| New Brunswick
| House of Commons
The Third Session of Manitoba's
Thirty-fifth Legislature was convened on December 5, 1991, adjourned December
17, 1991 for two months and resumed February 17, 1992 until its summer adjournment
on June 24, 1992.
As laid out in the Throne Speech,
the Filmon Government continued to emphasize an agenda directed toward economic
development and growth, particularly through controlling government spending
and creating a positive climate for investment in Manitoba. The government as
well, stated its commitment: to "supporting and protecting the vital
services Manitobans depend upon", to constitutional reform that includes
recognition of Quebec's "unique place in the federation" and a
"strong central government that is genuinely responsive and fair to all
regions" and to the recognition of Aboriginal Canadians inherent right to
In response to the Speech from the
Throne, the Official Opposition Leader, Gary Doer was critical of the
Government's record on economic renewal and its strategy of "stepping
aside" to "encourage economic growth". Among other social and
economic issues, Mr. Doer was critical of the Government for not responding to
what his Party perceives to be the "Americanization" of Canada's
health care system. The Leader of the Liberal Party, Sharon Carstairs
was also very critical of the Speech and particularly focused on health care,
expressing concern that the Government was moving more toward a user-pay
system. Both leaders moved amendments to the Throne Speech which expressed
their lack of faith and confidence in the Government. These amendments were
The Session ran for 93 days, during
which 103 bills were introduced. Of these, only 61 were assented to – 57 public
bills and 4 private bills. Twenty-eight Private Members Public Bills made it on
to the Order Paper but none were passed. Two of the public bills which had been
withdrawn were Government Bills, both introduced by the Minister of Natural
Resources, Harry Enns. Some of the more controversial bills included the
Child and Family Services Act, City of Winnipeg Amendment Act, Labour
Relations Amendment Act, Manitoba Multiculturalism Amendment Act, Pension
Benefits Amendment Act and Social Allowances Amendment Act. These
bills produced long and arduous debates often resulting in divisions at second
and third readings.
The tenor of debate during this
Session was somewhat acrimonious. During the Session, two MLAs resigned their
seats. Liberal Deputy Leader Jim Carr resigned on January 27, 1992 and
PC backbencher Ed Connery, formerly a Cabinet Minister, resigned on June
23, 1992. By the end of the Session, the numbers were quite tight – PC 29
seats, NDP 20 seats and the Liberals 6 seats.
The by-elections for these two
seats were held on September 15, 1992, with the respective parties holding on
to their seats. Avis Gray, a former Liberal MLA, won in Crescentwood and
Brian Pallister, an insurance agent in Portage la Prairie, won his
riding for the PCs. A further upcoming change to the Legislature will be a new
leader of the Liberal Party in the Spring of 1993. Sharon Carstairs
announced that she will be stepping down as leader and will not contest her
seat in the next provincial election.
An Opposition resolution calling
for the withdrawal or reversal of a regulation which provided that therapeutic
abortions could only qualify as an insured service when performed in a
hospital, was challenged by the Government. It was challenged on the grounds that
it contravened the sub-judice convention as the regulation in question was
before the courts. Speaker Denis Rocan ruled that the sub-judice
convention was not contravened because the focus of the motion was not the
matter before the courts, but peripheral to it; the case was civil not criminal
and was not currently before the courts; and the discussion of the motion would
not likely be injurious to any individual involved.
Late one June night, Marcel
Laurendeau, upon leaving the Legislature, was abducted in his car. From
this arose a matter of privilege concerning security of members at the
Legislative Building. The Speaker ruled that no connection was established
between the abduction and the Member's activity during a proceeding in the
Assembly. Also, it was determined that the grounds are not part of the
The Standing Committees were busy
this session, particularly in the last two weeks. During this time, sitting hours
were extended and one and sometimes two committees were sitting concurrently
with the House. By session end, bills were being transferred from one committee
to another to expedite the process.
Overall, the Standing Committees
met for 54 sittings. Dealing with committee business in general, 34 Annual
Reports were considered and passed, leaving only six Annual Reports
outstanding. The Economic Development Committee approved the last annual
reports for three crown corporations. Channel Area Loggers was sold to
Abitibi-Price in 1991, the Manitoba Development Corporation ceased to exist on
May 31, 1992 with its responsibilities transferred to the Department of
Industry, Trade and Tourism and the Manitoba Energy Authority would no longer
be distributing an operational report.
The Committee on Privileges and
Elections met to consider the issue of Manitoba judges having the lowest
salaries in the country. The final recommendations of the Judicial Compensation
Committee addressed this inadequacy by proposing salary increases that would
bring Manitoba judges' salaries on a par with other provinces. Privileges and
Elections did not accept the recommended salary increases due to the restrained
economic climate. Instead, the Committee proposed salary increases for judges
amounting to 3 per cent.
