First Session of the 60th Legislature and Throne Speech
Lieutenant-Governor Brenda Murphy opened the First Session of the 60th Legislature on November 17, 2020, with the delivery of the Speech from the Throne. The speech focused on Premier Blaine Higgs’ government’s plan to build upon the progress made in six priority areas: energizing the private sector; creating vibrant and sustainable communities; delivering dependable public health care; creating a world-class education system; ensuring government is affordable, responsive and high-performing; and protecting the environment.
Initiatives outlined in the throne speech included: increase private sector investment; diversify and grow exports from the current three per cent of companies in New Brunswick to closer to the national average of five per cent; increase immigration and repatriation to grow the population base by attracting 10,000 people per year by 2027; work with local governments on areas identified as priorities for municipal reform; work with the national housing strategy to ensure affordable housing solutions; reduce wait times for hip and knee replacement surgeries; build a five-year action plan on mental health and addictions; develop a strategy to combat youth vaping; ensure every child has the opportunity to learn both official languages; expand the availability and quality of Indigenous courses within provincial schools; move government services online where applicable to reduce costs and increase flexibility; assist New Brunswick businesses to do more business with the provincial government through the procurement strategy and action plan; allow for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions for New Brunswick’s large emitters; encourage expanded glass recycling; and phase-in a ban on single-use plastic bags.
Reply to the Throne Speech
On November 19, Official Opposition Leader Roger Melanson gave his reply to the Speech from the Throne. Mr. Melanson welcomed some of the measures outlined in the speech, but he also indicated that certain measures seemed inadequate or insufficient and, overall, the speech was too vague. He criticized the Premier for focusing too much on cutting government services and expenditures with the goal of balancing the budget, which, in his opinion, negatively affected the economy. He also criticized the decision to cancel infrastructure projects proposed by the former Liberal government, resulting in millions of federal dollars being left on the table. Mr. Melanson noted the rising unemployment rate in the province and urged the government to offer more financial assistance to businesses during the pandemic. He was also skeptical of the planned consultation process on health care and surmised that the government had already decided on certain reforms.
The 2021-22 Capital Budget was tabled by Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves on December 15 and totalled $673.4 million. Specifically, the government will invest $128.2 million in health care infrastructure. Of this total, $83.9 million will be for the continuation of renovations, additions and other improvements around the province, and $44.3 million will be for capital improvements and equipment. The government will also invest $72.6 million in K-12 infrastructure. The capital budget includes $307.7 million for the maintenance and improvement of highways, roads and bridges. An additional $62.2 million will be invested in the maintenance and improvement of government buildings and other infrastructure, including renovations to the building that houses Legislative Hansard staff, the press gallery, government private Members and their staff, and the Members and staff of the Green Party and People’s Alliance caucuses.
Thirty-one bills were introduced during the fall session. Legislation introduced included:
Bill 2 – An Act to Amend the Climate Change Act– introduced by Environment and Climate Change Minister Gary Crossman, allows for the transition from the federal backstop plan to a provincial output-based pricing system for large industrial emitters of greenhouse gases. Under the new provincial system, large industrial emitters will be required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 10 per cent by 2030.
Bill 9 – Gunshot and Stab Wound Mandatory Reporting Act – introduced by Attorney General and Justice and Public Safety Minister Hugh (Ted) Flemming, makes it mandatory for hospitals to report gunshot and stab wounds to the police.
Bill 11 – An Act to Amend the Queen’s Counsel and Precedence Act – introduced by Minister Flemming, automatically revokes an appointment as Her Majesty’s Counsel if the person appointed is disbarred in accordance with the Law Society Act, 1996.
Bill 16 – An Act to Amend the Elections Act – introduced by Keith Chiasson, requires that when a seat becomes vacant in the Legislative Assembly, the date of the writ shall not be more than six months from the date of the vacancy.
Bill 18 – An Act to Amend The Residential Tenancies Act – introduced by Green Party Leader David Coon, places restrictions on a landlord’s ability to implement rent increases.
Bill 21 – An Act to Amend the Industrial Relations Act – introduced by Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder, specifies the process and requires arbitrators to consider specific criteria when rendering a decision that involves a local government and police officers and firefighters as employees.
Bill 23 – An Act to Amend the Municipal Elections Act – introduced by Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain, authorizes the municipal electoral officer to impose restrictions or take any measures considered necessary or advisable to protect the health and safety of both election officials and the public during an election period.
On December 4, the Standing Committee on Economic Policy held the first virtual hybrid meeting of a committee in the history of the Legislative Assembly. Six Members of the committee attended the meeting in-person, while the remaining five Members participated virtually via Zoom, as did the Minister defending the Bills under consideration.
Retirement and Appointment of Clerk
On October 26, Donald J. Forestell informed the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of his decision to retire as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly effective November 13. Mr. Forestell began his career at the Legislative Assembly in 1993 as Clerk Assistant. He was appointed Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by resolution of the House in 2012.
On December 18, based on the recommendation of the Legislative Administration Committee, Shayne Davies, the Deputy Clerk and Acting Clerk at the time, was appointed Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by resolution of the House. Mr. Davies began his career at the Legislative Assembly in 2000 as a Committee Clerk.
The House adjourned on December 18 and is scheduled to resume sitting on February 12, 2021. The standings in the House are 27 Progressive Conservatives, 17 Liberals, 3 Greens and 2 People’s Alliance.
Clerk Assistant and Committee Clerk
Fall Sitting, 2nd Session of the 30th Legislature
Following an extended spring sitting that ended in July and a special sitting on August 27, 2020, the fall sitting began on October 20, 2020, a week earlier than originally indicated on the sessional calendar, and the Assembly continued to sit later than scheduled in December, adjourning on December 8, 2020. Just prior to adjournment Speaker Nathan Cooper noted that the Assembly had set several new records, stating:
Today marks the 78th sitting day of the session, including a rare sitting day in August. No other province or territory has sat as often. The next-closest will be Quebec, which has not yet sat 60 days this session. The Assembly sat for over 560 hours. This breaks the record from 1994 of 434 hours under then Premier Klein and Speaker Schumacher. In addition, we have had a record-breaking 20 sittings past midnight.
The session saw the introduction of 15 government Bills, all of which have received Royal Assent, and seven Private Members’ Public Bills, one of which has received Royal Assent. A Private Bill, introduced in the spring, also received Royal Assent. Bills that received Royal Assent following consideration during the fall session include:
Bill 33, Alberta Investment Attraction Act, which establishes the arms-length Invest Alberta Corporation, which is mandated to increase investor confidence in industries such as energy and agriculture and to pursue investment opportunities in industries, including technology and financial services;
Bill 36, Geothermal Resource Development Act, which outlines rules and processes for responsible development of the industry and establishes the government’s authority to collect royalties and other revenues;
Bill 43, Financing Alberta’s Strategic Transportation Act, which permits the government to fund infrastructure projects through the collection of tolls;
Bill 47, Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, which amends several pieces of legislation to update language and definitions, clarify serious incident reporting requirements and dangerous work refusals, limit presumptive coverage for psychological injuries to first responders, remove requirements for reinstating injured workers, and cost of living increases to lost wages benefits are now set by the Worker’s Compensation Board instead of being tied to the Alberta consumer price index; and
Bill 204, Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act, which repeals the 2017 ban on compensation for donors of blood and blood products including plasma.
Changes to the Standing Orders
On October 21, 2020, changes were made to the Standing Orders through Government Motion 40. Some of the changes, such as reduced quorum requirements, from 20 to 12 Members, are temporary and intended to ensure that the Assembly can continue to function in an appropriate manner during the pandemic. Another temporary amendment permits the Speaker, in consultation with the Government House Leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition, to extend a period of adjournment beyond the originally specified date and time. Other amendments to the Standing Orders are permanent, such as holding morning sittings only on the passage of motion to provide for them.
The Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee completed its review of potential citizens’ initiatives and recall legislation, reporting to the Assembly on November 16, 2020. The report included 17 recommendations regarding potential legislative changes concerning citizens’ initiatives and 16 recommendations regarding recall legislation. In November, the Committee also received stakeholder and public presentations as part of its review of the Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The Committee completed its deliberations regarding these Acts on December 15, 2020, and will report its recommendations in early 2021.
On October 29, 2020, the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund held its annual public meeting with Albertans to discuss the Fund’s investment activities and performance. As in 2019, the event was live-streamed on the Assembly’s Facebook and Twitter accounts; however, this year the Committee added a phone-in option in order to increase engagement options for Albertans, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the meeting approximately 20 questions from e-mail and social media, three in-person questions and several questions from telephone participants were addressed.
The Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship is continuing its review of the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act. Having received a technical briefing from the Public Interest Commissioner, the Committee agreed to accept written submissions from the public and stakeholders until November 30, 2020. The Committee is scheduled to meet again on January 13, 2021.
On November 25, 2020, the October 2020 Evaluation Summary Report of the Office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities was referred to the Standing Committee on Families and Communities for review. In 2017, the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities Act established the role of the Advocate and directs the Advocate to “prepare a report evaluating the effectiveness of this Act that includes any amendments and recommendations relating to persons with disabilities that the Advocate considers appropriate” that will be referred to a committee of the Legislative Assembly. One week later, on December 2, 2020, the 2019-2020 Annual Report of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate was referred to the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices for review. Both Committees have up to 90 days to complete their reviews and report to the Assembly.
During the fall sitting, the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills completed its consideration of one Private Bill and three Private Members’ Public Bills. The Committee recommended that Bill Pr1, The Sisters of the Precious Blood of Edmonton Repeal Act, proceed. The Assembly concurred with the Committee’s recommendation and the Bill proceeded to Second Reading and ultimately received Royal Assent. The Committee has also recommended that Bill 205, Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation and Prevention Month Act, and Bill 207, Reservists’ Recognition Day Act, proceed to Second Reading. The Committee also recommended that Bill 206, Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act, 2020, sponsored by Drew Barnes, proceed to Second Reading. However, because the Ethics Commissioner had indicated that Mr. Barnes could have a potential conflict of interest regarding the Bill, the Committee further recommended that Mr. Barnes seek the consent of the Assembly to change the sponsorship of the Bill. The Assembly concurred with the report of the Committee and, on November 23, 2020, Mr. Barnes requested and received the unanimous consent of the Assembly to transfer the sponsorship of Bill 206 to Michaela Glasgo. The Assembly has not completed its consideration of any of these Private Members’ Public Bills. During the final week of the sitting an additional four Bills were referred to the Committee for consideration:
Bill 208, Alberta Investment Management Corporation Amendment Act, 2020;
Bill 209, Cost of Public Services Transparency Act;
Bill 211, Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act, 2020; and
Bill 212, Official Sport of Alberta Act.
On November 30, 2020, the Special Standing Committee on Members’ Services met to review and approve the parameters for preparing the 2021-22 budget estimates for the Legislative Assembly Office. The Committee also struck a subcommittee to review the guidelines for caucus and Member expenditures and related Members’ Services Committee Orders. The five-Member subcommittee has five months to complete its review and report its recommendations to the Committee.
A provincial general election was held in British Columbia on October 24, 2020, a year earlier than the anticipated October 2021 fixed election date as provided by the provincial Constitution Act. Overall voter turn-out was 52.4 per cent, with over 1.9 million British Columbians voting, including a record 724,279 requests for vote-by-mail packages compared to 11,268 requests received during the 2017 provincial general election. Party standings at dissolution of the 41st Parliament were: 41 BC New Democratic Party (BC NDP), 41 BC Liberal Party, 2 BC Green Party, 2 Independent Members, and 1 seat vacant. Party standings following the provincial general election were: 57 BC NDP, 28 BC Liberal Party, and 2 BC Green Party. The BC NDP received the largest vote share ever for the party, at 47.7 per cent along with the highest number of seats ever won by the party.
