3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature – Spring Resumption of Virtual Sittings
The 3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature resumed on March 3, 2021 continuing with the use of hybrid virtual technology for MLA participation in its regular daily sittings.
Due to the spring 2020 session being greatly abridged because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a limited number of Government Bills were debated and passed last session. As a consequence, the Government introduced a larger number of Bills than usual since the Specified Bill format of the Rules were incorporated a few years ago, addressing different areas of governance. Fifty-one (51) Bills were introduced in time to meet the criteria for Specified Bills; this status will result in them receiving guaranteed passage before the House rises in June. However, the process for the Second Reading passage of these Bills was modified in accordance with a Sessional Order passed on March 15, detailed below. In addition to those 51 Bills, the Official Opposition designated five (5) other Bills to be delayed until the fall. In regards to the 51 Bills, the legislative agenda included:
- Bill 3 – The Public Service Act will replace the Civil Service Commission with a Public Service Commissioner and replaced The Civil Service Act in order “to provide a legislative framework for an ethical and effective public service for Manitoba”. The Official Opposition expressed some concern claiming it undermined the collective bargaining process as the legislation eliminates provisions for the appointment of an arbitration board and for the establishment of a Joint Council;
- Bill 10 – The Regional Health Authorities Amendment Act (Health System Governance and Accountability), amends various Acts restructuring the Manitoba health system in order to “consolidate administrative services related to health care and to centralize the delivery of certain health services across Manitoba”. The Official Opposition expressed concerns about the powers the Act grants to the Minister of Health and Senior Care to possibly interfere with the decision-making abilities of health authorities;
- Bill 13 – The Public Sector Construction Projects (Tendering) Act, prohibits the issuing of a tender that would require the successful bidder to employ unionized employees or non-unionized employees for work on the project. The Official Opposition argued the Bill would lead to public safety concerns claiming that workers would be left untrained in many instances;
- Bill 27 – The Administrative Tribunal Jurisdiction Act addresses the ability of administrative tribunals to decide questions of constitutional law. The Official Opposition expressed concern that the legislation gives the Provincial Government more control over administrative tribunals as the Act would only allow such tribunals to consider questions of constitutional law if they were designated to do so by regulation;
- Bill 29 – The Reducing Red Tape and Improving Services Act, 2020 amends several Acts and repeals five Acts to reduce or eliminate regulatory requirements or prohibitions, to streamline government operations and to eliminate committees. The Official Opposition argued it was an omnibus Bill which will lead to more cuts and erasures of important regulations that actually protect consumers and the environment and more privatization of important government assets;
- Bill 38 – The Building and Electrical Permitting Improvement Act (Various Acts Amended and Permit Dispute Resolution Act Enacted), amends several Acts to create a process to hear appeals of permitting decisions and orders related to building and electrical codes, as well as allow for the establishment of service standards for permitting authorities in Manitoba. Its purpose is to “ensure municipal governments make timely and transparent decisions on private sector capital investment opportunities in their communities”. The Official Opposition argued that many municipalities are concerned with this Bill increasing provincial control over local democracy;
- Bill 51 – The Limitations Act replaces many existing 10-year limitation periods with a single limitation period of two years, which begins to run from the day the claim is discovered. It also creates an “ultimate limitation period” of 15 years. The Official Opposition argued the legislation is problematic and creates too short of a period for citizens to pursue legal action.
- Bill 56 – The Smoking and Vapour Products Control Amendment Act removes the federal exemption respecting smoking and vaping and the advertising and sale of tobacco and vapour products. The Official Opposition argued the legislation impinges upon the rights of First Nations to govern themselves.
The Legislature is still operating under the Sessional Order originally passed on October 7, 2020, discussed in previous issues, and subsequently extended to June 1, 2021. On March 15, 2021, the House passed a new Sessional Order, primarily to deal with the large volume of Specified Bills that could have resulted in the Assembly sitting continuously for numerous days on end to comply with original Second Reading Specified Bill deadline. Some of the provisions of the new Sessional Order included:
Allowing for Second Reading to be completed on March 24 and 25, with the House adjourning at midnight on March 24 and ending debate at midnight on March 25;
- Official Opposition designation of five Bills to be announced on March 24;
- Committee Stage to be completed by April 27, 2021;
- Report Stage to be completed by May 11, 2021; and
- Concurrence and Third Reading to be completed by May 20, 2021.
In addition, the Order called for:
- The Assembly to pass The Interim Appropriation Act on March 22 as the passage of this legislation is required by the end of the fiscal year on March 31 to provide interim funding for operating and capital expenditures effective April 1, until the budget processes and the main supply Bills are completed later in the session.
- Debate on March 24 and 25 to operate under the provisions outlined for limited debate on Specified Bills in Rule 2(10), with the exception that after each debate concluded the Speaker would put the question. Essentially, those provisions called for the following steps to occur for Bills that were not yet moved for Second Reading:
- Sponsoring Minister to speak up to 10 minutes in debate;
- Question period on the Bill of up to 15 minutes;
- Opposition Critic on the Bill to speak up to 10 minutes in debate; and
- Independent Members to speak up to 10 minutes each in debate.
On April 7, 2021, Finance Minister Scott Fielding delivered the budget to be followed by an expected six days of debate, with a focus of protecting Manitobans and advancing the province past COVID-19. Highlights included:
- Phasing out education property taxes by 50 per cent over the next two years for residential and farm properties thereby returning nearly $250 million to approximately 658,000 property owners this year; there would be an average rebate of $1,140 over two years;
- Placing $25 million “in trust” to redevelop the flagship building of Hudson’s Bay located on the historic site of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard;
- Increasing funding in the priority areas of health care, education and social services to by nearly $1.5 billion including:
- $1.18 billion in 2021-22 for COVID-19 costs including personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccine deployment, education supports and future needs;
- An initial $342 million for programming and services within the new Department of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery;
- A record investment above $3 billion in the public school system including:
- More than $78 million for COVID-19 costs through the Safe Schools Fund;
- An increase of $100 million in school capital project funding to accelerate construction of the 20 New Schools Guarantee; and
- An Education Funding Guarantee of at least $1.6 billion in additional investment over four years
- A record $2.1-billion investment in strategic infrastructure to help advance jobs and stimulate the economy, including:
- Almost $630 million for road construction and maintenance;
- $415 million for kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary infrastructure; and
- More than $292 million for health infrastructure
- During his contribution to the budget debate on April 8, Leader of the Official Opposition and NDP leader Wab Kinew moved a motion expressing non-confidence in the Government, stating that the budget was not in the best interests of the people of the province and that it neglected the priorities of Manitobans in many areas including:
- Refusing to learn the lessons of the pandemic by further reducing healthcare funding and holding it to below the inflation rate, compromising bedside care and failing to prepare for a potential third wave;
- Cutting the health capital budget, which means less investments in services, such as a seizure clinic and new technology, and refusing to invest in training for frontline health professionals, such as nurses, to help Manitobans get quality care;
- Compromising the Crown Corporation, Manitoba Hydro, by trying to influence Manitoba Hydro operations and continuing their unconstitutional wage freezes, by refusing to repeal Bill 28, which has caused a strike for members of IBEW;
- Failing to be transparent with its plan to privatize Manitoba Hydro;
- Providing millions in funds for insurance brokers but refusing to pay a fair wage to employees of Manitoba Public Insurance;
- Requiring educators to pay out of pocket to meet the educational needs of children because of inadequate educational funding;
- Refusing to invest in local mental health supports, ignoring the addictions and homelessness crisis, and refusing to invest in supports such as a safe consumption site or building new social and affordable housing units;
- Failing to provide support for women, BIPOC, newcomers and low-income Manitobans to fully assist in a social and economic recovery from the pandemic, including training and credential recognition;
- Failing to match the commitment of Manitobans who have worked together heroically and sacrificed collectively to fight COVID-19.
On the same day, Independent Member Jon Gerrard of the Manitoba Liberal Party, moved a sub-amendment, stating that the budget failed Manitoba by:
- Failing to adhere to the most basic standards of honesty, competence and human decency, with a budget that gaslights Manitobans with empty promises while denying the basic necessities of life of housing, food, clean water and lifesaving and enabling medications and devices;
- Failing utterly to learn from its own catastrophic failures and incompetence in mishandling the second wave of COVID-19, business supports and the vaccine rollout, and choosing to plow ahead with radical right-wing policies that will eviscerate public services and the families and communities who depend on them;
- Failing the basic obligations of every government in a crisis, to place the common good ahead of blind partisanship and ideology, choosing instead to present a budget that steals from the poor and gives to the rich, loots the public treasury while running up billions in debt in order to cut cheques that enriches itself and its political cronies.
150th anniversary of the first Sitting Day of the Manitoba Legislature
March 15, 2021 also marked the 150th anniversary of the first Sitting Day of the Manitoba Legislature. The Speaker made a statement to the House noting that the First Manitoba Legislature sat from March 15, 1871 to December 16, 1874. During those sessions, 43 Bills received Royal Assent, most of them dealing with initial administrative and judicial matters for the new government. The following excerpt from that statement provides a unique insight to those early days:
It is fascinating to peruse the estimates of Expenditure for the year ending December 31, 1872. Members may be interested to know that the total budget for the Province of Manitoba that year was $81,425. Line items in the budget included the following:
- $10,000 for roads and bridges
- $6,000 for public buildings
- $7,000 for education
- $2,000 for immigration and agriculture
- $500 for the Hospital of St. Boniface
- $9,330 for the operation of the 24 Member Legislative Assembly, including allowances for the Speaker, The Clerk and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
- $3,395 for the seven Member Legislative Council.
