The Spring Session of the Ontario
Legislature started on 6 April with the Speech from the Throne by the
Lieutenant-Governor Henry N.W. Jackman. The speech dealt primarily with
the state of the economy and pledged an economic recovery plan. "Our
investment strategy starts with the conviction that a strong economy depends on
a flourishing business sector." Some of the steps in the recovery plan
include government working as a partner or coinvestor with the private sector;
support for the expansion of small and midsize firms; an expansion of
"Ontario's base of skills, knowledge and innovation, enhancing our ability
to compete in world markets;" and funding to assist the development of
Amendments to the Condominium
Act, announced in the Throne Speech, will be made to increase development
and to provide better protection to consumers. Along this same line, changes to
the Planning Act will increase the supply of basement apartments. It is
hoped that this will increase the number of affordable apartments and will
create jobs in the home renovation industry.
Other changes to legislation
announced in the Speech from the Throne include changes to the Ontario
Labour Relations Act and changes to Employment Equity and Pay Equity. These
Bills were introduced during the Session.
The Treasurer, Floyd Laughren,
read the budget on 30 April 1992. In tabling the budget, he said "we are
taking immediate steps to create jobs, … control the deficit… [and are] taking
concrete steps to train workers, increase business investment and sustain the
public services that mark a decent and caring society."
A number of initiatives were
announced to support new jobs. The Jobs Ontario training fund is a three year,
$1.1 billion program to provide jobs and training for long-term unemployed. The
Jobs Ontario capital fund is to prepare the transportation, communications and
environmental systems for the 21st century. $2.3 billion over the next five
years has been set aside for this program. The third initiative is the Jobs
Ontario homes fund to expand non-profit housing by 20,000 units.
Plans to legalize casino gambling
were also announced in the Budget. The government estimates that this move will
bring in an additional $150 million to the province. This, along with $1
billion tax increase, will keep the deficit below $10 billion. Tax increases
included an environmental levi on beer can, increases to the personal income
tax rate and a one-year surcharge on banks.
After many weeks of questions in
the House and speculation in the media, the Premier announced on 3 June that
legislation would be introduced to permit retail stores to be open on Sundays.
Retail stores argued that permission to be open on Sundays will decrease the
flow of people to the U.S. to shop on Sundays and will allow stores to remain
solvent. In making this announcement, the Premier stressed that the vote on the
legislation would be a free vote. This legislation is expected to be called for
second reading in the fall session. The government announced that the
legislation will be retroactive to last spring and that there are no plans to
prosecute retailers who open on Sundays in the meantime.
On July 3, 1992, changes to the
Standing Orders came into effect. With these changes, the parliamentary
calendar has been amended and will shorten the sitting time for the House by
two weeks. There will continue to be a constituency week during each of the
A new Standing Order sets time
limits of 30 minutes on speeches when the Speaker is in the chair. However, in
the following kinds of debate, the first member speaking for each recognized
party may speak for up to 90 minutes:
debate on second reading of a government bill;
debate on third reading of a government bill;
debate on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne;
debate on the Budget motion;
debate on an interim supply motion; and
debate on any other substantive government motion.
A time limit of 30 minutes has been
set for "Introduction of Bills". Under the previous Standing Orders,
there was no time limit on the period for introducing bills. Previous changes
to the Standing Orders limited the time for "Petitions".
A new Standing Order specifically
provides for time allocation motions. Under this Standing Order, the Government
House Leader, or a Minister, may, after giving notice, move a time allocation
motion to any proceeding on a government bill or to a substantive government
motion. When this time allocation motion is the first Order of the Day, the
question will be put, without further debate or amendment, at the end of that
sessional day. Five members are required to request a recorded vote and the
division bells for such a request are limited to five minutes. Before a time
allocation motion may be moved on second reading of a government bill or on a
substantive government motion, there must be three full days of debate on the motion
for second reading or on the substantive government motion.
An amendment to the Standing Order
dealing with notices ensures that, when a government notice is tabled with the
Clerk of the House, copies will be distributed to all the House Leaders.
The existing prohibition against
second reading of government bills (except supply bills) introduced during the
last 8 sessional days of the regular spring or fall sessions is extended to
include any extension of the session.
