| British Columbia
| Northwest Territories
If one word describes the Spring 1997
sitting of the Ontario Assembly, it would be ‘unusual’.
In the first instance, because of a motion
passed in the House late in 1996, the Assembly began the Spring Sessional
period on January 13. Ordinarily, the House would not have met until the third
Monday in March. However, the government of Premier Michael Harris
wanted the House to resume earlier in order to deal with the organizational
structure of the province’s municipalities and school boards, the financing of
these, and the amalgamation of the seven municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto
into one. Once the necessary alteration to the parliamentary calendar was
proposed and passed, the House was set to meet in mid-January.
During the first week of the Spring sitting,
the government brought in a number of Bills to accomplish its municipal
restructuring. Partly because the Toronto amalgamation, introduced earlier, was
anticipated to result in a "megacity", and partly because of the significant
nature of the other legislation, this week came to be known as
Controversial bills were introduced that
revised the funding arrangements for schools. The province removed the cost of
education from municipal property taxes and took it over completely while at
the same time divesting the control and funding of general welfare into the
municipalities. The legislation also introduced an Actual Value Assessment
system for determining the amount of tax to be levied on each property in the province;
proposed fundamental changes to the province’s 20-year-old rent control system,
eliminating it completely on new construction or vacated apartments. Another
bill revised the control and responsibilities for community libraries. Water
and sewage service, police services and the administration of provincial
offences were also the subject of many changes.
The primary focus of the Spring Session
proved to be the City of Toronto amalgamation legislation. Bill 103 was
considered in the Standing Committee on General Government under the terms of a
time allocation motion, which provided that the Bill would be referred to the
Committee of the Whole House once it was reported from the committee. The time
allocation motion provided for one hour of consideration in Committee of the
Whole House, at which point the Chair of the Committee would put every question
necessary to dispose of the Committee of the Whole stage. The time allocation
motion also required that any proposed amendments to be dealt with in Committee
of the Whole had to be filed by 2:00 p.m. on the day that the order for
Committee of the Whole’s consideration of the Bill was called. Between them,
the two opposition parties filed approximately 13,000 amendments to the Bill.
Significantly, the time allocation motion also provided for the House to meet
beyond its normal adjournment, if required, to complete the Committee of the
Whole stage on the same day.
What ensued as a result of these factors
must surely have been the longest single sitting of any legislature: 248
consecutive hours. In one of the numerous rulings required of Speaker Chris
Stockwell during the extended sitting, he referred to the filibuster as
"a procedural impasse of logarithmic proportions". To those at the
Ontario Legislature caught up in this unique phenomenon, the accuracy of the
Speaker’s assessment could not be questioned.
In Committee of the Whole House, the Chair
began putting every question necessary to dispose of the amendments. As each of
the 13,000 filed amendments was read, the terms of the time allocation motion
provided that the actual vote on each would be deferred if a division was
requested; the opposition parties requested a recorded division on every
amendment (except those few where simple fatigue and distraction meant that the
amendment either was carried or was lost without a division being required).
Initially, the 5 members required to force a recorded division stood after each
question. Eventually, 5 members simply remained standing for hours to indicate
their ongoing desire for recorded divisions on each amendment. In the end, a
government member sought, and received, unanimous consent of the House for 5
members to be deemed to be standing on each question, relieving members of the
need to stand.
As the reality and scale of the task now
facing the Committee of the Whole House set in, there were numerous estimates
on the length of time it would take to get through all the amendments. Based on
the "rate of progress" and on the total number of filed amendments,
an unofficial consensus arose around the time frame of 40 days and 40 nights.
Members and Assembly staff recalibrated their time horizons and everyone
settled in for an impossible task that had no precedent and, therefore, no
frame of reference.
Since "political DNA" pre-disposes
any government of the day to want expeditious debate and passage of its
proposals, and any opposition to want extended debate and contested passage of
(most) government initiatives, the validity and reasonableness of the opposition’s
tactic were repeatedly challenged, and vigorously defended. On 22 occasions,
rulings of the Chair were appealed to the Speaker, who made his way to the
House at nearly every hour of the clock to hear arguments. In numerous
instances, the Speaker suspended proceedings to confer with Table Officers, to
research precedents and to consider his ultimate rulings.
In the end, the Speaker ruled on issues as
diverse as editorial re-numbering by Legislative Counsel of sections of Bills,
to partisan props and demonstrations and the wearing of political insignia and
lapel buttons in the House; from the neutrality of the Speaker’s deputy
presiding officers, to deciding that everyone of the 13,000 filed amendments
need not be read in full by the Chair; from the alleged frivolity of a large
number of the opposition’s filed amendments, to the admissibility of amendments
filed by the government. All the while, uncommon interest in and awareness of
the Legislature’s proceedings kept the galleries well-attended and the participants
comporting themselves in a slightly more well-defined, televised fishbowl.
As the immensity of the task took hold of
everyone, thoughts were cast ahead to the actual voting process, which would
still need to take place following the reading of all the amendments. Because
the doors of the Chamber would be locked during the voting, it was apparent
that simple human considerations would preclude the ability of the Assembly to
fulfill the process that the rules prescribed. No one could continue without food
or sleep for the amount of time that voting on all the amendments would
require. As the reading of the amendments continued, the three Party House
Leaders began to discuss a political solution. After negotiations, it was
agreed that the voting would take place in 4-hour blocks, with a 15-minute
break between each block to allow new caucus "shifts" to take over.