From 1871 to 1873 the Assembly met in a modest log house in the Red River settlement owned by A.G.B. Bannatyne (near the current corner of Main Street and McDermot Avenue). The Assembly met on the main floor, while the “Upper Chamber” Legislative Council met upstairs.
Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms – Goodbye and Hello
On March 25, 2021, the Speaker paid tribute to Ray Gislason, the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, who retired from his post that day. Ray was hired as a Gallery Attendant with the Assembly in 2002, and appointed Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms in January 2011.
On April 6, 2021, Cam Steel officially assumed the position as Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, which will have additional responsibilities being on par with the Sergeant’s position in terms of its focus on security as well as ceremonial responsibilities.
On January 5, 2021, the Provincial Government introduced changes to its Cabinet increasing the Ministerial roles to 18 positions. Some of the major changes included the creation of a new portfolio, Legislative and Public Affairs (Minister Kelvin Goertzen) and dividing the Health department into two portfolios:
- Health and Senior’s Care (Minister Heather Stefanson); and
- Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery (Minister Audrey Gordon, the province’s first Black Cabinet Minister).
- In addition, Economic Development and Training was also split into two departments:
- Economic Development and Jobs (Minister Ralph Eichler) and
- Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration (Minister Wayne Ewasko).
Since the last submission, the Standing Committee on Justice met on March 22 and April 6 to complete clause-by-clause consideration of six separate Bills. The Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs also met on April 6 to consider four more Bills. During the first three weeks of April, the Committee Clerks will be quite busy as they are tentatively scheduled to have two meetings per night to complete consideration of the 51 Bills that passed Second Reading in March. Many of these Bills already have more than 10 presenters, which could make for some very long evenings.
Research Officer/Clerk Assistant
2021 Spring Sitting
On February 25, 2021, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta began the 2021 Spring Sitting of the 2nd Session of the 30th Legislature and the Government tabled the provincial budget. Although the schedule of the 2nd Session was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, the Assembly completed lengthy sittings in both the spring and fall of 2020 as well as a special sitting day in August 2020. The sessional calendar currently indicates that the 2021 Spring Sitting is scheduled to end on May 20, 2021.
Included among the first bills introduced by the government this sitting are:
- Bill 51, Citizen Initiative Act, which would create a process to permit eligible voters to petition the Assembly to review legislative proposals and policy proposals and petition the government to hold a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments;
- Bill 52, Recall Act, which proposes a process for the recall of Members of the Legislative Assembly as well as municipal and school board officials;
- Bill 53, Service Alberta Statutes (Virtual Meetings) Amendment Act, which proposes amendments to multiple Acts in order to reflect modern communication technology and to provide businesses, non-profits, societies, cooperatives and condominium corporations with the legal option to meet and vote online as opposed to in person; and
- Bill 57, Metis Settlements Amendment Act, 2021, intended to provide greater governance and financial autonomy for Metis settlements through measures including providing additional authority to Metis settlement councils to charge for essential services such as water, sewage and road maintenance and removing the power of the Minister of Indigenous Relations to make decisions related to the Metis Settlements General Council’s financial policies.
Standing Order Changes
The Assembly approved several temporary changes to the Standing Orders to help ensure that it is able to function during the current challenges of the pandemic and if an unanticipated emergency arises. These changes include providing authority for the Speaker to increase periods of adjournment and reducing quorum from 20 to 12 Members. These temporary changes to the Standing Orders are scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 4, 2021. In addition, pursuant to Government Motion 62, Members may sit, speak and vote in any seat in the Chamber in order to accommodate physical distancing for the duration of the 2021 Spring Sitting of the 2nd Session of the 30th Legislature.
On January 4, 2021, in response to news that a number of Members of the United Conservative Party (UC) caucus had travelled internationally for vacations in December 2020, Premier Jason Kenney announced that five Members of the UC caucus would be relieved of their committee duties, including Jeremy Nixon, MLA (Calgary-Klein); Jason Stephan, MLA (Red Deer-South); Tanya Fir, MLA (Calgary-Peigan); Pat Rehn, MLA (Lesser Slave Lake); and Tany Yao, MLA (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo). Mr. Nixon also lost his position as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Society and Mr. Stephan was taken off Treasury Board. In addition, the Premier accepted the resignation of Tracy Allard, MLA (Grande Prairie) from her position as Minister of Municipal Affairs. Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation, has temporarily taken on the Municipal Affairs portfolio.
Ten days later Premier Kenney removed Mr. Rehn from the UC caucus due to lengthy absences from his constituency. Mr. Rehn will not be eligible to run for future nominations with the UC.
Following these changes, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta currently consists of 62 Members of the UC, 24 Members of the New Democratic Party and one Independent Member.
On February 25, 2021, Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, released the province’s Budget 2021-22. With a focus on health care and jobs, the budget includes an additional $900 million for health care in the coming year and a temporary increase in funding to municipalities for infrastructure projects, while funding for postsecondary education has been cut. No changes to personal or corporate taxes have been made, nor has a sales tax been introduced.
On February 25, 2021, the Assembly passed Government Motion 66, which authorized Bill 211, Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act, 2020, a Private Members’ Public Bill sponsored by Michaela Glasgo, MLA (Brooks-Medicine Hat), to be moved to Government Bills and Orders on the Order Paper. The one-page Bill proposes to amend the Municipal Government Act to prohibit municipal councils, unless authorized by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, from passing bylaws respecting firearms. The Bill passed Second Reading on March 17, 2021.
The Select Special Democratic Accountability Committee completed its mandate and deposited its report regarding the Election Act and Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act with the Legislative Assembly on January 8, 2021. The report included 27 recommendations on topics including residency requirements, recounts, collusion and third-party advertising.
The October 2020 Evaluation Summary Report of the Office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities was referred to the Standing Committee on Families and Communities for review. The Committee met to review the report on December 7, 2020, and January 15, 2021, and issued a report making no recommendations.
The 2019-2020 Annual Report of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate was referred to the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices for review. The Committee met to review the report on January 12, 2021, and issued a report making no recommendations.
Following the release of Budget 2021-22, the consideration of the main estimates by the Legislative Policy Committees began on Monday, March 8, 2021. Estimates meetings were scheduled over seven sitting days, with two meetings being held concurrently on most mornings, afternoons and evenings. The final vote in Committee of Supply occurred on March 17. To help promote physical distancing during the pandemic, the minister and ministry staff were located in one meeting room that was connected by videoconference to the committee meeting room. Members had the option of participating in meetings remotely using video or teleconference, and the committee room galleries remained closed to the public.
On March 22, 2021, Government Motion 69
established the Select Special Committee on Real Property Rights. Consisting of 12 Members, the Committee has a mandate to review whether legal remedies available to property owners are sufficient and may consider a number of related issues, including the potential expansion or constitutional protection of property rights, abolishing the law of adverse possession and the adequacy of current expropriation legislation. The Committee must report to the Assembly no later than December 15, 2021.
The 1st Session of the 60th Legislature adjourned on December 18, sat one day on February 12, and resumed on March 16, when Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves tabled the 2021-2022 Budget This was the first budget of the Progressive Conservative majority government, led by Premier Blaine Higgs.
The budget aimed to address the continued public health challenges of COVID-19, while also supporting economic recovery. It showed a projected deficit of $244.8 million. Revenues were projected to grow by 1.2 per cent, while spending was expected to grow by 3.4 per cent. Due to the anticipated decline of COVID-19 cases as a result of vaccine availability, the Department of Finance and Treasury Board projected a rebound in real GDP growth of 2.9 per cent in 2021-22.
Highlights of the budget included an investment of $7 million for mental health services in response to the Inter-Departmental Addiction and Mental Health Action Plan; $11.1 million for physician recruitment to address New Brunswick’s physician shortage; and $10.3 million for the Nursing Home Renovation and Replacement Plan. The budget also included $64 million to address ongoing COVID-19 pressures, with funds designated for triage, immunization, assessment, testing and contact tracing. Funding in other sectors included $1.7 million to support the development and delivery of distance learning opportunities; a $20 million multi-year strategy investment to support the development of the small modular nuclear reactors sector; $10.8 million to increase the availability of affordable housing units throughout the province; and $36 million transferred to the Climate Change Fund.
On March 18, Finance Critic Robert McKee, delivered the Official Opposition’s Reply to the Budget. McKee argued that the government did not designate enough funds for the recuperation of the private sector, particularly with regard to tourism; and that more support was needed for mental health programming and resources for seniors in long-term care, as well as resources directed toward fulfilling the recommendations of the Climate Change Action Plan. Overall, the Official Opposition argued that although the budget forecasted a deficit in order to help alleviate ongoing cost pressures associated with the pandemic, it did not provide significant investments – these had come from the federal government instead.
