| Northwest Territories
| House of Commons
Acceptance in principle of division of the
Northwest Territories, support for the principle of responsible government, and
greater financial independence for the government of the Northwest Territories were
promised by the federal government as the ninth session of the Ninth
Legislative Assembly of the NWT ended.
The long-awaited cabinet decisions were
announced to the Assembly by Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Munro
during a special evening sitting November 26, the last day of a productive but
sometimes disputatious nineteen day session which began November 2.
Mr. Munro said the government of Canada
accepted division of the Territories as long as comprehensive native land
claims were settled; residents continued to support division; and a northern
consensus was reached on boundaries, location of any new administrative
centres, and distribution of powers among different levels of government in the
The minister pledged federal support for 1he
principle of responsive and politically accountable government" in the
NWT, with the form of that government being worked out in the North. To back up
the commitment, he announced a new system of financing which "will confirm
that planning and political accountability rests with ... the government of the
Northwest Territories", and said he had been authorized by cabinet to
develop ways to offset some of the extra costs resource development places on
He noted that 1he agenda for political and
constitutional change is not open-ended". Mr. Munro ruled out provincial
status at this time, and added that the federal government will maintain its
ownership and control of land and non-renewable resources in the North, in
keeping with its priorities and obligations to protect the national interest.
After the speech, the minister answered
questions from MLAs and was complimented on the announcement by members of the
Executive Committee, the territorial equivalent of a provincial cabinet. Mr.
Munro also confirmed that the Northwest Territories will be represented equally
with other jurisdictions at the First Ministers' Conference on aboriginal
rights which is scheduled to be held in the spring of 1983.
That Conference was on MLAs minds throughout
the session. The Assembly passed a motion supporting the principle that
aboriginal peoples have special rights and recommending that a charter of
aboriginal rights be included in the new Canadian Constitution. Later in the
session, the Assembly accepted in principle a paper discussing aboriginal
rights items which might be included in the Constitution; the Executive
Committee, which prepared the paper, was directed to refine it further for the
winter session. The Assembly also unanimously approved a motion suggesting that
the First Ministers' Conference be held in Yellowknife.
Education Report Debated
Eight days of the session were taken up with
debate and discussion on the report of the Special Committee on Education, set
up two years ago to review the educational system and to suggest changes to
that system. Debate on the report, which was presented to the Assembly during
its May session in Inuvik, had been delayed until this session to allow MLAs to
consult their constituents about the report's forty-nine recommendations.
The recommendations, which now go to the
Executive Committee for consideration, call for the creation of a system of
divisional boards to administer education from kindergarten to grade ten. An
Arctic College with campuses in the eastern and western NWT would be set up to
look after programs from grade ten onwards. The recommendations also cover
curriculum and school programs; language programs; teaching staff; special
services; and adult education.
Electoral Boundaries Commission
A motion proposing the creation of a
three-member Electoral Boundaries Commission to study the existing twenty-two
constituencies was narrowly passed 109 following three days of often heated
debate. Some MLAs felt that division should be the priority, not changing the
boundaries of current constituencies or adding more (the NWT Act allows for an
Assembly of up to twenty-five members); other MLAs felt that some
constituencies were too big and should be divided, or that population shifts
since the 1979 boundaries adjustment made a new look at the constituencies
necessary. There was some concern about whether the Boundaries Commission could
complete its work in the allotted tour months.
On the last day of the session, the Assembly
agreed to recommend the appointment of Fort Simpson Chief James. Antoine to the
three-member Commission and to strongly recommend that the third member be a
resident of the Eastern Arctic. The Commission will be chaired by a Judge of
the NWT Supreme Court.
Twenty-four bills, including eight new Ordinances,
were passed and assented to during the session. The bills included a new
Ordinance which restricts increases in public sector compensation to six and
five per cent over two years, and an amendment to the Council Ordinance
restricting increases in MLAs' compensation to six and five per cent during the
next two years.
The public sector compensation restraint
legislation, along with amendments to the Public Service and Education
Ordinances intended to clearly define who is a government employee, sparked
some debate. Some MLAs were concerned about the impact of restraint legislation
on employees of municipalities, housing and education associations. Finance
Minister Tom Butters told the House that he expected the government would have
some flexibility in dealing with employees of any government-connected agency
who might face financial jeopardy as a result of the legislation.
Other new bills considered during the
session provided for a fine option system which will allow offenders to do
community service work instead of being jailed for failure to pay a fine;
regulated transportation of dangerous goods on roads; provided for mining
safety in the NWT; and provided for the regulation, training and certification
of apprentices and tradesmen.
The Legislature made an important advance in
the area of legislative financial accountability during the session, when it
agreed to expand the mandate of the Standing Committee on Finance to include
the functions of a Public Accounts Committee.
