| British Columbia
The Fourth Session of the 35th
Legislature was adjourned on July 27, 1993 after a total of 110 sitting days.
This comparatively long session saw 72 bills introduced, 57 of them Government
and 15 Private Members' bill received assent. The busy session also included 73
meetings of Standing Committees.
Some of the more significant
business related to the public sector work week reduction, a rewrite of
provincial parks legislation, Sunday shopping, introduction of no-fault vehicle
insurance, elimination of the student social allowances program, amendments to
the Taxicab Act, changes to the Liquor Control Act and establishment of a commission
to determine the indemnities, allowances and retirement benefits to be paid to
Manitoba practice, when bills reach
Committee stage, allows for any member of the public, individual or
organisation, to register to speak to a bill. This practice was fully used at
Bill 22, The Public Sector Reduced
Work Week and Compensation Management Act, generated 104 public presentations
from a variety of sectors, in particular the labour community, to the Standing
Committee on Economic Development. This was the greatest number of presenters
to one bill at this session. Although not a common occurrence, the Committee in
this case agreed to place a 20 minute time limit on the presentation.
Bill 41, the Provincial Parks and
Consequential Amendments Act, also attracted significant public attention
primarily over two separate parts of the bill - definition of provincial park
land use and taxation of cottagers in provincial parks. Over two hundred people
were registered to speak to the bill but only 59 persons made presentations to
the Standing Committee on Public Utilities and Natural Resources.
Legislation introducing Sunday
shopping to Manitoba, first on a trial basis and then permanently, generated
considerable controversy for reasons ranging from economic factors to differing
societal values. The trial period came and went before the legislation (Bill 4)
reached committee. In the mean time, the legislation for permanent Sunday
shopping (Bill 23) was introduced and both bills went to committee together.
Nineteen public presentations were made to the Committee.
Often the subject of some
controversy, Manitoba's auto insurance plan once again was on the legislative
agenda in the form of a plan for no-fault insurance. Intended to maintain
adequate and fair compensation for Manitobans involved in vehicle accidents at
a reasonable cost to all, Bill 37 generated attention from many sectors,
including the legal community, disabled persons and labour organisations. In
total, 21 public presentations were made to the Committee considering the bill.
Bill 32, which eliminated the
Student Social Allowances program, raised considerable debate with both
Opposition parties registering their opposition through every stage of the
bill. The Standing Committee on Amendments heard 18 public presentations.
Bill 24 introduced a number of
amendments to the fifty-eight year old Taxicab Act, including giving broader
fee setting powers to the Taxicab Board in order to obtain full recovery of
costs from the regulated industry, authorising the Board to impose monetary
penalties for non-compliance with regulations and establishing a process to
appeal decisions made by the Board. The proposed amendments raised concerns
within the Taxicab industry in terms of costs to the industry and the new
powers being given to the Board. The Committee heard 21 presenters over six
Manitoba's liquor laws were amended
by Bill 42. This legislation allows for private retailers to sell wine and for hotel
beer vendors to sell imported as well as domestic beer. Other amendments
included allowing for the use of credit cards to purchase alcoholic beverages
in a bottle, the introduction of stiffer penalties for sale of alcohol to
minors and a variety of regulatory changes affecting the sale and consumption
of alcohol. The Committee considering Bill 42 heard 20 public presentations
with representation ranging from retailers to persons concerned with increased
legal access to alcohol.
Following considerable public
debate about MLA's salaries and benefits, Bill 55 was drafted to set up a
commission to examine members indemnities and allowances and to decide what
these should be. Members will no longer have control over setting their own
salaries and benefits. The bill was developed and supported by all three
parties. The Commission itself has since been established, chaired by Wally
Fox-Decent, and is expected to report back early in 1994.
Rarely used in Manitoba, a reasoned
amendment was moved during the 2nd Reading Debate on Bill 22 by Steve Ashton,
NDP House Leader. The amendment stated that the bill should not be read a
second time because, although his Party agreed with the provisions designed to
limit MLA's remunerations and benefits, it opposed other provisions in the bill
as they contravened 1ong-established concepts of and respect for free
collective bargaining". After a brief recess, Speaker Denis Rocan ruled
the amendment out of order because it did not oppose all of the principles or
provisions of the bill in accordance with established parliamentary practice.
A number of changes have occurred
in the Assembly over the past year which may create a new dynamic for the next Session.
In June, the Liberal Party chose as its new Leader MLA Paul Edwards (St.
James). Sharon Carstairs, who announced her resignation last January, continues
as the MLA for River Heights but does not plan to run in the next provincial
With two vacant seats in the
Legislature due to the resignations of Elijah Harper (Rupertsland) and Harold
Neufeld (Rossmere) earlier in the Session, Liberal MLA Dr. Gulzar Cheema’s (The
Maples) resignation in June brought to three the number of vacancies. After
five years in the Legislature, Dr. Cheema moved to Vancouver. Shortly after the
end of the Session in July, two more MLAs announced their resignations to seek
election to the House of Commons - Liberal MLA Reg Alcock (Osborne) and NDP MLA
Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. John's).