In October, his Excellency Governor
General Ramon Hnatyshyn visited Manitoba to present and proclaim, in the
Legislative Assembly Chamber, an augmented Coat-of-Arms for the Province of
Manitoba. The new Coat-of-Arms builds upon Manitoba's existing one which had
been assigned by Royal Warrant of Edward VII in 1905. This presentation of a
new Coat-of-Arms, by the Governor General, is a precedent as this
responsibility has always been undertaken by the Monarch.
Over the summer and fall, the
Legislative Assembly has experienced a number of staff changes. Judy White
has been appointed Clerk of Committees effective August 1, 1992 for a one year
term; she will also serve as a Clerk-at-the-Table. She has a Master of Arts
degree in Political Studies from the University of Manitoba. Judy was an Intern
with the Manitoba Legislative Internship Program and was formerly employed with
the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. She is replacing Patricia
Chaychuk-Fitzpatrick who is at the House of Commons for one year. Patti
Irving has been named Journals Clerk of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly,
effective September 1992. Patti's management and administrative skills were
gained during her years with the Winnipeg Core Area Initiative and the Grande
Prairie Housing Authority in Alberta. Also, Edith McLure, the former
Supervisor of Hansard's Proofreading Division, has been appointed Acting
Manager Manitoba Hansard, filling an existing vacancy.
A change also occurred in the
Provincial Auditor's Office this fall. Fred Jackson retired after almost
ten years as Manitoba's Provincial Auditor. He was replaced by Carol
Bellringer who had been the Assistant Provincial Auditor for two years.
Carol is Manitoba's first woman Provincial Auditor.
Judy White, Clerk of Committees, Manitoba Legislative
During the early part of the Fall
sitting of the House, three main issues dominated the daily question period.
Predominant was the government's legislation to reform the Labour Relations
Act, Bill 40. Among other things, the Bill provides for the prohibition of
replacement workers during strikes, perhaps its single most contentious
provision in the eyes of the Opposition Parties. The Committee that had held
public hearings on the Bill reported it with amendments to the House and, under
the terms of an allocation of time motion passed by the House in July, 2 days
of clause-by-clause consideration were held in the Committee of the Whole
House. Two additional days are provided for debate on Third Reading. As of this
writing, Third Reading debate had not yet commenced.
Another significant issue was the
proposal to establish gambling casinos. During the Fall sitting, the Minister
of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Marilyn Churley, announced that a
pilot project casino would be established in the border community of Windsor.
Legislation was introduced to provide for the regulation of gaming services in
Ontario and consultations were begun with the stakeholders in Windsor as to what
type of casino operation, and under whose control, it would be set up.
A third issue which has generated
significant controversy in the Legislature concerns the search by the province
for a new landfill for Metropolitan Toronto. The Minister of the Environment, Ruth
Grier, has determined that, as a matter of policy, garbage generated in a
municipality must be dealt with in that municipality. Because of the limited
amount of space available in Metro Toronto's current landfills, it has become
necessary to search for a new site. This search process has entailed the
identification of a large number of potential sites by the Interim Waste
Authority. Not unexpectedly, those communities identified as potential sites
have exerted tremendous pressure on the government as the site selection
process works its way toward a `short list'. The whole issue has become a hotly
contested political debate in the House.
Throughout the Fall sitting, issues
concerning Ontario Hydro were also prominent. Marc Eliesen announced his
resignation as Chair of Ontario Hydro in favour of the same position with B.C.
Hydro. Speculation swirled over who would be appointed to replace him; late in
October it was announced that Maurice Strong; formerly Under-Secretary
General of the United Nations and Chairman of the Earth Summit in Brazil in the
Summer of 1992, had been chosen by the government to fill the post. Amid rising
electrical rates, reduced power demand, allegations of misuse of funds at
Ontario Hydro and the utility's enormous debt, it is a good bet both Mr. Strong
and the utility itself will continue to be strenuously scrutinized by the
In the week prior to the
Constitutional Referendum, the Assembly held two days of debate on the
Charlottetown Accord. Numerous members had the opportunity to contribute to the
debate. On a lighter note, the Legislative Assembly took time out on October 27
to pay tribute to the Toronto Blue Jays on having won the 1992 World Series.
The Assembly was unanimous in its celebration of this great victory for
Toronto, Ontario and Canada.
On July 23, 1992, the Legislature
passed a motion authorizing the Standing Committee on the Ombudsman to meet
during August to review the Office of the Ombudsman. The Committee, chaired by Mark
Morrow examined aspects of the Ombudsman Act, the extent of the
Ombudsman's jurisdiction and the mandate of and role to be played by the
Standing Committee on the Ombudsman. Assisting in the review, the Committee
heard from former Ombudsmen, experts and groups.