Other changes to the Standing Orders
were discussed and have been referred to the Standing Committee on the
The new Standing Order dealing with
time allocation was soon tested in the Legislature. On 20 July, the Government
gave notice of a motion under new Standing Order 44a. The notice of motion set
a time allocation on third reading on a bill. The third reading debate on this
bill had started on the previous sessional day. One member had spoken and a
second member was speaking when the debate was interrupted and the House was
adjourned. The Government notice of motion stated that, when the order for
third reading of this bill is next called, "the Speaker shall put the
question forthwith on the motion which question shall be put without amendment
Gregory Sorbara raised a point of order contending that
this motion was out of order and was not properly a time allocation motion. The
member questioned how this could be a time allocation motion when the motion
"is in substance a motion that prohibits any further debate whatever on
Bill 150". The member also questioned how such a motion could be in order
when it effectively prevented a member from finishing his speech.
The Speaker ruled that, while the
government notice of motion does not call for time for debate for third reading
of the bill, it does comply with the new Standing Order.
The Standing Committee on
Estimates, chaired by Cam Jackson met during the Spring session to
review the estimates of 3 ministries: Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Ministry
of Health and the Ministry of Education. The Committee will continue to proceed
with the consideration of the remaining 8 ministries which were determined by a
resolution of the Committee. The Committee will review three Ministries when it
meets this summer.
The Standing Committee on Finance
and Economic Affairs, chaired by Ron Hansen, dealt with two pieces of
legislation during the Spring session.
Bill 150 provides for the creation
of labour-sponsored venture capital corporations to invest funds in Ontario
businesses. The legislation will allow workers to pool their resources and
provide venture capital to Ontario enterprises and to provide the opportunity
for these funds to be used in a worker buyout of an existing enterprise.
Contributions to these funds are
treated to beneficial tax treatment by both the provincial and federal
governments, thus further encouraging participation by investors.
The Committee also considered a
bill that will introduce a prohibition on the charging of any fee for the cashing
of government cheques. Currently, anyone patronizing a cheque-cashing firm may
be subject to a fee or commission for this service. Under this legislation,
sponsored by a private member, Gilles Morin these cheque cashing firms,
or any financial institution, would be prohibited from levying any charges or
fees when cashing cheques issued by the government.
The Standing Committee on
Government Agencies, under its Chair, Robert Runciman continued to
consider proposed appointments to Ontario Government agencies, boards and
commissions. The Committee also completed its report on the following agencies:
Eastern Ontario Development Corporation, TV Ontario, and the Community Advisory
Board of Brockville Psychiatric Hospital.
The Standing Committee on the
Legislative Assembly, chaired by Steven Offer, presented two reports on
15 April as required by its mandate to conduct a major inquiry into the
dissemination of confidential Ministry of Health information and the conduct of
the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. The report, Inquiry re
Ministry of Health Information, as agreed by the majority of the Committee,
reviewed and commented on evidence received during three weeks of public and
closed session hearings. The report contained no recommendations and concluded
with the words of the Minister in explanation of her conduct and her decision
not to resign. Appended to the report was a joint dissenting opinion of the
Liberal and Progressive Conservative members of the Committee, including their
proposed recommendations calling for the resignations of both the Minister of
Northern Development and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour.
The Opposition dissent recommended that OHIP, the Ministry of Health and the
Office of the Minister of Health thoroughly review Ministry compliance with all
statutory and procedural requirements regarding confidential information.
Opposition members also recommended action by the Speaker and Board of Internal
Economy to deal with conduct by constituency office staff deemed inappropriate
In a second, related report,
entitled Report on Keith Harfield, the Legislative Assembly Committee
reviewed its efforts to seek testimony and co-operation by a particular witness
summoned by two Speaker's Warrants. The Committee concluded that the pattern of
conduct established in response to legitimate requests for attendance and the
production of documents was "one of deliberate and repeated evasion and
delay which demonstrates a lack of respect for the Committee and the
Legislative Assembly." The Committee recommended that the House find Keith
Harfield in contempt, and that the House direct the Speaker to issue a public
admonishment. The report has not yet been considered by the House.