Once all of the amendments had been read,
the Committee of the Whole House started over where it began – at the first
amendment put – and the Chair began taking the recorded divisions on each. As
the massive piles of amendments slowly dwindled, the end of a challenging and
fascinating parliamentary episode drew closer. The clause-by-clause process
came to its end, and the Bill was reported as amended to a raucous, newly
invigorated House at about 9:00 p.m. of the tenth day. Almost
anticlimactically, the Speaker adjourned the House to the next Sessional day,
and weary members and staff made their way home to a long-awaited rest.
In order to avoid a possible immediate
replay of the Bill 103 filibuster, the government moved to have another of its
"Megaweek" bills, Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, pulled from
the Committee of the Whole House and ordered it for Third Reading. Bill 104 had
been considered under an almost identical time allocation motion to that Bill
103, and thousands of amendments had already been filed to Bill 104 as well.
Because Bill 104 had already had certain amendments made to it in standing
committee, the government was prepared to live with it as it was, rather than
see the House in the midst of another extended sitting.
In the end, a measure of the scale of the
Bill 103 extended sitting of the House can be seen in the fact that the Hansard
for the day fills 2006 pages; a normal sitting day would be about 35 pages.
Also the issue of Votes and Proceedings for the day is 18 pages; normally it
would be about 4 pages. Ultimately, proceedings on the Bill did not take the
projected 40 days and 40 nights, but all the participants were no doubt stunned
and impressed with the vigour, power and logic of a parliament pushed to its
The start of the Spring Sessional period
also saw the appointment of three new House Officers. Lisa Freedman and Todd
Decker were appointed Clerks-at-the-Table and Dennis Clark began his
duties as the new Sergeant-at-Arms. On the second day in their new roles, they
were thrust into the historic, legislative deadlock. Their ‘trial-by-fire’ will
not soon be forgotten.
In June 1996, the Standing Committee on the
Legislative Assembly was authorized to review and report on the matter of
referenda. The basis of this review was a consultation paper prepared by the
Ministry of the Attorney General entitled Your Ontario, Your Choice: A Preliminary
Look at the Referendum Alternative. The paper describes itself as "the
start of an extensive and full dialogue with Ontarians about how best to
implement a referendum strategy for Ontario".
The Committee’s deliberations began in
September 1996 and it heard from almost 50 groups and individuals during five
days of public hearings. The Committee heard from Ted White, MP for
North Vancouver, and David Mitchell, former British Columbia MLA, by way
of video-conferencing and two Ottawa area groups by way of tele-conferencing.
The Committee’s report, entitled Final
Report on Referenda, containing 31 recommendations, was tabled in the House on
July 3, 1997. The Committee recommended that the Government should introduce
legislation authorizing provincial referenda on any topic within the
jurisdiction of the province. The Committee recommended a referenda regime in
which referenda could be initiated by either the Legislative Assembly or the
citizens of the province, a majority vote of 50% plus one would be needed for
the referendum question to pass, and the government of the day would then be
required to introduce a bill to implement the decision.
In dissenting opinions, both the Official Opposition
and the Third Party expressed concerns that the rights of various minorities in
the province may not be sufficiently protected. They also emphasized that
referenda should be a tool of and not a replacement for the parliamentary
On February 3, 1997, the Standing Committee
on General Government began its public hearings on Bill 103, An Act to replace
the seven exiting municipal governments of Metropolitan Toronto by
incorporating a new municipality to be known as the City of Toronto. These
hearings, chaired by Bart Maves, generated considerable public interest.
There were countless neighbourhood meetings and the exiting municipalities each
held a referendum on the proposed municipal amalgamation.
The time allocation motion governing these proceedings
provided for 14 days of hearings, during which the Committee heard submissions
from 552 different organizations and individuals. The Committee met from 9:00
a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and despite these long hours, many members of the public
watched the entire proceedings. The public gallery was usually full and at
times overflow rooms were needed. Clause-by-clause consideration occurred on
March 6, 1997. During this final stage of the committee process, no amendments
were moved and the Bill was accordingly reported to the House and sent to the
Committee of the Whole House.
The Standing Committee on Social
Development, chaired by Annamarie Castrilli, met to consider Bill 104,
the Fewer School Boards Act, 1997. During the current Parliament’s extended
winter session, Ontarians were witness to a wave of sweeping, government
legislation. The Ministry of Education and Training set about overhauling the
education system of Ontario in a bill that reduced trustee participation,
re-organized regional school districts and created an Education Improvement
Commission to oversee the transition.
Bill 104 passed first reading on January 13,
1997, and received second reading February 12, 1997, at which time it was
referred to the Standing Committee on Social Development. Subject to a time
allocation motion passed February 6, 1997, province-wide public consultation of
the Bill commenced February 17, 1997 in Toronto and March 17, 1997 on the road.
The Committee heard over 300 deputants in 10 days of intensive public hearings
around the province.
Clerk-at-the-Table and Senior
MLAs returned to the Legislative Assembly on
May 27 for an abbreviated sitting to deal with several pieces of legislation,
including: Bill 14 Supplementary Appropriation Act, No. 1, 1997-98; Bill 16 An
Act to Amend the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Act; and Bill 17 An
Act to Amend the Territorial Hospital Services Act.
Finance Minister John Todd also
announced the launch of the Northern Employment Strategy. The $32 million
strategy is a two-year action plan aimed at job creation, economic growth, and
labor force development, particularly for young people and the unemployed.
Under the strategy the territorial
government will directly support private sector and economic development
stimulate immediate job and work experience
opportunities, particularly for summer students and young people;
offer new jobs and work-related educational
opportunities to social assistance recipients and the unemployed; or
offer training and technical support to
build a capable workforce within individual communities.
