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On February 18, 2005, the Premier of Quebec announced an important Cabinet
shuffle in which new departments were established (Economic Development,
Innovation and Export Trade, Tourism, Government Services including a
sector responsible for Online Government) and other responsibilities were
redistributed (Sustainable Development, the Environment and Parks, Education,
Recreation and Sports, Families, Seniors and the Status of Women, Canadian
Intergovernmental Affairs, Francophones within Canada, the Agreement on
Internal Trade, the Reform of Democratic Institutions and Access to Information).
On this occasion, five Members were given ministerial duties while three
Ministers resumed their responsibilities as Private Members; the Council
of Ministers thus was raised from 25 to 27 members. The composition of
the Cabinet is available on the Assembly web site at the following address:
Rulings and Directives from the Chair
On March 8, 2005, the proceedings of the 1st Session of the 37th Legislature
resumed in Quebec. On March 17, the Government broke with tradition by
tabling appropriations necessary for the administration of the Government
from April 1, 2005 to June 30, 2005 rather than tabling the appropriations
for the entire fiscal year.
In his ruling on the Government's right to proceed in this manner, President
Michel Bissonnet stated that in our parliamentary system, the Government
and the Parliament each have a role to play in the budgetary process. Initially,
the Government has complete latitude in the preliminary phase of this process.
It is therefore up to the Government to determine the amount of the estimates
it will submit to the Assembly and when it will do so. Once the estimates
have been submitted to the Assembly, the latter's role is to examine them
and to decide whether or not it will grant them in an appropriation bill.
The role of the Chair is to make sure that the role of the Assembly in
budgetary matters is maintained. He also indicated that it is not for the
Chair to rule on the document tabled nor to evaluate it.
The tabling of this document gave rise to the convening of an extraordinary
sitting, which was held on March 21, 2005. This urgent meeting of the Assembly
enabled the consideration and adoption in Committee of the Whole of the
said estimates, the introduction and passage of the consequent appropriation
bill, and the completion of the consideration and passage of Bill 71, An
Act to amend the Forest Act and other legislative provisions applicable
to forest management activities, which was required to come into effect
before April 1, 2005. This was the second extraordinary sitting of the
Close to 140 participants hailing from 25 Quebec colleges took part in
a Student Forum parliamentary simulation, which was held from January 9-13,
2005 at the Parliament Building. The young participants occupied the seats
of the Members of the National Assembly to experience the parliamentarian's
work first hand, both as a legislator and as a controller of governmental
activity. The Forum parliamentarians prepared a budget statement and statements
by ministers, took part in oral question periods and introduced three bills,
which, this year, concerned sustainable forest development, the improvement
of financial conditions for students and organ donation. The college students
examined these bills in committee before giving final passage following
a debate in the National Assembly Chamber.
Other than the hundred plus young Members, some fifteen other individuals
taking part in the Forum acted as press secretaries and journalists. In
keeping with their role, they prepared press conferences and releases and
produced a daily newspaper, the Vox Populi.
A record number of 134 Secondary 3 and 4 students took part in the third
edition of the Young People's Parliament, from February 16-18, 2005, at
the Parliament Building. During their activities at the National Assembly,
the apprentice Members experienced important events in parliamentary life:
the swearing-in of Members, the debate on the opening speech of the session
and oral question period. Three bills were discussed, the themes of which
were: the implementation of measures encouraging young people to take part
in Quebec politics (adopted); the addition of a homework help day to the
regular schedule (negatived); and the creation of an obligatory on-the-job
training session (adopted).
In mid-March, during International Francophonie Week, six Quebec parliamentarians
welcomed diplomats from member countries of La Francophonie in their ridings.
During these meetings, the Quebec parliamentarians and their guests share
knowledge in their respective sectors of activity. The President of the
Assembly views these twinnings as an opportunity to increase the awareness
of Quebec's population with respect to La Francophonie, in addition to
enabling the diplomats to better understand the realities of an electoral
division in Quebec. The ambassadors and consuls general took part, among
other activities, in meetings with representatives from the education,
culture and tourism sectors as well as from the business sector in the
electoral division of the Quebec Member with whom they had been paired.
On February 14, 2005, the President of the National Assembly began his
annual tour of high schools throughout Quebec. The purpose of these visits
is to allow students to become better acquainted with the role of the National
Assembly, its history and its achievements, as well as the role of Members
and the President. On this occasion, the students of the high schools that
were visited had the opportunity to exchange views with Mr. Bissonnet on
democracy and parliamentary life in Quebec.
The President's tour constitutes one of the elements of the educational
activities programme established by the Assembly. According to the President,
the primary purpose is to contribute to heightening the awareness of young
people with regard to the importance of taking part in democratic life
and to present our Assembly as the forum for debates and expression on
the issues that concern their daily lives.
On April 5, 2005, citizens were invited to take part in the third edition
of Political Book Day in Quebec, whose theme was Ideas Within Reach at
the Library of the National Assembly. The intention in choosing this year's
theme was to make clear the desire for this Day to serve as the privileged
forum for discussions and debates by uniting parliamentarians, citizens
and authors concerned with political books, an extremely rich literary
genre that the National Assembly wishes to make known, while providing
its authors with a new venue to share ever-pertinent views that encourage
discussion and reflection.
The activities of Political Book Day in Quebec began with the launching
of the Répertoire des fonds d'archives de parlementaires québécois, which
is a research tool enabling users to retrace Members' documents that are
conserved in various archives services throughout Quebec. Subsequently,
two round tables enabled renowned participants to discuss the following
themes: Citizens and the reform of voting procedures and Should the
school system be secularized?. Finally, four awards were given, including
the Prix de la Présidence de l'Assemblée nationale, to reward a work on
Quebec politics; the Prix de la Fondation Jean- Charles-Bonenfant, awarded
to the author of a doctorate dissertation and to that of a master's thesis
also concerning Quebec politics; and, finally, the Prix Ministère des Relations
internationales du Québec (MRI) / Ministère des Affaires étrangères de
France (MAEF) granting a scholarship covering the expenses of a week's
stay in Paris on the occasion of the 2006 edition of Political Book Day
organized by the French National Assembly.
Secretariat of the Assembly
Standing Committee Activity
The Cabinet shuffle of February 18, 2005 had a significant impact on the
standing committees since the membership of all 11 committees was modified.
As regards the chairmen and vice-chairmen, Jacques Chagnon, the Member
for Westmount-Saint-Louis, was elected chairman of the Committee on Education,
Sam Hamad, the Member for Louis-Hébert, was elected chairman of the Committee
on Public Finance, and Pierre Descoteaux, the Member for Groulx, was elected
vice-chairman of the Committee on Institutions.
Another noteworthy event, the National Assembly established a select parliamentary
committee to hold special consultations regarding the choice of a site
for the future Université de Montréal hospital centre (CHUM). This is the
third select committee to be created in 21 years, that is, since the adoption
of the current Standing Orders in 1984. Other than to examine a matter
of utmost concern, the establishment of a select committee allows a higher
number of Members to take part therein. Indeed, while standing committees
consist of between 10 and 12 members, the select committee consisted of
17 members. Chaired by the Member for Chambly, Diane Legault, the select
committee held public hearings on February 28 and March 1-3, 2005, during
which it heard 16 groups and received 29 submissions. It was dissolved
on March 8, 2005 following the tabling of its report in the National Assembly.
From January 24-28, 2005, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment
sent two of its members on a mission to Paris to take part in the International
Conference sponsored by UNESCO and entitled Biodiversity: Science and
Governance. The purpose of the Conference was to assess knowledge and
current needs with regard to research and scientific expertise in the field
of biodiversity and to examine the public and private approaches to conserving
and managing biodiversity.
Orders of Reference from the Assembly
Among the principal orders of reference from the Assembly, it should be
noted that the Subcommittee of the National Assembly met on three occasions
this winter to examine the two parliamentary reform proposals tabled in
June 2004. For this purpose, on March 1, 2005, the Subcommittee heard the
Amicale des anciens parlementaires du Québec on both reform proposals and
then entered upon the examination of the first theme entitled Citizens'
participation in parliamentary life / Bringing the Assembly and the citizens
together". It again met on March 3 and 16 to examine respectively the following
themes: Valuing the role of Members / Fostering the autonomy and initiative
of Members and Modernization of the organization and proceedings of the
National Assembly / Increasing the efficiency of the work of Members.
Other sittings are scheduled for spring 2005. The members' objective is
to reach a final proposal before the adjournment of proceedings for the
The Committee on Labour and the Economy held a general consultation on
the document entitled The Energy Sector in Quebec Context, Issues and
Questions. From January 25 to mid-April 2005, the Committee heard 139 groups
in public hearings, which groups were chosen from among the 163 submissions
received. This is the most extensive general consultation that has been
held since the beginning of the current Legislature.
The Committee on Social Affairs also held a broad general consultation
on Bill 83, An Act to amend the Act respecting health services and social
services and other legislative provisions. From February 28 to April 6,
2005, 78 groups were heard during 23 sittings, and a total of 98 submissions
were received. The Committee on Planning and the Public Domain held public
hearings within the framework of special consultations on Bill 62, Municipal
Powers Act. The main purpose of this bill is to adapt and modernize the
legislative provisions governing municipalities, certain of which date
back over 100 years.
Furthermore, in the coming weeks, the standing committees should proceed
with the annual consideration of the estimates of expenditure 2005-2006
for a period not to exceed 200 hours.
Orders of Initiative
As regards the principal mandates undertaken at the initiative of the committees,
the Committee on Transportation and the Environment examined the orientation,
activities and management of the Agence métropolitaine de transport on
March 23, 2005. The problems related to the development of the commuter
rail system in the metropolitan region attracted much interest among parliamentarians
from the Montreal region.