The Standing Committee on the Ombudsman
met to review the Ombudsman's Annual Reports and responses to the Standing
Committee's Eighteenth Report. The Committee also considered communications
from the public and set out its recommendations on these cases. On Thursday, 28
May 1992, the Chair, Mark Morrow, presented the Committee's Nineteenth
Report 1991 to the Legislature .
The Committee's report highlighted
three items for consideration. One of the recommendations is that the estimates
of the Office of the Ombudsman be referred to this committee and not the
Standing Committee on Estimates as presently set out. The Committee also
recommended that the Provincial Auditor conduct a value for money audit of the
operations of the Office of the Ombudsman and that the Standing Committee on
the Ombudsman undertake a comprehensive review of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Committee will meet during the
summer recess to review the Office of the Ombudsman. This review will include
an examination of all aspects of the Ombudsman Act; the scope of the Ombudsman's
jurisdiction; the adequacy of the resources of the Office of the Ombudsman to
perform its various functions; the relationship of the Office of the Ombudsman
to other organizations involved in hearing complaints about government actions;
and the mandate of and role to be played by the Standing Committee on the
Ombudsman. The Committee is to complete and report the results of its review by
the end of the year.
On 23 April 1992, Remo Mancini
was elected Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts replacing Robert
Callahan. In May 1992, the Committee was given the mandate to conduct the
selection process for the Provincial Auditor. The Committee has agreed to
follow the procedure set in 1986 by the Standing Committee on Legislative
Assembly when it conducted the selection process for the Clerk of the House.
The Committee will interview candidates during the summer and fall and will
report on its recommended candidate to the House in September. The Committee
tabled its 1990-1991 Annual Report in May 1992. The report covers the
Committee's activities over the past 2 years and summarizes the Committee's
reports during this time.
On 30 June 1992, the Standing
Committee on Public Accounts tabled Report No. 1. This report covers the
Committee's investigation of OHIP billing relating to substance abuse treatment
in Ontario and the U.S. In the course of the investigation, the Committee
visited 10 centres: 5 in the U.S. and 5 in the Toronto area. The Committee
addressed 3 main areas: Why were Ontario patients seeking treatment for
substance abuse outside the province? How was the Ministry of Health addressing
the issue? and What is required to ensure that the present and future demand
for treatment can be met within Ontario?
Throughout the Spring session, the
Standing Committee on Resources Development, chaired by Peter Kormos,
continued deliberations on Bill 124, An Act to Amend the Highway Traffic Act.
The Bill deals with an amendment which would require all bicycle riders over
the age of five to wear helmets. Introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Dianne
Cunningham in the first Session of the current Parliament, the Bill will
receive the Committee's attention again in the fall session. At a recent press
conference, the Ministry of Transportation indicated that the Ministry is
supporting the Bill and that the Ministry expected the Bill to be through the
Legislature in the fall session.
The debate on second reading of
Bill 40, An Act to amend certain Acts concerning Collective Bargaining and
Employment was concluded and referral to the Committee was made pursuant to
a time allocation motion. The Committee will be conducting public hearings for
five weeks during the summer recess. Clause-by-clause consideration will follow
when the Legislature resumes in the fall. This bill has been called the most
important piece of legislation to be passed by the NDP government during its 5
year mandate. The bill will limit the use of strikebreakers, make it easier for
unions to organize and will confer broad powers on the Ontario Labour Relations
The Standing Committee on Social
Development, chaired by Charles Beer, considered a designated matter
under the provisions of Standing Order 123. The issue, designated by Joan
Fawcett, related to proposed changes to the Ontario Student Assistance
Program. In May, invited witnesses made presentations to the Committee and a
report was then prepared and presented in the House on 16 July 1992. In this
report, the Committee endorsed the review of the Ontario Student Assistance Program
currently being conducted by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and set
out areas that, in the Committee's opinion, should be included in the review.