The 2020 provincial general election resulted in the election of 28 new Members. The publicly accessible Members’ Guide to Policy and Resources website was updated to provide information for new, returning and non-returning Members on topics ranging from the role and responsibilities of a Member, transition provisions, legislative and constituency office operations, Assembly services, administration, financial policies, travel guidelines, and remuneration and benefits.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic health and travel restrictions, the usual oath ceremonies were adapted. The two Vancouver Island-based Members of the BC Green Party Caucus were sworn in on November 23 in a small in-person ceremony, while virtual ceremonies were held for Members of the BC NDP Caucus on November 24, and on November 27 for Members of the BC Liberal Party Caucus.
The Legislative Assembly is also offering a series of virtual orientation sessions for Members. Initial sessions covered remuneration and benefits for Members; constituency assistant recruitment, hiring and onboarding; constituency office leases and set-up; constituency office management and financial operations; travel provisions; information technology; records and information management; Assembly services and supports for Members; and House business and procedure, including information on hybrid House proceedings.
On November 26, Her Honour the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor, presided over the virtual swearing-in ceremony for the Executive Council. The new Cabinet includes 20 Ministers and four Ministers of State—two more Ministers of State than were in the Ministry prior to dissolution of the 41st Parliament. Along with Premier John Horgan, the new provincial Cabinet includes 12 women and 12 men. Seven ministers retained their portfolios and four newly-elected Members were appointed to ministerial roles. Another 13 NDP Members, including nine new ones, were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries.
Resignation of Leader of the Official Opposition
The Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Wilkinson, who was re-elected as the Member for Vancouver-Quilchena, announced following the provincial general election on October 26 that he would step down as leader of the BC Liberal Party but would continue on an interim basis until a new leader was selected. On November 21, Mr. Wilkinson further announced that he would no longer be staying on until a new leader was selected and was stepping down as Leader of the Official Opposition. The BC Liberal Party Caucus selected Shirley Bond as its interim Leader of the Official Opposition on November 23. A date has not yet been set for a leadership race.
First Session of the 42nd Parliament
The 42nd Parliament opened on December 7, 2020. The first item of business was the election of the Speaker, a post to which Raj Chouhan was acclaimed. Speaker Chouhan, BC NDP Member for Burnaby-Edmonds, was first elected in 2005 and is the first person of South Asian heritage to serve as Speaker in any Canadian parliament. Spencer Chandra Herbert, BC NDP Member for Vancouver-West End and former Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole, was appointed Deputy Speaker. Norm Letnick, BC Liberal Party Member for Kelowna-Lake Country was appointed Assistant Deputy Speaker, and Ronna-Rae Leonard, BC NDP Member for Courtney-Comox, was appointed as the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
The Speech from the Throne opening the first session of the 42nd Parliament delivered by the Lieutenant Governor, focused on COVID-19 pandemic support programs and policies and the economic recovery plan. The government also committed to funding for transportation infrastructure as well as school boards, health authorities and child care providers to stimulate economic recovery.
Following the Speech from the Throne, the Legislative Assembly adopted a Sessional Order establishing procedural measures to facilitate hybrid proceedings of the Legislative Assembly which built upon the sessional procedures previously adopted to facilitate the recent hybrid sittings in the summer of 2020. Members who were not present in the Legislative Chamber on Monday morning and at the start of the afternoon proceedings were able to observe via Zoom and were unable to participate until after the Sessional Order was adopted. The measures for the hybrid proceedings once again received all-party support, as did measures for the hybrid summer sitting period of the previous Parliament.
During the short winter sitting period, two bills were adopted. Bill 3, Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 adjusts the deadline for presenting the annual budget and estimates to April 30 if an election is conducted in the preceding fiscal year and provides interim funding if a Supply Act is not passed before the end of the fiscal year. The bill also sets out the rules for home owner grant applications for the 2020 and 2021 tax years.
In addition to the Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 2020, which received Royal Assent on December 17, 2020, the government introduced Supplementary Estimates for the Legislative Assembly’s consideration. The enabling Supply Act allocates up to $2 billion in expenditures. The supplementary funding was requested to cover the BC Recovery Benefit, a one-time direct deposit payment for eligible families, single parents and individuals. The legislated allocation also covers a reduced, three-month extension to the provincial supplement for people receiving income and disability assistance and the employment incentive tax credit which encourages employers to create new jobs or increase payroll for existing low- or medium-income employees.
Following approval of the Supplementary Estimates, the Legislature also adopted the legislation required to authorize the necessary spending with the Supply Act 2020-21 (Supplementary Estimates No. 3) passing through all three stages of consideration during the final sitting day on December 17.
Pursuant to Standing Order provisions, the Legislative Assembly appointed its ten select standing committees on December 8, 2020, and the Special Committee of Selection tasked with determining the membership of the select standing committees.
During the brief winter sitting period, the Legislative Assembly activated three select standing committees and three special committees.
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services will undertake its usual work including province-wide public consultations pursuant to the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act (S.B.C. 2000, c. 23), to review and recommend statutory offices’ budgets, and to appoint an auditor to audit the Auditor General as per section 23(2) of the Auditor General Act (S.B.C. 2003, c. 2).
The Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts was authorized to review and report to the Legislative Assembly on the audit reports of the Auditor General of British Columbia, providing a public forum for the scrutiny of the economy, effectiveness and efficiency of government organizations.
The Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth was appointed to foster greater awareness and understanding among legislators and the public of the BC child welfare system, including the specific needs of Indigenous children, youth, families and communities.
A Special Committee was appointed, in accordance with section 59 of the Personal Information Protection Act (S.B.C. 2003, c. 63), to review that Act which governs how private sector organizations can collect, use, and disclose personal information. A similar committee had been struck in the 41st Parliament but was unable to complete its work prior to dissolution. The terms of reference allow for any information or evidence previously under consideration by the Special Committee appointed on February 8, 2020, to be reviewed by the new Special Committee.
The Legislative Assembly also appointed the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act on December 9, 2020. Similar to the Special Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act, a Special Committee had begun work on the same mandate before the dissolution of the previous Parliament, and the Special Committee was authorized to consider information or evidence previously under consideration by that committee, per the terms of reference. The Special Committee is authorized to examine and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on: reforms related to the modernization and sustainability of policing under the Police Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 367); the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction; the scope of systemic racism within BC’s police agencies; and whether there are measures necessary to ensure a modernized Police Act is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). The Special Committee is required to report to the Legislative Assembly by October 8, 2021.
On December 14, 2020, a Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 165) was appointed in accordance with section 80 of that Act which requires a review of the Act by a parliamentary committee every six years. The Special Committee must submit a report with any recommendations within one year.
The Legislative Assembly Management Committee, chaired by Speaker Chouhan, met for the first time in the new Parliament on December 21, 2020, to establish its subcommittee and working group structure and consider the funding of unanticipated expenses during the provincial general election period, which, as noted above, was held one year earlier than previously scheduled. The Legislative Assembly Management Committee is expected to meet frequently in the year ahead to continue its work relating to ongoing administrative reforms.
2020 Fall Sitting
The Third Session of the 34th Legislative Assembly reconvened on October 1 and concluded on December 22. The 45-day Sitting was the longest, essentially uninterrupted (no recess weeks) Sitting since 1993. As well, by order of the House, the Assembly sat on Friday, December 4 – the first non-ceremonial Friday sitting in 40 years – rather than sitting on Thursday, November 12.
As noted in the preceding legislative report, on the first day of the 2020 Fall Sitting, the House adopted three sessional orders related to COVID-19 that had effect for the duration of the Sitting (Motions No. 213, 214, and 215).
The first sessional order provided for any Member unable to attend sittings of the House in-person “due to COVID-19 symptoms, illness or protocols” to participate by teleconference. Unlike video conference, the ability to teleconference into Chamber proceedings was already in place, though it had never been used during a sitting of the Legislative Assembly. The second sessional order established a procedure for registering and recording pairs, with the pairing arrangements applying to all divisions held in the House on a given day. The third sessional order empowered the Government House Leader, acting together with at least one of the other House Leaders, to “request that the Legislative Assembly meet virtually by video conference, with all the Members of the Legislative Assembly being able to participate remotely,” if the Assembly stood adjourned for an indefinite period of time. Of these three sessional orders, only the one concerning pairing arrangements was used during the 2020 Fall Sitting (on three sitting days).
By the conclusion of the Sitting, all government bills (including four bills that had only passed first reading during the abbreviated Spring Sitting) had been assented to by Yukon’s Commissioner, Angélique Bernard:
Bill No. 9, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act – Jeanie McLean
Bill No. 10, Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (2020) – John Streicker
Bill No. 11, Act to Amend the Land Titles Act, 2015 – Tracy-Anne McPhee
Bill No. 12, Act to Amend the Wills Act (2020) –Ms. McPhee
Bill No. 13, Act to Amend the Elections Act (2020) – Sandy Silver
Bill No. 14, Act to Amend the Environment Act (2020) – Pauline Frost
Bill No. 15, Corporate Statutes Amendment Act (2020) –Mr. Streicker
Bill No. 16, Act of 2020 to Amend the Condominium Act, 2015 –Ms. McPhee
Bill No. 17, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Related Amendments Act (2020) – Ms. McPhee
Bill No. 204, Fourth Appropriation Act 2019-20 – Mr. Silver
Bill No. 205, Second Appropriation Act 2020-21 – Mr. Silver
The Act to Amend the Elections Act (2020) provides that general elections will be held on the first Monday in November every four years beginning in 2025, though the Commissioner’s power to order the Chief Electoral Officer to issue a writ of election at the Commissioner’s direction is preserved.
Two private members’ bills received first reading during the 2020 Fall Sitting. On November 30, Brad Cathers (Lake Laberge) introduced Bill No. 302, Act to Amend the Civil Emergency Measures Act, and on December 21, Bill No. 203, Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act (2020).
Motion supporting extension of state of emergency
On December 4, Mr. Streicker, Minister of Community Services, moved Motion No. 359:
“THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current state of emergency, established under the Civil Emergency Measures Act and expiring on December 8, 2020, should be extended.” An amendment having been moved by the Official Opposition and negatived, the main motion carried, 15 yea, nil nay.
Special Committee on Civil Emergency Legislation
In the context of COVID-19, the Civil Emergency Measure Act (“CEMA”) – which has not changed significantly since the 1980s – has assumed greater prominence, and its provisions renewed attention. On October 1, Mr. Streicker gave notice of Motion No. 212, which sought to establish a Special Committee on Civil Emergency Legislation. The motion empowered the special committee to hold public hearings to receive Yukoners’ views, and tasked the committee with identifying options to modernize CEMA and recommending potential amendments to the act.
On October 6, a point of order was raised by Mr. Cathers regarding the orderliness of calling Motion No. 212 for debate, on the grounds that the motion concerned matters that were sub judice: “…litigation that is directed against the Minister of Community Services by name and this government would, if successful in the Yukon Supreme Court, overturn parts of the Civil Emergency Measures Act itself as being unconstitutional…” In ruling that there was no point of order and that debate on the motion could proceed, Speaker Nils Clarke cited the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice: “The [sub judice] convention does not apply to legislation or to the legislative process as the right of Parliament to legislate may not be limited…”
Debate on the motion, which named Mr. Streicker as the committee’s convenor, took place on October 6 and December 8. Over the course of the debate, the Official Opposition and the Third Party moved amendments, which were negatived, seeking to alter the proposed membership of the committee by replacing the minister (who has responsibility for CEMA) with a private member from the government caucus. During the debate, the government cited examples from a prior Legislative Assembly of select committees that were chaired by the Minister responsible for the respective legislation, and noted that at the time the motions seeking to establish those committees were debated, the respective Minister’s membership on the proposed committee had not elicited negative comment.
The main motion carried on December 8, with the division on Motion No. 212 running along party lines (the government in favour, the opposition parties opposed).
As the convenor of the newly-struck special committee, Mr. Streicker called the organizational meeting for January 8. At that meeting, the committee’s representative from the Third Party, Liz Hanson (Whitehorse Centre), was elected Chair. As provided for in the motion establishing the committee, the Chair will have a deliberative vote on all matters before the committee. The other member of the all-party committee is Mr. Cathers, who was elected Vice-Chair.
