Prince Edward Island
First Session, Sixty-sixth General Assembly
Having adjourned to the call of the Speaker on July 14, 2020, the First Session of the Sixty-sixth General Assembly will resume on November 12, 2020 in the Honourable George Coles Building. Pandemic-related precautions will remain in effect: public galleries will remain closed, and Members’ seats will continue to be separated by added distance or plexiglass barriers. Proceedings will be live-streamed on the Legislative Assembly’s website and Facebook page, and broadcast on Eastlink TV.
In terms of business carried over from the last sitting, there remain nine Government Bills, seven Private Members’ Bills, and 61 Motions available for debate.
Resignation of Member
On September 3, 2020, Robert Mitchell resigned as Member for District 10: Charlottetown-Winsloe. A member of the Liberal Party, Mr. Mitchell had served in the Legislative Assembly since 2007, being re-elected in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections. He served a number of years in Cabinet as Minister of Communities, Land and Environment, and Minister of Health and Wellness, and also served as Leader of the Third Party in 2019.
A by-election will be held in District 10 on November 2, 2020.
The Assembly’s standing and special committees have held many meetings since the July adjournment. The Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development met with education officials to examine the plan for reopening schools during the pandemic. The Standing Committee on Health and Social Development has also focused on the pandemic, meeting with the Chief Public Health Office, pharmacists, mental health professionals, and the provincial Emergency Measures Office. The Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability continues to examine the Water Act and its regulations, and has also been briefed on the provincial livestock strategy. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts completed its review of the 2020 annual report of the Auditor General, and has also received briefings on property tax and assessment, corporate taxation, the Provincial Nominee Program, and the operations of Island Investment Development Inc. The Standing Committee on Rules, Regulations, Private Bills and Privileges continues its review of the Rules of the Legislative Assembly, and has been directed by the Assembly to research options by which virtual proceedings may be conducted and any changes to the rules necessary to facilitate this.
Two special committees appointed in 2019 continue their work. The Special Committee on Climate Change is directed to explore the options available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to make fully-costed recommendations on how the province can best meet its emission reduction targets. The Committee has heard from various individuals and organizations in this regard, and submitted an interim report during the most recent sitting. The Committee continues its work, with a particular focus on ways to reduce emissions in the agriculture and transportation sectors. The Special Committee on Poverty in PEI is directed to make recommendations regarding definitions and measures of poverty, a living wage for PEI, and a fully-costed Basic Income Guarantee pilot project. In an interim report submitted during the most recent sitting, the Committee recommended that the provincial government adopt the “market-based measure” as its official measure of poverty when making changes to legislation, regulation and policy. The committee is now completing its work on a living wage and Basic Income Guarantee pilot project and is expected to submit a final report during the fall 2020 sitting.
During the most recent sitting the Assembly appointed a third special committee, on Government Records Retention. The committee is directed to study current government practices on electronic records and security, and Information and Privacy Commissioner Order FI-20-007, which discusses the improper deletion of government records. It is also directed to report to the Assembly with recommendations within six months.
Clerk Assistant – Research and Committees
Spring Sitting, 2nd Session of the 30th Legislature
When the Assembly returned to a regular sitting schedule in May 2020, the new sessional calendar indicated the final day of the spring sitting would be July 23, 2020. However, due to the requirements of a heavy legislative session, the Assembly ultimately sat longer than anticipated and did not adjourn until July 28, 2020, following an all-night sitting which continued until 8:09 a.m. the following morning.
A total of 34 Government Bills were introduced during the spring session, all of which have received Royal Assent. While some of these bills were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related emergencies, most were brought forward to address other areas of the Government’s mandate. In addition, four Private Members’ Public Bills were introduced and referred to the Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills as required by the Standing Orders. Following consideration by the Committee two of these bills, Bill 202, Conflicts of Interest (Protecting the Rule of Law) Amendment Act, 2020 and Bill 203, Pension Protection Act, were not proceeded with. However, Bill 201, Strategic Aviation Advisory Council Act, has received Royal Assent, and Bill 204, Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act, has passed Second Reading on division and is awaiting consideration in Committee of the Whole this fall. Bill 204 seeks to repeal legislation that currently permits Canadian Blood Services to provide remuneration only for blood, and blood products, in order to permit compensation for plasma donations. The sole Private Bill brought forward, Bill Pr 1, The Sisters of the Precious Blood of Edmonton Repeal Act, has received First Reading and currently stands referred to this Committee.
Pursuant to Government Motion 37, the Assembly also held a special one-day sitting on August 27, 2020, to debate the Government’s 2020-21 First Quarter Fiscal and Economic Update. The order of business and all speaking times were outlined through the Government Motion. The special sitting did not include the Daily Routine and commenced immediately with Orders of the Day, at which point the President of Treasury Board and the Minister of Finance tabled related documents and was given 30 minutes for an opening statement. Following this, a Member of the Official Opposition was given up to 10 minutes to make a statement after which Members of the Official Opposition were given up to an hour to ask questions of Members of Executive Council regarding the update. Members of the government caucus were then given up to 20 minutes for questions. Following the initial statements all speaking times were limited to two minutes.
On August 25, 2020, Premier Jason Kenney announced changes to his cabinet. The Economic Development, Trade and Tourism portfolio was transitioned to the new portfolio of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, which will now be overseen by Doug Schweitzer. Kaycee Madu, formerly the Minister of Municipal Affairs, replaces Mr. Schweitzer as the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, while the newly appointed Tracy Allard will serve as Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Having already successfully re-opened the galleries in the Chamber, a process was instituted under the direction of Speaker Nathan Cooper to permit members of the media and the public to attend meetings of the committees of the Assembly in person effective June 6, 2020. Advance registration is required and seating in the committee room galleries is reduced in order to permit physical distancing. Guests who are observing the proceedings are required to wear masks, with some exceptions.
The Select Special Public Health Act Review Committee pursued its mandate throughout the summer months, receiving a technical briefing on the Act, presentations from stakeholders, and over 600 written submissions from members of the public. The Committee completed its deliberations on September 30, 2020, and will report its recommendations to the Assembly by October 22, 2020.
The Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee has also made progress on its mandate, having put out a public call for written submissions on its four areas of inquiry: citizens’ initiatives, recall legislation, the Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The Committee has also received presentations from stakeholders regarding citizen’s initiatives and recall legislation.
Installation of Alberta’s 19th Lieutenant Governor
On August 26, 2020, Salma Lakhani was installed as the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. The installation ceremony was held in the Legislature Chamber and it featured a blessing by an Indigenous Elder, a military salute and administration of the Oath of Office by the Chief Justice of Alberta. Her Honour is the first Muslim Lieutenant Governor in Canadian history.
Twenty-Ninth General Election
The Twenty-Ninth General Election was held on October 26, 2020. On September 29, 2020, Russ Mirasty, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, dissolved the Twenty-Eighth Legislature at the request of Premier Scott Moe. This gave candidates a 27-day period between the issuing of the writs and polling day for campaigning.
At dissolution the Assembly was comprised of 46 Saskatchewan Party MLAs, 13 New Democratic MLAs, and two vacancies. Eleven Members decided to retire and not to seek re-election.
Standing Committees resumed in-person committee meetings in September 2020 and virtual meetings commenced in December 2020. From the time the Province of Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19 on March 22, 2020, no Standing Committee meetings were held with the exception of the Human Resources Committee which met monthly by telephone as statutorily required.
