| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
The lion's share of activity during the
spring session of the Ontario Legislature related directly to economic
conditions and to the budget, brought down on May 13.
In presenting his fourth budget, Treasurer
Frank Miller emphasized job creation, public sector restraint and measures to
promote confidence among the province's business investors. Predicting an
increase of 125,000 jobs by yearend and an annual real growth rate of four per
cent in the second half of 1982, the Treasurer indicated optimism in the
underlying strength of the Ontario economy in what he admitted are troubled
Plans were announced for short-term job
creation, which is expected to result in 31,000 new temporary jobs as "a
needed bridge over troubled economic waters, particularly for many of our young
people." Part of this programme involves agreements with the federal government
to supplement unemployment insurance benefits for jobs in the resource sector.
To stimulate the housing industry and to reduce pressure on the rental market,
interest-free loans of up to $5,000 for first-time home buyers were proposed.
Responding to concern over the situation of
small business, Mr. Miller announced that he intended to remove the corporate
income tax on small business, foregoing thereby some $250 million in tax
revenue in 1982 alone. The Treasurer noted his basic preference for spending
cuts over increased taxation as a control on the deficit, while recognizing
that . We cannot always find all the required savings on the expenditure side
of the ledger without cutting too deeply into the social and economic programs
that are needed." In consequence of projected increases of 11.6 per cent
in provincial spending and 9 per cent in revenue, the Treasurer planned a
deficit of $2.2 billion in 1982-83, up by $672 million over 1981-82.
The need for Ontario to remain
internationally competitive and for the climate of confidence to be restored
within the business community, Mr. Miller said, precluded any increase in
corporate income tax. Similarly, he decided against raising personal income
tax. To produce additional revenue, the Treasurer therefore increased health
insurance premiums, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and, in the most controversial
feature of the budget, widened the base on which the 7 per cent retail sales
Sales tax was thus to become payable on a
wide range of previously exempt goods and services, including household and
personal hygiene products; plants and pets; building materials; labour content
on repair of personal property (car repairs, dry cleaning and the like);
confections under 49 cents; and prepared meals costing less than six dollars.
"A pickpocket budget ... a very mean,
petty budge", was the response of the Official Opposition Treasury critic,
Patrick Raid, the Liberal Labour Member from Rainy River. Mr. Reid contended
that even the Treasurer's basic assumptions were incorrect; for example,
whereas the Treasurer planned on nine per cent real growth in late 1982, the
Conference Board predicted a growth rate of minus 2.1 per cent. Worse than
that, Mr. Reid said, was the inflationary and regressive nature of his proposed
tax changes, by which the Treasurer "has already thrown a bucket of
gasoline on the flames of inflation."
The budget not only failed to deal with the
problems in the Ontario economy, in Mr. Reid's view, but it also failed to
prepare the province for the opportunity before it. Despite all the expertise
at the Treasurer's disposal, Mr. Reid charged, the best he could come up with
was to hammer the poor".
In addition to setting out the Liberals'
industrial strategy and his party's proposals in areas such as pension reform,
alternate energy resources, manpower training and agriculture, Mr. Reid
detailed what he saw as the budget's contradictions. Prime among these, he
suggested, was the government's criticism of federal cutbacks in health and
post-secondary financing, while in effect passing along to municipalities,
school boards, hospitals and universities the warning that they can no longer
count on provincial funding "at or above inflation rates". Similarly,
Mr. Reid castigated the government for imposing severe restraint on social
services while squandering $650 million on minority interest in an oil company
and nearly $11 million on an executive jet which can only land at a small
proportion of the province's airports.
NDP Treasury critic David Cooke referred to
a "classic Tory budget", offering help to those who didn't need it
while increasing the taxes of those already struggling to make ends meet. Mr.
Cooke was strongly critical of what he considered the woeful inadequacies of
the budget in addressing the crisis of unemployment facing Ontario,
particularly that caused by the structural imbalance of the province's economy
and the dominance of foreign branch plants in the manufacturing sector.
Mr. Cooke categorized the Treasurer's musing
that public sector salaries and wages should not necessarily be expected to
keep pace with inflation in consequence of the high job security enjoyed by
persons in the public sector as "one of the most misdirected attacks
ever". Mr. Cooke strongly rejected the implied choice between job
insecurity and reduction of real wages.
The only response of the Conservative
government to the recession, said Mr. Cooke, was to increase taxes on the
people and to further damage the financial position of municipalities',
hospitals and universities. Instead of beginning the process of reform,"
declared Mr. Cooke, 1his budget leaves us deeper in the inequities of the
Before the formal responses to the budget by
Mr. Reid and Mr. Cooke, the Liberals mounted an untraditional, noisy response
to the budget a three-day crisis of the bells. The morning after the budget,
Revenue Minister George Ashe rose to introduce the half-dozen tax bills
necessary to implement the tax changes proposed in the budget. The Liberals and
New Democrats forced a division on first reading of a bill to amend the Retail
Sales Tax Act and then refused to participate in the vote. Ontario has no time
restrictions on most divisions and traditionally the vote is not taken until
the Whips of the three parties agree to proceed and so indicate to the Speaker.
Accordingly, following hurried inter-party meetings, frantic flipping through
the Standing Orders and widespread uncertainty, the normal (Friday) adjournment
hour of 1:00 p.m. passed with the bells still ringing.
Unlike the earlier "bells crisis"
in Ottawa, the impasse reflected not a refusal on the Government's part to
accede to a specific opposition demand, but a symbolic protest against a
proposed policy change. Newly chosen Liberal Leader David Peterson indicated
that with so few arrows in the Opposition quiver, the bell stand-off was a
legitimate means of demonstrating the Liberals' "violent displeasure"
at the budget. "Its good theatre, but it doesn't affect my taxes" was
the Treasurer's comment, while NDP House Leader Elie Martel dismissed the
entire episode as "grandstanding".