As of March 26, 15 bills were introduced during the spring session. Some bills of note included:
- Bill 32, An Act to Amend the Gasoline and Motive Fuel Tax Act, introduced by Mr. Steeves, increases the tax on carbon-emitting products by $10 per tonne as required by the federal backstop. The made-in-New Brunswick approach applies to 20 separate fuels;
- Bill 35, An Act Respecting Empowering the School System, introduced by Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy, amends the Education Act to support teachers in managing their classrooms and to ensure schools offer a positive learning and working environment, free from intimidation and abuse. The proposed changes also allow teachers with specialized training to administer and interpret a psychoeducational assessment to support the development of a student’s personal learning plan;
- Bill 37, An Act to Amend the Fish and Wildlife Act, introduced by Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland, makes changes to the permit process, as well to various offences relating to the Act. It also gives the Minister the authority to establish an annual quota for a species of wildlife that may be hunted in the province;
- Bill 39, An Act to Amend the Auditor General Act, introduced by Mr. McKee, amends the definition of “auditable entity” to include Vestcor Corp., a private not-for-profit entity that manages the public service pension plan; and
- Bill 45, An Act Respecting Municipal General Elections in 2021, introduced by Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain, makes it possible for the municipal electoral officer to suspend candidate nominations and voting in a health zone related to the May 10 election, should a lockdown result from a COVID-19 outbreak. The Bill received Royal Assent on March 26;
Four Standing Committees met in February. The Standing Committee on Economic Policy, chaired by Greg Turner, considered various Government Bills and the Standing Committee on Private Bills, chaired by Ryan Cullins met to discuss Bill 27, An Act to Amend the Saint John Transit Commission Act.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Lisa Harris, reviewed Auditor General report sections and the annual reports of various government departments, Crown corporations, and other provincial entities, including WorkSafe NB, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick, and the Department of Social Development.
The Standing Committee on Procedure, Privileges and Legislative Officers, chaired by Jeff Carr, reviewed the 2019-2020 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick and the report entitled Post-Election Recommendations for Legislative Change prepared by Elections New Brunswick. The Committee also met with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to discuss the possibility of virtual sittings of the Legislature.
In March, the Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship, chaired by Jake Stewart, held its organizational meeting and heard from the Climate Change Secretariat as well as various government departments in order to gauge the progress towards the implementation of New Brunswick’s Climate Change Action Plan. Committee members also discussed the issue of glyphosate spraying in the province and the planned public hearings, which were previously scheduled for March 2020, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members passed a motion to resume the study during the 60th Legislature.
After 36 years of service with the Province of New Brunswick and after completing a 10-year term as Auditor General of New Brunswick, Kim Adair-MacPherson announced on March 11 that she will conclude her work in New Brunswick and begin a new role as Auditor General of Nova Scotia in May 2021. Ms. Adair-MacPherson expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to serve her home province and the Legislative Assembly in this important capacity. During her mandate, in addition to delivering independent financial and performance audits, Ms. Adair-MacPherson focused on building and strengthening the audit team; modernizing the Auditor General Act; increasing the office budget for additional performance audit resources; and encouraging a more effective Public Accounts Committee.
Sitting Days and Standings
The House met from March 16 to 26 and is scheduled to resume sitting on May 11. The standings in the House are 27 Progressive Conservatives, 17 Liberals, three Greens and two People’s Alliance.
On January 21, 2021, Éric Caire, Member for La Peltrie, was appointed Minister Responsible for Access to Information and the Protection of Personal Information, replacing Simon Jolin-Barrette, Member for Borduas, who retained his duties as Minister of Justice, Minister Responsible for Laicity and Parliamentary Reform and Minister Responsible for the French Language. Mr. Caire also retained his duties as Minister for Government Digital Transformation.
On February 24, 2021, Benoit Charette, Member for Deux-Montagnes, was appointed Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism, with the duties being added to his usual duties as Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change. This is a newly created office. In addition, Lucie Lecours, Member for Les Plaines, was appointed Minister for the Economy.
Since March 30, 2021, Louis-Charles Thouin, Member for Rousseau, has been sitting as an independent Member. Consequently, the National Assembly is now composed of 74 Coalition avenir Québec Members, 28 Québec Liberal Party Members, 10 Québec solidaire Members, eight Parti Québécois Members and five independent Members.
Terms for the continuation of Assembly proceedings
On February 2, 2021, the parliamentarians carried a motion regarding regular sittings of the National Assembly and the parliamentary committees between February 2 and 19, 2021. On March 9, 2021, the parliamentarians adopted a motion on the same matter, effective from March 8 to April 21, 2021. Essentially, the motions renewed the measures that had been adopted at the beginning of the sessional period on September 15, 2020 and were designed to ensure the safety of all during the pandemic.
The Assembly thus sat with a reduced number of Members. A total of 36 parliamentarians, excluding the Chair, were present in the Chamber, according to the following distribution:
- 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;
- No more than two independent Members.
The above distribution was modified to allow more Members in opposition to be present in the Chamber during Routine Proceedings. The number of government Members was reduced to 16 to allow for two additional Members from the parliamentary group forming the Official Opposition, which subsequently totalled 10, and one additional Member from each of the Second and Third Opposition Groups, for a total of four Members from each group. Furthermore, a Member of the Second Opposition Group could fill in for an absent independent Member. In the event that a third independent Member wished to participate in Routine Proceedings, the Government would yield one of its seats.
Parliamentarians were allowed to take the floor and vote from seats that were not the ones usually assigned to them.
The previously adopted procedure for recorded divisions was maintained. Under that measure, the vote of the House Leader or of the Deputy House Leader of a parliamentary group, or where applicable, of another Member identified beforehand, was valid for all Members of his or her group. However, a parliamentarian was entitled to individually record a vote that differed from the vote of his or her group or to choose not to vote. In addition, if an independent Member was absent, the Government House Leader was authorized to record the Member’s vote regarding a stage in the consideration of a bill according to the instructions that the absent Member had transmitted to the Government House Leader.
An additional measure, initially put in place through a motion carried on October 20, was renewed. It consists in dividing the ministers into two groups for Oral Questions and Answers such that one group participates during Tuesday and Thursday sittings, and the other during Wednesday sittings and also Friday sittings during periods of extended hours of meeting.
New measures were added through a motion carried on February 2, 2021. Procedure masks were to be worn at all times during sittings of the Assembly and parliamentary committees, except by those in attendance via videoconference and by those taking the floor during proceedings.
To ensure quorum for Tuesday morning sittings, the parliamentary groups agreed to have at least seven Members of the parliamentary group forming the Government, three Members of the parliamentary group forming the Official Opposition, one Member of the Second Opposition Group and one Member of the Third Opposition Group present in the National Assembly Chamber.
The Assembly proceedings schedule was changed to allow Members to respect the curfew ordered by the Government. Tuesday sittings began at 10 a.m. instead of 1:40 p.m. and adjourned after debates upon adjournment instead of at 9:30 p.m. Thursday sittings adjourned at 4:30 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. During Wednesday and Thursday sittings, proceedings resumed at 2:30 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.
Other schedule changes concerned debates upon adjournment. During Tuesday sittings, these debates began at 6:30 p.m., delaying adjournment of the sitting as a consequence. During Thursday sittings, these debates were held at 1 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.; sittings then followed their normal course, with proceedings being held from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Business Standing in the Name of Members in Opposition was taken from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., instead of from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
These schedule changes allowed for the usual number of hours for Orders of the Day, but ended proceedings earlier.
Bills introduced and passed
From January to March 2021, seven public bills were introduced in the National Assembly, including three private Members’ bills. During the same period, the Assembly passed five government bills:
- Bill 46, An Act to amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and other provisions;
- Bill 65, An Act to amend mainly the Environment Quality Act with respect to deposits and selective collection;
- Bill 67, An Act to establish a new development regime for the flood zones of lakes and watercourses, to temporarily grant municipalities powers enabling them to respond to certain needs and to amend various provisions;
- Bill 73, An Act to amend various provisions relating to assisted procreation;
- Bill 77, An Act respecting the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire du Québec; and
- Bill 87, An Act to limit certain charges in the restaurant industry.
Rulings from the Chair
February 2, 2021 – Ruling concerning the distribution of certain measures and speaking times during limited debates following changes in the composition of the Assembly.
A ruling was handed down following changes in the composition of the Assembly, which had two additional independent Members since the adjournment of proceedings in December 2020, that is, the Member for Rimouski and the Member for Rivière-du-Loup-Témiscouata. As had been done several times since the beginning of the 42nd Legislature, the President made changes to the distribution of measures and speaking times during limited debates.
March 23, 2021 – Directive on the motions on establishing an independent process for determining Members’ conditions of employment
The President of the National Assembly responded to the question about a directive asked by the Second Opposition Group House Leader on March 10, 2021, regarding motions carried by the Assembly on establishing an independent process for determining Members’ conditions of employment.
In his comments, the Second Opposition Group House Leader recalled that on June 14, 2019, the Assembly had unanimously adopted an initial motion to give the Office of the Assembly the mandate to determine the best process to periodically, with complete independence, determine Members’ conditions of employment. A working committee of the Office of the National Assembly, chaired by the First Vice-President of the Assembly, was given the mandate. The Leader also recalled that on December 6, 2019, a new motion was unanimously carried by the Assembly to allow the Office of the Assembly to continue its work and submit its final report not later than February 20, 2020. He stated that a third motion was later carried by the Assembly on June 10, 2020 to mandate the independent committee, whose creation had been recommended by the Office of the National Assembly, to develop a parental leave component for Members.
The Leader recalled that the Office of the National Assembly report that followed from the motions carried in June and December 2019 was tabled in the Assembly on February 20, 2020. He noted that the report determined that the best process would be to periodically form an independent committee with the mandate to determine the conditions of employment of Members and Cabinet members.
The Leader noted that once the report had been tabled, work to implement its recommendations continued until, in the week of March 1, the Government informed all the parliamentary groups that it was no longer planning to create the independent committee.