The Standing Committee on Social
Development, chaired by Charles Beer, held public hearings on Bill 112, An
Act to revise the Building Code Act, on September 2 and 3. Clause by clause
consideration was conducted in Committee on September 14 and 15 and the Bill,
as amended, was reported to the House on September 30.
The Standing Committee on Public
Accounts, chaired by Remo Mancini, met during the summer adjournment to
interview candidates for the position of Provincial Auditor. The committee
received 16 applications and interviewed 12 people for the position. The
committee was very pleased with the calibre of the applicants and reaching a
final decision was not an easy task.
After careful consideration, the
committee agreed to recommend to the House that Erik Peters be appointed
Provincial Auditor. Mr. Peters leaves the position of Vice-President, Internal
Audit at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mr. Peters articled with Price
Waterhouse in Calgary and worked in Montreal, London (England), and Ottawa. Mr.
Peters has also worked with the Office of the Auditor General, first as
Director General Computer Audit and then as Assistant Auditor General of
Canada. Mr. Peters has worked with Alcan Aluminum where he was responsible for
EDP and Internal Audit in Alcan's European operations in nine countries.
The House ordered that an Address
be presented to the Lieutenant Governor in Council requesting the appointment
of Mr. Peters as Auditor for the Province of Ontario on October 15. The
committee is looking forward to working with Mr. Peters when he takes up his
new position on January 2, 1993.
The Standing Committee on Resources
Development, chaired by Peter Kormos, concluded its hearings on
Ontario's controversial labour law reforms in October and reported the Bill to
the House with amendments. The Bill was debated in the Committee of the Whole
House for 2 days and awaits Third Reading debate.
The Standing Committee on Finance
and Economic Affairs, chaired by Ron Hansen, began consideration of a
Bill to provide for annexations to the City of London and certain
municipalities in the County of Middlesex and was looking forward to dealing
with amendments to auto insurance provisions in the winter adjournment.
On September 28, Speaker David
Warner informed the House that Ian Scott, the Member for St.
George-St. David had resigned his seat. Mr. Scott was Attorney General of
Ontario during the governments of David Peterson from 1985 to 1990.
Todd Decker, Committee Clerk, Ontario Legislative
Although adjourned from
June 23 to October 20, the Assembly was summoned to two extraordinary
sittings during the summer.
It convened the first time on
September 3, 4 and 8, 1992 to study Bill 44, An Act to amend the
Act respecting the process for determining the political and constitutional
future of Quebec. This bill provided for a referendum to be held on an
agreement concerning a new constitutional partnership.
To ensure the new bill would be
passed by the deadline set by the government, the Assembly, before introducing
the bill for first reading, agreed to a motion to suspend certain rules of
procedure. Despite this measure, the official opposition was able to table 31
identical petitions after reading the full text of each.
In the debate on Bill 44, the
member for Drummond, Jean-Guy St-Roch, informed the Assembly of his
decision to leave the government party and sit as an independent member in the
Assembly. He had been elected as a Liberal MNA in 1985.
The member for Westmount, Richard
B. Holden, announced at the start of the proceedings of the first
extraordinary sitting that he had officially joined the Parti Québécois. A
former Conservative Party candidate in the 1979 federal election, he was
elected in the 1989 provincial election under the banner of the Equality Party,
whose ranks he left last fall to sit as an independent member.
The purpose in summoning the
Assembly the second time was to agree to the referendum question, to adopt a
motion setting the amount of the grants to be paid to the Quebec Yes and No
committees and, lastly, to defer resumption of the Assembly's proceedings to a
later date than that provided in the Regulations.
After five days of proceedings
between September 9 and 16, 1992, the Assembly concurred in the Premier's
motion on the question to be put in the popular consultation on October. The
proceedings ended after the Assembly concurred in a motion granting a subsidy
of $0.50 per voter to the Quebec Yes and No committees for the purpose of the
referendum campaign and the date of resumption of the Assembly's proceedings
was set at November 24.
While these parliamentary
proceedings were taking place in Quebec City and Montreal, an important event
was held as part of the activities celebrating the bicentenary of parliamentary
institutions. The International Symposium on Democracy, the key event in the
celebrations of our 200 years of political history, provided an excellent forum
for bringing together, under the theme of democracy, a panel of international
personalities who exchanged ideas on the role, aspirations and constraints of
political life. The official delegates of the Commonwealth Parliamentary
Association, of the Association international des parlementaires de langue
française and of the Parliaments of the member states of the Council of Europe,
Africa, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and the United States attended the
meeting, which was addressed by a number of leading lights from the fields of
politics, law, economics and journalism.
Many documents have been prepared
in order to make the general public aware of the importance of the rise of the
parliamentary system of government in Quebec. These include two video documents
prepared for primary and secondary school students to kindle greater interest
and knowledge of our parliamentary institutions.