Per the order of the House establishing the committee, the special committee must report on its findings and recommendations by August 31, 2021.
Appearance of witnesses
The Fall Sitting saw witnesses from an unusually high number of organizations called before Committee of the Whole (COW) to answer questions regarding matters in their bailiwick.
Due to physical distancing requirements in place in the Chamber to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the number of witnesses that could appear before the committee at any one time was limited to two. Given pandemic-related travel considerations and self-isolation requirements, one set of witnesses located outside Yukon appeared before COW by teleconference.
On October 19, the House carried Motion No. 257 as amended, providing for the chair and a member of the panel of experts that the government had tasked with reviewing the territory’s healthcare system, to answer questions about the panel’s report, Putting People First – The final report of the comprehensive review of Yukon’s health and social programs and services. These were the witnesses who later that day, in a first for the Legislative Assembly, appeared before COW by teleconference.
Over the course of the remainder of the Fall Sitting, other witnesses appeared in Committee of the Whole through the adoption of motions in the committee (COW Motions No. 4-8). The Committee questioned witnesses from the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, the Yukon Hospital Corporation, Yukon University, and the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. Finally, on December 17, Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, appeared as a witness before the committee to answer questions from Members regarding the pandemic.
Deputy Clerk, Yukon Legislative Assembly
Prince Edward Island
1st Session, Sixty-sixth General Assembly
The First Session of the Sixty-sixth General Assembly resumed on November 12, 2020, and adjourned to the call of the Speaker on December 4, for a fall sitting totalling 14 days. The First Session began in June 2019, and now totals 71 sitting days.
New Member of the Legislative Assembly
Progressive Conservative Party candidate Zack Bell was elected to represent District 10, Charlottetown-Winsloe, in a by-election on November 2, 2020. The by-election was held as a result of the resignation of former member Robert Mitchell in September 2020. Mr. Bell was sworn in and took his seat in the House on November 18, 2020. Prior to politics, Mr. Bell worked in journalism and sales, and he is a minor hockey volunteer and Sunday School teacher. The House now consists of 14 Progressive Conservative Party members, eight Green Party members, and five Liberal Party members.
A $196 million Capital Budget was tabled in the Assembly on November 20, 2020. The department with the highest capital spending planned for 2021-2022 is Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, at just over $74 million. The majority of this spending is devoted to improvements to highways and bridges. Health PEI and the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, at over $28 million each, have the next highest capital budgets for the year. The 2021-2022 capital budget forms the highest single year of spending in the 2021-2026 five-year capital plan, which totals $748 million.
Thirty-six bills were passed during the fall sitting. Of these, 29 originated from Government, mostly to amend existing legislation. However, there were notable substantive bills. Bill 46, the Forest Fire Protection Act, overhauls the provincial burning permit system, increases fines for individuals and corporations at fault for causing forest fires, and aligns PEI’s legislation in this area with the other Atlantic Provinces. Bill 73, Health Dental Services Cost Assistance Act, provides a new legislative framework to facilitate new health and dental services programs in which Government is the payer of last resort, which is intended to expand access to persons with low incomes. Bill 75, Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, enables Government to recover the cost of health care and social services related to the opioid crisis by establishing a statutory tort upon which Government may sue opioid-related companies. Bill 57, Children’s Law Act, modernizes family law in various ways as it relates to private law matters between parents, with a focus on the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration for the courts.
Private members’ bill 125 establishes a new Legislative Assembly Act. Among other changes, the new Act builds upon the former Act by defining the Legislative Assembly precinct, establishing legislative security officers as peace officers and empowering them in various ways, and removing stipulations on severance pay for members so that they may instead be determined by the Indemnities and Allowances Commission. Bill 127, Net-Zero Carbon Act, defines sustainable prosperity; sets it as the long-term objective of the province; and requires Government to create awareness of it, create conditions necessary for it to occur, and take action aligned with the principles that support it. The bill puts in legislation the goal of provincial carbon neutrality by 2040, which Government had previously announced as a target. It requires the Minister responsible for the Act to report annually on climate change risks and progress toward targets, and establishes a committee to advise the Minister on various matters respecting climate change. Other private members’ bills passed in the fall sitting added protections to animals and livestock, and established March 21st as Down Syndrome Awareness Day and the last Friday in January as Winter Wellness Day in the public school system.
Committee Activities and Reports
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy year for the five standing and three special committees of the Legislative Assembly. One hundred and twenty-two meetings were held, which is believed to be a record. The fall sitting included several significant reports by standing and special committees.
The Special Committee on Government Records Retention was established in the Spring 2020 sitting to examine issues related to the deletion of Government records raised in an order of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and issue a report with recommendations on electronic records and security within six months. The committee met 14 times over the summer and fall, and heard from experts in records management and information technology, current and former Government employees, and current and former Information and Privacy Commissioners and Auditors General. In its final report the committee put forward eight recommendations, addressing matters such as improving uptake of basic records management training for Government employees; adding a legislated “duty to document” for Government decisions; developing policies on active dissemination/routine disclosure and vital records; and developing a new three-year records information management strategy.
The Special Committee on Poverty in PEI finished the work it had been mandated to do by the House in the Spring 2019 sitting, which involved establishing clear definitions and measures of poverty, defining a living wage for PEI, and making fully costed recommendations regarding the creation of a basic income guarantee pilot program. The committee met with individuals, community groups, Government officials, and subject-matter experts, and contracted an expert in basic income to assist with the design and costing of a basic income guarantee pilot project and a full program. In its interim report of July 2020, the committee recommended that Government adopt the “market-based measure” as its official measure of poverty when making changes to legislation, regulations and policy. In its final report, delivered during the Fall sitting, the committee recommended the Charlottetown Living Wage 2020, as established by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, be used and suggested Government should research ways of applying the living wage in other areas of the province. For a basic income guarantee, the committee put forward recommendations for a full program that would be dependent on support of the Government of Canada, and for a pilot program in case federal support is not provided. In both cases, the committee recommended that the basic income guarantee be set at as a fixed percentage of the most current market-based measure threshold, and be available to all Islanders over 18. The committee made other recommendations on matters such as negotiations with the federal government, the eventual elimination of the social assistance program – but not other programs that support persons with low incomes – in favour of a full basic income guarantee program, and selection mechanisms for participants in a pilot program.
The Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability issued a report covering its activities for the past year. Many of its meetings focused on PEI’s as-yet unproclaimed Water Act, its regulations, and the moratorium on high capacity wells in agriculture. The committee recommended that the Act be proclaimed immediately, and the moratorium be extended to all types of high capacity wells except those meant to serve residential areas, until research is available upon which to make evidence-based decisions.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House passed a motion during the Spring 2020 sitting calling on the Standing Committee on Rules, Regulations, Private Bills and Privileges to make recommendations on rule changes necessary to facilitate virtual proceedings. The committee issued its report during the fall, recommending first that all efforts to hold in-person proceedings be exhausted before resorting to virtual hybrid proceedings (a mixture of members present in the Chamber and members participating remotely via video conference). The committee put forward a new chapter to be added to the Rule book to adapt various rules and procedures in case virtual proceedings are invoked by the Speaker. The new chapter addresses matters such as participating remotely and counting toward quorum, tabling documents electronically, changes to Committee of the Whole, changes to recorded divisions, and other adjustments. Rule changes to allow for virtual hybrid proceedings for committees were also developed. The rule changes are to come into effect on January 1, 2021, and are to be reviewed annually by the committee. The committee also tabled an additional report on rule changes to the Order of Business following the Ordinary Daily Routine, which were necessitated by a previous change to the hours of sitting that will take effect in 2021.
The standing committees on Health and Social Development, Education and Economic Growth, and Public Accounts all provided reports updating the House on their activities. The Health and Social Development committee also issued a report recommending appointments to the PEI Human Rights Commission, in line with its responsibilities under the PEI Human Rights Act. The Special Committee on Climate Change issued an interim report as it continues its work toward making recommendations on how PEI should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach its 2030 target.
All the committee reports referenced above were adopted by the House.
Clerk Assistant – Research and Committees
3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature – Resumption of Virtual Sittings
The 3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature resumed on November 17, 2020, and sat until December 3, 2020, a period in which the Assembly had regular daily sittings incorporating hybrid virtual technology for MLA participation. Prior to resumption, as mentioned in the last submission, the House began a new session on October 7, 2020 with the Speech from the Throne. The House also sat until the wee hours of the morning on November 6, 2020, to complete certain financial business in accordance with rule requirements of the Sessional Calendar. The House passed all Budget related documents on that day including The Loan Act, 2020, The Appropriations Act, 2020 and The Budget Implementation & Tax Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 (BITSA).
The Opposition side of the House took issue with the omnibus nature of the latter Bill, opposing a number of its provisions, and as a result the House had numerous recorded votes and did not adjourn until 3:49 a.m. One major provision of BITSA that the Opposition objected to was the power of the cabinet to impose a 2.9-per-cent Manitoba Hydro increase, without the historic oversight and public hearings normally conducted by the Public Utilities Board. Another contentious item was the prohibition barring foster children, who were disproportionately of First Nations origin, from seeking redress for more than $338 million redirected from the federal Children’s Special Allowances program for foster children into provincial general revenues since 2005.
In the first week of November, the Assembly adopted a new seating plan, further reducing the number of Members in the House to 25 per cent to reflect the entire province moving to Code Red status. The fourth row of seats, previously set up to accommodate better physical distancing of Members when the Chamber seating was previously reduced to 50 per cent capacity, was removed, and of the 57 MLAs, those present in the Chamber were reduced to 10 Government Members, five Official Opposition Members and one Independent Liberal. Fortunately, as mentioned in the last submission, the increased number of Members that now had to participate virtually did not prove to be an encumbrance for Assembly staff. The Assembly team was fully prepared as it had already established procedures to allow for smooth operations such as sending PDFs to MLAs of Bill Motions, Petitions and other House documents enabling them to move and respond to such items both within the Chamber and virtually.
This latter part of the Fall Session did mark however even more innovations as the House also considered Estimates under Orders of the Day with all three sections of Supply sitting simultaneously in separate rooms, allowing all Members to participate virtually in whichever room they chose, something that had never before been done in a Canadian legislature. In addition, the method for recorded votes in a Committee of the Whole was adapted so that the Clerk would no longer count Members by number but instead follow the same procedure created for House votes. Members in the Chamber are still counted by row initially, and then Virtual Members are called alphabetically after which they indicate either “I vote Aye” or “I vote Nay”, with the Clerk orally confirming their vote.
On December 3, 2020, the last scheduled House sitting day of the calendar year, all parties agreed to extend the Sessional Order passed on October 7, 2020, detailed in the previous submission, from December 3, 2020 to June 1, 2021. The Sessional Order was also amended prior to that date on November 19, 2020, replacing section 35 with the following provision:
Presentations to Standing Committees
35(a) All public presentations to Bills at Standing Committees will take place remotely, with presenters appearing either virtually or by telephone.
(b) When appearing before a Standing Committee, representatives of a Crown Corporation or an Office of the Assembly may participate in the meeting either in person or virtually.
December 3, 2020, concluded with Royal Assent being granted to five Private Members’ Bills as well as four Government Bills. The Private Members’ Bills were entitled:
Bill No. 208 – The Wildlife Amendment Act (Protecting Property from Water and Wildlife Damage) allows a municipality, local government district or incorporated community to authorize a person to destroy a beaver lodge or beaver dam, or to remove an obstruction to water flow caused by an accumulation of debris, if it adversely affects local water flow or land use.
Bill No. 211 – The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Unpaid Leave for Reservists) permits a member of the Reserves to take an unpaid leave of absence from their employment for active duty or training.
Bill No. 218 – The Somali Heritage Week Act proclaims June 25 to July 1 in each year as Somali Heritage Week.
Bill No. 300 – The United Church of Canada Amendment Act amends The United Church of Canada Act to reflect changes to the churchs governance structure.