In-person Standing Committee meetings are being held in the Legislative Chamber as the Chamber is bigger than the Committee meeting room and allows for social distancing. Everyone attending the Committee meetings must wear a non-medical mask at all times with the only exception being for the person speaking on microphone during the meeting. The committee meetings are broadcast live and the video is archived for subsequent viewing on the Legislature’s website.
Fall 2020 House sitting
In accordance with the House of Assembly Act, each calendar year there must be at least one sitting of the House during the six-month period beginning the first day of January and one sitting of the House during the four-month period ending the thirty-first day of December. On November 13, 2020 it was announced that the 2nd session of the 63rd General Assembly would be prorogued on December 18, 2020.
Province House remains closed to the public. Legislative staff are working in the building and persons required to attend Province House for Standing Committee meetings are admitted to the building.
House Operations staff have created a virtual tour of Province House that is posted on the Legislature website as a resource during the time public tours and access to the building remains restricted to members of the public.
Annette M. Boucher
Summer Sitting and Dissolution
As noted in the previous issue, on June 22, 2020, the Legislative Assembly adopted two Sessional Orders outlining procedural measures to facilitate hybrid proceedings of the Legislative Assembly and virtual meetings of the Committee of Supply in a summer sitting period that ended on August 14, 2020. During the Fifth Session of the 41st Parliament, 21 bills received Royal Assent, including 15 that passed in the hybrid summer sitting period.
On September 21, 2020, Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin acting on the advice of Premier John Horgan dissolved the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 23(1) of the Constitution Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 66, thus ending British Columbia’s first minority parliament since 1952. The provincial general election will take place on October 24, approximately one year earlier than the fixed election date scheduled for the third Saturday in October 2021 per section 23(2) of the Constitution Act. Party standings at dissolution were: 41 BC New Democratic Party, 41 BC Liberal Party, two BC Green Party, two Independent Members, and one seat vacant.
Sixteen of 87 Members, including Speaker Darryl Plecas, are not seeking re-election. To assist Members who served in the 41st Parliament, Legislative Assembly staff expedited the preparation of an updated 2020 Transition Guide for Members of the Legislative Assembly which consolidates key policies and procedures relating to the transition period. The document provides guidance and information, including necessary procedures, for Members and their staff and is available on the Assembly’s website. Further supports and materials will be made available following general voting day to Members who will take their place as part of the 42nd Parliament.
Elections BC has adopted measures to ensure safe voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include physical distancing, capacity limits, protective barriers, and hand sanitizing stations at in-person voting places; and additional advance voting opportunities. Vote-by-mail, which is available to all voters in BC, is also expected to be a popular option. Typically, around one percent of ballots in a provincial election are cast by mail; however, given the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 30 to 35 percent of ballots, or 800,000, could be cast by mail. As of October 6, Elections BC had received an estimated 597,000 vote-by-mail package requests.
Key bills adopted during the hybrid summer sitting period included the following:
Bill 19, COVID-19 Related Measures Act enacts ministerial orders made under section 10 of the Emergency Program Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and allows them to be extended beyond the end of the provincial state of emergency. It also authorizes regulations that provide targeted protections from civil liability for COVID-19-related damages and amends the Emergency Program Act to authorize regulations that may be made in relation to the pandemic by the Lieutenant Governor in Council during a state of emergency.
Bill 21 amends the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, to provide for recognition of electronic wills and allow for the signing of wills to be witnessed remotely. The Bill is based on the work of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and builds upon Ministerial Order No. M161/2020, which allows remote witnessing of wills during the provincial state of emergency.
Bill 23, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, removes the requirement for a minimum of 90 days between the deposit and effective date for a regulation relating to an occupational disease caused by a communicable viral pathogen, including COVID-19. It also provides powers to the court to issue WorkSafeBC search and seizure warrants that are appropriate for investigating workplace safety infractions.
Bill 5, Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2020 provides for paid leave of up to five days for employees experiencing, or who have specific family members experiencing, domestic or sexual violence.
Traditionally, the Committee of Supply is authorized to sit in two sections concurrently, but in recent years, the Legislative Assembly has also authorized an additional third section (C) to hold concurrent proceedings to assist with completion of Estimates. Under the Sessional Order relating to the Committee of Supply, Sections A and C were authorized to sit virtually on Thursdays and Fridays during the hybrid summer sitting period. The Committee of Supply spent 182 hours considering Estimates in the summer sitting period (which includes the consideration of Estimates in Section B, being the Chamber, during the final sitting week in August), in addition to 16 hours in March, prior to the enactment of public health measures, for a total of 198 hours. In comparison, the Committee of Supply spent approximately 192 hours considering the 2019-2020 Estimates last year.
In accordance with the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, S.B.C. 2000, c. 23, upon being referred a budget consultation paper by the Minister of Finance, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds an annual budget consultation and must report on the results of that consultation no later than November 15. As noted in the Fall 2019 issue, last year, the Committee collaborated with the Minister of Finance to facilitate an earlier release of the budget consultation paper, therefore allowing the budget consultation to be conducted in June, leaving more time for the Committee’s recommendations to be incorporated into government budget planning. Following review and feedback on the adjusted timeline, the Committee, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, opted to once again have the consultation take place in the summer.
The Committee adjusted the budget consultation process as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As noted in the previous issue, all parliamentary committee meetings were held virtually using the Zoom videoconferencing platform. The Committee also increased its use of online advertising, including promoting the consultation on the Legislative Assembly’s social media accounts, creating promotional materials for stakeholders to download from the Committee’s website, and advertising in online community calendars. Rather than traveling around the province to gather input from British Columbians at regional public hearings, the Committee conducted 17 video- and tele-conference hearings in June using Zoom. The format of the public hearings was adjusted to organize presentations thematically with presenters grouped into panels based on topics of interest identified in a pre-registration process. The Committee held remote meetings to deliberate in July and August to consider the input it received via 281 presentations, 1,362 written and video submissions, and 3,625 survey responses – the highest level of input received in nearly 10 years. On August 21, 2020, the Committee released its unanimous report with 124 recommendations highlighting inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as themes such as diversity and inclusion, reconciliation, accessibility, and digital connectivity.
Prior to the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, two special committees had also undertaken work on their respective inquiries. On February 18, 2020, a Special Committee was appointed to review the Personal Information Protection Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 63, which governs how private sector organizations can collect, use, and disclose personal information. As part of its review, the Special Committee heard from interested individuals and organizations at video- and tele-conference public hearings held in June and received several written submissions during the public consultation period between May 4, 2020 and August 14, 2020. It is expected that the Committee will be re-appointed in the 42nd Parliament as section 59 of the Personal Information Protection Act requires a special committee to review the Act every six years.
On July 8, 2020, the Legislative Assembly appointed the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act to examine, inquire into, and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on: reforms related to the modernization and sustainability of policing under the Police Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 367; the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction; the scope of systemic racism within BC’s police agencies; and whether there are measures necessary to ensure a modernized Police Act is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). The Committee received background and informational briefings from officials from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General in August and September. Further briefings and stakeholder presentations were scheduled for the fall; however, these meetings were canceled upon dissolution.
Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees Annual Conference
On September 10, 2020, the Legislative Assembly hosted the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees (CCPAC) annual conference. The conference is held annually in conjunction with concurrent annual proceedings of the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, this year’s conference was conducted as a half-day virtual meeting using Zoom. Over 100 parliamentarians and legislative auditors from across the country participated in the conference which focused on parliamentary oversight of COVID-19 program administration and the role of public accounts committees and auditors general. Building on experience gained during the hybrid summer sitting period, Legislative Assembly staff acted as conference technicians to assist with delegate admission and provided technical support via Zoom and over the phone. At the CCPAC annual general meeting, Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West, Alberta was appointed as President and Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, British Columbia was appointed as Vice-President. In addition, CCPAC delegates appointed Philip Massolin, Clerk of Committees and Research Services, Legislative Assembly of Alberta as Executive Director for a two-year term, replacing Kate Ryan-Lloyd, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, who had served as Executive Director since 2016.
Legislative Assembly Administration
As noted in the previous issue, at its July 2, 2020 meeting, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee considered the Legislative Assembly Workplace Review Final Report prepared by the independent contractor, ADR Education, which made nine recommendations for an action plan by the Legislative Assembly. On August 6, 2020, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly issued the Legislative Assembly Administration’s Response and Action Plan on the report, outlining next steps and target completion dates in relation to each of the nine recommendations. Steps in the action plan include an analysis by the Clerk’s Leadership Group to ensure clarity on decision-making authority and approaches within the organization; development of an internal communications strategy; setting an overall strategic plan for the Assembly Administration; development of a performance management framework; a comprehensive management training program focusing on key competencies for executive, senior and middle management positions; establishment of a Flexible Work Arrangements Policy; and plans for a self-assessment of the action plan at the nine-month mark. In addition, the Policy Portal on the Legislative Assembly Intranet, launched in March 2020, continues to be updated and expanded.
Assembly administrative reforms continue with the help of a renewed senior leadership team. On September 8, 2020, Jamie Hanly joined the Legislative Assembly in the new position of Chief Human Resources Officer. Ms. Hanly brings over 25 years of human resources experience from a variety of public and private sector organizations, most recently, as the lead in a human resources consulting and executive coaching firm. As noted in the previous issue, the Chief Human Resources Officer is part of the Clerk’s Leadership Group which also includes the Chief Information Officer; the Clerk Assistant, Parliamentary Services; Executive Financial Officer; and the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel.
Following an external competition, Jennifer Arril was appointed Clerk of Committees on October 5, 2020. Ms. Arril joined the Legislative Assembly in November 2015 and has assumed progressively more senior roles within the Parliamentary Committees Office since that time. She served as Committee Clerk from April 2018 to September 2019 and began to serve at the Table in April 2018. The Clerk of Committees serves as the Legislative Assembly’s Chief Committee Clerk and as department head of the Parliamentary Committees Office.
Back to Work
After a summer break beginning on July 14, the Legislative Assembly resumed sitting in September 2020. Prior to the break, the House had been meeting for two days a week in May and June (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), and three days a week in July (Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays). For the fall, the House has returned to meeting on its traditional four days per week.
As part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several new measures have been implemented to assist Members in continuing to represent their constituents in a safe and secure manner.
A request was issued by the Speaker for all Members, staff and occupants of the Legislative Precinct to wear a mask in the common areas inside the precinct and in any other place where physical distancing of two metres cannot be maintained. Staff are also encouraged to work remotely when and where possible.
The House also passed a motion to allow Members to speak and vote from any Member’s desk in the Chamber in order to observe recommended physical distancing.
The method of conducting recorded divisions, as provided for in the Standing Orders, has been temporarily amended with an eye to physical distancing. Rather than Members standing in their place and being counted one at a time by the Clerk, a new system was put in place whereby Members file out of the chamber and record their vote in one of the Members’ lobbies adjoining the Chamber. The East Members’ lobby is designated for the Ayes; the West Members’ lobby is designated for the Nays. During a vote the division bells ring for 30 minutes, during which time the Table Officers stationed in the lobbies record the votes of all Members who wish to do so. Whips of the recognized parties or their designates may attend the Members’ lobbies to observe the taking of the vote. At the conclusion of the 30 minutes, the Table Officers return to the Chamber and provide the results of the voting to the Clerk, who announces the final tally.
Standing and Select Committees of the Legislature resumed regular meetings in September when the Government House Leader wrote to the Speaker indicating that it was in the public interest for them to do so. In order to facilitate the safe resumption of all committees, a motion was passed authorizing committees to continue to use approved electronic means of communication when meeting. The motion outlined that, while committees will continue to be hosted in the Assembly’s committee rooms, Members, witnesses and staff are not required to be in one physical place. The Chair and Clerk of the committee are required to be physically present, but other Members participating electronically whose identity and location in the province of Ontario have been verified would be considered present and included in quorum.
Newly proposed permanent changes to the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly were passed by the House on September 22, 2020. One of the changes was to the method of considering Private Members’ Public Business (PMPB). Rather than three items of business considered on Thursday afternoons each week, the schedule of the House was altered to allow for one item to be considered at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays respectively.
As previously noted the House did not meet on Thursdays from mid-March through to July. On a temporary basis, until the end of the Spring sitting period, an additional item of PMPB will be considered each Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. The Government House Leader has offered that this is a way for the House to “catch up” on the time lost for consideration of PMPBs.
Another new procedure in Ontario’s Legislature is the new process of take-note debates. These debates require notice from a Minister and are scheduled in consultation with the House Leaders of the recognized parties. Debates may occur in the afternoon or evening and may last for up to four hours, with no vote at the end. Take-note debates are an opportunity to solicit the views of Members on an aspect of Government policy, which may then be considered by the Government before it makes a decision.
In the House
Bill 204, An Act to amend various Acts respecting municipal elections, to amend the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 and to provide for a temporary residential rent freeze and specified temporary protections for certain commercial tenants was introduced by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, on September 17, 2020. The Bill passed Third Reading on September 30, 2020, receiving Royal Assent the following day. This Act allows law enforcement to temporarily close premises if too many people are gathered in attendance of a hosted event, curtails the eviction of commercial tenants, and provides a rent freeze for residential tenants for the calendar year 2021, among other things.
Several Private Member’s Public Bills made their way through the House and received Royal Assent in September 2020.
Bill 131, An Act to proclaim the month of July as Tibetan Heritage Month, passed Second and Third Readings and received Royal Assent on September 24, 2020. The Bill’s sponsor, MPP Bhutila Karpoche, is the first elected member of provincial parliament of Tibetan heritage in Ontario’s history.
Bill 154, An Act to proclaim Stop Cyberbullying in Ontario Day, was introduced by MPP Kaleed Rasheed and received Royal Assent on September 24, 2020.
Bill 180, An Act to proclaim Somali Heritage Week, passed Second and Third readings and received Royal Assent on October 1, 2020. The sponsor of the Bill, MPP Faisal Hassan, is the first elected Member of provincial parliament of Somali heritage in Ontario’s history.
Bill 182, An Act to amend the Franco-Ontario Emblem Act, was introduced by MPP Natalia Kusendova in March of 2020. The Bill, which sought to recognize the Franco-Ontarian flag as an emblem of Ontario, received Royal Assent on September 24, 2020, just in time for Franco-Ontarian Day on September 25.