Jean Bédard and Nancy Ford, Office of the Secretariat, Quebec National
As in the rest of Canada, the main
feature of the quarter from August to October was the referendum on the Consensus
Report on the Constitution, signed in Charlottetown on August 28, 1992.
This event had a major effect on the activities of the committees, which did
not sit from mid-September to late October.
The committees' work was thus
concentrated in the months of August and early September. During this period,
the parliamentary committees sat 10 times, mainly in order to audit the
financial commitments of the departments and public agencies.
This task, assigned to all standing
committees, consists essentially in auditing financial commitments of $25,000
or more in all the departments and public agencies accountable to each of the
committees. The members thus examined the manner in which the votes which they
passed early in the fiscal year were spent.
The Committee on Planning and
Infrastructures spent six sittings auditing the financial commitments of the
Ministry of Transport and of the Minister for Regional Development. The
Committee on Labour and Economy devoted one sitting to the commitments of the
Ministry of Forests.
The Committee on the Budget and
Administration was the only commission to conduct a detailed examination of
bills. Three private bills were referred to the Committee: Bill 217, An
Act respecting Consolidated Bowling Ltd., Bill 218, An Act respecting
the Club de Curling de Montréal Ouest Inc., and Bill 225, An Act
respecting Le Restaurant Belle-Ville Inc.
The two special committees
established under Bill 150, An Act respecting the process for
determining the political and constitutional future of Quebec, also sat for
more than 15 hours this last quarter.
The Commission d'étude sur toute
offre d'un nouveau partenariat de nature constitutionnelle met on four
occasions to examine the Consensus Report on the Constitution (Charlottetown,
August 28, 1992) and to hear various experts' comments on that report. The
Commission d'étude des questions afférentes à l'accession du Québec à la
souveraineté met for one working sitting and one public sitting on the
organization of its work. At the request of a majority of Commission members,
it then made public a Draft Report on its proceedings which began in
Marie Tanguay, Committee Secretariat, Quebec National
The return of an official
opposition in the New Brunswick Legislature has had a marked effect on its
day-to-day functions. The 1992 Spring Session which lasted 40 days is already
the longest since 1987. Under the Standing Rules, two specific days (Tuesdays
and Thursdays) are allotted for dealing with Private Members' Motions and other
matters of interest to private members. The use of private members' days or
opposition days, almost nonexistent with a one-party legislature, has been
restored and this year's 77 Private Members' motions surpasses the total of the
previous four years combined. Motions for returns make up 80% of this total.
From 1983 until 1987 inclusive, the average number of opposition motions during
a legislative session was 98.
The presence of four registered
political parties in the House (Liberal, Confederation of Regions, Progressive
Conservative and New Democratic) and their leaders has significantly increased
the demand for requests for procedural services and information from the
The Spring sitting also saw the
return of longer hours, including evening sittings, despite the fact that the
House began sitting at 8.30 a.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 2.30
p.m. on Tuesday.
Opposition members took advantage
of the Rules and requested an unprecedented thirty-five recorded divisions
during sittings of the House and proceedings of the Committees of the Whole.
The House amended its Standing
Rules on February 18, 1992, to include a provisional rule allowing the
appointment of two Deputy Speakers and Chairmen of the Committees of the Whole
House. Members' statements were limited to sixty seconds. As well, a new
schedule of filing fees was adopted for Private Bills. The revised rule makes
no distinction between an original or amending Bill for the purpose of
calculating the filing fees. The fee for a Private Bill which does not exceed
25 typewritten pages is $250. An additional $25. is payable for each page over
25. Filing fees do not include either the initial printing costs or the cost of
printing the Private Act in the annual bound book of Acts, both of which are
the responsibility of the applicants.
During the Spring sitting the
Speaker and Chairmen of the Committees of the Whole House ruled on such matters
as declaring a pecuniary interest, relevancy, subjudice rule, acceptability of
motions, privilege, Royal recommendation, deferral of divisions and procedure
for consideration of legislation in the Committee of the Whole House. One
Chairman's ruling during Committee of the Whole was appealed to the Speaker and
the ruling was sustained.
Question of Privilege
On February 28, a member of the
Official Opposition raised a question of privilege concerning the Legislature's
policy of not translating briefs filed with Standing and Select Committees. The
substance of the members's complaint was that the failure to provide her with a
translation of French language briefs, submitted to the Select Committee on the
Constitution of which she was a Member, impaired her ability to fulfil her role
as a member of the Committee and thus her privilege as a member of the
Committee had been breached.