The Session ended on Thursday 23
July after being extended beyond the 25 June date set out in the parliamentary
calendar in order to complete several pieces of legislation. The adjournment
ended a week and a half of opposition calls for the resignation of Allan
Pilkey, Minister of Correctional Services. Allegations that female ministry
workers had been harassed and sexually assaulted by male co-workers while
attending training sessions at the Bell Cairn Training Centre were raised by
members of the opposition during Question Period. A police investigation has
been initiated by the Minister and Judge Inger Hansen has been appointed
to make recommendations for improving working conditions in the Ministry of
Correctional Services. The opposition continued to call for the Minister's
resignation claiming that he displayed incompetence because he was unaware of
the allegations prior to the issue being raised in the House. The government
claimed that, as soon as the Minister became aware of the situation, he acted
responsibly by closing the Training Centre and initiating the investigations.
Though introduced, legislation on
auto insurance, expansion of pay equity laws, boundary changes in the London
area and Sunday shopping did not reach the committee stage. Reports in the media
indicate that these pieces of legislation will have top government priority in
the fall session.
Tannis Manikel, Committee Clerk
During the Spring Session, the
National Assembly held 33 sittings between April 14 and June 23. With
parliamentarians focusing their attention on the business of supply, on the
budget and on draft legislation.
Budgetary appropriations for
1992-1993 were tabled in the Assembly on March 26, 1992. These appropriations
were examined from April 14 to May 13 in various parliamentary committees.
However, when the time comes to consider the budget, the National Assembly sits
as a committee of the whole.
The budget speech was delivered on
May 14, 1992 by Gérard D. Lévesque, Minister of Finance. Spending
estimates for 1992-1993 totalled $40,703,000, whereas projected revenues for
the same period totalled $36,913,000. Taking into account cash holdings and the
variation in the direct debt, the projected deficit was $2,550,000. The
Minister of Finance confirmed during his speech that the provincial sales tax
on services and furniture (TVQ) would come into effect on July 1, 1992. It
should be noted that the tax, initially set at 8 per cent, was to have come
into effect last January. Its implementation was delayed by six months and the
tax was reduced to 4 per cent.
On the day the budget was brought
down, Jean-Pierre Saintonge, Speaker of the National Assembly, ruled on
a question of breach of privilege raised by Guy Chevrette, Leader of the
Official Opposition. The latter had criticized Marc-Yvan Côté, Minister
of Health and Social Services, for having announced during a press conference
measures affecting funding of health and social services. According to Mr.
Chevrette, by so doing, the Minister held the Assembly up to ridicule since several
days prior to the press conference, the Assembly's social affairs committee had
approved appropriations which did not take into account the Minister's
subsequent announcement. The Speaker ruled that this did not constitute a
breach of privilege because under our political system, a minister can announce
a government decision. Furthermore, a minister has a duty to announce
appropriations in accordance with the legal order prevailing at the time the
budget appropriations are tabled. Lastly, the Speaker dismissed the Official
Opposition Leader's argument that some of the measures announced were
comparable to a taxation initiative and thus should have been mentioned in the
budget speech. He stated that the government can select any member of Cabinet
it wants to disclose budget options.
The debate on the budget speech
took place from May 20 to June 2. The opposition took advantage of this debate
to introduce six non-confidence motions.
During the month of June, the
Assembly was mainly concerned with legislative matters. MNAs often burned the
midnight oil and on three occasions sat until 8 a.m. the next morning. Of the
many pieces of draft legislation considered during this period, several are
worthy of note. These include Bill 9 which excludes certain optometry services
from those services fully covered by the Régie de l'assurance-maladie du
Québec. Furthermore, under the proposed legislation, some recipients will
now be required to pay for pharmaceutical services and drugs which they had
previously received free of charge.
Bill 36 proposed to amend the Elections
Act and the Referendum Act to allow a citizen living outside the
province for a period of up to two years to retain his right to vote. It
reduced the period of time during which an election can be waged as well as the
period of time between the tabling of a referendum question and the actual vote
on the question. It authorized the Chief Electoral Officer to provide
assistance and support in electoral matters to other countries and
Lastly, the bill provided for
Quebec's new electoral boundaries to apply at the time of the next general
elections, not at the time of the fall referendum.
With respect to labour legislation,
the Assembly passed Bill 35 respecting industrial/work accidents and
occupational diseases. The bill amends the medical assessment procedure. Also
adopted was Bill 408 which provides for the establishment of the Quebec
manpower development agency. The agency has a mandate to promote manpower
development and to promote a balance between labour market supply and demand.