In June the Standing Committee on Social
Programs concluded its public hearings on the proposed Family Law Bills — the
Adoption Act, the Child and Family Services Act, the Children’s Law Act, and
the Family Law Act. Committee Members will meet again during the summer and
into the early fall to discuss their findings and prepare their report before
reporting to the House when it reconvenes in October.
Standing Committees have also started their
initial reviews of the costs associated with the creation of the two new
territories and two new government structures in 1999. The process will resume
when MLAs return to the Legislature in the fall after a summer break.
Work on the creation of the two new
territories continues to proceed with less than 600 days until a new Canadian
map becomes a reality on April 1, 1999.
In Nunavut, residents voted 57 per cent
against and 43 per cent in favor of guaranteed equal representation for men and
women in the first Nunavut Legislative Assembly. If the proposal had been
publicly supported, it would have meant that Nunavut voters would have elected
one male and one female for each constituency in the new Nunavut Legislative
Assembly. Voter turnout in the May 26 Public Vote was low at only 39 per cent.
The Nunavut Electoral Boundaries
Commission’s report was also publicly released on July 18, 1997. In the report,
the three-member Commission, chaired by the Hon. J.E. Richard, Q.C.,
outlines three models for electoral districts for the first Nunavut Legislative
Assembly. The three models are: 11 dual-member electoral districts, 20
single-member electoral districts, and 17 single-member electoral districts.
The Commission also suggests possible constituency breakdowns for each of the
three models. The report will be tabled by the Speaker and debated by Members
when the House reconvenes in October.
In the western Territory, the Constitutional
Working Group (CWG), the group drafting a new constitution for the territory,
agreed to delay plans for a plebiscite on a constitution package. The vote was
expected to be held this fall. However, members agreed to delay the vote until
1999 after the publicmade it clear that they thought the process was being
The CWG also released an interim report at
the end of June in time for the aboriginal summer assemblies and other
meetings. The new report answers some of the questions raised during the first
round of community consultations and further examines four possible government
models. A follow-up to Partners in a New Beginning, the document released in
October, 1996, is expected to be released in the fall of 1997 before a second
round of community consultations begins.
Public Relations Officer
On June 19, 1997, the National Assembly
adjourned its proceedings for the summer holidays after having held 47 sittings
since the House resumed last March. During this period, more than 60 bills were
passed, several of which were of a socioeconomic nature.
The establishment of two new ministries
reflects the Government’s concern with respect to this matter. Hence, the new
Ministry of Employment and Solidarity shall be responsible for manpower,
employment, income security and family allowances, while the main objective of
the Ministry of Child and Family Welfare is to enhance this institution and to
promote its full development.
The Assembly also passed a bill to establish
a fund to combat poverty, a bill to assist young persons and adults in entering
trades and professions by focussing on in-plant training, as well as a bill to
set up a committee for the purpose of promoting the economic, cultural and
social development of Greater Montreal.
A Private Member’s Public Bill was also on
the legislative agenda. The object of this bill is to require the disclosure of
the compensation received by executive officers of companies listed on the stock
exchange. With the passage of this bill, Quebec now has regulations on
securities similar to those set forth by Ontario and the United States in
One will recall that in December 1996, the
Assembly had passed legislation to provide for the constitution of an Energy
Board designated, amongst other things, to examine the complaints of customers
dissatisfied with services provided by electricity distributors. In June, the
Energy Efficiency Agency was, in turn, established by law, and was given the
power to advise the Energy Board on matters pertaining to energy efficiency.
The agency also has the responsibility of informing and enhancing the awareness
of energy consumers with respect to the advantages of energy efficiency, while
providing technical support for research and development in this field.
On a more sombre note, Members were reminded
of the devastation caused by the torrential rains of July 1996 in the
Saguenay,Lac-Saint-Jean region when a bill concerning the reconstruction and
redevelopment of the areas affected was introduced in the Assembly. It should
be noted that an unusual practice occurred as large-scale aerial photographs of
the devastated areas were tabled in the Assembly, copies of which are
reproduced in appendix to the bill.
The Charter of the French Language was
amended in order to establish the Protection of the French Language Board. The
bill includes provisions requiring that all computer software be provided in
French except if no French version exists.
Finally, a bill to ensure the establishment
of linguistic school boards also received passage in June. This is a turning
point in the history of the education reform in Quebec.
The Official Opposition moved one want of
confidence motion during the the last sessional period, while six motions were
debated within the framework of Business Standing in the Name of Members in
Opposition, one of which was proposed by an independent Member.
Since May 21, 1997, all Private and Public
Bills of the National Assembly have been available on its Internet web site
(www.assnat.qc.ca). The bills are produced in HTML format, which ensures
immediate access to their contents, and also in PDF format. The latter provides
for the in extenso version of the official paper copy tabled in Parliament but
requires the Adobe Acrobat reader.
Updating is done continually, which allows
the user to follow the parliamentary debates virtually hour-by-hour. Speedy
access to this information is a characteristic feature of the Assembly web
site. Hence, it is possible to consult the provisions of a bill on Internet
approximately one hour after its introduction in the House. The same delay
applies for the Journal des débats (Hansard). The Order Paper and Notices is on
the site at 8.00 o’clock a.m. on each sitting day, and the French and English
versions of the Votes and Proceedings are available in the hour following the
adjournment of proceedings.
The site also contains the transcript of
parliamentary committee proceedings, consultation papers and certain committee
reports, as well as the schedule of committee meetings.
It should be noted that bills given royal
assent can also be found on www.gouv.qc.ca/jp2.html. A subscription to
Publications du Québec is necessary in order to have access.