The Speaker found that a prima
facie case of privilege had been established and that the matter had been
raised at the earliest opportunity. The member's matter of privilege was
referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges which met on May 12, 1992. In
its report to the House on May 15, the Committee recommended that the matter be
referred to the Standing Committee on Legislative Administration. Members' Services,
as it relates to translation of documentation, is under review by this
A record 19 applications for
enactment of Private Bills were filed with the Clerk's Office during the spring
sitting. Nine were processed but later withdrawn when legislation was
introduced touching on the subject matter, making them unnecessary. Among the
Private Bills passed, An Act Respecting The Chartered Institute of Marketing
Management of New Brunswick, 1992, incorporates a provincial institute to
establish qualifications for competency and membership in the institute, and to
educate and discipline its members.
No Private Members' Public Bills
were introduced during the Spring sitting. Among the 77 government Bills
receiving Royal Assent during the session were: the Expenditure Management
Act, 1992 to implement the restraint measures announced by the Government
in relation to wages and other remuneration; and the Public Prosecutions Act
to repeal the Crown Prosecutors Act and provide for the authority and
responsibilities of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Director of
Public Prosecutions and Crown Prosecutors in relation to public prosecutions
and the public prosecutions system.
Amendments were also passed to: the
Human Rights Act to broaden the prohibition against discrimination on
the basis of age and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation, pregnancy, the possibility of pregnancy and circumstances related
to pregnancy. In addition, a time limit within which complaints must be filed
Amendments to the Workers'
Compensation Act, the subject of an extended debate in the Committee of the
Whole, were also approved. The amendments implement the first component of a
comprehensive three-part strategy to maintain a balanced system of workers'
compensation that encourages industrial competitiveness while providing
equitable programs for injured workers. The three components are intended to
modify programs, to rationalize internal administration, and to take a hands-on
approach to accident prevention.
Although committee activity usually
peaks during an adjournment of the House and the New Brunswick Legislature
stands adjourned more than five months now, there has been little committee activity.
Two of the nine standing committees reviewed public accounts and various
reports of Crown Corporations.
The Standing Committee on Public
Accounts, chaired by Brent Taylor, met in February and March and
reviewed the Auditor General's report, the public accounts, and annual
financial reports of several government departments for the fiscal year ending
March 31, 1991. The Committee will continue its deliberations and report to the
House in the fall.
The Standing Committee on Crown
Corporations, chaired by John McKay, held six days of meetings in June
and July and reviewed the annual reports and financial statements of a number
of Crown Corporations for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1991. The most
contentious issue raised concerned the financial practices and operations of
the New Brunswick Power Corporation. During intense and extended debate, the
opposition criticized the practices of the Corporation which they claimed ran
counter to Government efficiency measures recommended for the Corporation. Opposition
critics alleged political interference with lists of companies invited to
submit tenders with the Corporation. Also coming under opposition attack were
the personal services and employment contracts negotiated by the Corporation
with retired senior executives.
The Select Committee on
Representation and Electoral Boundaries, appointed by the House May 14 was
mandated to examine and make recommendations with respect to the interim report
of the Representation and Electoral District Boundaries Commission, to be filed
with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, so as to assist the Commission in
making its Final Report. The Committee was instructed to report to the House
within 120 days of receiving the report of the Representation and Electoral
District Boundaries Commission. The Commission's interim report, filed with the
Clerk of the House on July 15 recommended:
That the number of electoral
districts be set at 54;
That the average number of voters
per electoral district be set at 10,000;
That the allowable variation for
voter populations in electoral districts be set at plus or minus 20 per cent.
The Commission was also asked to
consider the best approach to ensuring that New Brunswick's aboriginal people
are given representation in the Legislative Assembly in a manner similar to the
approach employed in the State of Maine.
The Commission recommended that the
following course of action be taken over the next four months: A Joint
Committee of not more than four persons comprising a member or members of the
Commission and a member or members of the aboriginal community be struck by the
Select Committee to engage in further consultation with the aboriginal
Determine the degree of support
among the aboriginal community for representation in the Legislative Assembly,
Determine the form or structure
that best provides for representation of New Brunswick's aboriginal people,
Determine the mechanism for
implementing the recommended form or structure,
and to report its findings to this
Commission within three months of being struck, after which this Commission
will review the findings and submit its final recommendations to the Clerk of
the Legislative Assembly.
The Commission further recommended
that any electoral district or districts established for the aboriginal peoples
be in addition to the 54 recommended electoral districts.
At an organizational meeting of the
Select Committee held September 1, it was decided to advertise in New Brunswick
newspapers and invite submissions from the public on the Commission's
recommendations by October 15.
On October 8, the Select Committee
met with members of the Representation and Electoral Boundaries Commission. The
Committee also considered the hearings and submissions received and determined
the manner in which to proceed. The Select Committee on Representation and
Electoral Boundaries continues its deliberations and is expected to present an
interim report to the fall Legislature.
Part of the Select Committee's
mandate is to examine, inquire into and make recommendations to the House with
respect to the Final Report of the Representation and Electoral District
Boundaries Commission following the filing of the Commission's report with the
Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
New Brunswick's electoral map was
last redrawn in 1974 when the then Representation and Electoral Districts
Boundaries Commission recommended a division of the existing 22 electoral
districts into 58 single member ridings.