Bill No. 301 – The Winnipeg Humane Society Foundation Incorporation Amendment Act amends The Winnipeg Humane Society Foundation Incorporation Act to reflect a change in composition of the Foundation Board’s structure and removes the requirement to use trust companies to invest.
The Government Bills passed were:
Bill No. 4 – The Retail Business Hours of Operation Act (Various Acts Amended or Repealed) which gives local governments authority over retail business hours and days of operation to allow for Sunday and holiday shopping while still allowing employees the right to refuse to work on Sundays.
Bill No. 7 – The Planning Amendment Act amends The Planning Act to provide that the council of the City of Brandon is the approving authority for the subdivision of land in Brandon.
Bill No. 9 – The Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act provides a direct and distinct cause of action against manufacturers and wholesalers of opioid products to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by an opioid-related wrong.
Bill No. 42 – The Remote Witnessing and Commissioning Act (Various Acts Amended) enables the use of videoconferencing or similar technology when commissioning an oath or affirmation or when witnessing a will, power of attorney, land titles document or health care directive.
The ever changing future
The last day of the Fall Session also included the Speaker marking the historic accomplishments of all the Assembly staff who made these past sittings possible by recognizing them individually by name and identifying their contributions to the entire process. Even though the Pandemic had a major impact on the dates and times the Legislature could meet, the hard work and superb skills of many Assembly staff amazingly resulted in the House experiencing 57 sitting days in the calendar year 2020 in spite of the COVID 19 pandemic. An excerpt from the Speaker’s statement is included below:
I would like to take a few moments now to thank and celebrate the incredible team who worked tirelessly over the Summer and Fall, and every day this session, to allow the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba to continue meeting during the Pandemic by enabling the option to meet in this hybrid virtual setting.
Adapting to this hybrid virtual model, with all of its inherent quirks and modifications to existing practices, has been a huge cultural shift for a 150-year-old institution, especially one that is not known for accepting rapid change easily. There were some technical glitches here and there, but no more than the average Zoom meeting. Thank you all for your perseverance and for the appreciation you have shown for our efforts.
As I told you all on October 8th of this year when we held our first sitting in this manner, virtual sittings of the House are complicated operations. There are many moving parts to this endeavour, and our staff devoted many months of intense effort to make this process work as well as it has.
As a result of that hard work the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba now has the ability to continue to meet despite the many necessary restrictions and limitations on life during the COVID-19 pandemic. By providing this service to Manitoba’s 57 MLAs, and therefore allowing the citizens of Manitoba to stay in touch with their Legislature, this team has served our province very well and for that we should all be truly grateful.
In addition to all of the technical requirements which make all of this possible, we also had to consider all of the procedural implications of such a change in our processes. This detailed examination of our Rules and procedures happened in parallel to the technical process and took almost as long to perfect. The culmination of these efforts manifested in the Sessional Order passed by this House on October 7th. This step was a crucial part of making these sittings work.
You may not know that through this achievement the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba is leading the country in the depth and breadth of what we have accomplished here. So far this year, the House of Commons, the Senate, as well as the BC and Newfoundland and Labrador Legislatures have all employed similar hybrid virtual models to conduct their House sittings, and we benefited from their experiences as we planned our infrastructure.
However, Manitoba is the only jurisdiction in Canada to have successfully conducted three hybrid virtual sittings, from three different rooms, simultaneously. This incredible accomplishment occurred last month when we considered departmental estimates in the Committee of Supply.
Just as these hybrid virtual sittings are far more complicated than a simple Zoom call, conducting three hybrid virtual sittings at the same time is exponentially more complicated and difficult. Yet we did it, and we will do it again as required.
I can tell you that once this session ends our team will not be resting on their laurels. Rather, they will continue to improve on the infrastructure which makes this all possible. When the House meets again in 2021 you will see some improvements, and the team will again ensure that we continue to put our best foot forward.
Since the last submission, the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development met on December 3, 2020 to consider the Annual Reports of the Manitoba Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy for the fiscal years ending 2018 to 2020. The Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs met on December 7, 2020 to consider the Annual Report of Elections Manitoba as well as a proposal from the Chief Electoral Officer to modify the voting process entitled “Vote Anywhere in your Electoral Division on Election Day,” however did not reach a decision on the proposal. In addition, the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs met on Monday, January 11, 2021, to consider the Annual Report of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
Public Accounts significant step forward.
October 14, 2020, marked a significant step for the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) as during the meeting that considered reports on the Operations of the Office of the Auditor General, PAC also passed a motion to request “Action Plans” and “Progress Reports” from Government Departments or Crown Corporations concerning reports tabled by the Auditor General on their respective entities. These action plans and progress reports will facilitate future PAC meetings to allow for a more complete and thorough examination of the reports issued by the Auditor General. The Public Accounts Clerk has already sent out a few emails to Departments seeking a response within 90 days of their respective report being tabled or as soon as reasonably possible. The Departments are requested to complete a template with the plan to address the recommendations contained in the listed report. Below is a copy of the motion passed at the meeting:
THAT the Standing Committee on Public Accounts adopt the following protocols, which shall remain in effect until the end of the 42nd Legislature:
1. Within 48 hours of a new report by the Office of the Auditor General being tabled by the Speaker, whether during session or intersessionally, the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson are to send a joint letter requesting an Action Plan regarding the implementation of the Auditor’s recommendations to the Department, Crown Corporation or Other Entity that is the subject of the Report. A deadline of 90 days from the date of the letter will be allowed for a response.
2. Progress Reports, seeking information regarding the status of the implementation of the Auditor’s recommendations, may be requested from any Department, Crown Corporation or Other Entity which is the subject of a report by the Office of the Auditor General, by either of the following means:
a. The Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson may request a Progress Report by joint letter, or
b. With unanimous consent, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts may ask the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson to request a Progress Report by joint letter.
A deadline of 28 days from the date of the letter will be allowed for a response.
Research Officer/Clerk Assistant
Newfoundland and Labrador
The first session of the 49th General Assembly continued in the autumn of 2020. The House sat for four days in September and passed additional interim supply (the Interim Supply Act, 2020, No. 4). The Budget was delivered on September 30, 2020, and the House met to consider estimates and related measures until Royal Assent was granted on November 5, 2020. On December 10, 2020, and December 14, 2020, the House met again to consider a Bill relating to the unlocking of pension funds. The House then adjourned to the call of the chair.
The initial sitting after the implementation of public health measures on March 26, 2020, was conducted with a quorum of 10 Members in the Chamber, three Table Officers and the Sergeant-At-Arms. The public galleries were closed and tours were suspended.
When the House met again in May and June, September to November and in December, various physical arrangements/accommodations were made to the Chamber. At times, Members were seated in the public gallery and the Speaker’s galleries. These changes were authorized by resolution of the House. After collaboration with public health officials, and with many iterations, all 40 Members and four Table Officers can now be accommodated on the floor of the Chamber with physical distancing measures in place. These arrangements have been approved by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Other public health measures required by the Speaker are as follows:
Non-medical masks are worn by Members and House officials when moving about the Chamber. Masks are not required while Members are seated or when they are speaking in debate.
All Members are required to speak from a seated position on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Members first stand to be recognized by the Speaker and once recognized, immediately sit down and speak while seated.
Members are encouraged to keep debate volume at a normal conversational level and use their microphones as much as possible.
No pages or commissionaires are present in order to minimize the number of people in the Chamber. The public gallery and Speaker’s galleries remain closed, and tours are suspended. The scrum area has been modified to allow for safe physical distancing.
Matters of interest:
Commissioner for Legislative Standards: The Commissioner has issued a report under subsection 42(2) of the House of Assembly Act (“the Act”) respecting the compliance of the MHA for Humber-Bay of Islands with the financial disclosure requirements of the Act. The Commissioner found that the Member refused to provide information required to prepare the Member’s public disclosure statement, resulting in a violation of the Act, the Code of Conduct for Members, and the Member’s Oath of Office. The Commissioner recommended that the Member be suspended from the House of Assembly in accordance with paragraph 45(c) of the Act until he complies with the requirements of the Act. The Report has not yet been considered by the House.
Interim Supply: Interim Supply Bills are rarely amended in this jurisdiction, and only one Bill is normally required. In 2020, there have been four Interim Supply Bills, and two of those Bills have had numerous amendments moved and passed.
On March 11, 2020, the House passed Bill 26, the Interim Supply Act, 2020 No. 2, which, as introduced, would have provided sufficient funding for Government needs for six months rather than the traditional three. On motion of the Third Party, the Bill was amended and sub-amended to reduce the amount proposed and to provide for an amount sufficient for three months’ supply only.
On September 17, 2020, the House passed Bill 40, the Interim Supply Act, 2020 No. 4, which, as introduced, would have provided sufficient funding for Government for an additional three months. On motion of the Official Opposition, the Bill was amended to reduce the amount proposed and to provide for an amount sufficient for two months’ supply.
Points of Privilege and the sub judice convention:
In September, a Member raised a point of privilege relating to a report by the Commissioner for Legislative Standards in 2018. The commissioner made a recommendation and the matter was decided upon by the House at that time. The Speaker took the point of privilege under consideration but before the Speaker could rule on the matter, the Member commenced legal action on the same issue. The action names the former Speaker of the House, the Commissioner for Legislative Standards, a sitting Member and a former Member. The Speaker has ruled that the matter is now sub judice, therefore no ruling will be made on whether the point of privilege is prima facie at this time. The Member subsequently raised a second point of privilege with respect to the same subject matter. The Speaker has not ruled on it for similar reasons.
Highlights: Standing and Select Committees
Standing Orders Committee: The Standing Orders Committee has been very active in 2020. In September, the House adopted the following changes recommended by the committee:
The Standing Orders have been amended to remove the requirement to stand while speaking. This would accommodate the current public health recommendation for Members to speak from a seated position, but it would also allow for a circumstance where a Member may be unable to ‘rise in their place to speak’.
The requirement to be ‘uncovered’ has also been removed from the Standing Orders to accommodate Members who may wear head coverings for religious, cultural or medical reasons.
The prohibition on “strangers” in the House of Assembly was clarified to confirm that a stranger does not include an infant who is in the care of the infant’s parent. Since this change was enacted, the first infant has been present for proceedings in the House. Baby Alexander (MHA Sarah Stoodley) has even been referenced in Hansard!
The Standing Orders have been amended to codify debatable and non-debatable motions. Previously, the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly specified only if motions were not debatable, while debatable motions were not codified.
Standing Order 46 previously provided that the Premier had additional time in certain circumstances, and that time could not be delegated. Standing Order 46 was very narrow in its expression and only gave those specific rights to the Premier. At the time, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador was not an elected Member. The House amended the applicable Standing Order to include a more general reference for parliamentary purposes. The reference is now to “the Leader of the Government in the House”.
The Standing Orders have been amended to provide for the possibility of hybrid virtual proceedings in both the House of Assembly and its committees.
Two select committees have been struck in 2020 which may be of interest:
The Select Committee of Rules and Procedures Governing Virtual Proceedings of the House of Assembly reported in June 2020. The Committee was tasked with determining the manner in which the House may conduct virtual proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic such that Members can continue to fulfill their parliamentary duties as legislators and provide for accountability should travel restrictions, health vulnerability, or physical distancing requirements prevent in-person sittings. The measures apply to meetings of other Committees of the House and the Management Commission. As Members can be safely accommodated in accordance with public health requirements, the House has continued to meet in person. However, committees have been meeting via the Webex virtual platform almost exclusively since the adoption of the select committee report.
The Select Committee on Democratic Reform has been very active since it was established by resolution in March 2020. The Committee meets virtually and is pursuing its mandate as established in the resolution. It is required to report on its progress before the end of the Winter-Spring Sitting, 2021.
On February 17, 2020, then-Premier Dwight Ball announced his intention to step down as leader of the Liberal Party. Andrew Furey was chosen as leader of the Liberal party on August 3, 2020, and sworn in as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on August 19, 2020. On September 7, 2020, the former Premier resigned as the MHA for Humber-Gros Morne. A by-election was held for the district on October 6, 2020, and was won by Premier Furey. Premier Furey was sworn in as a MHA on October 22, 2020.