For its part, the Committee on Culture held a deliberative meeting to hear
Luc Noppen, Canada Research Chair on Urban Heritage at the Université du
Québec à Montréal, as a preliminary step in its order of initiative on
the issues surrounding Quebec's religious heritage.
In compliance with certain provisions of the Act respecting educational
institutions at the university level, from February 1-9, 2005, the Committee
on Education heard the heads of thirteen Quebec universities. The Committee
on Public Administration heard the Deputy Minister of Justice, the Deputy
Minister of Employment, Social Solidarity and Family Welfare as well as
the Secretary of the Treasury Board during the months of February and March
2005, pursuant to the Public Administration Act. The Committee's recommendations
with regard to these accountability mandates will be made public next June.
Secretariat of Committees
Translation: Sylvia Ford
Secretariat of the Assembly
While Senate committees continued to work on special studies, business
in the Chamber was quiet during the early months of 2005. The regular flow
of legislation from the House of Commons to the Senate was slowed by the
dynamics of the minority government and by political issues that occupied
the time and attention of the government. As a result, only legislation
of a non-controversial and routine nature reached the Senate.
It has become easier to have Royal Assent more often since the passage
of a bill in June 2002 which provided for written declaration as an alternative
to the formal ceremony in the Senate Chamber with Members of the Commons
at the Bar. Royal Assent by written declaration takes less time to arrange,
does not interrupt parliamentary business and eases the ceremonial burden
placed on the Governor General and the justices of the Supreme Court who
act as her deputies. During the spring of 2005 a total of 16 bills received
Royal Assent by written declaration on five different occasions:
C-14, the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act on February 15;
C-7, An Act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks
Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts on February
C-4, International Interests in Mobile Equipment (aircraft equipment) Act
on February 24;
C-302, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Kitchener-Wilmot-Wellesley-Woolwich
on February 24;
C-304, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Battle River
on February 24;
C-36, An Act to change the boundaries of the Acadie-Bathurst and Miramichi
electoral districts on February 24;
C-24, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and
to make consequential amendments to other Acts (fiscal equalization payments
to the provinces and funding to the territories) on March 10;
S-17, Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2004 on March 23;
C-20, First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act on March 23;
C-6, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act on March
C-39, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and
to enact An Act respecting the provision of funding for diagnostic and
medical equipment on March 23;
C-41, Appropriation Act No. 4, 2004-2005 on March 23;
C-42, Appropriation Act No. 1, 2005-2006 on March 23;
C-18, An Act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another Act on March
C-8, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School
of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act on April 21; and
C-30, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act
and to make consequential amendments to other Acts on April 21.
A progress report on the work undertaken by the Official Languages Committee
during the fall of 2004 was tabled in the Senate on February 23. The committee
was given the mandate to study the 2004 Annual Report of the Commissioner
of Official Languages and the operation of the Official Languages Act.
On February 15 Senator John Lynch-Staunton raised a point of order to object
to proceedings that had occurred with respect to Bill C-14 which provides
for a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government
of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada. The bill was
adopted with leave immediately following the presentation of the committee
report. Senator Lynch-Staunton disagreed with the accelerated consideration
and even more with the fact that it had happened during Routine Proceedings.
His real objection, however, was that asking for leave in this kind of
situation was contrary to good practice. In his ruling on February 23,
Speaker Dan Hays admitted the events of February 15 were out of the ordinary,
but ruled that once the Senate had given leave he was powerless to prevent
it from happening.
Senator Anne Cools rose on a point of order on February 23 to claim that
Bill C-6 which establishes the Department of Public Safety and Emergency
Preparedness required Royal Consent because it affected the prerogative powers
of the Crown. At issue was the bill's attempt to abolish the position of the
Solicitor General who, in the opinion of Senator Cools, was an officer of the
Crown. It was her contention that such a position could not be altered in
legislation without Royal Consent. The Speaker found no evidence to support her
argument. In his ruling he declared Bill C-6 did not impinge on the prerogatives
or interests of the Crown and for that reason there was no need for Royal
The Senate adopted a motion on February 17 condemning the act of terrorism
that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and calling on
the Government of Canada to continue to pursue justice and independence
for the people of Lebanan.
A motion to approve the appointment of Jean T. Fournier as Senate Ethics
Officer was considered by the Senate in Committee of the Whole on February
24. Although some Senators expressed concern that the appearance of Mr.
Fournier was premature since the Senate had not yet adopted a code of conduct,
they nevertheless supported his nomination and approved his appointment
for a term of seven years.
Tributes were paid to the memory of two former Senators, Royce Frith and
Irvine Barrow. Mr. Frith, served as Deputy Leader of the Government, Deputy
Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Opposition during the years
1980 to 1993, died on March 17. Mr. Barrow, whose death at 92 years of
age also occurred on March 17, was remembered for his leadership as chairman
of the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee and the National Finance Committee.
Retired General Roméo Dallaire, who headed the United Nations peacekeeping
mission in Rwanda and former defence minister Art Eggleton, were appointed
to the Senate. They were sworn in on April 12 along with other new Senators
Elaine McCoy, Grant Mitchell and Claudette Tardif from Alberta, Robert
Peterson and Lillian Dyck from Saskatchewan, Nancy Ruth from Ontario and
Jim Cowan from Nova Scotia. At present, there are 98 Senators, including
On March 1, 2005, the Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta met
to elect presiding officers for the 26th Legislature. Ken Kowalski was
acclaimed for the second time as Speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly
in what is his third term as Speaker. Mr. Kowalski has been a Member of
the Assembly for 26 years, having first been elected for what is now the
constituency of Barrhead- Morinville-Westlock in a 1979 by-election. Richard
Marz, (P.C. Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills) was elected Deputy Speaker and Chairman
of Committees. Mr. Marz was first elected to the Alberta Legislature in
1997. Shiraz Shariff, (P.C. Calgary-McCall) was re-elected Deputy Chair
of Committees. Mr. Shariff, who has held this position since 2001, was
first elected in a 1995 by-election. Alberta elects its presiding officers
by secret ballot.
On March 2, 2005, Lieutenant Governor Norman L. Kwong delivered the Speech
from the Throne. The Speech highlighted visions for Alberta's future in
its centennial year. The Speech, entitled The Next Alberta outlined
the government's initiatives in areas such as health, education and the
economy. The Speech also detailed projects and programs established to
commemorate Alberta's centennial and paid tribute to the Late, Dr. Lois
E. Hole, former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Other highlights include:
the establishment of a $3-billion endowment fund from surplus revenues
to pay for apprenticeship certification and training programs, scholarship
and fellowship programs, a digital library and other initiatives within
the post-secondary learning system;
the commitment on behalf of the government to develop a "Third Way" for
increased funding for AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped)
an increase in Alberta's minimum wage to $7 per hour;
the development of a provincial water conservation plan; and
enhanced civilian oversight of police services.
As House Leaders were unable to agree on the rotation of questions during
Oral Question Period, Speaker Kowalski ruled in a March 8th statement that
a similar rotation from the previous Legislature would apply for three
out of four days. (Under the new rotation, the Official Opposition would
be entitled to two more questions and the New Democrat Opposition one after
the 14th and subsequent questions). On the fourth day, the rotation would
be altered to provide the Alberta Alliance Member with the fifth question.
Speaker Kowalski also noted that the practice of permitting a main question,
preceded by a short preamble, followed by two supplementary questions,
without a preamble, would continue for the duration of the 26th Legislature.
The House Leaders of all three parties reached an agreement concerning
changes to the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly. The amendments
concerned Members' Statements (6 every day for 2 minutes) and Private Members'
Motions (a new one each Monday evening). These changes came into effect
on April 11, 2005.
At the time of writing, 19 Government Bills and 2 Private Members' Public
Bills had been passed by the Assembly.
Some Bills before the Assembly include:
Bill 1, Access to the Future Act, would establish the following investments
in post-secondary education: a $3-billion Access to the Future endowment
to support and foster innovation and initiatives in education; a $1-billion
expansion to the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund; and a $500-million
expansion to the Alberta Heritage Science and Engineering Research Fund.
Bill 1 also lays the foundation for a common post-secondary and scholarship
application process and a simpler process for obtaining student financial
assistance. The Bill received criticism from Opposition Members who argued
that it does not address the problem of increased student debt inadequacies
within the student loan system.
Bill 15, Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, 2005, would grant the same
immunities from legal action currently extended to employees of the WCB
to the board of directors of the WCB. The Bill would allow the WCB to
regulate fees charged by private lawyers working on third-party civil actions.
In addition, it would allow private lawyers to pay the costs of living
increases to workers who are on extended temporary partial disability benefits.
Opposition Members have expressed their opposition to the Bill and claim
the amendments are extreme. A reasoned amendment was moved during Second
reading of the Bill and subsequently defeated.
Bill 29, Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped Amendment Act, 2005,
would amend the current Act by expanding the definition of benefits available
to AISH recipients to include supplementary payments for emergent or personal
costs outside the current financial and health benefit package.
Bill 39, Traffic Safety Amendment Act, 2005, would notably make changes
regarding the seizure of vehicles involved in prostitution-related offences.