The session is likely to be
recalled in late November or early December to consider the capital budget for
the coming fiscal year and to deal with legislation remaining on the Order and
Notice Paper at the time of adjournment of the spring sitting.
Loredana Catalli Sonier, Clerk Assistant (Procedural)
The Fourth Session of the
Twenty-Second Legislature of Alberta reconvened for a special two-day sitting
from September 21-22, 1992. The purpose of this session was to pass Bill 54,
the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act, 1992 but the Assembly also
dealt with other matters including the introduction of a new member to the
Robert Gary Dickson was elected in a by-election held on July
21, 1992, in order to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sheldon
Chumir. Mr. Dickson was introduced to the Assembly by the Leader of the
Liberal Party, Laurence Decore, and then took his seat as the Member for
The House also observed the
tradition of paying its respects to former Members who have died since the
House last sat.
A few days before the session was
reconvened Premier Don Getty announced that he was resigning as the
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and Premier of the province. The
Speaker allowed a special variation in the procedures of the House so that
Members could respond to the announcement. Ray Martin, Mr.
Decore, and the Deputy Premier Jim Horsman all thanked Premier Getty for
his service to Albertans and wished him well in his future endeavours. This was
also one of the rare occasions when the Speaker of the House, Dr. David
Carter, departed from the tradition of Speakers not speaking in the House
in order to pay his regards to the departing Premier. The Premier responded by
thanking the Members for their remarks, reaffirming his respect for the
Legislature and expressing his admiration for the people working within it.
The House then turned its attention
to the major business to be dealt with during this sitting, Bill 54, the Constitutional
Referendum Amendment Act, 1992. Bill 54 is an amendment to Bill 1, the Constitutional
Referendum Act, that was passed earlier this session and given Royal Assent
on June 26, 1992. The Constitutional Referendum Act established that
before any resolution to amend the Constitution of Canada could be passed by
the Alberta Assembly, a referendum concerning the proposed amendments must be
held in the province and the results of that referendum would be binding on the
Assembly. This legislation was unprecedented in Alberta. British Columbia and
Quebec are the only other provinces to have this type of legislation governing
changes to be made to the Constitution of Canada.
The amendments contained in Bill 54
allowed the federal government to act as the agent for Alberta in carrying out
a referendum to amend the Constitution of Canada. In the case that the
Legislative Assembly approves the substitution of a constitutional referendum
to be held under the Referendum Act (Canada), then the Constitutional
Referendum Act would no longer apply. The Bill also stipulates that in this
event the question on the referendum ballot must be acceptable to the
Legislative Assembly of Alberta. As well, two sections found in the Constitutional
Referendum Act remain in the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act
and will still apply to these cases. These are that the referendum must be held
before the resolution to amend the Constitution is voted on by the Legislative
Assembly, and that the result of the referendum in Alberta be binding on the
Government of Alberta, which shall take the necessary steps to implement that
This sitting was unusual in two
ways. First, all of the parties in the House were in agreement to the Bill in
question, and second, the speed at which the Bill was passed. The Assembly not
only had to consider Bill 54, but also the motion to accept the text of the
federal referendum question as the question that would be asked all Albertans.
There were many special variations to the procedures of the House that were
necessary for the Bill to be passed in such a short time. These variations
included allowing government business without giving the required notice and
allowing the Bill to advance two or more stages in one day. These changes
required unanimous consent and would not have been possible without the
cooperation of all of the Members of the Assembly.
This short sitting was a chance for
Members to put party politics aside in order to concentrate on working together
for the best interests of Albertans. It will no doubt have a special place in
Alberta's legislative history.
Maureen Geres , Jacqueline
Green, Legislative Interns,
Alberta Legislative Assembly
The autumn workload in the Senate
was restricted by the impending referendum on the Charlottetown agreement and
the desire on the part of senators to participate in the process. However, the
determination of the Government to pass Bill C-80, an Act to amend the
Income Tax Act, the Children's Special Allowances Act and to repeal
the Family Allowances Act in the face of Liberal opposition meant that
they were unable to leave Ottawa until the 15th of October when the bill
received Royal Assent. Calling the bill a capitulation of Canada's commitment
to universality of social programs, the Liberals contested the attempts of the
Conservatives to pass the bill quickly. In fact, there was some debate at one
point by the Liberals whether or not the Conservatives misled them in
committee, effectively ensuring that a minimum of time was spent on the bill
before sending it back to the Senate. Finally, time allocation was moved and
the bill was passed at third reading and given Royal Assent later the same day.
