Spring sitting of the second session of the twenty-ninth legislature
The second session of the twenty-ninth legislature resumed on March 7, 2022. In accordance with the parliamentary calendar, the Assembly will sit for 40 days before concluding the spring sitting on the Thursday before Victoria Day.
As previously reported, at the beginning of the fall sitting, the Assembly passed a sessional order which established masking requirements in the Chamber and committee room, introduced a COVID-19 vaccination or proof of negative test policy for Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), allowed for absences of members isolating due to COVID-19 exposure, and permitted proxy voting on recorded divisions for the same reason. These measures expired at the conclusion of the fall sitting on December 9, 2021.
In addition, members’ desks were returned to their pre-COVID positions in the Chamber. In 2020, to allow for increased physical distancing between members, a number of government desks were relocated to the other side of the Chamber. All government members are once again seated on the government side.
Seating of a new member
Jim Lemaigre, the Saskatchewan Party candidate, was elected in a by-election for the constituency of Athabasca on February 15, 2022. This marks the first time a Saskatchewan Party candidate has won a seat in the Athabasca riding.
On March 7, 2022, the first day of the spring sitting, Mr. Lemaigre was seated in the Assembly following the passage of The Athabasca Constituency By-election Act. The Act allowed Mr. Lemaigre to be seated prior to the return of the writ on March 10, 2022.
On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer presented the province’s budget for 2022-23. The budget, titled Back on Track, announced funding for priority programs and services in health care, education, social services, and the protection of people and property. “This budget makes significant investments that will get important government services back on track as we come out of the pandemic,” said Ms. Harpauer. Highlights include funding to reduce the surgical wait list, recruit and retain health care workers, and create affordable new child care spaces.
In response, opposition Finance critic Trent Wotherspoon called it a budget “with high resource revenues but with very low support for people” and argued that it “fails to respond to the magnitude of the challenges faced.” On March 24, 2022, he moved an amendment in opposition of the budgetary policy of the government “. . . because it does nothing to alleviate the incredible cost of living pressures faced by Saskatchewan people or to provide any relief on fuel costs; it adds a suite of new provincial sales taxes; and it fails to invest in classrooms, seniors, and others in desperate need of support.”
On March 31, 2022, the amendment was defeated and the budget motion was passed on recorded division. In accordance with the Rules and Procedures of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, the estimates were automatically committed to their respective designated committees for review.
Motions pursuant to rule 61
Rule 61 of the Rules and Procedures of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan allows a motion to be moved without notice by unanimous consent of the Assembly in cases of urgent and pressing necessity. In the first two weeks of the spring sitting, three motions were moved pursuant to rule 61, two of which were debated and passed.
The first instance occurred on March 7, 2022, the first day of the spring sitting, when Premier Scott Moe requested leave to move a motion pursuant to rule 61 expressing support for Ukraine, condemning the Russian invasion, and calling on Russia to cease military operations and withdraw from the country. Leave was granted and 31 members in total, from both sides of the Assembly, spoke in support of the motion before it was ultimately passed 57-0. A motion was subsequently passed to transmit copies of the motion and transcripts of the debate to both the Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors to Canada. By prior agreement, Ukrainian flags were also displayed on the desks of all members in the Chamber.
The second and third requests under rule 61 occurred on March 17, 2022, in regards to a labour dispute at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Railway). Premier Moe initially requested leave to move a motion calling on the federal government to implement back-to-work legislation in the event of a work stoppage and to introduce legislation designating rail service as an essential service. Unanimous consent was not given and leave was therefore denied.
Opposition MLA Trent Wotherspoon then requested leave to move a motion recognizing the collective bargaining rights of workers while calling on CP Railway to urgently resolve the labour dispute without a work stoppage. This time leave was granted. Premier Moe then moved an amendment removing the recognition of collective bargaining rights and inserting a call for back-to-work legislation and the designation of rail service as essential. The amendment was agreed to on recorded division, and the amended motion was subsequently passed, through recorded vote, 44-8.
Queen’s platinum jubilee
On March 14, 2022, the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan observed the platinum jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. Speaker Randy Weekes delivered a message from Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty stating that each member would receive a commemorative lapel pin to mark the occasion. A Humble Address extending the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan’s sincere congratulations to the Queen on her platinum jubilee was then agreed to by the Assembly, engrossed, signed by the Speaker, and forwarded to Her Majesty through the proper channels.
Resignation of ombudsman and public interest disclosure commissioner
On March 16, 2022, Ombudsman and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner of Saskatchewan Mary McFadyen announced her retirement effective May 6, 2022. Ms. McFadyen has served in this position since 2014.
In Saskatchewan, the ombudsman and public interest disclosure commissioner is an officer of the Legislative Assembly who reports directly to the Legislative Assembly through the Speaker. Following Ms. McFadyen’s announcement, the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) will begin the process of recruiting a new ombudsman and public interest disclosure commissioner.
On March 29, 2022, the BOIE appointed Greg Sykes as acting ombudsman and public interest disclosure commissioner. He will begin his new role on May 7, 2022.
Bill S-207, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—Lacolle, was adopted at third reading and sent to the House of Commons on February 8. The bill is similar to other versions that had been introduced in previous sessions and were not sent to the House of Commons.
Four government bills received Royal Assent by written declaration. Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement), was read a third time and passed, without amendment, and received Royal Assent on March 3. Bill C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19, was read a third time and passed, without amendment, and received Royal Assent on March 4.
Bill C-15, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, and Bill C-16, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023, were read a third time and passed, without amendment, and received Royal Assent on March 31.
Chamber, Procedure and Speaker’s Rulings
On February 21, as part of proceedings required after the invocation of the Emergencies Act, the Senate adopted a motion establishing the schedule and outline of the next four sitting days, from February 22 to 25, during which the Senate would sit from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The motion further stipulated that the only item of business before the Senate would be a motion to confirm the declaration of a public order emergency, which was proclaimed on February 14. The motion was to be taken up at the start of each sitting and debated without interruption, except for one-hour pauses at noon and at 6 p.m.
During debate on the motion on the afternoon of February 23, Senator Marc Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate, announced that the government had revoked the declaration of a public order emergency pursuant to the Emergencies Act. With leave of the Senate, the motion was then withdrawn, and the Senate resumed sittings the next day following the rules, orders, and practices that were otherwise in effect.
On March 1, the Senate adopted a motion to refer a government motion to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for examination and report. The motion in question, if adopted, would authorize an amendment to the Constitution of Canada to be made by proclamation issued by Her Excellency the Governor General with respect to repealing Section 24 of the Saskatchewan Act.
On March 3, the Senate received a message from the House of Commons regarding the appointment of a special joint committee of both houses to review the exercise of powers and the performance of duties and functions pursuant to the declaration of emergency that was in effect from February 14 to February 23. Later in the sitting, a corresponding motion was moved to respond to the message, which was subsequently modified and adopted by the Senate.
The Senate adopted a motion on March 29 calling upon the government to consider, in the context of the review of the Official Languages Act, the addition of a requirement to submit a report every 12 months on efforts made to comply with section 55 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This section requires progress towards having a fully bilingual Constitution. The Senate also adopted the Environmental and Sustainability Policy Statement, to replace the 1993 Senate Environmental Policy later that day.
On March 31, the Senate received a message from the House of Commons regarding the appointment of a special joint committee to review the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to medical assistance in dying and their application. Later in the sitting, a corresponding motion to respond to the message was adopted by the Senate.
On the same day, the Senate adopted a motion to extend the provisions of the order of November 25, 2021, regarding hybrid sittings of the Senate and committees, and other matters, until April 30, 2022. The motion also commits the Senate to consider a transition back to in-person sittings as soon as practicable in light of public health guidelines, and the safety and well-being of all senators and parliamentary personnel. Any further extension of the order is to be taken only after consultation with the leaders and facilitators of all recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups.
The second report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, entitled Senate Budget 2022-23, was presented on February 24.
On March 1, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology presented its third report, on Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement), without amendment. On March 3, the committee presented its fourth report, Bill C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19, without amendment but with observations appended to the report. Both bills were placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting.
The first report of the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency, regarding its first meeting, which included the election of its co-chairs and vice-chairs and the adoption of routine motions, was deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on March 22. On the same day, a motion was adopted to empower the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to hold an in-camera meeting for the purpose of hearing witnesses and gathering specialized or sensitive information in relation to its study of Bill S-210, An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material.
On March 29, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples presented its second report, on Bill S-219, An Act respecting a National Ribbon Skirt Day, without amendment but with observations appended to the report. The bill was placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting. In addition, the first report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, recommending amendments to the Rules of the Senate to provide for election to the position of Speaker pro tempore by secret ballot, was presented and placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance tabled its third report, entitled Supplementary Estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, on March 30. It was placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs presented its fourth report on March 31. The report deals with a government motion that was referred to it, described earlier in this article, and recommends that the motion be adopted by the Senate. The report was placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
Senator Thanh Hai Ngo retired from the Senate on January 3. Senator Ngo was appointed to the Senate on September 6, 2012, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to represent the province of Ontario. Senator Ngo immigrated to Canada in 1975 after the fall of Saigon and the coming to power of the Vietnamese communist government. Since then, he has been a strong advocate for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Prior to joining the Senate, his professional experience included serving as a Judicial Officer and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Employment Insurance Board of Referees, as well as a career in the field of education as a teacher. As a senator, he was an active member of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights and the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Senator Diane F. Griffin retired from the Senate on March 17. Senator Griffin was appointed to the Senate on October 27, 2016, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to represent the province of Prince Edward Island. Prior to joining the Senate, her career included serving as deputy minister of environmental resources of P.E.I., executive director of the Island Nature Trust, and until her appointment, as a councillor of the town of Stratford, P.E.I. As a senator, she was an active member of several committees, including the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, as well as chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry for several years.
Proceedings of the National Assembly
Terms of resumption of National Assembly sittings
Upon the resumption of proceedings on February 1, 2022, the parliamentarians adopted a motion to establish a regulatory framework for Assembly sittings until the end of the sessional period on June 10. The motion renewed several terms previously adopted by the parliamentarians.