Private Members' Public Bills
Two Private Members' Public Bills passed by the Assembly include:
Bill 201, Smoke-free Places Act, sponsored by Dave Rodney (PC, Calgary-Lougheed),
sets province-wide standards concerning smoke-free areas by creating smoke-free
environments in enclosed public and work places. During Committee of the
Whole consideration, the Bill was amended so that only public places and
workplaces that permit minors would be smoke free. The Bill was also amended
to include a provision whereby if a conflict was to arise between a provision
of the Bill or a provision of a municipal bylaw, the more restrictive one
A recommittal motion was moved by Hugh MacDonald (Liberal, Edmonton-Gold
Bar) during third reading to refer the Bill back to Committee of the Whole
to reconsider a particular section of the Bill in order to extend the smoking
ban to all public buildings. The Opposition disagreed with the scope of
the amendments to the Bill at Committee stage and introduced the recommittal
motion so that the Committee of the Whole could reconsider the amendments.
The member of the Opposition who supported the recommittal motion noted
that this was the position taken at a recent Progressive Conservative convention.
The amendment was subsequently defeated. The Bill comes into force on
Bill 202, Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act, sponsored by Mary Anne
Jablonski (PC, Red Deer-North), provides provincial authorities and parents
with the power to place children under the age of 18 into 90-day mandatory
drug treatment programs. On April 14, the sponsor of the Bill requested
and received the unanimous consent of the Assembly to waive Standing Orders
to allow for consideration of the Bill in place of Government Business.
During Committee of the Whole consideration, substantial amendments were
introduced and passed. The most notable amendment removed the 90-day treatment
order due to concerns raised regarding the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. The Bill comes into force on July 6, 2006.
One Private Bill which received significant public attention last year
was Bill Pr5, Brooklyn Hannah George Rewega Right of Civil Action Act.
The Bill would have allowed a child to commence an action against the
mother for injuries sustained in a traffic accident that occurred prior
to birth. The daughter, who was three years old at the time the petition
was submitted, is alleged to have suffered brain damage and blindness as
a result of a single vehicle accident which occurred when her mother was
pregnant. The Bill would have allowed the father, on behalf of the child,
to bring a civil action against the mother for damages arising from the
accident. Such an action is prohibited by the common law. The Bill died
on the Order Paper upon the calling of the provincial election in 2004.
A virtually identical Private Bill was introduced this session. The Department
of Justice expressed concerns with the Bill, in particular the issue of
maternal liability and the precedents which would be set with by the legislation.
Concerns were also expressed that the matter had not yet been fully litigated
which would encourage others to seek redress through private bills rather
than the judicial system. At the time of writing, the Committee decided
to defer its deliberations on the matter until the Fall Sitting.
On April 13, 2005, Shirley McClellan, Minister of Finance, presented the
Budget and the estimates for the 2005-06 fiscal year. Revenue for the
2005-06 fiscal year is estimated to be just over $27 billion and total
resource revenue is expected to be $7.68 billion. The Minister projected
total expenditures of $25.83 billion in 2005-06. Surplus revenue is estimated
to be $1.52 billion. The Budget increases the base budget for the Department
of Health and Wellness to $9.5 billion which accounts for 37 per cent of
the budget. Funding for Advanced Education (which oversees post-secondary
education programs) will increase by 13.4% to $1.7 billion while program
support for education will increase by 7 per cent for a total of $4.3 billion.
Funding for infrastructure programs will be increased to $9.2 billion
and municipalities across Alberta will receive a total of $3.1 billion
over the next three years.
Other elements of Budget 2005 include:
the Heritage Savings Trust Fund is to be inflation-proofed by adding $667
million over the next three years;
200 police officers will be added in 2005-06;
a projected economic growth rate of 3.7 per cent;
the assumption that prices will be $42.00 US a barrel for oil and $5.60
Cdn per thousand cubic feet for natural gas.
Select Special Committee
On March 8, 2005, the Legislative Assembly approved a motion to appoint
a Select Special Committee to review the Conflicts of Interest Act as required
by that Act. The all-party committee must submit its report, including
any proposed amendments to the Act, within one year of commencing its review.
Neil Brown (PC, Calgary-Nose Hill) will chair the committee.
On April 6, 2005, the Legislative Assembly approved a motion to allow for
a special sitting on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, so that Her Majesty, Queen
Elizabeth II may address the Assembly.
Speaker Kowalski hosted a ceremony recognizing the Muslim Festival of Eid-ul-Adha
in the Rotunda of the Alberta Legislature Building on February 7, 2005.
Eid-ul-Adha means the Festival of Sacrifice and is one of two festivals
celebrated by all Muslims worldwide.
On March 15, 2005, Speaker Kowalski hosted a ceremony in the Legislature
Building Rotunda recognizing Alberta's francophone community. Les Rendez-vous
de la Francophonie is a celebration of the province's French culture and
history. Joining Speaker Kowalski during the recognition ceremony were
Ralph Klein, Premier of Alberta; Harry Chase, MLA, Calgary-Varsity, representing
the Official Opposition; Brian Mason, MLA, Leader of the New Democrat Opposition;
Gene Johnson, President, Canadian Francophone Association of Alberta; and
Denis Ducharme, MLA, Bonnyville-Cold Lake, Chair, Francophone Secretariat.
A ceremony was held on April 25, 2005 in the Legislature Rotunda to unveil
the portrait of the former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Dr. Lois E.
Clerk of Journals/Table Research
House of Commons
Since the House resumed on January 31, 2005 the government has been under
continual attack from the opposition as the testimony of witnesses before
the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising
Activities (Gomery Commission) continued to fuel allegations against
the Liberal party and government.
The first budget of this 38th Parliament, presented by Finance Minister
Ralph Goodale on February 23, 2005, contained measures corresponding,
in some measure, to the concerns of each of the opposition parties; this
met with some success, as the Leader of the Opposition publicly opined
that there was nothing in it sufficient to justify the defeat of the
government. The other two opposition parties were more critical of measures
they considered to be inadequate to Canada's commitments under the Kyoto
This was the Liberals' eighth straight balanced budget and it included
a promise of $12.8 billion of government expenditure on the military during
the next five years, as well as $5 billion over the next five years for
national day care. The government committed itself to sharing gas tax revenues
with municipalities at the rate of 1.5 cents per litre, or $600 million
in 2005, rising to 5 cents a litre or $2 billion annually by 2009-2010.
A modest measure of tax relief was also offered in the form of a slight
increase in the personal exemption applicable to taxable income. As of
the end of April, the budget implementation bill (C-43) was still before
The minority Parliament has seen an unprecendented, and continually increasing,
volume of committee activity since February of this year; committees have
met more frequently, travelled more, and, in some cases, been the conduit
for challenges to the Government in the form of motions for concurrence
in committee reports recommending the resignation of the government.
The ongoing parliamentary inquiry of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts,
conducted pursuant to the Committee's mandate under Standing Order 108(3)(g)
a study of Chapters 3 (The Sponsorship Program), 4 (Advertising Activities)
and 5 (Management of Public Opinion Research) of the November 2003 Report
of the Auditor General of Canada), continued to gain momentum when the
Committee resumed meeting in February.
The Committee's ninth report (its second on this study), presented in the
House on April 7, 2005, contained 29 specific recommendations, among them,
That the government provide the Committee with an action plan that includes
target implementation and completion dates for the components of the Auditor
General's recommendation. A government response was requested, pursuant
to the provisions of Standing Order 109.
On April 11, 2005, the committee agreed to a motion That, in relation
to its study of Chapter 5 of the November 2003 Report of the Auditor General
of Canada, Terrie O'Leary, Warren Kinsella, David Herle and Peter Daniel
be summoned to appear before the Committee on Monday, April 18, 2005.
The testimony of these witnesses contributed significantly to the growing
storm of controversy in connection with allegations of corruption in relation
to the sponsorship program.
When the House adjourned at the end of April, the Committee was awaiting
a ruling from its Chair on the admissibility of a motion calling for the
resignation of the government.
Also noteworthy, is a study by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human
Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on the process whereby
judges are appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. In its seventh report,
presented in the House on April 21, 2005, the committee expressed its great
disappointment with regard to the reform proposed by the government and
recommended that it reconsider its position and come back to the Committee
before the end of June with a new and more ambitious reform proposal, including
a more important role for parliamentarians and the provinces.
Privilege and Procedure
On April 1, 2005, Procedural Services of the House of Commons, pursuant
to a recommendation of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs,
launched a system for the electronic submission of notices involving an
On February 18, 2005, the House adopted a motion approving numerous changes
to the Standing Orders to come into effect on March 7, 2005. These changes,
which are intended to streamline existing procedures, are to remain in
effect for the duration of the current parliament and during the first
sixty sitting days of the succeeding parliament. Highlights of these changes
include simplification of the rules governing lengths of speeches and splitting
of time during debates, new rules governing debates on concurrence in Committee
reports, an increase in the number of Supply Days for the supply period
ending June 23, 2005, and specification that every opposition motion now
be votable unless its sponsor decides otherwise.
On Wednesday, February 23, 2005, the Standing Committee on Procedure and
House Affairs presented its 28th Report on a Question of privilege raised
by Michel Guimond (Montmorency - Charlevoix - Haute-Côte-Nord) on November
22, 2004. The question of privilege concerned the usurpation of the title
of Member of Parliament by Serge Marcil who had represented the riding
of Beauharnois - Salaberry in the 37th Parliament. On Tuesday, November
23, 2004, the Speaker ruled that an advertisement placed in Mr. Marcil's
name constituted a prima facie breach of privilege and the matter was referred
to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Committee's
report concluded that the advertisement was published in error, and that
there was no intention on the part of any of the parties to misrepresent
Mr. Marcil as the Member for Beauharnois - Salaberry. A motion to concur
in the report was moved and agreed to.
Of the 46 bills on the Order Paper for the first session of the 38th Parliament,
16 have received Royal Assent, and six have been passed by the House and
are currently under consideration by the Senate.
On February 1, 2005 the Government introduced Bill C-38, An Act respecting
certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes (also
known as the same-sex marriage bill), on which Liberal Members not in
the cabinet were to be free to vote as they saw fit.
