caucus, Tony Abbott (PC, Drayton Valley-Calmar).
The incident arose over comments made by Mr. Miller during the routine
item Members' Statements. In his statement, Mr. Miller expressed concern
that certain comments made by a Member of the Legislative Assembly would
discourage women from entering politics. After making the statement and
leaving the Chamber, Mr. Miller was confronted by Rev. Abbott giving rise
to the purported question of privilege. While Mr. Miller did not name any
Member in his statement, it was implied that his remarks were based on
comments Rev. Abbott made to the media concerning Belinda Stronach.
On the first sitting day of the Fall Session, Rev. Abbott offered an apology
to the Assembly. Ms Blakeman then indicated that in accordance with Mr.
Miller's instructions, she would not be proceeding with the purported question
On November 15, 2005, both Ms Blakeman, and
Brian Mason, Leader of the
New Democratic Caucus, raised purported questions of privilege regarding
the premature release of reports from the Auditor General and the Ethics
Commissioner to members of the media. The three reports in question were
- Report of the Auditor General on the Alberta Securities Commission's Enforcement
System dated October 2005
- Report of the Auditor General on Alberta Social Housing Corporation Land
Sales System dated October 2005
- Allegations involving the Minister of Environment and Member for Fort McMurray-Wood
Buffalo, October 2005, Ethics Commissioner of Alberta
The Members alleged the unauthorized release of this information prior
to it being made available to all Members breached the dignity and authority
of the Assembly and therefore constituted a contempt of the Legislature.
They also referred to statutory provisions which require that the reports
be distributed to Members prior to them being made available to the public.
While neither Member could identify the source of the leak with regards
to the Auditor General's reports, the Leader of the New Democratic Caucus
stated that it was the Minister of Environment who had disclosed the contents
of the Ethics Commissioner's report to the media prior to its release to
Ron Stevens, Minister of Justice and Deputy Government House Leader, responded
to the allegations. He commented that the Auditor General was seeking the
source of the premature release of the reports and until the source was
found there was no point in raising a question of privilege/contempt.
The following day, the Speaker heard from the Minister of Environment who
explained that he was unaware of anything that prohibited him from disclosing
the contents of the Ethics Commissioner's report, particularly since he
had requested the investigation. The Minister stated that given these circumstances
and that the result of the investigation indicated no wrongdoing on his
part, he assumed he was free to comment on the report on a radio program
prior to its distribution to other Members and the public. Under legislation
and practice, the Commissioner provides an advance copy of the report to
the Member against whom an allegation is made, prior to its being released.
On November 17, 2005, the Speaker ruled on the questions of privilege.
He indicated that due to the lack of statutory and parliamentary authorities
concerning premature release of reports prepared by Officers of the Legislature,
he could not find a prima facie case of privilege. The Chair explained
that while the premature release of the reports is a very serious matter
and may be considered contemptuous behaviour, the legislation itself does
not indicate how leaked reports should be dealt with. Even though it was
clear in the case of the Auditor General's reports that they had been released
prematurely, it was unclear who was responsible for the release. Therefore,
to find a case of contempt could cast doubt on those who in fact did have
a right to receive copies of the report, which was something the Chair
was not prepared to do.
A Select Special Chief Electoral Officer Search Committee was struck on
November 28, 2005, following the retirement of O. Brian Fjeldheim as CEO
earlier that month.
While 2005 marked the Centennial of the Province of Alberta entering Confederation,
March 15, 2006 marks 100th anniversary of the first meeting of the Assembly.
Several projects commemorating the Centennial created under the theme
of education and outreach are underway. They include the following:
- four centennial series books written about Alberta's Lieutenant-Governors,
Premiers, Speakers and provincial elections as well as a Legislature Building
coffee table book;
- a series of plaques retracing the history of the first 25 Legislatures
as well as the history of the province prior to 1905;
- a dinner, to be held on March 15, 2006, for current and former MLAs and
- banners recognizing the Premiers and Speakers of the Legislative Assembly
to be placed on the Legislature grounds;
- a commemorative medallion for each Legislature to be given to Members and
former Members for each term served as an MLA since 1905;
- an interactive and educational virtual tour of the Legislature, available
via the Internet, developed in partnership with Alberta Education.
Speaker Ken Kowalski hosted a ceremony recognizing the Muslim Festival
of Eid-ul-Adha in the Rotunda of the Alberta Legislature Building on January
26, 2006. Eid-ul-Adha, the second of the two major Muslim holidays, means
Festival of Sacrifice and is celebrated by all Muslims worldwide.
The third annual Mr. Speaker's MLA for a Day is scheduled to take place
on April 24 and 25, 2006. Up to 83 students from across Alberta are expected
to participate in this program which is designed to give Alberta high school
students the chance to find out what it really means to be an MLA. Through
conversations with MLAs and participation in a two-day program, students
find out how MLAs act as lawmakers and community representatives. The Legislative
Assembly is proud to be in partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion,
Alberta NWT Command, which sponsors and assists with the program.
The Spring Sitting of the Second Session of the 26th Legislature commenced
February 22, 2006, with the Speech from the Throne by Norman Kwong, Lieutenant
Governor of the Province of Alberta.
Micheline S. Orydzuk
Clerk of Journals/Table Research
With the near certainty of a federal election campaign on the horizon,
the Senate had to work expeditiously to clear its legislative agenda before
the dissolution of the 38th Parliament. Of the bills that were dealt with
by the Senate during the month of November, none were considered controversial
and all twenty were expected to pass quickly and easily. Therefore, it
was not anticipated that a short and simple private member's bill would
attract any interest as it made its way through the Senate but the progress
of Bill C-259 was not routine and ultimately its passage was significant.
Bill C-259, an amendment to the
Excise Tax Act, sought to eliminate the
excise tax on jewellery and specifically, provided a tax reduction for
most kinds of clocks. Second reading debate had already progressed over
four days when Government Leader Jack Austin raised a point of order on
November 23. He maintained the bill was essentially the same as Bill C-43,
a budget implementation bill which also amended the Excise Tax Act, including
a reduction in tax to clocks, and had been passed by the Senate before
the summer adjournment. The Senator believed that any further deliberation
of Bill C-259 would be in violation of the Senate rule which prohibits
the consideration of the same subject matter in the same session. For this
reason, the Senator argued that debate on Bill C-259 should not be allowed
to continue since the Senate had already made the decision to eliminate
the excise tax on jewellery when it passed C-43 in June.
Other senators contributed to the debate before the Speaker
ruled later the same day. She agreed that both bills dealt in general terms
with the same subject matter but the deciding factor, in her opinion, was
the rate of tax reduction. Bill C-259 amended the application of the excise
tax on clocks at an accelerated rate in comparison to the phased-in proposal
enacted through Bill C-43. Consequently, the Speaker pro tempore determined
that the bills were sufficiently different and debate was allowed to continue.