Under the House of Assembly Act, if there is a change in Premier before the end of the third year following the most recent general election, a general election must be called no later than 12 months after the new Premier was sworn in.
As the most recent provincial general election was held on May 16, 2019, a general election must be called on or before August 21, 2021.
After a long career with the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, Elizabeth Murphy, Clerk Assistant, recently retired. Ms. Murphy was appointed Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees in 1980 and she has served in that capacity since that time. From the 38th General Assembly through to the current 49th General Assembly, Ms. Murphy worked with more than 250 Members, 13 Speakers and four Clerks. She has been a tireless professional, wise advisor, helpful co-worker and a good friend to many. She has also been a respected colleague, mentor and friend to many Clerks in provincial and territorial legislatures, the House of Commons and the Senate as well as other Commonwealth jurisdictions. We are grateful for her dedication and service, and wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement.
Kim Hawley George
Clerk Assistant (A) and Law Clerk
On December 8, 2020, the House adjourned for the winter recess and is scheduled to resume on February 16, 2021. The busy fall sitting saw the reappointment of three parliamentary officers, Standing Order amendments, consideration of the provincial budget and Royal Assent being granted to eight government bills, five private members’ bills and 15 private bills.
On November 24, 2020, Government House Leader Paul Calandra moved a motion requesting that a humble Address be presented to the Lieutenant Governor in Council requesting the reappointment of David Williams as Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Province of Ontario, as provided in Section 81 (1.1) of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, for a fixed term commencing February 16, 2021 until September 1, 2021. The Official Opposition moved an amendment which sought to appoint an all-party Committee of the Legislature to review the proposed reappointment. After nearly nine hours of debate, closure was moved and carried on division on November 26, 2020; and the main motion carried on division the same day. On December 7, 2020, the Deputy Speaker announced the tabling of the Order in Council dated December 3, 2020 reappointing Dr. Williams.
On November 30, 2020 the House ordered that, in accordance with subsections 2 (2) and 3 (2) of the Ombudsman Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.6, Paul Dubé be reappointed Ombudsman of Ontario. He was sworn in as Ontario’s seventh Ombudsman on April 1, 2016, and was extended for a further term of five years, commencing on April 1, 2021.
Also on November 30, 2020, the House ordered that, in accordance with subsections 23 (2) and 23.1 (2) of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994, S.O. 1994, c. 38, J. David Wake be reappointed Integrity Commissioner of Ontario. His first appointment began on February 1, 2016 and was extended for a further term of five years commencing on February 1, 2021.
Standing Order Amendments
On October 20, 2020, the Government House Leader, Mr. Calandra, moved a motion to amend the Standing Orders which was adopted unanimously. The changes now in effect stipulate that where the Standing Orders refer to the delivery of copies of bills, ministerial statements, or compendiums of background information to Opposition Members or Parties, this requirement may be satisfied by delivery by electronic means. Another provisional amendment to Standing Order 36(b) authorized any minister or parliamentary assistant to reply to an adjournment debate in the place of the minister that the notice indicated. Previously only the minister who answered the original question or their parliamentary assistant could participate in the adjournment debate.
Minister of Finance Rod Phillips presented the 2020 Budget and Budget papers on November 5, 2020. The first reading and introduction of the budget bill, Bill 229, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact, amend and repeal various statutes followed immediately after.
The motion that the House approves in general the Budgetary Policy of the Government, seconded by Premier Doug Ford, was debated for eight hours over the course of four sessional days until the question was put. The motion carried on division on November 26, 2020.
Bill 229 was time allocated and passed second reading on November 23, 2020. Following public hearings and clause by clause consideration in the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs the bill was reported back as amended on December 7, 2020. The bill passed third reading on December 8, 2020, and was granted Royal Assent the same day.
Two take-note debates have been held since the new Standing Order 47 came into force in early October. The procedure allows Ministers, in consultation with the House Leaders of the recognized parties, to place substantive motions on the Orders and Notices Paper identifying specific issues to be debated. During debate, Members may only speak once and for no longer than 10 minutes each. After no more than four hours the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and declare the debate concluded.
The first take-note debate was held on October 21, 2020. MPP Andrea Khanjin moved that the House take note of the ongoing situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The second was held on November 4, 2020, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones moved that the House take note of the Report on Ontario’s Provincial Emergency from March 17, 2020, to July 24, 2020.
On November 11, 2020, a monument was unveiled on the south grounds of Queen’s Park to honour the Canadian soldiers who served during the mission in Afghanistan – Canada’s largest military deployment since the Second World War. The memorial features military scenes etched in granite and a bronze component in a folded and ribbon-like form, which symbolizes the first Canadian involvement during 9/11, beginning with supporting those who were stranded at Canadian airports after the World Trade Center attacks, and the unfolding of events in the years since. When viewed from its north side, the Memorial’s top-line recalls the silhouette of the mountains east of Panjwai, Afghanistan, which Canadian soldiers saw as the backdrop from the Forward Operating Base at Masum Ghar. When viewed from the south, the tallest element creates a frame with the edge of the bronze end wall of the Ontario Veterans’ Memorial. When looked at together, these two tall framing elements evoke the forms of the World Trade Center twin towers. The Memorial also includes a stone from an Inukshuk dedicated to the fallen soldiers – it was erected by Canadian soldiers at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
Bill 202, An Act to continue the Soldiers’ Aid Commission was introduced on September 16, 2020, by Todd Smith, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. The bill passed third reading on November 3, 2020 and was granted royal assent on November 12, 2020.
Bill 207, An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act, the Courts of Justice Act, the Family Law Act and other Acts respecting various family law matters was introduced on September 24, 2020, by Attorney General Doug Downey. The bill passed third reading on November 16, 2020 and was granted royal assent on November 20, 2020.
Bill 213, An Act to reduce burdens on people and businesses by enacting, amending and repealing various Acts and revoking a regulation was introduced on October 6, 2020, by the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria. The bill was time allocated, passed third reading on December 7, 2020, and was granted royal assent on December 8, 2020.
Bill 215, An Act to amend various statutes with respect to the economic recovery of Ontario and to make other amendments was introduced on October 7, 2020 Mr. Sarkaria. The bill passed third reading on November 26, 2020 and was granted royal assent on November 30, 2020.
Bill 218, An Act to enact the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020 respecting certain proceedings relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19), to amend the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 and to revoke a regulation was introduced on October 20, 2020, by Mr. Downey. The bill was time allocated, passed third reading on November 3, 2020 and was granted royal assent on November 12, 2020.
Bill 222, An Act to amend various Acts in respect of transportation-related matters was introduced on October 22, 2020, by the Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney. The bill passed third reading on December 3, 2020 and was granted royal assent on December 8, 2020.
Bill 229, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact, amend and repeal various statutes was introduced on November 5, 2020 by the Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips. The bill was time allocated, passed third reading on December 8, 2020, and was granted royal assent on December 8, 2020.
Bill 236, An Act in respect of food and beverage delivery fees was introduced on November 26, 2020, by Mr. Sarkaria. The bill was time allocated, passed third reading on December 1, 2020, and was granted royal assent on December 2, 2020.
Private Members’ Public Bills
Bill 3, An Act providing for the development of a provincial framework on palliative care was introduced on July 18, 2018, by MPP Sam Oosterhoff. The bill passed third reading on December 1, 2020, and was granted royal assent on December 2, 2020.
Bill 61, An Act to proclaim Eating Disorders Awareness Week was introduced on November 21, 2018 by MPP Jill Andrew. The bill passed third reading on December 3, 2020 and was granted royal assent on December 8, 2020.
Bill 118, An Act to amend the Occupiers’ Liability Act was introduced on May 27, 2019, by MPP Norman Miller. The bill passed third reading on December 3, 2020, and was granted royal assent on December 8, 2020.
Bill 201, An Act to proclaim Magna Carta Day was introduced on September 15, 2020, by MPP Jane McKenna. The bill passed third reading on November 26, 2020, and was granted royal assent on November 30, 2020.
Bill 214, An Act to amend the Time Act and various other Acts was introduced on October 6, 2020, by MPP Jeremy Roberts. The bill passed third reading on November 25, 2020, and was granted royal assent on November 30, 2020.
The Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight tabled its Second Interim Report on November 19, 2020. The report contained an overview of Solicitor General Sylvia Jones’ statements to the committee accompanied by questions raised by the committee.
The Standing Committee on Estimates considered the Ministry of Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Cultural Industries for a total of 25 hours and 9 minutes. The completed ministries were reported to the House on November 19, 2020.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs met to consider Bill 229, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact, amend and repeal various statutes. The Bill contained 44 Schedules and made amendments to a number of Acts. The Committee held three days of public hearings and one day of clause-by-clause consideration on the Bill.
Twenty-Ninth General Election
On October 26, 2020, Saskatchewan held its twenty-ninth general election. The Saskatchewan Party was elected for a fourth consecutive majority government, taking 48 of the 61 seats. The New Democratic Party elected 13 MLAs and will form the opposition. Seventeen new MLAs were voted into office.
The first session of the twenty-ninth legislature began on November 30, 2020, with the election of Speaker and the Speech from the Throne.
Election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker
The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected by secret ballot in Saskatchewan. Members may submit their names to be considered for the role of Speaker or Deputy Speaker. In each election, the candidate with the majority of votes assumes the respective role. Six members submitted their names for the role of Speaker:
Mark Docherty, MLA for Regina Coronation Park
Lisa Lambert, MLA for Saskatoon Churchill-Wildwood
Hugh Nerlien, MLA for Kelvington-Wadena
Greg Ottenbreit, MLA for Yorkton
Randy Weekes, MLA for Biggar-Sask Valley
Nadine Wilson, MLA for Saskatchewan Rivers
On the fifth ballot, the members elected Randy Weekes to serve as Speaker.
Ms. Wilson was the only member to submit her name for the position of Deputy Speaker. On December 1, 2020, she was declared Deputy Speaker by acclamation. Muhammad Fiaz, MLA for Regina Pasqua, was appointed Deputy Chair of Committees
Fall sitting of the First Session of the Twenty-Ninth Legislature
The Assembly sat for eight days and adjourned on December 10, 2020. In those eight days, the Assembly debated and voted on the amendment and main motion of the Speech from the Throne and considered supplementary estimates in Committee of Finance.
The additional funding requested by the government was largely for COVID-19 related expenses. Additional funding included money for K-12 education for masks, personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 related supplies as well as miscellaneous payments for emergency pandemic support; the establishment of a tourism sector support program; and health targeted programs including testing, contact tracing, treatment and other pandemic-related operating costs to the health system.
In addition to the supplementary estimates, 25 public bills and one private bill were introduced. Three bills received Royal Assent including an appropriation bill. Bill No. 1, The Income Tax (Strong Recovery Home Renovation Tax Credit) Amendment Act, 2020 provides a tax initiative that allows Saskatchewan homeowners to claim a non-refundable 10.5 per cent provincial tax credit on eligible home renovation expenses undertaken on their primary residence between October 1, 2020, and December 31, 2022. This has the potential to reduce a homeowner’s tax liability by up to $2,100. Bill No. 2, The Income Tax (Strong Recovery Small Business Tax Reduction) Amendment Act, 2020, introduces a three-year tax reduction to the small-business tax rate. The tax initiatives proposed in Bill No. 1 and Bill No. 2 were announced during the fall 2020 election campaign.
Standing Committee on House Services Report
To ensure the safety of MLAs and the Legislative Assembly Service, the Standing Committee on House Services (HOS) met to consider and adopt a report which identified and developed temporary modifications to the processes, practices, and standing orders in order to facilitate the start of the twenty-ninth legislature in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposals contained in the HOS report reflected many of the modifications to rules and practices adopted during the June/July portion of the fourth session of the twenty-eighth legislature. Two significant changes were adopted in this report. Seating arrangements were revised in both the Chamber and committee room in order to accommodate more members while maintaining a high threshold of safety. HOS recommended that 50 per cent of members be permitted at one time to attend Chamber proceedings and that all committee members be permitted at one time to attend committee meetings. To accommodate more members in the Chamber, the desks were rearranged to allow physical distancing and plexiglass was installed for additional protection. To accommodate the increased spacing between desks, some government members’ desks were relocated to the opposition side of the Chamber. Additionally, members were required to wear masks during proceedings, including while they were speaking.