The Assembly was, therefore, able to continue sitting with a maximum number of 61 parliamentarians, excluding the Chair, according to the following distribution:
- No more than 35 Members from the parliamentary group forming the Government;
- No more than 13 Members from the parliamentary group forming the Official Opposition;
- No more than five Members from the Second Opposition Group;
- No more than four Members from the Third Opposition Group;
- No more than four independent Members.
The modification of this distribution for the purposes of Routine Proceedings, which reduces the number of Government Ministers allowed to be present in favour of the opposition groups and provides that opposition Members be entitled to fill in for absent independent Members, was also maintained.
The procedure for recorded divisions was also renewed. Under that procedure, the vote of the House Leader or of the Deputy House Leader of a parliamentary group or, where applicable, of another Member identified beforehand was valid for all the Members of his or her group. Parliamentarians could also record a vote that differed from the vote of their group, or choose not to vote. Lastly, the Government House Leader could record the vote of independent Members in their absence, in accordance with their instructions.
In addition to renewing the measures already in place, the motion stated that the Members would renegotiate the organization of parliamentary proceedings if the public health rules applicable to the National Assembly were modified, and that, for this purpose, the Secretary General would seek a new opinion on the rules, in particular as regards the maximum capacity of the rooms where deliberations are held, during each week set aside for work in the ridings.
Under these provisions, on March 15, 2022, upon the return from two weeks set aside for work in the ridings, the Assembly adopted a new motion regarding the organization of parliamentary proceedings, replacing the motion of February 1. To a large extent, the motion marked the return to the Standing Orders of the Assembly. Among other things, the motion established neither a limit on the number of Members allowed to sit concurrently nor a procedure for recorded divisions, and the Members returned to the seats assigned to them.
However, the Assembly maintained the schedule that had been originally introduced in order to comply with the curfew. During ordinary hours of meeting, it sits from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, from 9:40 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 9:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The wearing of masks remains mandatory at all times, except when taking the floor to speak during proceedings and when a Member rises to vote for a recorded division. Lastly, the parliamentarians again agreed to renegotiate the terms if the public health rules applicable to the National Assembly were modified, and the Secretary General remained responsible for seeking a new opinion on the rules during each week set aside for work in the ridings.
On March 22, 2022, Eric Girard, Minister of Finance, delivered the budget speech. The estimates of expenditure for the year 2022‒2023 were also tabled. The interim supply and Bill 31, Appropriation Act No. 1, 2022–2023, were passed on March 23, 2021, and the Assembly began the 25-hour debate on the budget speech the next day.
Since the Assembly resumed sitting on February 1, 2022, a total of 10 bills, including two private Members’ bills, have been introduced in the National Assembly. During the same period, five government bills were passed:
- Bill 14, An Act to ensure the protection of trainees in the workplace;
- Bill 16, An Act to amend various legislative provisions to implement Complementary Agreements No. 22 and No. 27 to the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement;
- Bill 17, An Act respecting the implementation of certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 25 March 2021 and amending other provisions;
- Bill 24, An Act to amend various provisions relating to public security and enacting the Act to assist in locating missing persons; and
- Bill 31, Appropriation Act No. 1, 2022–2023.
Women March on Parliament Exhibition
On February 9, 2022, the Assembly unveiled a new exhibition, Women March on Parliament, created in collaboration with, in particular, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Through archives as well as a documentary, an audio recording of a speech by Marie Lacoste-Gérin-Lajoie read by Assembly employees, and an original work by artist Patrick Lavallée, the public can learn about the history of women’s right to vote in Québec.
Here are some of the highlights of committee proceedings held between January and March 2022.
Organization of proceedings
The first motion on the organization of parliamentary proceedings for the winter 2022 period was adopted by the National Assembly on February 1, 2022. It provided mainly for the same modifications to the usual procedure for parliamentary committees as those made in fall 2021 to ensure compliance with the health measures in force in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the participation of as many Members as possible in committee proceedings.
The second motion on the organization of parliamentary proceedings, providing for relaxation of the health rules, was adopted by the Assembly on March 15, 2022. Most of the modifications to the usual procedure for parliamentary committees, which had been in place since fall 2021, were abandoned. Among other things, the measures provided for the return of the public to the rooms during committee meetings. However, the parliamentary committee schedule for ordinary hours of meeting remained modified. In particular, Tuesday meetings ended at 7:15 p.m. instead of at 9:30 p.m. The measures already in place to avoid distributing and handling paper documents in committee, such as the projection of amendments onto large screens during meetings for clause-by-clause consideration of bills, were maintained. In addition, for public hearings, witnesses’ participation by video conference also remained encouraged. However, on request, witnesses could testify in person at the Parliament Building. The Committee on Public Administration also remained authorized to hold its proceedings, including its deliberative meetings, virtually.
The consideration of public bills took up most of the parliamentary committees’ time during the months of January to March 2022. Some 15 bills crossed the parliamentary committees’ worktables during this period, either for consultations or for clause-by-clause consideration.
Among other things, on March 22, 2022, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment completed the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 102, An Act mainly to reinforce the enforcement of environmental and dam safety legislation, to ensure the responsible management of pesticides and to implement certain measures of the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy concerning zero emission vehicles. The main purpose of the bill is to enhance and harmonize the measures for applying legislation under the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, to reinforce the Pesticides Act and to adjust the monitoring established by the Dam Safety Act. The clause-by-clause consideration of the 162 sections comprising the bill lasted more than 70 hours.
The Committee on Citizen Relations completed clause-by-clause consideration of two bills. First, the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 101, An Act to strengthen the fight against maltreatment of seniors and other persons of full age in vulnerable situations as well as the monitoring of the quality of health services and social services, was completed on March 22, 2022. The clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which in particular provided for clarifying the definition of “maltreatment” by adding an express reference to the physical, psychological, sexual, material or financial harm or distress caused, required some 30 hours of meeting. Then, on March 23, 2022, the Committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 1, An Act to amend the Educational Childcare Act to improve access to the educational childcare services network and complete its development, after more than 50 hours of meeting.
The Committee on Health and Social Services held special consultations on three bills, including four public hearings on Bill 15, An Act to amend the Youth Protection Act and other legislative provisions, which provided an opportunity to hear around 20 individuals and organizations. The Committee then started clause-by-clause consideration of the 64 sections comprising that bill. More than 40 hours have so far been devoted to those sections.
Lastly, the Committee on Culture and Education continued clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec. The purpose of the bill is to affirm that the only official language of Québec is French and that French is the common language of the Québec nation. It proposes new fundamental language rights and various measures to reinforce French. To date, more than 100 hours have been devoted to the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which comprises 201 sections.
Mandates under the Standing Orders
As provided for by sections 272 and 275 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, the debate on the budget speech continued, in the presence of the Minister of Finance, in the Committee on Public Finance at the end of the month of April 2022 for a total of 10 hours.
Sittings and Parliamentary Procedure Directorate
Parliamentary Committees Directorate
Spring Session 2022
The Third Session of the 30th Legislature commenced with the Throne Speech on February 22, 2022. Two days later, on February 24, Travis Toews, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, delivered the Budget Address and tabled the budget documents for 2022-23. Budget 2022 moves away from pandemic-related supports and focuses on economic recovery, low taxes and a balanced budget. It also includes significant investments to increase the capacity of the healthcare system. The main estimates received consideration by the Legislative Policy Committees from March 7 through March 17. The votes on main estimates occurred in Committee of Supply on March 21.
The Government has brought forward a number of Bills at the outset of the new session, including:
- Bill 4, Municipal Government (Face Mask and Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Bylaws) Amendment Act, 2022, which, if passed, would require municipalities to seek approval from the Minister of Municipal Affairs prior to enacting masking or proof of vaccination bylaws that could impact private sector businesses and remove any such bylaws currently in place.
- Bill 5, Traffic Safety Amendment Act, 2022, would require motorists to slow down when passing snowplows and other road maintenance workers that are stopped with lights flashing. This will provide these roadside workers with the same protection given to first responders, construction crews and tow truck drivers.
- Bill 10, Health Professions (Protecting Women and Girls) Amendment Act, 2022, which would add to current laws banning female genital mutilation in Alberta by prohibiting individuals convicted of performing or facilitating this crime in the province or elsewhere from practicing in Alberta. It would also require health profession regulator colleges to adopt standards of practice to support the health of women and girls who have undergone genital mutilation.
- Bill 14, Provincial Court Amendment Act, 2022, would require provincial court judge applicants to complete sexual assault law training as well as social context issues education about stereotypes and prejudice before becoming eligible for appointment.
Support for Ukraine
On February 24, Speaker Nathan M. Cooper opened the sitting with a statement of solidarity in support of the people of Ukraine, followed by the Ukrainian National Anthem. Premier Jason Kenney, President of Executive Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, introduced Government Motion 11, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With unanimous consent, the Assembly then proceeded immediately to the motion, which was agreed to. Later in the Daily Routine, following a statement regarding the invasion by Mark Smith, MLA (Drayton Valley-Devon), a moment of silence was observed.
Following through on a commitment made by Speaker Cooper in the fall of 2021, coverage of the Daily Routine is now provided with American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. The ASL interpreters are not located in the Chamber but may be viewed via picture-in-picture on the broadcast of the Assembly, which is accessible both online and through Alberta Assembly TV.
A by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche was held on March 15, 2022, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Laila Goodridge, who ran successfully for the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake seat in the federal general election on September 20, 2021. The candidate for the United Conservative Party, Brian Jean, won the by-election with over 60 per cent of the votes cast. Mr. Jean has significant political experience, having served as the MP for the Fort McMurray area from 2004 to 2014 before moving to provincial politics. In 2015 he became the Leader of the Official Opposition after being elected as leader of the Alberta Wildrose Party and then as the Member for Fort McMurray-Conklin in the provincial election. When the Alberta Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party merged to become the United Conservative Party in 2017 he ran for the leadership of the new party but lost to Mr. Kenney. In 2018, he resigned his seat in the Assembly, and he did not run in the 2019 provincial election. He has publicly campaigned to replace Mr. Kenney as leader of the UCP.
