Tenth Regional Seminar
The 10th Canadian Regional Seminar of the
CPA will be held in Ottawa from November 25-29, 1985. The topics, as approved
by the Canadian Regional Council at its meeting of June 8, 1985, are as
follows: Redistribution and the Optimum Size of Legislatures; Choosing the
Party Leaders: Is There a Better Way?; Parliament and the Polls; Courts and
Legislatures in the Age of the Charter; and Technology and Information.
The twenty-fifth Conference of the Canadian
Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was held in Quebec from
July 21 to 27, 1985.
The conference was opened by the Lieutenant
Governor of Quebec,
Gilles Lamontagne. The President of the
Quebec National Assembly, Richard Guay, also extended a welcome to delegates
from every legislative jurisdiction in Canada as well as invited observers including
Sir Michael Shaw and Alfred Morris from Great Britain, Jack Genia from Papua
New Guinea, Speaker W. St. Clair Daniel from St. Lucia, Robert Moinet of the
International Association of French Speaking Parliamentarians, John Bragg,
Chairman of the National Conference of State Legislatures and Earl Mackay,
Executive Director of the NCSI.
The special guest of honour was Roland
Michener, former Governor General of Canada and delegate to the very first
conference of Canadian parliamentarians held in Halifax in 1958.
Mr. Guay declared, "conferences held
for parliamentarians are very often unjustly viewed as pleasure trips. Yet
parliamentary relations are part (if what I could call a member's continuing
education. In an increasingly complex world it is of the utmost importance that
parliamentarians have access to those sources or information which will enable
them to better fulfill their task... This year, therefore, we have attempted to
improve the format of the conference with plenary sessions and panel sessions.
I am counting on the active participation of everyone to make these meetings a
After the opening ceremonies, a
representative from each branch reported on activities over the past year. Sir Robin
Vanderfelt, Secretary General of CPA, was then asked to address the conference.
He briefed members on the international activities of the CPA including the
forthcoming conference in Saskatchewan.
The first plenary session gave participants
an opportunity to hear James McGrath, Chairman of the Special Committee on
Reform of the House of Commons which tabled its report on June 18 and Michael
Adams, President of Environics Research Group of Toronto, a firm which has
conducted a survey research of how Canadians view their parliamentary
institutions. Mr. Adams outlined the relatively low esteem in which Parliament
is held. Mr. McGrath summarized recommendations relating to the reform of
committees, scrutiny of executive appointments, private members business, and
other changes designed to improve the role of private members. He concluded
with some comments on the role of the Canadian Region and the valuable role it
can play in the reform process. "Many issues that effect all Canadians are
trans-jurisdictional and are the focus of debate at both the provincial and
national level. At present there are numerous federal-provincial conferences,
riot only involving the first ministers, but also involving other members of
the executive branch of the federal and provincial legislatures. Meetings on
issues from aboriginal rights to energy policy have become institutionalized
over the past number of years. It seems to me that a logical extention of the
reform process would be to institutionalize the regional meetings of the CPA as
the forum for private members. The collective views of private members from the
federal and provincial levels could make a significant contribution to the
discussions presently underway on important issues. In order to establish the
regional meetings of CPA as the forum in which private members can speak out on
issues of cross jurisdictional concern, it is my belief that we will have to
broaden our present membership and significantly raise the profile of the
organization". With the support of an organization like CPA the private
member of Canada's legislatures will be able to champion the ongoing cause of
reform of our governing institutions."
On July 23 delegates divided into workshops.
The panel on the role of the private member consisted of Lise Bourgault,
federal Member of Parliament and Robert Jackson, Professor at Carleton
University. Discussions centred on the parliamentarian's role as legislator and
controller of the Executive. The member's role as an intermediary was also
stressed. This role may sometimes conflict with his political background and
with what is known as "party discipline". The delegates also
considered the relationship between the member and the representatives of the
media, who are frequently looking for a spectacular news story, whereas the
member's duties are generally quite unspectacular. Finally, the delegates
turned to the limitations on parliamentarians' freedom of speech, when a
nuanced interpretation of a specific situation can immediately be interpreted
as a dissenting opinion.
The panelists on "The Committee
System" were Richard French, Member of the National Assembly, and
Professor Graham White, of the University of Toronto. They discussed the number
and specific nature of the functions fulfilled by parliamentary committees. The
discussion also dealt with the organization of committees, especially their
makeup and the orientation of their work. In this respect, the participants
considered the role of the committee chairman, the participation of ministers
and party discipline in the context of a parliamentary committee. The delegates
finally dealt with the issue of the independence of parliamentary committees,
which has a significant impact on their effectiveness.
Donald Cameron, Member of the Nova Scotia
Legislative Assembly, and Jeffrey Simpson, columnist with the Globe and Mail,
led off the discussion of "Question Period". The session began by
considering the nature of question period, that is, the tool available to the
Opposition to exercise a degree of control of the actions of the government and
to question ministers on a given subject, while recognizing that it is also a
means of obtaining information from the government on a matter of public
interest lying within its jurisdiction. The discussion then turned to the
performance aspect of question period, emphasizing that it provided the member
an opportunity to attract the attention of journalists and the public, and with
much less effort than through the other aspects of his work as a
The panel on the "Confidence
Convention" consisted of Robert Rae, Leader of the New Democratic party in
the Ontario Legislature, and Philip Laundy, Clerk Assistant of the House of
Commons. The participants discussed the responsibility of the government before
Parliament, and changes to the confidence convention in light of the McGrath
committee report and the Liberal-NDP agreement which brought down the
government in Ontario.