Within the framework of its educational
mission, the National Assembly organized a Parliament for grade-school-level
students, which held its first sitting on May 23, 1997. This activity gives 6th
grade students the opportunity to carry on the parliamentary duties of a Member
for a day.
Grade schools from across Quebec were
invited to take part in this event, the purpose of which is to introduce these
young learners to the legislative procedure. This was done through a simulation
of parliamentary proceedings, including a question period addressed to the
Speaker of the House and the passage of a bill.
These proceedings were broadcast live on the
cable network. Speaker Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, the promoter of this
activity, was proud to chair the sitting, since it allows these young people to
acquire a better knowledge of our political history and to contribute to the
enrichment of democracy by promoting the respect of our institutions. The
Secretary General of the Assembly and his assistants at the table were also
active in preparing and carrying out the day’s activities.
Sixty-nine students were elected by their
peers to represent their school at this special event. The level of enthusiasm
and commitment of these eleven and twelve-year olds was impressive and clearly
revealed by the numerous amendments tabled during the clause-by-clause
consideration of a bill of their choice. Of course all of the students of
participating classes, along with their teachers, had spent many hours, during
the preceding weeks, earnestly preparing a legislative text in accordance with
the rules pertaining to the drafting of bills.
Three of the proposed bills were accepted by
the selection committee of the National Assembly and thus debated during the
Student Parliament. The first one referred to the inscription of graffiti in
public places; the second one brought about changes to the school calendar and
the third one dealt with the obligation to wear a school uniform.
Looking to the fall events, the session
reconvenes on October 21, 1997. Committee work, on the other hand, resumed in
Secretariat of the Assembly
Translated by Sylvia Ford
From May through July 1997, the work of the
National Assembly’s committees focused on a variety of reports tabled at the
conclusion of investigations initiated by committee members. This period also
saw the start of proceedings by the new Committee on Public Administration, set
up on an experimental basis on April 10, 1997.
The first report was tabled by the Committee
on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on May 8. The Committee had been studying
the government’s proposed guidelines on control of odours, noise and dust in
agricultural areas. In light of the briefs and evidence presented at the public
hearings in April, the Committee members unanimously adopted a report setting
out those provisions they thought most likely to encourage good neighbourly
relations between farmers and non-farmers living in agricultural areas. The
provisions put forward by the Committee are aimed basically at preserving
agricultural activities in rural and exurban areas while minimizing insofar as
possible the inherent inconveniences.
On June 10, the Committee tabled a second
report, in which it recommended an increase in the ceiling on loans made to
farmers by the Société de financement agricole.
The Committee on Culture wrapped up the
mandate entrustedto it in February 1995 of determining the issues entailed in
developing Quebec’s information highway. On May 27 it tabled an imposing report
entitled Inforoute, culture et démocratie: Enjeux pour le Quebec. The report
contains over 50 recommendations, and in particular it asserts that while the
information highway has potholes and bumps, it also offers possibilities and
opportunities that the government must definitely seize.
Lastly, on June 17, the Committee on the
Economy and Labour published its final report on its review of Hydro-Quebec,
the province’s biggest Crown corporation. With the help of a panel of experts,
the Committee produced a report that is the result of lengthy consideration and
a number of days hearing from senior management at the corporation. The report
contains 21 recommendations on the four main areas scrutinized: restructuring
of electricity markets, energy efficiency, new sources of renewable energy, and
research and development.
Apart from these significant reports, the
early summer was also notable for the launching of the Committee of Public
Administration. Its mandate, to follow up on the annual report of the
province’s Auditor General, is similar to those of the public accounts
committees in other Canadian jurisdictions. However, it differs from those
committees in that it has additional powers. It can investigate financial
commitments made by government departments and agencies, and, under the
accountability legislation, it can hear from deputy ministers and executives of
The new Committee’s initial proceedings were
concentrated in May, when it held five public hearings. On June 3, as a record
of this first month’s work, the Committee tabled a report clarifying and
drawing conclusions on two problems raised by the province’s Auditor General in
his 1995-96 Report – shortcomings in the administration of the municipal
infrastructures program established by the Canada-Quebec Agreement of 1994, and
the management of the Quebec government’s therapy insurance plan for employees
with long-term disabilities.
The new Committee’s continuance will have to
be confirmed by the National Assembly on October 22, since it was created in
April as a pilot project.
During May and June the committees proceeded
with detailed consideration of many bills, of which the most notable were
undoubtedly Bill 40, An Act to amend the Charter of the French Language, Bill
79, An Act to establish the Commission des lésions professionnelles and
amending various legislative provisions, and Bill 109, An Act to amend the
Education Act, the Act respecting School Elections and other legislative
provisions. The aim of the last of these bills is to set up francophone and
anglophone school boards, which would require a constitutional amendment. The
committees also considered 17 other private bills, dealing largely with
A number of committee mandates have been
announced for the coming months, including four general consultations: one on
the draft bill entitled An Act to amend the Education Act, one on identity
cards and protection of privacy, one on the government document entitled
L’immigration au Québec de 1998 à 2000, prévoir et planifier, and one on the
five-year report from the Commission de l’accès à l’information.
The Committee on Social Affairs has chosen
to use its mandate to examine, initially, the problem of suicide in Quebec; it
will then look at government policy on the supply, management and distribution
of blood. The Committee on Public Finance will be reviewing lobbying activities
in Quebec while continuing to work on drafting umbrella legislation for
government agencies and enterprises.