Of note this fall was the continued
work of the Sub-Committee on Veterans' Affairs on the CBC mini series The
Valour and the Horror. The controversial decision of the committee to examine
the content of the series in response to the outrage of certain veterans and
veterans' groups has been the subject of much debate.
At issue is the concern of veterans
that the series was biased towards criticizing the Allied War efforts in
general and Canada's actions in particular in pursuing the goal of defeating
the Nazis, without giving due weight to the context of that effort. Veterans
expressed fears that they were portrayed as heartless and that their efforts
and sacrifices had been belittled.
Chairman Senator Jack Marshall
argued that the committee had the authority to study the series by virtue of
its mandate to cover all aspects of matters concerning veterans, that the
series had been funded in part by public money and that there had been accusations
that the series contained serious omissions of fact and that veterans required
a forum of reply.
Critics of the sub-committee's
study are worried about the effect such an inquiry might have on future works
which question conventional wisdom on historical events. Especially insomuch as
government policy is concerned. These critics argue that a parliamentary body
such as a Senate sub-committee, with its parliamentary immunity from
prosecution and the lack of judicial rules of evidence and procedure is not the
appropriate forum. At risk, they say, is the climate necessary for free
expression and exchange of unorthodox views. A better route of appeal for those
who felt wronged by the series say the critics would have been through the
office of the ombudsman of the CBC or the CRTC. Parenthetically, the CBC's
ombudsman issued a statement on the eve of Remembrance Day citing its finding
that the series was, in fact, guilty of some of the criticisms levelled at its
methods and interpretations and that the CBC apologized for having aired a
program which did not meet its levels for journalistic standards.
Senator Marshall was the Chairman
of the same sub-committee which managed to evoke a disclaimer from the NFB in
regards to a documentary critical of Billy Bishop, a Canadian flying ace from
The Senate of Canada was pleased to
receive as a special guest, Mr. Michael Wheeler-Booth, Clerk of the
Parliaments of the United Kingdom. This was the first official visit of the Clerk
of the Parliaments to the Canadian Parliament. Mr. Wheeler-Booth, who is also
the Clerk of the House of Lords, spent one week in Ottawa meeting with his
counterparts in both the Senate and the House of Commons. He was invited to sit
at the Table in the Senate as a guest Clerk and in fact, while at the Table, he
wore his full costume that he wears at the Table in the House of Lords.
The visit by Mr. Wheeler-Booth is a
continuation of an exchange program between the House of Lords and the Canadian
Senate whereby two Senate Committee Clerks have visited London and two Lords
Clerks were with the Canadian Senate in the Spring of 1992. These exchanges
have led to a sharing of ideas and the promotion of goodwill between the two
Blair Armitage, Committee Clerk, The Senate
House of Commons
The middle months of 1992 will
undoubtedly go down in the annals as one of the most emotionally wrenching
times in Canadian history. While on the one hand Canadians from coast to coast
celebrated the 125th Anniversary of Confederation with great joy and pride, on
the other, they watched and listened to leaders of the country debate the
founding principles of the nation and negotiate the wording of constitutional
amendments which would enshrine those principles, amendments which could
fundamentally change the very country they were celebrating.
While the focus of the country may
not necessarily have been on the House of Commons over this period, the House
finished up a large amount of spring business and was then active in reacting
to constitutional events. Briefly, the House was adjourned to the call of the
Chair at the end of June. It was recalled in July to deal with a proposed
constitutional agreement, but the recall was subsequently rescinded when it was
decided that negotiations at the constitutional table would continue. Members
were again recalled in September and the House sat primarily to examine the
August 28th Charlottetown Consensus and to discuss the question that would be
put to the country in the referendum of October 26th. Among other things, the
agreement to be voted on proposed that many of our institutions be remodelled;
that the aboriginal peoples of Canada have their inherent right to native
self-government recognized in the constitution; that a new division of powers
be established between the federal and provincial orders of government; and
that the province of Quebec be given recognition as a distinct society within
Canada. With the defeat of the Accord, the Government announced that its
attention would now centre on the economy and economic renewal. The House then
again adjourned to the call of the Chair, but according to the adjournment
motion, no later than November 16, 1992.
As the sittings of June drew to a
close, the House adopted the Main Estimates for fiscal year 1992-1993, held an
emergency debate to discuss the crisis facing the Atlantic fisheries, heard an
address by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and engaged the study of some
controversial pieces of legislation. Bill C-86, An Act to amend the
Immigration Act, was introduced and referred to a committee. Bill C-91, An
Act to amend the Patent Act, was introduced and read a first time. A
private Member's bill, Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Criminal Code
(desecration of the flag), sponsored by Bob Hicks, received second
reading and was referred to a legislative committee on June 22, 1992.