Bill C-259 was then the focus of an unusual motion which forced the Senate
to complete the final stages of the bill on November 25. The Deputy Leader
of the Opposition, Senator Terry Stratton, introduced a motion to limit
debate on the bill and to set a time for its final disposition. In effect,
the motion enacted a special order since the Rules of the Senate only permit
time allocation motions on government business. Although highly unusual,
it was not without precedent. In April 2004, a senator succeeded in moving
a similar motion to end debate on another private member's bill.
The passage of Bill C-259 was noteworthy for another reason. It amended
a tax measure which had already been adopted as Bill C-43. With enactment
of Bill C-259, it became one of the rare private members' bills to ever
amend a government tax.
Other public bills that received Royal Assent were Bill C-331 which provided
for redress and restitution to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans
who suffered injustice during the First World War and Bill S-3, the first
amendment of the Official Languages Act since 1988. The bill gave French-speaking
minorities outside Quebec and the English minority in Quebec the right
to take the federal government to court if their interests are not taken
into account. Altogether, 16 bills were given Royal Assent by written declaration
in two separate ceremonies held on November 24 and November 25.
The Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee reported on
the fact-finding mission it took to Paris and Vienna in September 2005.
The committee updated information on international nuclear reactor safety
and other global issues related to the environment and energy supply and
demand in its Eleventh Report, tabled in the Senate on November 22. Later
that month, on November 24, the Thirteenth Report of the committee was
tabled as well. Another in a series of studies on issues related to the
committee's mandate, this interim report investigated threats to Canada's
water in the west.
On November 22, the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament tabled
a report on the participation of Senators by telephone or videoconference
during committee meetings. Since the Rules of the Senate do not permit
Senators to be involved in the Senate in this way, it was the committee's
conclusion that the same rule applied to committee proceedings. It's Seventh
Report noted, therefore, that no changes to the Rules of the Senate were
required at this time.
The Sixteenth Report of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee
entitled A Proposal to Establish a Canadian Mental Health Commission,
is part of the final report on mental health, mental illness and addiction
in Canada which will be tabled as soon as possible in the new Parliament.
The factors that led the Committee to recommend the creation of a Canadian
Mental Health Commission are contained in this interim report which was
tabled in the Senate on November 24.
The Senate adopted the Second Report of the Library of Parliament Joint
Committee and approved the appointment of William Robert Young to the office
of Parliamentary Librarian on November 24.
Question of Privilege
Senator Mira Spivak rose on a question of privilege on November 22 to complain
about the answers she had received to a series of written questions regarding
the boundaries of Gatineau Park. According to the senator, the answers
were contradictory to answers provided by the National Capital Commission
elsewhere. As a result, the government's failure to provide complete and
accurate answers breached her privileges since she was deprived of the
information she needed to do her job properly. Speaker Dan Hays ruled the
following day. In his ruling he suggested other ways to ask for clarification
about the information from the National Capital Commission and concluded
he was unable to support the contention that a prima facie question of
privilege had been established.
The Senate extended best wishes to the members of the Canadian Forces and
offered praise in particular to those serving in Afghanistan in a motion
passed on November 24.
For the first time since the
Conflict of Interest Code for Senators was
adopted on May 18, 2005, a senator declared a conflict of interest with
regard to a bill under discussion. On November 25, Senator Serge Joyal advised the Senate of a private interest in Bill C-57, an amendment to
certain acts in relation to financial institutions. His action was in compliance
with section 14(1) of the Code which sets out acceptable standards of conduct
for all Members of the Senate.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The House resumed sitting on November 21, 2005. Compared to the Spring
sitting the Fall sitting was relatively uneventful. The House passed 33
Bills including ten relating to a number of health care professional groups
modernizing their statutes particularly in relation to governance and disciplinary
procedures; An Act Respecting Protection Against Family Violence expediting
and simplifying victims' access to emergency protection; and An Act To
Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act providing that a commission carry out
its duties and report during the 2006 calendar year.
In the Fall sitting the House confirmed by Resolution the appointment of
Darlene Neville, as Child and Youth Advocate. Ms. Neville succeeds Lloyd
Wicks who resigned on March 31st, 2005.
The House also removed from office by Resolution the Citizen's Representative.
The Citizen's Representative and Child and Youth Advocate are among five
external officials who are officers of the House.
On December 6th the Opposition House Leader
Kelvin Parsons, raised a point
of privilege concerning the presence of Speaker Harvey Hodder, and the
Deputy Chair of Committees Sheila Osborne, at the nomination meeting of
the federal candidate for St. John's South - Mount Pearl. A picture of
the nominating group had appeared in the local paper. The Speaker ruled
that there was no prima facie case of breach of privilege but acknowledged
that he had made an error in judgment in taking part in the event and apologized
to the House.
The Member for Placentia and St. Mary's,
Fabian Manning, resigned his seat
on December 13th to run in the January 23rd Federal election in which he
was successful succeeding John Efford in the riding of Avalon. Mr. Manning
was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1993 and was elected again
in 1999 and 2003. A by-election has been called for February 21st for the
District of Placentia and St. Mary's.
Gerry Reid, (Twillingate and Fogo) announced on January 30th that he would
not be seeking the leadership of the Liberal party in the Province. Mr.
Reid has been interim leader since the resignation of Roger Grimes as leader
on June 1st 2005. The House is expected to reconvene in mid-March.
The Third Session of the Fifty-fifth Legislature opened on Tuesday, December
6, 2005, with the Lieutenant-Governor, Herménégilde Chiasson, delivering
the Speech from the Throne. The Throne Speech laid out government's blueprint
for building on achievements in education, heath care, economic growth,
environmental protection and strengthening democracy. Highlights included
the introduction of a quality pre-kindergarten school readiness program,
legislation to modernize governance of the Community College network, strengthening
the forestry sector, developing strategies for safe, secure and reliable
drinking water, and improving the relationships with aboriginal communities.
Official Opposition Leader Shawn Graham
claimed that the Speech failed
to set out an ambitious vision for the province. As such, Mr. Graham moved
an amendment to the Throne Speech which included initiatives for quantifiable
wood supply targets, the protection of rural schools, the development of
alternative energy production, and the reduction of waiting times for surgery
and other critical medical services. Due to an equality of votes in the
House, Speaker Bev Harrison cast his deciding vote in the negative on the
amendment and in the affirmative on the motion for an Address in Reply
to the Throne Speech.
On December 15 the Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution officially
recognizing the year 2006 as the Year of the War Bride in celebration of
the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the majority of war brides into
Canada via Pier 21 in Halifax. The resolution was moved by Thomas J. Burke
(Lib. Fredericton North,) who was the grandson of a war pride.
On December 20 the Minister of Finance,
Jeannot Volpé, introduced the 2006-2007
Capital Budget. The Minister announced the largest capital investment in
the education system in almost 20 years. The gross capital budget of $436.7
million, an increase of $26.1 million from the 2005-06 revised budget included
a $58 million capital investment in education for the construction of new
schools as well as the repair and rehabilitation of existing schools; a
$90.8 million capital investment in health care for diagnostic and medical
equipment as well as new construction of hospital facilities; a $16.7 million
capital investment in municipal infrastructure including funding to ensure
safe drinking water and more effective waste management systems; a $235.8
million capital investment allocated for roads and highways; and a $20.5
million capital investment to repair and upgrade public buildings and other
On December 22 the Standing Committee on Law Amendments, chaired by
Carr (PC, Oromocto-Gagetown), tabled its report with respect to Bill 77,
Pay Equity Act, which was introduced in the House during the First Session
of the Fifty-fifth Legislature and subsequently referred to the Committee.