The committee will be renamed the Standing
Committee on Finance and Public Accounts and it will be chaired by two MLAs,
one of them being Chairman of the Finance Committee and the other being
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The unique structure was arrived at
by the members of the Finance Committee after two years of study, and reflects
the consensus nature of the Assembly and the limited number of MLAs available
for committee work. Most meetings of the committee when it is sitting as a
Public Accounts Committee will be open to the public and a verbatim record of
its public proceedings will be kept.
The Standing Committee on Legislation, which
received expanded terms of reference during the May session in Inuvik, felt it
had not been given sufficient time to study one of the bills put forward by the
government at the ninth session. The bill, which would have amended the
Wildlife Ordinance, was studied and amended in Committee of the Whole but was
not put forward by the government for third reading.
The Standing Committee on Rules and
Procedures made its first report to the House, but the changes it proposed to
the Assembly's Rules died on the Order Paper as the session ended.
Rosemary Cairns, Public Affairs Officer, Legislative Assembly of the
Premier Peter Lougheed was expected to call
a fall election after a short sitting of the Legislature, slated to begin
October 20, 1982. However, the sitting did not take place; the Progressive Conservatives
explained that it would not be appropriate to recall the Alberta Legislature to
make major changes to the Heritage Savings Trust Fund Act announced on
September 7, 1982, without a fresh mandate from the people of Alberta to do
so." To this end, a writ of election was issued designating November 2 as
The election campaign focussed on the use of
the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and proposals for economic recovery. A
record 345 candidates sought to become members of Alberta's 79-seat Legislative
Assembly. The New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party each
ran seventy-nine candidates, while the Western Canada Concept fielded
seventy-eight. Thirty-four Independents sought election in thirty of the
province's ridings. Of these, twenty-one were associated with the Provincial
Rights Association, a coalition of independent candidates which does not have
the status of a political party.
Opposition parties focussed on government
expenditure, accountability, and the need for a strong opposition. Nonetheless,
Premier Lougheed's Progressive Conservative team won 75 of the 79 seats. The
remaining four were won by Dr. Waiter Buck (Ind.), Mr. Ray Martin (NDP), Mr.
Grant Notley (NDP), and Mr. Ray Speaker (Ind.). Incumbents Mr. Gordon Kesler of
the Western Canada Concept, and Mr. Tom Sindlinger, Independent, who ran as
leader of the Alberta Reform Movement, were both defeated by the Progressive
Conservatives. Some observers attributed Mr. Kesler's defeat to his decision to
run in his home riding of Highwood instead of in Olds-Didsbury, the riding in
which he won his seat in the Nineteenth Alberta Legislature. Nineteen of the
members elected will be sitting in the Assembly for the first time.
The granting of Official Opposition status
has become a controversial issue. The title, its accompanying status and
funding, have been claimed by the two NDP members and by the two Independent
members. The NDP members (Messrs. Martin and Notley) are claiming the right on
the grounds that they ran as NDP representatives, and their party captured
18.75 percent of the popular vote, second only to the Progressive
Conservatives. The Independent members (Messrs. Buck and Speaker) together are
claiming the right on the basis of seniority and incumbency. Together with Mr.
Fred Mandeville, the two former Social Credit members had formed the Official
Opposition in Alberta's Nineteenth Legislature. Both groups hav6 submitted
arguments to Mr. Gerard Amerongen, the present Speaker, who has informed them that
no decision can be made until a Speaker of the Twentieth Legislature is elected
by the new Legislative Assembly, which is scheduled to begin sitting March 10,
In November 1982 Premier Lougheed announced
his cabinet appointments. Fourteen Cabinet Ministers remain in their previous
portfolios, seven changed portfolios, and eight were named to Cabinet positions
for the first time. The Honourable Lou Hyndman, Provincial Treasurer, was
re-appointed to serve as Acting Premier.
Some departmental responsibilities were
redistributed. A separate Department of Housing was created, and responsibility
for public works and government services was merged under the Department of
Public Works, Supply and Services. Utilities and Telephones were consolidated
under one minister and titled the Department of Utilities and
Telecommunications. Manpower and Advanced Education became separate
Michelle Christopher, Kathryn Ivany and
Wanda Stephens, Legislative Interns,
Alberta Legislative Assembly, Edmonton
In addition to concerns over the general
economic climate, the attention of the Ontario Legislature during the Fall
sitting focussed on two issues: Bill 179, the Government's public sector
restraint legislation and the sale by Cadillac-Fairview Ltd. of some 11,000
Toronto apartment units.
Introduced on September 21st, Bill 179's
principal feature was a 5 per cent freeze on wages and salaries in the Ontario
public sector (including teachers and municipal employees). Following a protracted
second reading debate, on October I 9th the bill was referred to the Justice
Committee for thirty-three hours of public hearings and clause by clause study.