Mr. Jean was officially sworn in on April 7, 2022. The composition of the Assembly is currently 61 Government Members (United Conservatives), 23 Members of the Official Opposition (New Democratic Party), and three Independent Members.
On February 14, 2022, the Select Special Child and Youth Advocate Search Committee released its report recommending Terri Pelton as the Child and Youth Advocate. Following the retirement of Del Graff, the previous advocate, Speaker Cooper hosted a swearing-in ceremony for Ms. Pelton at the Legislature Building on April 5, 2022. Ms. Pelton comes to her new role with over 30 years of experience in social services, including 15 years in various leadership roles with the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.
The Select Special Information and Privacy Commissioner Search Committee is continuing the recruitment process for the next Commissioner. The current Commissioner, Jill Clayton, will complete her service by the end of July 2022.
Having completed its review of the Child and Youth Advocate 2020-2021 Annual Report the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices issued its report on January 27, 2022. The committee made no recommendations regarding the advocate’s report.
Having been advised that the current Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner, Marianne Ryan, would not be pursuing a second term following the completion of her contract in June 2022, the committee recommended that the Assembly appoint a new search committee to recruit for these positions. The committee will be meeting again this spring to make a recommendation on the appointment of an Acting Ombudsman and Acting Public Interest Commissioner to serve until the recruitment process is complete and a new officer is in place.
The Select Special Committee on Real Property Rights is in the process of completing a six-location tour of the province to receive public input regarding real property rights in Alberta. Having already been granted an extension by the Assembly, the committee must complete its review and report by June 15, 2022.
The Select Special Committee to Examine Safe Supply is in the final stages of its review and must report its recommendations to the Assembly by April 30, 2022. The 12-member committee of the Assembly has operated with four vacancies since February 4, when all four members from the Official Opposition submitted their resignations to Speaker Cooper.
The Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future is continuing its review of the Lobbyists Act. The committee began the review on September 13, 2021, and has one year to complete its work and report to the Assembly. Its next meeting is scheduled for April 26, 2022, when it will begin the deliberations and recommendations stage of the review.
The second Session of the 19th Legislative Assembly resumed from November 22 through to December 9, 2021. After a holiday break, the Assembly recommenced on February 21 to March 11, 2022. The House took a two-week break from March 14 to March 25 and resumed Session again from March 28 to March 31. Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. rescheduled all sittings due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the fall sitting was delayed for approximately six weeks, changing sitting dates from October 13 to November 22, 2022.
On the first sitting day, Premier Caroline Cochrane delivered a sessional statement welcoming members back and highlighting the government’s management of the COVID-19 outbreak. An update on mandate commitments was provided. Commitments of note include building a stronger Federal Government partnership, advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Governments and organizations, and supporting efforts to address the effects of residential schools. Other areas included strategic infrastructure, climate change, and securing investments in the resource sector.
The fall sitting focused on the review of the Capital Estimates and passage of the Supplementary Appropriation Acts, with the Winter sitting’s key emphasis on the 2022-2023 Main Estimates and Supplementary Appropriations. The Appropriation Act was passed before moving on to the completion of the 2022-2023 Main Estimates review.
The Assembly resumed with a hybrid sitting for the first time, with four members attending virtually. This posed some technical challenges in the final two days when Interpreters were utilized for the first time in a hybrid sitting. The Northwest Territories has 11 official languages. The Assembly continued to operate with two table officers, with a third table officer monitoring from their office.
Member Conduct Complaint
On May 6, 2021, the Member for Yellowknife North, at the direction of Caucus, lodged a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner regarding the Member for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh’s alleged breach of COVID-19 self-isolation protocol. The Integrity Commissioner’s investigation resulted in a report to the Board of Management, recommending an inquiry before a Sole Adjudicator, which they accepted.
The Speaker, on the recommendation of the Board of Management, appointed a Sole Adjudicator, Justice Ronald L. Barclay, on June 28, 2021. It was determined a public inquiry would be held. The hearing was held October 4-8, 2021, and concluded on November 2 after a break due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the Legislative Assembly.
On November 17, the Sole Adjudicator released his report, it concluded the Member for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh was guilty of breaching both sections 2 and 8 of the Code of Conduct, and in accordance with section 106(1)(b)(vi) of the LAEC, recommended that the seat be declared vacant.
Pursuant to section 107. (2) “The Legislative Assembly may order the imposition of the punishment recommended by the Sole Adjudicator, or it may reject the recommendation.” The Assembly accepted the recommendation.
On November 23, the Member for Thebacha moved motion 42-19(2): Declaration of vacant seat for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh. A recorded vote was requested. After a lengthy debate, the motion was carried with 17 in favour, zero opposed and zero abstentions.
On November 22, 2021, the Member for Thebacha rose on a Point of Privilege, which alleged the Member for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh made threats, or otherwise intimidated her and other Members of the Legislative Assembly. The question of privilege referred to multiple incidents that arose before, and during the Sole Adjudicator’s inquiry into the conduct of the Member. Eleven Members took part in the debate. Further allegations of threats made by the Member in question toward officers of the Assembly arose during debate.
On November 23 the Speaker ruled that there had been a prima facie breach of privilege on the question raised by the Member for Thebacha.
The Speaker found the issue was raised at the earliest opportunity, and referenced rule 20(1)(v) of the Rules of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly which states, in part, that “The privileges of Members include: (v) freedom from obstruction and intimidation in relation to their duties as elected representatives.” The Speaker also referenced page 232 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada 2nd edition: “Officers of the House of Commons, while in the execution of their duties, receive the protection of the House in the event they are interfered with, molested, intimidated, or assaulted.” It is as much a prima facie point of privilege to threaten or intimidate an officer of the Assembly as it is a Member.
In accordance with rule 20(5) “when the Speaker has ruled a) that there appears to be a prima facie breach of privilege, and b) that the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity, then any Member may immediately propose a motion or, by the end of the next sitting day give notice of a motion calling upon the Assembly to take action… “, the Member for Thebacha rose to move 42-19(2): Declaration of vacant seat for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh. As noted above, the motion was carried unanimously.
Officers of the Legislative Assembly
Appointment of Chief Electoral Officer
On November 24, 2021, Stephen Dunbar was appointed the Northwest Territories Chief Electoral Officer. This is an independent Statutory Officer of the Legislative Assembly position. Responsibilities include administration of general elections, by-elections, and plebiscites. He will serve the Assembly until March 31, 2025.
Appointment of Equal Pay Commissioner
On December 7, 2021, Bronwyn Watters was appointed the Northwest Territories Equal Pay Commissioner. Responsibilities include ensuring the right to equal pay for work of equal value in the Public Service Act is protected.
Standing Committees are currently conducting statutory reviews of the following acts:
- Wildlife Act
- Species at Risk Act
- Official Languages Act
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Committees conducted the majority of their public consultations virtually.
Legislative Assembly COVID-19 Vaccination Policy
On November 1, the Board of Management approved the Legislative Assembly’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy requiring mandatory vaccination of all who are eligible, and who wish to enter the Legislative Assembly Building.
Motion on Member vaccination policy passed
On November 22 a motion requiring Members be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend sittings, Committee meetings, or other Assembly proceedings was passed. The motion is in effect until prorogation of the current session, or until its formally rescinded.
Seat declared vacant, by-election held
On November 23, the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh seat was declared vacant. On December 13 the Chief Electoral Officer announced the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories provided direction to issue a Writ of Election Order to the returning officer of the electoral district of Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh on Monday, January 10, 2022, and that should a poll be required, it be held on Tuesday, February 8, 2022. Due to the omicron variant of COVID-19 causing outbreaks across the NWT, the by-election was conducted through mail-in ballots.
By the close of nominations on Friday, January 14, 2022, six candidates vied for election: four men and two women. Richard Edjericon emerged as the successful candidate and was sworn in as member for the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh riding on February 21, 2022.
Repeal and replace the Rules of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
On December 9, a motion was passed to repeal and replace the Rules of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly. The revised rules were tabled in the House on December 7. The changes became effective on February 2, 2022.
On December 21, 2021, the Legislative Assembly released the Workplace Review Action Plan, which included seven recommendations to address issues and concerns that were found during the Workplace Review and Investigation.
In February 2021, the Board of Management met to discuss allegations brought to the media of a toxic workplace and made the decision to have an independent workplace assessment done for the Office of the Clerk. On March 2, 2021, Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting Corporation was hired to conduct the third-party workplace review. The Board chose Quintet based on their particular expertise in the field of conflict management and prevention, including conducting administrative investigations.
Current and former staff members of the 19th Assembly were invited to speak voluntarily to the independent third-party firm. Terms of reference for the review included, but were not limited to, the confidentiality of the process, production of a review report to summarize information anonymously, summarize any other topics or themes that emerge (both positive and negative), and make recommendations for next steps and future actions.
The final report concluded that the workplace was not, in an overall or broad sense, a toxic or poisoned one. However, it did show disparate views and experiences from some staff, which indicated a divided workplace with a lack of unity. On August 24 the Board adopted the report and directed the development of the above-mentioned action plan. The Action plan was developed by Senior Management in consultation with all Office of the Clerk staff to ensure the active involvement of staff in developing effective and positive change.
During the November/December 2021 and February/March 2022 Sittings, the Assembly considered and passed the following Acts:
- Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Revolving Funds Act
- Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Aurora College Act
- Bill 31: An Act to Amend the Pharmacy Act
- Bill 32: An Act to Amend the Northern Employees Benefits Services Pension Plan Act
- Bill 33: National Indigenous Peoples Day Act
- Bill 36: An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act
- Bill 37: An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
- Bill 38: Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2021
- Bill 39: An Act to Amend the Post-secondary Education Act
- Bill 41: Justice Administration Statutes Amendment Act
- Bill 42: Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 2, 2021-2022
- Bill 43: Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 2, 2021-2022
- Bill 44: Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures and Borrowing Authorization), No. 4, 2020-2021
- Bill 45: Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures) 2022-2023
- Bill 49: Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2021-2022
- Bill 50: Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 3, 2021-2022
- Bill 51: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2022-2023
House of Commons
This account covers key highlights of the period from January to the end of March, 2022.