Public hearings on the Bill occurred in 2004. The Bill requires that employers
take proactive measures to achieve pay equity between men and women in
the work place. In the report the Committee recommended that Bill 77 should
not proceed. In addition, the Committee recommended that the government
release an annual status report on its progress towards reducing the wage
gap, and that the government consider enacting proactive legislation designed
to reduce the wage gap and promote pay equity should voluntary measures
only result in limited progress.
On December 23 the Assembly adopted the recommendations of the Standing
Committee on Procedure, chaired by the Minister of Justice, Brad Green,
that amendments be made to the Standing Rules, including changes to the
sitting hours on Friday; sixty second time limits on the length of speeches
during Introduction of Guests and Congratulatory Messages; a new rule to
address lengthy Statements by Ministers and replies thereto; the creation
of two new Standing Committees, the Standing Committee on Health Care and
the Standing Committee on Education, and a new Standing Committee on Legislative
Officers to replace the Standing Committee on the Ombudsman; and a new
rule to provide for appeals of decisions of Chairs of Standing and Select
Among the noteworthy pieces of government legislation passed by the House
were the following:
- Bill 3, An Act to Amend the New Brunswick Income Tax Act, introduced by
the Minister of Finance to provide a cash rebate to families who heat their
homes with oil and have a total annual income of less than $45,000.
- Bill 7, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency of New Brunswick Act,
introduced by the Minister of Energy, Bruce Fitch, to establish the new
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency of New Brunswick. The Agency's
aim is to help consumers lower energy bills and better deal with energy
price impacts through conservation and financial incentives. Former NDP
Leader and MLA Elizabeth Weir was named President and CEO of the Agency.
- Bill 27, Pipeline Act, 2005, introduced by the Minister of Energy to consolidate,
update, and expand existing pipeline legislation, providing a clear and
modern regulatory environment for the construction and operation of pipelines
in the province of New Brunswick.
- In addition, Bill 6, Franchises Act, was introduced by the Minister of
Justice and referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments for consideration.
The Bill is designed to ensure a fair relationship between small business
people in New Brunswick and franchise owners. The Bill is based on a model
Act that was adopted and recommended by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.
For the second consecutive year the Assembly adopted a sessional calendar
setting out the sitting days of the House for the balance of the Third
Session. The resolution was supported by the Official Opposition. In accordance
with the calendar, the House, which will resume sitting March 28, will
continue to sit for three-week periods followed by one-week adjournments
until June 9.
Since the adjournment of the House on December 23, Committees have maintained
an active schedule with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the
Standing Committee on Crown Corporations being the most active in their
review of the annual reports and public accounts of various government
departments, agencies, and Crown corporations.
On January 13, 2006, Frank Branch (Nepisiguit), New Brunswick's longest
serving MLA, announced his intention to sit as an independent Member and
to resign as Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Accordingly,
the standings in the House are 28 Progressive Conservatives; 26 Liberals;
and 1 Independent.
Clerk Assistant - Committee Clerk
On Wednesday December 14, 2005, the Government House Leader moved a motion
to adjourn the Assembly proceedings until March 14, 2006. The following
day, December 15, at the request of Premier Jean Charest, the National
Assembly was convened to hold an extraordinary sitting as a matter of urgency
beginning at 9.00 o'clock a.m., in order to introduce, pass through all
stages and give final passage to Bill 142, An Act respecting conditions
of employment in the public sector, whose purpose is to ensure the continuity
of public services and provide for the conditions of employment of employees
of public sector bodies, and to complete the consideration of and pass
Bill 124, Educational Childcare Act, which is designed to enhance the quality
of the educational childcare services provided to children, from birth
until their admission to preschool education, by childcare centre and day
care centre permit holders and by recognized home childcare providers,
as well as to foster the harmonious development of childcare services,
taking into account the needs of parents, particularly their need to reconcile
their parental and professional responsibilities.
At the adjournment of proceedings, on December 15, 2005, the Members of
the Québec National Assembly had passed 20 public bills and 9 private bills
since the resumption of proceedings last October 18.
Appointment and By-elections
The Member for Marguerite-D'Youville,
Pierre Moreau, was named Deputy Government
House Leader, in replacement of Michèle Lamquin-Éthier, the Member for
Crémazie, from October 29 to December 21, 2005. Mrs. Lamquin- Éthier resumed
her duties last 22 December.
By-elections were held last December 12 in two electoral divisions following
the resignation of Yves Séguin in Outremont and of Bernard Landry in Verchères.
The candidates proclaimed elected were Raymond Bachand, representing the
Québec Liberal Party in Outremont, and Stéphane Bergeron, representing
the Parti Québécois in Verchères. The composition of the Assembly now stands
as follows: Québec Liberal Party, 73 Members; Parti Québécois, 45 Members;
independent, six Members, five of whom are with the Action démocratique
du Québec; and one vacant seat.
Éric R. Mercier, the Member for Charlesbourg and Chairman of the Committee
on Democracy and Peace of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas
(COPA), headed a delegation of parliamentarians of this organization to
observe the unfolding of the presidential and legislative elections in
Bolivia on December 18, 2005. In addition to Mr. Mercier, the delegation
was composed of two Brazilian Members and a Mexican Member. Mr. Mercier
was also aided by Francine Barry, assistant to the Chief Electoral Officer
of Québec. This is the first election observation mission organized by
the COPA since this organization adopted a regulatory framework regarding
the organization of such missions at its general assembly held in Foz do
Iguaçu, in May 2005.
At the initiative of Québec parliamentarians
William Cusano, Vice-chair
of the ERC and Member for Viau, and Norman MacMillan, Member for Papineau,
the executive committee of the Eastern Regional Conference (ERC) of the
Council of State Governments (CSG) voted unanimously, last October 22,
a resolution asking the American Government to postpone the enforcement
of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). This Amercian law,
whose first provisions will come into effect in January 2007, will require
that American and Canadian travellers hold a passport to cross the Canada-United
On October 17 and 18, 2005, the Member for Rosemont and Chairman of the
Committee on Public Administration, Rita Dionne- Marsolais, co-chaired
in Ottawa the 25th Conference of the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation,
which examined the best practices, both in Canada and internationally.
She made the opening remarks of the conference's parliamentary reform
theme. The Member also wrote an article for the conference's anniversary
journal entitled Québec in a Time of Change in Governance, which focuses
on extended auditing, accountability that has evolved, as well as the challenges
presented by public-private partnerships and the information highway.