The Committee hearings were bitter and partisan as unions and employees' groups
protested vehemently against the bill while employers described it as a
regrettable but necessary measure. Dozens of groups and organizations remained
unheard when the allotted time elapsed, and attempts by NDP members to extend
the hearings came to naught.
The New Democrats, who had declared
themselves unalterably opposed to the bill at the very outset, then proceeded
to employ every possible means of delaying the bill. They introduced hosts of
amendments to the bill, which they debated at length, and hit upon the device
of calling for the maximum (20 minute) wait before voting on amendments,
procedural motions, and the numerous challenges to the rulings of Chairman
Richard Treleaven. After eight days of clause by clause consideration, the
Committee had reached section I (c) of the 37 section bill, and on November
24th, Terry Jones, Parliamentary Assistant to the Treasurer, moved that the
bill be immediately reported to the House; the motion carried 6 to 5 with both
Opposition parties opposed.
With little progress being made on the bill
in the Committee of the Whole, Government House Leader Tom Wells gave notice,
on December 7th of a guillotine motion permitting a maximum of one day's debate
on each of the three remaining stages of the bill. This time allocation motion
was entirely unprecedented in the Ontario Legislature. Following two days
debate on the motion, Chief Government Whip Bud Gregory moved "The
previous question", thus terminating debate. The bill received third
reading on December 15th. As the final division was being held, a large, vocal
demonstration was staged in the public gallery and government members showered
with papers. (This incident gave rise to talk of installing plexiglass barriers
between the gallery and the House.)
Much of the debate in the final days was on
the possible long-term implications of the tactics and procedures brought on by
the bill and of the rights of the minority to oppose versus the duty of the
majority to govern. The Government maintained that it had been extraordinarily
tolerant in permitting debate on such an important measure to drag out as long
as it did; as Tory Deputy Whip Jack Johnson put it "delay is the worst
form of injustice". If the Opposition insists on obstructing House
business with unconscionable delay, the Government spokesman said, the
Government has no choice but to use its majority power to pass its legislation.
By contrast, the Opposition parties warned that an extremely dangerous
precedent was being set which would be used to curtail the right of the
Opposition to express its views fully. While admitting that his party had used
extraordinary means to fight the bill, NDP Labour critic Bob Mackenzie said
this was justified, since 'We've never had such a bad bill". The Liberals
supported the principle of the bill, but had serious reservations about many of
its specific provisions; accordingly, Liberal House Leader Robert Nixon said he
objected not only to the Government's use of the guillotine, but also to the
NDP's tactics which effectively precluded his party from placing any amendments
to the Bill.
The amount of time consumed by Bill 179
meant that other business was badly delayed, so that for the first time since
1975, the House did not prorogue at Christmas, but was called back for
mid-January to complete the work of the session.
During the Fall, Ontario's Committees were
principally concerned with estimates and with legislation.
The Social Development Committee released a
major report on wife battering, which it described as "an intolerable act
of criminal violence". Committee Chairman Yuri Shymko said that while
immediate action was required from police, government and social service
agencies, the Committee felt it essential that Society itself must reject
unreservedly the notion that violence against women is permissible within the
family". Among the report's more important recommendations are that the
onus of laying charges in cases of family violence rest with the police rather
than with the victims; that separate legislation deal with standards and
funding for emergency shelters; that, since so many aspects of the problem
raise jurisdictional issues, a federal-provincial conference be convened on
family violence; that medical, legal and other professionals receive better
training to recognize and treat wife battering; and that advocacy services for
abused women and counselling programmes for men who batter their wives be
The report on wife battering was the first
from an Ontario Legislative Committee issued in both French and English.
The Procedural Affairs Committee issued an
omnibus report on standing orders and procedure, The Committee proposed a
number of changes to private bill procedure and to other practices, for example
a requirement that, on request of a committee, the Government be required to
table a "comprehensive response" to a substantive committee report
within 120 days of the report's presentation. The Committee also dealt with the
question of witnesses before legislative committees and recommended a number of
changes to the Legislative Assembly Act and to committee practices to clarity
the position of persons who appear before committees. Among other things, the
Committee proposed that all legislative committees be empowered to go directly
to the Speaker with a request for a warrant to compel a witness' attendance,
rather than report to the House seeking authorization of a warrant.