Other Bills introduced in the House since January 31, 2005 include:
C-40, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation
C-41, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the
public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005 (Appropriation
Act No. 4, 2004-2005);
C-42, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the
public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2006 (Appropriation
Act No. 1, 2005-2006);
C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament
on February 23, 2005;
C-44, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety
Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments
to other Acts;
C-45, An Act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in
respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments
to certain Acts; and
C-46, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the
Two bills were negatived on division in the House on February 14, 2005:
Bill C-31, An Act to establish the Department of International Trade and
to make related amendments to certain Acts; and
Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
This is the first time that government bills have been defeated since 1968.
A take-note debate was held in early February on the adoption of a report
by the Standing Committee on Finance on the balancing of budget priorities.
An emergency debate on the Canadian livestock industry took place in March.
On the morning of February 3, 2005, the Speaker drew the Members' attention
to the use of the wooden mace that is used once annually on the anniversary
of the 1916 fire that destroyed the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.
On the morning of Monday, March 7, 2005, representatives of all parties
in the House made short statements with respect to the tragic deaths of
four R.C.M.P. Officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, on March 3, 2005. After
drawing the attention of Members in the House to the presence in the gallery
of the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Giuliano Zaccardelli,
the Speaker invited all of the Members to rise for a minute of silence.
Table Research Branch
The Third Session of the Thirty-Eighth Legislature resumed on March 7,
2005. The Minister of Finance Greg Selinger (NDP - St. Boniface) delivered
his fifth budget address on March 8. The total operating expenditure for
the 2005-2006 Budget came in at $8.1 billion, an increase of 6.6% from
2004-2005. In his budget speech Mr. Selinger described the four key pillars
on which he based the 2005 budget.
1. Paying down debt
2. Making strategic investments
significant increases for health and education
eight per cent funding increase for City of Winnipeg
10 per cent tuition reduction continues for fifth straight year
40 additional police officers across Manitoba
3. Cutting taxes
six-year tax reductions total $500 million
personal income taxes cut by another $30 million
business taxes reduced by $54 million
4. Saving for the future
$314 million deposit into the Fiscal Stabilization Fund
budget is balanced under balanced budget law
$196-million projected surplus under the summary budget
During the second of eight days of debate on the budget Official Opposition
Leader Stuart Murray (PC - Kirkfield Park) moved a motion of non-confidence
as an amendment to the budget motion. The motion identified a range of
areas where the opposition felt the government had failed to act in the
best interests of the province, including:
failing to provide a long-term economic and tax reduction strategies;
failing to provide adequate funding for post-secondary institutions;
failing to provide relief for Manitoba's livestock producers and failing
to provide for sufficient slaughter capacity;
failing to provide a long-term plan for the reduction of health care waiting
failing to provide an opportunity for publicly funded health care services
in privately managed clinics;
failing to deal with record numbers of auto thefts and record numbers of
failing to provide a plan or strategy for dealing with gangs in Manitoba.
On the fifth day of the budget debate
Jon Gerrard (Independent Liberal
- River Heights) officially registered his disapproval of the budget through
a sub-amendment to Mr. Murray's non-confidence motion. Mr. Gerrard's motion
mentioned several other problems with the government's record, including
the failure to provide an effective plan to improve health and prevent
sickness, failing to provide an effective strategy to deal with child poverty,
failing to provide Manitobans with the legal right to timely, quality health
care, and failing to do any better than the previous Tory government in
improving the dental health of Manitoba children.
Neither the non-confidence motion nor the sub-amendment passed on the eighth
and last day of budget debate - March 17, 2005. On the same day, the main
budget motion passed on a recorded vote of yeas 34, nays 20.
While fifty Government and Private Bills had been introduced by the end
of April for consideration during this session, only a few had completed
their trip through the legislative labyrinth by that time.
One piece of legislation that did finish the journey by then was Bill 10
- The Pension Benefits Amendment Act. After detailed consideration in the
House and Committee, and unanimous passage of the Concurrence and Third
reading motion, this Bill received Royal Assent on April 19. The Bill made
extensive amendments to The Pension Benefits Act, incorporating consensus
recommendations of the Pension Commission of Manitoba and provisions based
on consultations with Manitoba citizens. The provisions relate to such
areas as minimum standards, ancillary benefits, phased retirement, surplus
and unlocking of balances held in locked-in retirement benefit plans.
During her second reading speech on December 8, 2004, Minister of Labour
Nancy Allan (NDP - St. Vital) indicated that the Bill represents the most
extensive amendments to the act in 20 years. She also noted that the amendments
to the Act generally can be described in terms of four key areas: providing
flexibility, clarifying requirements for the management of pension plans,
clarification of the treatment of pensions as family assets and pension
While a number of concerns emerged regarding the handling of this Bill
(some of which will be covered later in this report) opposition members
were generally supportive of the legislation. Ron Schuler (PC - Springfield),
the lead critic for the official opposition, had introduced a private member's
Bill on the same topic during the previous Session (Bill 212 - The Pension
Freedom Act, Pension Benefits Act Amended) and Bill 10 partially realized
the intentions of that Bill.
Matters of Privilege
As mentioned above, Bill 10 -
The Pension Benefits Amendment Act was the
object of much debate this session. In addition to the usual debates,
two matters of privilege were raised regarding the handling of the Bill.
On December 6, 2004 Ron Schuler raised the first matter regarding the holding
of an embargoed press conference that morning by the government on Bill
10. Mr. Schuler contended that the media had received a full briefing on
the bill, even though the bill had yet to be introduced into the House,
and that he as the critic had been contacted by the media for comments
on the bill but could not comment as he had not been present at the briefing,
nor had he even been aware that the briefing had taken place. Referencing
a number of Manitoba precedents (as well as House of Commons Rulings and
several procedural authorities) on March 21 the Speaker found no prima
facie case of privilege.
Along with his ruling, however, the Speaker strongly urged the government
to reflect on the information that I have presented to the House in this
ruling, and to not take the finding of no prima facie case of privilege
as an endorsement that this type of activity is acceptable. He added that
should a similar situation occur in the future, I, as Speaker, would look
at all of the evidence presented most carefully. In addition, the subject
of the holding of press conferences of this type is one that could also
be considered by the Standing Committee on the Rules of the House, given
that the technology of communication has changed significantly over the
past 20 years.
The House heard a second matter of privilege related to Bill 10 on April
12, 2005, when Mr. Derkach stood in his place and spoke regarding comments
he attributed to Premier Gary Doer (NDP - Concordia) on a local radio show
that morning. Mr. Derkach asserted that the First Minister had said on
the radio program that the opposition members in the House were holding
up passage of Bill 10 (at that point the Bill was listed under Debate on
Second Readings after having been introduced in the House on December 6,
2004 and having had second reading moved on December 8, 2004). He concluded
his remarks by moving THAT this House in today's sitting deal with Bill
10 and that the First Minister, the Premier, apologize to all Manitobans
for his statements which did not parallel the truth. Supported by references
from Beauchesne and Marleau and Montpetit (as well as numerous Manitoba
Speakers' rulings), on April 20 the Speaker ruled that he had no authority
to rule on statements made outside of the House, and therefore could find
no prima facie case of privilege in this matter.
During Oral Questions on March 10, 2005, the House heard a matter of privilege
on a different topic when John Loewen (PC - Fort Whyte) rose concerning
comments made by Tim Sale (NDP - Fort Rouge - Minister of Health), in a
newspaper article dated December 26, 2004, in which the honourable Minister
of Health was quoted as stating that the Health budget had been purposely
underfunded. Mr. Loewen asserted that his rights and privileges as a member
had been breached, that obstruction and interference had occurred and that
an improper reflection on the House as a whole had occurred. He concluded
his comments by moving a motion that the matter be referred to Committee
and that the Minister be requested to apologize.
In addition to Manitoba precedents and other authorities, when the Speaker
ruled on March 23 that he could find no prima facie case of privilege he
also referenced portions of the 50th Report of the House of Commons Standing
Committee on Procedure and House Affairs from 2002 (dealing with an examination
into allegations that the former Minister of Defence had misled the House).
The Speaker concluded his ruling with an excerpt from Parliamentary Practice
in New Zealand; It must be established that the Member making the statement
knew at the time that the statement was made that it was incorrect, and
that in making it, the Member intended to mislead the House.
Private Member's Resolutions
In a notable display of harmony, the House recently passed two Private
Member's Resolutions with unanimous support.
On April 21, Len Derkach (PC - Russell) moved a resolution, seconded by
Doug Martindale (NDP - Burrows) regarding Democracy in Ukraine. The significant
choice of the seconder reflected the fact that both Mr. Derkach and Mr.
Martindale had travelled to Ukraine to participate as election observers
during the December 26, 2004 vote. The resolution called on the Assembly
to congratulate the citizens of Ukraine for their determination and resolve
to establish a free and fair election process in that country; and also
to congratulate the new President and the new Prime Minister of Ukraine
for their commitment to establish a democratic government within Ukraine.
The ensuing debate elicited great interest from Members on all sides of
the House. Mr. Derkach and Mr. Martindale both reflected on their experiences
during the election, while several members noted the values and virtues
of democracy, observing that it should never be taken for granted.