The bells – or rather a single, symbolic
bell outside the Chamber – continued to ring all weekend, with a corporal's
guard of government members, clerks and attendants on duty inside the Chamber.
The Liberals called a special caucus for Monday morning to plan further
strategy; the normal opening time of 2:00 p.m. passed with the Liberal caucus
still underway. Shortly after 4:00 p.m. Mr. Peterson held a press conference to
announce that his party, having forcefully made its point while remaining a
"responsible opposition", would return to the House to vote at 6:00
Within a few days, the Procedural Affairs
Committee met to review the entire question of time limits on divisions. Following
some heated exchanges, the Committee decided to recommend to the House that in
the event of the Whips' failure to report, the bells ring for eight hours and
the vote then be taken. The Committee further recommended that its report not
be dealt with by the House until the Fall, so that the full implications of its
proposal could be carefully thought through by all Members.
Sales Tax Controversy
The resolution of the bells crisis marked only
the beginning of the political wrangling over the budget. Question Period
invariably featured sharp exchanges on the budget, with attention quickly
coming to focus on the removal of the sales tax exemptions. The Opposition
seized on the unusual degree of public outcry against the tax measures (on one
day traffic in the immediate vicinity of the Legislature was entirely halted
when several hundred irate catering truck owners encircled Queen's Park and
abandoned their vehicles to attend a protest rally).
The Opposition began to demand public
hearings on the tax bills. The Government refused, pointing out that tax
legislation in Ontario has traditionally been dealt with in the Committee of
the Whole House. The Liberals then threatened to filibuster each separate tax
bill and the interim supply motion, thereby keeping the House sitting well into
August (normally the House adjourns for the summer in late June). Ontario has
fewer time limits on debate than on division bells, and Mr. Reid's seven-hour
speech on just one of the bills demonstrated that the threat of a prolonged
filibuster was not an idle one.
After much discussion via the "usual
channels" an agreement was reached: the tax bills would be given speedy
second readings, and the principal focus of controversy, the Retail Sales Tax
Act amendment referred to the Resources Development Committee for two weeks of
public hearings and reported back to the House and read a third time by July 7.
Over the course of 25 hours of meetings the Committee heard from dozens of
witnesses. almost all of whom, not surprisingly, were critical of the tax
changes, particularly those directly affecting them. Among the more unusual
witnesses was an eleven-year-old Mississauga paperboy who complained to the
Committee how the new tax measures put a serious crimp in his burger and fries
In the end, the bill was reported to the
House, without amendment, on the appointed date. Shortly thereafter the House
began its summer adjournment, which was slated to last until October 12.
Not all the House's time was devoted to the
budget, the sales tax and matters economic. Two of the more significant bills
were introduced by Health Minister Larry Grossman. The first would require all
Ontario school children, save those objecting on religious grounds, to be
immunized against diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella and tetanus.
Although most children receive protection against these diseases without
compulsion, the Minister indicated that the numbers of children who are not
being so immunized is sufficiently large that the legislation was necessary.
The second major health bill proposes a
major revamping of the standards and the administration of public health in
Ontario. In addition to the administrative reforms, the bill will, in the
Minister's words, "guarantee to all citizens of Ontario a basic core of
preventative health services". Under the legislation, the province's 43
local public health units are required to provide, to province-wide standards,
services in the following areas: community sanitation; communicable disease
control; preventative dentistry; family health, home care; nutrition; and
public health education. Liberal health critic Sheila Copps indicated her
party's basic support for the bill, while noting serious reservations about
some of the bill's specific provisions. Ross McClellan, health critic for the
NDP, contended that the bill was so fundamentally flawed as to warrant its
defeat. The bill, he suggested, was good 19th century legislation, but was not
adequate for 1982; he specifically mentioned the bill's lack of attention to
the issues of occupational and environmental health. After second reading, the
bill was referred to the Social Development Committee for five weeks of public
hearings in September and October.
Two unusual private Members' bills received
second reading, an unusual event in itself. Liberal Herb Epp sponsored a bill
which would guarantee the legality of municipal elections at which a question
relating to nuclear disarmament was on the ballot. With many municipalities
contemplating plebiscites on this issue at the November municipal elections,
concern had been expressed that this might provide grounds for contesting or
invalidating the election.
Mike Breaugh (NDP, Oshawa) put forward as
his bill a simple amendment to the Legislative Assembly Act, prohibiting
firearms from the Chamber. This occasioned a wide-ranging debate on security at
the Legislative Building and in the Chamber itself.
Neither bill appeared likely to progress
beyond Committee stage when the House adjourned in July.
Graham White, Clerk Assistant, Ontario Legislative Assembly,
House of Commons
The first session of the32nd Parliament,
already the longest in Canada's history, will not prorogue until at least late October
when the House returns from its summer recess. The recess began on August 5
long after the House had been expected to rise because the Government was
determined to proceed with measures to improve the national economy following
presentation of a new budget. In addition, the House gave final approval to
several major pieces of legislation dealing with such matters as freedom of
information, sexual assault and LIF1 grant assistance.
The new budget presented on June 28 by the
Minister of Finance, Allan MacEachen, contained a series of proposals intended
to break inflation, to boost confidence, to create jobs and to hold the line on
the deficit." Among the specific goals announced, the Government wanted to
ease the tax burden, to restrain pay increases in the federal civil service and
to develop programmes targeted to employment creation, housing, small business,
farming and fishing. At the same time, the Minister revealed that the federal
deficit had climbed to just under $20 billion, almost double that originally
forecast the previous November. This, as he explained, was a direct consequence
of failing tax revenues and increasing expenditures.
The Conservative finance critic, Michael
Wilson, was cautious in his approval of certain measures and harsh in his
criticism of others. He claimed the size of the deficit was a direct result of
Government bungling while the tax relief measures were due to pressure exerted
by the opposition. To restore the health of the economy, he proposed a shift in
government policy towards less regulation and more tax incentives.