Youth Parliament and Student Parliament
From December 26 to 30, 2005, approximately one hundred students, aged
18 to 25 years, came to the Québec Parliament Building to conduct a simulation
of the proceedings of the National Assembly during the holding of the 56th
legislature of the Québec Youth Parliament. In the course of this simulation,
students take the seats of the Members, express their opinions, prepare
the speeches they will give in the House, defend their points of view,
and are called upon to vote for or against bills. Hence, for a very brief
legislature, the participants of the Youth Parliament learn the inner workings
of Québec democracy.
The Student Parliament, under the responsibility of the Assemblée parlementaire
des étudiants du Québec, aims to make known the National Assembly and its
legislative procedure. Much the same as the Youth Parliament, this Parliament,
which faithfully reproduces the proceedings of the Québec Parliament, is
organized and carried out by university students aged 25 years and under.
This year, the students met at the National Assembly from January 2 to
6, 2006, for the holding of the 20th edition of their simulation of parliamentary
Training and development
On October 21, Michel Bonsaint
gave a training course on parliamentary
law and procedure to 25 Government-employed lawyers from the Montréal region,
as he had given last May for Government-employed lawyers from the Québec
On October 24, within the context of continuing professional development
in parliamentary procedure, the personnel of the parliamentary affairs
sector attended presentations prepared by colleagues on the effects of
the prorogation of a session on the activities of their respective units.
Also on this session's agenda were two presentations: the first, to make
better known the services provided to Members by the pages, and the second,
to explain the work organization and the various duties carried out by
the employees of the Service de la séance at the French National Assembly.
On October 28 and 31, as well as on November 11 and 14, the administrators
and professionals of the Assembly were invited to attend development sessions
on parliamentary procedure, the organization and proceedings of the Assembly
and of its committees. The same programme will be offered to public servants
in the near future.
On November 24, 2005, Michel Bissonnet and
Diane Leblanc, respectively
President and Vice-President of the National Assembly, officially launched
an ambitious project on democracy education, Parliaments in high schools.
The Jean-Charles-Bonenfant Foundation, a non-partisan organization dedicated
to the dissemination of knowledge on parliamentary institutions, plans
to establish in high schools actual parliaments that will have as a reference
the Standing Orders of the Québec National Assembly. These parliaments,
based on the student councils defined in the Education Act and which already
exist in high schools, will comprise of a premier, ministers and members,
all elected. The Foundation wishes to establish this project in 250 high
schools within the next 5 years. There are currently five Québec high schools
experimenting the project. The project is mainly supported by the Ministère
de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, the Fédération des commissions scolaires
du Québec and the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec.
Secretariat of the Assembly
The Select Committee on the
Election Act of the Québec National Assembly,
composed of Members and citizens, officially launched its proceedings on
Tuesday, November 1, 2005, at the Parliament Building.
The terms of reference of the Select Committee, which was created on June
15, 2005, are to examine various matters in relation to the election procedure,
the holding of elections, and measures to promote the participation of
the regions, women, youth and ethnocultural minorities. From November 1
to 11, 2005, the Committee heard the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec,
representatives from political parties recognized under the Election Act
as well as university experts.
The citizens' committee, comprising of four women and four men who take
part in the Select Committee's public meetings, was selected by means of
a random draw carried out by a specialty firm out of some 2300 candidates.
For the purpose of adequately informing the population of this important
democratic exercise, the Select Committee distributed a bilingual reflection
document, which is also available on the Assembly's Internet site, in 3,340,000
Beginning in January 2006, the Select Committee will hold general consultations
in 16 cities throughout Québec, namely: Bécancour, Gaspé, Gatineau, Joliette,
Laval, Lévis, Longueuil, Montréal, Québec, Rimouski, Saguenay, Saint-Jean
sur-Richelieu, Sept-Îles, Sherbrooke, Sorel-Tracy and Val-d'Or.
Accountability of Deputy Ministers and Chief Executive Officers of Public
In December 2005, the Committee on Public Administration tabled in the
Québec National Assembly its fifteenth Report on the accountability of
deputy ministers and chief executive officers of public bodies, which contains
observations, conclusions and recommendations. This exercise in the parliamentary
control of the administrative management of ministries and public agencies
arises from the Public Administration Act.
Last autumn, the Committee examined the annual management reports of several
ministries and public agencies of the Québec State. The Committee report
mainly accounts for the public hearings on the examination of the basic
prescription drug insurance plan, the 2004-2005 annual management report
of the Ministère de la Sécurité publique as well as the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005
annual management reports of the Sûreté du Québec.
In addition, the Committee released the results of the examination of the
annual management reports of the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries
et de l'Alimentation for 2003-2004, of the Ministère de la Justice for
2003-2004, of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec for 2004-2005, of the
du logement for 2004-2005 and of the Société des traversiers du Québec
Diversity of Cultural Expressions
Last November, the Committee on Culture tabled in the National Assembly
the final report on the order of initiative concerning the diversity of
cultural expressions, which contains observations, conclusions and recommendations.
This order of initiative, which was entered upon in April 2005, included
special consultations with organizations and experts on the matter as well
as several deliberative meetings, including one held with Line Beauchamp,
Minister of Culture and Communications.
The Committee report meets the requirements of section 22.4 of the Act
respecting the Ministère des relations internationales, which states that
important international commitments must be approved by the National Assembly.
Hence, on November 10, 2005, the Assembly gave effect to the main recommendation
of the document, namely the approval of the Convention on the Protection
and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions that was adopted
during UNESCO's 33rd General Conference, by a unanimous vote taken in the
House following a two-hour debate on the question. The National Assembly
thus became the first parliament in the world to approve this new international
Equality Between Women and Men
After having been instructed by the National Assembly to hold a general
consultation and public hearings on a document prepared by the Conseil
du statut de la femme entitled For a New Social Contract of Equality Between
Women and Men in November 2004, the Committee on Social Affairs tabled
in December 2005 its report containing observations and also tabled conclusions
and recommendations, which rarely occurs with an order of the Assembly.
This document, which was requested by
Michelle Courchesne, Minister responsible
for the administration of the Act respecting the Conseil du statut de la
femme and responsible for the Secrétariat à la condition féminine, aims
to renew the Government policy on the status of women.
Within the framework of its proceedings, the Committee received 107 briefs
and 23 opinions on-line from individuals and groups concerned with the
issue. Of this number, the parliamentarians heard 75 individuals and groups
in the course of 14 sittings.
In the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report, the Committee
members clearly indicate their desire that the future policy underline
the problems faced by women who are doubly discriminated against or who
are victims of multiple discriminations and that it put forth solutions
in this regard.
The Committee on Transportation and the Environment recently took the initiative
to examine highway safety in Québec. It wishes to take a closer look at
four specific themes, namely the use of cellular phones when driving, excessive
speed, motorcyclists as well as winter driving conditions. Within this
framework, the Committee will hear groups and experts during special consultations
held this winter. Also, it will invite citizens to take part in an on-line
consultation, on its Internet site, by answering an electronic survey composed
of 10 questions covering the subjects discussed during its proceedings.
To learn more about the proceedings of the parliamentary committees and
to consult the documents mentioned in this article, please visit the Internet
site of the Québec National Assembly at the following address: www.assnat.qc.ca.