By-elections were called for
September 21st for the five vacant seats. Two had been held by the NDP, two by
the Liberals and one by the Progressive Conservatives. The results of the
by-elections saw the NDP and Liberals retain the two seats each had held prior
to the resignations, and the NDP gain one more, reducing the Government's
majority to one. The current standing is 29 Progressive Conservatives, 21 NDP
and 7 Liberals.
The five new members are Gord
Mackintosh (NDP St. Johns), Eric Robinson (NDP Rupertsland), Harry Schellenberg
(NDP Rossmere), Gary Kowalski (Liberal The Maples) and Norma McCormick (Liberal
Judy White, Clerk of Committees
Compared to the vociferous spring
session of 1993, the British Columbia Legislative Assembly was a relatively
quiet place this autumn. No fall sitting has yet been announced, and many
Members are spending time in their constituencies. Despite this relative
tranquillity, however, a number of important changes have taken place recently.
Premier Mike Harcourt announced an
extensive cabinet shuffle on September 15. He introduced the new cabinet as
representative of his decision to "provide more direct, focussed
leadership" in governing the province. Only two cabinet ministers retained
their previous portfolios, while three new members were elevated from the
backbenches. The new Minister of Health is Paul Ramsey, the new Social Services
Minister is Joy MacPhail, and the new Minister of Transportation and Highways
is Jackie Pement. Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier is Elizabeth Cull,
former Health Minister. Former Finance Minister Glen Clark moves to the newly
created Ministry of Employment and Investment. Its mandate encompasses most of
the former economic development ministry, several Crown Corporations, and
several science and technology initiatives. It also includes the Government's
major public infrastructure initiative, BC 21, which will oversee public
spending in education and transportation over the coming years. Former Forests
Minister Dan Miller moves to the new Labour, Skills and Training Ministry,
formerly the Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology. The total
number of portfolios remains at eighteen.
In addition to changes on the
Government side, both opposition parties were engaged in leadership contests.
On September 11, the Liberal Party elected Vancouver Mayor Gordon Campbell as
its new leader. He defeated six other aspirants, including former leader Gordon
Wilson. This leadership election was unique in that for the first time in
British Columbia a party leader was chosen by universal ballot. In this case, a
tele-vote was held under which all party members across the province could
register their choice for leader; Campbell won easily on the first ballot.
Following the leadership convention, Wilson and caucus colleague Judy Tyabji
announced their intention to sit as Independents. Campbell does not hold a seat
in the Legislature so Fred Gingell will continue to lead the party in the
House, where the Liberals hold fourteen seats.
The Social Credit Party also
selected a new leader Grace McCarthy, former minister and two other former
MLA's: Graham Bruce, and Claude Richmond entered the race. Vancouver
businessman James Turner was the fourth candidate bidding to replace interim
leader jack Weisberger, who declined to run. The Socreds, with six seats in the
legislature, have been the Third Party in the House since the last provincial
election in 1991. The leadership vote was held on November 6 in Vancouver. Mrs.
McCarthy won on the third ballot.
On July 29 the Special Committee to
Appoint an Auditor General was authorised to advertise for and select an
Auditor General for the province. The committee, whose chairperson is Rick
Kasper, placed advertisements across Canada inviting applications, and is
preparing a shortlist based on the responses. It is expected that the final
selection will be made by Christmas.
The Select Standing Committee on
Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills
expects to present its report on initiative and recall to the legislature this
winter. In the 1991 provincial election British Columbians voted in favour of
more direct democracy in provincial politics.
More than eighty per cent of
British Columbia voters supported the introduction of citizen-based initiative
and the right to recall elected representatives. Upon taking office, the
government referred these questions to the committee to examine the
implications of initiative and recall legislation and to consider appropriate
mechanisms for implementing such measures. The committee conducted twenty-five
public meetings between November 1992 and July 1993. It received 171 written
submissions and 261 oral presentations.
If the provincial government adopts
recall and initiative legislation, British Columbia will be the only province
in Canada to have both. The Canadian experience with recall is limited to the
Alberta Social Credit government of William Aberhart, which passed the Legislative
Assembly Recall Act in 1936. The Act was repealed a year later when the premier
was in danger of becoming a victim of his own law.
The four Western provinces
experimented with initiative legislation during the early 1900s. In 1919 the
Manitoba Initiative and Referendum Act was declared unconstitutional because it
interfered with the legislative powers of the Legislative Assembly and the
Lieutenant Governor. Initiative legislation in Alberta and Saskatchewan was
later repealed as well, and the Act to Provide for the Initiation and Approval
of Legislation by Electors was passed in British Columbia, but never
proclaimed. Initiative legislation was re-introduced in Saskatchewan in 1991 in
the form of non-binding referenda that may be initiated by the government or
the public through a petition.
