1st Session of the 30th Legislature
The fall session commenced on October 8, 2019, and was adjourned following a late evening sitting which began on December 4, 2019. The session saw the introduction of 16 Government Bills, all of which received Royal Assent, and four Private Members’ Public Bills.
Introduced on November 18, 2019, Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act, 2019, an omnibus bill, came into effect just five days later. The Bill included measures to reduce duplication and spending by agencies, boards and commissions, leading to the dissolution of a number of provincial committees and foundations. The new legislation also required a variety of retirement funds, pension plans and the Workers’ Compensation Board to be managed by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), a Crown corporation of the Province of Alberta. However, the legislative amendments in Bill 22 that drew the most public attention related to the province’s election legislation. The legislation ended the five-year term of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson after a year and a half of service. No longer an independent Officer of the Legislature, the election commissioner position and related responsibilities were transferred to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
During Oral Question Period on November 19, 2019, Speaker Nathan Cooper, MLA (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills) named Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, MLA (Edmonton-Strathcona), and ordered her to leave the Assembly after she refused to apologize for saying that the Government House Leader was misleading the Assembly by stating that Bill 22 would not dismiss Mr. Gibson. The following week, on November 25, 2019, Ms. Notley withdrew her remarks and resumed her work in the Assembly.
As Election Commissioner, Mr. Gibson had been in the process of investigating the 2017 leadership contest of the United Conservative Party and had already issued multiple fines to campaign participants. The Official Opposition asked the Ethics Commissioner, Marguerite Trussler, to intervene in the matter under the Conflicts of Interest Act, arguing that the Bill would provide a material benefit to the United Conservative Party and that many MLAs should be required to recuse themselves from participating in proceedings. The Commissioner indicated that she did not have sufficient information to pursue an investigation on the matter; however, she issued an advisory opinion indicating that Members under investigation, or Members with close associates under investigation by the Election Commissioner or the RCMP, would likely be in contravention of the Conflicts of Interest Act should they discuss aspects of the Bill pertaining to the Election Commissioner or vote on Bill 22.
In an unusual step, Ms. Notley also made an appeal to Lieutenant Governor Lois E. Mitchell and asked her not to sign the Bill. However, on November 22, 2019, Ms. Mitchell granted Royal Assent to Bill 22, and the Office of the Election Commissioner was dissolved. The Official Opposition have sent a request to the Ethics Commissioner to conduct an investigation of several members of the UCP caucus with regard to potential violations of conflict of interest laws during the deliberations and votes held for Bill 22.
Main Estimates 2019-20
The 2019-2020 provincial budget was tabled on October 24, 2019, and consideration of the estimates by the Legislative Policy Committees began the following week. The $58.7 billion budget features operating spending cuts of 2.8 per cent over four years through measures including the de-indexing of income support programs, tax credits and tax brackets. Funding to support education and infrastructure projects has also been reduced or frozen, and the cap on postsecondary tuition has been removed. An enhanced capital cost allowance will be implemented, and corporate income tax will be reduced from 12 per cent to 8 per cent over two and a half years in an effort to support businesses and job creation.
Following the referral by the Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future conducted a review of the Alberta Property Rights Advocate Office 2017 Annual Report. The Committee met with the Advocate and received updates from officials representing a number of ministries. The Committee endorsed all recommendations included in the report and further recommended that the Advocate’s recommendations be considered with regard to best practices and economic competitiveness.
On October 31, 2019, the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship released its report on the review of the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. It recommended that mandatory disclosure be extended to education bodies and municipal authorities and further expansion on the reporting of compensation for employees by including salary and severance information of those who fall below the reporting threshold without identifying the individual employee. It was also recommended that entities be required to disclose ratios for employees to supervisors, managers and directors.
The Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills considered four Bills during the fall session:Bill 204, Election Recall Act Bill 205, Human Tissue and Organ Donation (Presumed Consent) Amendment Act, 2019 Bill 206, Workers’ Compensation (Enforcement of Decisions) Amendment Act, 2019 Bill 207, Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act
The Committee reported on Bills 204, 205 and 206 and recommended that they proceed to Second Reading. Prior to the December adjournment Bill 204 passed Second Reading and Bill 206 moved to Third Reading. The Committee recommended to the Assembly that Bill 207 not proceed to Second Reading; however, session was adjourned before debate on the matter was completed.
On November 27, 2019, the Special Standing Committee on Members’ Services met to discuss parameters for the 2020-2021 budget estimates of the Legislative Assembly Office (LAO). The Speaker advised the Committee that he had directed administration to plan a five per cent reduction to the LAO branch budgets and the budget for the Office of the Speaker. He noted that significant savings had already been identified and would be realized by the elimination of one of the biannual constituency employee training seminars and by the closure of the Alberta Branded store at the end of the fiscal year.
On November 27, 2019, the Assembly referred the 2018-2018 Annual Report of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate to the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices for review. The Committee met on December 4, 2019, and agreed to invite the Advocate and the Ministry of Children’s Services to make presentations to the Committee. Also, it struck a Subcommittee on Committee Business to assist with further organizing the review.Jody Rempel Committee Clerk
On September 10, 2019, Speaker Simeon Mikkungwak announced the recall of the House for a special one-day sitting, which was held on September 17, 2019. The purpose of the sitting was to consider amendments to the Nunavut Elections Act in advance of territory-wide municipal elections, which were held on October 28, 2019. The amendments clarified the ability of employees of the territorial public service to stand for office. The 2019 municipal elections were the first municipal elections to be administered by Elections Nunavut since the passage in 2017 of legislation to bring them under the authority of the Nunavut Elections Act.
The fall 2019 sitting of the 2nd Session of the 5th Legislative Assembly convened on October 17, 2019, and concluded on November 7, 2019. The proceedings of the Committee of the Whole during the fall 2019 sitting were dominated by the consideration of the government’s proposed 2020-2021 capital estimates. Nine bills received Assent during the fall 2019 sitting:
Bill 8, An Act to Amend the Workers’ Compensation Act;
Bill 26, An Act to Amend the Income Tax;
Bill 29, An Act to Amend the Labour Standards Act and the Interpretation Act with Respect to Nunavut Day;
Bill 30, Appropriation (Capital) Act, 2020-2021;
Bill 31, Supplementary Appropriation (Capital) Act, No. 3, 2019-2020;
Bill 32, Supplementary Appropriation (Operations and Maintenance) Act, No. 2, 2019-2020;
Bill 33, Supplementary Appropriation (Operations and Maintenance) Act, No. 2, 2018-2019;
Bill 34, Write-Off of Assets Act, 2018-2019; and
Bill 38, An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act and the Supplementary Retiring Allowances Act.
Bill 38 implemented recommendations of the 2019 Independent Commission to Review Members’ Indemnities, Allowances, Expenses and Benefits. The Commission’s final report had previously been tabled in the House by Speaker Mikkungwak on May 28, 2019.
The winter 2020 sitting is scheduled to convene on February 18, 2020.
A by-election for the constituency of Tununiq was held on September 16, 2019. The by-election was necessitated by the March 29, 2019, passing of former Member Joe Enook. Two candidates stood in the by-election. Member-Elect David Qamaniq’s swearing-in ceremony was held on the morning of October 17, 2019, and he took his seat that afternoon for the commencement of the Legislative Assembly’s fall sitting.
From September 25-26, 2019, the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Oversight of Government Operations and Public Accounts held televised hearings on the 2019 Report of the Office of the Auditor General to the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut on Support for High School Students and Adult Learners. Committee Chairperson and Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main subsequently presented the standing committee’s report on the televised hearing during the fall 2019 sitting of the House.
From November 25-28, 2019, the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Legislation held televised hearings on Bill 25, the proposed Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act. A number of witnesses appeared before the standing committee, including the sponsor of the Bill, Minister of Education and South Baffin MLA David Joanasie.
Appointment of Acting Languages Commissioner
On October 11, 2019, Speaker Mikkungwak announced the appointment of Karliin Aariak as Acting Languages Commissioner of Nunavut. The appointment followed the resignation of her predecessor.
Passing of Former Members
During the summer of 2019, the Nunavut and Northwest Territories legislatures mourned the passing of Ludy Pudluk, who served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories from 1975 to 1995. Mr. Pudluk was inducted into the Order of Nunavut in 2018 for his contributions to public service and the creation of the territory.
Two former Members of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut passed away during the fall of 2019: Ovide Alakannuark, former Member for Akulliq and Peter Kattuk, former Member for Hudson Bay. Flags were half-masted at the Legislative Assembly Precinct in honour of their passing.
Office of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut
The fall sitting of the fourth session of the 41st Parliament of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia adjourned on November 28, 2019. During the sitting, 13 bills received Royal Assent, including a Private Member’s bill introduced by the Leader of the Third Party, Andrew Weaver. It is anticipated that the Legislative Assembly will resume sitting on February 11, 2020.
Amendments to the Standing Orders
To ensure that the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Orders continue to better reflect British Columbia’s growing diversity and evolving standards and expectations, a number of them were amended during the fall sitting.
On October 3, 2019, Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, wrote a letter to Speaker Darryl Plecas seeking clarification regarding a recommendation contained in the Acting Clerk’s May 2019 Report on Dress Guidelines and Expectations in the Parliament Buildings. Ms. Singh inquired about the status of the recommendation to solidify the long-accepted unwritten practice that “Indigenous attire, traditional cultural attire and religious attire continue to be considered appropriate dress,” and asked how it pertained to the Standing Orders, in particular Standing Order 36 which requires Members to ‘rise uncovered’ to speak. Ms. Singh felt that Standing Order 36 might prohibit religious and Indigenous head wear in the Chamber and possibly contradict the Acting Clerk’s recommendation.
On October 10, Ms. Singh sought and received unanimous consent to move a motion without notice to amend Standing Order 36 to read “Every Member desiring to speak shall do so from their assigned place and address the Speaker.” In her remarks upon moving the motion, Ms. Singh thanked the Speaker for his response to her letter, “which made it clear that a change to the order would be necessary in order to ensure the Legislature remains a welcoming space for all Canadians.” She indicated that the amendment to Standing Order 36 would reflect “our mutually held values of diversity, religious freedom and reconciliation.” The motion was adopted unanimously and Members may now wear a head covering in the Chamber if it is part of their traditional cultural, Indigenous or religious attire. Further certainty in this regard was provided with the addition of Standing Order 17B on October 31, 2019. The Standing Order provides that Members shall dress in professional contemporary business attire for all proceedings of the House, and that Indigenous, traditional cultural and religious attire are appropriate dress.
Under Standing Order 25, the daily routine business of the House for each sitting day begins with “Prayers” and are the only proceeding not transcribed for publication in the Hansard transcript. The Speaker will invite a Member or invited faith leaders, Indigenous leaders or Elders to “lead the House in prayer.” On the last day of the session, the Government House Leader moved a motion without notice to amend Standing Orders 25 and 17A, replacing the reference to “Prayers” with “Prayers and Reflections” in order to represent the range of faith-based, non-denominational, and non-religious traditions among Members.
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act
The fall sitting included the introduction, consideration and adoption of Bill 41, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, making BC the first Canadian jurisdiction to enact legislation to affirm the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Act requires that government ensure provincial laws are consistent with UNDRIP, implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP and report annually on its progress.
Prior to the introduction of the bill on October 24, 2019, proceedings in the Chamber began with a blessing, land acknowledgment and prayer song by members of local Indigenous communities. After the bill received First Reading, the House moved to suspend proceedings and defer routine business to allow Indigenous leaders Grand Chief Ed John, Cheryl Casimer, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip to address the Legislative Assembly. The Premier, Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the Third Party also made statements, all of which were appended to the Official Report of Debates of the Legislative Assembly. The bill received Royal Assent on November 28, 2019.
A number of other bills received Royal Assent during the fall sitting reflecting a range of significant public policy areas, including:
Bill 38, Climate Change Accountability Amendment Act, which seeks to improve government’s accountability measures as they relate to BC’s legislated 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.
Bill 40, Interpretation Amendment Act, which renames BC’s time zone as “Pacific Time” and places the province on permanent Daylight Saving Time (DST). This follows a government-led public consultation on DST in which over 220,000 people participated – the largest response to a public consultation in British Columbia. Ninety-three percent of respondents indicated a preference to observe DST year-round. At Introduction and First Reading, the Attorney General stated that changes resulting from the Act will be brought into force at a later date to allow government to coordinate its approach with other jurisdictions that share the current Pacific Time Zone with BC and where similar initiatives are being considered.
Bill 43, Election Amendment Act 2019, which implements recommendations proposed by the Chief Electoral Officer in his Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on Recommendations for Legislative Change, May 2018 and will permit the Chief Electoral Officer to maintain a list of future voters aged 16 to 17 in an effort to improve voter registration rates. The report was issued in accordance with section 13(1)(d) of the Election Act, which provides that the Chief Electoral Officer may make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly respecting amendments to the Act or other enactments affecting election matters.
Bill 45, Taxation Statutes Amendment Act, which seeks to address concerns with vaping and tobacco consumption by increasing the rate of the Provincial Sales Tax on vaping products from 7 percent to 20 percent and raising the cigarette and per-gram tobacco tax rates by 2 cents.
Bill M 225, Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act, which was introduced by Mr. Weaver, Leader of the Third Party, establishes the fourth Saturday in November as Holodomor Memorial Day throughout BC. This is the third Private Members’ Bill introduced by Mr. Weaver to receive Royal Assent in the 41st Parliament.
Legislative Assembly Administration
During the reporting period, a number of external and internal processes continued in order to address issues raised in the January 2019 Report of the Speaker Darryl Plecas to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee Concerning Allegations of Misconduct by Senior Officers of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly.
On October 8, 2019, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) approved the release of the Investigation Report in the Matter of Allegations Regarding the Conduct of Special Provincial Constable Gary Lenz. The report was prepared by Doug LePard who was appointed by the Speaker to conduct an investigation into allegations against Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz pursuant to the Special Provincial Constable Complaint Procedure Regulation of the Police Act. The report found that Mr. Lenz, who had been placed on administrative leave by the Legislative Assembly on November 20, 2018, did not uphold his Oath as a Special Provincial Constable and that he committed Neglect of Duty for failing to adequately investigate a misappropriation of liquor. Mr. Lenz retired on October 1, 2019.
The January 2019 report of the Speaker included a number of matters regarding the terminations of former Assembly staff. At the January 21, 2019 LAMC meeting, the Acting Clerk was asked to develop a framework for a workplace review of Assembly departments in order to address the matters raised in the report of the Speaker. Following completion of a competitive bidding process, ADR Education Partnership was selected by LAMC to conduct a workplace review with current and former employees of the Legislative Assembly. The workplace review process is intended to seek ways to enhance organizational health and wellbeing through inclusive engagement and collaborative participation. Interviews with staff are underway and results are expected to be presented to LAMC and Assembly staff in 2020. LAMC continued to meet throughout the fall to oversee the reform of numerous administrative and financial management policies including matters identified in the report of the Speaker, as well as issues raised by the Auditor General in her September 2019 report, Expense Policies and Practices in the Offices of the Speaker, Clerk and Sergeant-at Arms. The Legislative Assembly acknowledged the report’s conclusions and accepted all recommendations. A comprehensive action plan presented to LAMC on October 8, 2019 indicated that many recommendations had already been substantially implemented and initiatives were planned to fully implement the outstanding recommendations. The Office of the Auditor General is also undertaking a series of performance audits in the areas of purchasing cards, compensation and benefits, capital asset management and overall governance.
Review of the Police Complaint Process
The Special Committee to Review the Police Complaint Process was appointed by the Legislative Assembly on February 21, 2019 to conduct an audit respecting the outcome or resolution of randomly selected complaints and investigations, pursuant to section 51.2 of the Police Act. The Special Committee engaged an external audit firm to conduct compliance and performance audits, and also sought public input regarding improvements to the police complaint process. The Special Committee’s unanimous report, released on November 25, 2019, includes 38 recommendations aimed at increasing the efficiency, effectiveness and accessibility of the police complaint process.
Children and Youth with Neuro-diverse Special Needs
As reported in the summer 2019 edition of this publication, the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth held a public consultation to hear from parents of children and youth with neuro-diverse special needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and developmental delay, as well as caregivers, service providers and local community organizations. The Committee released its unanimous report on October 30, 2019 which makes 16 recommendations for improving access to services and supports, enhancing universal screening and increasing public awareness, and helping families to navigate and understand the system.
Annual Review of the Budgets of Statutory Offices
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services conducted its annual review on the budgets of BC’s nine independent statutory offices and released its unanimous report with recommendations respecting each office’s operating and capital expenditures on December 16, 2019. This included the first full budget for the operationalization of the new Office of the Human Rights Commissioner which was created in 2018.
The Legislative Assembly adopted a motion on October 8, 2019 appointing Greg Nelson as Acting Sergeant-at-Arms until the appointment of a Sergeant-at-Arms. Under the terms of the motion, Mr. Nelson will undertake any responsibilities prescribed to the Sergeant-at-Arms by statute, the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly, and any other authority. Mr. Nelson formerly served as the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms and succeeded Randy Ennis, who retired as Acting Sergeant-at-Arms on May 31, 2019.
On October 23, 2019, LAMC approved a position description, compensation, and terms and conditions with respect to the position of Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. A Special Committee is currently working to select and unanimously recommend the appointment of an individual as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to statutory provisions and the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly. An open call for applications was issued on November 7, 2019 with a closing date of January 15, 2020.
Two statutory officer appointment processes concluded in November. On November 26, 2019, the Special Committee to Appoint a Conflict of Interest Commissioner unanimously recommended that Victoria Gray be appointed as Conflict of Interest Commissioner for a term of five years. The following day, the Special Committee to Appoint a Merit Commissioner unanimously recommended that Maureen Baird be appointed as Merit Commissioner for a term of three years. Both recommendations were subsequently endorsed by the House and the appointments are expected to take effect in January 2020.
Following the announcement of the resignation, effective December 31, 2019, of Carol Bellringer as Auditor General, a Special Committee was established to select and unanimously recommend the appointment of an Auditor General. The Special Committee issued a call for applications on November 4, with a deadline to apply of January 17, 2020. To ensure continuity at the Office of the Auditor General, on November 28, 2019, the Legislative Assembly appointed Russ Jones as Acting Auditor General effective December 31, 2019 on the unanimous recommendation of the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, pursuant to section 7(1) of the Auditor General Act.
Transgender Day of Remembrance
A Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize the murder of a transgender woman in Massachusetts, first took place on November 20, 1999 and has since evolved into an international day of action to remember those who have lost their lives as a result of gender-based violence or transphobia. The day is now observed in over 185 cities in more than 20 countries. The transgender pride flag was raised in front of the Legislature for the first time in a ceremony on November 20, 2019.
Committee Research Analyst
2020 Spring Sitting
The Third Session of the 34th Legislative Assembly resumed on March 5, 2020.
As per a November 29, 2019 Order of the House, the Legislative Assembly will not sit from March 16-19 due to the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. The Arctic Winter Games, “an international biennial celebration of circumpolar sports and Indigenous culture” for youth, will be held in Whitehorse from March 15-21, and is expected to be 2,000 participants strong.
The Standing Orders provide that the Spring Sitting will be between 20 to 40 sitting days in length; a 30-day Sitting would see the House rise on May 5.
Bills assented to during 2019 Fall Sitting
The 2019 Fall Sitting began on October 3 and concluded on November 27, after 30 sitting days. On the final day of that Sitting, the following government bills were assented to by Yukon’s Commissioner, Angélique Bernard:
Bill No. 2, Yukon University Act (Tracy-Anne McPhee) Note — this legislation transforms Yukon College into Canada’s first Arctic university
Bill No. 3, Tobacco and Vaping Products Control and regulation Act (Pauline Frost)
Bill No. 4, Act to Amend the Elections Act (Sandy Silver)
Bill No. 5, Liquor Act (John Streicker)
Bill No. 6, Act to Amend the Corrections Act, 2009 (Ms. McPhee)
Bill No. 7, Technical Amendments Act, 2019 (Ms. McPhee)
Bill No. 200, Second Appropriation Act 2019-2020 (Mr. Silver)
Private Member’s bills
During the 2019 Fall Sitting, the following private members’ bills were introduced:
Bill No. 300, Act to Eliminate Daylight Saving Time (Wade Istchenko)
Bill No. 301, Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act (Brad Cathers)
Public Accounts Committee report
On November 14, the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was tabled in the House by the Chair of the Committee, Stacey Hassard. The report charted the progress made by departments with regard to implementing previous recommendations made in three previous Committee reports, and reports by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. The previous reports dealt with government transfers to societies, capital asset management, and climate change in Yukon.
Public Accounts Committee hearings
On December 11, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) held public hearings in the Chamber.
The morning hearing was on a report entitled Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Legislative Assembly of Yukon – Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Education in Yukon – Department of Education, which had been released on June 18, 2018. A December 19, 2019 news release by PAC noted that the report “highlighted gaps in student outcomes between First Nations and other students, problems with the delivery of services and supports to students with special needs, and a lack of culturally inclusive programming in schools.” At the hearing, officials from the OAG as well as witnesses from the Department of Education answered questions from the Committee.
The hearing PAC held on the afternoon of December 11 was on the Yukon Public Accounts 2018-19, which had been tabled in the House on October 30, 2019. The Committee’s December 19, 2019 news release observed that despite the fact that the Public Accounts stand automatically referred to the Committee by way of Standing Order, this had been the first occasion since the committee’s October 1979 creation on which a hearing had been held on the Public Accounts.
Yukon Party leadership
The Yukon Party (which years ago was known as the Yukon Territorial Progressive Conservative Party) has not had a permanent leader since the November 2016 general election, when former Yukon Party Premier Darrell Pasloski stepped down as leader upon losing his seat.
Mr. Hassard, who had been re-elected as the Member for Teslin, took on the role of Acting Leader of the Yukon Party and Leader of the Official Opposition in the House (the House first met in January, 2017).
On November 20, 2019, the Yukon Party announced that on May 23, 2020, it would elect a permanent leader.
On November 21, Currie Dixon, the former Member for Copperbelt North, who had served as a Minister in Premier Pasloski’s government from 2011-2016, announced that he was seeking the leadership of the Yukon Party. Mr. Dixon had not stood for re-election in the 2016 general election.
On December 5, Brad Cathers, the Member for Lake Laberge, announced his intention to run for the party leadership. First elected in 2002 and re-elected to the Legislative Assembly in successive general elections, Mr. Cathers (who is the Dean of the House) served in Cabinet during three Legislatures, and sat as an Independent from 2009-2011.
On January 14, 2020, past Yukon Party president and treasurer Linda Benoit joined the leadership race. Ms. Benoit was the federal Conservative Party candidate’s campaign manager in the federal election, and had previously worked for former Premiers Pasloski and the late Dennis Fentie.
Third Session of the 59th Legislature and Throne Speech
Lieutenant-Governor Brenda Murphy opened the 3rd Session of the 59th Legislature on November 19, 2019, with the delivery of the Speech from the Throne. The speech focused on six priority areas of Premier Blaine Higgs’ government: delivering dependable public health care; creating a world-class education system; energizing the private sector; creating vibrant and sustainable communities; ensuring affordable and responsive governance; and transforming the public service into a high-performing organization. Highlights included proposed amendments to the Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act to better protect residents, workers and taxpayers; the development of a physician resource strategy; exploration of new educational approaches to help more students learn both official languages; engagement with First Nations to renew the Enhanced First Nation Education Programs and Services Agreement; a goal to increase immigration, using the Population Growth Strategy and the New Brunswick Francophone Immigration Action plan as guides; proposed amendments to the Climate Change Act to allow for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions; the development of a tax reform roadmap that will include a review of all major taxation programs; and a goal to ensure that succession plans are in place for critical positions within the public service.
Reply to the Throne Speech
On November 21, Official Opposition Leader Denis Landry gave his reply to the Speech from the Throne. He thanked former Premier and Member for Shediac Bay-Dieppe Brian Gallant for his service and wished him well in his next endeavours. He also congratulated Kevin Vickers, who is the new Leader of the provincial Liberal Party and will be running as a candidate if a by-election is called for the riding. Mr. Landry raised concerns about the economy, highlighting the need for job creation in all regions of the province and more investment in tourism. He also expressed a desire to celebrate the achievements of businesspeople and successful new businesses in all regions of the province. He expressed his hope that the government would act with more urgency and creativity to build a stronger economy. Mr. Landry also addressed concerns about health care, including nursing shortages, wait times for health care services, dispute resolution over nursing homes, more resources for mental health, and the better use of other medical health professionals, including nurse practitioners. He also expressed his hope that the government would focus more on social development, particularly with regards to poverty reduction.
The 2020-21 Capital Budget was tabled by Finance Minister Ernie Steeves on December 10 and totals $599.2 million. Specifically, the government will invest $123.9 million in health care infrastructure, including $62.9 million earmarked for the continuation of renovations, additions and other improvements to health care facilities around the province; $45 million for capital improvements and equipment; and $16 million to start new projects in the coming year. In order to support the education system, $70.6 million will be allocated for K-12 infrastructure. Other investments will include $279.3 million for the maintenance and improvement of highways, roads and bridges around the province. An additional $30.9 million will be used to maintain and improve government buildings and other infrastructure.
On November 20, the Standing Committee on Law Amendments, chaired by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Andrea Anderson-Mason, tabled its first and second reports. The first report was the result of the Committee’s deliberations on Bill 39, An Act Respecting Proof of Immunization. The purpose of the Bill was to remove non-medical exemptions from the mandatory immunization requirements for public school and licensed early learning and child care admissions. After hearing from members of the public and other interested stakeholders, Bill 39 died on the Order and Notice Paper as the second session of the 59th Legislative Assembly was prorogued on November 19. Nonetheless, the mandate of the Committee to review the subject matter of the Bill remained in effect. The Committee recommended that the Assembly consider the issues and concerns outlined in its report during any potential consideration of proposed legislation similar to Bill 39 in the future.
The second report tabled by the Standing Committee on Law Amendments was the result of the Committee’s deliberations on Motion 31 with respect to property assessment and taxation exemptions or benefits applicable to heavy industry. Based on the input received during the public consultation process, the Committee recommended that the government consider a review of taxation with a view of modernizing and improving the current property tax system.
On December 3, the Standing Committees on Public Accounts and Crown Corporations, chaired by Roger Melanson and Glen Savoie respectively, met with Auditor General Kim MacPherson for the release of her Report of the Auditor General of New Brunswick 2019, Volume II – Performance Audit and Volume III – Financial Audit. Volume II focused on provincial funding to post-secondary institutions, group homes and specialized placement programs that fall within the Department of Social Development. It also followed-up on two financial assistance case studies (Blueberries and Naval Centre). Volume III presented performance reports focused on year-end financial results and matters arising from the annual financial audit of the provincial government and Crown agencies including the state of New Brunswick’s financial condition. It also highlighted opportunities to increase transparency.
On December 19, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts tabled its first report, which outlined the Committee’s activities since it last reported on March 26, 2019.
The Standing Committee on Procedure, Privileges and Legislative Officers, chaired by Stewart Fairgrieve, also tabled its first report on December 19. The report contained recommendations for amendments to the Standing Rules in order to dissolve the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations and merge its mandate with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and to create a new Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship. The recommendations were subsequently adopted by the House, the two committees were merged, and the Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship was appointed with Bruce Fitch, a government caucus member, elected as Chair, and Kevin Arseneau, a Green caucus member, elected as Vice-Chair.
The Standing Committee on Economic Policy, chaired by Gary Crossman, remained active during the Fall session, considering various government bills.
Thirty-one bills were introduced during the third session. Legislation introduced included:
Bill 10 – An Act to Amend the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act – introduced by Minister Steeves, facilitates the potential change of direction for the operation, distribution and sale of recreational cannabis in the province from the public sector to the private sector.
Bill 11 – An Act Respecting Proof of Immunization – introduced by Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy, removes non-medical exemptions from the mandatory immunization requirements for public school and licensed early learning and child care admissions. The Bill differs from Bill 39 introduced during the previous session as it now contains a notwithstanding clause.
Bill 12 – An Act Respecting the Management of Prescriptions and Recovery Authority – introduced by Health Minister Hugh Flemming, seeks to clarify the authority of the Department of Health with respect to the audit of claims made under the New Brunswick Drug Plan. It also addresses the recovery of overpayments to pharmacies and establishes a formal process for the review of inspection audit decisions.
Bill 13 – 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. The Bill was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments for public consultation.
Bill 17 – An Act to Amend the Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act – introduced by Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard, addresses collective bargaining by ensuring an appropriate number of employees can strike while not interrupting essential services, to avoid endangering nursing home residents.
Bill 20 – An Act to Amend the Residential Tenancies Act – introduced by Service New Brunswick Minister Sherry Wilson, allows victims of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence or stalking to end a residential lease early.
On November 28, the Assembly adopted a resolution introduced by Monique LeBlanc that urged the government to focus resources towards the position of a mental health advocate. The Assembly also agreed to a resolution introduced by Cathy Rogers on December 12 that urged the government to refer the issue of glyphosate spraying to a legislative committee for consultation purposes.
On November 22, a new Official Languages Commissioner and a new Integrity Commissioner were recommended by the Legislative Assembly. Shirley MacLean, the deputy executive director and complaints registrar for the New Brunswick Law Society, was named New Brunswick’s next Official Languages Commissioner. New Brunswick’s Ombud, Charles Murray, was named as the new Integrity Commissioner after filling the role on an interim basis.
The House adjourned on December 20 and is scheduled to resume sitting on March 10, 2020, when it is expected that Minister Steeves will present the government’s second budget. The standings in the House are 21 Progressive Conservatives, 20 Liberals, three People’s Alliance and three Greens.
Fall sitting of the fourth session of the twenty-eighth legislature
The fourth session of the twenty-eighth legislature was opened on October 23, 2019 by Russ Mirasty, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, who delivered his first Speech from the Throne. During the fall sessional period, 33 public bills were introduced by the government and the opposition introduced two private members’ public bills.
The government and opposition found common cause to pass the following three bills through all stages in one sitting day.
Bill No. 185, The Legislative Assembly (Protective Services) Amendment Act, 2019, defines what the legislative precinct encompasses and establishes the Legislative Protective Services. The legislation confirms that the Speaker is responsible for the security of the precinct.
Bill No. 186, The Provincial Emblems and Honours Amendment Act, 2019, grants former members of Executive Council, with the exception of those convicted of certain offences, to be honorary members and entitles them to use ‘The Honourable’ before the member’s name and the initials ‘E.C.S.’ (Executive Council of Saskatchewan) after their name.
Bill No. 202, The Election Amendment Act, 2019, continues the phased-in modernization of election legislation proposed by the Chief Electoral Officer. This legislation addresses administrative inefficiencies and other housekeeping changes.
Bill No.182, The Tobacco Control Amendment Act, 2019, was passed through all stages over two sitting days. It ensures vaping devices, products, and restrictions on use align with the regulations for tobacco products.
Mr. Mirasty gave royal assent to these four public bills on December 4, 2019.
An additional highlight of the fall sitting was the completion of the high definition (HD) migration project in the Chamber and committee room. Arrangements are being made with cable providers to broadcast proceedings in HD.
As previously reported, two seats became vacant when MLA Warren Steinley and MLA Corey Tochor resigned their seats on September 11, 2019 to seek election federally. Both members were elected as Members of Parliament.
On October 23, 2019, the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) amended the transition allowance directive to preclude members that are elected as Members of Parliament or appointed to the Senate during the period of transition from receiving a transition allowance.
The composition of the Assembly is now 46 government members and 13 opposition members. The Standing Committee on House Services made changes to committee membership to reflect the composition of the Assembly. The policy field committees now have two opposition members and five government members each.
Infant in the Chamber
For the first time, an MLA, Nicole Sarauer, brought an infant into the Chamber on October 31, 2019. In April 2018, the Legislative Assembly adopted changes to the Rules and Procedures of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan to permit a member to bring their infant into the Chamber.
Rule 1(2), which provides the authority for the Speaker to alter the rules and practices to accommodate members with a disability to fully participate in proceedings, was expanded to include members who are pregnant or ill. It also allows members to care for their infants in the Chamber. Additionally, the Assembly adopted a rule to ensure that infants being cared for by a member are not regarded as strangers.
The BOIE also amended the annual indemnity and allowance directive. Now, if a member is absent from a sitting of the Legislature for maternity, paternity, or adoption leave, no deduction from the member’s annual indemnity will be made.
New Advocate for Children and Youth
The Legislative Assembly unanimously appointed Lisa Broda to the position of Advocate for Children and Youth on November 4, 2019. Ms. Broda was serving in the role of Deputy Advocate for Children and Youth at the time of her appointment.
A competition was held to select a new Advocate for Child and Youth, and a sub-committee of the BOIE, comprised of the Speaker, a non-cabinet government member, and an opposition member, was established to conduct the first round of interviews. A short list of candidates was provided to the BOIE, and the board in its entirety conducted the final interviews. The BOIE recommended Ms. Broda to the Legislative Assembly, and her appointment was by order of the Assembly.
On November 4, 2019, Saskatchewan welcomed representatives from the Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC). In August 2019, Saskatchewan became the first Canadian province to become a full member of MLC. Representatives were in Regina to celebrate the achievement by signing the MLC proclamation welcoming Saskatchewan as a full member.
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Institute on Parliamentary Democracy
From November 16 to 20, 2019, Speaker Mark Docherty, on behalf of the Legislative Assembly, hosted several teachers for the 21st Saskatchewan Teachers’ Institute on Parliamentary Democracy. Since the program’s launch in 1999, over 300 teachers from across Saskatchewan have participated. The Legislative Assembly Service provided information sessions on a variety of topics. The next teachers’ institute is planned for the spring of 2021.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The House reconvened for the continuation of the First Session of the 49th General Assembly on November 4th, 2019.
Election of Speaker
The first order of business was the election of a new Speaker. Two candidates put their names forward: Scott Reid, MHA for Humber – St. George’s and Perry Trimper, MHA for Lake Melville. Mr. Reid was elected. Derek Bennett, MHA (Lewisporte-Twillingate) was elected Deputy Speaker succeeding Mr. Reid in the position.
Points of Privilege
On November 12, the Opposition House Leader, David Brazil, MHA, raised a point of privilege regarding comments made by a Minister about two MHAs which he described as damaging to the MHAs’ reputations. The Speaker ruled that there was a prima facie case of breach of privilege. After considerable debate the House decided that there had been a breach of the two Members’ privileges and resolved that the Minister withdraw unequivocally the comments in question. The Member complied with the request.
On December 2, the Government House Leader raised a point of privilege regarding the premature release of a report of the Commissioner for Legislative Standards. The Speaker ruled that a prima facie case had been established. The House referred the matter to the Privileges and Elections Committee which has not reported yet.
Appointment of Privacy Commissioner
Bradley Moss was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council Citizens’ Representative for Newfoundland and Labrador on a unanimous resolution of the House of Assembly, and was sworn in for a term of six years on May 1, 2019. Mr. Moss succeeds Barry Fleming.
Reports of the Commissioner for Legislative Standards
On June 25, the Commissioner for Legislative Standards released his report on a complaint made by an MHA of a number of violations of the Code of Conduct by another MHA. The Commissioner concluded that the Member in question had not violated the Code.
On November 13, the Commissioner released a Report arising out of a referral to him by the Speaker of a report prepared by the Citizens’ Representative regarding violations of the Code of Conduct by a Minister which required corrective action. The violations related to an appointment to an entity over which the Minister’s Department had oversight. The Commissioner recommended a reprimand to ensure that Ministers act diligently in the future when involved in matters which may impact the public purse and governance of crown boards and/or agencies.
The House concurred in the Report and resolved that the Minister:
apologize unequivocally to the Assembly, in writing;
apologize unequivocally in writing to former and present Board members of an agency over which his Department had oversight;
meet with the Commissioner for Legislative Standards to review the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Assembly and
be suspended from the House of Assembly without pay for a period of two consecutive weeks when the House was next in session.
The Member apologized to the House unequivocally.
On December 2nd the House concurred in the Final Report To The House of Assembly On The Development Of A Legislature-Specific Harassment-Free Workplace Policy. The first three elements were carried out during the adjournment period. The suspension was served during the first two weeks of the Winter-Spring 2020 session.
The report was the work of the Privileges and Elections Committee of the 48th General Assembly which met during the Spring and Fall of 2018 consulting numerous individuals and organizations. The idea for the policy resulted from a Private Member’s Resolution concurred in by the House in May of 2018. The MHAs have already participated in a mandatory training programme which takes into account the unique role of elected officials, and the skills needed to prevent and recover from incidents of harassment and bullying, as recommended in the Committee’s Interim Report. The policy will come into effect on April 1, 2020.
The House is scheduled to reconvene on March 4.
A number of former Members of the House of Assembly died in the last 10 months:
Haig Young, who represented the District of Harbour Grace from 1972 to 1989 (March 14, 2019).
Darryl Kelly, who represented the District of Humber Valley from 2007 to 2011 (May 18, 2019).
Beaton Tulk, who represented the District of Fogo from 1979 t0 1996 and Bonavista North from 1996 to 2002 and served as Premier from October 2000 to February 2001 (May 23, 2019).
David Gilbert, who represented Burgeo-Bay d’Espoir from 1993 to 1995 (July 1, 2019).
James Morgan, who represented Bonavista South from 1972 to 1985 (August 4, 2019).
Glenn Greening, who represented the District of Terra Nova from 1983 to 1989 (August 5, 2019).
Thomas V. Hickey, served six terms as the Member for St. John’s East Extern from 1966 to 1986 (January 2, 2020)
John C. Crosbie, former Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, former MHA representing the District of St. John’s West (1966-1976) and former MP representing the Riding of St. John’s West (1976-1993) (January 10, 2020)
Second Session of the 42nd Legislature
The Second Session of the 42nd Legislature began on November 19th, 2019 with the Speech from the Throne delivered Chief Justice Richard J.F. Chartier, in his role as Administrator of the Province. The address highlighted a range of commitments and proposals focused on areas such as tax relief, job growth, health-care investments education reform, climate action, safer streets, including:
eliminating the education portion of property taxes, with phase-out beginning the first year after the budget is balanced, and to be completed over a maximum of 10 years;
promoting job creation in the north;
introducing legislation that would eliminate Sunday and holiday shopping restrictions;
constructing 13 new schools over the next 10 years;
undertaking a mandate review of the Department of Education to prepare to implement reforms recommended by the Manitoba Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 review;
continuing to implement the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan; and
implementing the Safer Streets, Safer Lives Action Plan in order to crack down on drug dealers.
During his contribution to the Throne Speech debate on November 21st, the Leader of the Official Opposition Wab Kinew moved a motion expressing non-confidence in the government, highlighting several areas he believed the Government failed to address in the Speech from the Throne, including:
freezing funding for municipalities;
a broken healthcare system;
no plan to help reduce and end poverty;
laying the groundwork for cuts to education;
failing to meaningfully consult with Indigenous leaderships regarding the Lake St. Martin outlet channel and other initiatives that affect Indigenous rights;
ignoring the needs of the northern communities; and
failing to take any meaningful action on climate change.
On the same day, Dougald Lamont, Member for St. Boniface, moved a sub-amendment, stating several reasons why his party would not support the Throne Speech.
On November 28th, the sub-amendment was defeated on a voice vote. Subsequently, Mr. Kinew’s amendment was defeated on a recorded vote of yeas 20, nays 32, while the main budget motion carried on a recorded vote of yeas 32, nays 20.
During this sitting period, the Government introduced several bills, including Bill 7 – The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Leave for Victims of Interpersonal Violence), a bill designed to expand leave eligibility to an employee who is a victim of sexual violence or stalking. After going through all the stages of the legislative process, the Bill received royal assent by Lieutenant Governor Janice C. Filmon on December 5. The Lieutenant Governor received a heartfelt standing ovation from all Members as it was one of the first official duties she undertook after taking time off for health issues.
During the November sitting of the House, the Standing Committee on Human Resources met to complete clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 7.
Before the winter break, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts met to elect a new Chairperson and a new vice-Chairperson. Jim Maloway, MLA for Elmwood was elected Chairperson, while Andrew Smith, MLA for Lagimodiere, was elected Vice-Chairperson. In addition, the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs met to consider the most recent Annual Report from Elections Manitoba.
Finally, the Social and Economic Development Committee met on December 5 to consider the Annual Reports of the Manitoba Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs is scheduled to meet in January to start the hiring process for a new Auditor General.
Matter of Privilege Ruling
On October 10, 2019, the last day of the 1st Session of the 42nd Legislature, Jon Gerrard, Member for River Heights, rose on a Matter of Privilege regarding the government’s failure to table the Supplementary Information for Legislative Review – Revenue Estimates report. In his opinion, the failure to provide an account of the estimates of revenue by the Government impeded his ability as an MLA to understand a critical component of the financial affairs of Manitoba and asked that the matter be referred to a Legislative committee.
In her ruling on November 25, Speaker Myrna Driedger explained to Members that questions of privilege are frequently raised but few are found to be prima facie cases. She then highlighted the individual protections for Members under parliamentary privilege (freedom of speech, freedom from arrest and civil actions, exemptions from jury duty, freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation, and the exemption from attendance as a witness).
The Speaker ruled that based on his comments, the Member appeared to have a grievance against the government regarding the tabling of the Revenue Estimates, but his argument did not meet the thresholds described regarding his privileges as a Member of the House. She also pointed out that several previous Manitoba Speakers have made the point that while Members may have a case for a grievance or complaint against the government, such cases do not amount to a prima facie case of a breach of privilege.
On October 23, Premier Brian Pallister presented his new Cabinet with two new faces while several ministers have been assigned new duties.
Ralph Eichler, previously Minister of Agriculture, is the new Minister of Economic Development and Training, a newly created department, which will also oversee post-secondary education.
Blaine Pedersen, former Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, is the new Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development.
Rochelle Squires, former Minister of Sustainable Development, is the new Minister of Municipal Relations.
Cathy Cox is the new Minister responsible for the status of women, in addition to her current duties as Minister for Sport, Culture and Heritage.
The new ministers are:
Sarah Guillemard was appointed Minister of the newly created Department of Conservation and Climate. Mrs. Guillemard is the MLA for Fort Richmond, first elected in 2016, was re-elected in the recent general election of September 2019.
Reg Helwer is now the Minister of Central Services, a new department designed to focus on modernization of government services including procurement, information technology and shared services. Mr. Helwer has represented the constituency of Brandon West since 2011 and has served as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee of Public Accounts.
Current Party Standings
The current party standings in the Manitoba Legislature are: Progressive Conservatives 36, New Democratic Party 18, and three Independent Members.
Clerk Assistant/Clerk of Committees
The general election was held on October 1, 2019 and resulted in the Northwest Territories making history with nine women being elected. Women now account for 47 per cent of the Assembly. Further, 11 of the 19 Members were elected for the first time.
October Sitting – 19th Assembly
The House convened for the first Session of the 19th Assembly on October 25, 2019 in accordance of the Rules of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.
However, prior to convening, newly elected Members began an extensive orientation program which included a Northern Leaders Roundtable with Indigenous and community government leaders. This forum provided local leadership with the opportunity to discuss their priorities, and allowed Members to gather information that would help identify the priorities of the 19th Assembly moving forward.
This marked the third time the newly-elected Members of the Legislative Assembly have hosted northern leaders in such a forum prior to the selection of a premier and cabinet. Additionally, this was the first time it was open to the public as well as to the media.
On October 24, 2019, the Members of the Assembly met as a Territorial Leadership Committee and elected Frederick Blake Jr. (Mackenzie Delta) as Speaker and Caroline Cochrane (Range Lake) as Premier for the 19th Assembly. The Members also elected six Members to serve with the Premier on Cabinet, four of whom are women (see below).
During the creation of Standing Committees, Members decided to discontinue the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning and strike a Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight in its place. Unlike other Standing Committees, this committee is comprised of all eleven regular Members.
The following Standing Committee Chairs and Deputy Chairs were elected:
Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight:
Chair: Steven Norn (Tu Nedhe – Wiilideh)
Deputy Chair: Kevin O’Reilly (Frame Lake)
Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment:
Chair: Jackie Jacobson (Nunakput)
Deputy Chair: Ronald Bonnetrouge (Deh Cho)
Standing Committee on Government Operations:
Chair: Frieda Martselos (Thebacha)
Deputy Chair: Julie Green (Yellowknife Centre)
Standing Committee on Social Development:
Chair: Caitlin Cleveland (Kam Lake)
Deputy Chair: Lesa Semmler (Inuvik Twin Lakes)
Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures:
Chair: Kevin O’Reilly (Frame Lake)
Deputy Chair: Rocky Simpson (Hay River South)
Chair: Rylund Johnson (Yellowknife North)
Deputy Chair: Kevin O’Reilly (Frame Lake)
Premier Cochrane assigned Ministerial responsibilities on November 5, 2019.
Diane Thom (Inuvik Boot Lake) as Deputy Premier; Minister of Health and Social Services; Minister Responsible for the Status of Women; and Minister Responsible for People with Disabilities
Paulie Chinna (Sahtu) as Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs; Minister Responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation; and Minister Responsible for Homelessness
Katrina Nokleby (Great Slave) as Minister of Infrastructure; Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment; and Minister Responsible for Worker’s Safety and Compensation Commission
R.J. Simpson (Hay River North) as Government House Leader; Minister of Education, Culture and Employment; and Minister Responsible for the Public Utilities Board
Shane Thompson (Nahendeh) as Minister of Environment and Natural Resources; Minister of Lands; Minister Responsible for Youth; Minister Responsible for Seniors; Minister Responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation
Caroline Wawzonek (Member for Yellowknife South) as Minister of Finance; and Minister of Justice
Bill 1: An Act to Amend the Rules of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly Act was passed. This amendment to the Act changes the indemnities and allowances for Members, as well as providing for a new Child Care Travel Allowance for Members.
The Commissioner of the Northwest Territories prorogued the first session on December 12, 2019 and will resume with the second session on February 5, 2020.
Opening of the Forty-third Parliament
The Opening of Parliament was held on December 5, 2019. The opening took place with two distinct sittings of the Senate on one day for the first time since 1988. During the first sitting, a new senator, the Honourable Tony Loffreda, was introduced and the House of Commons was directed to elect its Speaker. During the second sitting, Governor General Julie Payette delivered the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber.
Bill C-2, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, received Royal Assent on December 12. A traditional Royal Assent ceremony was held in the Senate Chamber.
Chamber, Procedure and Speaker’s Rulings
On December 5, the Senate adopted a motion naming Senator Nicole Eaton as Speaker pro tempore until the Senate adopts a report of the Committee of Selection nominating the Speaker pro tempore.
In December, two motions to amend the Rules of the Senate were put on notice. The first motion would change the Rules to grant similar privileges and responsibilities to the leaders and facilitators of all recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups, as well as replace the definition of “Critic of a bill” with “Spokesperson on a bill” in English. In French, the term “porte-parole” would be retained, but its meaning would significantly change. Each party or group would be entitled to a spokesperson on each bill, with the exception of the party or group that the sponsor of the bill belongs to. The second motion would create a new standing committee, the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight. The committee would be composed of three Senators and two qualified external members. Both motions were on the Notice Paper and had not been moved when the Senate adjourned until February 4, 2020.
New Senate Groups
On November 4, the Canadian Senators Group (CSG) became a new recognized parliamentary group in the Senate. The 11 founding members include senators who previously belonged to the Conservative Party of Canada, the Independent Senators Group (ISG) and one non-affiliated senator. The interim leader of the CSG is Senator Scott Tannas and the interim deputy leader is Senator Josée Verner. On November 14, the Progressive Senate Group (PSG) became another recognized parliamentary group. The PSG counted nine members at its creation, all of whom previously belonged to the Liberal Party of Canada. Senator Joseph Day was the interim leader of the PSG and Senator Terry Mercer the interim deputy leader. On November 18, Senator Percy Downe joined the CSG and left the PSG, which resulted in the latter dropping below the nine members required for a recognized parliamentary group in the Rules of the Senate. The remaining eight PSG senators became non-affiliated senators as a result.
On December 5, the Senate adopted a motion to appoint senators to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance until the end of 2019. The committee presented its first report, on the Supplementary Estimates (A), on December 11.
On December 10, the Senate adopted a motion appointing members to the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, until such a time as the committee is appointed by order of the Senate or in the manner foreseen in the Rules of the Senate. On the same day, the Senate adopted a separate motion to authorize the committee to examine and report on developments and actions in relation to the committee’s fifth report, regarding Senator Lynn Beyak, from the first session of the Forty-second Parliament, which was adopted on May 9, 2019.
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration presented its first report (Senate Budget for 2020-21) on December 12.
Mr. Loffreda (Quebec – Shawinegan), who was appointed to the Senate on the advice of the Prime Minister on July 23, was introduced on December 5, 2019, and took his seat in the Senate Chamber. Senator Loffreda is a certified public account with 35 years of experience in the Canadian financial industry and is an active member of the Ahuntsic neighbourhood in Montreal.
Senator Paul E. McIntyre retired from the Senate on November 1. He was appointed to the Senate in 2012 on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to represent New Brunswick. Senator McIntyre practiced law in New Brunswick prior to his appointment to the Senate, and chaired the New Brunswick Criminal Code Board of Review for 25 years. He served on a number of committees, including the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defense.
Senator Richard Neufeld retired from the Senate on November 5. He was appointed in 2008 on the advice of Prime Minister Harper to represent British Columbia. Senator Neufeld previously served four terms representing the riding of Peace River North in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, including eight years as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. He served on many Senate committees, including as chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.
House of Commons
This account covers events leading up to the First Session of the 43rd Parliament from October to December 2019 and the House’s several sittings before rising for the holiday season on December 13.
General Election and Party Leadership
The 43rd general federal election, held on Monday, October 21, returned a deputation to the House of Commons in which no party held a majority of the seats. Justin Trudeau (Papineau) continued as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, forming a minority Liberal government. Thirty-six ministers took their oaths at Rideau Hall on November 20.
The election’s outcome meant that the House now has four recognized parties: the Liberal Party of Canada with 157 members, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) with 121, the Bloc Québécois (BQ) with 32 and the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 24. The remaining four seats are held by three Green Party members and one independent member. The Leader of the Official Opposition is Andrew Scheer, but, on December 11, he stated his intention to resign his post as soon as the CPC chooses his successor as party leader. Jean-Yves Blanchet leads the BQ and Jagmeet Singh leads the NDP.
Opening of Parliament: Election of a New Speaker and Speech from the Throne
The Governor General convoked Parliament on December 5. Answering her summons was a logistical challenge, as the House’s members had to travel from West Block to the Senate, now lodged some 700 metres away in what was originally Ottawa’s central train station and, until recently, the Government Conference Centre. Enjoined there by Chief Justice Richard Wagner, in his role as the Deputy of the Governor General, to elect a Speaker, the House returned to West Block where, as dean of the House, Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour) presided for a fourth time over the election of the Speaker. The Commons chose Anthony Rota (Nipissing—Timiskaming) using a secret ranked (or preferential) ballot.
That afternoon, the members again made their way to the Senate. Governor General Julie Payette delivered the Speech from the Throne to open Parliament, outlining the government’s agenda. The House returned to West Block to initiate its business and then to consider the Speech from the Throne. The Standing Orders provide for up to six additional days of debate on the motion for an address in reply to the Speech from the Thone and on any amendment or subamendment proposed to it. On December 12, the fourth day of debate on the motion, a second subamendment was moved – this is an infrequent occurrence but procedurally in order, as the House had already disposed of the first subamendment – and later that day both it and the amendment were negatived by the House. When the House rose on December 13, one day of debate remained.
The House agreed to the appointments of Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North) as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole on December 9, to Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing) as Assistant Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, and to Alexandra Mendès (Brossard—Saint-Lambert) as Assistant Deputy Speaker and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole on December 10.
Legislative Measures and Financial Procedures
When Parliament opened there were only four sittings available before the supply period was to end on December 10. The House, therefore, agreed to a special order so that the Supplementary Estimates (A) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, would be referred to and considered in a committee of the whole on December 9, so that the House could debate an opposition motion on a “first and final” allotted day for the Business of Supply, that is, December 10. The House adopted the opposition motion, thereby ordering the creation of a special committee of the House with the mandate to examine and review all aspects of the Canada–China relationship. It went on to pass Bill C-2, Appropriation Act No. 3, 2019-20, giving effect to the spending plans in the supplementary estimates. The Senate passed the bill on December 11, and the House attended the Governor General in the Senate chamber for a royal assent ceremony, as required by the Royal Assent Act in the case of the first bill of a session appropriating sums for the public service of Canada, on December 12.
A motion adopted in the House significantly changed how committees will operate for the duration of the 43rd Parliament. On motion of Pablo Rodriguez (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons) the House agreed that the membership of each standing committee be increased such that 11 members will comprise those committees chaired by the opposition and 12 members those chaired by members from the government side. The motion also suspended those standing orders that barred parliamentary secretaries from voting in committee or from appointment to standing, legislative or special committees, and it modified the standing orders to ensure that any subcommittees created by standing committees include members from all recognized parties.
As is usually done after a general election, on December 5, the Speaker informed the House of who among them were to serve on the Board of Internal Economy. They were Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour) and Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier), as members of the Queen’s Privy Council, Mark Holland (Ajax) and Ginette Petitpas Taylor (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe), as representatives of the government caucus, Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar) and Mark Strahl (Chilliwack—Hope), as representatives of the Conservative Party of Canada caucus, Claude DeBellefeuille (Salaberry—Suroît), as the representative of the Bloc Québécois caucus, and Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby), as the representative of the New Democratic Party caucus.
Later that day, reviving a practice followed in the previous three Parliaments, the House agreed to order that bells would sound to call in members for recorded divisions for up to 30 minutes on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, except for divisions held after Oral Questions. Construction on and around Parliament Hill has pushed some House activities beyond Parliamentary Precinct’s historic boundaries, so the House has adopted the order to ensure members have enough time to return from offices and committee rooms to the chamber for votes.
As the House planned its business during its first sitting, it agreed that, on December 6, the 30th anniversary of the events at École Polytechnique in Montreal, the House would meet at 9:30 a.m. That Friday sitting began with statements from a member of each recognized party and a member of the Green Party. The House then observed a moment of silence before proceeding to the orders of the day.
Andrew Bartholomew Chaplin
Table Research Branch
National Assembly Proceedings
On Saturday, December 7, 2019, at the request of Premier François Legault, the Assembly held an extraordinary sitting to introduce an exceptional legislative procedure to conclude consideration of Bill 34, An Act to simplify the process for establishing electricity distribution rates. The bill was passed during the night on the following vote: Yeas 60, Nays 39, Abstentions 0.
Following the by-election held on December 2, 2019 in the electoral division of Jean-Talon, Joëlle Boutin, the Coalition Avenir Québec candidate, was declared elected. As a result, the composition of the National Assembly now stands as follows: 76 Members of the Coalition Avenir Québec, 28 Members of the Quebec Liberal Party, 10 Members under the Québec Solidaire banner, 9 Members of the Parti Québécois and two independent Members.
Since October ١, 2019, the National Assembly has passed 20 bills, of which 14 were government bills, one was a private member’s bill, and five were private bills. Notable among them were:
Bill 2, An Act to tighten the regulation of cannabis;
Bill 5, An Act to amend the Education Act and other provisions regarding preschool education services for students 4 years of age;
Bill 17, An Act respecting remunerated passenger transportation by automobile;
Bill 25, An Act to amend mainly the Firearms Registration Act;
Bill 33, An Act to amend the Labour Code concerning the maintenance of essential services in public services and in the public and parapublic sectors;
Bill 38, An Act amending certain Acts establishing public sector pension plans;
Bill 390, An Act to replace the Act respecting the Amicale des anciens parlementaires du Québec.
Rulings from the Chair
On November 14, 2019, the President ruled on a matter of privilege raised by the Leader of the Third Opposition Group on October 29, 2019. The matter concerned Hydro-Québec’s submissions to the Régie de l’énergie with regard to Bill 34, An Act to simplify the process for establishing electricity distribution rates, within the context of a request to adjust electricity rates for 2020-2021. In the opinion of the Leader of the Third Opposition Group, Hydro-Québec was in contempt of Parliament in the context of its submissions to the Régie and undermined the authority and dignity of the Assembly in two ways. First, the government corporation allegedly assumed that the bill would be passed and, in a number of communications, described the passage as imminent because of the majority government. Second, it allegedly sought to take advantage of provisions in the bill before they were passed by referring to specific provisions in the bill in making its case.
The news release issued by Hydro-Québec on October 29, 2019, was published as a reaction to the information provided by an individual about the effects of Bill 34. The text of the news release merely describes the proposals in the bill; it never suggests that the bill had been passed. It therefore simply participates in a debate providing different points of view on the appropriateness of the bill. This is not contempt of Parliament.
The government corporation’s other submissions, as reported by the Leader of the Third Opposition Group, were in two letters and Hydro-Québec’s presentation in a case opened by the Régie de l’énergie at the request of three associations on establishing electricity rates for the 2020-2021 billing year.
Having read various passages from these documents, the Chair understands that some parliamentarians may have felt some indignation and and perceived a lack of consideration for and discrediting of the importat work they carry out when the Assembly studies a bill. Suggesting that a bill has the force of law when it has not been passed or availing oneself of legislative provisions when they are still being studied may constitute prima facie contempt of Parliament. Moreover, representing the passage of a bill as a fait accompli while completely ignoring the role of parliamentarians could be considered an affront to the dignity or authority of the Assembly and its members.
When examining such a matter, the Chair must consider the circumstances under which the information was communicated because contempt must involve a serious act. The Chair must therefore rigorously analyze the facts and actions surrounding the communication of information before finding prima facie contempt.
In this case, the context of the case before the Régie must be considered. In fact, in its arguments, Hydro-Québec also sets out the criteria that the Régie must consider in its analysis of a rate application. These are the timing of the application, whether it is in the public interest and whether it is likely to have a significant effect on those involved.
The passages quoted must therefore be read in the context of a focussed argument on a point of law presented to support a submission to the decision-makers on an administrative tribunal. Such decision-makers are in a position to strike a balance between contradictory submissions made to them.
The Chair points out that a bill can have no legal effect until it has passed all stages of the legislative process and has come into force. It was therefore inappropriate to say that Bill 34 set any rates at all. The most that could have been said was that it proposed to set rates. But that statement should still have been accompanied by express mention of the fact that everything was still dependent on a decision by the Assembly.
Only the Assembly is competent to decide how its work shall proceed and when the legislative process comes to an end. To pretend otherwise is disrespectful not only to parliamentarians but also to the public who elected their representatives to perform the important function of enacting legislation. While it is possible that the bill may be passed by the date that Hydro-Québec mentions, it is also possible that it may be passed later, or not at all. That is entirely up to the parliamentarians.
Moreover, the government corporation itself recognizes that the outcome of the bill is not currently known. It would have been desirable for all the government corporation’s representations to be made in that way, with the necessary caveats. The same also goes for the way in which the text of the bill is described in the presentation, which implies that a number of clauses will have the same content once the legislative process is complete. That view demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the workings of Parliament, which has an essential, pivotal role in the legislative process. Since there is no certainty as to whether a bill introduced in the Assembly will be passed or as to its content once it is passed, communications about the legislative process should be made with restraint and should explicitly indicate the role of the Assembly and of its members.
In a letter tabled at the sitting on November 5, 2019, the Vice-President of Hydro-Québec apologized on behalf of the government corporation. He also pointed out that, taken as a whole, its submissions show that Hydro-Québec officials demonstrated the expected deference on a number of occasions. The Chair acknowledges the apology and the information provided in response to the concerns raised by parliamentarians. If all Hydro-Québec communications had the tone of the passages quoted in the letter of November 5. 2019, the matter would likely not have come before the Chair.
For those reasons, the facts as analyzed do not give rise to contempt of Parliament.
However, the Chair is issuing two warnings. First, it is entirely possible to take a strong position such as the one Hydro-Québec wanted to defend, but, when doing so, the language must be carefully chosen so that the role of Parliament is emphasized, not merely hinted at. Second, those representing a government corporation of the stature of Hydro-Québec must assume their responsibilities, in particular with regard to acting with respect toward Parliament and its Members. The role entrusted to them by the public, who elected the Members to undertake the legislative functions of government, must never be underestimated.
On December 5, 2019, the Chair rendered a decision on a matter raised on November 29, 2019, by the Leader of the Second Opposition Group, in which it is alleged that the Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change violated the rights and privileges of the Members of the Assembly by failing to meet his obligation to table the strategic plan of the Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert by the date stipulated in the Act respecting the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs.
To find prima facie contempt, the Chair must be presented with evidence showing that the period between when the Minister received the strategic plan and when it was tabled exceeds the timeframe stipulated in the Act. The Act states that, from the time a strategic plan prepared by the Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert is received by the Minister, he has 30 days to table it in the Assembly. If the Assembly is not sitting at that point, the Minister must table the plan no later than 15 days after it resumes its proceedings.
In this case, the Minister tabled the strategic plan on December 3, 2019. To be able to determine that it was tabled before the deadline, the Chair must see that the Minister received the document 30 days prior to tabling it. An access to information request to the Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert reveals that the strategic plan had been sent to the Minister on March 11, 2019, almost nine months before. Given the probative nature of this evidence, it would be necessary for facts to be produced indicating that the Minister had actually received the strategic plan at a later date and that it had been tabled within the timeframe stipulated in the Act. Such was not the case. The government leader argued that an error had been made in good faith and that some confusion surrounded the finality of the strategic plan, but he revealed nothing more about the circumstances of the confusion. The explanations that the Minister gave during question period on December 5, 2019, do not change his legal obligation and do not lead to the conclusion that the date of receipt was other than the one shown in the access to information request. Consequently, the only date of receipt that has been provided as evidence is March 11, 2019. At this stage of analysis, this is sufficient, as it is not the Chair’s role to conduct a more thorough investigation.
Failure to table a document as required by law constitutes prima facie contempt. This is because, in order to exercise effective parliamentary scrutiny, the Assembly needs to be informed of everything that happens in the state apparatus in a timely fashion. In this case, the content of the strategic plan can also help members in their role as law-makers given the upcoming study of Bill 44, An Act mainly to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change and to promote electrification, which proposes amendments to the rules governing the Green Fund and the abolition of its Conseil de gestion. This specific situation supports the idea that a failure to table a document of this kind by the time prescribed by law deprives Members of information that is relevant to the performance of their duties and thus hinders their work.
Nothing leads to a conclusion that there is any date of receipt other than the one shown in the access to information response. The only way to shed full light on the situation is to declare the matter valid. The argument that this is an administrative error can be considered, if deemed appropriate, by the Committee of the National Assembly when it investigates, if a motion is made to that effect.
In conclusion, the tabling of documents in the Assembly must not be considered as simple routine administration, but rather as an important exercise in transparent public administration. The legislative authority must be able to rely on timely information, meaning within the timeframes stipulated by the Assembly, so that it can fulfil its role as the lawmaking body that regulates the affairs of state.
On December 6, 2019, the Chair rendered a decision on two matters of the breach of rights or privilege raised respectively on December 3, 2019, by the Leader of the Official Opposition, and on December 5, 2019, by the Leader of the Second Opposition Group.
The Leader of the Official Opposition alleges that a breach of the rights and privileges of Members of the Assembly occurred when the government communicated privileged information to third parties, including a journalist, before it was introduced in the Assembly. The information concerned Bill 52, An Act to strengthen the complaint examination process of the health and social services network, in particular for users receiving services from private institutions.
The matter raised by the Leader of the Second Opposition Group concerns an announcement that the Minster of Families had published in a newspaper in his riding, informing readers that Bill 40, An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance had passed whereas in fact the bill still undergoing clause-by-clause consideration in committee.
Parliamentary rulings have repeatedly dealt with matters involving the communication of information related to bills. The Chair has always made it clear that it is not reprehensible for Members of the Assembly to wish to inform the public about parliamentary proceedings; on the contrary, it is one of the Members’ duties. However, public communications about bills must be in accordance with the rules and accepted practices, which are clear and consistent on the matter.
Three key principles must guide the conduct of all Members in disclosing information or issuing communications about bills. First, Members must be the first to be made aware of the information intended for them. The text of bills, therefore, must remain confidential until the Assembly agrees to address it. Second, since there is no certainty that bills introduced in the Assembly will be passed or about what it will contain when it is passed, communications dealing with the legislative process must be prepared with restraint and must expressly indicate the role of the Assembly and its Members. Third, information disseminated about parliamentary proceedings must reflect reality. Anyone who does not abide by those rules is in contempt of Parliament, that is to say an act or omission that undermines the authority or dignity of the Assembly or its Members, or brings them into disrepute.
As to the first matter, having become familiar with the content of Bill 52, the Chair notes that some of the items identified in the newspaper article that the Leader of the Official Opposition refers to in support of his contention are certainly there, while others are not. The Chair also emphasizes that the bill contains other items that are not mentioned in the newspaper article.
It seems clear that the journalist had access to the information as he wrote the article, but does that mean that he had been given the text itself or details about the content of the bill? In other words, is the level of detail in the article such that the conclusion must be that contempt of Parliament was committed?
Parliamentary rulings have repeatedly stated that elected representatives, not journalists, are the first to be provided with information of which they are the primary users. However, on a number of occasions, rulings have also stated that this principle does not extend to preventing the government from communicating its intentions to propose certain measures in an upcoming bill or from indicating the broad directions of such a bill.
To date, rulings considered it prima facie contempt when has access to certain aspects of a bill before it is introduced, but there is no evidence that the Minister has issued a formal communication to make the bill public and the text in the newspaper article is not the same as the text introduced in the Assembly.
In the light of the facts and considering parliamentary law, therefore, the Chair cannot conclude that prima facie contempt has been committed in this matter.
Nevertheless, all Members, and especially the members of the Executive who introduce most of the bills debated in our Chamber, must be extremely vigilant when the time comes to communicate information on a bill that has not yet been introduced. This caution also goes for those around ministers and who have access to privileged confidential information solely in order to do their jobs. Since a bill is first and foremost a parliamentary document inextricably linked to the Assembly’s primary function, which is to legislate, it is not mere symbolism to ask for the Assembly to address it first. It is because this is its fundamental role.
There is sometimes a fine line between what can and cannot be communicated about a bill that has not yet been introduced. A simple way to be more cautious would be to wait until the Assembly consents to introduce a bill before discussing its content with third parties. This solution, which is far from unreasonable, seems to fully respect everyone’s role. It would avoid unfortunate situations where Members might feel some interference with their right to be the first to be made aware of the legislative measures they will be asked to discuss, study and vote on.
As to the second matter, the Chair is at a loss to explain the lack of knowledge of parliamentary procedure in the announcement that the Minister of Families made about Bill 40.
Though the Minister mentioned in a tweet that the error was made in good faith by an employee in his riding office, the Chair points out that Members are responsible for the publications issued on their behalf and for ensuring that their staff have a modicum of information on the role of Parliament and what is done there.
However, contempt of Parliament is a serious matter and the Chair must rigorously analyze the facts and circumstances before accepting a matter of privilege that alleges it. It is therefore important to put the publication in its proper context. As a result, the Chair notes that the action does not seem to indicate any improper intent on the part of the Minister. Nor was he taking a provision still under study and doing something he had no authority to do without the provision being passed. Lastly, he was not calling into question the role of parliamentarians or of Parliament by implying anything at all in that regard.
Analyzing the facts, the Chair must also recognize that a correction was swiftly published in the electronic edition of the newspaper and in the Minister’s social media accounts. It rectified the inaccurate information originally published. This was done quickly so as to leave no doubt as to the message that should have been communicated. This was the right thing to do. However, it would have been appropriate for the Minister to have also considered making amends with his colleagues in Parliament out of respect for their legislative work.
After an overall analysis of the circumstances, this situation seems to be more the result of clumsiness than of a desire to undermine the authority and dignity of the Assembly and of its Members. It is regrettable, but the facts do not in themselves appear to be so serious that the Committee of the National Assembly needs to be convened in for an inquiry. While what was published was unseemly, Parliament’s work on Bill 40 was not compromised and continues to proceed. For this reason, and in the light of the facts, the Chair is not able to conclude that contempt of Parliament occurred.
Appointment of the Secretary General
On October 22, 2019, Siegfried Peters was appointed Secretary General of the Quebec National Assembly. A lawyer by training, Mr. Peters has worked at the National Assembly since 2002. He began as an advisor on parliamentary procedure and then had the opportunity to work in different directorates under the Secretary General, including the Legal and Legislative Affairs Directorate. He was Parliamentary Affairs Coordinator from 2011 to June 2017. Since then, he has been the Director of Legal and Legislative Affairs and Parliamentary Procedure. He was also involved in drafting the second and third editions of Parliamentary Procedure in Québec, a specialized work about the mechanics of the National Assembly. After the interim tenure of François Arsenault, Director General of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. Peters succeeds Michel Bonsaint, Secretary General from 2010 to 2019, whom the Cabinet has appointed as Quebec’s representative to Canada’s permanent delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris.
Opening of the Marie Claire Kirkland and Pauline Marois Committee Rooms
On October 23, 2019, François Paradis, President of the National Assembly, officially opened two new parliamentary committee rooms, with Premier Pauline Marois and members of Marie-Claire Kirkland’s family in attendance. During the ceremony, the President unveiled two plaques bearing the names of these two distinguished Quebec women. The plaques are located near the two committee rooms in the National Assembly’s reception pavilion.
Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique tragedy
To mark the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique tragedy, the National Assembly paid tribute to the 14 murdered women with a public event and a ceremony within the institution. For two days, December 5 and 6, 2019, the agora of the National Assembly was transformed into a place of reflection in memory of these women. On December 5, the President of the National Assembly, accompanied by the Premier, the Leader of the Official Opposition and the leaders of the Second and Third Opposition Groups, held a ceremony of remembrance during which he awarded the Medal of the National Assembly posthumously to the 14 murdered women. The ceremony was attended by family representatives and a number of parliamentarians.
Here are some highlights of the various orders carried out by parliamentary committees from October to December 2019.
Intensive committee work
As is the case every year, the parliamentary committees ended with two weeks of intensive work. This involves an extension of the National Assembly’s working hours. Committees are then able to meet on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., in addition to their regular hours. As a result, from November 26 to December 6, 2019, the parliamentary committees met for almost 135 hours.
The bills that underwent clause-by-clause consideration this fall included Bill 5, An Act to amend the Education Act and other provisions regarding preschool education services for students 4 years of age. This bill introduces an educational service for students who have reached the age of four.
On October 10, 2019, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment (CTE) completed clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 17, An Act respecting remunerated passenger transportation by automobile. This bill repeals the Act respecting transportation services by taxi and therefore provides new regulations for remunerated passenger transportation by automobile. It also contains transitional provisions, including covering the payment of dues for a compensation program for those who held taxi permits.
After conducting special consultations and public hearings with nearly 50 organizations from November 4 to 13, 2019, the Committee on Culture and Education (CCE) began clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 40, An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance. The purpose of this bill is mainly to amend the organization and governance of school boards, which are to become school service centres administered by boards of directors composed of parents, community representatives and members of the centres’ staff.
In November 2019, the Committee on Health and Social Services (CHSS) conducted clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 31, An Act to amend mainly the Pharmacy Act to facilitate access to certain services. This bill was initially intended to allow pharmacists to provide new services, including prescribing and administering vaccines and, in emergency situations, certain other medications. During this clause-by-clause consideration, the committee members adopted amendments proposed by the Minister of Health and Social Services that would make some personal information held by health and social services institutions accessible to families of Indigenous children. This would allow these families to shed some light on the disappearance or death of children admitted to institutions during the period spanning the 1950s to 1980s. One of the amendments resulted in a change to the title of the bill, which became An Act to amend mainly the Pharmacy Act for the purpose of facilitating access to certain services and to authorize the communication of personal information concerning certain missing or deceased Aboriginal children to their families.
Order of reference
On November 14, 2019, the Committee on Public Finance (CPF) received an order of reference from the National Assembly concerning the leak of personal data from Desjardins. The committee then proceeded to hold special consultations and public hearings during which it heard from six witnesses, including Mouvement Desjardins and Equifax. The members adopted a report that summarized the hearings and made six observations. The report asks the Chair of the CPF to send additional questions from members to Mouvement Desjardins no later than 15 days following the tabling of the report in the National Assembly. The report was tabled on November 27, 2019.
Select committee on the sexual exploitation of minors
On June 14, 2019, the National Assembly carried a motion to establish a select committee on the sexual exploitation of minors. After several training sessions and briefings on the topic, the members held a first series of public hearings in Quebec City from November 4 to 7, 2019. During the hearings, committee members were able to hear from organizations and individuals working on a daily basis to combat the sexual exploitation of minors. The next public hearings are scheduled for the winter of 2020 in Montreal and Val-d’Or. The Committee’s work can be followed at:
The CHSS began hearings on the self-initiated order on the troubling increase in the use of psychostimulants in children and young people in connection with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The order was adopted in April 2019 after an open letter, signed by almost 50 pediatricians and other experts, was published at the beginning of 2019. In that letter, the experts expressed concern about the widespread use of medications to treat symptoms similar to attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, among children and youth in Quebec. The hearings took place on November 6, 7, 8 and 13, 2019, and heard from 15 organizations and experts. The hearings gave committee members a better understanding of the problem and the opportunity to hear a number of proposals from the experts.
Tabling of the Report from the Committee on Public Administration
On November 28, 2019, the Committee on Public Administration tabled its 40th report on the accountability of deputy ministers and heads of public bodies. The document reflects the three public hearings held during the fall of 2019. It also contains nine recommendations designed to improve the administrative management of those departments and bodies.
Sittings and Parliamentary Procedure Directorate
Parliamentary Committees Directorate
The First Session of the 42nd Parliament resumed on October 28, 2019; sitting until December 12, 2019 when it adjourned for the winter recess. The busy fall sitting saw substantial changes made to the Standing Orders, and Royal Assent granted to five government bills, two private Members’ public bills and eight private bills.
Standing Order Changes
On November 27, 2019, Paul Calandra, Government House Leader, moved a motion to propose several changes to the Standing Orders. The motion carried as amended on December 4, 2019, and came into effect on February 18, 2020. As a newly added Standing Order, the Speaker is now authorized to alter the application of any Standing Order or practice of the House in order to permit the full participation in proceedings of any Member with a disability. The Standing Orders also now provide for the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones in the Chamber and committee rooms as long as they are operated silently, do not impair decorum, and are not used as a telephone, recording device, camera or prop. While Members have been using electronic devices in the legislature for years, this new Standing Order officially codifies unwritten practices.
A number of changes have been made relating to the participation of Independent Members in proceedings of the current Parliament. For the duration of the 42nd Parliament, Independent Members will be able to participate in debate on opposition day motions and time allocation motions, which are normally limited to Members of recognized parties.
One of the changes that garnered the most debate was the removal of a restriction on calling a government bill for debate on both the morning and afternoon meetings of the House on the same Sessional day. It was argued that this change would allow bills to pass much more quickly.
However, on December 11, 2019, the House amended the earlier changes to provide that without unanimous consent, no government bill shall be called during an evening meeting of the House if that same bill has been called on both the morning and afternoon meetings on that same Sessional day. This motion carried unanimously.
Lastly, the Standing Orders now specify that following Prayers on the first sitting Monday of each month, the Canadian National Anthem (O Canada) and the Royal Anthem (God Save the Queen) shall be sung in the Chamber.
On October 21, 2019, the Premier announced changes to ministerial responsibilities that affected three Cabinet portfolios: Lisa MacLeod is now the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries; Monte McNaughton is now the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development; and Ross Romano is now the Minister of Colleges and Universities.
The House expressed its condolences on the passing of former Members James Roos Breithaupt, Member for Kitchener from October 17, 1967 to May 1, 1985; Richard Alexander Allen, Member for Hamilton West from June 17, 1982 to June 7, 1995; and John Roxborough Smith, Member for Hamilton Mountain from October 17, 1967 to June 8, 1977.
Standing Committee on General Government
The Standing Committee on General Government met during the month of November to consider Bill 124, An Act to implement moderation measures in respect of compensation in Ontario’s public sector. Among its initiatives, the bill establishes different three-year moderation periods for represented and non-represented employees in the public sector. During the applicable moderation period, salary increases are limited to one per cent for each 12-month period of the moderation period. Following one day of public hearings and one day of clause-by-clause consideration, the bill was reported back to the House, as amended, on November 6, 2019. The bill received Royal Assent on November 7, 2019.
Standing Committee on Justice Policy
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy met to consider Bill 136, An Act to enact the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019 and make consequential amendments with respect to animal protection. The bill provided a new legislative framework for animal welfare in the province. Following one day of public hearings and one day of clause-by-clause consideration, the bill was reported back to the House, as amended, on December 3, 2019. The bill received Royal Assent on December 5, 2019.
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts presented six reports to the House and moved the adoption of their recommendations. The reports examined sections of the Auditor General’s 2017 and 2018 Annual Reports pertaining to Real Estate Services, Cancer Treatment Services, Public Health: Chronic Disease Prevention, Ontario Works, the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Refurbishment Project, and the Review of Government Advertising.
Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills
The Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills considered eight private bills, which all received Royal Assent on December 12, 2019.
The Committee considered two private Members’ public bills in the fall of 2019. Bill 6, An Act to establish the Poet Laureate of Ontario in memory of Gord Downie honours the late poet and lead singer of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, who passed away in October 2017. The Committee held clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on November 27, 2019, and reported the bill back to the House that day with certain amendments. The bill received Royal Assent on December 12, 2019. The Poet Laureate of Ontario will be an officer of the Legislative Assembly, whose duties will include promoting art and literacy, celebrating Ontario and its people, and raising the profile of Ontario poets. The appointment of Ontario’s first Poet Laureate is expected by late fall 2020.
The Committee also met to consider Bill 123, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act respecting electric vehicle charging stations. The bill amends the Highway Traffic Act making it illegal to park a non-electric vehicle in an electric vehicle charging station that is identified by a sign that satisfies certain requirements prescribed by regulation. Following public hearings and clause-by-clause consideration, the bill was reported back to the House, as amended, on December 11, 2019. The bill received Royal Assent on December 12, 2019.
Standing Committee on Social Policy
The Standing Committee on Social Policy met to consider Bill 116, An Act to enact the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence Act, 2019 and the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2019. The bill provides for the creation of a Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence within the framework of Ontario Health, and directs the Minister to develop and maintain a mental health and addictions strategy. The bill also allows the Government to sue manufacturers and wholesalers of opioid products to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by an opioid-related wrong. The Committee held one day of public hearings and one day of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill before reporting it back to the House, as amended, on December 10, 2019. The bill received Royal Assent on December 12, 2019.