Secretariat of committees
Translation: Sylvia Ford
Secretariat of the Assembly
Prince Edward Island
In late November 2005, the province held a plebiscite on a form of mixed
member proportional representation. The question presented to electors
was: Should Prince Edward Island change to the Mixed Member Proportional
System as presented by the Commission on Prince Edward Islands Electoral
Future? A total of 20,515 voters (or 63.58%) answered the question in
the negative; only 36.42% or 11,650 cast their ballots in favour of change
from the first-past-the-post system.
Because no enumeration of electors was conducted, and no official list
of electors prepared, no official count of electors is available for the
plebiscite. An approximate idea of voter turnout can be calculated using
the 2003 provincial general election figure of 97,180 eligible electors,
which translates to a low turnout of approximately 33%. In comparison,
in the last provincial general election, 83.27% of eligible voters cast
their vote; and during the 1988 plebiscite on a fixed crossing to New Brunswick
a total of 65% of Islanders voted.
In a year-end interview with a Charlottetown newspaper, Premier
indicated an electoral reform process may continue after the next provincial
election. The Premier noted that Islanders need time to reflect on the
results of the November 28 plebiscite and reconsider the most appropriate
voting system for the province.
Auditor General Under Fire for Releasing Document
The chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts,
(North River-Rice Point), came to the public defense of the provinces
auditor general in February 2006. At issue was the fact that the auditor
general, Colin Younker, CA, had provided a copy of an executive council
memo, dated July 2003 and concerning Polar Foods International Inc., to
the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, at the request of the Committee.
The Premiers chief of staff raised concerns in the media as to the propriety
of the conduct of the auditor general. Mr. MacKinley stated that he felt
compelled to respond and said, Once the committee has determined that
the auditor general is in possession of a documentbe it an executive council
document or some other document received by the auditor in the conduct
of his official responsibilities pursuant to the Audit Actand the committee
orders the production of the document, the auditor general recognizes that
he has no option other than to present the document to the committee.
Several significant pieces of legislation received Royal Assent at the
conclusion of the fall 2005 sitting of the Legislative Assembly:
- An Act to Amend the Tobacco Sales and Access Act
(Bill No. 8 ) adds pharmacies
and retail stores of a certain type to the list of designated places in
which the sale of tobacco is prohibited. The Act also effects amendments
in respect of the display of tobacco, and the advertisement of the sale
or use of tobacco, in places or premises in which tobacco is sold or offered
for sale at retail. The change will eliminate the so-called power walls
of tobacco product displays by June of 2006.
- An Act to Amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
(Bill No. 10) adds new provisions to the Act which outline the role of
an adjudicator and the process to be followed where the Commissioner is
in a conflict of interest position. The Act also reflects the inclusion
of the provinces school boards as public bodies under the Act. A final
provision requires another view of the Act in three years time.
- An Act to Amend the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act
(Bill No. 11) provides that an approved farm organization must inform the
Registrar before June 7 of each year of all requests for refunds made by
farm businesses for the year, and provides that where a refund of a registration
fee has been requested by a farm business, the Registrar shall cancel the
registration of the business.
- An Act to Amend the Marriage Act
(Bill No. 12), among other provisions,
gives parties some options with respect as to how they will be referred
to during the required declarations and statements of a civil marriage
ceremonyspecifically, the alternative of spouse has been added to the
list of husband and wife.
On December 2, 2005, there was a memorable ceremony in the Legislative
Chamber, prior to debate on a motion honouring veterans of the Islands
Mikmaq community. Speaker Greg Deighan, with the unanimous consent of
the House, invited Keptin John Joe Sark of the Mikmaq Grand Council and
Chief Darlene Bernard of Lennox Island First Nation to the floor of the
Legislative Assembly to present an eagle feather to the Premier Pat Binns;
the Leader of the Opposition, Robert Ghiz; the Minister of Education and
Attorney General, Mildred Dover, as Minister Responsible for Aboriginal
Affairs; and Wilfred Arsenault (Evangeline-Miscouche). The motion, which
urged the Assembly and all Islanders remember and honour the significant
wartime participation and sacrifices of the Prince Edward Island Mikmaq
community carried unanimously.
On December 13, 2005, a Special Committee on Prince Edward Islands Electoral
Boundaries was established by motion of the Legislative Assemby. The Special
Committee was charged with receiving opinion on the final report of the
PEI Electoral Boundaries Commission; and was to be comprised of six members,
two to be named by the Leader of the Opposition, and four to be named by
the Premier. The Leader of the Opposition, Robert Ghiz, has stated publicly
that no Liberal members will sit on the committee and, further, that politicians
should not be interfering with the work of the independent commission.
To date, Mr. Ghiz has not named members of the opposition to the special
committee and no meetings have been scheduled.
Estimates of capital revenues and capital expenditures were presented to
the members of the Legislative Assembly by the Provincial Treasurer, Mitchell
Murphy, on December 9, 2005. This marked the first fall capital plan in
the history of the province. The five year plan, which will result in
capital spending of $247.8 million, was put in place to provide additional
time for provincial government departments and industry to finalize designs
and undertake the tendering process. The spending is concentrated on highways,
bridges, and school construction.
Clerk Assistant and
Clerk of Committees
The fourth Session of the Fifteenth Legislative Assembly sat from May 25
to June 2, 2005. It reconvened on October 12, 2005 and concluded on October
27 with a total of nine Bills receiving assent:
- Bill 3, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
- Bill 4, An Act to Amend the Education Act;
- Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Judicator Act;
- Bill 6, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act 2005;
- Bill 7, Personal Directives Act;
- Bill 8, An Act to Amend the Revolving Funds Act;
- Bill 9, Municipal Statutes Amendment Act;
- Bill 10, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act; and
- Bill 11, Supplementary Appropriation Act No. 2 2005-2006.
The following Bills received Second Reading in October, were considered
by Standing Committee, and were reported back to the House when the fourth
session reconvened in February.
- Bill 13, An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act This Bill would
allow the Government to enter into commodity swaps, forward agreements
and similar transactions for the purpose of managing risks relating to
petroleum product prices. The investments would be made in accordance
with regulations and guidelines established by the Financial Management
- Bill 14, Public Airports Act This Bill would give the Minister responsible
the authority over a number of matters respecting public airports, including
traffic, commercial activities and user fees.
- Bill 12, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act This Bill makes changes
to both the Judicial Remuneration Commission process, and the disciplinary
process for judges. It also makes a number of administrative amendments
to the Act.
- Bill 15, Court Security Act A new Act is proposed to control weapons
in court areas, the use of equipment such as cameras, cell phones and recording
devices in certain restricted zones, and entry into restricted personnel
- Bill 16, Tobacco Control Act This Bill would establish restrictions on
the sale and display of tobacco and tobacco accessories, and on smoking
in public places.
- Bill 17, An Act to Amend the Public Colleges Act This Bill would change
the Public Colleges Act to the Aurora College Act to reflect that since
Division the NWT has only had one public college, and replace general references
to public colleges in that Act and several other Acts with specific references
to Aurora College and its board;
It is anticipated that the House will give consideration to each of these
Bills prior to prorogation in March.