Late in October, it became known that
Cadillac-Fairview Ltd. had sold nearly 11,000 apartment units in Toronto to
Greymac Ltd., a Toronto trust company. This sale occasioned widespread concern
of possible large rent increases to cover the "passthrough" of
In following weeks a bizarre, confused tale
unfolded, featuring rapid resales – "flips" – mysterious Saudi
Arabian investors, holding companies registered in Lichtenstein, and reports
that in the course of several flips, the price had escalated from $270 million
to over $500 million. On November 16th, Consumer and Commercial Relations
Minister Dr. Robert Elgie announced a special audit of the entire transaction
and introduced a bill to limit the extent to which mortgage costs from resales
could be passed on to tenants in rent increases.
The Leader of the Opposition, David
Peterson, and newly-elected NDP Leader Bob Rae continued to press the issue
daily in Question Period, accusing the Minister of being naive in his dealings
with the financiers involved and unresponsive to the needs of tenants.
Controversy centred primarily on the rent implications and the adequacy of the
province's rent review mechanisms.
On December 21st, the final day before the
Christmas break, Dr. Elgie brought forward a bill which gave the province
sweeping new powers to control and regulate trust companies. As a result of
meetings with Premier William Davis and Dr. Elgie the day before, Mr. Rae and
Mr. Peterson agreed to permit the bill to receive all three readings on the
21st. Little more than two weeks later, under the provisions of the new act,
the province took possession of three trust companies, Greymac Trust, Crown
Trust and Seaway Trust, all of which were involved in the apartment
transaction. As the House resumed in mid-January the take over of these
companies, and the government's responsibilities for safeguarding investment in
provincially-regulated loan and trust companies promised to be a hotly disputed
issue for some time.
Graham White, Clerk Assistant, Ontario Legislative Assembly,
Four Senate bills were considered during the
period under review. Bill S32, An Act to amend the Penitentiary Act and the
Parole Act, dealt primarily with the release of an inmate from custody for the
last one-third of his sentence, and was sponsored by Senator Earl Hastings. The
Bill was given second reading on November 23 and referred to the Legal and
Constitutional Affairs Committee. Bill S-33, An Act to give effect, for Canada,
to the Uniform Evidence Act adopted by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada,
was sponsored by Senator Derek Lewis and was given second reading and referred
to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on December 7. Bill S-30, An
Act to amend certain Acts in relation to Canada Day, was consequential on the
amendments made earlier to the Holidays Act by Bill C201 and was subjected to a
lively debate. Senator Jacques Flynn claimed that the Bill violated the rule
that a question cannot be decided twice in a session and was out of order since
the Senate had rejected the same consequential amendments during the debate on
Bill C-201. Speaker Jean Marchand, however, ruled that the Bill was in order.
Two opposition amendments were proposed and rejected during debate and the Bill
was given third reading and passed on December 22.
The controversial Bill S-31, An Act to limit
shareholding in certain corporations, sought to limit provincial public
ownership of transportation and pipeline companies to 10 per cent. On November
18, the subject matter of the Bill was referred to the Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Joan Neiman. The Committee heard a number
of witnesses, including Quebec's Finance Minister, Jacques Parizeau. In its
report tabled on December 16, the Committee questioned the constitutionality of
the Bill in respect of provincially incorporated companies. It recommended that
the Government more clearly define those types of enterprises to which it
wishes Bill S-31 to apply. The Committee was divided as to whether the
restrictions placed on voting rights attached to shares acquired by provincial
governments were necessary to achieve the stated objectives of the Bill. When
debate was resumed on second reading, Senator Martial Asselin proposed that the
debate be adjourned until the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs
reports on his meetings with those provinces which objected to the Bill. The
amendment was rejected and the Bill was given second reading and referred to
the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee on December 22.
On December 8, Senator Charles McElman
presented a report from the Standing Rules and Orders Committee proposing
certain changes to Senate committees which would come into effect with the next
session of Parliament. The Special Committee on the Northern Pipeline would be
reconstituted as the Standing Committee on Energy. It would examine all matters
relating to energy such as the production and marketing of hydrocarbons and
electricity and the import and export of energy resources. The Health, Welfare
and Science Committee, chaired by Senator Lorne Bonnell, would be renamed the
Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. To it would be referred all
matters relating to veterans, Indians and Inuit, cultural affairs, social and
labour matters and health and welfare. The Rules Committee report was adopted
on December 9.
Joint Committee on Senate Reform
The long and protracted debate on the reform
of the Senate took an important turn. On December 20, the Senate approved a
motion introduced by Government Leader Bud Olson asking the Commons to unite
with the Senate in the establishment of a special joint committee to consider
ways by which the Senate could be reformed in order to strengthen its role in
representing people from all regions and to enhance the authority of Parliament
to speak and act on behalf of Canadians in all parts of the country. The
Commons agreed with the request on December 22. The joint committee is composed
of 12 members from the Commons and eight from the Senate and will present its
final report no later than December 1, 1983.
Gary W. O'Brien, Chief, Minutes and Journals Branch (English), The
House of Commons
January 17, when the House came back from
its Christmas adjournment, marked the inauguration of new Standing Orders.
These had been proposed by the Special Committee on Standing Orders and
Procedure set up last Spring following the episode of the bells and were
accepted by the House without dissent. These new rules, which are only
provisional at the moment and are due to expire next December, represent the
most substantial changes to procedural practice since 1968-69 when the business
of supply was completely overhauled. The new rules are intended to meet two
objectives; to streamline the legislative process and to give the members an
opportunity to participate more effectively in the formulation of legislation.
A notable change made through the new rules
is in the time for most speeches which has been reduced from 40 and 30 minutes
to 20 with an optional 10 minutes for strictly relevant questions, answers or
comments between the member speaking and his colleagues. This is to provide
greater spontaneity and more cut and thrust in debate. The time allotted for
speeches by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition as well as others,
depending on the occasion, is not affected by these changes. In addition,
during second reading stage, after approximately two full days of debate, the
time for speeches is to be reduced to 10 minutes, the same amount of time as
allotted for debate at the report stage.
The size of standing committees has also
been reduced. Under the old system, committees had as many as 30 members, and
there was also provision to make substitutions quite easily. Both factors
tended to hamper the work of committees. Now, however, the standing committees
have been limited in size to between 10 and 15 members and substitution will be
restricted in the first instance to a list of alternates drawn up for each
committee. Moreover, committees have been granted the authority to initiate
enquiries by virtue of the automatic referral to them of annual reports by
departments, Crown corporations and other agencies.
Wedged between the Prayers and the Question
Period under the former practice were motions without notice due to
"urgent and pressing necessity" and known as 43s after the Standing
Order. The Committee believed that this procedure was incomprehensible to the
public and often abused by the members. As an alternative, under provisional
Standing Order 21, members not of the ministry, will be recognized to make a
statement which does not exceed 90 seconds, on virtually any subject so long as
it is not frivolous. As with the old 43s, the period allotted for these
statements is fixed at 15 minutes.
These statements and the Question Period,
together with the Routine Proceedings, will still take place in the early
afternoon every day except Friday as before, but they will no longer mark the
beginning of the sitting. The hours of the House have been completely revamped.
The evening sittings have been abolished in favour of a sitting set to begin at
11 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The new schedule adopted by the House is not
confined to changes in the daily routine, but includes a fixed calendar for the
year which has been divided into three semesters, the Fall, the Winter and the
Spring. The purpose of this proposal is 1o ensure a reasonable certainty as to
the dates and duration of the periods during which the House would sit."
The Spring sitting is set to end June 30, a date coincidental with the
conclusion of the business of Supply. To insure some flexibility for the
completion of government business, allowance has been given to extend the hours
of sitting during the final ten sitting days of the Spring semester. In
addition, the Speaker, following consultation with the government, is permitted
to recall the House at any time.
When the House returned in January, it
resumed debate on measures introduced by the government during the previous
summer or autumn. Three of the bills are part of the six and five budgetary restraint
programme. Of these, Bill C-133 was passed by the House January 25 only after
the government had obtained a time allocation order to cut off debate. The
measure is intended to limit the cost-of-living increases to public service
pensions to 6.5 percent in 1983 and to 5,5 percent in 1984. The .5 percent
increase was added by an amendment moved by the sponsor of the bill, the hon.
Herb Gray, the President of the Treasury Board, who explained that the revised
limits take into account the 10 percent paid by civil service employees to
index their pensions to inflation. Despite this change, four Liberals voted
against the bill on third reading, which was nevertheless handily carried by
the government 132 to 107.
The National Health and Welfare Minister, the
hon. Monique Begin also used the guillotine to limit 3rd reading debate on
C-131 which amends the Old Age Security Act in accordance with the six and five
policy. Early in December, the same procedure was used to call the vote on the
bill's second reading. The third piece of legislation which is part of the 6
and 5 program Bill C-132 dealing with family allowances had by early February
reached report stage which was concluded only by a guillotine order which will
also limit third reading debate.
The Standing Committee on External Affairs
and National Defence presented to the House on November 30 the final two
reports of its subcommittee charged with the examination of Canada's relations
with Latin America and the Caribbean. The first report, which is on South
America, presents a brief analysis of the various countries, assessing their
political and economic conditions. Based upon the testimony of numerous
witnesses, and their own experience in visiting most of the countries, the
subcommittee proposed various recommendations to guide Canada's foreign policy
in the region. A paramount priority, according to the committee, should be the
promotion of human rights, particularly in such countries as Argentina, Chile,
Guyana and Uruguay. The report also recommended that the government assist
Canadian businessmen competing for markets in such countries as Brazil and
Venezuela. The government was also encouraged to give strong support to
Canadian and international organizations and programmes that provide direct
help to the poorest people in South America.
With regard to Latin America and the
Caribbean, the subcommittee report found that political stability, together
with human rights, was of the up-most importance to the proper development of
the region. The key question for Canada at the moment, however, was whether or
not it should join, as a full member, the Organization of American States. The
subcommittee was conscious of the weaknesses of the OAS, as evidenced in its
inability to act as broker during recent war over the Falkland Islands.
Nonetheless, the subcommittee felt that there was no other organization likely
to take place of the OAS and, for its part, Canada could no longer allow itself
such a negligible role in western hemisphere affairs.
On December 8, the Standing Committee on
Health, Welfare and Social Affairs under the chairmanship of Marcel Roy,
presented the report of its inquiry into urea formaldehyde foam insulation. The
report recommended that the federal government investigate possible links
between the foam insulation and nasal cancer, the evidence of which remains
inconclusive. It also proposed that the deadline for assistance to UFFI
homeowners be extended to the end of 1983. Based upon the hearings it conducted
during October, the committee went further to suggest that the government
should examine the possibility of requiring compulsory testing of a greater
number of chemical products and give more attention to the potential health
hazards of indoor air pollutants.
Finally, the Special Committee on Standing
Orders and Procedure issued its fourth report just days after the House had
given approval to its recommendations for new Standing Orders. This report
deals with the Speakership and proposes that the Speaker be elected by a secret
ballot of the Members at the beginning of each new Parliament. Such a novel
scheme it was felt, would increase the opportunities for all sides of the House
to participate in the selection of the Speaker and would enhance the authority
and independence of the Chair.
Charles Robert, Table Research Branch, House of Commons, Ottawa
The first session of Saskatchewan's 20th
Legislature resumed on November 22, 1982. The initial item of business was the
introduction of the Progressive Conservative administration's first budget. The
Minister of Finance, Robert Andrew, predicted a $220 million deficit. Andrew
laid the blame for the deficit largely at the feet of the former government
while opposition members declared it the result of expensive election promises.
Following the Budget Debate the House
directed its attention to consideration of estimates and legislation. Of the
twenty-seven bills passed during the 18daysitting perhaps the most significant
was legislation establishing a farm loan program which will make money
available at 8 percent interest to farmers whose net worth is less than
$300,000 and whose off-farm income is less than $35,000 per year. A related
bill effectively abolished the Saskatchewan Land Bank Commission, sparking a
large-scale protest by farmers holding existing leases from the Land Bank.
Other noteworthy legislation included an amendment to The Legislative Assembly
and Executive Council Act giving a 6.5 percent salary increase to all MLAs
except the Premier, cabinet ministers, Opposition leader, Speaker, Deputy
Speaker, legislative secretaries and committee chairmen, all of whom will have
their salaries frozen. An amendment to the Election Act which gives prisoners
in remand the right to vote in provincial elections.
Among the issues which arose during the
session was a controversy over remarks made by a government backbencher during
a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. Lloyd Hampton (PC Canora) caused
the government a degree of embarrassment when his casual comments were deemed
to be derogatory to natives and certain immigrants. Following the incident
Premier Grant Devine removed Mr. Hampton from all legislative committees.
Most commentators now agree that the
transition period in Saskatchewan poiitics is coming to a close, with the new
government approaching one year in power and settling comfortably into office,
and with the NDP Opposition having made the break from government and the
necessary adjustments to perform its role as a watchdog on the Tory
The fall legislative session, adjourned on
December 17, 1982.
David Mitchell, Clerk Assistant, Legislative Assembly, Regina,
The second session of the Twenty-fifth
Legislature opened on November 1, 1982. A total of 19 bills were passed including
the 198283 budget legislation which had been interrupted in midstream by the
spring call for a general election. Other bills of some import were the
Agriculture Development Act, the Land Planning Act and An Act to Amend the
Motor Vehicles Act. The latter was relatively controversial in that it made a
three month licence suspension mandatory for first time impaired drivers with
no provision for conditional operating licences. Although the government was
willing to crack down on impaired drivers it was not willing to support an
opposition motion advocating legislation making it illegal to drink while
Much of the members' attention during the
session was turned to what the Throne Speech described as the "dark,
economic shroud which now envelopes us." A great deal of concern centered
on attempts to get the Cyprus Anvil Mine at Faro back into operation. This
world-scale lead-zinc mine is owned by Dome Petroleum and is closed for an
indefinite period awaiting agreement on a Federal-Territorial aid package or a
drastic improvement in world metal markets or some combination of the two.
Permanent closure of Whitehorse Copper in
December and the earlier temporary shutdown of the United Keno Hill silver mine
leaves Yukon without an operating hard rock mine for the first time in living
memory. The economic effects of this situation are severe. Yukon is the only
jurisdiction in Canada which had more corporate than consumer bankruptcies in
1982. Layoffs and pay cuts are common and many people are leaving the Territory
to search out warmer temperatures and brighter job prospects elsewhere. The
major transportation company, White Pass, has announced that it will not even
run trains for the tourist trade in the summer of 1983 and its train freight
operation has long been shut down.
The government put a great deal of effort
into working out programs and obtaining funds which could be utilized for
keeping manpower in the Yukon where it would be available once an economic
turnaround takes place. In that context the Minister responsible for Manpower,
Hon. Bea Firth, made several announcements during the session relating to the
Federal Job Creation Program, a Training Program Agreement, a Yukon/Canada
Employment Bridging Assistance Program and a job retention program for small
Government revenues obviously took a
downturn and, in an attempt to find some cushion to apply to job creation
programs, a nine-day fortnight was instituted by the government for its
employees in August of 1982. The government chose to follow the lead of the
federal "6 and W program not only in spirit but in legislative detail.
This was done in a bill entitled the Public Sector Compensation Restraint
(Yukon) Act which limited increases in public sector wages, including municipal
employees, and in electrical rates from exceeding increases of six and five
percent over the next two fiscal years.
Politicians were not exempt from the
exercise and, in a separate bill, members cut back their salaries by ten
percent which was the increase they had received on April 1, 1982.
The second session of the Twenty-fifth
Legislature was adjourned on December 9, 1982, following 23 sitting days.
Patrick L. Michael, Clerk, Yukon Legislative Assembly, Whitehorse
The second session of the legislature opened
on December 2, 1982 with Henry Carroll (Brandon West) sitting as an
Independent, having resigned from the NDP caucus in September. This left the
standings as NDP33; PC23 and Ind1.
The Speech from the Throne highlighted
government intentions to create and expand job creation programs worth about
$40 million; to empower the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation to enter into
competitive marketing of life insurance and pension management services; to
enhance royalty and tax incentives for oil companies and to create a Manitoba
Oil and Gas Corporation to enable public participation in resource development
along with the private sector. It promised consideration of seal belt
legislation, a revision of statutes in conflict with the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, and the introduction of legislation to restrict acquisition of farm
lands by non farm corporations and non residents of Manitoba. Plans for
legislation affecting transportation of dangerous goods, elections, freedom of
information, and conflict of interest provisions regarding municipal and
provincial elected officials were also announced.
During the ensuing debate, Sterling Lyon,
Progressive Conservative Leader, led his caucus in charging the government with
incompetence and misleading Manitobans, concentrating on its inability to
fulfil] its election promises, the failure to obtain agreement with Alberta and
Saskatchewan for a hydro power inter-tie, and the recent imposition of a 1.5%
tax on payrolls. Mr. Lyon urged that property tax burdens should be eased, a
lending program for young farmers implemented, a commitment made to affordable
public service wage settlements and the implementation of an economic strategy.
He also condemned government involvement in oil or gas development and life
insurance and pension management, and the proposal to restrict farm land
purchases by Canadians.
By the end of the Throne Speech debate,
vitriolic speeches and frequent acrimonious outbursts were the order of the
day. Premier Howard Pawley, while defending the government's program of
"building the basis for recovery" in difficult times, lamented daily
"pointless, baseless and vicious attacks" from the Opposition.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister, Vic Schroeder,
had tabled the government's Quarterly Financial Report which indicated an
expected yearend deficit of $498.4 million, $155 million higher than previously
forecast. Mr. Schroeder blamed the increase on a significant revenue loss while
Mr. Lyon laid blame on the government's "gross negligence." Finance critic
Brian Ransom specifically blamed a lack of spending control.
Highlights of the twelve pre-Christmas
sitting days were five Speaker's rulings, three debates on privilege motions,
the suspension of a member, and an unsuccessful motion by Mr. Lyon to censure
the Speaker, James Walding. Twenty-three government bills were introduced,
notably, The Farmlands Ownership Act, which solicited instant Opposition
It should also be noted that, for the first
time, a simultaneous interpretation facility became operational for members
wishing to have speeches in French interpreted.
During the January and February adjournment,
the Standing Committee on Municipal Affairs held several well-attended hearings
throughout the province to hear the views of citizens regarding proposed
changes to property assessment as recommended by the 1982 Report of the
Manitoba Assessment Review Committee.
Gordon Mackintosh, Clerk Assistant, Legislative Assembly of Manitoba,
The National Assembly sat for twenty-five
days last autumn. Most debate centered on the government's proposals for
handling the economic crisis.
As soon as the Assembly reopened on November
9, the Premier, René Lévesque, tabled a motion requesting support for the steps
the government intended to take to reduce the impact of the crisis. Several
days later Mr Lévesque announced that guidelines would shortly be tabled
regulating negotiations with the 300,000 employees in the public and
para-public sectors. The Official Opposition supported the Premier in his call
for social responsibility and respect for the law, while suggesting that the
government was responsible for Quebec's budgetary difficulties. On December 1,
the government issued its regulatory guidelines designed to end six months of
negotiations with public employees. Eight days later the President of the
Treasury Board, Yves Bérubé, introduced Bill 105 on working conditions in the
public sector. Like Bills 78 and 70, which were adopted last June, the new bill
provided for an adjustment in the salaries of certain public sector, university
and subsidized private school employees for the period from January 1, 1983, to
March 1, 1983. The bill included 109 provisions regulating collective
The Assembly was deeply divided over this
approach to Quebec's budgetary problems, and particularly over the proposed
salary cuts, which for 145,000 employees went as high as 19.5 per cent for the
three months. Seventy MNAs (38 Liberals, 31 PL5quistes and one independent)
took part in the debate on Bill 105, which passed second reading by a vote of
67 to 44 and third reading by 67 to 39.
New National Assembly Act
Even the bill on the National Assembly,
reprinted and tabled on December 9, did not receive unanimous support in the
House. It was finally divided it into Bill 90, on reform of the administration,
and Bill 110, on parliamentary working conditions and a pension plan for MNAs.
After consideration in committee, Bill 90
was passed unanimously. Its aim was an updating of the organization and
functioning of the legislative branch. It enshrined the supremacy of the
Parliament of Quebec as constituted by the National Assembly and the
Lieutenant-Governor. It also solemnly asserted the special character and the
prerogatives of the National Assembly.
Bill 110 established working conditions for
the members of the National Assembly. It set the annual salary and the expenses
to be allocated to each member and the additional allowances that the
incumbents of certain parliamentary positions would receive. It established the
right of a member to a transition allowance when he or she ceases to be a
member, and the way such an allowance should be calculated and paid. The bill
also contained a new pension plan, applicable to every person who becomes an
MNA after January 1, 1983, and who is not already covered by a pension paid
under the Legislature Act. Despite opposition to the bill, which included a 6
per cent salary increase to April 1, 1983, it was passed by a vote of 62 to 39.
In addition to Bills 90, 105 and 110, the
Quebec National Assembly also adopted an emergency measure on November 5. Bill
84 was designed to end a public transit strike in the Quebec City Urban
Community and to set working conditions for public transit employees in
metropolitan Quebec up to December 25, 1983. Bill 87 provided for supplementary
estimates of $257,181,000, to go to nine departments.
A Department of External Trade was set up
under Bill 89, tabled by Bernard Landry, who became Minister of State responsible
for external trade in the cabinet shuffle of September 2, 1982. The Department
of Labour was reconstituted by Bill 95 while the Department of Financial
Institutions and Co-operatives Act was repealed by Bill 94 which created the
position of Inspector-General of financial institutions.
Bill 88 united the Quebec Highways Board
with the provincial Department of Transport. Bill 96 centralized the
administration of the electoral system under the authority of the Director
General of elections by giving this official certain additional
responsibilities. Bill 93 abolished the compulsory retirement age in public and
para-public pension plans, starting January 1, 1983.
On Tuesday, November 16, 1982, the Assembly
set up a commission to study parliamentary control of delegated legislation.
The commission, which is made up of eight MNAs, will be chaired by Denis
Vaugeois (Trois-Rivieres). It is to submit its report by March 31, 1983, at the
Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, MNA for Verchères
and chairman of the Special Commission on Youth Protection, tabled the
Commission's report on November 23, 1982. The Commission was established in
December 1981 to prepare recommendations for the Assembly on the required
legislative and regulatory amendments and on the applications that are or
should be in force. The report itself is 650 pages long, with four annexes
containing 252 recommendations subdivided into 105 thematic blocks. The annexes
tabled by Mr Charbonneau are innovative in that they contain a draft bill
intended to give a legislative formulation to the whole of the Commission's
recommendations. The proposed bill would amend the Youth Protection Act.
The first three members of the Commission on
Access to Information were proposed by Mr. Lévesque and agreed to unanimously
by the Assembly on December 16, 1982. They were: Marcel Pépin, journalist, the
Commission's chairman, Caroline Pestiau, economist and Thérèse Giroux, lawyer.
The Commission's mandate is to supervise the implementation and application of Bill
65 on access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal
information. It will begin work early next year. Its regular staff will
comprise 25 to 30 employees but over time it will acquire some 250
"agents" in various departments and public bodies. Its head office
will be in Quebec City.
Yvon Thériault, Indexing and Bibliography Service, Library of the
National Assembly. Quebec City