The leadoff spokesman for the NDP, Nelson
Riis, described the budget as a betrayal. He argued that many of the economic
hardships faced by Canadians had not been adequately considered in the budget.
On the contrary, the Government had missed the opportunity to satisfy
expectations by failing to reduce interest rates, to lower fuel costs, to
stimulate housing and to create jobs.
Once the House had given its endorsement of
the Government's general budgetary policy, attention was focused on two major
financial bills, namely the Public Sector Compensation Act and the
Supplementary Borrowing Authority Act. The purpose of the latter is to give the
Government the financial resources required to meet expenditures. As explained
by the Minister of State (Finance), Pierre Bussières, the Government wanted the
$11 billion in order to have some financial flexibility so as to take advantage
of market opportunities, but the opposition objected to the bill because the
sum exceeded the Government's financial needs and threatened to forestall its
passage. An agreement was ultimately reached among the three parties whereby
the sum of the borrowing authority was reduced to $7 billion and given speedy
approval by the House. In addition, Members gave their consent to a Standing
Order amendment, 72A, which would limit debate on any subsequent borrowing
authority request below $4 billion made before the end of the current fiscal
As might be expected, consideration of the Public
Sector Compensation Act was also contentious. It limited salary increases of
federal civil servants over a period of two years to six and five per cent.
Initially, the measure also restricted the rights of public employee unions to
negotiate contracts and to strike. However, the President of the Treasury
Board, Donald Johnston, successfully put forward an amendment which restored
collective bargaining provided that any package settlement respects the
"six and five" limits. An additional change extended wage restraints
to the staff of Ministers and MP's.
In order to obtain passage of the wage
restraint bill the Government resorted to a time allocation rule, 75C, and
limited debate for consideration of the report stage and the third reading stage
to one day each. More frequently used during the final weeks before the summer
adjournment were agreements among the three parties to expedite business by
special order adopted in the House by unanimous consent. The arrangement on the
Borrowing Authority Act was such an instance, as was the consideration of the
eight separate energy bills which were part of the compromise solution to the
bells crisis of last March. This series of bills went through the House in May
and June, well ahead of the June 30 deadline.
Two other important bills adopted by the
House through this technique were the Ureaformaldehyde Insulation Act and An
Act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to sexual offences. The first had
been introduced by the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, André
Ouellet, at the end of April. The Act provides grants up to $5,000 to
homeowners seeking to replace the now banned insulation. The progress of the
bill through the House had been impeded by the NDP opposition which wanted a
committee investigation into the matter. On July 7, an attempt to secure speedy
passage of the bill tailed. Under pressure of the upcoming adjournment, an
agreement was reached on July 26 whereby the Standing Committee on Health,
Welfare and Social Affairs was empowered to report on the subject by December
2, while the bill itself was referred to the Committee of the Whole for
immediate study prior to a vote on its final passage the following day.
The second bill to be adopted through a
special order dealt with amendments to the Criminal Code which in effect
substituted sexual assault for rape and also made child abduction by a parent a
possible criminal offence. Consideration of the original version of the
Government proposal, C53, had been blocked in the Justice and Legal Affairs
Committee because some Members expressed opposition to the Government's
controversial request for expanded powers to deal with the problem of child
pornography. In order to get approval for amendments on sexual assault before
the House adjourned a new bill was introduced, C127, and by unanimous consent
the House agreed on August 4 to a special order that permitted consideration of
the bill in all its stages that same day. It went to the Senate but was not
passed before the summer recess.
Unanimous consent was also the means by
which passage was secured of a Private Member's bill to change the name of
Dominion Day to Canada Day. The bill had been introduced early in the session
by Hal Herbert but it was not until the afternoon of Friday July 9, that it
came up again for debate. Once it had received second reading, the
Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council, David Smith,
asked for the unanimous consent of the House to have the bill referred to the
Committee of the Whole. This having been given, the bill was very quickly
reported back to the House and received third reading. This all took place
within the span of about five minutes. The following Monday, Gordon Taylor rose
on a point of order to complain of the tactics which had been used to get the
bill adopted quickly. But because there had been no actual breach of
parliamentary practice, the objection was not pursued. The bill is now before
Another measure adopted by the House was An
Act to amend the Access to Information Act... sponsored by the Minister of
Communications, Francis Fox. It took almost two years before Parliament gave
approval to this freedom of information law which will come into effect upon
proclamation. The twofold purpose of the new statute is to give citizens
greater access to government files and, at the same time, more fully protect
personal information in departmental data banks. There are, however, exemptions
to the Act, among them defence and national security plans and also the broad category
known as "cabinet documents".
On July 31, the Standing Committee on
Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs under the chairmanship of John Evans tabled
its much awaited report on bank profits. Ordered by the House to investigate
the issue last February, the committee concluded that the earnings of the banks
were neither excessive nor were they gained to the detriment of the Canadian
consumer. The committee recommended that action be taken to encourage business
to rely more on equity capital financing rather than on loans, to limit the
amount a bank may loan to any single client, to foster bank competition and to
raise insurance deposits to $60,000. The two NDP members on the committee,
Nelson Riis and David Orlikow did not agree with the limited mandate given the
committee and they issued their own "report" at a press conference on
Two subcommittees of Finance, Trade and
Economic Affairs completed reports during June. In a study on import policy,
one subcommittee, headed by Bryce Mackasey, concluded that Ottawa should have
greater power to suspend or withdraw trade privileges granted to other
countries. It also advocated changes to the procedure of antidumping
investigations. The second subcommittee report investigated profit-sharing and
the role the Government might play in promoting such schemes. After three
months of study, the four member subcommittee, led by Céline Hervieux-Payette,
advised that a parliamentary task force be established to examine the issue
Another Standing Committee which reported
was that of Health, Welfare and Social Affairs. Unfortunately, the report on
wife-battering attracted attention as much for its reception in the House as
for its content. To the consternation of Margaret Mitchell and Judy Erola, the
Minister responsible for the Status of Women, several male colleagues laughed
when the report on wife-beating came up. Two days later, May 14, the House
accepted a motion proposed under S.O. 43 by Ursula Appollonli assuring the
women of Canada that wife-battering is indeed considered by all Members to be
an extremely grave and alarming issue. How serious it really is was made
evident by the report which found that perhaps as many as 1 woman in every 10
is beaten or abused by the man with whom she lives.