Between August 25 and September 2, 2005 the Standing Committee on Accountability
and Oversight held hearings in nine communities to consult northerners
and provide opportunity for citizens to influence the government's planning
process, in advance of the business plans and budget. This consultation
was a significant departure from past practices and resulted in a pre-budget
consultation report being submitted to the Legislative Assembly on October
17, 2005. The Government of the Northwest Territories tabled its preliminary
response to the report on February 9, 2006. Although the consultation
process likely had some impact on the 2006-2007 budget it is anticipated
that the 2007-2008 Business Plans will be more significantly affected.
Finance Minister Floyd Roland introduced his third budget of the Fifteenth
Assembly on February 2, 2006. Members conducted an abbreviated review of
the budget in draft estimate form in the Standing Committees in January,
prior to the budgets being finalized. Lively debate on the Main Estimates
is expected until prorogation on March 2, 2006.
On February 3, 2006 the House adopted a Motion to introduce Provisional
Rule Changes to Implement Designated Budget Days. These changes include
the following procedural changes: On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each
week the House commences sitting at 11:00 a.m. and adjourns at 6:00 p.m.:
The time allotted for Minister's statements has been reduced from 20 minutes
down to 10 minutes; Supplementary questions, during question period, have
been reduced from a maximum of three down to a maximum of two; and the
orders have been provisionally changed to remove Replies to the Opening
Address, Reports of Standing and Special Committees and Motions. Standard
orders remain in place for Thursday and Friday each week. The changes
have been introduced on a trial basis and will end upon prorogation of
the Fourth Session of the Legislative Assembly.
Report of the Independent Commission to Review Members Compensation & Benefits
The NWT Legislature established an Independent Commission to Review Members'
Compensation in June to examine and make recommendations on Members' salaries,
benefits, allowances and expenses in accordance with the Legislative Assembly
and Executive Council Act. The Commission, chaired by former Member,
Ootes tabled its report with 42 recommendations on February 3, 2006. The
recommendations are largely intended to enhance the transparency, accountability
and public awareness of Members' compensation and benefits but also include
a one-time nine percent increase to the basic and additional indemnities
of Regular Members and Ministers. The majority of the recommendations,
if adopted by the Assembly, would take effect upon commencement of the
16th Legislative Assembly.
Electoral Boundaries Commission
In the October sitting of the Fourth Session, the Assembly appointed a
three member Electoral Boundaries Commission pursuant to the Electoral
Boundaries Commission Act. The Commission is chaired by Justice John Vertes
and is in the midst of public consultation. The Commission will report
its findings and recommendations to the House in the spring. These recommendations
are not binding.
Broadcast of Session Proceedings
The Board of Management has directed that alternative options for the broadcast
and rebroadcast of Assembly proceedings be pursued in the short term, due
to the expiry of the broadcast agreement with the Aboriginal Peoples Television
Network (APTN). The Speaker subsequently agreed to a trial run of Internet
web-casting of the Assembly and has sought out broadcasting agreements
with several radio and cable television outlets across the NWT.
Web-casting through live audio and video web streams as well as archives
are now available through the Legislative Assembly Website at:
Acting Clerk of Committees
The 2005 Fall Sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly began on October
27 and ended on December 19 after 30 sitting days. Ten government bills
were introduced during this Sitting. These bills were:
- Bill No. 16, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05
- Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06
- Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act
- Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act
- Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan
- Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act
- Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act
- Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act
- Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
- Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005)
All these bills passed third reading and, with the exception of Bill No.
65, received Assent on December 19.
Of particular interest are the
Co-operation in Governance Act and Act to
Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005). The Co-operation in Governance
Act establishes certain procedures and expectations regarding interaction
among members of the Yukon Forum the Government of Yukon, self-governing
Yukon First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations. The Yukon Forum
provides its members a venue to discuss issues of common concern and identify
common priorities that they may reflect in their activities. Criticism
of the bill had less to do with its content than with what the opposition
parties saw as the government's lack of commitment to it.
Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005) was remarkable for the speed
with which it became law. The bill, which was introduced in response to
the rising cost of energy, provides for a one-time energy rebate of $150
to resident Yukon taxpayers who are also eligible for quarterly payments
of the Goods and Services Tax rebate. The bill was introduced and given
first and second reading on December 1. On December 6 it was reported by
Committee of the Whole, given third reading and received Assent. Despite
its quick passage the bill was not without its critics. Opposition members
argued that the rebate contained in the bill was too small and would not
benefit enough Yukoners. However, they did support its passage.
Only one private member's bill Bill No. 110,
Yukon Smoke-Free Places
Act was introduced and given first reading during this Sitting. The bill
was introduced by an independent member, Peter Jenkins (Klondike). Unfortunately
for Mr. Jenkins the Standing Orders do not allow independent members to
call bills or motions for debate on those days when opposition private
members business has precedence. On two occasions he asked for unanimous
consent to proceed with second reading of Bill No. 110. Unanimous consent
was denied both times.
Changes in the Legislature
As mentioned in a previous issue of this journal the Yukon Legislative
Assembly faced the potential expulsion of a member due to a criminal conviction.
On May 13, 2005 Haakon Arntzen (Copperbelt, Independent) was convicted
of three counts of indecent assault. The charges, laid in April 2004, related
to incidents that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. The calls for Mr. Arntzen's
resignation began immediately upon his conviction. These calls grew louder
when the sentencing was postponed. His sentencing was originally scheduled
for June 27 but was postponed to September 7 after he changed lawyers.
Some even called for a special sitting of the Assembly for the purpose
of declaring Mr. Arntzen's seat vacant. This controversy abated on September
9, 2005 when Mr. Arntzen resigned his seat.
However, this controversy then gave way to a new one regarding the date
of the by-election to fill the vacant seat of Copperbelt. The Elections
Act gives the premier up to six months to call a by-election after a seat
has been declared vacant. However, given the circumstances of Mr. Arntzen's
resignation many felt the seat should be filled sooner rather than later.
On October 20, after sustaining criticism, particularly from the opposition
parties, Premier Dennis Fentie (Watson Lake, Yukon Party) announced that
the by-election would be held on November 21.
Three candidates were nominated for the by-election.
Arthur Mitchell represented
the Liberal Party. The New Democratic Party nominated Maureen Stephens,
who had been a candidate in the electoral district of McIntyre- Takhini
during the 2002 general election. Cynthia Kearns ran for the governing
Yukon Party. Mr. Mitchell won the by-election, taking 49.62 percent of
the votes cast. Voter turn-out was 58.34 percent, as compared to 73.84
percent in the 2002 general election. Mr. Mitchell was sworn in as the
new Member for Copperbelt on November 28 and took his seat in the Assembly
the same day.