The second significant change facilitated a new process to allow all members to safely express their vote in person during a recorded division. HOS recommended that recorded divisions be conducted in two tranches during Chamber proceedings, with each tranche alternating into the Chamber to cast their votes. This allowed for greater physical distancing between members when standing in the Chamber to express their vote. Proxy voting was retained for any member unable to cast their vote in a recorded division in the Chamber due to COVID-19; however, proxy voting was eliminated in committee proceedings, as it was no longer required with modified seating and the pre-existing capability to substitute members.
Member Induction and Orientation
New member induction and orientation was also modified to adhere to COVID-19 public health orders. The Legislative Assembly Service (LAS) shifted orientation to electronic and virtual platforms. The LAS provided self-directed learning modules with enhanced learning materials and virtual training sessions for new members and constituency assistants. The training sessions were provided over a six-week period.
Proceedings of the National Assembly
On October 9, 2020, Mr. Ian Lafrenière, Member for Vachon, was appointed Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs, replacing Ms. Sylvie D’Amours, Member for Mirabel.
On October 9, 2020, Mr. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon was elected Leader of the Parti québécois. The position had been vacant since October 1, 2018, when Mr. Jean-François Lisée resigned after being defeated in the general election. As he is not a Member, Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon does not sit in Parliament. In his absence, Mr. Pascal Bérubé, Member for Matane-Matapédia, continues to act as Leader of the Third Opposition Group.
On December 15, 2020, Mr. Harold Lebel, Member for Rimouski, was excluded from the Parti québécois caucus and now sits as an Independent Member. Denis Tardif, Member for Rivière-du-Loup-Témiscouta, has also been sitting as an Independent Member since December 17, 2020. Consequently, the National Assembly is now composed of 75 Coalition avenir Québec Members, 28 Liberal Party of Québec Members, 10 Québec solidaire Members, eight Parti québécois Members and four Independent Members.
Terms for the continuation of Assembly proceedings
On October 20, 2020, the parliamentarians carried a motion concerning the organization of proceedings between October 19 and December 11, 2020. Essentially, the measures designed to ensure the safety of all during the pandemic that had been adopted at the beginning of the sessional period on September 15, 2020 were continued.
The Assembly thus sat with a reduced number of Members. Parliamentarians in the House were present according to the following distribution, for a total of 36, excluding the Chair:
no more than 20 Members from the parliamentary group forming the Government;
no more than 8 Members from the parliamentary group forming the Official Opposition;
no more than 3 Members from the Second Opposition Group;
no more than 3 Members from the Third Opposition Group;
no more than 2 independent Members.
The above distribution was modified to allow more Members in opposition to be present in the House during Routine Proceedings, with the number of government Members being reduced to 16 to make room for two additional Members from the parliamentary group forming the Official Opposition, for a total of 10, as well as one additional Member from each of the Second and Third Opposition Groups, for a total of four Members from each group.
The parliamentarians were allowed to take the floor and to vote from seats that were not the ones they were regularly assigned.
The previously adopted procedure for recorded divisions was maintained. Under that measure, the vote of the House Leader or the Deputy House Leader of a parliamentary group or, where applicable, of another Member identified beforehand, was valid for all Members of his or her group. However, a parliamentarian was entitled to individually record a vote that differed from the vote of his or her group or to choose not to vote. In addition, if an Independent Member was absent, the Government House Leader was authorized to record the Member’s vote regarding a stage in the consideration of a bill according to the instructions that the absent Member transmitted to the Government House Leader.
Two additional measures were put in place through a motion carried on October 20. Under the first measure, ministers were divided into two groups for Oral Questions and Answers, one group to participate during Tuesday and Thursday sittings, and the other during Wednesday sittings and also Friday sittings during periods of extended hours of meeting. The second measure introduced changes to the schedule for debates upon adjournment on Thursdays, which were to be held at 1:00 p.m. rather than at 6:00 p.m., after which the usual proceedings would resume at 3:00 p.m. and continue until 6:00 p.m.
Bills introduced and passed
From October to December, 26 bills were introduced in the National Assembly, of which four were private Members’ bills and six were private bills. During the same period, the Assembly passed 17 bills, of which two were private bills.
Rulings from the Chair
December 4, 2020 – Disclosure of the content of the report of the Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors before its tabling
The President issued a directive on the question raised on December 3, 2020, by the House Leader of the Second Opposition Group concerning the disclosure to third parties of the content of the report of the Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors before it was tabled in the Assembly. There was no evidence showing that the report in question had been prematurely disclosed. However, the confusion generated by this situation required a reminder of the basic principles applicable in this area.
Members must be the first to be apprised of information that is intended for them. It is not only a matter of respecting parliamentarians, but also of respecting the important duties of their office and the essential role they play in society as legislators.
Parliamentary jurisprudence has oftentimes affirmed that it is crucial for Members, and not journalists, to be informed first of the information that is intended for them. This is true for bills, reports to be tabled in the Assembly and written questions to be entered on the Order Paper and Notices. Journalists have no special status in this respect and therefore cannot be given documents that Members should be apprised of first.
The content of the final reports to be tabled by parliamentary committees must be disclosed first and foremost to parliamentarians, in particular, because they themselves are the main instigators.
A distinction must be made between, on the one hand, a committee’s work that is conducted in public, which can be the subject of comments at any time in the public sphere, and, on the other hand, the final report of a select committee containing specific observations, conclusions and recommendations, which reflect work conducted in working sessions. Such sessions are not public, but they are also not in-camera. The reason these deliberative meetings are private is to establish an environment in which committee members may speak openly and frankly. The Chair relies on committee members to conduct themselves in a manner that serves that purpose and asks that they measure the impact of their actions in public.
The report from the Select Committee is the product of the collective efforts of its members, and its findings wholly belong to the Committee. The Committee should be able to table its report and make its content public before media articles cover its content.
If the members of a committee agree in advance when to release the content of a report to the media, it is their collective and individual responsibility to honour that commitment. Caution should therefore be exercised, especially when a member has an important role within the committee.
If a Member speaks to the media on the very morning of a report being tabled, it could be confusing to both other Members and the public. Associating one’s name with an article dealing with certain aspects of a report may create the impression, rightly or wrongly, that one may have given a journalist access to the content of a report before it was tabled in the House. For this reason, the Chair urged Members to act with caution.
December 10, 2020 – Directive on the disclosure of draft recommendations made to a committee carrying out an order of initiative
The President issued a directive on the question raised on December 8, 2020, by the House Leader of the Third Opposition Group concerning the disclosure of the draft recommendations made to the Committee on Health and Social Services within the framework of its order of initiative on the alarming increase in the use of psychostimulants in children and young people in connection with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Certain information must be disclosed to parliamentarians, out of deference for the important duties of the office they hold, before being disclosed to others. This includes not only bills but also reports that must be tabled in the Assembly. Some experts on parliamentary law are of the opinion that revealing the contents of a committee report before it is tabled in the House can constitute contempt of Parliament. The importance given to the confidentiality of the work conducted in the preparation of committee reports is clear in numerous decisions rendered on the subject in many jurisdictions.
This case, however, is not about the disclosure of the final report of a committee or even that of a draft report. Rather, it is about a working document produced for the Committee’s steering committee. The document compiles, by theme, the recommendations proposed by each parliamentary group.
Not all documents have a special status such that their disclosure could constitute contempt of Parliament. For example, before a bill is introduced in the Assembly, its directions and preliminary versions may be the subject of consultation and discussion. Only the communication of the text of a bill before its introduction may constitute contempt of Parliament.
In keeping with this principle, the disclosure of a working document that does not include the committee’s final conclusions relating to its order of initiative, but rather a number of draft recommendations for consideration, cannot be likened to the disclosure of a draft report or to the early disclosure of the final report on the order of initiative.
Likewise, we cannot, in this case, characterize the communication as being an attempt to interfere with the Committee’s work. It appears that the communication was instead geared toward assessing the feasibility of the recommendations, which does not constitute an attempt to influence the Committee’s work or to impose the government department’s views as to which recommendations to accept.
However, discussions that a committee has about the observations, conclusions and recommendations it may adopt at the end of an order of initiative take place in deliberative sessions that are not public. The release of confidential information can break the trust built up between committee members and adversely affect the committee’s mandates. It is therefore essential to maintain a context conducive to ensuring that committees have this privileged space for discussion. This principle does not apply exclusively to parliamentarians, but also to all members of their staff, who must exercise great care when called on to assist them in parliamentary proceedings of a confidential or private nature.
One of the purposes of orders of initiative is to enhance the role of Parliament and its Members by empowering them to perform their duties more effectively and with greater autonomy vis-à-vis the Executive. For this reason, the disclosure, to employees of the Executive, of the recommendations a committee may potentially adopt with regard to an order of initiative could give the impression of the Executive having influence over a committee’s final decisions with regard to its work, a situation that would compromise the principle underlying orders of initiative.
While there is no indication that there was any interference in this case, parliamentarians were urged to preserve the autonomy of committee members who take part in orders of initiative.
The Ethics Commissioner’s inquiry reports to the President of the National Assembly regarding Mr. Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and Member for Terrebonne
On November 11, 2020, in accordance with section 102 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly, Mr. Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and Member for Terrebonne, exercised his right to make a statement in the Assembly following the tabling of the Ethics Commissioner’s October 28, 2020 inquiry report about him.
In that report, the Ethics Commissioner recommended that Mr. Fitzgibbon be reprimanded for having violated section 15 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly Mr. Fitzgibbon had placed himself in a situation where his private interests might impair his independence of judgment in carrying out his duties of office because of his close ties with an entrepreneur and lobbyist friend, who had privileged access to Mr. Fitzgibbon.
During the following sitting, on November 12, 2020, the Assembly adopted the report recommending a sanction on the following vote: Yeas: 120; Nays: 0; Abstentions: 1.
On December 8, 2020, Mr. Fitzgibbon, informed the President of the Assembly that he waived his right, provided under section 102 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly, to reply to the Ethics Commissioner’s December 6, 2020 inquiry report about him.
In that report, the Ethics Commissioner recommended that Mr. Fitzgibbon be reprimanded for having violated sections 15, 46 and 51 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly. First, the Ethics Commissioner considered that Mr. Fitzgibbon had failed to provide all the information required in his disclosure of private interests statement despite the extensions granted by the Ethics Commissioner. Second, Mr. Fitzgibbon did not ensure that the enterprises in which he held interests abstain from becoming, directly or indirectly, party to a contract with the Government or a department or public body. Third, Mr. Fitzgibbon placed himself in a situation where his private interests might impair his independence of judgment in carrying out his duties of office by instructing Investissement Québec’s Vice-President for Risk Management to block a loan requested by a company in which he held interest.
During the following sitting, on December 9, 2020, the Assembly negatived the report recommending a sanction on the following vote: Yeas: 48; Nays: 72; Abstentions: 0.
Debate on the economic update
On November 12, 2020, the Minister of Finance introduced an economic update. Prior to that, in accordance with the provisions of the motion adopted by the Assembly on March 17, 2020, an in-camera meeting was held for Opposition Members. On November 24, 2020, also in compliance with those provisions, the Members held a debate, but no question was put on the update.
Examination of the supplementary estimates
On December 3, 2020, on motion without notice by the Government House Leader, the National Assembly met as a Committee of the Whole to undertake examination of the supplementary estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. At the next sitting, on December 4, 2020, after the Committee of the Whole had completed its mandate, the Assembly passed Bill_76, Appropriation Act No. 4, 2020–2021.