In this context, the Second Opposition Group House Leader asked whether the Office of the Assembly, or some of its members, could decide to ignore an order from the National Assembly. He noted that the motions carried by the Assembly did not require the Executive to take action, but targeted only the National Assembly and its Office.
He ended by saying that he found it difficult to see how a single parliamentary group could annul, in the Office of the Assembly, decisions taken unanimously by the National Assembly. According to him, that would imply that the Office of the Assembly had more authority, legitimacy and sovereignty than the Assembly when it expressed itself through a unanimous motion.
The President explained that to be able to rule on the matters submitted and on the nature of the motions carried by the National Assembly on June 14 and December 6, 2019, he had to begin by examining the intent of the words in the motions. The desire expressed in the wording was to mandate the Office of the Assembly to determine the best process to implement to ensure that the employment conditions of Members are periodically determined in a fully independent manner and to table a final report no later than February 20, 2020.
To follow up on this request, the Office of the Assembly asked the committee on Members’ conditions of employment and various allowances, chaired by the First Vice President of the National Assembly, to reflect on the matter and submit a proposal to it. This committee did so by conducting a serious examination, in particular by doing a comparative study with other parliaments. On completing its work, the committee submitted its recommendations to the Office of the Assembly, which endorsed them in its report tabled in the Assembly on February 20, 2020.
The President concluded that the Office of the Assembly had fulfilled its mandate by tabling, within the prescribed time, a final report setting out its recommendations. By tabling the report, the Office of the Assembly had indeed fulfilled the mandate it had been given in the motions.
That said, the real underlying question seemed to concern the steps that followed or rather that should have followed the tabling of the report in order to implement the recommendations. In this regard, the President stated that he could not compel the parliamentarians in any manner to amend an existing law or formally sanction them if they did not follow through on their commitment.
In this specific case, the underlying intent of the motions was a moral commitment shared by the parliamentarians to follow up on the report and include the identified process in a bill. By choosing an informal process to discuss the implementation of the report’s recommendations, the parliamentarians chose a path that the Chair could not rule on because it relied on the desire of those involved and on a moral commitment. The Chair has no power to compel Members to honour such a commitment. It is only by proceeding in the manner set out in the report, that is, by passing a bill, that the independent committee could have been established. In the absence of such actions, the independent committee does not exist, and the Chair could not conclude that it should have been established simply by the tabling of the report.
The motion carried on June 10, 2020 asking the Office of the Assembly to mandate the future independent committee to establish the terms of Members’ parental leave expressed a consensus on the independent committee that no longer seemed to exist. The Chair could not presume the will of the Assembly regarding the means to achieve the desired outcome. The Members themselves had to consider whether they wanted to leave the matter of parental leave as it was or whether they wanted to pursue the matter in a different way. If there was a desire to address this issue in a different forum, other procedural avenues were available to do so.
The Chair ended by specifying that, while the Office of the Assembly’s recommendations on establishing an independent committee were not enforceable, the tabled report and unanimous adoption of three motions had certainly created expectations among the Members and the public. The Members’ common goal following the carriage of the motions was to act on those recommendations. Accordingly, the Members could expect there would be follow-up to the Office’s work. The motions carried by the Assembly and the content of the Office of the Assembly’s report created an expectation that everything planned for would be carried out to completion. The proper functioning of Parliament rests in part on necessary cooperation between parliamentarians. The Chair said that it could hope that actions would be in line with words, but that it could not compel such consistency and that parliamentarians would have to assume responsibility for their positions.
Examination of the supplementary estimates
On March 16, 2021, the National Assembly carried a motion without notice by the Government House Leader that the National Assembly resolve itself into a committee of the whole to undertake examination of the supplementary estimates of March 2021 for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. On March 23, after the Committee of the Whole had completed its mandate, the Assembly passed Bill 89, Appropriation Act No. 5, 2020–2021.
On March 25, 2021, Eric Girard, Minister of Finance, delivered the Budget Speech. The estimates of expenditure for the year 2021‒2022 were also tabled that day. At the next sitting, on March 30, 2021, interim supply was granted, and Bill 91, Appropriation Act No. 1, 2021–2022, was passed. The next day, the Assembly began the 25-hour debate on the Budget Speech.
Changes to the National Assembly’s Administrative Structure
On February 18, 2021, the Office of the National Assembly adopted a new administrative structure, establishing the General Directorate for Information and Visitor Experience. The new directorate groups together the Library Directorate, the Communications Directorate, the Visitor Services and Educational Mission Directorate and the Restaurants Service. Isabelle Giguère was appointed to head up this administrative component as Director General.
Creation of a Select Parliamentary Committee
On March 31, 2021, the Assembly carried a motion to establish a select committee to examine the issues related to extending medical aid in dying to persons who are incapable of caring for themselves or who are suffering from a mental illness. The committee, named Select Committee on the Evolution of the Act respecting end-of-life care, is composed of 11 members, including the Chair and Vice-chair.
Circle of Young Leaders in Public Administration
Two managers from the National Assembly were chosen to participate in the Circle of Young Leaders in Public Administration. Christina Turcot and Claudia Rousseau will be part of the next cohort of this high-level program coordinated by the École nationale d’administration publique and intended to pool the strengths of managers from various public administrations with a view to improving the services delivered to citizens. This 20-month program offers participants an opportunity to develop their leadership skills through skills development and mentorship activities.
The following are highlights from committee proceedings for January to March 2021:
Two new motions intended to adapt to health standards were carried by the National Assembly on February 2 and March 9. The two motions were similar, with the exception of the cancellation of sectorial committee deliberative meetings during the three weeks governed by the first agreement, that is, from February 2 to 19. Since deliberative meetings make it possible for committee members to deal with petitions tabled in the Assembly, the first motion therefore suspended the time limits provided for in the Standing Orders for a committee to decide whether to examine a petition tabled in the Assembly or to table a related report.
Both motions allowed public hearings to continue virtually. Only the chair and committee staff were allowed to be present in the committee room, while the other committee members and witnesses were required to appear by videoconference. Sittings devoted to the clause-by-clause examination of bills continued in person, but with a reduced number of members. For such mandates, the quorum was set at three members instead of one-third of all committee members, and votes were held in accordance with a procedure for recorded divisions: a member of the Government and a member of the Official Opposition were empowered to vote for the aggregate of the members of their parliamentary group. Members of those groups continued to be entitled to record a different individual vote.
Independently of these special orders, plexiglass panels were installed between the available seats in all the parliamentary committee rooms. Amendments and other documents continued to be sent electronically. Lastly, in most rooms, committees adopted the practice of projecting amendments onto large screens.
On February 26, 2021, Sylvie D’Amours, Member for Mirabel, became Chair of the Committee on Citizen Relations, replacing Lucie Lecours, Member for Les Plaines, who was appointed Minister for the Economy.
Three special consultations and public hearings were held in January. Under a retroactive agreement approved by the Assembly on February 2, these mandates were carried out virtually, with only the chair and committee staff being present at the Assembly. One of these consultations concerned Bill 84, An Act to assist persons who are victims of criminal offences and to facilitate their recovery, which proposes reforms to assistance for victims of criminal offences. The Committee on Institutions, which was responsible for that mandate, received 21 briefs and, over three days, heard 22 individuals and organizations via videoconference.
Concurrently, the Committee on Labour and the Economy held public hearings and consultations on another bill proposing legislative reforms, Bill 59, An Act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime, which concerns prevention of and compensation for employment injuries. One of the purposes of the bill is to create a scientific committee on occupational diseases. The committee’s mandate would be to make recommendations regarding occupational diseases and require employers to take the measures necessary to protect workers exposed to violence in the workplace. The mandate was carried out over four days, during which the Committee received 75 briefs and heard 30 individuals and organizations.
Over the course of February and March, the sectorial committees held three special consultations and public hearings and proceeded with the clause-by-clause examination of 10 bills. In three sittings, members of the Committee on Planning and the Public Domain held special consultations and public hearings on and carried out the clause-by-clause examination of Bill 85, An Act to facilitate the conduct of the 7 November 2021 municipal general election in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this bill, which consists of five sections, is to make it easier to hold the fall 2021 municipal general election, in particular by extending the election period.
The Committee on Planning and the Public Domain also completed its clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 67, An Act to establish a new development regime for the flood zones of lakes and watercourses, to temporarily grant municipalities powers enabling them to respond to certain needs and to amend various provisions, which began on November 10, 2020. It took the Committee a little over 95 hours, spread over 19 meetings, to carry out this mandate.
The Committee on Health and Social Services carried out the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 73, An Act to amend various provisions relating to assisted procreation, which concerns mainly the quality, safety, ethics and planning of assisted procreation clinical activities, but also provides that the cost of certain physician-rendered assisted procreation services is assumed by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec.
Lastly, the Committee on Institutions began clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, which contains 165 sections.
Committee on Public Administration
The Committee on Public Administration, which mainly carries out accountability mandates, held two public hearings over these three months. On February 19, the Committee heard the Auditor General on her annual management report and financial commitments. On March 22, it heard the Public Curator on his November 2019 report entitled “Protection of Incapacitated Persons Under Public Protective Supervision”.