In addition, the following bodies will be
the subjects of committee review in September and October:
Caisse de dêpot et placement du Québec,
Société de récupération et de recyclage,
Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec,
Corporation d’urgences-santé de la région de Montréal métropolitain and,
Régie des rentes du Québec.
The Committee on Public Administration will
be hearing from the deputy ministers of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Public
Security, and Industry, Trade and Science and Technology. The presidents of the
Commission des services juridiques, the Régie des alcools, des courses et des
jeux du Québec and the Société de développement industriel, and the Associate
Secretary of Government Services, will also be called to appear and explain how
they have administered the public’s money.
The reports mentioned in this artile can be
found in their entirety at the National Assembly’s Internet site:
The Second Session of Saskatchewan’s 23rd
Legislature adjourned on May 21st after sitting for 51 days. A total of 111
public bills were introduced, with all but one of the 76 government sponsored
bills receiving royal assent. None of the 35 Private Members public bills
proceeded past second reading. Three private bills were also passed.
The last day of the session on May 21st
coincided with the premiere of the last in a series of educational videos
produced by a partnership of the several government departments and agencies,
private organizations and the Legislative Assembly. Entitled From Palace to
Prairie: The Crown and Responsible Government in Saskatchewan, the video uses a
documentary style approach to depict the origins of responsible government and
the role and influence of the Crown and its representatives in Saskatchewan.
Archive photographs, newsreel excerpts, newspaper front pages, illustrations
and file footage are combined with commentary to bring the story alive.
New Cabinet Members
On June 27th, Premier Roy Romanow introduced
his newly shuffled Cabinet. With nine Ministers remaining in their current
portfolios, seven of their colleagues assumed new responsibilities. Deputy
Premier Dwain Lingenfelter takes over sole responsibility for the Crown
Investments Corporation and the crown sector. Former Finance Minister Janice
MacKinnon becomes Minister for Economic and Co-operative Development and
the Government House Leader. Berny Wiens takes on Intergovernmental and
Aboriginal Affairs while Ned Shillington is the Provincial Secretary and
Deputy Government House Leader. Eric Cline moves to the Finance
portfolio and is replaced at Health by Clay Serby Joanne Crofford is the
new Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Skills Training.
In addition, two new ministers were appointed:
Judy Bradley (Weyburn) as Minister for Highways and Transportation and
Minister responsible for the Status of Women and Maynard Sonntag (Meadow
Lake) who takes on responsibilities for the Saskatchewan Property Management
Corporation and the Liquor and Gaming Authority.
The political landscape in the province
shifted in early August when several sitting members changed their party
affiliation. The formation of the new Saskatchewan Party was announced on
August 8th in Regina. Support for the new party came from sitting members of
the Liberal Official Opposition and the Progressive Conservative Third Party
along with current and past Saskatchewan Reform Members of Parliament.
The Liberal members include Ken Krawetz,
who was the recognized Leader of the Official Opposition due to Liberal Leader Jim
Melenchuk not having a seat in the Assembly, former Deputy Whip Bob
Bjornerud, former Caucus Chair June Draude and the Liberal House
Leader Rod Gantefoer. Tory Leader Bill Boyd heads the departing
P.C. members of Dan D’Autremont who held the Whip’s position, Ben
Heppner and former House Leader, Don Toth.
A steering committee has been formed and it
is expected that a founding convention will be held later in the fall followed
by a leadership convention early in the new year. Mr. Krawetz and Mr.
D’Autremont have been appointed interim leader and deputy leader respectfully.
With a total of eight sitting members compared to the six of the remaining
Liberals, the new party members sought recognition from the Speaker as the
On August 21, 1997, Speaker Glenn Hagel
made a public statement announcing his decision to recognize the new
Saskatchewan Party caucus as the Official Opposition and the interim leader, Ken
Krawetz, as the Leader of the Opposition. Consequently, the Liberal caucus,
formerly the Official Opposition, became the Third Party with the interim
leader, Ron Osika, recognized as Leader of the Third Party.
A fifth Liberal member, Arlene Jule,
announced that she would be sitting as an Independent Liberal while the
remaining Tory member, Jack Goohsen, loses party status in the House and
will also be an Independent.
The party standing in the Assembly now stand
at 41 N.D.P., 8 Saskatchewan Party, 6 Liberal, two Independent Liberal and one
Independent Progressive Conservative.
The 2nd session of British Columbia’s 36th
Parliament adjourned on July 30 after 82 sitting days. It was one of the longer
sessions in recent memory, and included eight weeks of night sittings.
In all, fifty-three bills were debated in
the chamber, a number of which dealt with controversial matters. One of the
most high-profile bills featured amendments to the province’s labour code. It
was introduced but not proceeded with by the government following protests from
business groups and the opposition, who complained that the changes were
unnecessary and were being introduced without adequate public consultation.
Another controversial bill was the Tobacco
Damages Recovery Act. The first of its kind in Canada, the bill makes it easier
for the government to sue tobacco companies for damages caused by their
products. The Health Minister, Joy MacPhail, argued that the bill is
necessary to permit the recovery of health care costs which result from tobacco
The government also introduced two bills
designed to recognize homosexual rights in marriage and family maintenance. The
Family Relations Amendment Act and Family Maintenance Enforcement Amendment Act
provide that homosexual and lesbian couples will legally be spouses under the
same definition as heterosexual couples, and subject these relationships to the
same laws regarding child maintenance. Both bills passed third reading on July
22 by substantial majorities.