Bill 21, which was aimed at
amending the rules governing Canada Day to designate July 1 as a holiday , was
also debated at some length in the Assembly.
Aside from these five bills, the
Assembly passed 45 other ones during the spring session. However, the process
was not without incident. On June 22, referring to the urgency of the situation
and the need to pass 28 bills before the following day's scheduled summer
adjournment, Michel Pagé, Leader of the Government, introduced a motion
to suspend the rules. The purpose of the motion was to limit debate on the
bills to a maximum of 25 minutes. Feeling that this allowed too little time for
full discussion, the Opposition expressed its dissatisfaction by remaining
silent during the adoption of these bills and by demanding in return a record
number of 25 recorded divisions in a single evening.
The main topics of discussion
during this period were the constitutional crisis, a subject debated at
virtually every sitting; the relocation of Hôtel-Dieu, part of Montreal's
heritage, from the downtown core to the suburbs; the government's use of the
surplus funds held by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec; the
province's economy; the sale of Steinberg, a giant in Quebec's food industry;
funding of private schools and the adoption of children from the People's
Republic of China. A bill that specifically addresses the latter was passed
before the summer adjournment.
On June 19, 1992, Liza
Frulla-Hébert, Minister of Cultural Affairs, formally unveiled the
government's cultural policy. The first-ever in Quebec's history, this policy
takes its inspiration primarily from the testimony presented to the
parliamentary committee on culture in the fall of 1991 and from the work of the
advisory group on cultural policy.
The National Assembly did not
extend the provisional amendments to its rules of procedures which had been in
effect on a trial basis since October 25, 1990. These amendments had to do
primarily with the Assembly's schedule of business as well as with the work of
parliamentary committees, debate on Opposition members' business and the
provisions respecting adjournment debates.
Jean Bédard, and Constance
Pinault, Office of the
Secretariat Quebec National Assembly
During the last quarter, eight
standing committees held 100 sittings for a total of 365 hours of work.
As is the case each year, the
months of May and June were extremely hectic; from early June until the June 23
adjournment, committees sat from 10 a.m. until midnight, Monday to Friday.
However, July proved to be a relatively quiet month for parliamentary
During May and June, the committees
focused their attention primarily on the clause-by-clause study of bills. This
activity accounted for more than 80 per cent of all committee business.
Of the 40 legislative mandates
given to committees, four could not be completed because of a motion of closure
adopted by the Assembly with a view to ending the committee proceedings.
The Social Affairs Committee
examined an important bill concerning the application of the legislation
adopted last year pertaining to health and social services reform. The bill,
which contained a total of 377 clauses, amended no less than 69 other pieces of
The same committee also examined
Bill 408 which provided for the establishment of the Quebec Manpower
Development Corporation. Basically, what the draft legislation does is to
create a central body as well as regional bodies responsible for promoting
manpower development and fostering a balance between labour supply and demand
in the job market. Despite seven sittings devoted exclusively to examining this
bill, the committee was unable to complete its business as a motion of closure
put an end to the proceedings.
The sittings of the Public Works
Committee focused primarily on the municipal sector. Two bills affecting
municipalities were examined. The first, which concerns the rules governing the
administration of municipalities, contained provisions to allow municipalities
to come together to set up a damage insurance corporation to meet their needs.
Another bill under consideration proposed to abolish the leisure tax collected
by the municipalities. However, contrary to what usually occurs, a private
member's bill took up most of the time of the members of this committee. The
committee met six times to discuss proposed legislative amendments to the
charter of the Montreal Island inter- municipal Waste Management Commission and
during nearly 50 hours of hearings, it heard from six agencies opposed to the
The Economy and Labour Committee
reviewed Bill 35 which proposed major amendments to the occupational health and
safety commission. In view of the opposition to the bill, the Committee was the
target of a motion of closure and was forced to refer the matter back to the
Assembly without completing its report. Still in the field of labour relations,
the Committee examined a bill aimed at countering under the table" work in
the construction industry. Prior to examining the bill, the Committee had held
public hearings over the winter months.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Committee examined a bill pertaining to the marketing of dairy products. The
primary aim of the bill is to standardize dairy production quotas by 1996.