Sittings and Parliamentary Committee Proceedings
Parliamentary Committees Directorate
The 1st Session of the 42nd Parliament resumed on March 1, 2021. As the previous Sessional Order regarding hybrid House proceedings expired on December 31, 2020, the first order of business was the adoption of a new Sessional Order. The new Sessional Order reflected provisions in previous orders to enable equitable treatment of Members participating through Zoom and Members participating in person in the Legislative Chamber. As with previous Sessional Orders, the one adopted on March 1 provided for any formal divisions to be deferred until 15 minutes prior to the fixed time of adjournment, or, if there was less than 30 minutes remaining prior to the fixed time of adjournment, then the division would be deferred to the end of the afternoon sitting of the following sitting day. Should a division be requested during a morning sitting, it would be deferred until the afternoon sitting of the same day. The Sessional Order for the Spring Sitting added a provision that if a division is requested on a closure motion, as set out in Standing Order 46, or a time allocation motion, as set out in Standing Order 81.1, the division would not be deferred but would proceed forthwith 15 minutes thereafter, unless the House or the Committee unanimously agreed otherwise.
The House prorogued on the morning of April 12, with the Speech from the Throne to open the 2nd Session delivered that afternoon. The 2021-22 Budget and Main Estimates are scheduled to be presented to the Legislative Assembly on April 20, pursuant to the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, which was amended in December 2020 to adjust the deadline for presenting the annual budget and estimates to on or before April 30 in the fiscal year immediately following a provincial general election.
The Supply Act (No.1), 2021 received Royal Assent on March 25 and provides $12.305 billion of interim funding for public sector operations for the 2021-22 fiscal year. This amount represents three months of spending from the 2020-21 fiscal year. As the 2021-22 Budget and Main Estimates will not be presented until April 20, this interim Supply Act interprets the Main Estimates for the previous fiscal year as if they were the Main Estimates for 2021-22. The Act was the subject of significant debate with a number of questions regarding process and practice for interim supply given that the Budget and Main Estimates for 2021-22 had not yet been presented.
The Firearm Violence Prevention Act, which restricts the sale, transportation, and possession of real and imitation firearms in the province, received Royal Assent on March 25. During committee stage, concerns were raised with respect to the level of consultation with Indigenous peoples and the potential impacts on Indigenous hunting rights. The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General introduced an amendment, which was subsequently adopted, to address these concerns. The amendment to clause 5 – which prohibits the discharge of a firearm in, on, or from a vehicle or boat – clarified that the clause must be applied in accordance with section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.
The Insurance Corporation Amendment Act, 2021 also received Royal Assent on March 25. The Act creates an independent fairness officer to oversee and respond to customer complaints, and policy and process issues at the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC). The fairness officer was introduced to improve public trust in ICBC as the Corporation transitions to a no-fault, comprehensive insurance coverage model.
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is responsible for reviewing and considering the 2021-22 budget estimates, annual reports and services plans of the province’s nine statutory offices. This review process typically takes place in the fall; however, with the October 2020 provincial general election, this year’s process took place in February 2021. The Committee carefully examined requests for additional funding within the context of supporting offices to fulfill their legislated mandates while also acknowledging the particular challenges of the last year as it relates to COVID-19 and its impact on staffing arrangements, office space and leasing requirements, and safety protocols. On February 26, the Committee released its report titled, Annual Review of the Budgets of Statutory Offices, with recommendations for the operating and capital budgets of each statutory office.
Legislative Assembly Administration
The Legislative Assembly Management Committee reviewed and approved the 2021-22 Legislative Assembly budget submission (Vote 1) on February 19. Vote 1 includes expenses for Members services, caucus support services, and legislative support services. The proposed operating budget provides for total operating expenses of $86.1 million, a $1.0 million increase from the 2020-21 operating budget. The additional funding includes targeted investments in staffing and employee engagement, and data and information management initiatives. The Assembly’s capital budget of $6.3 million in funding provides significant life cycle investments in critical IT systems, assets, and infrastructure.
The Committee also amended two policies: the retraining allowance for former Members and the accompanying person travel provisions. The retraining allowance is available to former Members and is part of the transitional assistance program. The word “career” was removed from the retraining allowance policy, the limitation on certain types of training were eased, and the eligible and ineligible expenses for the allowance were clarified. The accompanying person travel provisions in the Members’ Guide to Policy and Resources were modified to allow for an accompanying person’s travel to overlap significantly with the Member, rather than necessitate travel together with the Member, and to allow for a designated caucus position other than a Legislative Assistant, where such a position does not exist, to undertake eligible accompanying person travel.
The Legislative Assembly held its 7th annual Legislative Lights Employee Recognition event on February 25. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was rescheduled from its original September date and was held virtually. Raj Chouhan, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and Kate Ryan-Lloyd, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, addressed Legislative Assembly employees from the Legislative Chamber and congratulated award nominees and recipients for their outstanding achievements in categories including teamwork, spirit and leadership as well as Long Service Awards recognizing staff who have worked in the public sector for 25 years or more.
The 2nd Session of the 19th Legislative Assembly resumed on February 3, 2021, as scheduled, after the previous sitting was adjourned on November 5, 2020. The Assembly sat until March 31, 2021 and remains adjourned until May 27, 2021.
The main item of business was the review of the 2021-2022 Main Estimates in Committee of the Whole. Before adjourning, the Assembly passed the budget, and two Supplementary Appropriation Acts. In passing the budget, the Government committed to a number of additions and reductions requested by the regular Members that will be brought forward in a Supplementary Appropriation in the May/June sitting.
COVID-19 protocols remain in place in the Assembly, allowing all 19 Members to safely attend. This includes a modified chamber, with extra rows of seats added to the Chamber, temperature checks, electronic distribution of materials, and a masks requirement when 2-metre social distancing cannot be maintained. The Assembly remains closed to the public, with the exception of media who are able to attend, socially distanced, in the Gallery.
Motions 33-19(2) and 26-19(2) were moved appointing Statutory Officer positions; the appointment of Members to the Human Rights Adjudication Panel and the Appointment of the Languages Commissioner respectively.
Motion 29-19(2) was moved by the regular Members to call upon the Government of the Northwest Territories to review its policies and practices for racial and cultural bias relating to education, health and social services, justice, housing, and government hiring.
Motion 30-19(2) was also moved calling upon the Government of the Northwest Territories to prioritize a review of the NWT Housing Corporation as part of the Government Renewal Initiative.
During the February-March Sitting, the following bills received assent:
- Bill 3, An Act to Amend the Public Highways Act;
- Bill 12, An Act to Amend the Apprenticeship, Trade and Occupation Certification Act
- Bill 13, An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act;
- Bill 14, An Act to Amend the Securities Act;
- Bill 16, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act;
- Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act;
- Bill 26, Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 3, 2020-2021;
- Bill 27, Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2020-2021; and
- Bill 28, Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), 2021-2022.
Standing Committees continued to meet throughout the first quarter of 2021 both in person and virtually. Committees continued to hold public meetings through the Assembly’s social media channels.
The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment tabled their Report on the Review of Bill3: An Act to Amend the Public Highways Act. The Minister concurred to four amendments to the Bill at the Committee stage.
The Standing Committee on Social Development tabled their Report on the Review of Bill 20: An Act to Amend the Employment Standards. The Minister concurred with one amendment to the Bill during Committee’s review. The Committee also tabled their Report on the Review of Bill 13: An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, with the Minister concurring to an amendment requiring that the Minister consult on the elimination of a time change.
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures released two reports: Report on Motion 5-19(2): Referral of Point of Privilege Raised By the Member For Monfwi on March 10, 2020, which looked at the use of Official Languages in the Legislative Assembly, and the Report on the Chief Electoral Officer’s Report on the Administration of the 2019 Territorial General Election. The Assembly adopted 27 recommendations from the two reports combined.
Intern – Committee Support Officer
The 1st Session of the 42nd Parliament resumed for the spring meeting period on February 16, 2021 following the Family Day long weekend. Along with the opening of the Legislative Building’s new visitors’ entrance, the Spring Sitting has already seen Standing Order amendments, the Budget, and a great deal of committee work.
New Visitors’ Entrance
The new visitors’ entrance officially opened to the public on March 1, 2021. This is the first addition to Queen’s Park in over 100 years. The 1,948 square foot entrance was designed by Diamond & Schmitt Architects, Inc., of Toronto. The addition features materials that are complimentary to the heritage building’s exterior finishes and locally sourced wherever feasible. The entrance has been outfitted with new security equipment to ensure a safe and secure environment for staff and visitors entering the Legislative Building.
Standing Order Amendments
On February 17, 2021 MPP Andrea Khanjin moved a motion proposing several amendments to the Standing Orders.
One particular amendment requires that when the Chair of a Standing Committee is a Member of the Government Party, the Vice-Chair should be a Member of the Opposition. Conversely, if the Chair is a Member of a Party in Opposition, the Vice-Chair should be a Member of the Party in Government.
Changes also authorize the Chair of any Standing or Select Committee to convene a meeting within 7 calendar days of receiving a written request signed by the majority of the committee. The request must contain the text of a non-amendable motion proposing that the committee consider a bill or other matter that is within its mandate.
These and other changes came into effect on March 26, 2021 at 12:01 p.m.
On March 24, 2021 the Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy presented the 2021 Budget and Budget Papers. The motion that the House approves in general the Budgetary Policy of the Government was seconded by Premier Doug Ford. The House then reverted to Introduction of Bills for the introduction and First Reading of Bill 269, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes.
On January 18, 2021, Meghan Stenson was appointed to the role of Senior Clerk – Table Research. In addition to being the new Manager of the Table Research Office, she is now also a permanent Table Officer.