A progress report of the Special Committee
on the Disabled and the Handicapped was released in June. It examined the
success of the Government in implementing recommendations originally submitted
by the committee in February 1981. While admitting that the Government, and
certain departments in particular, had made considerable progress, the report
recognized that it will be necessary to overcome obstacles built into the very
structure of bureaucracy, if the problems of the disabled are to be fully
understood and addressed.
In an interim report submitted in late July,
the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence expressed the
hope that the federal Government would use its influence to secure political
changes in the troubled countries of Central America and the Caribbean. The
Committee suggested that Canada should withhold development assistance to
Guatemala and EI Salvador until there is a reduction in human rights
violations. Furthermore, the committee emphasized the need for Canada to
establish better trade links with the whole region.
By an order of the House adopted May 31, a
special committee of 20 Members was authorized to consider reform of the rules
and procedure of the House and in committees. Testimony has been received from
various witnesses including Alistair Fraser, former Clerk of the House, James
Jerome, former Speaker and former members such as John Stewart, Robert
Stanfield and Douglas Fisher. The latter two appeared on behalf of the Canadian
Bar Association. The committee decided to retain the services of Mr. Fraser to
assist members in dealing with the difficult subject of parliamentary reform.
Resignation of Denis Ethier
The Deputy Chairman of Committees of the
Whole House, Denis Ethier announced his resignation on the floor of the House
just prior to the final vote on the budget debate. For such a scheduled vote
the Standing Orders provide that the bells ring for fifteen minutes. Unknown to
Mr. Ethier, the Speaker had consented to wait a short time after the bells had
stopped before proceeding to the vote. In apparent frustration with what he
believed to be obstruction by the Progressive Conservatives, Mr. Ethier
immediately offered his resignation. Several days later, when it was still
uncertain whether he had in fact resigned, Ian Deans, the acting House Leader
for the NDP expressed the hope that Mr. Ethier would soon resume his duties, a
sentiment promptly rejected by Conservative House Leader Eric Nielson. Some
days subsequent, Madam Speaker informed the House that Mr. Ethier had indeed
resigned. The new Deputy Chairman of Committees is Rod Blaker, who is succeeded
in his former position as Assistant Deputy Chairman by Eymard Corbin.
Charles Robert, Table Research Branch, House of Commons,Ottawa
Three important committee reports were
presented during the period under review. On June 22, Senator Herb Sparrow from
the Agriculture Committee, tabled Industry in Turmoil., Report on the Long Term
Stabilization of the Beef Industry in Canada. It was the committee's second
report dealing with the beef industry; the result of two years of study and
hearings across the country. The report recommended establishment of a national
beef producers' agency, composed of producer representatives in close
co-operation with provincial governments, to act in a co-ordinating,
informational and advisory role. The agency could serve as the basis for a
marketing board if producers chose to take the step. The committee also
recommended that the government investigate the possibility of establishing
income averaging programs which would create a capital pool for beef operation
financing at favourable interest rates.
Senator Lowell Murray presented on June 30,
the Fourth Report of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of
Commons on language of work and equitable participation within the Public
Service. The report dealt with the historical background and definition of
language of work and the need to amend the Official Languages Act in regard to
the principle of language of work. The Committee made a number of
recommendations regarding the use of French and English in the Public Service.
One of these was that Treasury Board develop clearer guidelines to help
departments set targets to rectify certain imbalances in representation of both
official language groups and thereby move more quickly toward achieving
Parliament's objective of equitable participation. The Committee also
recommended that December 31, 1983, be re-established as the date beyond which
conditional appointments with regard to bilingual appointments should no longer
On July 6, Senator G.I. Smith presented the
Interim Report of the Transport and Communications Committee on passenger rail
service provided by VIA Rail Canada Inc. The study was established in the wake
of the government's November order in council reducing passenger rail routes
and services provided by VIA Rail by some 20 per cent. After thirteen meetings
and hearing the testimony of many witnesses, the committee recommended that a special
joint committee be created to analyze future options for passenger
transportation services for the current and following decade. It also
recommended that any future decisions on rail service reorganization that
involve cancellations be preceded by public hearings. The committee also
proposed that there be a clear and all-encompassing legislative framework for
VIA Rail. The Leader of the Government, Senator Ray Perrault, welcomed the
report as an excellent summary of the major issues confronting the rail
passenger system. He announced the government is not contemplating any further
service reductions by order in council. The government is considering the
possibility of releasing in the fall a discussion paper on the legislative
requirements of the rail passenger program.
Certain rule changes with respect to the
deputy speakership were adopted. On May 6, Senator Carl Goldenberg, from the
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, reported that the Senate did not
have the authority on its own to create the position of Deputy Speaker and that
legislation would be required. He suggested as an alternative that the Senate
elect a Speaker 'pro tempore' at the beginning of each session. The senator so
elected would then regularly replace the Speaker when he is unavoidably absent.
The Speaker pro tempore would not have the title of Deputy Speaker nor would he
or she be entitled to remuneration. The report was referred to the Rules
Committee chaired by Senator Hartland de M. Molson which recommended that at
the commencement of each session, the committee of selection nominate a senator
to preside as Speaker pro tempore and that Rules 10 and 66 be amended
accordingly. The Senate agreed to the recommendation on June 9.