After lengthy deliberations, the Aboriginal
Affairs Committee released its report on the Nisga’a Agreement-in-principle and
the provincial treaty process. The report, following a comprehensive public
hearing schedule by the committee, contains 72 recommendations covering a range
of issues, including resource use, self-government provisions, public education
and consultation, taxation, third party compensation, and others. For the first
time in British Columbia, this standing committee was authorized to permit
minority opinions in its report. Accordingly, Liberal and Reform opposition
members appended minority opinions on some of the issues before the committee;
although they agreed with the majority on most recommendations, the minority
offered different views on the ratification process for treaties by supporting
public referenda, and made clear their view that aboriginal self-government
provisions should be limited to municipal-style powers.
The Parliamentary Reform Committee also met
during the legislative session. It was charged with a two-fold task regarding
Members’ conflict of interest: recommending a new Commissioner pursuant to the
Members’ Conflict of Interest Act and, following that, reviewing the act
itself. On July 30, the committee recommended that retired British Columbia
Supreme Court Justice H.A.D. Oliver become the province’s new Conflict
of Interest Commissioner. The Assembly endorsed the committee’s recommendation,
and Mr. Oliver has since taken over from acting commissioner Peter Meekison.
The Commissioner, a statutory officer of the Legislature, serves a five-year
term and is responsible for receiving members’ disclosure statements,
investigating complaints of contravention of the Act, and making findings and
recommending penalties to the Assembly when necessary.
Along with the Parliamentary Reform
Committee’s review, other committees will be active during the fall. A special
committee has been appointed to review the province’s freedom of information
legislation; this reveiw was mandated by the act when it was passed four years
ago. In addition, the Public Accounts and Forests committees will be active,
along with a committee to recommend a Police Complaints Commissioner; the
latter is a new statutory officer position created to independently review
complaints brought against municipal police officers in the province.
The First Session of the Twenty Fourth Legislature
adjourned on June 16, 1997. During the sitting, the Assembly passed 29
government Bills, 3 private members’ public Bills, and 7 private Bills.
This session saw Royal Assent given to a
number of Government Bills. The Freedom of Information and Protection of
Privacy Amendment Act was introduced by the Premier as Bill 1. The Act allows
"local public bodies" (public educational institutions, health
authorities, and municipalities) to be brought under the Legislation on a
sector by sector basis.
The Alberta Treasury Branches Act changes
the status and operations of the Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB). Notably, it
transforms the ATB into a provincial Crown corporation giving the Board and
management greater autonomy from Government, and allowing it to remunerate
employees at rates comparable to charter banks.
The Child Welfare Amendment Act, 1997 deals
with child prostitution and adoption. The Act includes "prostitution
related activities" in the definition of child sexual abuse. The Act also
incorporates the Hague Convention on intercountry adoptions making Alberta the
sixth province to do so.
The School Amendment Act, 1997 introduces
performance bonds for students in an effort to improve attendance and course
completion. The Act also extends the terms of school board trustees from 3 to 5
years; places limits on school board borrowing; improves the process for
establishing separate school districts; and, permits boards to charge foreign
students market-value tuition fees.
The Election Amendment Act, 1997 repeals the
prohibition on political parties, political candidates, or other persons, from
advertising on any broadcasting facility on the day preceding an election and
the day of an election. This Bill brings Alberta legislation in line with a
1996 ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal which struck down a ban contained in
the federal Election Act on political advertising on the days leading up to an
The Local Authorities Election Amendment
Act, 1997 allows for the creation of a permanent voters list at the municipal
level; enables municipalities to accept nominations at more than one location;
ensures that the fines and penalties contained within the Act are consistent
with those in the Election Act; and, adds 2 new categories of voters eligible
to vote at advance polls, namely, seniors living in a senior citizens facility
and those who cannot vote on polling day for religious reasons.
Four omnibus Bills were passed by the
Assembly: the Registries Statutes Amendment Act, 1997; the Justice Statutes
Amendment Act, 1997; the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, 1997; and,
the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 1997. The Official Opposition raised
a point of order regarding the first 3 omnibus Bills (See Speaker’s Ruling below).
Five of the more controversial Government
Bills remained on the Order Paper at the end of the Spring sitting. Bill 26,
the No Tax Increase Act, would require that the government hold a referendum
before introducing a Bill into the Assembly to raise personal income taxes. The
purpose of Bill 20, the Conflict of Interest Amendment Act, 1997, amended the
ethics guidelines for Members. Bill 30, the Health Information Protection Act,
would establish methods of protecting the privacy of personal health information,
ensuring reasonable access to that information, and setting out rules for
collecting, using, and disclosing health information. It would also have
created the position of Health Information Commissioner; an officer of the
Assembly. Bill 29, the Medical Profession Amendment Act, 1997 would establish a
physician performance committee, while Bill 31, the Provincial Agencies
Continuation Act, would have mandated that certain government departments and
agencies continue to exist past 1999, at which time they would otherwise cease
Private Members’ Public Bills
Three Private Members’ Public Bills were
passed by the Assembly during the Spring sitting. Bill 202, the Crown Contracts
Dispute Resolution Act, requires that if a party to a contract with the Crown
commences a legal action, then the Crown and the party must attend a mediation
session prior to taking any further step in the action.
Bill 204, the Provincial Court Amendment
Act, 1997 concerns grandparent’s access to their grandchildren. Prior to
passage of the Bill, grandparents could only apply to the courts for access to
their grandchildren as a third party or on behalf of the child. The provisions
of the Act expressly provide grandparents with the right to apply for access.
Quebec is the only other province with similar legislation in place.
The third Private Members’ Public Bill
passed was Bill 205, the Protection from Second-hand Smoke in Public Buildings
Act. This legislation will prohibit smoking in provincial government buildings
except in designated smoking rooms. The Act takes effect in June, 1998.