On September 14, Peter Sibenik and William Wong were introduced as Ontario’s two newest Clerks-at-the-Table. They assume their position at the Table in addition to both serving as co-counsel in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.
On September 21, 2020, the House paid tribute to John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada from June 30, 1984 to September 17, 1984. One representative from each recognized party, as well as one Independent Member, made remarks on his life and record of public service. The House then observed a moment of silence.
A Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight was established on July 15, 2020 to receive oral reports from the Premier or his designate(s) on any extensions of emergency orders by the Lieutenant Governor in Council related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rationale for those extensions. The Premier designated Solicitor General Sylvia Jones to appear on his behalf at the meetings of the Select Committee held in August and September. The Solicitor General provided the Committee with a report on the Government’s extension of the emergency orders and answered questions from the Committee. The Committee is empowered to table interim reports in the House summarizing these meetings.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs met over the summer, examining the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the following sectors of the economy and considered measures which will contribute to their recovery:
Culture and Heritage
Municipalities, Construction and Building
Small and Medium Enterprises
The Committee met a total of 30 times through the months of June, July, August and September, and heard over 500 presentations from stakeholders and organizations totalling more than 193 hours. The Committee also received over 130 written submissions from individuals and groups who were not able to appear before the Committee in person. The Committee produced six interim reports throughout the process, with its final report and recommendations tabled in the House in early October 2020.
2020 Fall Sitting
Pursuant to the special adjournment Order adopted by the House on March 19, the 3rd Session of the 34th Legislative Assembly reconvened on October 1.
On the first day of the 2020 Fall Sitting, the House adopted three Sessional Orders relating to COVID-19. The motions (Motions No. 213, 214, and 215) were moved by Government House Leader Tracy-Anne McPhee with unanimous consent, as the motions lacked one clear day’s notice.
Motion No. 213 provides that any Member of the Legislative Assembly who is unable to attend sittings of the House in person “due to COVID-19 symptoms, illness or protocols” may participate by teleconference, and participating through that medium be recognized to speak in debate, vote, contribute to constituting quorum, and not incur a financial penalty for being absent from the House on a sitting day.
Motion No. 214 provides for the Clerk to keep a daily list of paired Members for the duration of the 2020 Fall Sitting, and for the names of Members paired under this Sessional Order to be listed in the Hansard and the Votes and Proceedings after each division that is held on the relevant date.
For the duration of the 2020 Fall Sitting, Motion No. 215 empowers the Government House Leader and at least one of the other House Leaders, if the Assembly stands adjourned for an indefinite period of time, to “request that the Legislative Assembly meet virtually by video conference, with all the Members of the Legislative Assembly being able to participate remotely”, notwithstanding any Standing Orders regarding Members’ physical presence in the Chamber.
As of October 8, the fifth day of the sitting (the day by which government bills to be dealt with during the Sitting must be introduced), the following government bills had been introduced (no new Private Members’ Bills were introduced):
Bill No. 13, Act to Amend the Elections Act (2020) (this Bill seeks to provide fixed election dates for general elections)
Bill No. 14, Act to Amend the Environment Act (2020)
Bill No. 15, Corporate Statutes Amendment Act (2020)
Bill No. 16, Act of 2020 to Amend the Condominium Act, 2015
Bill No. 17, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Related Amendments Act (2020)
Bill No. 204, Fourth Appropriation Act 2019-20
Bill No. 205, Second Appropriation Act 2020-21
Bills No. 9, 10, 11 and 12, which had received first reading during the abbreviated 2020 Spring Sitting, also remain on the Order Paper:
Bill No. 9, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act
Bill No. 10, Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (2020)
Bill No. 11, Act to Amend the Land Titles Act, 2015
Bill No. 12, Act to Amend the Wills Act (2020)
On October 1, both Bill No. 9, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act and Bill No. 10, Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (2020) passed second reading. On October 8, Bill No. 204, Fourth Appropriation Act 2019-20, received Second Reading.
On October 7, the House adopted as amended a motion (Motion No. 226) moved by Kate White, Leader of the Third Party, urging the Yukon government to increase the proportion of government jobs in communities other than Whitehorse (the territorial capital).
On September 3, Speaker Nils Clarke issued a news release announcing the appointment of Joseph Mewett to the position of Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, effective October 14, 2020. At the outset of the sitting day on October 5, Speaker Clarke introduced Mr. Mewett, who succeeds Terry Grabowski as Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, to the House.
Proceedings of the National Assembly
Terms of resumption of Assembly sittings
On 15 September 2020, parliamentary Members carried a motion relating to the terms that would be applicable to the organization of the Assembly’s proceedings until October 9, 2020. Various measures were adopted to ensure a safe environment for all. In general, the measures were identical to those in the motion that was carried on May 13, 2020.
In order to comply with physical distancing measures recommended by public health authorities, the Assembly, normally composed of 125 Members, continued to sit with a reduced number according to the following distribution, for a total of 36 Members excluding the Chair:
no more than 20 Members from the parliamentary group forming the Government;
no more than eight Members from the parliamentary group forming the Official Opposition;
no more than three Members from the Second Opposition Group;
no more than three Members from the Third Opposition Group; and
no more than two Independent Members.
Different scenarios made it possible to modify the number of Members from different political parties and of Independent Members depending on whether the Assembly was in the period of Routine Proceedings or in Orders of the Day or whether Independent Members were present or not.
A provision was included in the motion specifying that every Member may speak and vote from a seat other than their regularly assigned seat.
To ensure compliance with the maximum number of Members allowed to be admitted into the National Assembly Chamber, parliamentarians agreed to continue in accordance with the same procedure for recorded divisions contained in the motion carried on May 13, 2020 during the previous sessional period. All questions must be put in accordance with the procedure for recorded divisions under which the vote of the House Leader or Deputy House Leader of a parliamentary group or, where applicable, of a Member identified beforehand by the latter to the Secretariat, would be valid for all Members of his or her group. A provision has been added for a case where a parliamentary group is not represented at the time a question is put to the Assembly. In such cases, the Chair may suspend the proceedings for no longer than 10 minutes to allow those concerned to be notified that a vote will be held shortly and to allow them time to appear in the House. If a House Leader, Deputy Leader or Member designated to act on behalf of his or her parliamentary group for voting purposes is sitting in committee at the time of the vote, that committee may suspend its proceedings, at the request of that person, so that he or she may go to the National Assembly Chamber to take part in the vote.
Bills introduced and passed
Since the Assembly resumed sitting on September 15, 2020, two government bills and four Private Members’ Bills have been introduced in the National Assembly:
Bill 65 – An Act to amend mainly the Environment Quality Act with respect to deposits and selective collection;
Bill 66 – An Act respecting the acceleration of certain infrastructure projects;
Bill 596 – An Act to establish Pharma-Québec;
Bill 599 – An Act to respect sexual orientation and gender identity; and
Bill 690 – An Act to amend the Charter of the French language to specify that it applies to private enterprises operating in an area of federal jurisdiction.
Since resumption of proceedings, two government bills have also been passed in the National Assembly:
Bill 29 – An Act to amend the Professional Code and other provisions in particular in the oral health and the applied sciences sectors; and
Bill 42 – An Act to give effect to fiscal measures announced in the Budget Speech delivered on 21 March 2019 and to various other measures.
The National Assembly’s involvement in research projects
The National Assembly continued its work in collaboration with the Research Chair on Democracy and Parliamentary Institutions. By working in association with this group of recognized university researchers, the National Assembly seeks to raise awareness about parliamentarism by participating in innovative research. The current work plan includes two research projects: the first deals with elected officials’ expectations regarding the services offered by the administration and parliamentary officials; the second deals with examining estimates of expenditure and Members’ involvement in this area. The National Assembly has been a partner of the Research Chair for over 10 years now. Since its creation in 2007, it has made an important contribution to improving the understanding of the issues and challenges facing parliamentary systems and contemporary democracies.
Here are some of the highlights of the parliamentary committee proceedings held between July and September 2020.
The special order adopted by the Assembly on September 15 provided for several changes to the usual parliamentary committee procedure to ensure compliance with social distancing measures and the participation of as many Members as possible in committee proceedings. In particular, the special order provided for the possibility of holding any given meeting simultaneously in two rooms, thanks to technology enabling communication between the rooms. In rooms where the number of Members was limited, proxy voting made it possible for certain Members of the parliamentary groups forming the Government and the Official Opposition to exercise a right to vote by proxy on behalf of a Member who was absent. Independent Members had to inform the House Leaders and the Committees Secretariat several days in advance when they wanted to participate in the proceedings of a parliamentary committee of which they were not a member. This special order was in force until October 9, 2020.
The measures already in place to avoid distributing and handling paper documents in committee were maintained. In addition, for public hearings, witnesses’ participation by videoconference was encouraged.
Over this period, six parliamentary committees held special consultations and public hearings on eight public bills. Notably, the Committee on Labour and the Economy heard 20 individuals and bodies on Bill 51, An Act mainly to improve the flexibility of the parental insurance plan in order to promote family-work balance. The main purpose of this Bill is to extend the period in which parents may receive their parental insurance benefits and increase the number of weeks of benefits for an adoption or multiple birth.
Four meetings of the Committee on Institutions provided an opportunity to hear more than 20 witnesses on Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information. In particular, this Bill strengthens the framework for public bodies and enterprises’ use of personal information and clarifies various requirements for the consent required from the persons concerned to use their personal information.
Four sectorial committees carried out clause-by-clause consideration of public bills:
On August 27, the Committee on Public Finance completed clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 42, An Act to give effect to fiscal measures announced in the Budget Speech delivered on 21 March 2019 and to various other measures, which it had begun on February 11.
The Committee on Transportation and the Environment completed clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 44, An Act mainly to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change and to promote electrification, on September 1. Carrying out this mandate required 137 hours of parliamentary committee work.
The Committee on Institutions began clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 29, An Act to amend the Professional Code and other provisions in particular in the oral health and the applied sciences sectors, on August 25 and completed it on September 2.
The Committee on Health and Social Services undertook clause-by-clause consideration of 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, for which special consultations and public hearings had been completed in March.
Under an agreement approved by the Assembly on May 13, 2020, the budget estimates, which are each department’s projected annual expenditures for which the Government seeks approval by the Assembly, were adopted before being examined in committee, which took place during the week of August 17, 2020. Exceptionally, the parliamentary groups agreed to reduce the time for examination of budget estimates by half, thereby removing the 100 hours reserved for Government Members. Only Opposition Members could then question Ministers on their department’s financial management, in accordance with time periods dedicated to some 45 topics. The Parliamentary Committees Directorate and its partners made great logistical efforts to ensure the week’s proceedings were in compliance with the health directives in force.
Order of reference
The Assembly mandated the Committee on Institutions to hold special consultations and public hearings on digital contact notification applications and on their relevance and usefulness and, if applicable, the conditions for making them socially acceptable in the fight against COVID-19 from August 12 to 14, 2020. The public hearings were preceded by the Government’s public consultation on the same topic. Following the special consultations, which provided an opportunity to hear 18 witnesses, the Committee members tabled their report, which contained six observations.
Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors
The Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors, created by the National Assembly on June 14, 2019, held a last day of public hearings on August 24. On that day, three groups were heard on specific questions that had been sent to them beforehand. After the public hearings, the Committee members heard victims of sexual exploitation of minors and their family members in camera. A motion of the Assembly on June 9 made it possible for the Committee to hold private deliberative meetings virtually. The Committee is preparing its report, which will be tabled in the Assembly before the end of the 2020 fall sessional period.
On September 17, Ms. MarieChantal Chassé(Châteauguay) resigned as Chair of the Committee on Citizen Relations and was replaced by Ms. Lucie Lecours (Les Plaines).
Sittings and Parliamentary Procedure Directorate
The Standing Committee on Procedure, Privileges and Legislative Officers, chaired by Stewart Fairgrieve, held a meeting on August 4 to discuss the potential costs associated with operating a safe provincial election amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Electoral Officer and Supervisor of Political Financing Kim Poffenroth outlined purchases related to increased safety measures, such as hand sanitizer, self-screening posters, face shields and masks, and physical barriers for polling officials and returning officers. She also discussed the Elections Act and how there are provisions for flexibility of processes during an ongoing emergency situation.
The 59th Legislature was dissolved on August 17. At dissolution, the standings in the House were 20 Progressive Conservatives, 20 Liberals, three Greens, three People’s Alliance, one Independent, and two vacancies.
40th General Election
New Brunswick’s 40th general election was held on September 14. It was the country’s first election during the pandemic.
The election produced a majority government for the Progressive Conservatives and a second term for Premier Blaine Higgs. The Progressive Conservative Party won 27 seats, Kevin Vickers’ Liberal Party won 17 seats, David Coon’s Green Party won three seats, and Kris Austin’s People’s Alliance Party won two seats. In total, 12 new Members were elected. Former Deputy Premier Robert Gauvin was re-elected as a Member of the Liberal Party, after stepping down as a Progressive Conservative in February and choosing to sit as an Independent. Fourteen women were elected, nine of whom were part of the Progressive Conservative Party. The total number of women elected to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly marked a record high for the province.
On September 28, Members of the 60th Legislature took their Oath of Allegiance and signed the Members’ Roll during a modified ceremony in the Chamber, presided over by Lieutenant-Governor Brenda Murphy. The swearing-in ceremony consisted of four separate ceremonies to allow for physical distancing.
On September 29, the Lieutenant-Governor presided over the swearing-in of the new Executive Council in a modified ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Mr. Higgs was sworn-in as the Premier, President of the Executive Council, and Minister responsible for Intergovernmental Affairs, along with a Cabinet consisting of:
Margaret Johnson, Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries; Arlene Dunn, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister responsible for Economic Development and Small Business, Minister responsible for Opportunities NB, and Minister responsible for Immigration; Dominic Cardy, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development; Gary Crossman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Regional Development Corporation; Daniel Allain, Minister of Local Government and Local Governance Reform; Ernie Steeves, Minister of Finance and Treasury Board; Dorothy Shephard, Minister of Health; Hugh J. A. Flemming, Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General; Trevor Holder, Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour; Mary Wilson, Minister of Service New Brunswick and Minister responsible for Military Affairs; Bruce Fitch, Minister of Social Development; Tammy Scott-Wallace, Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture and Minister responsible for Women’s Equality; Jill Green, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure; Glen Savoie, Minister responsible for la Francophonie; and Mike Holland, Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development.
On October 7, Members of the Legislative Assembly elected Kings Centre Member Bill Oliver as Speaker of the House. First elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2014, Speaker Oliver served as deputy whip for the Official Opposition and as the WorkSafe NB critic. He was named Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure in 2018. His political career began in 1999 as Executive Assistant to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and later served in the same role for the Minister of Supply and Services. He also served as Assistant to Mr. Higgs during his tenure as Minister of Finance.
Prior to entering politics, Speaker Oliver worked in the insurance industry. Active in his community, he has served on a district school board and as a member of the Hampton Rotary Club, and various committees in the Belleisle region. He also represented New Brunswick at the National Curling Championships on five occasions.
Mr. Vickers resigned as Leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick on September 14, following the provincial election. He did not win a seat in the Miramichi riding during the election. Following a career as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Mr. Vickers served as the House of Commons’ Sergeant-at-Arms and later as the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland. Mr. Vickers was named Leader of the province’s Liberal Party in April 2019.
Roger Melanson was named Interim Leader of the Official Opposition on September 28. Since his election in 2010, Mr. Melanson has served as Minister of Finance and Chair of the Treasury Board, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Minister responsible for Trade Policy, and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.
Office of the Clerk
Patrick Dunn joined the Office of the Clerk on August 17 in the role of Committee Clerk and Acting Law Clerk. He was admitted to the Law Society of New Brunswick in June 2012 and practised with an Atlantic regional firm before assuming his position at the Legislative Assembly. He will serve as clerk for certain assigned committees and provide parliamentary counsel services to the Members and the Office of the Clerk.
3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature – Including Virtual Resumption of Sittings
The unique situations arising in the legislature from the COVID-19 pandemic continued when the House resumed on October 7, commencing the Third Session of the 42nd Legislature with the Speech from the Throne delivered by Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon. By agreement, the number of MLAs physically present in the Chamber for this session has been reduced to 18 Government Members, nine Official Opposition Members and one Independent Liberal. In order to accommodate physical distancing, for both the Throne Speech and subsequent daily sittings, some seats were removed and a fourth row of desks were set up on the outer rim of the Chamber. The seating plan will change weekly, so that MLAs from each caucus can take turns being present in the Chamber to participate in proceedings while other MLAs participate by a virtual platform. The total number of MLAs in Manitoba is 57.
It should also be noted that typically the House continues where it left off in the previous session when it resumes sittings in October. However, this year the Provincial Government prorogued the House in order to start a new session; all bills died if they were not completed in the Second Session before prorogation.
Several logistical and ceremonial components were also omitted from the Throne Speech proceedings. These omissions and alterations, which were due in part to Winnipeg being in a state of COVID code orange at the time, included:
No military procession and inspection
A single aide for the Lieutenant Governor
No stakeholders or spouses present
Chief Justice Chartier, representing all three courts, paraded in and sat in the Loge
No singing of “God Save the Queen” and “O Canada” (songs instead piped over the audio system)
The address featured a “Protecting Manitobans” agenda which outlined five guaranteed commitments to protect Manitobans in the fight against COVID-19 as well as five guaranteed commitments to continue the Provincial Government’s efforts to fix the finances, repair services, and rebuild the economy. The address highlighted the following areas:
Protecting Health Care
Protecting Education and Child Care and
Protecting Manitoba’s Future
Some of the details on how the Provincial Government plans to meet the above objectives include:
Spending an additional $1.6 billion on education over the next four years, while at the same time phasing out the education property tax, beginning next year.
Eliminating probate fees on estates and removing the provincial sales tax from income tax preparation.
Planning to set a course for a gradual, careful return to a balanced budgets over the next eight years.
Transforming Manitoba’s education system to provide more accountability via the recommendations from a review of Manitoba’s kindergarten to Grade 12 system.
Addressing health care by establishing more COVID-19 testing sites and screening capacity, reducing wait times for cataract surgery and joint replacements, and providing more renal dialysis services.
Addressing child care by developing a modern system and funding model to provide greater equity in the supports provided to families, more choices and flexibility.
Addressing economic concerns by creating an independent economic development agency to attract investment and international trading opportunities which will also examine the value of a venture capital investment fund to help businesses.
Reaffirming previous commitments, such as a new income support program for people with disabilities, changes to income assistance programs that will instill greater self-reliance and reintroducing legislation to ease restrictions on Sunday and holiday shopping, as well as legislation to create a capital planning region for the Winnipeg metropolitan area.
Official Opposition Leader Wab Kinew moved a non-confidence amendment to the Address in Reply motion, which stated in part that the Provincial Government failed to:
Develop or implement a real and comprehensive plan to address the health care and economic needs laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protect seniors and elders in Manitoba by raising fees on residents of personal care homes during the pandemic.
Offer any acknowledgement of the needs of Black, Indigenous or People of Colour (BIPOC) Manitobans in the Throne Speech, present no comprehensive plan to help reduce and end poverty, and offer no real plan for community safety in Manitoba.
Present any commitments to build new social or affordable housing despite being able to access funds from the Federal Government and making the situation worse by selling government housing units.
Offer a plan to use the telecommunication assets of Manitoba Hydro to bring broadband to rural and northern Manitoba, and instead pushing for these assets to be sold off.
Meaningfully consult with Indigenous leaderships for another year regarding the Lake St. Martin outlet channel and other initiatives that affect Indigenous rights and refused to properly recognize the legitimate rights and roles of Indigenous leadership on matters of harvesting and management of resources.
Later in the debate, Independent Liberal Member Dougald Lamont further moved a sub-amendment criticizing the Provincial Government on numerous items including its failure to:
Adequately test some COVID-19 related supplies like masks so that a large amount of money was spent wastefully in paying for substandard personal protective equipment.
Maintain adequate home care services during the pandemic with the result that some seniors have not been sufficiently supported at home.
Provide support for Manitoba businesses, many of whom still face bankruptcy because the Provincial Government will not compensate them for forced closures.
Protect students, families, teachers and staff in the education by forcing a back-to-school plan that was initially unfunded, and by refusing to commit to essential safety measures against COVID-19 in the public school system.
Follow the basic duty of upholding the law and the constitution, by introducing bills that undermine fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining.
After the Throne Speech debate on October 7, the House agreed by leave to consider a Sessional Order to deal primarily with the ability to sit with Members both in the Chamber as well as through virtual connections. The Clerks devoted considerable amount of work to drafting this Sessional Order, which was essential in order to procedurally enable virtual sittings of the House and committees. A tremendous amount of time, trial and effort was put in by the Virtual Sittings Team to allow Members to be able to participate virtually. The Sessional Order contained the following preamble:
THAT in order to accommodate the use of virtual technology for sittings of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and of the Assembly’s Committees, the following sessional orders are to apply until December 3, 2020;
THAT the Assembly’s customary procedures and practices remain in effect for Members situated in the Assembly Chamber and committee rooms unless otherwise noted;
THAT in the event of a discrepancy with the existing Rules, the provisions of the sessional order are to apply;
THAT in the event of public safety requirements as set out by an Order under The Public Health Act prescribed by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, the Speaker, House Leaders of Recognized Parties and the Honourable Member for River Heights (or their designates) collectively will have the ability to vary, pause or postpone the proceedings of the House and committees until the said Order is terminated. Upon termination of the said Order, the proceeding of the House and Committees will resume immediately;
THAT for the purpose of attendance, all MLAs participating virtually or observing the Throne Speech proceedings outside of the Chamber due to physical distancing requirements are deemed to be in attendance retroactive to October 7, 2020.
Virtual Sitting Arrangements
In early March, the Clerk contacted many other jurisdictions that had also been considering how to conduct virtual sittings of the House. One of the first steps to establishing this possibility involved pouring over the Rule Book to determine what may or may not need to be changed. These changes were eventually incorporated in the Sessional Order. The Clerk and Journals Clerk took the lead in researching and drafting the extensive Sessional Order (which can be found here: https://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/business/sessional_order_2020.pdf)
The technological side of this task was extremely challenging as it involved not only finding affordable and effective technological resources, but also determining how the rules and practices could be adapted to the technology. Both of the Clerk Assistant and Clerks of Committees along with the Digital Media Specialist have done superb work alongside the Deputy Clerk in the testing and development phase. Some of the steps undertaken include:
Closely collaborating with the Hansard, IT and broadcast teams to prepare for a virtual sitting of the House and Committees.
Researching various video conferencing and online file transfer software. (Zoom was the platform chosen.)
Months of virtual testing with Clerks and other Assembly staff using the platform both at home and in the Chamber.
Creating virtual training guides for Members.
Intensive one-on-one training with all MLAs.
Practice sessions with MLAs in the Chamber and MLAs connected remotely prior to the start of Session.
Hiring of “moderators” to manage the platform and host the meetings. The Clerk Assistants and Digital Media Specialist have been acting as the initial moderators until the new hires become more familiar with the unique procedural aspects of the House.
Creation of a new moderator desk inside the Chamber to monitor proceedings and send MLAs documents virtually when required.
Sending PDFs to MLAs of bill motions, petitions and other House documents enabling them to move such items virtually.
Using two stand up podium microphones, one on each side of the Chamber, for Members sitting in the newly created fourth rows.
Using two large screen televisions to enable Members, the Speaker and the Clerks to see who is participating virtually
The Virtual Experience to Date
While only a few weeks into the current Session at the time of this submission, the tremendous amount of work put in by Assembly staff has already resulted in great dividends. The Assembly has functioned “virtually” seamlessly with the House proceeding through its normal business as scheduled. There have been a few challenges, overcome by the Assembly’s capable staff, such as:
Members not using Assembly issued headsets.
MLAs having some connectivity issues.
MLAs participating virtually getting used to muting and unmuting as part of the proceedings.
The House was quite busy in the first two weeks as all MLAs agreed on October 14 to reinstate Bill 43 from the last session. Bill 43, The Civil Service Superannuation Amendment Act, makes significant changes to how the commuted value of pensions are calculated. It was not only reinstated but also passed on the same day. That day, the House also agreed to complete all steps, including Royal Assent, on Bill 39, The Supplementary Appropriation Act, 2020 (COVID-19 Response). This Bill granted Provincial Government departments an additional $577 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year to deal with the pandemic.
Hiring of New Auditor General
Since the last submission, the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs met on July 21 in order to complete the hiring process by which Tyson Shtykalo was recommended to be the new Auditor General.
Mr. Shtykalo, had been with the Auditor General’s Office since 2002, serving in progressively senior leadership positions. He was officially appointed Auditor General in August 2020, after serving as Deputy Auditor General since 2016. The Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs first met on January 14, 2020, to initiate the hiring process. During that meeting, a motion was passed to strike a sub-committee to manage the process, including calling their own meetings and meeting in camera. The sub-committee, which met on multiple occasions, consisted of four Government Members, two Official Opposition Members, and one Independent Liberal Party Member.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts met on one occasion in July to hold an in camera orientation training session. Although it was primarily held for its Members, it was open to all MLAs. The purpose of the session was to familiarize Members with the public accounts financial statements and the Auditor General’s report titled “Understanding our Audit Opinion” in preparation for future Committee meetings.
The Public Accounts Committee also met twice in August, once in September and once in October to consider several Auditor General’s reports covering issues relating to the departments of Finance, Justice, Families and the operations of the Auditor General’s office itself. All the meetings were held in the Chamber to permit social distancing.
Current Party Standings
The current party standings in the Manitoba Legislature are: Progressive Conservatives 36, New Democratic Party 18, and three Independent Liberal Members.
The Senate was adjourned for much of this quarter as a result of the summer recess, but it was recalled on July 27. On that date, the Senate dealt with Bill C-20, An Act respecting further COVID-19 measures, which was passed and received Royal Assent by written declaration.
The First Session of the Forty-third Parliament was prorogued by Proclamation of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, on August 18. The opening of the second session occurred on September 23, during which Her Excellency the Governor General delivered the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber.
Chamber, Procedure and Speaker’s Rulings
On September 23, in order to allow for physical distancing in the chamber, a motion was adopted after the Speech from the Throne to permit senators to speak and vote from a seat other than their own, including seats located in the Senate galleries, which are to be considered within the bar. The motion will remain in effect until the end of 2020. For the sittings held so far, attendance was coordinated by the recognized parties and parliamentary groups to ensure balanced representation while allowing senators to follow the advice of public health authorities with respect to travel and distancing. The sittings took place with the minimum number of employees required to work on-site to support the sitting.
On September 30, a motion was adopted to place the second report of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, which was presented in the Senate on June 18, 2020, during the First Session of the Forty-third Parliament, on the Orders of the Day during the current session. The report deals with the consideration of an inquiry report of the Senate Ethics Officer concerning Senator Victor Oh.
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck retired from the Senate on August 23. She was appointed to the Senate on March 24, 2005, by Prime Minister Paul Martin and represented the province of Saskatchewan. She sat as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada for much of her mandate and, from November 2019, as a member of the Progressive Senate Group. Senator Dyck served on numerous Senate committees, including as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. A member of the Cree Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, and a first generation Chinese Canadian, she was the first female First Nations senator and first Canadian-born senator of Chinese descent. Before being appointed to the Senate, Senator Dyck was a neuroscientist with the University of Saskatchewan, where she had served as an associate dean and continues to teach.
House of Commons
The First Session of the 43rd Parliament was prorogued on August 18, 2020, bringing an end to all proceedings before Parliament. The Second Session began on September 23, 2020. This account covers the period of July to the end of September 2020.
Matters involving procedures for legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic are found below in the section entitled “COVID-19”.
Procedure / Privilege
On July 20, 2020, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu’Appelle), rose on a question of privilege concerning remarks made by the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau (Papineau), in Committee of the Whole on July 8, 2020. The Leader of the Official Opposition maintained that the Prime Minister had deliberately misled the House in his response to questions about an investigation by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner into matters related to SNC Lavalin. Although the question of privilege related to one that the Leader of the Opposition had initially raised in the Committee of the Whole, he argued that, due to the exceptional circumstances, the Chair should consider the matter even in the absence of a committee report. The Speaker took it under advisement.
On July 22, 2020, the Speaker, Anthony Rota (Nipissing—Timiskaming), delivered his ruling. He noted that given the challenge with raising a question of privilege in the Committee of the Whole format, it was appropriate to bring the matter to the Speaker, but he also suggested that it would be useful for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to look into this issue of questions of privilege arising from committees more thoroughly.