Appointment of Associate Secretary Generals
On December 8, 2020, Mr. François Arsenault and Mr. Serge Bouchard, Director General of Parliamentary Affairs and Director General for Administration, respectively, were unanimously appointed by the National Assembly as Associate Secretary Generals. They have the rank and privileges of assistant deputy ministers, for terms of seven years.
Mr. Arsenault is a lawyer by training and has worked at the National Assembly since 2002. He served as a director for nine years before taking on the role of Director General of Parliamentary Affairs three years ago. He served as Acting Secretary General from September 17 to October 22, 2019.
Mr. Bouchard held various positions in the public service before joining the National Assembly as Director of Human Resources in 2010. In 2014, he was appointed Director General for Administration.
Adoption of a by-law to offset GHG emissions linked to parliamentarian travel
On October 8, 2020, the Office of the National Assembly adopted a by-law allowing parliamentarians to offset the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created when travelling back and forth between their ridings and the Parliament Building, a measure that is included in the National Assembly’s 2019‒2023 Sustainable Development Plan.
Under the by-law, parliamentarians may opt to offset all or part of the GHG emissions created by such travel out of their riding office operating budgets. They may also offset the GHG emissions resulting from their riding office activities, such as emissions linked to office energy consumption or resulting from their employees’ business trips.
Online Exhibition on the October Crisis
To commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the October Crisis, the National Assembly Library unveiled an exhibition showcasing unpublished archives that let us dive into that era and learn more about its sociopolitical context.
The Cercle des femmes parlementaires mobilizes for the Days of Action on Violence against Women
For the Days of Action on Violence against Women, which took place from November 25 to December 6, the members of the Select Committee of the Cercle des femmes parlementaires (Circle of Women Members of the National Assembly) released a video raising awareness of domestic violence against women during the pandemic.
Here are some of the highlights of the parliamentary committee proceedings held between October and December 2020.
The special order adopted by the Assembly on September 15 providing for several changes to the usual parliamentary committee procedure was extended so that the measures would apply until the end of the fall sessional period on December 11, 2020. Among other things, the order provides for the possibility of holding a committee sitting in two rooms simultaneously (linked by videoconferencing) as well as for the possibility for certain Members of the parliamentary groups forming the Government and the Official Opposition to exercise a right to vote by proxy. That measure is planned only in rooms where the number of seats for Members is limited. Furthermore, plexiglass panels were added in certain rooms to facilitate compliance with social distancing measures.
Around 20 bills crossed the parliamentary committees’ worktables this fall, either for special consultations or for clause-by-clause consideration.
The Committee on Culture and Education completed the self-initiated order it had adopted on March 21, 2019 on the future of the news media, and the report was tabled in the National Assembly on December 2, 2020. In all, some 50 groups and individuals concerned by Québec media testified during public hearings within the framework of special consultations, and the Committee received 87 briefs. Its report sets out 10 observations and 20 recommendations.
The Committee on Health and Social Services (CSSS) tabled its report concerning the “alarming increase in the use of psychostimulants in children and young people in connection with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)” on December 4, 2020. The order, which was adopted on April 2, 2019, gave the Committee the opportunity to hear 15 experts from various fields within the framework of special consultations and public hearings. The Committee report contains conclusions and 17 recommendations.
Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors
Ms. Lucie Lecours (Les Plaines) became Chair of the Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors, of which she was a member, owing to the vacancy resulting from the appointment of Mr. Ian Lafrenière (Vachon) as a Minister last October.
The Committee, established by the National Assembly on June 14, 2019, tabled its report on December 3, 2020. Over the course of its proceedings, the Committee received 63 briefs and heard 67 testimonies during public hearings within the framework of special consultations. Committee members held deliberative meetings for a total of 56 hours to organize the Committee’s work and determine the content of its report. The steering committee met 51 times. Beginning in June 2020, a motion made it possible for the Committee to hold deliberative meetings by videoconference. The Committee’s report contains 58 recommendations and the translation will be made public in January. Having carried out its mandate, the Committee is now dissolved.
On October 19, the Committee on Public Finance (CFP) met to examine the Government’s budgetary policy and the state of public finances in the presence of the Minister of Finance. The meeting was held under section 292 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly and after a preparatory deliberative meeting had been held.
On December 1, the CFP held a five-hour debate on the economic update the Government had presented on November 12. The debate, to which the Minister of Finance was invited, was in response to the special order the Assembly had adopted on March 17, 2020, before adjourning due to the pandemic.
On December 9, under a motion adopted that same day by the Assembly, the Committee on Health and Social Services heard Québec’s National Public Health Director, Dr. Horacio Arruda. For three hours, the Committee members were able to hear and question Dr. Arruda about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sittings and Parliamentary Procedure Directorate
Parliamentary Committees Directorate
On May 1, 2020, Speaker Paul Quassa announced that the spring 2020 sitting of the 2nd Session of the 5th Legislative Assembly, which had been scheduled to convene on May 26, 2020, would be cancelled as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House subsequently sat from September 21, 2020 to September 29, 2020. Seven bills received Assent during the sitting:
Bill 44, Write-Off of Assets Act, 2019-2020;
Bill 45, Supplementary Appropriation (Operations and Maintenance) Act, No. 4, 2019-2020;
Bill 46, Supplementary Appropriation (Operations and Maintenance) Act, No. 1, 2020-2021;
Bill 47, Supplementary Appropriation (Capital) Act, No. 1, 2020-2021;
Bill 48, Forgiveness of Debts Act, 2020-2021;
Bill 49, An Act to Amend the Labour Standards Act; and
Bill 50, An Act to Amend the Liquor Act.
During the winter 2020 sitting of the House, a motion was adopted to refer the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the conduct of the 5th territorial general election to the Committee of the Whole for consideration. These deliberations subsequently took place during the September 29, 2020, sitting of the House. Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone moved a motion during the proceedings recommending that the Management and Services Board of the Legislative Assembly, in consultation with the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, consider amendments to the Nunavut Elections Act concerning the disclosure of convictions under the Criminal Code and other statutes. The motion was adopted.
The fall 2020 sitting convened on October 21, 2020, and concluded on November 5, 2020. The proceedings of the Committee of the Whole during the fall 2020 sitting were dominated by the consideration of the government’s proposed 2021-2022 capital estimates. Four bills received Assent during the fall 2020 sitting:
Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act;
Bill 35, Medical Profession Act;
Bill 37, Legislation Act; and
Bill 51, Appropriation (Capital) Act, 2021-2022.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of modifications to the Chamber have been implemented to facilitate physical distancing, including the installation of temporary Members’ desks in the Visitors’ Gallery, which remains closed to the public.
The winter 2021 sitting is scheduled to convene on February 22, 2021.
Swearing-in of New Members and Appointment of New Minister
On September 15, 2020, a televised swearing-in ceremony was held for Calvin Pedersen (Kugluktuk) and Craig Simailak (Baker Lake). The ceremony took place in the Chamber and was conducted in a physically distanced manner. Both Members had been elected by acclamation following the resignations of their predecessors earlier this year. Mr. Simailak’s father, David, previously served as the Member for Baker Lake during the 2nd Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Two of Mr. Pedersen’s grandparents, Lena and Red, previously served as Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.
On October 21, 2020, Premier Joe Savikataaq (Arviat South) gave notice of a motion of non-confidence in Minister Patterk Netser (Aivilik). Under the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, the Premier and other members of the Executive Council “hold office during the pleasure of the Legislative Assembly.” The motion was formally considered and adopted on October 23, 2020. The Nunavut Leadership Forum, which consists of all Members of the Legislative Assembly, subsequently convened on October 30, 2020. The Forum is used to conduct the selection process for the Speaker, Premier and members of the Executive Council of Nunavut. The Forum’s proceedings were televised live. Three Members accepted nominations to serve on the Executive Council. After delivering remarks, the candidates responded to questions posed by their colleagues. Pangnirtung MLA Margaret Nakashuk was elected after one round of balloting. A formal motion recommending her appointment was moved and adopted at the November 2, 2020, sitting of the House.
Appointment of New Information and Privacy Commissioner
On November 2, 2020, the Legislative Assembly unanimously adopted a motion to recommend the appointment of Graham Steele as Information and Privacy Commissioner of Nunavut. The appointment followed the retirement of his long-serving predecessor, Elaine Keenan Bengts. Mr. Steele has held a number of positions over the course of a 30-year career, including: Law Clerk at the Federal Court of Appeal; Chairperson of the National Administrative Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association; General Counsel of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia; Assistant Professor of Business Law at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business; and Member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly and Minister of Finance. Mr. Steele is the author of a number of articles and books, and was a 2014 Finalist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
Order of Nunavut
On September 28, 2020, the Order of Nunavut Advisory Council, which is chaired by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, announced that the 2019 appointment to the Order would be Peter Tapatai of Baker Lake. Mr. Tapatai is a successful businessperson with a distinguished record of public service. Mr. Tapatai has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal. Mr. Tapatai is renowned for his work with the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, including the creation of the iconic character “Super Shamou.” The investiture ceremony for Mr. Tapatai will be held at a later date to be announced.
Office of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut
The second Session of the 19th Legislative Assembly resumed regular sittings on October 15, 2020 following a three-day emergency recall on August 24, 2020. The Assembly sat until November 5, 2020 and will be adjourned until February 3, 2021.
The primary business item for the sitting was passage of the capital budget, Bill 22-19(2) Appropriate Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), 2021-2022. The 2021-2022 Capital Budget was the largest ever passed by the Legislative Assembly.
The Assembly continued to operate in a modified chamber, allowing all 19 Members to safely distance themselves, respecting proper COVID-19 guidelines. Further protocols such as temperature checks, mandatory mask policies, and the electronic distribution of documents also remain in place.
On October 30, 2020, the Assembly made a number of appointments to the Statutory Officer positions; including the position of Sole Adjudicator, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the Executive Director of Human Rights. These appointments are on four-year terms, in accordance with the new Legislative Assembly Officers Standardization Act. On December 11, 2020 the Speaker also made a recommendation for the appointment of a new Official Languages Commissioner. Her appointment is expected to be confirmed by the Assembly in February 2021.
During the October – November sitting the following bills received assent:
11-19(2) Legislative Assembly Officers Standardization Act
15-19(2) Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2020
17-19(2) An Act to Amend the Corrections Act
18-19(2) An Act to Amend the Legal Profession Act
19-19(2) An Act to Amend the Student Financial Assistance Act
21-19(2) Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 2, 2020- 2021
22-19(2) Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), 2021-2022
During this sitting the following bills received second reading, and were referred to Standing Committees for further consideration:
12-19(2) An Act to Amend the Apprenticeship, Trades and Occupational Certification Act
13-19(2) An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act
14-19(2) An Act to Amend the Securities Act
16-19(2) An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
20-19(2) An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Standing Committees met regularly throughout the last quarter of 2020. Holding a number of public and in-camera meetings, including their first public hearing simultaneously interpreted into both French and Tlicho. Members continued to adapt to social distancing restrictions, often participating in meeting virtually.
The Standing Committee on Government Operations tabled three reports during the October – November Sitting: the Report on the Review of the 2018-2019 Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission Annual Report, the Report on the Review of the 2018-2019 Annual Report of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, and the Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 Annual Reports of the Official Languages Commissioner.
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures tabled its Report on Remote Sittings, in response to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act amendments allowing the assembly the ability to conduct all or some of a session through video and teleconference. All recommendations were adopted by way of motions in the Assembly.
On November 2nd, 2020 Members passed a motion establishing the Special Committee on Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs. This is the first special committee of the 19th Assembly and contains Regular Members, Members of Cabinet, and the Premier as a non-voting member. The Special Committee was created to further Aboriginal Rights negotiations and reconciliation as priorities of the 19th Legislative Assembly, including the resolution of these negotiations and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Deputy Clerk, House Procedure and Committees
House of Commons
This account covers the period of October to the end of December 2020.
On November 4, 2020, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, LIB), requested and received unanimous consent for a motion to dispose of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy).