The committee also proposed a rule change
regarding the method of abstaining from voting during a recorded division. The
rules had previously stipulated that any senator declining to vote had to
explain his reasons and be formally excused from voting. The committee
recommended that Rule 49 be changed so that when a standing vote is called, the
Speaker shall call the 1 yeas' and 'nays' and then the abstentions. The
recommendation carried and hence forth Senators will no longer have to ask
permission not to vote.
Legislative Activity and Membership Changes
One of the most lively debates was at second
reading stage of Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Holidays Act, a Commons
private member's bill proposing to change the name of Dominion Day to Canada
Day. Over twenty senators took part in the debate. Senator Florence Bird
favoured the bill in that it recognizes the fact that on July 1 we will be
celebrating the national day of Canada as a completely independent country.
Opposition to the bill centred around how it was drafted, the procedure followed
in the Commons and the feeling that it was another step in the chipping away of
Canada's heritage. By special order of the Senate, it was agreed that the
subject matter of the bill be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Committee with an instruction to report on October 25. All stages of the bill
would then be disposed of that night. The Senate also agreed that the subject
matter of Bill C-127, "An Act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to
sexual offences and other offences against the person", would also be
referred to committee over the summer and that all stages of the bill be
completed by October 26.
There were four vacancies created during the
period. The Senate was greatly saddened by the deaths of Senator Harry Hays and
Senator John Connolly. in October, Senators Guy Williams and Carl Goldenberg
will retire at the mandatory age of 75. Senator Williams is past president of
the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia and was summoned to the Senate in
1971. One of his last activities in the Senate was to sponsor Bill S-28,
"An Act establishing Indian-Inuit Week and Inuit-Indian Day". Senator
Goldenberg also became a Senator in 1971 and served as Chairman of the Legal
and Constitutional Affairs Committee. He served as special counsel to the Prime
Minister on the Constitution from 1968 to 1971 and is acknowledged as one of
Canada's foremost constitutional experts. He also served on many federal,
provincial and municipal commissions of inquiry and as an arbitrator in major
labour management disputes in Canada and the West Indies. The retirements of
these senators brings the number of vacancies in the Senate to 17.
Gary O'Brien, Chief Minutes and Journals Branch (English), The
Parliamentary business got off to a rather
slow start when the Assembly reconvened in April, but became very intense in
the weeks that followed. In May, thirty-three parliamentary committee sittings
were held concurrently with the Chamber sittings and most dealt with the study
of budgetary appropriations. There were fifty-nine committee sittings in June,
mainly to study public or private bills after their first or second reading in
Ordinary business was suspended on June 21
in order to pass a special bill to force the return to work of general
practitioners, who had begun a general strike a few days earlier. Following
passage of Bill 91, the Chamber sat without a break until 5:36 the next morning
in order to complete the regular orders of the day. The House adjourned for the
summer recess on June 22.
The government's budget policy received
majority support after the defeat of Opposition non confidence motions
following the Minister of Finance's May 26 budget speech. In the budget, Mr.
Jacques Parizeau announced the rollback in 1983 of pay raises granted this year
to public employees and introduced the following measures, which were made
effective immediately: an increase from 8% to 9%, until March 31, 1983, in the
sales tax and the tax on telecommunications, an increase from 45% to 50% in the
tax on cigarettes, cigars and tobacco; and an increase in the prices of wine
and liquor, raising by $25 million the Société des alcools du Québec's
contribution to the government.
On January 1, 1983, personal income tax
exemptions will increase 7.5%, resulting in three hundred million dollars less
income tax. The basic personal exemption will be $5030; the exemption for a
married person, $3770; and the extra exemption for those 65 and over, $2100.
Mr. Parizeau forecast a maximum deficit of
$3 billion and expenditures of $22.7 billion. He expected this deficit to
shrink in the years ahead to not more than $2.7 billion in 1984-85.
The Opposition vigorously criticized the
Parizeau budget. Recalling the other severe measures brought in last fall, the
finance critic, Mr. Daniel Johnson, stated that taxes for this fiscal year
would rise by $800 per family in Quebec.
Public Sector Salaries
Bill 70 embodied the government's decision
to recover $641 million from the public and parapublic sectors for the public
treasury. The draft legislation presented by Mr. Yves B6rubd, Minister of
Administration and Chairman of Treasury Board, sparked lively discussion but
was passed by a majority in third reading. In reaction to the bill, a number of
petitions urging postponement were submitted by public employees.
The bill sets out salaries to be paid. if no
agreement is reached, to public sector employees for three months following
expiry of their collective agreements and limits pay increments for 1983,
unless the parties come to an understanding. In addition, the status quo will
be maintained with regard to working conditions until new collective agreements
are in place.
This new legislation is to come into effect only
upon proclamation and the government hoped to reach a settlement with the
In addition, the MNAs adopted Bill 68, aimed
at reducing government budget expenditures for pension plans in the public and
parapublic sectors by instituting equal contributions by employers and
employees toward the cost of the plans and indexing pensions under the Quebec
Pension Plan at three per cent below the consumer price index.
Amalgamation, Obstruction and Protest
Ironically, the most vigorous opposition and
the most dramatic incidents of the session centered on a bill regarding the
amalgamation of two municipalities. The proposal to join Baie-Comeau and
Hauterive, under Bill 37, was battled at length by the Opposition at every
stage of the bib's journey through the Chamber. The Liberal MNAs called for
consultation of the towns' residents through a referendum. They were
unsuccessful in their efforts, but did convince the Government House Leader,
Mr. Jean-François Bertrand, to allow representatives from the two municipalities
to be heard again in parliamentary committee before the clause-by-clause study
of the bill began. The hearings were held, but failed to change the minds of
The heated discussion between PQ and Liberal
parliamentary committee members at the beginning of the clause-by-clause study
emboldened some Baie-Comeau residents attending the debates and a few gave
unexpected vent to angry views and even went so far as to make offensive
remarks to Minister Lucien Lessard, who they felt was the true author of the
bill. National Assembly security staff had to step in to quiet and eject from
the committee room those protesters who were disruptive.