Procedure and privilege
Question of privilege
On February 1, 2022, Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent) rose on a question of privilege concerning the premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19. Mr. Deltell alleged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau) had divulged the contents of the bill at a press conference held while the bill was on notice, several hours before it received first reading in the House of Commons. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby) rose to support the question of privilege, noting that it is common practice to give opposition parties early access to bills with the understanding that their contents will not be made public, and that all opposition parties had upheld this convention for Bill C-10. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands) added her support. The next day, February 2, Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) rose to argue that there was no breach of privilege, given that the Prime Minister had spoken about C-10 only in very general terms. He also held that sharing a draft of the bill with opposition parties before its introduction satisfied the requirement that members must be the first to be informed of its contents.
On February 8, the Speaker delivered his ruling. He acknowledged the convention that the House has the right of first access to the contents of bills. Given that there was no evidence that the bill itself had been leaked, he found that there was no prima facie breach of privilege in this case. He explained that the text of the bill was extremely short, and the subject matter of one of its two clauses had been public knowledge for some time. The Speaker invited the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to review the recent points of privilege related to the premature disclosure of various bills as well as the practice of sharing government bills with the opposition before first reading and report its findings to the House, if necessary.
Point of order: Wearing masks in the Chamber
On February 15, 2022, Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre) rose on a point of order and asked the Assistant Deputy Speaker, Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—
Invocation of the Emergencies Act
On February 14, 2022, the Governor in Council declared a public order emergency, invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time since its passage in 1988. The declaration and other required documents were tabled in the House of Commons on February 16, pursuant to section 58 of the Act.
The Emergencies Act requires that a statutory debate be held on a motion to confirm any declaration of emergency. Subsection 58(6) of the Act states that the motion “shall be debated without interruption”. On February 16, John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil) rose on a point of order and requested that the Speaker rule on the meaning of “without interruption”, which he saw as requiring the House to sit and debate the matter continuously until the question was put. The next day, the Speaker ruled that the intention of the legislators who adopted the provisions of the Emergencies Act was not to have the motion be debated non-stop. Instead, he proposed that the statutory debate take precedence over all other orders of the day, but that the daily routine of business, including the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, remain in place. Finally, he encouraged the parties to arrive at an agreement if they wished to adapt this proposal to the urgent matter at hand.
On February 17, Mark Holland (Ajax) moved and obtained unanimous consent for a motion setting out the terms of the debate. The motion provided for five extended sitting days devoted to the debate, including the weekend of February 19–20. The ordinary daily routine of business was to be maintained on February 17, 18 and 21, with the exclusion of Private Members’ Business and Adjournment Proceedings. On February 19 and 20, the declaration of emergency was to be the sole topic of debate. The motion also contained provisions for the vote to be held on the evening on Monday, February 21, even if debate were to collapse on the weekend. The normal sitting calendar of the House was altered; it had been scheduled to adjourn on February 18 and return on February 28. Certain standing orders were also suspended.
Accordingly, the statutory debate began in the House on February 17. In an unusual turn of events, the planned sitting on Friday, February 18 was canceled after consultations with all recognized parties because of police operations in the area surrounding West Block. The House was deemed to have sat, however, for the purposes of Standing Order 28.
The House adopted the motion to confirm the declaration of emergency on February 21. On that same day, Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar) filed a motion aiming to revoke the declaration of emergency under subsection 59(1) of the Emergencies Act. Then, on February 23, the Governor in Council revoked the declaration of emergency. Mr. Holland tabled the relevant documents when the House next sat on February 28. Because the declaration of emergency had already been revoked, the Speaker removed Ms. Bergen’s motion from the Order Paper.
Point of order: Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement
On March 22, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau) and Leader of the New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South) announced a confidence and supply agreement between the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party (NDP). The agreement involves cooperation between the two parties on certain parliamentary objectives, a commitment by the NDP to support the government on votes related to confidence and supply, and a commitment by the Liberal Party not to call an election before the House rises in June 2025.
The same day, John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil) rose in the House on a point of order to argue that this agreement created a coalition government and that the NDP should therefore no longer be considered an opposition party. He asked the Speaker to rule whether the NDP should be allowed to exercise certain privileges afforded to opposition parties, such as putting forward opposition motions (including the one previously moved on March 21) and responding to ministerial statements.
Deputy Speaker Chris d’Entremont (West Nova) immediately ruled that the opposition motion of March 21 was still in order, and took the rest of Mr. Brassard’s questions under consideration for a later ruling.
On March 23, Alain Therrien (La Prairie) spoke in support of Mr. Brassard’s point of order, and the next day, Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby) spoke in opposition to it.
On March 29, the Deputy Speaker delivered his ruling. He noted that the Chair’s role does not include interpreting or giving meaning to what is by nature a political agreement. He then explained that his ruling relies on the different rights exercised by government and opposition parties; namely, that the governing party includes members holding ministerial positions and opposition parties do not. Given that no member of the NDP had gained ministerial status, the Deputy Speaker concluded that the NDP continues to form a recognized opposition party.
C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19
On February 11 and 14, 2022, the House debated a motion concerning the proceedings on Bill C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19. After a closure motion, the order was adopted on February 14. Accordingly, on February 15, the bill was adopted at second reading and referred to a committee of the whole on deferred recorded division. Subsequently, the bill was deemed to be considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendments, concurred in at report stage, read a third time, and passed. Bill C-10 received royal assent on March 4, 2022.
C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement)
On February 11 and 15, 2022, the House debated a motion concerning the proceedings on Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement). The motion was much the same as the motion concerning the proceedings on Bill C-10. After a closure motion, it was adopted on February 15. Accordingly, on February 16, the bill was adopted at second reading and referred to a committee of the whole on deferred recorded division. Subsequently, the bill was deemed to be considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendments, concurred in at report stage, and read a third time and passed. Bill C-12 received royal assent on March 3, 2022.
On December 8, 2021, the House adopted a motion moved by Erin O’Toole (Durham) setting out the terms of reference of a Special Committee on Afghanistan (AFGH). The committee’s membership was appointed on December 9, and the first meeting was on December 13.
On March 2, 2022, the House adopted a motion to create the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency (DEDC), as required under section 62(1) of the Emergencies Act. The committee was created to study the use of powers set out in the declaration of public order emergency in place from February 14 to 23. After the Senate adopted a similar motion, the committee’s membership was determined on March 3. The committee met for the first time on March 14. On March 22, Rhéal Éloi Fortin (Rivière-du-Nord) presented the first report of the committee as required under the Emergencies Act.
On March 30, 2022, the House unanimously adopted a motion moved by Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) to create the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, pursuant to subsection 5(1) of An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). The committee will be composed of five Senators and 10 Members of Parliament. Its purpose is to review various provisions of the Act, as well as their application.
On February 19, 2022, President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier (Ottawa—Vanier) tabled the Supplementary Estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022. Notably, this occurred on a Saturday, during the statutory debate on the invocation of the Emergencies Act. The considered votes were concurred in and Bill C-15, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, was disposed of as provided for in the order of November 25, 2021.
On March 29, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland (University—Rosedale) requested that an Order of the Day be designated for the consideration of a ways and means motion for the presentation of the budget on Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Private Members’ Business
The order of precedence was established on February 10, 2022.
On February 28, the Speaker made a statement regarding two private members’ bills that may require royal recommendation: Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine), sponsored by Jacques Gourde (Lévis—Lotbinière) and Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Canada Health Act, sponsored by Louis Plamondon (Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel). He invited members who wished to make arguments regarding these bills to do so.
On March 1, Mr. Plamondon intervened to argue that Bill C-237 had no incidence on the amounts, destination, objectives, or general conditions of health transfers, and therefore did not require royal recommendation. On March 22, Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) commented on the bills and indicated that in his view, both Bill C-215 and Bill C-237 would require royal recommendation. When Bill C-215 was debated at second reading on March 30, Mr. Gourde indicated that the bill would in fact require royal recommendation and requested the necessary support to obtain it.
Leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada
Following a caucus vote pursuant to the Reform Act, on February 1, 2022, Erin O’Toole (Durham) resigned as Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar) was elected by caucus to serve as interim leader of the Conservative Party. On February 7, after these and other changes to the Conservative caucus, the Speaker informed the House that, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil) and Blaine Calkins (Red Deer—Lacombe) had been appointed members of the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) to replace Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent) and Blake Richards (Banff—Airdrie).
Silencing of the carillon
On February 16, 2022, the Speaker made a statement regarding the imminent silencing of the carillon due to the parliamentary rehabilitation work. The final performance was anticipated on February 18; however, it was postponed to February 23 due to police operations in the area around the parliamentary precinct.
Address by the President of Ukraine
Before and after the outbreak of war on February 24, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the subject of various actions in the House, including take-note debates, unanimous consent motions, and an opposition motion. Notably, Volodymyr Zelenskyy (President of Ukraine) addressed Parliament by video link on March 15. Members of Parliament, Senators, and other guests attended the first joint address to Parliament since the House moved to the West Block. It was the third time that a president of Ukraine has addressed Parliament. The Speakers of the House and Senate, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau), Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar), Yves-François Blanchet (Beloeil—Chambly), Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South), and Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands) also spoke during the event.
Changes to the House of Commons Administration
Pierre Rodrigue, Clerk Assistant, House Proceedings, retired from the House of Commons Administration on February 26, 2022. Mr. Rodrigue served the House for many years in various roles, including as a Table Officer since 2005, and played a key role in the renewal of the House of Commons Web site and the development of various informatics systems.
Table Research Branch
Newfoundland and Labrador
The first session of the 50th General Assembly continued in the spring sitting of 2022, with the House resuming for three days on March 15, 2022, in accordance with the parliamentary calendar. During that time, the House debated and passed the Interim Supply Act, 2022. Following a two-week recess, the House resumed on April 4, and the provincial budget was delivered on April 7.
On March 14, 2022, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador relaxed its public health restrictions, removing the Alert Level system entirely as well as masking and vaccination requirements.
As a result of these changes, masks are currently discretionary (but recommended) for Members in the Chamber. Consistent with the protocols in place in Confederation Building Complex at this time, masks are mandatory for employees in all areas of the parliamentary precinct, including the Chamber, and are mandatory for Members outside the Chamber at the direction of the Speaker.
The configuration of the Chamber remains the same as it was for the fall 2021 sitting, with the desks being spaced apart, at the discretion of the Speaker.
The public galleries opened for the spring 2022 sitting without the capacity restrictions that were in place in previous sittings. The protocols in place for employees in Confederation Building Complex (requirement for proof of vaccination and masks) also apply to all visitors at this time, including visitors to the galleries.
Tours of the House of Assembly resumed as of March 15.
Standing Orders Committee
The Standing Orders Committee presented its first report of the 50th General Assembly to the House on March 15, which concurred on March 16. All recommendations made by the Committee were adopted, specifically:
the enforcement of Standing Order 48 by the Speaker with regard to relevancy at all times during debate, including debate on money bills;
- amendments to codify the time provided for ministerial statements and responses by Members of the Official Opposition and the Third Party;
- amendments to the Standing Orders that decrease the time allocation for each Member during debate on private Members’ motions from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, and provides for Members to seek an advance ruling from the Speaker on amendments to private Members’ motions outside of the time allotted for debate; and
- a provisional amendment to the Standing Orders for a period of one year with respect to deferral of vote on division.
The full report is available here: https://assembly.nl.ca/
Public Accounts Committee
The Public Accounts Committee has continued to be active throughout the first session. The first public hearing of the Committee in the 50th General Assembly occurred on March 21 and 22, during which time Members of the Committee questioned officials on the report of the Auditor General entitled MV Veteran and MV Legionnaire. This report was the result of a review requested by the PAC from a previous General Assembly, reviewing the purchasing process for two separate ferries in the province, including mechanical issues experienced since entering into service.
During the public hearing, the Committee heard from a number of departmental officials, including former and current deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers. One former official appeared virtually, marking the first virtual participation of a witness appearing before a Committee since the House adopted the virtual proceedings option in July 2020.
Audio and Hansard of the public hearing, as well as a link to the report of the Auditor General, are available here: https://assembly.nl.ca/
Privileges and Elections Committee
The Privileges and Elections Committee (PEC) presented a report to the House of Assembly on April 5, 2022, respecting a review of the Harassment-Free Workplace Policy Applicable to Complaints Against Members (the Policy). The Committee conducted its review in accordance with Section 17 of the Policy, which requires the PEC to review the Policy once in each general assembly, or as required.
The Committee’s work on this matter was undertaken as a result of correspondence from the Citizens’ Representative (the Statutory Officer responsible for oversight of the complaint and resolution processes), outlining a potential issue in the confidentiality provisions, identified in the execution of a process under the Policy.
The Committee’s report, which concurred on April 6, recommended an amendment to the confidentiality provisions of the policy. The report is available here: https://www.assembly.nl.ca/
Policy, Planning and Research Analyst – Office of the Clerk
The First Session of the 60th Legislature adjourned on December 17 and resumed on March 22, when Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves tabled the 2022-2023 Main Estimates. This is the fourth budget delivered by the Progressive Conservative government led by Premier Blaine Higgs.
The 2022-2023 budget projects a surplus of $35.2 million after total spending of $11.3 billion. While revenues are projected to grow by 1.2 per cent, the Department of Finance and Treasury Board projects New Brunswick’s gross domestic product to grow by 2.2 per cent in 2022. The net debt-to-GDP ratio is projected at 30.1 per cent by March 31, 2023.
Highlights of the budget included $40 million in personal income tax relief to offset federal carbon-pricing increases; continued reductions to the provincial property tax rate resulting in a $45 million revenue reduction; a one-year cap on the allowable increase to rent of 3.8 per cent that is retroactive to January 1, 2022; an increase of $6.3 million for affordable housing; a healthcare budget totalling $3.2 billion, which represents a 6.4 per cent increase; and $38.6 million to increase wages for human services workers.
On March 24, Finance Critic Robert McKee delivered the Official Opposition’s Reply to the Budget. Mr. McKee argued that the government underestimated the province’s revenues while overestimating expenditures, which led to financial forecasting uncertainty and a missed opportunity to correct financial inequities for New Brunswickers. The Official Opposition outlined service inequities in rural healthcare compared to urban services, a shortage of nursing home facilities in the province, a lack of mental health services in schools, a shortage of subsidized or affordable housing, underspending in northern capital investments, inaction on the climate change portfolio, and an increase to public sector wages that falls behind projected inflation numbers.
Swearing-in of Legislative Officers
Speaker Bill Oliver presided over the swearing in of three new legislative officers. The new Auditor General, Paul Martin, was sworn in on December 22; the new Ombud, Marie-France Pelletier, was sworn in on January 7; and the new Child, Youth and Senior Advocate, Kelly Lamrock, was sworn-in on February 9. All three were recommended by resolution of the Legislative Assembly on December 8, 2021.
New Member of the Executive Council
Bill Hogan was sworn in as the Minister responsible for Public Safety by Lieutenant-Governor Brenda Murphy during a virtual ceremony on February 23. Minister Hogan was first elected to the Legislature in the 2020 provincial election to represent the riding of Carleton. A member of various standing and select committees, he served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship and the Select Committee on Public Universities.
As of April 1, 15 bills were introduced during the spring session. Certain bills of note included:
- Bill 95, An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act, introduced by Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson, requires corporations to maintain a record of individuals holding significant (at least 25 per cent) voting shares of the corporation and make the record available to law enforcement and taxation authorities.
- Bill 96, An Act to Amend The Residential Tenancies Act, introduced by Ms. Wilson, implements a 3.8 per cent rent cap retroactively from January 1 to December 31, 2022, and holds the landlord responsible for either crediting or reimbursing the tenant who has had a higher than prescribed increase. The amendments also prohibit landlords from terminating tenancies without just cause and provide evicted tenants recourse through a review process by a residential tenancies officer.
- Bill 99, An Act to Amend the Electricity Act, introduced by Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland, establishes the Energy Efficiency Fund, which uses capital from the province’s Consolidated Fund and transfers it to the New Brunswick Power Corporation for the purpose of funding the development and delivery of energy efficiency initiatives and energy conservation.
- Bill 100, An Act Respecting the Appointment Process, introduced by Government House Leader Glen Savoie, transfers power from the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to the Chief Electoral Officer in the appointment or termination of electoral returning officers. Additionally, the Bill amends the approval process for other legislated appointments.
On March 23, Mr. Savoie gave notice of a legislative calendar that outlines House sittings and the dates set aside for meetings of standing and select committees for the remainder of the 2022 calendar year.
On March 30, the House passed a resolution, introduced by Green Party Leader David Coon, offering condolences to the families of New Brunswickers who have passed away due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
On March 31, the House passed a resolution, introduced by Official Opposition Leader Roger Melanson, that urged the government to request that the Auditor General of New Brunswick undertake a review of the provincial government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Standing Committee on Economic Policy, chaired by Greg Turner, remained active in January, considering various government bills. In January and February, the Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship, chaired by Bill Hogan, heard from the Climate Change Secretariat as well as various private entities, First Nations, and government departments on the renewal of New Brunswick’s Climate Change Action Plan. The Committee tabled a report in the House on March 31.
In February and March, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Chuck Chiasson, reviewed two volumes of an Auditor General report and the annual reports of various government departments, Crown corporations, and other provincial entities. In March, the Select Committee on Accessibility in New Brunswick, chaired by Kathy Bockus, continued to meet with various stakeholders as part of ongoing public hearings. The Committee is charged with conducting consultations with community stakeholders and government departments involved with the disability community and reporting to the House with recommendations.
The Standing Committee on Procedure, Privileges and Legislative Officers, chaired by Jeff Carr, met in March to review the annual report of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The Committee also met with several legislative officers to consider their request for changes to their legislative process.
Since 2020, the proceedings in the House have been modified to reduce the number of Members seated on the floor from 49 to 28 in response to the pandemic. Following a decision by the Legislative Administration Committee, all Members are now permitted to take their seats on the floor of the House provided they wear a face mask, which may be removed when addressing the House. Members are still permitted to participate in proceedings from the gallery and the main Legislative Assembly Building remains closed to the public until further notice.
People’s Alliance of New Brunswick
On March 30, Kris Austin, Leader of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick, and Michelle Conroy announced they would be crossing the floor of the House to become members of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick. The next day, at the request of Mr. Austin and in accordance with the Elections Act, the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick ceased to be a registered political party. The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick was represented in the House for the first time in 2018 with three seats, which was reduced to two seats following the 2020 provincial election.
The standings in the House are 28 Progressive Conservatives, 16 Liberals, three Greens, and two vacancies.
Alicia R. Del Frate
Committee Clerk and Parliamentary Assistant
Prince Edward Island
Continuation of Second Session, Sixty-sixth General Assembly
The Second Session of the Sixty-sixth General Assembly resumed on February 22, 2022, and continues as of this writing. The Second Session began in February 2021.
Hybrid Virtual Proceedings
The resumption of the Second Session marked the first time that the House has met under hybrid virtual proceedings, which allow members the choice of attending proceedings in person or by video conference. Virtual proceedings had been invoked by Speaker Colin LaVie in January 2022, in response to the provincial COVID-19 situation, and several committees made use of them in advance of the House sitting. To date, the majority of members have attended proceedings in person, but each day has typically included a few members participating virtually. One member, Cornwall-Meadowbank MLA Mark McLane, attended House proceedings virtually before ever attending in person. He was elected in a by-election in November 2021, but was not sworn-in in time to take his seat during the fall sitting. Unable to attend in person on February 22, he appeared by video conference on his first sitting day. He was able to take his physical seat on February 24. The public and press galleries remain open with limited capacity.
Minister of Finance Darlene Compton delivered the 2022-2023 Budget Address on February 24. It includes total expenditures of $2.6 billion (program expenditure of $2.4 billion) and a deficit of $92.9 million. Health remains the largest area of program expenditure, at 34 per cent, followed by Education at 17 per cent. Interest charges and amortization account for 9 per cent of the budget, which is larger than all the other areas of program expenditure taken individually. The three largest areas of revenue are personal and corporate income tax at 23 per cent, equalization at 20 per cent, and sales tax at 15 per cent. Initiatives highlighted by government include a partnership with the federal government toward expansion of early learning spaces and educator wages; increases in mobile rental vouchers, rental supplements and other rental supports; a registered nurse stabilization strategy to create a central float pool of nurses for assignment according to urgent needs and short-term vacancies; a seniors food program pilot project; and supports for a new clean tech park to be developed in eastern PEI. The Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure were tabled on the same day the Budget Address was given, and to date continue to be debated.
At the conclusion of Oral Question Period on March 1, Speaker Colin LaVie advised members that, though rules do not require questions to be directed to a specific minister provided they pertain to government business, it would be best to do so in order to save time.
On March 4, Leader of the Third Party Sonny Gallant rose during Matters of Privilege and Recognition of Guests to seek unanimous consent to move a motion without notice calling on Government to suspend the provincial gas tax in light of the rising cost of gas in the province. Speaker LaVie declared a recess to consider the matter; upon returning, he concluded that it was not a proper matter of privilege, but that since the House is able to suspend any of its rules by unanimous consent, he would allow the matter to proceed. The House did not provide unanimous consent.
On March 31, Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Action Steven Myers rose on a point of order to seek clarity on whether members are required to wear masks while seated in the House after Leader of the Official Opposition Peter Bevan-Baker observed that some members were not wearing them. On April 1, Speaker LaVie indicated that no rules had been broken during proceedings, and clarified that the Standing Committee on Legislative Assembly Management had issued the guideline that members are free to be unmasked while seated in their places, though masks are mandatory when moving around the building. The Speaker encouraged any members with concerns about the masking policies to bring them to the attention of the committee.
On April 5 Speaker LaVie ruled on a point of order raised by Mr. Myers the previous sitting day in objection to the words “wildly inaccurate” as used by Mr. Bevan-Baker during Oral Question Period. The Speaker found that given the context of Mr. Bevan-Baker’s remarks, the term was unparliamentary and should be retracted. Mr. Bevan-Baker did so. Later the same day, Lynne Lund, the member for Summerside-Wilmot, objected to remarks made by Steven Myers in which he questioned the sincerity of the Leader of the Official Opposition and accused him of “speaking out of both sides of his mouth”. The Speaker found this expression and others used by Mr. Myers to be unparliamentary and asked him to retract them. Mr. Myers did so.
On April 6, Michele Beaton, the member for Mermaid-Stratford, objected to comments made by Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers, on the basis that they were personal attacks and untruthful. The next day, the Speaker ruled that though he did not find any unparliamentary expressions listed in the point of order, unparliamentary language was being used by both sides and tensions were building. He reminded members to show more respect to one another, otherwise, he would have to intervene more actively.
Director of Parliamentary Research
On February 22, 2022, Ontario’s Members returned to Queen’s Park for the spring sitting of the Second Session of the 42nd Parliament. This sitting saw a return to in-person committee meetings, significant changes to the Standing Orders, and a busy committee circuit.
Standing Order Amendments
On March 9, 2022, the House passed a motion making several amendments to the Standing Orders. The amendments included changes to the meeting schedule of the House, the notice requirements relating to Private Members’ Public Business, and to the make-up of standing Committees. .
The amendments grant the Government House Leader the ability to make a temporary change to the House schedule – the House would start at 9:00 a.m. instead of 10:15 a.m. on a sitting Monday. Notice of this change would have to be given no later than the previous sitting Thursday at 12:00 noon.
Previously, for an item of business to be debated during the time for Private Members’ Public Business, it had to appear on the Orders and Notices Paper (Order Paper) two weeks in advance of the date it was to be considered. This notice requirement was changed so that the item of business not only has to appear but must be designated on the Order Paper eight sessional days in advance. There were also contingencies added for when a Member failed to designate business for consideration before the deadline. Should the Member fail to designate an item, the first eligible public bill standing in their name would be designated; if there is none, then it would be the first eligible motion in their name. If the Member has no business on the Order Paper by the deadline, the Member will lose their place in the order of precedence and the House will not conduct a Private Members’ Public Business proceeding on that date.
The amendments will also change the number of standing committees, including the elimination of the Standing Committee on Estimates. The expenditure estimates will now be referred to the committees to which the respective ministries are assigned and will be considered by those individual committees as part of their expanded mandates.
The changes relating to the House schedule came into force on the next sitting day after the motion was adopted while changes relating to Private Members’ Public Business came into force on the eighth sitting day. Changes that impact committees will become effective in the next Parliament.
Motion Concerning Member’s Conduct
On February 22, 2022, the House passed a motion with respect to the Member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. This was the second motion of its kind passed by the House this session concerning the Member’s conduct – the first time was on October 28, 2021. The House expressed its disapproval specifically of the Member’s use of social media to make perceived racist and discriminatory statements about a federal cabinet minister and for publishing social media posts insinuating a call to violence. The House called on the Member to make a written apology to Omar Alghabra, MP, and to the House, as well as publish his written apologies and desist from further conduct considered inappropriate and unbecoming of a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. This motion goes further than the previous motion as it also gave authority to the Speaker to not recognize the Member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston until the Speaker receives copies of the Member’s written apologies and is satisfied with their sincerity.
On March 21, 2022, the Speaker delivered his ruling regarding points of order raised by the Official Opposition House Leader, the Government House Leader, and an independent member with respect to a suggested conflict between the notice requirements for the consideration of Private Members’ Public Business and the power of the House to discharge an Order for second reading of a public bill and refer it to committee.
Private Members’ Public Business is scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and only one item of business is considered each day. The order of precedence for when a private Member can move second reading of their public bill or a motion is determined by a ballot conducted by the Clerk. The Member for York South—Weston, Faisal Hassan, introduced a bill with the intention of bringing it forward for debate during his assigned date for Private Members’ Public Business.
Mr. Hassan met the notice requirement when he introduced the bill on February 23, 2022, and the bill appeared on the Order Paper the next day, scheduled to be debated on March 10, 2022.
The issue arose when the House adopted a motion moved by the Government House Leader on March 3, 2022, to discharge the order for second reading of the bill and refer the bill to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy. Discharging the bill meant that Mr. Hassan could no longer move second reading of his bill as his item for debate since the bill was now referred to a committee. At this time, the notice deadline has passed for him to introduce another bill or table a motion to be considered.
Before Mr. Hassan’s date for his Private Members’ Public Business, the Government House Leader put forward a substantive motion that would have provided another bill co-sponsored by the Member to be designated for consideration as the Member’s ballot item in place of his first bill; however, during the debate on the motion, the Government House Leader withdrew the motion. As a result, when the Order for the Member’s ballot item was called, he had no business standing on the Order Paper that complied with the notice requirements.
The appeal made to the Speaker was to decide a question that was not provided for in the Standing Orders; however, the situation raised by the point of order did not arise because of gaps in the rules of procedure. The notice requirements for the consideration of Private Members’ Public Business and the procedure to discharge an Order for second reading of a public bill and refer it to committee were both under Standing Orders that were duly adopted by the Assembly and were correctly applied.
The Speaker ruled that although the outcome had no precedent, it was neither out of order nor the result of procedural error or misapplication. It did not leave the House with a “stub” or “remnant” of unfinished or incomplete business that could only be rectified with the Speaker’s intervention under the Standing Orders. The Speaker’s finding was that there was nothing to remedy under the authority of the Standing Orders.
The Speaker concluded his ruling by expressing his disappointment that the House was unable to find a resolution in time to preserve the Member’s ability to bring an item forward for debate on his ballot date. The Speaker hoped the House would reconsider the matter and seek a resolution satisfactory to both sides of the House.
COVID-19 Restrictions at the Assembly
The Government House Leader wrote to the Speaker to rescind certain Covid-19 protocols applicable to the Chamber as of March 1, 2022. This was in accordance with the motion adopted by the House on September 14, 2020, stating that the protocols would be in place in the Chamber for the duration of the 42nd Parliament or until an earlier date indicated by the Government House Leader. As a result, Members would no longer be allowed to speak and vote from any Member’s desk in the Chamber, committees would resume meeting in person, and Members would no longer vote in the party lobbies. At the time of this letter, the masking mandate was still in effect. Under his authority for control of the broader Legislative Precinct, the Speaker also lifted the mandate for proof of vaccination or negative rapid antigen test results for entry into the Legislative Precinct at the same time as the province lifted its policy requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor spaces.
The Legislative Precinct reopened to the public on March 21, 2022. A reopening plan was provided to all staff, with restrictions still in place to keep both staff and the public safe.
The Government House Leader, within the authority granted to him by the motion adopted by the House on September 14, 2020, lifted mask requirements in the Chamber and committees on March 21, 2022, and the Speaker announced that the requirement for masks to be worn throughout the Legislative Precinct would be discontinued as well, in consistency with the province-wide removal of mask mandates as of that date.
The Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight met on March 10, 2022, and received a report from the Solicitor General. The committee has tabled a total of 19 interim reports to date. As per its mandate, the committee receives oral reports from the Premier or his designate(s) on any extensions of emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rationale for those extensions.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts held public hearings to examine the Auditor General’s value-for-money audits on the Covid-19 Economic Response and Supports for Businesses. The Committee also completed and tabled five reports in the House: Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority; Blood Management and Safety; Public Accounts of Ontario; Emergency Management in Ontario – Pandemic Response; and Acute-Care Hospital Patient Safety and Drug Administration.
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy met on March 10, 2022, to discuss a motion filed by MPP Lucille Collard pursuant to Standing Order 129. This standing order allows each permanent Member of a policy-field committee to propose a matter to be considered by the respective committee. The matter must relate to the mandate, management, organization, or operation of the ministries and offices assigned to the committee as well as the agencies, boards, and commissions reporting to such ministries and offices. The proposal of a Member under this Standing Order must be adopted by at least two-thirds of the Members of the committee.
MPP Collard’s motion sought to undertake a study into the role and actions of the Ministry of the Solicitor General regarding the so-called “Freedom Convoy” occupation in Ottawa. The motion was debated for the allotted 30 minutes stated in the Standing Orders but was not adopted by the committee.
4th Session of the 42nd Legislature – Spring Sitting
The Fourth Session of the 42nd Legislature resumed on March 1, 2022. The Legislative Building had been closed to members of the public for two years owing to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions; however, the building gradually opened with increased security in April 2022. Visitors to the building are now required to provide photo ID. They are issued a visitor’s pass and also must walk through a metal detector at the front entrance. The new security procedure has been operating since September 2021 and includes a procedure of escorting visitors to destination offices once they enter the building. Another permanent security measure is the monitoring of vehicles that enter onto the grounds.
The Government introduced a number of Bills this session addressing different areas of governance. A total of 25 of these Bills were introduced in time to meet the criteria for Specified Bill status and therefore guaranteed passage in June (subject to the right of the Opposition designating five of those Bills to be delayed until the Fall). The legislative agenda includes:
- Bill 8 –The Court of Appeal Amendment and Provincial Court Amendment Act expressly authorizes judges to meet with the parties to an appeal and attempt to settle issues in dispute before the appeal is heard. Changes are also made to the organization of the judicial appointment committee and a new process for appointing Provincial Court judges is established;
- Bill 9 – The Scrap Metal Act creates duties for a scrap metal dealer when they purchase or receive scrap metal, including obtaining proof of identification from the seller and retaining records about the transaction. Other requirements for scrap metal dealers include limiting cash purchases of scrap metal and providing regular reports to law enforcement agencies;
- Bill 18 – The Legislative Security Amendment Act amends The Legislative Security Act, which deals with security in the Legislative Building and the surrounding grounds (“the legislative precinct”). The chief legislative security officer, a newly established position, is responsible for leading security operations in the legislative precinct. Legislative security officers are authorized to provide security services outside the legislative precinct to members of the Legislative Assembly and government officials. Specified activities in the legislative precinct may be prohibited by regulation. Persons who engage in prohibited activities may be fined and evicted from the legislative precinct;
- Bill 22 – The Environment Amendment Act (Pesticide Restrictions) removes the prohibition on the application of certain pesticides to lawns and the sale of those pesticides is no longer subject to provincial regulations. The list of premises where the use of those pesticides is prohibited is expanded to include municipal playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks, and provincial parks;
- Bill 26 – The Officers of the Assembly Act (Various Acts Amended), amends various Acts with respect to the appointment of the following officers of the Assembly: the Advocate for Children and Youth; the Auditor General; the Chief Electoral Officer; the Clerk of the Assembly; the Conflict of Interest Commissioner (to be replaced by the Ethics Commissioner); the Information and Privacy Adjudicator; the Ombudsman; the registrar appointed under The Lobbyists Registration Act. As a result of the amendments, the officers (other than the Clerk of the Assembly) are appointed by the Assembly on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. The Clerk’s appointment is on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly Management Commission. The officers’ remuneration is to be determined by the Legislative Assembly Management Commission. The officers may appoint their deputies with prior approval of that commission. The current officers of the Assembly and their deputies will continue in office;
- Bill 30 – The Police Services Amendment and Law Enforcement Review Amendment Act establishes Manitoba Criminal Intelligence Centre (“MCIC”). The MCIC is a specialized office staffed with criminal intelligence experts who work with police services and other law-enforcement-related organizations to develop their criminal intelligence collection and analysis capacity. The MCIC also promotes and coordinates the sharing of criminal intelligence. The MCIC operates under the direction of the criminal intelligence director, a new position. The Law Enforcement Review Act is also amended to extend the time for filing complaints under that Act from 30 days to 180 days;
- Bill 32 – The Victims’ Bill of Rights Amendment Act amends The Victims’ Bill of Rights to enable the director to pay compensation to the family members of a victim despite the victim’s conviction for certain offences. Currently, family members are ineligible if the victim’s criminal record includes a conviction for any of those offences. An amendment is also made to allow a victim in a sexual assault case to receive, at no cost, independent legal representation if the victim’s personal information is sought to be used by the accused.
On April 12, 2022, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen delivered his first budget, highlights included:
- expanding eligibility for the Child Care Subsidy Program to support an average of $10 a day per child for regulated child-care spaces;
- increasing the Education Property Tax Rebate to 37.5 per cent in 2022 and 50 per cent in 2023, saving the average homeowner $1,355 over two years;
- introducing and expanding the new Residential Renters Tax Credit to 45,000 additional households, saving Manitoba renters up to $525 each and every year;
- increasing shelter benefits for low-income Manitobans by investing:
- $9 million in Employment and Income Assistance Rent Assist indexation; and
- $8.9 million in non-Employment and Income Assistance Rent Assist indexation.
- $12 million in new income-support programs for people with severe and prolonged disabilities;
- reducing vehicle registration fees, saving Manitobans $15 million a year;
- making the Small Business Venture Capital Tax Credit permanent and expanding it to support venture capital funds;
- further reducing the payroll tax for 970 businesses, exempting 180 businesses altogether;
- $5 million to strengthen immigration programming to help attract newcomers to Manitoba;
- more than $2 million supporting new property development in Manitoba;
- more than $18 million for improving the wages of front-line workers in the community living disability, children’s disability and family violence prevention sectors.
The Leader of the Official Opposition and NDP leader Wab Kinew moved a motion expressing non-confidence in the Government on April 19, 2022, which stated that the budget was not in the best interests of the people of the province and that it neglected the priorities of Manitobans by:
- offering more empty promises to fix the extremely high surgical and diagnostic caseload backlog that has only grown larger because of the inaction and refusal to work with front line workers and invest in real solutions;
- refusing to stop the practice of sending seniors hundreds of kilometres away from home for health care because the PC cuts have removed capacity from the system;
- refusing to help municipalities deliver their essential services by not increasing the funding for municipalities for a 6th consecutive year;
- rejecting the need to provide proper salaries for working people, failing to properly address the needs of workers in sectors like Community Living Disability Services or Home Care workers or other health care workers and refusing to address the challenges experienced by women, BIPOC and other marginalized groups to fully participate in a pandemic recovery; and
- failing to learn the lessons of the pandemic by further cutting healthcare funding, refusing to release up to date data about the spread of COVID-19 and refusing to call for an independent investigation into the Provincial Government’s pandemic response.
On the same day, Independent MLA Dougald Lamont (Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party), moved a sub-amendment, stating that the budget failed Manitoba by:
- failing to make new investments in improving the lives and abilities people of Manitoba, choosing instead to expand existing inequities and selecting the status quo over growth and innovation;
- failing to increase funding for the Emergency Measures Organization, despite two years of historic crises, including pandemics, fires, and floods;
- failing to provide any sort of a plan for individuals seeking to escape wars in Ukraine and Afghanistan by partnering with local organizations to ensure a proper and smooth resettlement transition to Manitoba;
- failing to commit to equitable health and education funding for all Manitobans, choosing instead to continue concentrating services in Winnipeg
- failing to allow Manitobans to take steps to reducing their own carbon footprint by following the Federal Government’s lead by providing rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles, major retrofits to existing buildings and adaptations of agriculture.
- The Legislature is still operating under the Sessional Order allowing for virtual participation among other things. Originally passed on October 7, 2020, and discussed in previous issues, the Sessional Order has been extended to June 10, 2022. This Sessional Order has been amended numerous times, primarily to extend its effective end date. The latest amendment on April 11, 2022, did include some substantive changes which provided some easement from previous pandemic provisions such as the following:
- Adding a provision allowing MLAs to participate virtually in a committee meeting if necessary, even if they had been physically in the House the same day.
- Removing limits on the number of MLAs and staff who can attend meetings in the Committee rooms.
- Allowing that Public presentations to Bills at Standing Committees may take place remotely using the virtual infrastructure already in place or in person, with presenters appearing either virtually, by telephone, or by being present in the committee rooms.
The Public Accounts Committee had three new Government Members appointed to the Committee after the cabinet shuffle reported in the last submission. The Chair, Jim Maloway of the Opposition NDP remained, however Greg Nesbitt from the Government was added as the Vice-Chair. On April 4, Lesley Burns and Carol Bellringer, former Manitoba Auditor General, of the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, led an excellent workshop for PAC Members and their staff. The session went very well and was well-received. It was an interactive evening and every Member volunteered at least one answer or observation throughout the night.
On April 11, PAC held its first-ever in-camera pre-meeting one week in advance of an upcoming meeting. Previously in-camera pre-meetings were held one hour before the meeting and Members expressed that was not enough time to digest the information from the Auditor General. This date also marked the first time the Auditor General could prepare Members based on the results of a Progress Report received from the Department. The subsequent PAC official meeting on April 19, marked the first time PAC employed a seating plan in which Government and Opposition Members were alternated so that they sat side by side in the Chamber (where PAC meetings are currently being held). The meeting was widely viewed as a huge success as every Government and Opposition Member, aside from the Chair, asked questions to the Deputy Minister who was called as a witness. PAC is planning many more meetings throughout the year, having received many Action Plans and Progress Reports sent out to departments as part of a new process undertaken by PAC that was discussed in a previous submission. The Committees Branch also expects to be very busy over the next few months with Bill meetings and also Estimates in the Committee of Supply anticipated for most of May.
On March 22, 2022, voters in the Fort Whyte constituency in Winnipeg elected to the Progressive Conservative Caucus Obby Khan, a restaurant owner and former Winnipeg Blue Bomber football player. It was a very close race, with Mr. Khan beating Liberal candidate Willard Reaves, another former Blue Bomber, by 197 votes.
Clerk Assistant/Research Officer
The Second Session of the 42nd Parliament was prorogued the morning of February 8, 2022. The Third Session began that afternoon with the delivery of the Speech from the Throne by Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin. Following the Speech from the Throne, the Legislative Assembly adopted a new Sessional Order similar to the Sessional Order adopted during the fall 2021 sitting period enabling the continuation of hybrid proceedings. As with the fall sitting period, most Members have opted to attend in person.
In response to changes to the provincial public health orders, starting on March 14, face masks became optional in common areas within the Parliament Buildings and other Precinct buildings, including in the Chamber.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, BC NDP Member for Vancouver-West End, and Ronna-Rae Leonard, BC NDP Member for Courtney-Comox, were reappointed as Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole, respectively. Jackie Tegart, BC Liberal Party Member for Fraser-Nicola, was appointed Assistant Deputy Speaker, replacing Norm Letnick, BC Liberal Party Member for Kelowna-Lake Country.
Official Opposition Updates
On February 5, the BC Liberal Party elected former MLA Kevin Falcon as its new leader. As he does not currently hold a seat as a Member, Shirley Bond, BC Liberal Member for Prince George-Valemount, continues as Leader of the Official Opposition in the House.
Andrew Wilkinson, BC Liberal Party Member and former BC Liberal Party Leader, resigned his seat as the Member for Vancouver-Quilchena on February 17; Mr. Falcon is running in the by-election on April 30. Following Mr. Wilkinson’s resignation, current party standings in British Columbia are 57 BC NDP, 26 BC Liberal, two BC Green and one vacancy.
Budget 2022-23 Presentation
Minister of Finance Selina Robinson, presented the 2022-23 provincial budget on February 22. The budget presentation focused on funding to address economic recovery, affordable housing and childcare, and to strengthen emergency management and wildfire services. The Official Opposition Critic for Finance, Peter Milobar, shared concerns about a lack of measures to address the rising cost of living. The Leader of the Third Party, Sonia Furstenau, noted that the budget featured no expansion to safe supply, harm reduction, or mental health services.
Premier John Horgan announced the new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship on February 25. This was accompanied by a change in Cabinet, with Josie Osbourne appointed Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship and Minister Responsible for Fisheries, and Nathan Cullen, formerly the Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations, appointed to Minister Osbourne’s former portfolio as the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Ministerial Statements – Ukraine
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, delivered a ministerial statement on February 24 condemning the illegal war of aggression and sharing his support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine. On behalf of the Official Opposition, the Official Opposition House Leader, Todd Stone, responded in support of Ukraine and those of Ukrainian descent who call Canada and British Columbia home. The Leader of the Third Party, Sonia Furstenau, on behalf of the Third Party, also condemned the invasion and highlighted the need to stand together for peace and democracy as elective representatives.
As of March 11, four bills have received Royal Assent:
- Bill 2, Municipalities Enabling and Validating (No. 4) Amendment Act addresses the unique circumstances faced by Lytton following the catastrophic fire in June 2021 by supporting the Village of Lytton in repealing and replacing bylaws that were lost during the fire.
- Bill 3, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act adds land to and modifies the boundaries of several parks and ecological reserves, as well as updates legal descriptions and makes administrative corrections to the Act.
- Bill 4, Skilled Trades BC Act replaces skilled trades certification for 10 skilled trades to be implemented in phases through 2024 and rebrands the Industry Training Authority as SkilledTradesBC.
- Bill 5, Workers Compensation Amendment Act creates certification requirements for asbestos abatement contractors and launches a mandatory training program run by WorkSafeBC.
On February 9, Adam Olsen, BC Green Party Member for Saanich North and the Islands, raised a question of privilege alleging that Lisa Beare, Minster of Citizens’ Services, misled the House in relation to her statements during the consideration of Bill 22, Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Amendment Act, 2021 last fall. With respect to the provision enabling an application fee to be set for information requests, the Member noted that the Minister made statements that, “in making those regulations moving forward, that we are listening and that we will continue to listen to British Columbians.” The Member further noted that an order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council was made setting a fee of $10 shortly after the bill received Royal Assent and that in his view, this contradicted the Minister’s statements about continuing to listen to British Columbians.
On February 15, the Speaker ruled that a prima facie breach of privilege had not occurred, stating that he could not conclusively conclude that the Minister deliberately misled the House. Referring to the representations made by the Minister, and in the absence of indisputable evidence to the contrary, the Speaker advised that, “the Chair must accept her submission that a final decision on the application fee had not been made until after Bill 22 duly passed all stages of consideration in this House and that she views the commitment she made in the course of debate as being fulfilled.” However, the Speaker went on to note that while the responsibility of governing is entrusted to the executive, the important and legitimate role of the House is to examine and undertake effective scrutiny in that respect, which may only be achieved when an elevated level of debate exists.
Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC)
On January 31, 2022, LAMC released the Legislative Assembly Accountability Report 2020-21. The report provides the decisions of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee and outlines the work of the Legislative Assembly Administration during the 2020-21 fiscal year. The audited 2020-21 Financial Statements were released separately in November 2021.
LAMC also approved its first Legislative Assembly Governance Framework on January 31, 2022. The framework establishes detailed provisions for the Legislative Assembly’s financial and administrative management, including LAMC decision-making and subcommittees, operations, and delegations of authority for periods of dissolution and emergencies. The framework requires LAMC to undertake a review of the document once every Parliament and authorizes the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to update provisions to reflect future decisions. The framework is a key component of the Committee’s ongoing work to strengthen governance and oversight processes within the institution.
Committee Research Analyst
2022 Spring Sitting
The 2022 Spring Sitting of the First Session of the 35th Yukon Legislative Assembly began on March 3 and is scheduled to conclude on April 28, the 32nd sitting day of the Sitting.
Pursuant to Standing Order 74, the following government bills were introduced by the fifth sitting day (the deadline for the introduction of government legislation to be dealt with during a given Sitting):
- Bill No. 11, Act to Amend the Child and Family Services Act (2022) –Tracy-Anne McPhee
- Bill No. 12, Income Tax Amendments Act, (2022) –Sandy Silver
- Bill No. 13, Act to Amend the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (2022) – Ms. McPhee
- Bill No. 14, Act to Amend the Legal Profession Act, 2017 (2022) – Ms. McPhee
- Bill No. 15, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2022 – Ms. McPhee
- Bill No. 203, Third Appropriation Act 2021-22 – Mr. Silver
- Bill No. 204, First Appropriation Act 2022-23 – Mr. Silver
- Bill No. 205, Interim Supply Appropriation Act 2022-23 – Mr. Silver
In addition, Bill No. 3, Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act and the Municipal Act (2021) (Richard Mostyn), which had received second reading in the 2021 Fall Sitting, remained on the Order Paper at the outset of the 2022 Spring Sitting. During the present Sitting, the bill was considered in Committee of the Whole, and on March 16, was reported from Committee of the Whole, with amendment.
Unusually, by March 31 – the seventeenth sitting day of the 2022 Spring Sitting – all government bills, with the exception of the main appropriation bill, had progressed through all stages, and been assented to by Commissioner Angélique Bernard. At the time of writing, only the main appropriation bill (Bill No. 204) remains on the Order Paper, with departmental budgets receiving scrutiny in Committee of the Whole.
Temporary limitation on the use of the guillotine
On March 8, 2022, the Government House Leader, John Streicker, moved a motion (Motion No. 282) to amend Standing Order 76 – a standing order commonly referred to as “the guillotine clause” – for the duration of the 2022 Spring Sitting. Motion No. 282 sought to restrict the use of Standing Order 76 by having the standing order apply only to appropriation bills, rather than to all types of government bills. The motion was adopted (17 yea, nil nay).
As two of the three appropriation bills introduced during the Sitting have already received assent, the only bill that is eligible to be identified under the guillotine at 5:00 p.m. on the final day of the 2022 Spring Sitting is the main budget bill (Bill No. 204).
On October 13, 2021, Official Opposition Leader Currie Dixon had moved a motion (Motion No. 113) that sought to limit the use of Standing Order 76 similarly, but on a permanent basis. Although the debate was adjourned, and the motion remains on the Order Paper.
Standing Order 76 was first invoked in the 2003 Fall Sitting. In the ensuing years, with only a handful of exceptions (including a few pandemic-related ones), the guillotine clause has routinely been used by successive governments to expedite government bills through remaining stages at 5:00 p.m. on the final sitting day of a given Sitting.
Opposition Private Members’ Bills considered
During the current Sitting, the House has debated two private members’ bills: Bill No. 302, Act to Amend the Civil Emergency Measures Act (2022), and Bill No. 304, Act to Amend the Education Act.
On March 9, a day on which Opposition private members’ business was to be considered, Official Opposition MLA Brad Cathers moved second reading of Bill No. 302, Act to Amend the Civil Emergency Measures Act (2022). Among its objects, Bill No. 302 sought (as noted in the bill’s explanatory note) to “provide the Yukon Legislative Assembly with oversight and control by requiring any declaration of a State of Emergency to be considered by the Assembly within 7 days of it being issued, and subject to a vote”. At the conclusion of second reading debate that day, Bill No. 302 was defeated (7 yea, 10 nay).
The next Opposition private members’ business day occurred two weeks later, on March 23. On that date, Third Party House Leader Emily Tredger moved second reading of Bill No. 304, Act to Amend the Education Act. As stated in the bill’s explanatory note, Bill No. 304’s purpose is to ensure that all Yukon schools “have safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ students in the form of student activities or organizations.” At the end of the sitting day the debate was adjourned, and on April 6 (the next Opposition private members’ business day), the debate on the motion for second reading of Bill No. 304 resumed. Bill No. 304 passed second reading (16 yea, nil nay), was considered in Committee of the Whole, and was reported to the House, with amendment. A request on April 6 by Ms. Tredger for unanimous consent to immediately proceed with third reading of Bill No. 304 was not granted.
Special Committee on Electoral Reform
The Special Committee on Electoral Reform, chaired by Third Party Leader Kate White, held virtual hearings to hear from expert witnesses in late January and late March. In late April, the committee will hold another virtual hearing to hear from Fair Vote Yukon. A survey on electoral reform that the committee had launched in mid-February wrapped up on April 10. The committee intends to hold public hearings in Yukon communities this summer.