Several committee reports tabled
over this period also gained much attention. On June 11, 1992 the Standing
Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General presented its Ninth Report, this
one concerning the imprisonment in a Brazilian jail of two Canadians, Christine
Lamont and David Spencer. The report outlined the history of the
case, noting how the two had been sentenced to eight to ten years in jail
following their trial and conviction on charges of kidnapping, and how the
sentences had subsequently been increased to twenty-eight years when the case
went before an appellate court. Calling the sentences a "miscarriage of
justice" and "grossly disproportionate when compared with sentences
imposed in similar circumstances in Canada and Brazil," the Committee
unanimously urged the Secretary of State for External Affairs…
…to request without undue delay the
expulsion of Christine Lamont and David Spencer in accordance with the laws of
Brazil and Canada's international human rights law obligations,
And further, urges that the
Minister enhance the program of informing Canadians as to the number of
Canadians in foreign jails and the importance of conducting oneself in a way so
as to avoid any conflicts with the laws of other countries.
Although the rules state that a
committee can request a response to a report within 150 days, the committee,
notwithstanding the rule, requested that a response be submitted within 60
days. Continuing its work on other issues, the Justice Committee, on June 22,
tabled its Tenth Report, this one concerning the consideration of draft
regulations for gun control.
On June 15, the Standing Committee
on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs and the Status of Women tabled its Fourth
Report, entitled: "Breast Cancer: Unanswered Questions". Revealing
the shocking statistics regarding the incidence of breast cancer in Canada, the
Committee made some 49 recommendations regarding education campaigns, the
establishment of a National Advisory Panel on Screening Mammography and reviews
of existing structures in place to deal with the research on, and the diagnosis
and treatment of breast cancer. Three days later, the Committee tabled its
Fifth Report: "Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: a preventable tragedy". In
this report, the Committee suggested that bottles and cans containing alcoholic
beverages contain warning labels to pregnant women about the dangers of
drinking (interestingly, Canadian-made goods shipped to the United States must
carry such labels in order to comply with American laws), and called for a ban
on all lifestyle ads of alcohol on radio and television. The committee also
requested that the Government respond to both of its reports within 150 days.
Finally, June 23 saw the tabling of
the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs
and Government Operations concerning "Credit Cards in Canada in the
Nineties". In this, the third study on the credit card interest rates in
recent years, the committee made the following recommendations:
That the Government introduce in
the House of Commons credit card disclosure legislation.
That the Government commission a
study to examine the Canadian Payments Association, INTERAC and any existing or
potential payment systems in Canada to determine whether the structure of the
payments system, and especially the Automated Teller Machine network,
constitutes any sort of barrier to the entry of additional credit card issuers
That the Government commission a
study to examine if there are any legal, structural or other impediments that
would constitute barrier to entry to potential credit card issuers in Canada.
That no cap be placed on credit
card interest rates in Canada.
That a comprehensive comparison of
interest rates, fees and pertinent credit card terms be released monthly by the
Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs or another Government agency.
The New Democratic Party appended
to this a minority report, agreeing with recommendations 1 and 5 of the main
report, but adding the following recommendations:
That in no instance should the
spread between card rates and the Bank Rate exceed 8% for financial cards and
16.5% for retail cards.
That credit card issuers be compelled
to calculate interest charges in a manner which fully credits any partial
payment by the credit card holder.
That a Financial Services Ombudsman
(FSO) be established to monitor credit rate and financial service charge abuse.
The FSO should be empowered to perform consumer advocacy and referee functions.
He/she should report directly to Parliament and maintain a close working
relationship with the OSFI and the Department of Consumer and Corporate
Affairs. This will ensure that consumers have some control over how the cost of
financial services are delivered, and at whose cost.
Pursuant to the rules of the House,
the Committee requested a response from the Government within 150 days.
On October 30, although the House was
not sitting, several MPs had the honour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of
their 1972 election. They were: Harvie Andre, Perrin Beatty, Joe
Clark, Stan Darling, Paul Dick, Jake Epp, John A.
Fraser, Jean-Robert Gauthier, Otto Jelinek, Bill Kempling,
Gus Mitges, Frank Oberle and William Rompkey. Herb Gray
celebrated the 30th Anniversary of his election on June 18, 1992. Happy
celebrations, however, were also tempered by the sadder tributes made over this
period to former Members, Senator George Clifford Van Roggen, Pauline
Jewett, George McIlraith, and Paul Martin Sr., whose passings
were indeed a great loss to the political scene of Canada.
A political departure of another
type also occurred during this period when Bloc Québécois (BQ) House Leader Jean
Lapierre resigned from the House, effective August 23. Fellow BQ member Louis
Plamondon has assumed the House Leader duties for the group. Party
standings in the House are now Progressive Conservative caucus, 158; Liberal
caucus, 81; New Democratic Party, 44; Bloc québécois, 8; Independent
Conservative, 2; Reform Party, 1; and one vacancy.
The House resumed sitting on
Barbara Whittaker, Table Research Branch, House of Commons