Mr. Mitchell had become Liberal leader following a convention held June
4, 2005. The leadership race attracted four candidates, including: Pat
Duncan, who was Premier of Yukon from 2000-2002; Mr. Mitchell, an unsuccessful
candidate for the party in the electoral district of Copperbelt in the
2002 general election; Ed Schultz, a former grand chief of the Council
of Yukon First Nations; and Elvis Presley, a Ross River-based musician
and headstone maker. Ms. Duncan, a member of the Assembly since 1996 and
leader of the party since 1997, led after the first ballot, but did not
receive a majority of the votes cast, the threshold required to win the
leadership. Mr. Mitchell was the first candidate to breach that threshold,
taking 357 of 661 votes cast on the third ballot.
Member leaves Cabinet
November 28 was destined to be an interesting day for the Yukon Legislative
Assembly as Mr. Mitchell was due to be sworn in and take his seat in the
Chamber. However it became even more interesting when Mr. Jenkins left
both cabinet and the government caucus to sit as an independent member.
The circumstances of Mr. Jenkins' departure are a matter of dispute. Mr.
Jenkins the Deputy Premier and government House leader who also held
the cabinet portfolios for Health and Social Services, Environment, and
the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board said his departure
was due to a lack of progress on important issues affecting his electoral
district since the Yukon Party assumed power in 2002. Premier Fentie, however,
asserted that Mr. Jenkins' leaving was precipitated by his refusal to repay
money loaned to his business interests by the Government of Yukon and which
are now overdue.
Irrespective of the reasons for Mr. Jenkins' departure, his newfound status
as an independent member leaves the governing Yukon Party with a reduced
majority in the Assembly. In the November 2002 general election the Yukon
Party took 12 of 18 seats, a majority of six. However with Mr. Jenkins'
move and Mr. Mitchell's election that majority is now two.
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
The third report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was released
in January 2006. This report arose from public hearings held February 8
and 9, 2005 regarding two reports prepared by the Office of the Auditor
General of Canada. These reports related to two projects under the auspices
of the Yukon Development Corporation the Energy Solutions Centre and
the construction of an electric power transmission line from Mayo to Dawson
City that incurred significant financial and operational problems. The
committee's report will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly when it next
On February 14 PAC members met with officials from the Office of the Auditor
General of Canada, including Auditor General Sheila Fraser. The purpose
of the meeting was to discuss ways in which the committee and the Auditor
General's office could work together to ensure the highest levels of fiscal
and operational accountability in the Government of Yukon.
Legislative Exchange with Alaska
On February 21 a delegation of MLAs, led by Speaker
Ted Staffen, departed
Whitehorse for the Assembly's annual legislative exchange with the Alaska
State Legislature in Juneau. The exchange, done under the auspices of
the Yukon Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, began in
1982 and alternates between Whitehorse and Juneau. The purpose of the exchange
is to allow legislators in each jurisdiction to become more familiar with
each other and their different political systems, and to promote dialogue
on issues of mutual concern. Joining Speaker Staffen were the Deputy Speaker,
Patrick Rouble (Southern Lakes, Yukon Party); cabinet minister Archie Lang
(Porter Creek Centre); the leader of the official opposition, Todd Hardy
(Whitehorse Centre, NDP); and Mr. Mitchell. The delegation was accompanied
by Floyd McCormick, Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. The delegation
returned to Whitehorse on February 23.
The Second Session of the 38th Parliament adjourned on Thursday, December
15, 2005 until Monday, February 13, 2006. In the fall session, the Legislature
passed a number of bills including Bill 214, An Act to amend the Election
Act, the Election Finances Act and the Legislative Assembly Act, to repeal
the Representation Act, 1996 and to enact the Representation Act, 2005.
The bill provides fixed dates for provincial general elections and terms
of approximately four years. Barring an earlier dissolution, the next
Ontario provincial election will be on October 4, 2007.
When the federal general election was called for January 23, 2006, PC Members
John Baird, MPP for Nepean-Carleton, and Jim Flaherty, MPP for Whitby-Ajax,
and NDP Member, Marilyn Churley, MPP for Toronto- Danforth, resigned to
run for seats in the House of Commons.
With the resignation of Ms. Churley, the NDP caucus dropped to seven Members,
one short of the required eight as prescribed in the Standing Orders for
the status of Recognized Party in the Legislative Assembly. However,
the status of the NDP remained the same because, on June 13, 2005, the
House ordered that the New Democratic Party Caucus be afforded the status
of Recognized Party in respect of all procedural and administrative matters
pending the outcome of an eventual by-election in the riding of Toronto-Danforth,
at which time the terms of the Standing Orders shall apply.
On January 4, 2006, Coulter Osborne, Integrity Commissioner, responded
to the request by John Tory, Leader of the Official Opposition, on whether
Harinder Takhar, Minister of Transportation, had breached the Members'
Integrity Act or Parliamentary convention. Mr. Osborne concluded in his
report to the Legislative Assembly that the Minister was in breach of the
Act and recommended the Member be reprimanded. Mr. Takhar was the third
Member in history to be found in breach of the Act and this was the first
time that the Integrity Commissioner recommended a sanction.
The Select Committee on Electoral Reform, as part of its deliberations,
travelled to Victoria and Vancouver (BC), Stuttgart (Germany), Edinburgh
(Scotland) and Dublin (Ireland) to review different electoral systems.
The committee Members were very fortunate to arrive in Germany on the
day of the federal election and were invited to watch the results come
in at the state parliament buildings along with state party officials and
elected members. After their return to Toronto, the Committee tabled its
final report in the House on November 29, 2005.
The Standing Committee on General Government held public hearings on Bill
206, An Act to revise the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System
Act. The Bill was referred to the Committee after first reading in the
House. Following 4 days of public hearings, the bill was amended in Committee
and reported back to the House for second reading. Upon receiving second
reading, it was referred back to the Standing Committee on General Government
for further consideration.
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy examined Bill 211,
An Act to amend
the Human Rights Code and certain other Acts to end mandatory retirement.
After public hearings, the bill was amended in Committee and reported
back to the House for third reading.
The Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly conducted public hearings
on, and clause by clause consideration of, Bill 16, An Act respecting the
Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve. The Bill was reported back to the
House without amendments. Pursuant to the Order of Reference received
from the Speaker, the Committee commenced its ongoing review of the use
of technology in the Chamber. Under the Committee's permanent mandate
with respect to the office of Ombudsman Ontario, the Committee held an
introductory meeting with the new Ombudsman, André Marin.
The Standing Committee on Social Policy examined Bill 210,
An Act to amend
the Child and Family Services Act and make complementary amendments to
other Acts. Four days of public hearings were held prior to the Christmas
recess with clause-by-clause scheduled for February when the House resumed.
Before the Legislature adjourned for the winter, the House authorized the
Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to meet to consider
matters relating to Pre-budget consultations 2006; the Standing Committee
on General Government to consider Bill 27, An Act to amend the Arbitration
Act, 1991, the Child and Family Services Act and the Family Law Act in
connection with family arbitration and related matters, and to amend the
Children's Law Reform Act in connection with the matters to be considered
by the court in dealing with applications for custody and access, and Bill
206, An Act to revise the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System
Act; the Standing Committee on Justice Policy to consider Bill 21, An Act
to enact the Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2005 and to amend the
Electricity Act, 1998, the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 and the Conservation
Authorities Act; and the Standing Committee on Social Policy to consider
Bill 36, An Act to provide for the integration of the local system for
the delivery of health services.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs commenced its Pre-Budget
consultations in December 2005 in Toronto and travelled to Atikokan, Timmins,
Cornwall, Niagara Falls, Sarnia, Kitchener-Waterloo in the New Year before
concluding its hearings in Toronto in February 2006.