British Columbia's Committee
Chairperson Ujjal. Dosanjh said there is "no doubt" that B.C. voters
will get the referendum and recall they want; the question is what form these
measures will take. Among the concerns the Committee has addressed are: the
grounds for recall; a possible immunity period during which elected officials
are not subject to recall; the minimum number of signatures required for a
petition to begin the recall process; the timing of recall elections and
by-elections; and the procedure of recall and replacement elections.
The Committee has considered a
number of questions concerning the implementation of initiative procedures:
whether initiatives should be direct or indirect; the subject matter of initiatives;
whether initiative referenda will be binding or advisory; the minimum number of
signatures required for an initiative petition; and the cost and financing of
Neil Reimer and Cori Ross, Committee Research
When the National Assembly resumed
sitting on October 19 last, it welcomed the new Member for Portneuf, Roger
Bertrand who was elected in a by-election held on July 5, 1993. The
Vice-President of the Treasury Board and the Minister responsible for Cultural
Communities and Immigration, Mrs. Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, was also introduced
as the acting Minister of Finance and Dean of the Assembly, substituting for
Gérard D. Levesque, who was unable to perform his duties due to illness.
Furthermore, the Premier of Quebec,
Robert Bourassa, had recently announced his decision to quit politics as soon
as a new Liberal Party leader had been chosen.
There were many high points in the
Premier's career which spanned twenty-five years. The MNA for Saint-Laurent was
the youngest premier in the province's history, having being elected to the
office for the first time in April 1970 at thirty-six years of age. He had
already been the MNA for the riding of Mercier for four years when he was
chosen Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, a few months before his party took
power. After leaving politics in 1976, Mr. Bourassa returned to the political
scene in 1983 when he was chosen for a second time to lead his party. Following
a June 1985 by-election in the riding of Bertrand, he once again took a seat in
the National Assembly, this time as Leader of the Official Opposition. The
Liberal Party regained power on December 2 of the following year and Mr.
Bourassa has served as Premier without interruption since then.
The Speaker of the National Assembly,
Jean-Pierre Saintonge, attended as a Quebec Section delegate the 39th
Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which was held in
Cyprus. He was also in attendance as President of the International Assembly of
French-speaking Parliamentarians (AIPLF), a position which he has held since
July 1993. Moreover, in October Mr. Saintonge travelled to Mauritius to attend
the 5th summit of heads of state and government having in common the
use of French. At this summit meeting, the AIPLF was formally recognised as a
consultative assembly, which secures its important status within the world
With respect to legislative
matters, several bills were tabled for consideration by the members of the National
Assembly. One bill, which was tabled by a government MNA Jean-Pierre Bé1isle,
proposed amendments to the National Assembly Act which would require all
ministers wishing to introduce draft legislation to table first a report
detailing the benefits, revenues and expenditures resulting from the
application of the proposed provisions. Furthermore, under the proposed
legislation, ministers would be required to draw up a report at least once
every six years justifying the continued application of the legislation.
Nancy Ford and Jean Bédard , National Assembly Secretariat
The summer recess was followed by a
gradual resumption in the work of the eight standing committees which held 35
meetings for a total of 99 hours.
During the last quarter, the
primary focus was on the auditing of the government's financial commitments.
This process, which is common to all committees, involves scrutinising
expenditures of $25,000 and over incurred by departments and public agencies on
the basis of lists supplied monthly to the committees according to their
respective areas of jurisdictions. The exercise is an opportunity for Members
to monitor the performance of expenditure programs which they approved during
the budgetary process and to question ministers about the aims pursued, the
anticipated results and the procedure for awarding government contracts and
Furthermore, a clause-by-clause
study was undertaken of two public bills one pertaining to legal advertising by
businesses, corporations and body corporates, the other respecting assistance
and compensation for victims of criminal acts ' Eight private members bills
concerning municipal legislation were also examined, with the committees
hearing from interested parties.
Pursuant to a provision in their
incorporation acts, representatives of the James Bay Development Corporation
and the Commission d'accès à l'information de Québec presented their respective
annual reports to a parliamentary committee and answered questions from
The quarter preceding the
resumption of the National Assembly on October 19,1993 was also a time for
committees to plan and prepare their activities. With this aim in mind, the
committees held six working sessions during which several proposals to
undertake a review of the directions, activities and management of public
agencies were debated. A few committees began to consider ways of carrying out
the new duties conferred upon them by Bill 198 sanctioned in June 1993. The new
duties have to do with staff cuts in public agencies and the accountability of
deputy ministers and agency heads. Basically, the committees' role will be to
monitor, on the one hand, the progress made by independent organisations within
the public and parapublic sectors in implementing staff reduction plans and, on
the other hand, to hear every year from deputy ministers and agency heads,
accompanied by the responsible minister if deemed necessary, who come before
the committees to discuss administrative management and any other
administrative matter brought to light in the Auditor General's report.
Lastly, it should be noted that the
public hearings of the Committee on Institutions into the legal aid system,
which were slated to be held in the fall, have been postponed until January
Alain Major, Committee Secretary