With a number of World War II veterans in the Gallery, on April 28, 2005
Bonnie Korzeniowski (NDP - St. James) moved a resolution celebrating the
60th Anniversary of VE-Day. While noting the immense toll of the greatest
and most destructive war in history, this resolution called upon the Assembly
to express our deepest sympathies and thanks for the sacrifices of those
Canadians who joined the forces and those that supported the war effort
on the home base. The resolution also called on all generations and
governments to be involved in the ongoing struggle for world peace and
social justice. So many members wished to speak to the resolution that
the House agreed to sit beyond its usual hour of recess to allow them time
to share their thoughts. Glen Cummings (PC - Ste. Rose) aptly concluded
the debate, encapsulating the feelings of gratitude for the veterans with
the observation that I come from a generation that has been absolutely
privileged because of what they did. Moments later the House unanimously
passed the resolution.
Barring an emergency, according to the rules the House will sit until Thursday,
June 9, 2005 before rising for the summer break.
Clerk Assistant /
Clerk of Committees
The Spring session of the Assembly opened on March 14th. The session was
a resumption of the 1st session that began in 2004 and continued during
a short Fall sitting. The 2005 sitting began with statements of condolence
in remembrance of the four RCMP officers who were killed in the line of
duty in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. The Assembly held a number of debates and
ceremonies during the session marking significant events. These included:
An emergency debate calling on the federal government to respect the principle
of equity in the treatment of provincial energy revenues and immediately
begin negotiations on a Saskatchewan Energy Accord that guarantees 100%
protection from Equalization claw backs on energy revenues and on reforming
the determination of entitlements and fiscal disparities under the national
Equalization program. The motion was adopted.
The Assembly hosted a ceremony in the Chamber awarding the Saskatchewan
Volunteer Medal to twelve exceptional individuals.
On May 2nd, Saskatchewan Olympians and Paralympians were recognized by
Two Private Members achieved the distinction of piloting bills through
the Assembly. Greg Brkich (Arm River Watrous) introduced The Recognition
of John George Diefenbaker Day Act that declared the September 18th anniversary
of the birth of the first Prime Minister to hail from Saskatchewan as John
George Diefenbaker Day in recognition his contributions to Canada. The
Tommy Douglas Day Act was sponsored by Warren McCall (Regina Elphinstone
Centre). This Act similarly chose the anniversary of Mr. Douglas' birth
of October 20th as the day on which to remember his work and contributions
to the province.
On March 23rd, Finance Minister
Harry Van Mulligen delivered the NDP government's
twelfth consecutive balanced budget. The central theme of the Centennial
budget was Building for the next 100 years by investing in priorities.
These included record funding for health and education, enhanced social
programs, measures to build the economy and an increased capital budget
to build for future generations.
Ken Cheveldayoff (Saskatoon Silver Springs), the Opposition Finance critic,
challenged the budget, claiming that it lacked vision. Noting that government
revenues had increased over the previous year, the Opposition proposed
an amendment to the Budget motion listing a number of alternatives areas
in which investments could have been made.
At the conclusion of the debate, the amendment was defeated and the original
motion adopted. Following the precedent set last year, the bulk of the
estimates were then referred to the policy field committees for consideration.
The remaining estimates, including those for the Departments of Agriculture
and Food, Executive Council, Government Relations, Health and Learning,
were retained in the Committee of Finance (a Committee of the Whole).
Access to technical briefings was a contentious issue during the Spring
session. The first instance occurred on March 22nd when the Opposition
wrote to the Speaker concerned that they would be denied access to a technical
briefing on the budget. The government's position was that the briefing
was intended only for the media. The matter was later resolved outside
of the Chamber when the government agreed to provide a separate briefing
for the Opposition.
Subsequently on April 11th,
Rod Gantefoer (Melfort), the Opposition House
Leader, raised a question of privilege concerning the denial of access
of Members or their staff from a technical briefing on the 2004 annual
report of the Saskatchewan Water Corporation. The basis of Mr. Gantefoer's
argument was a 2001 ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons that
found that the denial of Members or their staff to an embargoed technical
briefing for media on a bill constituted a prima facie contempt of Parliament.
The Speaker's finding was later supported and reinforced by a review conducted
on the matter by the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Procedure
and House Affairs.
Noting that the Saskatchewan Assembly had no precedents directly on point,
Speaker Myron Kowalsky accepted the relevance of the principle set out
in the Commons ruling. The fact that the Ottawa precedent dealt with a
bill and not a report or a budget, did not refute the principle that nothing
should be done that disadvantages or impedes Members from carrying out
their parliamentary functions. Accordingly, it was his opinion that it
would be appropriate for the Assembly to consider which direction it wished
to take in this matter.
Mr. Gantefoer then moved his motion calling for the Executive Council staff
members who had denied the Opposition access to the briefing to be found
in contempt of the Assembly and that in the future, Opposition Members
and their staff would be allowed access to any embargoed news conference
or technical briefing provided by the Government and Crown corporations
that was open to the media. A debate ensued before the Government House
Leader Harry Van Mulligen moved an amendment referring the matter to the
Standing Committee on Privileges. The debate concluded with the committee
being directed to report back within one week.
The deliberations in the committee failed to resolve the question and the
matter ended up before the Assembly for a second time. On May 2nd, the
government introduced a motion proposing a solution to the matter. The
proposal included three points:
Firstly, the Assembly requested the Government to instruct its officials
and Crown corporations to acknowledge and respect the rights and privileges
of all MLAs;
Secondly, all technical briefings and news conferences that dealt with
matters to be considered by the Assembly were to be made available to all
MLAs and their staff in advance of or concurrently with any media briefings;
Thirdly, any technical briefing that was provided to the media that excluded
MLAs or their staff would not be considered a breach of privilege as long
as an advance or concurrent technical briefing was provided to the MLAs
and their staff.
The Opposition proposed an amendment condemning the Government for refusing
to permit Members and their staff access to any embargoed news conferences
or technical briefings open to the media. The debate continued throughout
the afternoon before the amendment was put to the House and defeated. Subsequently,
the original motion was adopted.
The Assembly has completed one full year of operation under the new Rules
adopted in 2004, including the reorganization of House committees. To date,
committee activity has focused on the review of bills, estimates and reports
of Crown corporations. It is anticipated that the second year of operation
will afford the committees the opportunity to address other matters under
their purview, including the review of regulations, public hearings on
legislation and inquiries.
Provincial Centennial Celebrations
2005 is the 100th anniversary of Saskatchewan's entry into confederation
as a province. The Assembly marked the milestone with a special commemorative
debate during the opening week of the Spring session. The text of the motion
reflected the sentiments that echoed through the Members' remarks:
That this Legislative Assembly mark the first sitting in our centennial
year by honouring Saskatchewan our rich history of traditions and diverse
cultural fabric; our innovative thinking, community spirit and collective
pride; our past accomplishments and future opportunities; and all of our
people, places and perspectives that make ours such a well-respected province
and will provide the foundation to build a bright and prosperous future.
The official birthday falls on September 4th although celebrations will
span the entire calendar year. Fulfilling the centennial slogan 100 Years
of Heart, the activities, events and projects planned range across a broad
spectrum from high profile events like the Centennial Gala and sporting
events like the Jeux Canada Games to local town and family homecomings.
Examples of the special events and activities that will commemorate the
Special commemorations for the province's centenarians and newborns;
A centennial song has been written and recorded;
Commemorative merchandise such as an official symbol, clothing, pins and
license plates have been developed;
The Saskatchewan Centennial Medal will be awarded to recognize those individuals
who have made significant contributions to society;
The SaskPower Shand Power Plant has grown a special crop of the provincial
flower, the Western Red Lily, for distribution and planting throughout
A Centennial website has been launched that outlines the opportunities
on offer, from grants and initiatives available for community events, to
youth initiatives like the Peace Project and Theresa Sokirka's Great Centennial
Road Trip, to planning resources to organize your own centennial event.
The site also contains a light-hearted list of 100 reasons to celebrate.
The Centennial festivities will also include a visit to the province by
the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh from May 17th to 20th. During their stay
in Saskatchewan, they will unveil a Golden Jubilee statue of Her Majesty
on Burmese and a centennial mural at the Legislative Building, visit the
First Nations University of Canada, and tour the Canadian Light Source
Synchrotron at the University of Saskatchewan.
Upgrades to the Legislative Building
After 27 years of service, the original audio system in the Chamber has
been replaced with a modern digital audio system. The old system had been
increasingly prone to failures and serious problems due to its aging circuitry.
Planning for the project took place in the fall of 2004 with implementation
delayed until after the fall session. Then in early December, the old system
was decommissioned and dismantled. Installation of the new equipment, including
modern microphones and speakers on each desk, followed in the New Year.
Testing and fine tuning of the system continuing into the early days of
the Spring session. Improvements to the quality of sound in the galleries
were also achieved by the installation of new speakers.
The final component of the project was the upgrading of electrical and
data wiring. Electricity was brought to each Member's desk so that laptop
computers no longer have to rely on battery power. A computer data jack
was also added to the desk top console. This jack will provide Members
with reliable access to the Internet, where before they had to rely on
the wireless internet access service that was provided.
The desks used by Members in the Chamber are the original structures designed
by the Legislative Building architects in the early 20th century. All changes
to the Members' desk were carried out in conformity with provincial Heritage
Property guidelines. Wherever possible, the original pieces were incorporated
into the renovations. For example, a brass cover that previously covered
an inkwell has been configured to flip open to allow Members to stow their
electrical cords inside the desk and feed the end up to a laptop on the
The second noticeable change in the Legislative Building was the April
opening of the Cumberland Gallery Gift Shop. The shop features products
that promote the Legislative Assembly and showcases the talents of artisans
within the province and Canada. Artistic interpretations of First Nations
people will also be highlighted.
The gift shop is a collaboration between the Assembly, the Royal Saskatchewan
Museum Associates and the Department of Saskatchewan Property Management
and represents the culmination of efforts over several years to provide
this service. Funds generated from the initiative will support the ongoing
efforts of the Associates, including public programming within the Royal
Margaret (Meta) Woods
The Third Session of the Fifteenth Legislative Assembly prorogued on March
10, 2005. Noteworthy House business included the passage of the 2005-2006
Budget, the third and final Bill establishing self-government for the Tlicho
people of the North Slave, a Bill amalgamating two investment and business
development arms of the Government of the Northwest Territories, and a
Bill giving the same rights and obligations to people in different spousal
relationships as those in traditional spousal relationships. A total of
seven Bills received assent on March 10th:
The Tlicho Community Services Agency Act (Bill 15) establishes an Agency,
to perform functions related to education, health and social services in
Tlicho communities and on Tlicho lands. The Agency is required by the Tlicho
Intergovernmental Services Agreement made under the Tlicho Land Claims
and Self-Government Agreement.
The Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation
Act (Bill 16) creates a Corpoation whose purpose is to support the economic
objectives of the Government of the Northwest Territories by encouraging
the creation and development of business enterprises and by providing information
and financial assistance to, and making investments in, such enterprises.
The Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act (Bill 17) amends several
Acts to ensure that references to spouse appropriately capture persons
who live in spousal relationships outside marriage, so that the rights
or obligations provided for or imposed under those Acts are equitably applied
to persons in different forms of spousal relationships, including same-sex
An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act (Bill 18) repeals the requirement
that territorial court judges and deputy territorial judges cease to hold
office at age 65, subject to reappointment. The ultimate requirement that
such judges cease to hold office at 75 is retained.
The Appropriation Act 2005-2006 (Bill 19) and the Supplementary Appropriation
Act, No. 3, 2004-2005 (Bill 20 ) authorize the Government of the Northwest
Territories to make operations expenditures and capital investment expenditures
for the 2005-2006 fiscal year and supplementary appropriations for 2004-2005.
An Act to Amend the Public Service Act (Bill 21) provides for the appointment
of Staffing Review Officers who will hear appeals of appointments made
by competition, and to authorize the enactment of regulations governing
Finance Minister Floyd Roland (Inuvik - Boot Lake) introduced his second
budget of the Fifteenth Assembly on February 10, 2005. The next four weeks
proved eventful as Members debated the merits of a budget that they reviewed
in draft estimate form in Standing Committees in January. Much of the
enlivened debate revolved around issues associated with the proposed closure
of Justice facilities in Hay River and Inuvik. There was a considerable
divergence of opinion between Regular Members and the Minister of Justice
regarding the anticipated savings resulting from the closures and the methodology
by which the projected savings were calculated.
The 2005-2006 Budget also reflected the division of the Department of Resources,
Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED) into the Departments of Industry,
Tourism and Investment (ITI) and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR)
effective on April 1, 2005. This move separates the opposing mandates of
environmental protection and economic development, which formerly co-existed
Committee Review of Election Report
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures reported on its public review
of the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the Administration of the
2003 General Election on February 17, 2005. Among the Chief Electoral Officer's
recommendations considered by the Committee were options for a fixed election
date, enhanced public education regarding the electoral process and a comprehensive
administrative review of the Elections Act. In its report the Rules Committee
endorsed the CEO's recommendations in their entirety and after some debate
they were adopted by the House. The most noteworthy is the recommendation
to amend the necessary legislation to allow for a fixed election date for
general elections. Future general elections in the Northwest Territories
will occur on the first Monday in October every four years, beginning in
As a result of the creation of an additional department, and in an effort
to rebalance workloads, the Premier, Joe Handley (Weledeh) announced a
series of Cabinet re-assignments on March 17th. David Krutko (Mackenzie
Delta) assumed responsibility for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation
from the Premier and was relieved of responsibility for the Workers' Compensation
Board, which was given to Charles Dent (Frame Lake). Mr. Dent also retained
the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, while passing on responsibility
for the Department of Justice to Brendan Bell (Yellowknife South). Effective
April 1, 2005, Mr. Bell, formerly the Minister of RWED, also became Minister
of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Michael Miltenberger (Thebacha)
was given responsibility for Environment and Natural Resources in addition
to continuing as Minister of Health and Social Services.
Standing Committee Re-assignments
On March 10, 2005 Robert Villeneuve (Tu Nedhe) moved a motion to appoint
the newest Member, Robert McLeod (Inuvik Twin Lakes) to the Standing
Committee on Accountability and Oversight and the Standing Committee on
Social Programs and to facilitate a number of Committee re-assignments:
Robert Hawkins (Yellowknife Centre) was moved to the Standing Committee
on Governance and Economic Development from the Social Programs Committee;
Robert McLeod replaced Norman Yakeleya (Sahtu) as an alternate Member of
the Governance and Economic Development Committee; and Mr.Yakeleya replaced
Mr. Villeneuve as an alternate on the Board of Management.
Former Member of the Legislative Assembly, Minister, Speaker, Sergeant-at-Arms,
and most recently the Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories,
Anthony (Tony) Whitford was sworn in as the Fifteenth Commissioner of the
Northwest Territories on April 29, 2005. Mr. Whitford replaces the Glenna
Hansen whose term expired on April 6, 2005.
On February 11, 2005 the House passed a motion appointing
Glen McLean as
the Chief Electoral Officer of the Northwest Territories until June 30,
2008. Mr. McLean had been serving as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer
since 1996. His appointment follows the resignation of former CEO David
Hamilton in late 2004.
On February 21, 2005 the House appointed, by motion,
Shannon Gullberg as
the Commissioner of Official Languages of the Northwest Territories pursuant
to Section 18 of the Official Languages Act of the Northwest Territories.
The appointment commenced on February 22, 2005 and is a four-year term
under the Act. Mrs. Gullberg brings a wealth of experience to the office,
having served as legal counsel to the previous Languages Commissioner.
The Fourth Session of the Fifteenth Legislative Assembly of the Northwest
Territories will convene at 1:30 PM MST on Wednesday, May 25, 2005.
Clerk of Committees
Prince Edward Island
The Legislative Assembly opened for the Second Session of the Sixty-second
General Assembly on November 18, 2004. It adjourned to the call of the
Speaker on December 16, 2004, after 17 sitting days, and was recalled on
April 6, 2005.
Two of the more significant pieces of legislation considered during the
An Act to Amend the Tobacco Sales to Minors Act prohibits the sale of tobacco
in designated places, which would include health care facilities, government
buildings, schools, and recreational facilities. The Act also prohibits
tobacco from being sold in vending machines or in any sort of self-service
display. A further section, which will come into effect June 1, 2005, provides
for the designation of pharmacies and certain retail stores as places where
tobacco products may not be sold.
The Renewable Energy Act requires a public utility to obtain a prescribed
amount of its electric energy from renewable energy sources each year.
This provision will have effect in 2010, when a minimum of 15% of a utility's
electric energy must be obtained from renewable or green sources. The
legislation also sets out requirements for public utilities to complete
demand side management plans, with the goal of reducing the intensity of
the peak demand for electric energy. Finally, the Act allows small capacity
renewable energy generators to enter into net-metering system agreements
with public utilities.
Resignation of Information and Privacy Commissioner
Karen Rose, the province's first Information and Privacy Commissioner,
resigned from her position in April 2005, citing personal reasons. In making
the announcement, Speaker Greg Deighan congratulated her for a job well
done and thanked her for her professionalism in carrying out her duties.
Ms. Rose had held the position since November 2002, and was responsible
for administering the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy
Act. A replacement for Ms. Rose will be appointed in the near future. The
Standing Committee on Legislative Management has responsibility for recommending
to the Legislative Assembly a person for appointment as Information and
Privacy Commissioner, which must be supported by at least two-thirds of
the Members voting before being confirmed.
Retirement of Chief Electoral Officer
The province's Chief Electoral Officer,
Merrill Wigginton, retired on April
30, 2005. He had served in the post for the past 19 years. Many would agree
that his finest hours came during the General Election of 2003, when Hurricane
Juan hit the province in the early hours of election day. The province
experienced widespread power-outages and property damage. Schools, government
offices and businesses were closed due to thousands of fallen trees and
damaged power lines. A full two-thirds of the polls remained without power
for the entire day, with ballots being counted by kerosene lantern and
candlelight. Despite this, voter turnout, at just over 83%, was down only
slightly from the General Election in 2000, a tribute to Mr. Wigginton's
equanimity and composure in the face of disaster. In true busman's holiday
fashion, Mr. Wigginton left immediately upon retirement for British Columbia
to assist in that province's provincial General Election and vote on proportional
Lowell Croken, former Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, who has served with
Elections PEI since 1996, has been named as Acting Chief Electoral Officer.
Commission on PEI's Electoral Future
In January 2005, the Commission on PEI's Electoral Future was created in
response to recommendations in the Electoral Reform Commission report which
was released in 2003 (available in its entirety at www.assembly.pe.ca).
The eight-member Commission is composed of one representative from each
of the three political parties registered for the 2003 provincial General
Election, one person from each of the four federal electoral districts
in the province, as selected by the Standing Committee on Legislative Management,
and one person as chair, also selected by the Standing Committee on Legislative
The Commission on PEI's Electoral Future will be responsible for developing
and conducting a public education program to increase awareness of the
present first- past-the-post electoral system and, as an alternative, a
mixed-member proportional system. The Commission will also develop the
wording of the question as to which system Islanders prefer to be presented
in a future plebiscite. The timing of the plebiscite will be a recommendation
from the Commission to the Legislative Assembly.
Commissioners started meeting in March 2005 and plan a series of public
meetings in the fall of 2005. The pros and cons of both a mixed member
proportional system and the first-past-the-post system will be presented
to the public at the meetings. It is anticipated that significant discussion
and debate will result.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Matters
The twenty-seventh CPA Canadian Regional Parliamentary Seminar will be
hosted by the Prince Edward Island Branch in Summerside, Prince Edward
Island, from October 20-23, 2005. Invitations and registration forms will
be sent out to all jurisdictions in the near future.
Speaker Deighan represented the Canadian Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary
Association at the 2005 Executive Committee Mid-year Meeting in Sydney,
Australia, in April 2005.
Littles in the Legislature
Members of the Legislative Assembly hosted 25 children on April 12, 2005,
in a pilot program called Take a Little to the Legislature. Members of
Big Brothers Big Sisters got a close-up look at the workings of government
and the provincial legislature. Each MLA was matched for the day with one
young person from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Edward Island
organization. The youths had a tour of the Official Opposition offices
in the morning and then visited the Premier's office before going to Government
House, where pizza was served on silver platters to the delight of all
the guests. In the afternoon, it was off to the Public Gallery at Province
House, and each Little was welcomed and introduced by his or her respective
MLA. The day was a great success and garnered a great deal of positive
interest in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and its work.
Clerk Assistant and
Clerk of Committees
The House returned early from the winter recess and started its spring
session on February 14, 2005.
John Tory, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario won
the by-election held in the riding of Dufferin-Peel-Wellington- Grey after
the resignation of the incumbent member and former Premier, Ernie Eves.
Mr. Tory won his seat on March 17, 2005 and took his seat in the House
on March 29, 2005.
Elizabeth Witmer, MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo is Deputy Leader and Caucus
Chair for the Progressive Conservatives. Two PC members, John Baird, MPP
for Nepean-Carleton and Jim Flaherty, MPP for Whitby-Ajax, have announced
their intention to run in the next federal election. NDP MPP Marilyn Churley,
member for Toronto-Danforth, has also announced she will seek nomination
to run federally in her neighboring riding of Beaches-East York.
The House has been busy with legislation throughout the spring sitting.
Legislation to create and control a Greenbelt Plan for development around
the Golden Horseshoe area of southern Ontario received Royal Assent. The
legislation intends to create and preserve more than a million acres of
green space to permanently protect agricultural lands and green space while
targeting growth and curbing urban sprawl.
The Ontario Heritage Amendment Act received Royal Assent. The Act, among
other things, gives municipalities more tools and flexibility to prevent
the destruction of heritage properties and increase protection for marine
heritage and archaeological resources.
The Minister of Energy has introduced several pieces of legislation and
initiatives intended to address the pressing concerns around the cost,
availability and delivery of reliable electricity supplies to the province.
With a commitment to close all coal fired generating stations by 2007
and a need to replace 25,000 megawatts of generating capacity within 20
years which represents 80% of the current generating capacity of the province,
the legislative framework is being put in place to foster a culture of
conservation, allow price to reflect the true cost of generation and delivery,
and encourage private investment to participate to help address current
and long term needs. A Conservation Bureau with a Chief Energy Conservation
Officer has been established and the coal-fired Lakeview Generating Station,
which was the biggest single source of air pollution in the Greater Toronto
Area was closed at the end of April.
By a voice vote, the Legislature passed legislation to amend more than
70 statutes to bring them in line with Court decisions that found same-sex
marriage to be constitutional. The legislation also clarifies that religious
institutions need not perform marriages that are inconsistent with their
The Attorney-General introduced legislation to create a Citizens' Assembly
on Electoral Reform to examine Ontario's electoral system. If recommendations
are made to change the electoral system, a referendum would be held on
the alternative. A Citizens' Jury on Political Finance would make recommendations
on how political parties and election campaigns are financed. The legislation
would also fix election dates at every four years and increase the number
of ridings in the province from 103 to 107.
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy elected Dr.
Shafiq Qaadri as the
new Chair on December 16, 2004. The Committee considered and reported on
Bill 110, An Act to require the disclosure of information to police respecting
persons being treated for gunshot wounds and Bill 158, An Act to replace
the Theatres Act and to amend other Acts in respect of film. In April,
the Committee began public consultations on Bill 128, An Act to amend various
Acts with respect to enforcement powers, penalties and the management of
property forfeited, or that may be forfeited, to the Crown in right of
Ontario as a result of organized crime, marijuana growing and other unlawful
The House referred Bill 163,
An Act to amend the City of Ottawa Act, 1999
to the Standing Committee on General Government on March 1, 2005. The Committee
met for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 163 on March 2, 2005. The
Bill amends the City of Ottawa Act, 1999 and requires the city to adopt
a policy respecting the use of the English and French languages in all
or specified parts of the administration of the city and in the provision
of all or specified municipal services by the city. Bill 163 was reported
back to the House without amendment on March 2, 2005 and received Royal
Assent on March 9, 2005.
In April and May of 2005, the Standing Committee on General Government
held back-to-back public hearings in Toronto. Public hearings were held
on Bill 136, An Act respecting the establishment of growth plan areas and
growth plans, followed by public hearings on Bill 155, An Act to amend
the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996 and
to make consequential amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation
The Standing Committee on Social Policy met for clause-by-clause consideration
of Bill 118, An Act respecting the development, implementation and enforcement
of standards relating to accessibility with respect to goods, services,
facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings and all other things specified
in the Act for persons with disabilities for five days and reported the
bill back to the House with amendments. The Committee then met for three
days of public hearings including one day of hearings in Kitchener, Ontario
for Bill 144, An Act to amend certain statutes relating to labour relations.
Clause-by-clause consideration was completed in one day and the bill was
reported to the House with amendments. Bill 183, An Act respecting the
disclosure of information and records to adopted persons and birth parents
has been referred for consideration.
The Second Session of the Fifty-fifth Legislature resumed Wednesday, March
30, 2005, when Finance Minister Jeannot Volpé (Madawaska-les-Lacs) brought
down the 2005-2006 Budget.
The budget focused on the five objectives set out in last year's budget:
record investment in health and senior care (increased by $163.1 million
to $2.3 billion); and education (increased by $38.5 million to $1.2 billion)
further tax relief for small businesses (small business corporate income
tax rate will be lowered to one per cent and the income threshold will
be increased to $500,000); more capital investment and new community economic
development programs (capital expenditures for roads, highways, hospitals,
schools and other priorities will increase three times faster than all
other program spending, to help create jobs and better public infrastructure);
no raise in or creation of any new taxes;
stronger value for taxpayers by saving money in back-office government
operations in order to reinvest in front-line government services; and
the budget is balanced with a surplus of $98.9 million and a reduction
in net debt of $4.0 million; gross consolidated revenue is projected to
be $6.109 billion, up 2.9 per cent from revised 2004-2005 estimates; gross
consolidated expenditure is estimated at $6.105 billion, up 3.7 per cent
from last year.
Education spending will include funding for K-12, initiatives under the
Quality Learning Agenda, 85 more teaching positions, the second year of
the pilot laptop research program, quality technology infrastructure enhancement,
and increased investments in universities and community colleges.
Health and wellness spending is increased for Medicare, hospital services,
ambulance services, prescription drug program, promotion of healthy living
for children and youth in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and
healthy eating, tobacco cessation, mental health and resiliency, nursing
programs, and support for families, children, persons with disabilities
and seniors. Social assistance rates will increase by 6% over the next
three years the largest increase since 1991; nursing homes, by 9.1%;
support agencies by 10% over the next three years; and an investment of
$11.8 million in the Early Childhood Development Agenda.
The budget provides an additional $11 million in tax relief: all provincial
income tax credit amounts and tax brackets have been indexed to protect
against inflation effective January 1, 2005.
In his response to the Budget speech, Opposition Finance Critic
Murphy (Liberal, Moncton North) claimed that the government had failed
to promote economic development and to create jobs with growing wages.
He criticized the budget: What did we get from this government? What did
we get as tools for growth? We got stealth taxation higher property taxes
through higher assessments. We got higher power rates. We got price shock
in insurance. We got more financial fiascos. We got less health care and
less belief in our people.
On April 7 during the Budget Debate, Opposition Leader
Shawn Graham (Kent)
moved a non-confidence amendment to the motion THAT this House approves
in general the budgetary policy of the government. During the debate,
Eric Allaby (Liberal, Fundy Isles) moved that the question be now put on
the opposition amendment that this House no longer has confidence in the
Government. In ruling the motion out of order, Deputy Speaker Trevor Holder
(PC, Saint John Portland), ruled that it was clear that the Standing Rules
and the parliamentary references referred to the moving of the previous
question on the original motion and not on the amendment.
In closing the Budget Debate on April 15, Premier
Bernard Lord (Moncton
East) announced a tuition cash-back program which will allow students enrolled
in post-secondary education who live and work in the province to have one-half
their tuition costs to a $10,000 lifetime maximum rebated against their
provincial income tax anytime up to 20 years from when the first year credit
is earned, effective January 2005.
Three Bills received Royal Assent on April 14:
Bill 11, An Act Respecting Rural Communities, introduced by Environment
and Local Government Minister Brenda Fowlie (Kennebecasis) will allow rural
communities to choose their own form of local government. The Rural Community
Model calls for an elected council chaired by a mayor and will provide,
at a minimum, community planning services upon being established. The province
will continue to provide other local services until rural communities are
ready to assume these services themselves and will continue to provide
services in local service districts that choose not to become part of a
rural community. This initiative is part of the provincial government's
response to the recommendations of the Report of the Select Committee on
Local Governance and Regional Collaboration, tabled in 2003.
Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Legal Aid Act, introduced by Justice Minister
Brad Green (Fredericton South), will establish a New Brunswick Legal Aid
Services Commission to administer criminal and domestic legal aid services
to ensure that New Brunswickers eligible for legal aid will continue to
have access to the court system. The commission, which will report to the
Legislative Assembly through the Minister of Justice and be audited annually
by the Auditor General, will be governed by a board of directors appointed
by the provincial Cabinet and will operate at arms length from the Minister
of Justice and Attorney General.
Bill 36, An Act to Amend the Liquor Control Act, introduced by Public Safety
Minister Wayne Steeves (Albert) provides that if a liquor licence holder
does not comply with the provisions of the Smoke-free Places Act, and is
convicted of an offence, the minister will be able, without a hearing,
to suspend or cancel the liquor licence.
On April 12 the House adopted a motion recommending the appointment of
Patrick A.A. Ryan as Conflict of Interest Commissioner for a term of five
years. Mr. Justice Ryan has had a distinguished career as a Judge of the
Court of Queen's Bench and as a Justice of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick.
The House also expressed its appreciation to retiring Commissioner Stuart
G. Stratton, New Brunswick's first Conflict of Interest Commissioner, for
his professional and dedicated service.
On April 26, Speaker Bev Harrison (Hampton Belleisle) drew the attention
of Members to the return of the magnificent chandeliers after a two-year
restoration project. Both the north and south chandeliers were restored
after the latter crashed on the Chamber floor in November of 2002 during
On April 26, the Standing Committee on Law Amendments, chaired by
Carr, (PC, Oromocto-Gagetown) recommended that two opposition private member's
public Bills referred to the Committee Bill 2, Volunteer Protection Act;
and Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act not proceed.
Bill 2, introduced during the previous session by Opposition Leader
Graham (Kent), attempts to protect volunteers from being personally liable
for damages caused by them and attempts to provide legal protection to
people who give their time free of charge to worthwhile causes. The committee
agreed with the intent of the Bill but recommended that it not proceed
in its current form.
Bill 5, also introduced last session by the Opposition Leader, proposes
to create loss of earnings benefits for all volunteer firefighters, whether
employed in another profession or not. It would also create a presumptive
provision stating that if full-time firefighters are diagnosed with certain
types of cancers, it would be deemed to be an occupational disease. The
committee recommended that the Bill not proceed as it did not adequately
accomplish its objectives.
The Select Committee on Health Care chaired by
Claude Williams (PC, Kent
South) had under consideration Bill 60, Health Charter of Rights and Responsibilities,
introduced by Health Minister Elvy Robichaud (Tracadie-Sheila) during the
Fifth Session of the 54th Legislature.
Bill 60 attempts to balance the rights and responsibilities of New Brunswickers
within the health care system and to accord a number of rights, among them,
the right to timely access of health care services, the right to make informed
decisions on health care, the right to receive relevant health care information
and the right to the investigation of complaints. After careful consideration
and public input, the Committee recommended the introduction of a revised
version of the Health Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Act.
On April 27, Speaker Harrison gave his third casting vote of the session,
negativing a motion for second reading of Bill 38, An Act Respecting the
Regional Health Authorities Act, introduced by Roly MacIntyre (Liberal,
Saint John Champlain). The Bill proposes that the CEOs of Regional Health
Authorities report to the boards rather than to the Minister of Health
On May 10 the Minister of Finance introduced Bill 45,
An Act Respecting
a Fair Deal for Cities and Communities in New Brunswick, stating that New
Brunswick is committed to ensuring equity between incorporated areas and
unincorporated areas in the allocation of gas tax funding when an agreement
is entered between the governments of Canada and New Brunswick under the
Fair Deal for Cities and Communities and that gas tax funding will provide
incorporated areas and unincorporated areas with a source of funding for
environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects.
For two successive weeks, question period was dominated by opposition calls
for the Minister of the Environment and Local Government to resign. Opposition
Members claimed that the Minister had violated the Protection of Personal
Information Act and her oath of confidentiality as a member of the Executive
Council in disclosing certain information regarding a sitting Member of
the House. At the request of the Official Opposition, the matter is currently
before the province's Ombudsman who acts as a watchdog under the Act.
The House is scheduled to adjourn on June 10, 2005, in accordance with
a sessional calendar adopted in December 2004.
Standings in the House remain at 28 Progressive Conservatives, 26 Liberals
and 1 NDP.
Diane Taylor Myles
The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia was convened on the morning
of February 8, 2005 for the prorogation of the fifth session of the Thirty-Seventh
Parliament. The sixth session was opened that afternoon with the Speech
from the Throne read by Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo. Tapping into
Olympic optimism, the Speech identified five great goals for a golden
decade. The specific goals include: making British Columbia the best-educated,
most literate jurisdiction on the continent; leading the way in North America
to healthy living and physical fitness; building the best system of support
in Canada for persons with disabilities, special needs, children at risk
and seniors; leading the world in sustainable environmental management;
and creating more jobs per capita than anywhere else in Canada.
Echoing the themes introduced in the throne speech, the Minister of Finance
Colin Hansen (Vancouver-Quilchena) introduced a budget projecting a $1.4-billion
surplus with an additional $300 million contingency allowance on February
15. The budget committed $1.7-billion to debt repayment the largest single
annual debt reduction in the province's history. Among other highlights,
Budget 2005 established a $3-billion capital investment in the province's
transportation infrastructure; increased investment in the tourism sector;
bolstered program spending in health and education; raised the threshold
for the corporate capital tax; and provided additional tax rebates for
consumers purchasing energy-efficient furnaces and hybrid passenger vehicles.
In her response, the Opposition House Leader
Joy MacPhail (Vancouver-Hastings)
labelled the budget as a last-minute extreme political makeover, and
stated that the budget would not cover up the government's history of
record deficits, higher taxes and fees, longer wait-lists, failed privatization
schemes and a more polarized and divided province.
In a noteworthy procedural move, the Government House Leader
(Cowichan Ladysmith) declared that due to the approaching fixed election
date of May 17, 2005, that budget would be debated but that a line-by-line
review of the estimates would not occur until after the election. Noting
what appeared to be a $236-million pre-election slush-fund listed as
unspecified economic development expenditure Ms. MacPhail promised that
her party would work with the government to conclude estimates debate by
April 19, the date scheduled for dissolution. While this offer was not
accepted, both the BC Liberals and the New Democratic Party have stated
that their respective parties will examine whether the fixed election date
should be moved to the fall, in order to accommodate a thorough estimates
review prior to a general election.
The government did, however, introduce 11 supplementary estimates to cover
expenditures on items such as Olympic venue construction, aid for the agricultural
sector, forestry revitalization, and a $550-million grant to pay down the
debt of the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority. In addition, two significant
pieces of legislation received Royal Assent. Bill 2, Thompson Rivers University
Act, established Canada's newest university. Located in Kamloops, Thompson
Rivers University combines the existing academic and vocational training
programs granted by the University College of the Cariboo with the on-line
and correspondence courses offered by the B.C. Open University and Open
College. Bill 4, Attorney General Statutes Amendment Act establishes a
new child support service responsible for recalculating child support payments
on an annual basis.
The Government House Leader moved to adjourn the sixth session on March
10, 2005. The day was marked by a tribute to some of the seventeen members
of the Legislative Assembly who had decided to retire from political life.
In particular, both government and opposition Members acknowledged the
contribution of Ms. MacPhail.
On April 19, 2005, the Thirty-Seventh Parliament was dissolved and the
election writs were issued for the May 17 provincial election.
Described as an uneventful campaign by the news media, the election campaign
featured both a televised leaders' debate and a radio debate, with three
parties (BC Liberals, BC New Democratic Party, and Green Party) represented.
The media consortium broadcasting the televised debate decided to exclude
the participation of the Democratic Reform BC leader, citing a lack of
party history in B.C., despite the fledgling party having a sitting Member
in the Legislative Assembly.
Early results indicate that the New Democratic Party has won 33 seats,
up from three seats at dissolution. NDP Party Leader Carole James (Victoria
Beacon Hill) won her seat and will take her place as the Leader of the
Official Opposition. The election also marks the return of seven former
NDP cabinet ministers to the ranks of the Official Opposition, including
Jenny Wai Ching Kwan (Vancouver Mount Pleasant), Corky Evans (Nelson
Creston), and Mike Farnworth (Port Coquitlam Burke Mountain). The BC
NDP returned to its traditional level of support with 41 percent of the
Lead by Premier Gordon Campbell, (Vancouver Point Grey), the BC Liberals
were returned to government with 46 seats, down from 73 seats at dissolution.
Among the new recruits for the BC Liberals are Carole Taylor (Vancouver
Langara) the former chair of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
and Wally Oppal, (Vancouver Fraserview), a former Justice of the British
Columbia Court of Appeal.
Referendum on Electoral Reform
Preliminary returns show that the referendum question on whether BC should
adopt a single transferable vote electoral system for future elections
appears to have gone down to defeat. The referendum required an affirmative
aggregate vote of 60 percent in addition to a positive endorsement in 48
of the 79 provincial ridings. The referendum question Should British
Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens'
Assembly on Electoral Reform? received about 57% and passed in all but
two electoral districts reporting at the time of publishing.
The mixed result emerging from the referendum on electoral reform will
create an interesting dilemma for the incoming government. While fielding
reporters question following his election victory, Premier Campbell indicated
that he wishes to hear from the Citizens' Assembly to examine the lessons
learned from the referendum campaign and to see whether we should move
in another direction or continue down a path to implementing BC-Single
Congratulations are in order for
E. George MacMinn Q.C., Clerk of the House,
for being awarded the Order of British Columbia on April 15, 2005. Mr.
MacMinn is the most senior parliamentary officer of the British Columbia
Legislative Assembly and the longest serving table officer in a Commonwealth
Office of the Clerk of Committees