In addition to their legislative
mandates, the committees completed during the early weeks of May their study of
departmental and agency budgets undertaken the previous month.
In accordance with the standing orders,
the Budget and Administration Committee debated for ten hours the budget speech
delivered on May 14 by the Finance Minister.
Also in May, the committees held
three question and answer sessions. Held on Friday morning, these sessions
provide opposition members with an opportunity to put questions to a minister
regarding any general matter under his jurisdiction. These three question and
answer sessions focused on the following subjects: Montreal's situation, the
use of automobile insurance premiums and the Canadian constitutional talks.
The Education Committee heard
testimony from the Superior Council of Education in conjunction with its
mandate to monitor public agencies. This committee also met with
representatives of the task force on youth with a view to discussing the
latter's report on the status of young people in Quebec.
Lastly, the Special Committee in
Charge of Considering All Offers of a New Constitutional Partnership held three
meetings during the session to hear testimony from five groups on the findings
contained in the Report of the Special Joint Committee on a Renewed Canada.
Doris Arsenault, Committees Secretariat, Quebec National
The Second Session of the
Twenty-Second Legislature opened on Monday, April 27, 1992 and adjourned on
August 28, 1992. This session was highlighted by the presentation of the first
budget of the 22nd Legislature, a series of obstructionary tactics, the
Speaker's intervention on these tactics, a censure motion against the Speaker
and adoption of provisional changes to the Rules of the Assembly, which were to
Speech from the Throne
The Speech from the Throne, the NDP
Government blueprint for the coming year, repeatedly emphasized the need to
control spending and reduce the deficit. The government promised to negotiate a
different cost-of-production formula that would increase Ottawa's share of the
Gross Revenue Insurance Program (GRIP) costs and reduce producer premiums.
Other highlights in the Throne
Speech included the promise of an environmental charter of rights and
responsibilities and the creation of an environmental assessment commission;
the elaboration of a wellness approach to health care rather than using health
care only as a way to deal with sickness; the development of a social net to
meet the challenges of poverty through employment and training programmes.
In total, 94 public and 4 private
bills were introduced of which 87 and 3 were respectively passed into law. Many
of the bills were of a house-keeping nature or flowed from budgetary measures
announced in the spring budget.
However, Bill 87, The Farm
Income Insurance Legislation, 1992, created much controversy and was the
object of numerous procedural impasses. The intent of the Bill was to implement
new provisions of the Gross Revenue Insurance Program (GRIP) for agriculture
which had been implemented in June 1991 by the former administration under Grant
Devine. The legislation also allowed for changes to certain notice
Committees of the Legislative
Assembly were increasingly active since January, both inter-sessionally and
during the session.
In addition to the meetings of the
Special Committee on Rules and Procedures (to be discussed later), other
Committees of the Legislature which usually sit regularly were quite active
this year, such as the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Standing
Committee on Crown Corporations and the Special Committee on Regulations (which
is mandated to examine delegated legislation).
The Standing Committee on Municipal
Law was re-activated after a number of years. Specifically, the Assembly
referred to the Committee, after second reading, two bills relating to
In early summer, the Assembly
created the Standing Committee on Constitutional Affairs with the authority to
"review and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on proposed
constitutional amendments ..." and to hold public hearings to that effect.
The Committee expected to begin its public hearings in late September.
The day before the House rose on
August 28, 1992, the Assembly adopted a motion to strike a Standing Committee
on Environment authorized to review and report on legislation relating to
environmental issues as referred to it by the Assembly. The subject matter of
Bill 48, An Act to provide a Charter of Environmental Rights and
Responsibilities was referred to this Committee.
Special Committee on Rules and
Last winter, the Rules Committee
held seven meetings and deliberated for a total of forty hours on a number of
procedural issues with a view to revising the rules and practices in the
Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. The Committee examined a wide range of
procedural matters of concern to Members.
The Committee recommendations were
adopted by the Assembly and implemented initially on a provisional basis. Such
a trial period on the new rules would extend to the fiftieth sitting day of the
current session (Second Session, Twenty-Second Legislature). As the session
evolved and the political atmosphere became more and more difficult, the
Opposition declined to even discuss permanent adoption of the provisional rules
or consider an extension of the trial period.