As provided for in the motion, the bill was referred to and considered in Committee of the Whole on November 5. On November 6, the bill was considered at report stage, and, exceptionally as it was a Friday, a vote was held on a report stage motion, following which the bill was deemed concurred in on division at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed on division.
Procedure / Privilege
On October 20, 2020, the House debated a supply day opposition motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, Erin O’Toole (Durham, CPC), to create a special committee on anti-corruption. Mr. Rodriguez indicated that the House’s decision on this motion would be considered a matter of confidence. In response, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent), proposed an amendment to change the name of the special committee (replacing “anti-corruption” with “allegations of misuse of public funds by the government”) and adding a clause that “the establishment of the committee shall not, in the opinion of the House, constitute legitimate grounds for calling a general election.” Neither the motion nor the amendment was adopted.
On October 28, 2020, pursuant to Standing Order 32(7), Mr. Rodriguez tabled the Report to Parliament outlining the reasons for the prorogation of the First Session of the 43rd Parliament. This is the first use of the Standing Order (which requires the government to table such a document within 20 sitting days of the second or subsequent session of a Parliament) since its adoption in 2017.
On November 19, 2020, pursuant to Section 28 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, the Speaker tabled a report from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner entitled “Maloney Report.” In the report, the Commissioner concluded that James Maloney (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, LIB) had contravened paragraph 20(1)(i) of the Code and that no mitigation circumstances applied given the length of the delay in the member’s submission of the Disclosure Report in question; therefore, the Commissioner recommended, pursuant to section 28(6) of the Code, that the House require Mr. Maloney to apologize. Shortly after the report was tabled, Mr. Maloney rose in the House to apologize, doing so on a point of order. He did not make any further intervention pursuant to section 28(9) of the code, which provides for the member who is the subject of a report to make a statement in the House within 10 sitting days of the tabling of the report. On December 11, 2020, Michael Barrett (Leeds—Greenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, CPC) moved a motion for concurrence in the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. After an hour of debate, the Assistant Deputy Speaker, Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP) interrupted the proceedings on the motion and indicated that debate would be rescheduled for a future sitting.
Statements by the Speaker About Hybrid Proceedings
The Speaker made a statement on October 19, 2020, regarding the use of videoconferencing during debates in response to several instances of members encountering technical difficulties either during or prior to their interventions related to the good functioning of their sound or video connections. He noted that if the House loses visual contact with the member prior to or during a speech, the Chair will interrupt the proceedings momentarily while the technical issue is being addressed.
At the same time, the Table will consult with the member’s whip to determine if an adjustment to the rotation list is being considered. If the member is unable to start or resume the intervention quickly, debate will continue by proceeding to the next member on the rotation list, unless there is an agreement to accommodate the member having the technical trouble.
The Speaker also emphasized that the order of September 23, 2020, requires that members have their video on while participating in a recorded vote.
On December 2, 2020, the Speaker made a statement regarding the best practices with respect to videoconferencing. He reminded members that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of new technology permitted the hybrid sittings of the House; however, the sound quality of the simultaneous interpretation in both official languages was dependent upon members using House approved wired headsets, muting microphones when not in use, and performing regular connectivity and audio quality tests.
Since October 22, 2020, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has been undertaking a study on the conduct of a federal election during the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 10, 2020, the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, Mona Fortier (Ottawa—Vanier, LIB) introduced Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response). The next day, the committee presented an interim report, Protecting Public Health and Democracy During a Possible Pandemic Election, to the House.
On October 26, 2020, the House adopted a motion instructing the Standing Committee on Health to investigate the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ordering the government to produce a wide range of related documents. The government was instructed to submit the documents to the Law Clerk who will ensure personal information is removed, and the documents will then be tabled in the House by the Speaker and referred to committee.
On December 1, 2020, the Standing Committee on Health tabled a report entitled “Instructions to the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel,” prioritizing the vetting of documents and allowing the committee to grant one or more extensions of the deadline, on the request of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, provided that he shall provide the committee with a weekly status report on the vetting process. The report was concurred in on December 4, 2020. On December 7, 2020, the Office of the Law Clerk received a first batch of approximately 5,000 documents (almost 27,000 pages) for review. On December 16, 2020, the Speaker tabled a portion of these documents, pursuant to the order of the House. As only a minority of the documents provided to the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel were in both official languages, only those documents available bilingually were tabled.
On November 30, 2020, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland (University–Rosedale), made an economic statement, followed by statements from a member of each recognized party and a member of the Green Party.
On December 11, 2020, the House adjourned for the holidays, with a scheduled return date of January 25, 2020, and without adopting any new special order to allow for the continuation of hybrid or virtual proceedings of the House and its committees.
On October 19, 2020, pursuant to Standing Order 52, Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni, NDP) rose to request an emergency debate on the Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Bernadette Jordan (South Shore—St. Margarets, LIB), rose to make a request on the same subject. The Speaker granted the request and the debate was held later in the sitting.
On October 30, 2020, during the debate on Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), the Deputy Whip of the Bloc Québécois, Marilène Gill (Manicouagan), spoke in Innu during part of her statement.
On November 25, 2020, the Speaker informed the House that the Clerk of the House had received from the Chief Electoral Officer the certificates of the election of Marcy Ien (Toronto Centre, LIB) and Ya’ara Saks (York Centre, LIB). Ms. Ien and Ms. Sasks, having taken the oath required by law, were introduced to the House by the Prime Minister and took their seats in the House.
Later that day, under the provisions of Standing Order 53.1, the House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole to hold a take-note debate on the status of the French language in Montréal.
On November 26, the Administration published its first disclosure in compliance with Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The first disclosures in compliance with the Act for Members, Presiding Officers and House Officers were subsequently published in December. The Act requires specific financial information to be published every quarter and made available to the public. This includes travel information and expenses, hospitality information and expenses, and information on contracts over $10,000.
On December 7, 2020, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, Maryam Monsef (Peterborough—Kawartha, LIB), made a statement highlighting the 50th anniversary of the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Following Ms. Monsef’s remarks, four other female members made statements on the subject: Jag Sahota (Calgary Skyview, CPC), Andréanne Larouche (Shefford, BQ), Lindsay Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NPD) and Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP). All Statements by Members and questions during Question Period by opposition parties were made by female members.
Table Research Branch
During this period, bills C-4, An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19, C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy), as well as two appropriation bills (C-16 and C-17) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, were passed and received Royal As sent by written declaration.
Chamber and Procedure
On October 27, the Senate adopted a motion allowing hybrid sittings, with senators able to participate in sittings either from the Senate Chamber or through approved videoconference technology. Among other things, the motion addressed how votes would be conducted in this format. It also featured provisions modifying the Senate’s sitting times, which took into consideration the various time zones from which senators would be participating. Senators participating remotely are able to provide documents electronically ahead of time in both languages, in which case they are considered to have fulfilled the normal requirements relating to providing such documents. Documents deposited with the Clerk can also be provided in electronic format. The Senate held its first hybrid sitting, using Zoom and multi-factor authentication, on November 3.
On November 17, the Senate adopted another motion to give standing Senate committees the authorization to hold hybrid meetings, with senators able to participate either from the committee meeting room in the parliamentary precinct or by videoconference. The motion gives priority to committees conducting certain types of business and allows for meetings entirely by videoconference under certain conditions.
In anticipation of the expiry of these motions on December 18, the Senate, on December 17, adopted a motion to have their provisions apply from February 1 to June 23, 2021, subject to certain conditions.
On October 28, the Senate adopted a motion extending the normal duration for Senators’ Statements from 15 to 18 minutes for the remainder of the current session.
Committees of the Whole
A Committee of the Whole on the subject matter of Bill C-4, An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19, was held on October 1st. Chrystia Freeland (M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance) and Carla Qualtrough (M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion) appeared as witnesses.
On November 17, the Senate resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the subject matter of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy). Ms. Freeland (M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance) appeared, once again, as a witness.
Speaker’s Rulings and Statements
On October 29, the Speaker ruled on a question of privilege raised by Senator Pierre Dalphond concerning a motion proposing a sessional order regarding committee business. Senator Dalphond questioned whether the adoption of the motion would be in breach of the privilege of senators not in attendance due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Speaker ruled that the prima facie merits of the question of privilege had not been established. The Speaker emphasized that “… when quorum is present, the Senate can exercise its powers”.
On November 5, the Speaker ruled on a point of order raised by Senator Yonah Martin on the use of a mask as a prop and requested that Senator Marilou McPhedran replace her mask, which featured a slogan. As a result, Senator McPhedran changed her mask.
On December 9, following a reasoned amendment moved by Senator Kim Pate at second reading of Bill C-17, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, the Speaker made a statement explaining that a reasoned amendment “… allows a senator to outline the reasons for opposing second or third reading of a bill. It puts on the record a statement or explanation as to why a bill should not be proceeded with. The motion can be debated, amended and adjourned… if a reasoned amendment is adopted, the bill is defeated”. The Senate rejected the reasoned amendment.
On October 1, the Senate adopted a motion to amend the Rules of the Senate and create the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight. The committee membership is composed of three senators and two external members. The committee’s mandate includes overseeing the Senate’s internal and external audits. The first report of the committee was adopted on December 3. It authorizes the committee to continue to function with just the three senators who are members in order to consider issues and draft a report to the Senate recommending the nomination of external members.
On November 3, the Senate adopted the second report of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, dealing with the consideration of an inquiry report of the Senate Ethics Officer concerning Senator Victor Oh. The report had been presented in the Senate on June 18, 2020, during the First Session of the Forty-third Parliament, and had been placed on Orders of the Day for consideration in the current session. The report included a recommendation for the censure of the senator, which was recorded in the Journals.
The Senate adopted motions to place the following committee reports from previous sessions on the Orders of the Day: the first report of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, entitled Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on June 20, 2019, during the First Session of the Forty-second Parliament, and the fourth report of the Special Committee on the Arctic, entitled Northern Lights: A Wake-Up Call for the Future of Canada, tabled in the Senate on June 11, 2019, during the First Session of the Forty-second Parliament. The Senate adopted both reports and requested a government response on November 3 and 5, respectively.
The Committee of Selection presented its first and second reports nominating senators to serve on committees on November 3 and 5, and both reports were adopted on November 5. On November 19, the Senate referred a motion concerning the election of the Speaker pro tempore by secret ballot to the committee for examination and report. The committee’s third report, entitled Speaker pro tempore on an interim basis was presented on December 9, and nominated Senator Pierrette Ringuette on an interim basis while the committee considers the proposal of election by secret ballot.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance tabled its first report entitled Subject matter of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy) on November 17. The report was adopted on November 19. The committee also tabled its second report, entitled The expenditures set out in the Main Estimates and the Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, on December 8. The report was adopted on December 9.
Senator Norman E. Doyle retired from the Senate on November 10. He was appointed to the Senate on January 6, 2012, by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and represented the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He sat as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. Prior to joining the Senate, he was elected as Member for Parliament for the riding of St. Johns’ East four times between 1997 and 2008, representing the Progressive Conservative Party and later the Conservative Party of Canada. Senator Doyle served as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
After 32 years at the Senate, Catherine Piccinin, Principal Clerk of the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, retired on December 9 and was replaced by Till Heyde.
Richard Denis, Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments, and Chief Legislative Services Officer, retired on December 31. During his three years with the Senate, Mr. Denis led the legislative sector during a time that saw numerous milestones in the Senate’s history, notably the transition from Centre Block to the Senate of Canada Building in 2018, the first public television broadcast of a Senate sitting in 2019, and the implementation of virtual and hybrid sittings of the Senate and its committees in 2020. With Mr. Denis’ departure, Gérald Lafrenière, Acting Director of Governance and Strategic Planning, was appointed Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments, and Chief Legislative Services Officer. Mr. Lafreniere began his distinguished career on Parliament Hill over 25 years ago as a legal analyst at the Library of Parliament. He joined the Senate in 2004 as a Committee Clerk and has worked within various directorates in the institution, assuming roles at the Committees Directorate, International and Interparliamentary Affairs, and Governance and Strategic Planning.