The incident naturally caused a great deal
of concern. Mr. Lessard, MNA for Saguenay, reported it in the Chamber and asked
the Speaker what action could be taken when members' privileges, especially the
right to sit freely, were obstructed. At the Speaker's request, an
investigation into the incidents was undertaken. Certain persons were
identified as being the major participants and the Assembly passed a motion to
transfer the case to the Attorney General so that he could start appropriate
proceedings in a court of law.
Meanwhile, the Chamber ordered the municipal
affairs committee to submit its report on the study of Bill 37, which was
passed by a majority vote in third reading at the final sitting.
The Assembly received the report of the
special committee chaired by Mr. Guy Bisallion and created to examine the
Quebec public service, in particular the productivity of public employees, the
need for accountability and the optimal use of human resources.
Some one hundred and fifty recommendations
were contained in the report. The special committee was composed of four
cabinet ministers and three opposition MNAs, assisted by a research team.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, MNA for
Verchères, submitted an interim report on the work of another special
committee, which is studying youth protection. The committee is to submit its
final report on December 1.
In both cases, cabinet and opposition
representatives have stressed the nonpartisan nature of the committee studies
Access to Documents of Public Bodies
Bill 65 is considered one of the session's
most important pieces of legislation. 11 permits access to documents of public
bodies and ensures protection of persona) information in their possession.
However, restrictions are made on the right of access to information affecting
intergovernmental relations, negotiations between public bodies, the economy,
the administration of justice and public security, administrative or political
decisions and auditing.
Under the bill, personal information held by
these bodies is considered confidential, but the person concerned is entitled
to have it released to him and to have it corrected. The main task of the
access to information committee, composed of three members appointed by the
National Assembly, will be to hear applications for the review of decisions
made under the act.
The 1982 Constitution Act, assistance for
industrial development, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, incentives
for housing construction, political party financing, quality of the
environment, and essential services and the right to strike were other subjects
of bills passed by the National Assembly.
Mr. Guy Bisallion, Independent MNA
Mr. Guy Bisallion, PQ, MNA for Sainte-Marie
since 1976, was admitted as an independent member on June 21, the day before
the Chamber adjourned. Mr. Bisaillon disagreed with the government's public
sector pay policy, and the next day voted with the opposition against the third
reading of Bill 70.
Mrs. Louise Harel, PQ, MNA for Maisonneuve,
was also against the bill, and abstained from voting.
Paul-Emile Plouffe, Chief, Revision Section, Journal of Debates National
The first session of Saskatchewan's
Twentieth Legislature was opened on June 17, 1982, about six weeks after a
provincial election which dramatically altered membership of the House and gave
the province an overwhelming Progressive Conservative majority government. The
Speech from the Throne, delivered by the Lieutenant Governor, C. Irwin
McIntosh, offered a brief outline of the forthcoming legislative program and,
with statements like: 1t is possible for government to be reliable without
being remote, suffocating or paternalistic." – the Speech confirmed that
Saskatchewan was now under the stewardship of an administration with a
decidedly different ideological inclination than that which prevailed during
the previous decade.
With almost two-thirds of the Legislature's
sixty-four Members sitting in the House for the first time the session got off
to a hesitant, cautious and sometimes humorous start. For instance, during
Question Period new Ministers often answered questions by referring to the
Opposition as the "Government opposite". Former Premier Allan
Blakeney was oftentimes referred to as "the Premier." Slowly, but
surely, both sides adjusted to their new roles and the level and tone of debate
accelerated as the session progressed.
During the month-long session, twenty-seven
Bills were passed into law including: retroactive legislation confirming the
new government's move to fulfill an election promise by eliminating the
provincial gas tax; an Act establishing the Mortgage Interest Reduction Plan
which gives all Saskatchewan residents the benefit of 13 1/4% mortgages; an Act
establishing the province's first-ever Public Utilities Review Commission,
amendments to The Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act eliminating
any specific limit to the number of Private Members who can be appointed to
serve as Legislative Secretaries to Cabinet Members, and amendments to The
Interpretation Act giving new administrations the right to replace any member
of a government board or commission.
The Legislature's first experience with its
new Rule 16 Private Members' Day Debate has proved an interesting and
successful procedural innovation. Adopted as a consequence of a recommendation
of The Report of the Special Committee on the Review of Rules and Procedures of
the Legislative Assembly (1981), the special 75minute debate takes place at the
commencement of every second Private Members' Day on a topic chosen alternately
between Government and Opposition Members. Devised as an attempt to increase
interest in Private Members' Day, the consensus seems to be that the experiment
has been a success.
Questions of Privilege
The session was marked by two serious
questions of privilege. The first was raised on July 9 by Jerry Hammersmith
(NDP Prince Albert-Duck Lake) to the effect that a reply to an oral question by
Colin Thatcher, Minister of Mineral Resources, was inaccurate and misleading.
On the next sitting day, July 12, the House heard from the Minister on the
question. On July 13, Speaker Herb Swan ruled that, on the basis of the
information in front of him, a prima facie case of privilege had been
established. He stated that the Minister's answer to the oral question was
indeed misleading and left it up to Members to decide if there was a deliberate
attempt to mislead the House. At the time, the Minister of Mineral Resources
was not present in the legislature.
Following the Speaker's ruling, Mr.
Hammersmith moved a motion which referred the matter to the Standing Committee on
Privileges and Elections, When Acting House Leader, Bob Andrew spoke to the
motion and moved adjournment of the debate, Opposition Members called for a
recorded division and departed from the Chamber. Almost tour hours later, when
the Opposition returned, Mr. Thatcher, was also in his place. The motion to
adjourn debate was defeated, and the Minister thereupon rose and offered an
unequivocal apology to the House, stating: I was at no time attempting to
mislead the Assembly, deliberately or otherwise." The House decided to
accept the Minister's apology and the question of privilege was thereby
disposed of. However, later that evening the news media reported Mr. Thatcher
as saying he only apologized because he was forced to and he questioned Speaker
Swan's ruling on the matter. The following day, July 14, Mr. Hammersmith
directed an oral question to Premier Grant Devine asking if the statements
attributed to the Minister outside the House reflected the views of the
Government. The Premier requested leave for his Minister to make a statement;
leave being granted, Mr. Thatcher stated: "Mr. Speaker, last evening in
the corridor I made an off the cuff remark that was stupid, inappropriate and
inexcusable ... Mr. Speaker, it is my sincere wish that you accept my apologies
with my additional assurances that such will not be repeated." The
Minister's further apology was accepted and the matter was finally laid to
The second question of privilege was raised
on July 15 by JoAnn Zazelenchuk (PC – Saskatoon-Riversdale) who claimed that a
representative of a law firm was in contempt of the House for his actions in
posing as an official or employee of the Legislative Assembly and thereby
interfering with the proper access that the Legislative Assembly Office ought to
have to Members. The issue arose after Miss Zazelenchuk was summoned from the
Chamber by a note signed "Legislative Assembly Office." When she
stepped out into the corridor she was met by a former Saskatchewan Deputy
Minister who served her with a petition notifying her of former Attorney
General Roy Romanow's intention to have the election result overturned in her
constituency under the Controverted Elections Act. Mr. Romanow lost by 19 votes
on a recount in Saskatoon-Riversdale. The following day, Mr. Speaker Swan ruled
that a prima facie case of privilege had been established, and Miss Zazelenchuk
moved a motion which, amended by Murray Koskie (NDP – Quill Lakes), declared
that the individual who impersonated an employee of the House was "guilty
of a grave contempt of this Assembly."
David Mitchell, Clerk Assistant (Procedural), Saskatchewan
Legislative Assembly, Regina
Te Progressive Conservative Party, led by
Chris Pearson, won the Yukon election held on June 7, 1982. Mr. Pearson had called
the election during the Spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
More than seventy-eight percent of the
electorate turned out to elect 9 Progressive Conservatives, 6 New Democrats,
including Leader Tony Penikett, and 1 Independent. No Liberal members were
elected. The Progressive Conservatives took 45.8% of the popular vote, the New
Democrats 35.4%, the Liberals 15%, and Independents 3.8%. Eight new members
were elected to the House, including three women.
Clerk Assistant, Yukon Legislative Assembly,
When the eighth session of the Ninth
Assembly opened in Inuvik on May 12, it was the first time since the autumn of
1973 that the Legislature had travelled to the Mackenzie Delta community to
hold one of the field sessions which make it unique among Canadian
Commissioner John Parker noted in his
Opening Address that nine years earlier, many people thought Inuvik and the
Delta were on the threshold of massive hydrocarbon development. That boom did
not last, but the region again is in the middle of major activities, with oil
and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea to the north and the Norman Wells
oilfield expansion and pipeline to the south.
"Southern attention is focussing on the
north's energy resources as one of the means of reaching energy
self-sufficiency and, of late, to provide a partial solution to Canada's
unemployment problems," the Commissioner said. "Faced with this
national perspective, it is crucial that this Assembly and the Government take
concerted action to ensure that the communities and people of the Northwest
Territories are better able to meet the impacts of non-renewable resource
Some projects to help impacted communities
had been approved by the Executive Committee, Mr. Parker said. Norman Wells
will receive $554,000 in 1982-83 for new residential and industrial lots, as
well as funds for a new community plan which copes with the growth expected as
the Imperial Oil operation is expanded and a pipeline is built south to Zama
Lake, Alberta. Tuktoyaktuk, which bears the brunt of Beaufort Sea oil and gas
exploration, will receive $3.5million worth of water and sanitation projects
over the next two years.
The Executive Committee also approved a new
Resource Development Policy aimed at making sure the Northwest Territories
receives "meaningful and equitable benefits" from development of its
Actions taken by the Executive Committee at
the Assembly's direction included an expanded program of Dene language development,
creation of a Dene interpreter unit, assistance with high food costs in Pelly
Bay, and a review of policy on purchasing and contracting goods and services
from Northern suppliers and contractors.
"Overall, through the directions of
this Assembly, Northerners and their government are taking increased control of
their own affairs," Mr. Parker concluded.
Key items on the Assembly's spring session
agenda included the report of the two-year-old Special Committee on Education,
which proposed major changes to the NWT education system, and responses to the
plebiscite on division of the Northwest Territories which was held April
14,1982. In the plebiscite, residents voted 56 per cent in favour of dividing
the Northwest Territories into two territories.
A legislative program of six bills was set
out and approved with some changes by the Assembly during the session. One
major bill set out a new financial assistance program for Northwest Territories
students taking post-secondary education, developed following recommendations
Made by the Special Committee on Education a year earlier.
Another bill introduced major revisions to
the current Financial Administration Ordinance to reflect the evolution of
financial management in the NWT government to highlight accountability of
program managers for financial administration, and to reflect current
accounting principles for public sector reporting and disclosure.
Other bills amended the Forest Protection
Ordinance to allow for emergency forest fire fighting conscription of 16 and
17yearold males and to remove discrimination against women; increased the
minimum hourly wage in the NWT to $4.25 from $3.50, and the minimum hourly wage
for workers under 17 to $3.75; and allowed the Minister of Education to lower
the school year from 190 days to a minimum of 170 days. Supplementary
appropriations for the 1981-82 financial year also were approved.
Special Committee on Education
The five-member Special Committee looked at
all aspects of educational policy in the Northwest Territories during its
two-year mandate, concluding with 49 recommendations on administrative
structure, the school program, language, teaching staff, special services,
adult education and how the recommendations should be implemented. Detailed
explanations of each recommendation made up the body of the colourful 172-page
After debate on whether the recommendations
should be voted on as well as discussed during the spring session, a compromise
was reached between those who wanted immediate action on the report and those
who wanted more time for discussion by their constituents.
A motion was passed unanimously recommending
to the Executive Committee that legislation be prepared before the next session
to allow changes within the education system, taking into account the
principles and recommendations of the report and comments made during the
debate in the Assembly. The motion also recommended that the Minister of
Education appoint a task force to monitor projects started by the special
committee, to consult with residents, and advise the Executive Committee about
the proposed legislation.
The new post-secondary financial assistance
legislation, which Education Minister Dennis Patterson said introduced the
first affirmative action program for aboriginal peoples in Canada, passed
following some debate.
The program, which takes effect in the
1982-83 school year, provides a basic grant for full tuition costs, two return
trips a year between home and school, and books and supplies for all students
who meet residency and schooling requirements. Dene, Inuit and Metis students
receive a supplementary living allowance grant. Loans, forgivable if a student
returns to work in the NWT, and scholarships also will be available. Decisions
on financial assistance will be made by a Financial Assistance Review Board,
based on the recommendations of four regional boards.
Division of the NWT
The Assembly accepted the Report of the
Chief Plebiscite Officer on the plebiscite on division of the Northwest
Territories held April 14, 1982, in which 56 per cent of residents who had
lived in the North for three years or more voted in favour of dividing the NWT
into two territories.
The motion of acceptance also recommended
that the report be sent to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Premiers and Attorneys General of
all provinces, and the Yukon government leader and Yukon Minister of Justice.
The Assembly, with one abstention. passed a
motion asking the Government of Canada to divide the Northwest Territories and
to name a federal boundaries commission to recommend boundaries for a new
eastern territory. The motion suggested that this commission should report on
its final recommendations in time for their consideration at a special session
in the spring of 1983.
A motion setting up a Special Committee on
Division, including all MLAs in its membership, also was approved. This
committee will be responsible for making recommendations on "how existing
and future legislation, policies and practices of the Government of the
Northwest Territories might be amended or developed to reflect the duality of
interests between the eastern and western parts of the NW7', as well as on
possible modifications to budgetary and capital planning to reflect eastern and
western interests and prepare for the impact of division. The committee also is
authorized to recommend transitional measures in preparation for division.
It was "to ensure that northerners bear
fewer costs and receive greater benefits from resource development" that
the Energy and Resource Development portfolio and secretariat was created, Hon.
Richard Nerysoo told the Assembly in presenting the new Resource Development
The policy, designed to allow the Government
to effectively influence the decisions of resource developers, sets out
guidelines for assessment and review of each project and monitoring
requirements for government and industry. Extensive public participation is
part of the policy.
"Resource development in the North must
do more than provide jobs and business opportunities for northerners," Mr.
Nerysoo said. It also must provide a greater share of revenues to the North.
The Minister added that, because of the cost of development to the Government
of the NWT, he is preparing a resource revenue sharing strategy
"encompassing both royalty sharing negotiations with the federal
government and a position paper outlining other revenue options."
The recognition that 25 cents of every dollar
spent in the Territories is spent on energy in some form has made energy a key
concern for the government. Mr. Nerysoo said an energy policy based on a
strategy tabled in the House last February is being prepared, and he added that
the Executive Committee plans to explore the advantages of an NWT Power
Corporation to replace the Crown-owned Northern Canada Power Commission in an
attempt to keep power costs down.
During the session, the Assembly unanimously
supported a motion expressing its support for the recommendations of the Report
of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on the Northern Canada Power Commission,
chaired by Keith Penner.
Changes were made in various areas of health
and social services as a result of recommendations made by the Assembly in its
previous session, Hon. Arnold McCallum said in a statement on his portfolio.
Social assistance zones have been changed, the food allowances have been raised
by 10 per cent, assistance to the aged and handicapped has been increased, and
the foster care system has been reorganized.
Eastern Arctic Air Carriers
Representatives of the key air carriers in
the Eastern and Central Arctic appeared at the Assembly's request during the
eighth session to explain their policies, prices and services. Witnesses included
Paul Casey, regulatory affairs director with Air Canada: Kurt Peiffer,
executive vice-president with Nordair Ltd.; Dominique Prinet, vice-president of
marketing, Nordair; Eric Smith, divisional manager, Nordair; and Bob Engle,
president of Northwest Territorial Airways.
The airlines explained their policies, their
charges for passenger and freight traffic and the services they offered.
The Assembly agreed to an expanded scope of
activity for the Standing Committee on Legislation. As well as reviewing draft
legislation prepared by the government, the Committee now will review orders
and regulations to make sure they comply with the Ordinances under which they
are issued, and will monitor motions adopted by the Assembly which require legislative
action. The Committee may undertake travel if it is required, an addition to
its previous terms of reference.
The Constitutional Development Committee
reported to the Assembly that a second Western Arctic Constitutional Conference
will be held in Yellowknife in mid-September to continue discussion of
constitutional development and change. The Committee also recommended the NWT
Association of Municipalities should be added to the membership of the NWT
Constitutional Alliance, which includes four Members of the Assembly and
representatives of all Northern native organizations.
The Standing Committee on Finance presented
its sixteenth report to the Assembly, concerning the Financial Administration
Ordinance and the supplementary appropriations bill.
Uranium Mining and Production
The Assembly adopted a motion put forward by
Keewatin North MLA William Noah that calls for the Assembly to resolve into
Committee of the Whole during the fall session which begins in Yellowknife
November 2, 1982, to' "finally determine its position on the mining and
production of uranium in the Northwest Territories."
The Assembly engaged in a lengthy debate on
this topic in the fourth and fifth sessions, but did not reach any final
position at that time.
Rosemary Cairns, Public Affairs Officer, Northwest Territories
Legislative Assembly, Yellowknife NWT