The new rules provided for a change
in sitting hours of the Assembly so as to enable Members to use their time more
effectively. There was therefore a reduction in evening sittings from three to
two nights per week, and additional time was added to the afternoon and
remaining evening sittings.
The Legislative Assembly spends
thirty-five to forty per cent of its time on the conduct of financial business
i.e. the consideration of the Estimates in the Committee of Finance which sits
as a Committee of the Whole. In order to make more efficient use of this time
and that of all Members, a new proposal provided for the Committee of Finance
to be divided into two sections which would sit simultaneously to consider
different estimates. Unfortunately, the trial period expired before the
Assembly had an opportunity to experience this change.
A daily ten-minute Members'
Statement Period was provided (90 seconds per Member on topics of their choice)
immediately before Oral Questions.
Rules such as those for written
questions and orders for returns were modified by changing the deadline for
responses to written questions from 48 hours to five sitting days and by
imposing a deadline of 180 calendar days on a response to an order for return.
Private Members' Day, every
Tuesday, was extensively re-organized by rotating key private Members' business
items on a weekly basis so that they would regularly receive periodic
consideration without which rotation the House would not always reach these
items on the Order Paper.
The new rules provided for the
election of the Deputy Speaker. This rule change was permanently adopted and
was not subject to the 50-day trial period, and hence survived the summer.
A number of other rule changes on
trial included the abolishment of the requirement for seconders of a motion
moved in the Assembly, the simplification of unduly complicated rules for the
emergency debate process, the use of lap-top computers in the Assembly by
Members, the use of new guidelines for the telecast of Legislative proceedings
to give the public a better perspective of what goes on in the Chamber, the prohibition
of smoking in the Chamber during Committee of the Whole. Historically, smoking
had only been forbidden in the Chamber when the Assembly was in formal session
with the Speaker in the Chair.
Some important practices which the Rules
Committee decided not to change were bell-ringing rules and a sessional
calendar, two items which ironically would return to haunt the Assembly during
the long summer months.
On June 11, the Conservative
Opposition walked out of the Assembly on a recorded division for first reading
on the Farm Income Insurance Act (GRIP Legislation) thereby triggering
an 18-day bell-ringing period.
The Opposition was upset over the
Government's attempts at what they described as retroactively changing the
insurance program. Already, a group of farmers had sued the Government over not
fulfilling an obligation to inform farmers by a specific date of imminent
changes to GRIP. The Opposition claimed that the notice was sent out late and
feared that the legislation would retroactively change the notice deadline. The
Opposition felt that if the bill was introduced and the courts became aware of
the intent of the government to "deem" that it had met its
obligations, then that would affect the judge's decision on the law suit.
The Assembly was handcuffed by the
lack of time limitation on bell-ringing and by a 17-day bell-ringing precedent
After 18 days, Speaker Herman
Rolfes intervened to end the bell-ringing, suspended the GRIP bill for an
indefinite period to allow for negotiation time and called for time limitations
The Rules Committee met and
recommended a 30-minute limit on bell-ringing and, as a trade-off, the
Opposition would be given the opportunity to suspend any bill for three days,
at any time of their choosing. These recommendations were ultimately adopted by
the Assembly under closure.
After a few days of systematic
obstruction by the Opposition (through bell-ringing on adjournment motions) Mr.
Speaker once again intervened, this time to stop the bell-ringing on
adjournment motions in order that a decision could be made on the
Rules Committee recommendations.
The Conservatives, annoyed at the
Speaker's interventions, moved a motion to censure the Speaker accusing him of
unwarranted intervention and of aiding and abetting the government in the Rules
Committee and its recommendation on limiting bell-ringing. After a two and a
half hour debate the motion was defeated and the Speaker given a vote of
confidence by the House.
The GRIP bill which had triggered
the procedural impasse this summer was finally adopted at third reading and
given Royal Assent on August 24, 1992, but only after the Legislature adopted,
under closure, a time allocation motion for all remaining stages of this legislation.
One of the major casualties of the
procedural difficulties this summer was the lapse of all provisional rules
changes after the 50-day trial period, which the Conservatives were not
disposed to extend.
Robert Vaive, Deputy Clerk, Legislative Assembly of