The Standing Committee on General Government examined Bill 27. This Bill,
originally referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, was discharged,
and referred to the Standing Committee on General Government. The Bill
creates a new regime for Ontario family arbitrations by making amendments
to the Arbitration Act, 1991 and the Family Law Act and removing religious
based arbitration in Ontario. Public consultations were held; the bill
was amended in Committee and reported back to the House for third reading.
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy began its public consultations
on Bill 21 with two days of hearings in Toronto and travelled to Simcoe,
Chatham and Thunder Bay. Clause-by-clause study of the bill was scheduled
for February when the House resumed.
The Standing Committee on Social Policy held seven days of public hearings
during the winter recess in Toronto, London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay to
consider Bill 36. In addition, videoconferences and teleconferences were
used to extend the reach of the Committee and to accommodate witnesses
who were unable to appear in any of the locations that the Committee visited.
Clause-by-clause consideration of the bill was also scheduled for February
when the House resumed.
Premier Lorne Calvert unveiled a new cabinet on February 3rd following
a wide sweeping reassignment of portfolios. The shuffle was preceded by
two ministers indicating that they did not intend to seek re-election and
would be leaving cabinet. Joanne Crofford and Peter Prebble will continue
to sit in the government caucus. Premier Calvert introduced only two new
members of his cabinet. Former Government Whip, Kevin Yates, was sworn
in as the Minister of Corrections and Public Safety and Deputy Government
House Leader. Former Speaker Glenn Hagel returns to cabinet in the Culture,
Youth and Recreation portfolio.
Other significant changes include
Pat Atkinson assuming responsibility
for the new Department of Advanced Education and Employment and John Nilson
moving to the Environment portfolio. Maynard Sonntag adds the Crown Investment
Corporation to his duties while Buckley Belanger takes over Community Resources.
Harry Van Mulligen is the new Government Relations Minister while Andrew
Thomson will head up the Finance ministry. Deb Higgins moves to Learning,
David Forbes to Labour, Len Taylor to Health and Joan Beatty to Northern
Affairs. The remaining ministers, Clay Serby (Deputy Premier), Eldon Lautermilch
(Highways and Transportation) Eric Cline (Industry and Resources) Mark
Wartman (Agriculture and Food), Frank Quennell (Justice), Graham Addley
(Healthy Living Services) remain in their primary portfolios with minor
changes in their additional duties.
Saskatchewan Party member Brenda Bakken Lackey has submitted her letter
of resignation to the Speaker, effectively February 28th. Provincial law
requires that a by-election for the constituency of Weyburn - Big Muddy
be called within six months.
While the Province of Saskatchewan celebrated its centennial in 2005, 2006
will mark the centennial of a number of Legislative Assembly firsts.
February 14th will be the one hundred anniversary of the appointment of
the first Clerk, Samuel Spencer Page. Mr. Page was an English immigrant
who arrived on the prairies in 1882. He served as a Member of the Northwest
Territories Legislative Assembly for eight years before serving as clerk
from 1901 to 1905. He assumed the clerkship of the new provincial Assembly
the following year at a sessional salary of $500. He served as clerk for
seventeen years. In 1909 his duties were expanded to include responsibility
for neglected, infirm and incorrigible children. For these additional
duties, his salary was increased to $2000 per annum. Over the past century,
these additional duties have been dropped and replaced with a range of
administrative, procedural and ceremonial responsibilities.
On the eve of the first Opening of the Saskatchewan Assembly, the first
Sergeant-at-Arms was appointed on March 28th, 1906. Daniel Brown had been
employed as an accountant in the public works department of the Territorial
Government. His appointed to the Sergeant's position was in recognition
of his status as the most senior in years of all employees of the government.
He received an annual salary of $960. There have been thirteen Sergeants-at-arms
since Mr. Brown who continue to carry the original Mace.
The commencement of the first session of the First Legislature of the province
began with the selection of the first Speaker. The Honourable Thomas MacNutt
represented the Saltcoats region from 1902 until 1921, first in the Territorial
Assembly, then in the Saskatchewan Assembly and finally in the Canadian
House of Commons. Mr. MacNutt combined operating the family farm with
justice of the peace and coroner duties. He also served in the militia
where he participated in the 1866 Fenian Raids and the 1885 Riel Rebellion.
It was said that his experience as a colonizer assisting European immigrants
settle on the unbroken prairie enable him to settle both people and things
experience that came in use during his time as Speaker. Speaker MacNutt's
chair was presented to the Assembly in 1965 and restored in 1978. Speaker
Myron Kowalsky continues to use the MacNutt chair today.
This year will also mark the sixtieth anniversary of the first broadcast
of the Assembly proceedings. The Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly was
the first in Canada to do radio broadcasts and second only to New Zealand
in the Commonwealth. The broadcast was by radio and covered a portion
of the sitting day. This method of broadcasting continued until 1983 when
the Legislative Network began gavel to gavel television coverage of the
proceedings of the Assembly and its committees.
It is tentatively planned to mark the centennial anniversaries in the Assembly
on March 29th, which is the centennial of the first meeting of the Assembly
For the first time, a legislative committee will be conducting public hearings
on a bill referred out after receiving first reading. The Standing Committee
on Human Services will hold three days of hearings on Bill No. 12 The
Consumer Protection Amendment Act, 2005. This process was made possible
under the Rule changes adopted in 2004. The committee will hear presentations
from stakeholders and members of the public and then prepare a report for
the spring sitting of the Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly is bidding adieu to two long serving employees.
Gary Ward, the Assembly's first and only Director of Broadcast Services,
retired at the end of 2005 after twenty-three years of service. Mr. Ward
was hired in 1982 to establish a broadcast unit following the Assembly's
1980 decision to televise its proceedings. Mr. Ward oversaw the hiring
of two broadcast technicians and the development of a distribution network.
The network grew from an initial eight cities linked by cable in 1983
to the 120 centers currently reached by satellite and further a field by
web casts. The broadcast began with gavel to gavel coverage of House proceedings
and now includes all committee proceedings as well.
After twenty-four years of noteworthy service as Saskatchewan's tenth and
longest serving Legislative Librarian, Marian Powell will be retiring at
the end of April 2006. Mrs. Powell joined the library in 1982 following
the report of the Special Committee on the Review of the Legislative Library.
Her first task was to implement the new mandate as outlined in the 1981
report. In subsequent years, Mrs. Powell oversaw much advancement in library
and information services with a particular focus on responding to the needs
of individual Members while maintaining the accessibility of the library
to the civil service and general public.
Margaret (Meta) Woods