Ongoing COVID-19 response
Speaker Ted Arnott issued a directive requiring the mandatory use of a mask or face covering by every individual entering the legislative precinct, which came into effect on January 11, 2021. When the House resumed on February 16, 2021, the House passed a motion renewing physical distancing initiatives such as permitting Members to speak and vote from any Member’s desk in the Chamber. The motion also required Members to wear a tightly-woven fabric face mask that completely covers the mouth and nose and fits snugly against the sides of the face without gaps, while in the Chamber except when recognized to speak.
The House also acknowledged that every person seeking to enter the legislative precinct, including Members of the Assembly, are subject to the Speaker’s COVID-19 screening and masking protocols, and that application of these protocols could result in a Member of the Assembly being refused entry to the legislative precinct.
On the same day the House passed a separate motion which authorized the Government House Leader, the Official Opposition House Leader, a Liberal Independent Member and the Independent Green Party Member to jointly provide written notice to the Speaker that the Assembly adjourn for a period of up to 30 calendar days. The motion also stipulated that subsequent notices may be provided for additional periods of up to 30 calendar days each.
His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
On April 12, 2021, the House passed a motion that a Humble Address be presented to the Queen expressing the Legislature’s condolences on the passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The House also observed a moment of silence. Speaker Ted Arnott issued a statement of condolence and the Assembly’s website featured a commemorative gallery of Prince Philip’s visits to the Legislature.
The Select and Standing Committees have been busy in the early months of 2021. They collectively considered 19 bills and presented nine reports.
Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight
Since January 15, 2021 the Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight has tabled five interim reports. As per its mandate, the committee receives oral reports from the Premier or his designate(s) on any extensions of emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rationale for those extensions.
Standing Committee on General Government
The Standing Committee on General Government considered Bill 257, An Act to enact the Building Broadband Faster Act, 2021 and to make other amendments in respect of infrastructure and land use planning matters. One of the purposes of the Act is to expedite the delivery of broadband projects of provincial significance. The need for reliable broadband internet has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prince Edward Island
2nd Session, 66th General Assembly
On the advice of Executive Council, Lieutenant Governor Antoinette Perry prorogued the 1st Session of the 66th General Assembly effective February 23, 2021, and summoned the Legislative Assembly to meet for the 2nd Session on February 25, 2021.
New Parliamentary Calendar and Sitting Hours
The opening of the 2nd Session marked the first time the Assembly met according to a new parliamentary calendar and new sitting hours, which were brought about by rule changes adopted in June 2020 to take effect in January 2021. The calendar continues to include two sittings per year, but shifts them to a Winter-Spring Sitting beginning on the fourth Tuesday of February, and an autumn sitting on the third Tuesday of October; previously the sittings began in April and November. The new calendar also includes, after every third sitting week, a planning week in which the Assembly will not meet. The new sitting hours are 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Friday. This schedule retains the same sitting days and total sitting hours as before, but eliminates Tuesday and Thursday evening sittings, with those hours redistributed to the afternoons.
Speech from the Throne
Lieutenant Governor Perry opened the 2nd Session with a Speech from the Throne. It provided an overview of Government’s plans for the new legislative session. The speech addressed the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic, discussed economic recovery efforts, geared in particular toward the tourism sector and related businesses, and how to help transition Islanders from emergency supports back to meaningful employment. In healthcare, a new model will focus on community-based care over acute and long-term care. Government has set an objective of 300 new childcare spaces this year, and the speech indicated budgetary measures for childcare staff professional development and wage improvements would be forthcoming. Government will create a School-to-Workforce Transition Team, and a new Agency for Workforce Development. Business and educational supports for the development of clean technology will be provided, and environmental measures will be implemented to encourage the use of electric vehicles, reduce food waste and single-use plastics, improve soil health, and increase the level of protected land in the province. Various other initiatives in the areas of justice, diversity and well-being were raised. Debate on the Draft Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne commenced on February 26, and concluded when the Assembly carried the Address on March 9.
Minister of Finance Darlene Compton provided the 2021-22 Budget Address on March 12. The Road to Recovery was the general theme of the address. Spending highlights include:
- In health care, funding to revitalize primary health care, develop a Centre for Mental Well-Being, and provide a free shingles vaccine to Islanders aged 65 and older;
- In education, implementing a new universal half-day Pre-Kindergarten Program, directing funding to reducing child care rates, and adding 80 new frontline educational positions; and
- A new $5,000 provincial rebate on the purchase of new and used electric vehicles and a rural transit pilot project to launch in autumn 2021.
The basic personal tax amount will be raised to $11,250, and the small business tax rate will be reduced to 1 per cent. The Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure were tabled on the same day the Budget Address was given. They continued to be debated as of the time of writing.
On February 4, Premier Dennis King announced changes in the responsibilities of Cabinet members. James Aylward, formerly Minister of Health and Wellness, became Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Ernie Hudson, formerly Minister of Social Development and Housing, became Minister of Health and Wellness. Natalie Jameson, formerly Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Change, became Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning, while retaining responsibility for the Status of Women. Steven Myers, formerly Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, became Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Action. Brad Trivers, formerly Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning, became Minister of Social Development and Housing. No Members were added or removed from the 10-person Cabinet.
On March 2, Leader of the Opposition Peter Bevan-Baker rose on a point of order to seek clarification on a comment Speaker Colin LaVie made that Bill 100, Election Age Act, which had just been introduced, would be referred to the Standing Committee on Legislative Assembly Management. On March 3, Speaker LaVie explained that the bill would be referred to the committee pursuant to section 46(2) of the Legislative Assembly Act, which holds that any bill pertaining to the Legislative Assembly or its offices shall be committed to the committee for its consideration. A bill affecting elections would pertain to Elections PEI, an office of the Legislative Assembly.
On March 12, Speaker LaVie issued rulings on points of order raised on March 10 and 11. On March 10, Leader of the Third Party Sonny Gallant rose on a point of order to object to the amount of time it took for an amendment to be made to a motion, given the limited time available for debate. On March 11, Heath MacDonald (Cornwall – Meadowbank) rose on a point of order to provide information about the previous government’s funding of mental health supports. In his rulings, Speaker LaVie found that neither instance was a true point of order. Regarding the preparation of amendments, he noted that amendments can be proposed without notice, though written copies must be provided once the amendment is moved. While advance preparation is helpful, ideas for amendments may occur to Members during debate and thus short recesses are acceptable for the purpose of wording and printing amendments. The other matter related to providing information to clarify a matter, which doesn’t fit within the purpose of a point of order.
Changes in Assembly Roles
On March 4 the Assembly appointed Emily Doiron as Deputy Clerk. She was formerly Clerk Assistant – Journals, Committees and House Operations. Former Clerk Assistant – Research and Committees Ryan Reddin took on the new role of Director of Parliamentary Research effective February 19.
Director of Parliamentary Research
On January 28, 2021, Premier Scott Moe wrote to Speaker Randy Weekes to request that Members reconvene on April 6, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. The Premier also indicated that the provincial budget would be delivered that day.
As per the rules of the Legislative Assembly, the week after Easter is designated as a non-sitting period, which is normally a break in the parliamentary calendar. To permit the Legislative Assembly to begin sitting on April 6, the Standing Committee on House Services (HOS) adopted a report recommending that the regular hours of sittings apply to the week after Easter Monday.
Standing Committee on House Services report
On the morning of April 6, before the resumption of session, HOS met to consider and adopt another report recommending the extension of the Easter week period through April 10, 2021 with the addition of two sitting days and incorporating all subsequent Fridays to provide for a 30-day sitting period with a May 14, 2021 completion day. The report also assessed and updated temporary modifications to the Assembly’s processes, practices, and standing orders in order to facilitate the Spring Sitting of the first session of the 29th legislature in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposals contained in the HOS report reflect many of the modifications to rules and practices adopted for the Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 sitting periods presented in two of the committee’s previous reports. Updated procedures are as follows:
Remote Participation in Committee Proceedings
The report proposed changes to practices and procedures in order to test remote participation of one Member during committee proceedings in the committee room. The remote participating Member is required to provide email notice of their intention to participate to the Chair and committee clerk a minimum of two hours prior to participating in a meeting. Training on remote participation was provided to the participants of the committees.
The requirement that MLAs and officials wear a mask at all times in the Chamber and in the committee room is continued. However, masks may be removed when recognized to speak during Assembly or committee proceedings in the Chamber. Masks continue to be mandatory at all times in the committee room because of the more confined space, which is a factor in physical spacing and protective shielding.
Under the November 19, 2020 Saskatchewan Health Authority public health order, the wearing of masks is not mandatory during proceedings before a legislative tribunal or court where the decision maker determines that removing the mask is essential to ensure the integrity of the proceeding. To allow Members to be clearly heard in person and on the broadcast of Assembly proceedings, Members and officials were permitted to remove their masks during proceedings once they are recognized to speak.
Travel to and from Regina
On March 23, 2021, the Saskatchewan Health Authority stated that it strongly discouraged unnecessary travel to and from the Regina area due to an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19. While the recommendation against unnecessary travel to Regina is in place, MLAs were advised not to travel to and from constituencies outside of Regina. In extenuating circumstances, caucuses are permitted to approve a Member’s travel if it does not contravene a public health order. Enforcement of the so-called MLA bubble is left to the respective caucuses and their Whips.
House of Commons
This account covers the period of January to the end of March 2021.
Return of the House
The House returned on January 25, 2021. At the beginning of the sitting Mona Fortier (Ottawa—Vanier), sought and received unanimous consent for the adoption of a motion organizing parliamentary proceedings until June 23, 2021. The motion was similar to the special order adopted in September 2020, with additional provisions in relation to an electronic voting application.