Following the workshops the delegates
returned to the plenary session to hear reports from the Chairmen of each
On July 24 the delegates travelled to
Pointe-au-Pic where they reconvened to consider subjects on the conference's
second theme, relations between Canadian parliamentarians and American
legislators. The four panels were as follows: Economic Development, Senator
David Nething, North Dakota, and Kenneth Kowalski, Alberta; The Environment,
Representative Jim Consta, California and Abe Kovnats, Manitoba; Health Policy,
Evelyn Bacon, Saskatchewan and Representative John Bragg, Tennesse; The Arts,
Senator Tarky J. Lombardi, New York and Bruce Strachan, British Columbia.
At noon the Director of the Institute for
U.S.-Canada Business Relations at Pace University, in New York, Steven Blank,
addressed the delegates on the subject of Canadian-American relations. In a
thought provoking address he cautioned politicians not to become bogged down in
short term analysis of costs and benefits of particular trade sectors. In the
afternoon the Chairmen of the workshops, Claude Dauphin, Jean Lafrenière and
Jean-Paul Champagne of Quebec and Jean Poirier of Ontario gave reports on the
discussions that took place in their sessions.
The session on Economic Development
essentially focused on four subjects: foreign trade, tourism, privatization and
deregulation, and natural resources. In regard to foreign trade, the delegates
considered the role of the provinces and the States in realm of foreign trade.
The discussions touched on imports, access to export markets, the participation
of parliamentarians and legislators in foreign trade missions, as well as on
the appropriateness of freer trade between Canada and the U.S., and the pros
and cons of protectionist measures. The delegates discussed the importance of
tourism as an industry, the approaches that should be adopted to ensure its
development, and the overall situation of tourism in Canada and the U.S. The
participants attempted to draw a parallel between the situation which prevails
in Canada with respect to privatization and deregulation in certain sectors of
the economy and the situation as it exists in the United States. Finally, the
delegates considered the means which might be used to develop natural
The first topic to be discussed in the panel
session on environmental issues was acid rain, particularly the regional
aspects of this phenomenon. The session also dealt with toxic wastes and,
especially, how to dispose of them. Turning to pollution, the delegates focused
on water quality and water diversion such as, for example, from James Bay to
the United States. The session ended with Participants concluding that
regulations tend to be more strict with respect to environmental issues,
whereas in the economy as a whole, the trend is to deregulation.
The discussions in the session on health
policy dealt at length with the quality and the cost of health care. Access to
new medical technology was also emphasized, and the increasing age of existing
equipment was noted. Finally, the delegates considered what effects an ageing
population would have on health care and retirement plans, and discussed the
cost of long-term care for the elderly, and the handicapped.
The participants in the final panel session
discussed art from the perspective of a profitable industry. The problem of
financing artistic and cultural activities was considered, and the Canadian and
American experiences were compared. The participants raised questions as to why
government should finance these activities, the role of different levels of
government, and the impact of federal interventions on the States and the
provinces. Still on the subject of financing, the discussion dealt with the
respective role which government and the private sector should play.
New Speakers in Ontario and Yukon
Two new presiding officers have been elected
following changes of government in Ontario and Yukon.
The new Speaker of the Yukon Legislative
Assembly is Sam Johnston member of the Assembly for Campbell. Mr. Johnston, 49,
was educated at Carcross, Yukon. He was for many years Chief of the Teslin
Indian Band and Chairman of the Teslin Local Improvement District. He was first
elected to the Assembly in 1985. The choice of Mr. Johnston as Speaker left the
New Democratic Party in a minority situation since the combined Progressive
Conservative and Liberal opposition hold eight of the sixteen seats in the
In Ontario the new Speaker is Hugh
Edighoffer, a Liberal who has represented Perth in the Assembly since 1967. Mr.
Edighoffer has experience presiding over a legislature in which no single party
enjoys a majority of seats. He was Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Committee
of the Whole House in the 31st Parliament from 1977 to 1981.
New Lieutenant Governor for P.E.I.
The new Lieutenant Governor is Robert Lloyd
MacPhail a long-time member of the legislature and Minister of Finance and
Tourism in the government of James Lee.
Born in 1920, Mr. MacPhail operated a farm
supply business in New Haven for some 30 years. He was first elected in 1961
and re-elected seven times. Mr. MacPhail replaces Dr. Joseph Aubin Doiron whose
term has expired.
New Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod
The former Sergeant-at-Arms of the Quebec
National Assembly, René Jalbert, was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod
for the Senate on July 15, 1985.
Equivalent in some ways to the position of
Sergeant-at-Arms in the House, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is one of
the senior Senate officials with both administrative and ceremonial
A career military man until he joined the
National Assembly, Mr Jalbert was decorated by the Assembly for his actions
last May in subduing a gunman who invaded the Assembly and shot several people.
New Legislative Librarian in British
The new Legislative Librarian in British
Columbia is Joan Barton. A graduate of the universities of Victoria and British
Columbia. She holds a Master of Library Science degree and had been head
Reference Services in the Legislative Library since 1974.