Committees and Conferences
The Private Bills Committee dealt with 7
private Bills this sitting, the subject matter of the Bills ranging from the
incorporation of insurance companies to the transfer of the trusteeship and
agency business of one trust company to another. All private Bills received
The Legislative Assembly is currently
conducting a search for a new provincial Ombudsman. In May the Assembly
established a 5 member Ombudsman Search Committee, composed of private members
from both the Government and the Official Opposition.
The Alberta Standing Committee on Public
Accounts and the Office of the Auditor General is currently organizing the
annual joint meeting of the Conference of Legislative Auditors (COLA) and the
Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees (CCPAC) to be held September
14-16, 1997 in Edmonton. COLA delegates include federal and all provincial
Auditors General and Deputy Auditors General. CCPAC delegates include members
from the public accounts committees of all the provincial assemblies and the
House of Commons, as well as representatives from the assemblies in Western
Australia and New South Wales.
The XVIth Annual Canadian Sergeants-at-Arms
Conference was held in Edmonton on August 5-8. In addition to representatives
from Canadian jurisdictions, Sergeants-at-Arms from Westminster and Australia
On May 26, 1997, Howard Sapers, the
Opposition House Leader raised a point of order concerning omnibus Bills. He
contended that three omnibus Bills offended parliamentary practice. Mr. Sapers
argued that the goals and principles of the Bills were unclear, that no notice
of the content of the Bill was given by the title, that the Bills merged
unrelated topics into one Bill, and that the matters covered within the omnibus
legislation were important enough to merit their own Bills. In keeping with
precedents from other jurisdictions in Canada, Speaker Ken Kowalski ruled
that it was not the role of the Chair to divide omnibus Bills. He indicated
that dividing a Bill differed from dividing a motion. Accordingly, the Bills
A few days later, Mr. Sapers attempted to
give notice of a motion to provide instructions to the Committee of the Whole
to divide an omnibus Bill. The Speaker ruled that the motion could not proceed
as the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta did not provide
for that type of motion, and noted that similar motions had not been allowed by
various Speakers of the House of Commons. He also noted that while Beauchesne’s
refers to instructions to a Committee to divide a Bill, there was no precedent
from Alberta or the House of Commons to support the proposition.
On the last day of the sitting, the Speaker
ruled on a purported question of privilege raised by Pam Barrett, the
Leader of the New Democrat Opposition. Ms. Barrett indicated that her caucus
wanted to introduce a Private Members’ Public Bill out of the order determined
in a pre-session draw of all private members for Bill positions. The Bill in
question had been introduced in the Assembly prior to the 1993 amendments to
the Standing Orders. Under Alberta’s Standing Orders, Private Members’ Bills
are to be "perused" by the Speaker and Parliamentary Counsel prior to
introduction. The Speaker ruled that there was no prima facie question of
privilege. The Speaker noted that the 1993 amendments to the Standing Orders
have resulted in more consideration for Private Members’ Bills. Since 1993, 12
Private Members’ Public Bills have become law. The Speaker ruled that Private
Members’ Bills must be drafted in accordance with the draw. If a Private Member
introduced his or her Bill out of sequence, the Speaker ruled that the order in
which it was considered would not be affected. In Ms. Barrett’s case, a draft
Bill was tabled in the Assembly between the time she raised her question of
privilege and the Speaker’s ruling.
Historic Events in The Assembly
On April 24, 1997, during Committee of Supply,
for the first time in the history of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta the
Presiding Officer and the Table Officers were all women. The participants in
this event were Judy Gordon, Member for Lacombe-Stettler, Louise
Kamuchik, Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees, and Shannon Dean,
In May, the Legislative Assembly extended
the rare honour of inviting a non-Member onto the floor to address the
Assembly. On May 8, 1997, Rick Hansen addressed the Assembly on the
occasion of the tenth anniversary of his Man in Motion world tour. Mr. Hansen
encouraged the government to develop partnerships with the private sector in an
effort to eliminate the physical and psychological barriers the disabled
continue to face in society and to develop new methods to fund research into
spinal cord injuries.
Two days after the Spring sitting adjourned,
Grant Mitchell, the Leader of the Official Opposition, announced his
intention to resign as party leader. Mr. Mitchell has served as an Edmonton MLA
from since 1986, and as Liberal party leader since 1994. He will continue in
his role as the Member for the constituency of Edmonton-McClung until the next
election. The timing of Mr. Mitchell’s announcement will allow the party to
establish the voting procedures for the leadership convention, which may be as
late as November 1998.
The Government will be holding the first
"Growth Summit" in Edmonton on September 29 and 30. The Summit is
co-chaired by Premier Klein and former Liberal MLA, Dr. Michael Percy.
The Summit is a "brainstorming" session on how the Alberta Government
should handle strong economic growth while keeping public finances under
control. Close to 100 delegates have been selected from business, government
and social sectors. The Summit is divided into 6 areas concerning various
aspects of public and private sector development.
With the dissolution of the 23rd
Legislature for the March 11, 1997 provincial election, the 1993 Memorandum of
Agreement between House Leaders came to an end. Under that Agreement there were
to be 2 sittings of the Assembly, one before February 15 and the other before
October 24 each calendar year. There is no longer a requirement for a Fall
As reported in the Summer edition, the
flooding situation Manitoba experienced during the spring had an impact on the
sittings of the Legislative Assembly. An informal arrangement was established
and agreed to on a weekly basis, whereby the Assembly did not sit on Monday
nights or Fridays, and this arrangement continued to be in effect until mid
June. In order to compensate for time lost, by agreement of the House, the
Committee of Supply sat in three sections, as opposed to the customary two
sections, in order to consider the estimates of the various government
departments in an expedited manner.