Electronic Voting Application
The special order adopted on January 25, 2021, instructed the House Administration to begin onboarding all Members to the electronic voting application and to conduct two comprehensive simulations with all Members being invited to attend. Provided that after the two simulations the Speaker receives a notice from the House leaders of all recognized parties stating that they are satisfied with the remote voting application, electronic votes would be cast through the voting application from the next sitting day.
Two electronic voting application simulations with Members took place in February. On February 22, 2021, Mark Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands) sought and obtained unanimous consent for a motion modifying the special order of January 25, 2021, with respect to the process for electronic voting in a hybrid setting. The amendment to the special order outlines how Members are to vote remotely if faced with technical issues in the voting application, and a process for verifying the identity of a Member if a concern is raised during a vote.
On February 25, 2021, the Speaker Anthony Rota (Nipissing—Timiskaming) made a statement informing the House that he had received notice from the House leaders of all recognized parties that they were satisfied with the electronic voting application and that it was ready to be used. The first vote using the application took place on March 8, 2021.
Procedure / Privilege
Questions of privilege
On February 16, 2021, Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands) raised a question of privilege regarding the participation of Independent Members and Members from non-recognized parties in oral questions. Ms. May felt that her right to ask questions in order to hold the government to account is being violated because Independent Members and unrecognized parties are not able to participate in question period on Wednesdays, the day when the Prime Minister normally answers all questions. The Speaker delivered his ruling on February 23, 2021, stating that he does not believe that this is a question of privilege, rather it is a point of order. He also suggested that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may wish to look at how question period is conducted.
On February 16, 2021, Blake Richards (Banff—Airdrie) raised a question of privilege regarding language interpretation resources. Mr. Richards highlighted an issue that arose during the meeting of the Standing Committee on Health on February 12, 2021, which had to be suspended due to lack of resources. It should be noted that this issue was raised without the committee reporting the situation to the House. The Speaker delivered his ruling on February 19, 2021. He noted that he is responsible for administrative services and support to parliamentarians. He mentioned that, despite all efforts, these resources are not unlimited. The Speaker informed the House that he had asked the House Administration, in collaboration with its partners, to review the organization of the service offer and to add a protocol to be followed in certain circumstances. This protocol would allow the whips of the recognized parties to agree on the priority of use of the House’s resources. Lastly, as a report from the committee was not submitted to the House, the Speaker concluded that he could not intervene further in this question of privilege.
On February 19, 2021, Rob Moore (Fundy Royal) rose on a question of privilege to allege that the contents of Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, were disclosed prior to its introduction in the House. According to Mr. Moore, CBC/Radio-Canada had published an article online regarding details of the bill before it was introduced in the House. The Speaker ruled on March 9, 2021 and found that grounds were not sufficiently compelling in the case at hand, and therefore the question of privilege had not been made out.
Points of Order – Use of Masks
With more Members wearing masks during proceedings, it has led to a number of questions in the House. For example, questions have been raised of whether masks with messaging on them are considered props. The matter was first raised on January 25, 2021, through a point of order by Chris Bittle (St. Catharines), comparing the masks being worn by some Members at the time to buttons or stickers, which are forbidden. The Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hugues (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing), requested that masks with sayings on them not be used in the House because they are props. The matter was raised again on January 27, 2021, by Mr. Gerretsen on a point of order, indicating that certain Members were still wearing masks with logos. Some members rose to argue that the House’s practice on the use of props has been variable in the past. The Speaker delivered his ruling on February 2, 2021, reiterating that the use of props to illustrate a point has always been contrary to the rules and practices of the House. Thus, masks should be plain and neutral, and should not be used to deliver a message or express an opinion. The Speaker asked the members to take this ruling into account in their choice of masks to wear in the House.
On February 25, 2021, Andréanne Larouche (Shefford) rose on a point of order to signal that there were problems with simultaneous interpretation because the interpreter was having difficulties hearing Marie-France Lalonde’s (Orléans) remarks due to the thickness of her mask. The Deputy Speaker Bruce Stanton (Simcoe-Nord), informed Ms. Lalonde of the issue and suggested she may wish to speak without a mask. Claude DeBellefeuille (Salaberry–Suroît) rose to encourage Ms. Lalonde to instead use one of the surgical masks available at the entrance to each party’s lobby. Ms. Lalonde sought and received unanimous consent to change her mask, and the Deputy Speaker informed the House that they would take a short break to allow her to do so. On March 8, 2021, Ms. DeBellefeuille rose on a question of privilege following the above point of order, asking the Speaker to rule on the appropriate balance between the use of masks and the right to interpretation services. The Speaker delivered his ruling on March 11, 2021, stating that an agreement among parties had been reached. Members who want to wear a mask during their interventions in the House and in committee will have to use surgical masks, which would be made available in the lobbies. At any other time, members may wear any mask they prefer.
Point of order – Rule of anticipation
Following the vote at Second Reading of Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), and its referral to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on February 17, 2021, Mr. Gerretsen rose on a point of order and requested unanimous consent for Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (single event sport betting), to be discharged and withdrawn from the Order Paper as the bills have similar aims, and in the interest of moving forward with legislation efficiently, the government would focus its energy on supporting Bill C-218. Unanimous consent was denied.
On February 18, 2021, Mr. Gerretsen rose on a point of order and requested that the Speaker rule on the impact the second-reading vote on Bill C-218 has on Bill C-13 and the similarity between the two bills. The Speaker delivered his ruling later that day, stating that Bill C-13 may not be proceeded with. He explained that both bills seek to amend the same paragraph in the Criminal Code as it pertains to sports betting, with C-218 proposing to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) completely and C-13 amending the paragraph. The Speaker further explained that, by adopting C-218 at Second Reading, the House had approved the principle of the Bill and, thus, approved the intention to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code. As such, the Speaker expressed the opinion that it would be impossible for Bill C-13 to proceed as it seeks to amend a paragraph that would no longer exist with the adoption of C-218. The Speaker encouraged Members wishing to participate in deliberations related to the provisions of C-218 to do so in committee.
Point of order – Discrepancy between the English and French texts
On March 10, 2021, Brad Vis (Mission–Matsqui–Fraser Canyon) rose on a point of order to identify a discrepancy between the English and French texts of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response), at clause 239(2). Mr. Vis asked the Speaker to rule on whether the Bill could stand in its current form, or whether it should be discharged and resubmitted.
The Speaker ruled on March 22, 2021, that the Bill need not be discharged, as its drafting contained an error, but did not meet the threshold for being “incomplete”. The discrepancy was also not substantial enough to affect the general principle of the Bill, which was the subject of the debate at Second Reading. As the government had since clarified that the French version was correct, and since the discrepancy could be corrected during committee stage, the Speaker concluded that debate at Second Reading could continue.
A message was received from the Senate informing the House that it had passed Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), with amendments on February 17, 2021. On March 9, 2021, Bardish Chagger (Waterloo) gave notice of the intention to move closure at the next sitting of the House, so that in relation to the consideration of the Senate amendments, debate not be further adjourned. The motion was moved and adopted on March 11, 2021. The Bill received written declaration and Royal Assent on March 17, 2021.
During the allotted day of February 4, 2021, Tracy Gray (Kelowna—Lake Country), moved an opposition motion to establish a special committee to examine and review all aspects of the Canada–United States economic relationship. The question was put on the motion and it was later agreed to on a deferred recorded division. The Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States met for the first time on February 23, 2021.
Several committees presented reports throughout the period covered by this article. Notably, the Standing Committee on Finance’s report on Bill C-14, An Act to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on November 30, 2020 and other measures, and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs’ final report Protecting Public Health and Democracy During a Possible Pandemic Election.
On the supply day of March 25, 2021, the House adopted an opposition motion giving instructions to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics regarding its study on questions of conflicts of interest and lobbying in relation to pandemic spending, and to the Standing Committee on National Defence regarding its study on addressing sexual misconduct issues in the Canadian Armed Forces.
On Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at the request of the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland (University–Rosedale), an Order of the Day was designated for the consideration of a ways and means motion for a budget presentation on Monday, April 19, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. This will be the first budget in over two years (Budget 2019, presented in the House on Tuesday, March 19, 2019).
Two emergency debates were held during the period covered by this article:
- an emergency debate on the Keystone XL Pipeline on January 25, 2020; and
- an emergency debate on the COVID-19 vaccine on January 26, 2021.
On February 1, 2021, pursuant to Standing Order 51(1), the House debated the Standings Orders and procedure of the House and its committees.
Table Research Branch
2021 Spring Sitting
The 2021 Spring Sitting of the 3rd Session of the 34th Legislative Assembly began on March 4, and ended on March 11. Although 30-day Spring Sittings have become the norm (apart from the 2020 Spring Sitting, shortened due to COVID), given the dissolution of the House on March 12, the Sitting comprised five sitting days.
During the 2021 Spring Sitting, the government introduced eight pieces of legislation, three of which were appropriation bills: the second supplementary budget for 2020-21, the main budget for 2021-22 (of almost $1.8 billion), and an interim supply bill. Of the eight bills, only Bill No. 207, First Appropriation Act 2021-22, standing in the name of the Premier and Minister of Finance, Sandy Silver, was called for Second Reading. On March 11, the motion for Second Reading of the main budget bill carried, with the recorded division running along party lines.
In addition to appropriation bills, the government introduced bills seeking to amend the Child Care Act, the Family Property and Support Act, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, and the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act. As well, Bill No. 22, Workers’ Safety and Compensation Act, which sought to replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act, modernize the Workers’ Compensation Act, and combine them into one act, received First Reading.