The Speaker also laid out the criteria for determining whether a Member has deliberately misled the House: the statement must be misleading, the Member making the statement must have known it to be incorrect, and, in making the statement, the Member must have intended to mislead the House. In this case, he judged there to be a disagreement among Members as to the interpretation of the Prime Minister’s remarks and that it was not obvious to the Chair that the statement was misleading. The Speaker concluded that there was no prima facie question of privilege.
On September 23, 2020, the first sitting of the new session, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier), sought and received unanimous consent for the adoption of a motion organizing parliamentary proceedings until December 11, 2020, including the use of hybrid sittings (authorizing Members to participate in House proceedings either in person or by videoconference), the submission of electronic documents and the taking of electronic recorded divisions by electronic means. The motion also requested that the House Administration proceed with the development of a remote voting application, and that, until it is ready and approved for use, recorded divisions take place in the usual way for Members participating in person and by roll call for Members participating by videoconference, provided that Members participating by videoconference have their camera on for the duration of the vote.
The use of hybrid sittings has brought forward a number of points of order concerning order and decorum. For example, during a hybrid sitting of the House on September 24, 2020, Dan Albas (Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola) rose on a point of order to inform the Deputy Speaker that a member participating remotely appeared to not be wearing a tie. The Deputy Speaker, Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North), reminded Members of the dress code and that the Speaker had asked all Members wishing to participate in the proceedings remotely to abide by it. While the Standing Orders do not prescribe a dress code for Members participating in debate, Speakers have ruled that all Members desiring to be recognized to speak at any point during the proceedings of the House must be wearing contemporary business attire. Current practice requires that male Members wear jackets, shirts and ties.
On September 29, 2020, the Speaker ruled on a point of order raised by Blake Richards (Banff—Airdrie) concerning the applicability of Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-4, An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19. Mr. Richards argued that the Bill was an omnibus bill and that each of its parts should be the subject of separate votes at Second and, if necessary, Third Reading. Later that same sitting, the Speaker ruled that all parts of the Bill were related to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, therefore, that question on Bill C-4 would not be divided.
On September 30, 2020, the Speaker ruled on the question of privilege raised by Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent) regarding the premature disclosure of the content of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). The question of privilege had been raised on February 25, 2020, in the previous session, and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs after the Speaker decided that a prima facie breach of privilege had occurred. Mr. Deltell requested that the Speaker find again a prima facie breach of privilege on the matter. The Speaker ruled that, given that eight months had elapsed and all proceedings on the legislation, as well as any House orders of reference, had ended with prorogation, the question of privilege would not be revived. The Speaker also raised concerns that the question had not been raised at the earliest possible opportunity.
On July 16, 2020, the Standing Committee on Finance began a study entitled “Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant”. The Committee held nine meetings on this study up to August 13, 2020, calling several witnesses including, Ian Shugart (Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet), Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre), and the Prime Minister.
On July 21 2020, pursuant to the motions adopted by the House of Commons on April 11, 2020, and May 26, 2020, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs submitted electronically with the Clerk of the House a report entitled Carrying Out Members’ Parliamentary Duties: The Challenges of Voting During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Committee’s recommendations included the adoption of an incremental approach towards the introduction of virtual proceedings, starting with hybrid sittings of the House. The report had not been adopted at the time of prorogation.
Pursuant to the order adopted by the House on May 26, 2020, on July 8, 2020, the House held its first ever hybrid sitting, allowing a reduced number of Members to participate in person and others to participate by videoconference.
At the start of the sitting, the Speaker implemented a new approach for the Chair to determine whether, when unanimous consent is requested, the House grants it. To maintain clarity and to ensure that all Members, including those Members participating virtually, could be heard, the Speaker asked that only those Members opposed to a request for unanimous consent express themselves. Hearing none, the Speaker could determine that there was consent to proceed.
The House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole to allow Members, both virtually and in person, to question Ministers on matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters. The House then proceeded to a take note debate of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken by the government to respond to it. During the take note debate the Finance Minister Bill Morneau provided an economic and fiscal snapshot.
Pursuant to Standing Order 28(3), the Speaker recalled the House on July 20, 2020, to consider a bill in the name of the Minister of Finance entitled An Act respecting further COVID-19 measures. The House adopted by unanimous consent a motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to, among other measures, manage the legislative proceedings of the Bill: to be deemed introduced and read a first time and ordered for consideration at Second Reading later that day and the next. On July 21, 2020, pursuant to the same motion, Bill C-20, An Act respecting further COVID-19 measures, was adopted at second reading and all deemed adopted at all subsequent stages and passed.
Pursuant to the order made by the House on May 26, 2020, the House held two additional hybrid sittings on July 22 and August 12, 2020, during which, in committee of the whole, it proceeded with the questioning of Ministers and a take-note debate on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On August 18, 2020, while the House was adjourned, the First Session of the 43rd Parliament was prorogued.
On September 28, 2020, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons moved a motion to manage proceedings on a bill standing on the Order Paper, entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19. The next day, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons moved that debate not be further adjourned. This closure motion was adopted and the debate on Government Business No. 1 continued until 8 p.m., when it was agreed to. Given the terms of the government motion, the House proceeded to the immediate consideration of Bill C-4 which was adopted at all stages. The House adjourned at 3:16 a.m.
Opening of Parliament / Speech from the Throne
On September 23, 2020, the Speaker announced that Governor General Julie Payette would formally open the Second Session of the 43rd Parliament of Canada later that day.
The Speaker and a small number of Members proceeded to the Senate. The Speech from the Throne was broadcast live on the screens in the House chamber for Members who could not attend in the Senate due to space constraints and COVID-19 physical distancing.
Upon returning to the House, the Speaker reported that the Governor General had made a speech to both Houses of Parliament and laid upon the table a copy of the speech. The Prime Minister moved that the Speech from the Throne be taken into consideration later in the day. The question was put on the motion and it was agreed to.
In subsequent sittings, the House proceeded with debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. The Standing Orders provide for up to six additional days of debate on this. On the fourth day of debate, September 28, 2020, the House of Commons held its first remote recorded division, with a vote on the subamendment of Alain Therrien (La Prairie). A world-wide Microsoft outage delayed the vote by more than 30 minutes and led to some Members unable to log into the system. The Chief Government Whip, Mark Holland (Ajax) requested and received unanimous consent for those affected to call in via telephone to register their vote. At the conclusion of the sixth and final day of debate, on October 6, 2020, the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne was adopted.
On September 30, 2020, the President of the Treasury Board, Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec), tabled the Main Estimates for fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the Main Estimates were deemed referred to the several standing committees of the House.
On September 23, 2020, the Speaker informed the House that vacancies had occurred in the representation in the House of Commons, for the Electoral Districts of Toronto Centre and York Centre, by reason of the resignations of Mr. Morneau and Michael Levitt, respectively.
On September 23, 2020, after consultation with the leaders of the recognized parties, pursuant to Standing Order 8(1), the Speaker proposed that Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing) be appointed Assistant Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, and Alexandra Mendès (Brossard—Saint-Lambert) be appointed Assistant Deputy Speaker and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.
On September 24, 2020, pursuant to Standing Order 33(1), the Prime Minister, Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar), the Whip of the Bloc Québécois Claude DeBellefeuille (Salaberry—Suroît), the NDP House Leader Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby) and, by unanimous consent, Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands), all rose to make statements to honour the late John Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister, who died September 18, 2020. Following these statements, the House observed a moment of silence.
Table Research Branch