As estimates consideration neared its 240
hour time limit, the focus of Assembly time shifted to the consideration of
legislation. In total, 62 government Bills were debated and received royal
assent, while 2 Private Bills also achieved third reading and royal assent.
Some of the more consequential pieces of legislation included: Bill (No. 7) -
The Midwifery and Consequential Amendments Act, which established the practice
of mid-wifery and created the College of Midwives for Manitoba; Bill (No. 41) -
The Regional Health Authorities Amendment and Consequential Amendments Act,
which established two regional health authorities for the City of Winnipeg;
Bill (No. 50) - The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy and
Consequential Amendments Act; which changed some of the mandatory and
discretionary disclosure exceptions under the auspices of The Freedom of
Information Act, and which also placed restrictions on the use and disclosure
of personal information, and also established the Provincial Ombudsman as the
authority to investigate complaints lodged about the disclosure of personal
Other key pieces of legislation included
Bill (No. 51) - The Personal Health Informtion Act, which placed restrictions
on the collection, retention and disclosure of personal health information, and
Bill (No. 55) - The Manitoba Hydro Amendment Act; which modified The Manitoba
Hydro Act to include provisions for the wholesale competition in the electrical
market, and also granted the ability to offer new products and services as well
as the ability to create new subsidiaries and enter into joint ventures and new
business alliances. In addition, two pieces of Family Services legislation were
introduced in response to a review conducted on The Child and Family Services
Act, legislation which sought to improve the adoption process and increase
protection for children under the auspices of the Act. Bill (No, 47) - The
Adoption and Consequential Amendments Act mandated not-for-profit adoption
agencies which meet licensing requirements, allowed private practioners to
conduct adoption assessments, provided for the confidentiality of existing
adoption records, and also provided for the filing of permanent vetoes on
accessing information for new adoption records. Bill (No. 48) - The Child and
Family Services Amendment Act, created provisions to allow applications for
access to children in care by extended family (e.g. grandparents), established
an independent abuse investigation unit responsible for investigating all
allegations of abuse of children in care, allowed police to authorize agencies
to share information prior to the completion of a criminal investigation,
replaced the Child Abuse Registry Review Committee with hearings in the Court
of Queen’s Bench, and expanded access to the Child Abuse Registry to any
organization where an individual, employee or volunteer has access to children.
Manitoba had its first experience with a
Sub-Committee, as the Sub-Committee of the Standing Committee on Privileges and
Elections was established in late March to conduct a public review on the
legislation pertaining to the Office of The Children’s Advocate.
The Sub-Committee consisted of five members of
the main Privileges and Elections Committee, and was chaired by Peter George
Dyck. The Office of the Children’s Advocate was established in 1992, and
has responsibility for advising the Minister of Family Services on matters
relating to the welfare, provision of service and interests of children under
the auspices of The Child and Family Services Act, and to review and
investigate complaints received.
The legislation pertaining to the Office
stipulates that a public review must be conducted by a committee of the
Legislature within 3 years of the establishment of the Office, and in
accordance, the Sub-Committee was struck to conduct the public review.
Advertising was placed in provincial newspapers advising of the hearings, and a
deadline date for registration was set for April 18, with written submissions
to be received by April 30.
The Sub-Committee conducted public hearings
in Winnipeg and in Thompson, Manitoba, during the period May 12 to 21, and in a
first for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, used video conference technology
to receive submissions from presenters from the communities of Brandon and
Dauphin. The Sub-Committee presented a report with recommendations to the
Privileges and Elections Committee on June 23, and the P & E Committee agreed
to adopt the report and report it to the Assembly. Some of the provisions
contained within the report included the recommendations that:
Office of the Children’s Advocate report directly to a Committee of the
Children’s Advocate be appointed for specific terms of office;
cases where the Children’s Advocate and the agency disagree, the case be
referred to the Director of Family Services for resolution
Children’s Advocate delegate his authority to ensure greater access to the
services of the Office in rural and northern Manitoba.
Another interesting aspect to note about the
Sub-Committee report – it marked the first time for the Manitoba Legislative
Assembly that a minority report was included as part of a Committee report.
Prior to the session ending, the Legislative
Assembly considered and adopted a number of permanent rules changes, many of
which were based on provisional rules that had been in place for a one year
trial period in 1996. Some of the more significant of the new permanent changes
elimination of Monday night and Friday sittings of the House (the House will
still continue to sit on Fridays during consideration of the Address in Reply
to the Speech from the Throne and the Budget Address)
adoption of Thursday morning sittings
addition of a Third Section of the Committee of Supply to consider departmental
creation of a permanent Chairperson for the Third Section of the Committee of
Statements and Grievances, two items that had been part of the provisional
rules, have now been included in Routine Proceedings on a permanent basis
Up to five Members’ Statements can be made
on a daily basis, with each statement not to exceed two minutes. Grievances are
now part of Routine Proceedings (they had previously been tied to the Supply
process) and have been reduced to 15 minutes from 40 minutes. Opposition Days
have also been resurrected, with up to 3 sitting days to be designated as
Opposition Days in each session. In addition, it was agreed that gender neutral
language be adopted throughout the rules. These rules are to come in force on
the opening day of the Fourth Session of the Thirty-Sixth Legislature.
The Manitoba Legislative Assembly concluded
sitting on June 27, 1997.