During the brief Sitting, no new Private Members’ Bills were introduced.
Resignation of Deputy Speaker
On the second day of the 2021 Spring Sitting (March 8), Speaker Nils Clarke announced that Don Hutton, the Member for Mayo Tatchun, had resigned as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole, and from the Liberal Party caucus, and would sit as an Independent Member. The position of Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole remained unfilled for the remainder of the Spring Sitting.
On March 4, tributes were delivered in memory of Darius Elias, the former Member for Vuntut Gwitchin (2006-16), who during his life had championed the preservation of the Porcupine Caribou herd central to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s traditional way of life. Mr. Elias died in February.
On March 11, a moment of silence was held to mark the passing of former Minister Archie Lang, who had served as the Member for Porter Creek Centre from 2002 to 2011, and had held Cabinet portfolios including Highways and Public Works, Community Services, and Energy, Mines and Resources.
On March 12, 2021, the 34th Legislative Assembly was dissolved by Order of Yukon Commissioner Angélique Bernard, at the request of Premier Silver. At the time of dissolution, the standings in the House were: 10 Yukon Liberal Party MLAs, six Yukon Party MLAs, two NDP Members, and one Independent.
Of the 19 MLAs that formed the 34th Legislative Assembly, the majority (17) sought re-election. The NDP’s Liz Hanson, the Member for Whitehorse Centre – who had served as the Third Party Leader earlier in the 34th Legislative Assembly, and as the Leader of the Opposition in the preceding Assembly – retired from politics. Don Hutton, who represented the rural riding of Mayo Tatchun, and ended his time in the Assembly as an Independent Member, did not seek re-election.
In the general election held on April 12 to elect the 19 members of the 35th Legislative Assembly, 14 of 17 incumbents were re-elected.
Premier Silver, the Leader of the Liberal Party, was re-elected for a third successive term as the MLA for the electoral district of Klondike. Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon was elected in Copperbelt North, the riding he had represented during his tenure as an MLA in the 33rd Legislative Assembly (Mr. Dixon who became party leader in May 2020, did not have a seat in the House at the time of dissolution). The Leader of the NDP, Kate White, was re-elected in the general election for a third successive term as the MLA for the Whitehorse-area riding of Takhini Kopper-King.
The initial breakdown of the April 12 general election results, by party was:
8 seats – Liberal Party
8 seats – Yukon Party
2 seats – NDP
1 seat – to be determined
The question of who would be the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, a riding that is unique in many respects, was unsettled for a week following the general election as the initial count on election night and subsequent recount three days later both resulted in a tie. The riding has the fewest number of electors in the territory. There are about 29,000 registered voters in Yukon, less than 200 of whom reside in Vuntut Gwitchin. Old Crow, the village in the riding, is a First Nation community located north of the Arctic Circle. It also has the distinction of being Yukon’s only fly-in community. This is not the first time that there has been a tie in the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin; in the 1996 territorial general election, there was also a tie between the top two candidates.
While in the past, each of the three major parties has represented Vuntut Gwitchin in the Legislative Assembly, in the April 12, 2021 general election, only the Liberal Party and NDP fielded candidates in the riding. The Liberal candidate was incumbent Pauline Frost, Yukon’s Minister of Health and Social Services; the NDP candidate was Annie Blake. On election night, and in the April 15 Elections Yukon recount (termed the “official addition”), each candidate received 78 votes. Given these results, pursuant to Section 280 of Yukon’s Elections Act, the returning officer applied for a judicial recount. The judicial recount took place on April 19, and confirmed the equality of votes between the two candidates. Pursuant to section 300 of the Elections Act, the winner was determined by a draw. That section of the act states that in this scenario, “the election shall be decided immediately by the drawing of lots by the returning officer in the presence of the judge and any candidate or agent present at the time.”
Ms. Blake was declared elected following the draw.
Deputy Clerk, Yukon Legislative Assembly
On February 16, the Senate passed Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act, as amended, at third reading. A message was sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.
On February 17, Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), as amended, was read a third time, and passed (the process used during debate on the bill is described below). On March 11, the Senate was informed by message that the House of Commons had agreed with an amendment, disagreed with some amendments, made amendments to other amendments and proposed an amendment in consequence of the Senate’s amendments. On March 17, the Senate adopted a motion in response to the message from the House of Commons, concurring in the amendments made by the House and not insisting on the Senate’s amendments to which the House of Commons had disagreed.
On March 16, the Senate passed Bill C-18, An Act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, at third reading, without amendment. On March 17, the Senate passed Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (additional regular benefits), the Canada Recovery Benefits Act (restriction on eligibility) and another Act in response to COVID-19, at third reading, without amendment. Later that day, the following bills received Royal Assent by written declaration: Bill C-7, Bill C-18, Bill C-24, and Bill S-1001, An Act respecting Girl Guides of Canada.
On March 30, Bill C-26, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, and Bill C-27, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, were read a third time and passed. The bills received Royal Assent by written declaration later that day.
Chamber and Procedure
On February 8, the Senate adopted three motions. The first allowed senators to speak and vote from a seat other than their assigned place, including a seat located in the Senate galleries; required them to remain seated when speaking from a seat located in the Senate galleries; and allowed them to speak while either seated or standing on the floor. This renewed the provisions of a motion that expired at the end of 2020, and its provisions are in place until June 23, 2021.
The second motion governed the proceedings relating to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), at third reading. Debate on the bill was divided into five themes in the following order: (a) mental illness and degenerative illness; (b) safeguards and advance requests; (c) vulnerable and minority groups, healthcare (including palliative care) and access to medical assistance in dying; (d) conscience rights; and (e) review process and coming into force of the act. The motion set a deadline of February 17 for the Senate to decide on the bill at third reading. There were special time limits for speeches during the thematic debates as well as shorter time limits for debate on amendments. If a point of order was raised on amendment, debate could continue on other matters relating to the bill, and the Senate would resume consideration of the amendment – if appropriate – once a ruling was given. After the thematic debates, there was a final general debate on the entire bill, without the possibility of moving amendments.
The third motion allowed certain speeches that could not be delivered on December 17, 2020, to be printed as appendices to the Debates of the Senate of that day.
Speaker’s Rulings and Statements
On February 16, the Speaker ruled on a point of order raised by Senator Marc Gold on February 11, concerning Senator Marilou McPhedran’s amendment to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). The main concern of the point of order was that the amendment did not respect the basic objective of the bill and was therefore fundamentally destructive of its principle. The Speaker agreed that the amendment, if adopted, would undo the basic principle of the bill, namely, to expand access to medical assistance in dying to persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, with a system of safeguards and eligibility criteria in place. Since the Senate had already agreed with the basic principle and objectives of the bill by adopting it at second reading, the Speaker ruled the amendment out of order. As a result, the motion in amendment was withdrawn, by order.
On February 8, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled its third report, entitled Subject matter of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), and presented its fourth report on Bill C-7, without amendment but with certain observations appended to the report. The fourth report was adopted with leave the same day and the bill was placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading later the same day.
The Committee of Selection presented its fourth and fifth reports on February 8. The fourth report, entitled Speaker pro tempore by means of a secret ballot, recommended that for the remainder of the current parliamentary session, the position be filled by means of a secret ballot, using a process established by the Speaker after consulting with the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, and the leader or facilitator of any other recognized party or recognized parliamentary group. The fifth report, entitled Standing Joint Committees, recommended that those committees be authorized to hold hybrid meetings or meetings entirely by videoconference. The Senate adopted both reports with leave the same day.
On February 16, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration tabled its fourth report, entitled Senate Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy, informing the Senate that it had approved on February 11, 2021, the new Senate Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy. The policy comes into force after the appointment of the designated recipient, as defined by the policy, and the repeal of the 2009 Senate Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace by the Senate. On March 30, the Senate adopted a motion repealing the Senate Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace adopted by the Senate in June 2009, and the 2019 interim process for the handling of harassment complaints currently in effect, upon the appointment of the designated recipient.
On February 16, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources presented its second report, on Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act, with amendments and observations. The report was adopted with leave and the bill, as amended, placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading later the same day.
On March 15, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulation presented its first report, entitled Rule 12-26 – Expenses incurred by the committee during the First Session of the Forty-second Parliament and other matters. The report was adopted with leave the same day. On March 16, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration presented its fifth report, entitled Senate Budget 2021-22. The Senate adopted the report the next day.
On March 26, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance tabled its third report, entitled The expenditures set out in the Supplementary Estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. On March 30, the Committee of Selection presented its sixth report, entitled Committee Meeting Schedule, authorizing all committees to meet by videoconference as the norm until June 23, authorizing meetings during most periods until then, and re-establishing a schedule for committee meetings, with earlier decisions on related to such matters ceasing to have effect. The Senate adopted the report with leave later that day.
On March 30, the Senate adopted a motion authorizing each standing committee to examine and report on issues relating to its respective mandate as set out in the Rules of the Senate, and to submit its final report on its study under this order no later than June 23, 2021.
Senator Murray Sinclair resigned from the Senate on January 31, 2021. He was appointed to the Senate on April 2, 2016, on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and represented the province of Manitoba. From December 2, 2016, onwards he sat as a member of the Independent Senators Group. Prior to joining the Senate, he was a practicing lawyer and served as a judge in Manitoba from 1988 to 2009, the first Aboriginal judge appointed in the province. He served as the Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada from 2009 to 2015. Senator Sinclair served on several committees in his time at the Senate, including as Chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators and Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament.