A number of historic and unprecedented events have unfolded in recent months in British Columbia. The extraordinarily close results of the May 9 provincial general election led to a minority parliament, decades after BC’s last experience with a minority government in 1952. As anticipated given the close party standings, the legislative sitting to test the confidence of the Assembly was brief but eventful.
General election results and a minority parliament
The preliminary election result was 43 seats for the BC Liberal Party, 41 for the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) and three for the BC Green Party. A party needs 44 seats for a majority in BC’s 87 Member Assembly.
Two judicial recounts and the counting of about 179,000 absentee ballots completed on May 24 did not change party standings from the preliminary result. The BC Liberal Party received 40.36 per cent of total votes cast and the BC NDP 40.28 per cent – the narrowest result between political parties in BC history and a separation of only 1,566 votes. The BC Green Party received its largest vote share ever in BC, at 16.84 per cent. The BC Green Party’s leader, Andrew Weaver, was the first BC Green Party candidate elected to the Assembly in 2013; in increasing their seat count to three Members, the caucus is still short of the four-Member threshold for recognized party status under BC’s Constitution Act. As such, Mr. Weaver and his caucus are currently recognized as Independents in the Legislative Assembly.
On May 29, John Horgan, Leader of the Official Opposition, and Mr. Weaver delivered a “2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement” to Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to indicate the BC NDP was prepared to form Government with the support of Mr. Weaver and his caucus. The agreement pledges support of the Independent (BC Green) caucus on confidence and supply matters; their support with respect to other issues would be determined on an “issue by issue basis.”
Premier Christy Clark indicated on May 30 that she intended to continue as Premier and would request the Lieutenant Governor convene the Legislative Assembly in order to test the confidence of the House. The Members of the Executive Council were sworn in at a ceremony at Government House on June 13. Many of the 22 Ministers were in Cabinet in the previous Parliament and retained their portfolios.
The 87 Members of the Legislative Assembly were sworn in during three separate caucus ceremonies held on June 7 and 8, 2017.
First Sitting of the First Session of the 41st Parliament
The 41st Parliament opened on June 22, 2017 and the first item of business that morning was to elect a Speaker. Only one Member agreed to allow his name to be considered and therefore Steve Thomson, Member for Kelowna-Mission, was acclaimed Speaker. In order to be eligible to serve as Speaker, Mr. Thomson had resigned as Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations the day before.
Following the brief morning proceeding, the afternoon featured the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Lieutenant Governor. The NDP and Independent (BC Green) caucuses indicated they would not support the motion of Address in Reply. Premier Clark described the Speech from the Throne as an attempt to gain the support of other parties in the Assembly and to reflect what her party had learned from the recent election results; however, the opposition criticized the speech for taking a substantial number of items from the opposition parties’ platforms.
Throughout the week’s sitting, in keeping with their argument that a confidence vote should not be delayed, the Official Opposition had only one speaker, Carole James, Member for Victoria-Beacon Hill, participate in the debate on the Address in Reply on June 26. That day, Mr. Weaver also commented on the Throne Speech, noting that he would not be voting in favour of the Address in Reply.
On June 26, the Government introduced two bills: a campaign finance reform bill, and a bill amending the BC Constitution Act and the Legislative Assembly Management Act to lower the threshold for recognition as a party from four Members to three, which would allow the Members elected as BC Green Party candidates to have official party status in the Assembly. Both bills were defeated at First Reading, 44-42.
On the same day, the Official Opposition tabled the required written notice of an amendment to the Address in Reply that stated that the Government does not enjoy the confidence of the House. They also requested, but were not granted, unanimous consent of the House to immediately vote on the motion of Address in Reply.
On June 28, Mr. Horgan, Leader of the Official Opposition, moved, seconded by Sonia Furstenau, the Independent (BC Green) Member for Cowichan Valley, the amendment to the Address in Reply stating that the government does not have the confidence of the House.
Mr. Horgan was the only Official Opposition Member to speak to the amendment. Ms. Furstenau and her caucus colleague Adam Olsen, the Independent (BC Green) Member for Saanich North and the Islands, made their first speeches in the Assembly in support of the non-confidence amendment. The final Member to close debate on the amendment to the Address in Reply was Premier Clark on the afternoon of June 29.
A division was called on the amendment to the Address in Reply and the motion carried 44-42, with the NDP and Independent (BC Green) caucuses voting in favour. The main motion on the Address in Reply was technically spent, due to the non-confidence amendment to it having carried; however, for purposes of procedural completion, the motion as amended was also voted on. A second division on the amended Address in Reply motion resulted in the same vote: 44-42.
Speaker Thomson, Deputy Speaker Greg Kyllo, and Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole Simon Gibson, all Members of the BC Liberal Party, resigned their positions as presiding officers following the Government’s defeat. At five sitting days, or eight calendar days, Speaker Thomson is the shortest-serving Speaker in BC history.
Lieutenant Governor’s decision
Following adjournment, Premier Clark proceeded to Government House to meet with the Lieutenant Governor. Shortly after the Premier’s departure from Government House, Mr. Horgan arrived to meet with Her Honour, and then announced to the waiting media that he had been asked to form a Government. The Lieutenant Governor later issued a statement that she had accepted Premier Clark’s resignation, and had asked Mr. Horgan to form a Government. Questioned by the press later in the evening, Premier Clark said that she had requested dissolution, but Her Honour declined to grant her request.
Mr. Horgan was sworn in as BC’s 36th Premier on July 18, along with Members of the Executive Council.
The 2017 provincial general election saw 27 new Members elected. The publicly accessible Members’ Orientation website (http://members.leg.bc.ca/) has been updated to provide information for new, returning and non-returning Members on issues ranging from the role of a Member, payroll, transition provisions, and constituency office arrangements. The website will be updated as required to be a useful resource for Members on an ongoing basis. Two well-attended Assembly open houses were held in June for Members and their staff wishing to learn about the administrative services provided by the Legislative Assembly, such as the library, financial and human resources services, parliamentary committees support and parliamentary education and outreach. The Legislative Assembly also offered three presentations on parliamentary procedure, one for each caucus.
Death of a Former Member
Grace McCarthy, died on May 25, 2017 at the age of 89. As a Member of the Legislative Assembly first elected in 1966, and re-elected in 1969, 1975, 1983 and 1986, she held a variety of Cabinet portfolios. She is credited with a number of achievements such as policy changes to ensure a woman could apply for a mortgage without a male guarantor, establishing BC’s first toll-free telephone help line for children, and championing BC’s hosting of Expo ’86. Ms. McCarthy was also BC’s first female Deputy Premier. She was known as a dedicated and tireless figure in the BC Social Credit party, playing a key role in rebuilding the party after its 1972 electoral defeat.
Alayna van Leeuwen
Committee Research Analyst
3rd Session of the 29th Legislature
The 3rd session of the 29th Legislature, which had commenced on March 2, 2017, adjourned for the summer on June 5, 2017. During the session, the Assembly passed a total of 18 Government Bills and two Private Bills. In addition, two of the eight Private Members’ Public Bills (PMPB) introduced were granted Royal Assent.
Bill 17, Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act
On May 24, 2017, Bill 17, Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, was introduced by the Minister of Labour, Christina Gray, MLA (Edmonton-Mill Woods). The Bill proposed a wide variety of changes to the province’s labour laws, including extensions to various types of paid and unpaid leave, increased job protection for employees while on leave, simplifying the process for union certification and decertification, and expanding the scope of workers who can unionize.
When the Bill was introduced in the Assembly, a number of Members took the unusual step of calling for a recorded vote on the motion for First Reading. Bill 17 did receive First Reading, and opposition caucuses subsequently argued that it should have been divided into two different Bills to separate the proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Code from the proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Code. The Bill was not divided but was amended during Committee of the Whole consideration. On June 5, 2017, Bill 17 was passed at Third Reading on division and was granted Royal Assent on June 7, 2017.
Government Motion 16
On January 4, 2017, Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler issued a report finding that Ric McIver, MLA (Calgary-Hays), had breached the Conflicts of Interest Act on November 22, 2016, when he asked a question during Oral Question Period regarding proposed price caps on electricity. The report was issued following an investigation into a complaint filed by Heather Sweet, MLA (Edmonton-Manning) and Deputy Chair of Committees. The issue concerned the fact that because Mr. McIver’s wife is the sole shareholder and director of a competitive retailer in the energy market his question “may reasonably be perceived as seeking to influence government policy in a way that would benefit a business wholly owned and operated by the Member’s spouse.” Mr. McIver has made an application for a judicial review of the Commissioner’s recommendations, and a hearing has been scheduled for January 12, 2018.
On March 15, 2017, Government Motion 16 was introduced, in accordance with the Conflicts of Interest Act, to have the Legislative Assembly concur in the Report of the Ethics Commissioner concerning Mr. McIver and to require the Member to apologize to the Assembly and pay a fine of $500, as recommended by the Commissioner. Ms. Sweet recused herself from debate on the motion. On March 21, 2017, the motion carried, on division, and a purported question of privilege was immediately raised following the recorded vote, arguing that the passage of the motion interfered with a Member’s freedom of speech. On April 3, 2017, Speaker Robert Wanner ruled that there was no prima facie question of privilege following which Mr. McIver made an official apology to the Assembly and paid the $500 fine.
The Select Special Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner Search Committee reported to the Assembly on May 25, 2017, and recommended that Marianne Ryan be appointed as Alberta’s ninth Ombudsman and second Public Interest Commissioner. Ms. Ryan had a distinguished 35-year career in policing and most recently served as the Commanding Officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta. Ms. Ryan was sworn-in on July 4, 2017, and is Alberta’s first female Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner.
On June 1, 2017, the Select Special Auditor General Search Committee was struck. The mandate of this committee is to invite applications for the position of Auditor General and to recommend to the Assembly the applicant it considers most suitable to this position.
On June 21, 2017, the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices issued its report on its review of the Child and Youth Advocate Act. The report includes nine recommendations related to the mandate and work of the Advocate.
Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC)
On October 31, 2016, a five-member EBC was appointed in accordance with legislation requiring the regular review of the existing boundaries and names of the province’s 87 electoral divisions.
On May 25, 2017, the EBC, chaired by Justice Myra Bielby of the Alberta Court of Appeal, submitted its Interim Report to Speaker Wanner, who then tabled the report in the Assembly. In its Interim Report the EBC recommends that three new “urban” ridings be established: one in Edmonton, one in Calgary, and one just outside of Calgary near Airdrie. Correspondingly, the Report also recommends reducing the total number of rural constituencies by three through adjusting the existing electoral boundaries in areas northeast and southwest of Edmonton, and in the southeast region of the province.
As part of the consultations conducted for the final report the public was invited to submit written feedback online by July 16, 2017, and public hearings were scheduled to be held around the province in the latter part of July. The EBC must release its final report by October 31, 2017.
2nd Session of the 41st Legislature – Spring Sitting
The Second Session of the 41st Legislature resumed on March 1, 2017, with the House sitting until June 1 to complete consideration of Specified Bills. In the same period, the House completed the Budget debate and began consideration of departmental estimates.
Several Bills received Royal Assent on June 1st, including:
- Bill 9 – The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, which expands the mandate of the Children’s Advocate of Manitoba;
- Bill 18 – The Legislative Security Act, to address security matters within the legislative precinct;
- Bill 19 – The Efficiency Manitoba Act, establishing Efficiency Manitoba Inc. with a mandate to achieve electrical energy savings and natural gas savings;
- Bill 21 – The Fiscal Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act, which replaces the Balanced Budget Act, repealed last year;
- Bill 25 – The Cannabis Harm Prevention Act, amending several acts to address health or safety concerns that will arise when cannabis consumption is no longer illegal, and to close any legislative gaps that might be created when cannabis is no longer considered an illegal drug;
- Bill 29 – The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act, which establishes a fixed number of bargaining units for each health region and for each province-wide health employer;
- Bill 33 – The Minimum Wage Indexation Act, to provide that the minimum wage is adjusted on October 1 of each year to reflect changes in the Manitoba Consumer Price Index.
On April 11, 2017, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen delivered his second budget. Highlights of the government’s budget included:
- investments to Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living, including $107.5 million in new spending with targeted investments in primary health care services, cancer drugs, expanded dialysis treatment, mental health services and reduced ambulance fees;
- investments in Manitoba Families, increasing its budget and improving the supply and quality of affordable housing, addressing wait lists for child care spaces, providing appropriate support for Employment Income and Rental Assistance programming clients and protecting the Primary Caregiver Tax Credit;
- funding boost to Manitoba Education and Training with an overall increase of $36 million, including measures that will focus on reducing barriers to post-secondary education for low-income students;
- increase of $12 million to Manitoba Justice including commitments to innovative approaches to the backlogs of the province’s justice system;
- an overall strategic infrastructure investment forecast to reach over $1.7 billion in 2017/18;
- indexing personal income tax brackets and the basic personal exemption;
- removing regulatory burdens for businesses, non-profits, local government and residents and reducing red tape for municipalities and third party proponents;
- a focus on community partnerships that will enable marketing northern Manitoba as a place to visit, to invest in and to live, and which will engage indigenous communities in economic development.
During her contribution to the budget debate on April 12, Interim Official Opposition Leader Flor Marcelino moved a motion expressing non-confidence in the government, stating that the budget neglected the priorities of Manitobans, ignored the needs of families and seniors, and failed to present a clear, strategic and inclusive vision for the future of Manitoba by, among others:
- failing to protect front-line services and making deep cuts to services;
- cutting the health infrastructure budget by 20 per cent after cancelling $1 billion in health projects;
- refusing to raise the minimum wage for a second year;
- raising post-secondary tuition fees by up to 7 per cent and deregulating course fees;
- failing to present any kind of strategy for training and long-term job creation in Manitoba;
- making almost no investment for northern Manitoba with a long-term strategy to grow the North’s economy;
- failing to provide any real strategy to combat climate change.
On the same day, Independent Member and Interim Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party Judy Klassen (Kewatinook) moved a sub-amendment, stating that the budget failed, among others, to:
- address the most vulnerable by not increasing employment income assistance amounts;
- develop a duty to consult framework for indigenous communities;
- protect the environment by cutting funding to the Clean Environment Commission, water science and watershed management;
- invest in the promotion of practical homeownership opportunities for indigenous families;
- uphold the Jordan’s Principle resolution, as unanimously voted by this House, by cutting the funding to indigenous health, and Intergovernmental Strategic Relations.
On April 20, the sub-amendment was defeated on a recorded vote of yeas 15, nays 39. Subsequently, Ms. Marcelino’s amendment was defeated on a recorded vote of yeas 16, nays 39, while the main budget motion carried on a recorded vote of yeas 39, nays 16.
Committee of Supply
The Committee of Supply began consideration of the Estimates of the Departmental Expenditures on April 25. As of June 1, only resolutions to approve departmental spending for two departments were passed, with the remaining departments to be completed in the fall together with the remaining steps for the passage of the budget.
However, before the House rose for the summer, the Committee of Supply considered and passed supply resolutions dealing with temporary funding for operating and capital expenditures until the main supply bills are completed later this session. The House also dealt with passing all stages of a second Interim Supply bill. As a result, Bill 19 – The Interim Appropriation Act, 2017 (2) received Royal Assent on June 1, 2017.
Since the last submission, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts met on two occasions to consider several Auditor General’s Reports covering issues relating to the departments of Health Seniors and Active Living, as well as Infrastructure and Families.
In a very busy spring for committees, the Standing Committees on Social and Economic Development, Legislative Affairs, Private Bills, and Justice held a total of 18 meetings, hearing public presentations on legislation and completing consideration of clause-by clause of many bills. In particular, the Legislative Affairs committee met in two occasions for a total of 12 hours debating Bill 19 – The Efficiency Manitoba Act.
On May 29, the House welcomed its new Sergeant-at-Arms. Dave Shuttleworth is the first full-time holder of this position in the history of the Manitoba Legislature and a member of the Manitoba Metis community, making him the first indigenous Sergeant-at-Arms in the 146-year history of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
Sergeant Shuttleworth is a 30-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where he rose to the rank of inspector. His extensive policing career included postings in Nunavut, Labrador, Ottawa and Saskatchewan as well as various detachments across Manitoba
Member Sitting as an Independent
MLA Steven Fletcher (Assiniboia) was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus on June 30. In accordance with section 52.3.1 of The Legislative Assembly Act, a member who is elected with the endorsement of a political party and ceases to belong to the caucus of that party during the term for which he or she was elected must sit in the Assembly as an independent for the remainder of the term.
Our Chamber is currently undergoing extensive renovations to enhance accessibility. In order to achieve this goal, the floor of the chamber will be raised and a ramp installed. Constructions began immediately after the House rose on June 1 and will continue until the beginning of October. As a result of the renovations, the Chamber, Public Galleries and Press Gallery will remain inaccessible during the summer months while the work proceeds. Enlarged, colour photos of the Chamber will be on display in the Rotunda for the benefit of visitors while the construction is taking place.
By-Election and Current Party Standings
As a result of the by-election held on June 13, 2017, New Democratic Party candidate Bernadette Smith became the newly elected member for the Winnipeg constituency of Point Douglas. She will be officially introduced when the House resumes sitting in October.
Ms. Smith is the co-founder of the Manitoba Coalition of Families of Missing and Murdered Women in Manitoba (CFMMWM) and the Drag the Red Initiative and for years organized the annual No Stone Unturned Concert for Missing and Murdered Women in Manitoba. In 2016, she was appointed to the Order of Manitoba in recognition of her work for Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous girls and women.
The current party standings in the Manitoba Legislature are: Progressive Conservatives 39, NDP 13, with five Independent members.
Clerk Assistant/Clerk of Committees
Prince Edward Island
Second Session, Sixty-fifth General Assembly
The Second Session of the Sixty-fifth General Assembly resumed on April 4, 2017 and adjourned to the call of the Speaker on May 12, 2017 after 22 sitting days.
During the spring sitting, Government tabled a total of 15 bills, 14 of which proceeded through all stages and received Royal Assent. Bill No. 76, Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act had been introduced and read a first time as of the May 12 adjournment. Notable among legislation which received Assent were three amending bills intended to provide alternative dispute resolution capabilities in family law cases involving family separation and the need to ensure protection of the best interests of children. Through these measures the positions of Children’s Lawyer and Parenting Coordinator were established in the Family Law Centre of the Department of Justice and Public Safety.
Three private members’ bills were introduced during the spring sitting. Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker tabled Private Member’s Bill No. 103, Election Age Act, on April 6. This bill would amend the Election Act to lower the voting age to 16 from 18 years of age and also amend the Legislative Assembly Act to lower the age of eligibility to serve as a member to 16 from 18. The bill passed second reading, but was not recommended by committee.
Leader of the Opposition Jamie Fox introduced Bill No. 104, An Act to Amend the Highway Traffic Act (No. 4) on May 4, 2017. The bill amends the Highway Traffic Act to require motorcyclists to remove helmets and face coverings when requested to do so by a peace officer, after coming to a safe stop. The bill was amended in committee, but passed all reading stages and received Royal Assent on May 12, 2017.
The third private member’s bill introduced during the spring sitting was Bill No. 105, Reward Points Protection Act, promoted by Chris Palmer, MLA for District 21: Summerside – Wilmot. This bill would prohibit suppliers from entering into or amending a reward agreement to provide for the expiry of reward points due to the passage of time alone. Bill 105 was introduced and read a first time on April 27, 2017.
Electoral Boundaries Commission
A five-person Electoral Boundaries Commission was established pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Act in December 2016, in order to review the provincial electoral districts and make a report, complete with recommendations, to the Legislative Assembly. In coming to its recommendations, the Commission considered enumeration data from the last general election, population patterns, communities of interest, existing polling divisions, municipal boundaries, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and other factors. The Commission also sought public input and held public meetings during the winter. Its report was tabled on May 9, 2017. The main conclusion was that all districts except Evangeline – Miscouche should be adjusted in order to have a variance of less than 10 per cent from the provincial average number of electors (3,700) within their boundaries. Currently, variances as great as 43.79 per cent and -28.25 per cent above and below average, respectively, exist among PEI’s 27 electoral districts. In the case of Evangeline – Miscouche, a greater variance was considered justified by the need to protect Acadian language, culture and tradition in the province. The Commission proposed new district boundaries, as well as new names for some districts. The report can be viewed at http://www.assembly.pe.ca/docs/2017-electoral-boundaries-report.pdf. Subsequent to the tabling of the Commission’s report, the Assembly unanimously carried a motion to approve the report, and a bill to amend the Electoral Boundaries Act was passed to enact the Commission’s recommendations. The changes will take effect in the next general election.
On April 11, Speaker Francis (Buck) Watts ruled on a Point of Privilege raised by Leader of the Opposition Jamie Fox on April 7. Mr. Fox asserted that Premier Wade MacLauchlanoffered information to the House on April 6, 2017, concerning the decision to provide policing services at a public meeting of the Public Schools Board of April 3, 2017, which differed from information given to the media by the government. Speaker Watts found that the matter was raised at first opportunity, but that Mr. Fox did not offer specific information or detail to substantiate this claim, nor did he indicate which individual or collective privileges had been offended. Thus the Speaker found that the matter did not constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.
Retirement of Sergeant-at-Arms and Director of Security
May 12 marked, most likely, the final day in the Chamber for Warrant Officer Al J. McDonald, Sergeant-at-Arms and Director of Security. Mr. McDonald is set to retire in September after 22 years working in a security capacity at the Legislative Assembly, and 10 years as Sergeant-at-Arms and Director of Security. Prior to his role at the legislature, Mr. McDonald had a distinguished career in the military. Many MLAs rose to recognize Mr. McDonald for his dedication in implementing and enforcing security measures at the Assembly through the years.
Changes at Elections PEI
On the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Legislative Management, the Legislative Assembly appointed Stephanie Roberts as Deputy Chief Electoral Officer on April 26. This followed the retirement of Judy Richard from the position effective April 19.
Gary McLeod resigned as Chief Electoral Officer for Prince Edward Island, effective June 1, 2017.
Mr. McLeod had served as Chief Electoral Officer since January 2013. Speaker Watts thanked Mr. McLeod for his service to Prince Edward Islanders and wished him all the best in his future endeavours. Marian Johnston, Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees for the Legislative Assembly, has accepted the designation as Chief Electoral Officer (Acting) from the Standing Committee on Legislative Management. A new permanent Chief Electoral Officer will be appointed by the Legislative Assembly in due course.
Clerk Assistant – Research, Committees & Visitor Services
A Writ of Election, dated June 1, 2017, was issued for the Electoral District of Sault Ste. Marie to address a vacancy that occurred following the resignation of Liberal MPP David Orazietti. Ross Romano, the Progressive Conservative candidate, was returned as duly elected and subsequently took the Oath and subscribed to the Roll on June 23, 2017.
On May 29, 2017, there was a change in the distribution of seats in the House after Jack MacLaren (MPP for Carleton-Mississippi Mills) ceased to be a member of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. He now sits as an Independent Member and consequently was removed from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills as per Standing Order 113(a) which requires that membership of Committees be in proportion to the representation of the recognized Parties in the House. His re-appointment as an Independent member to a committee is pending.
Question of Privilege
On March 20, 2017, Jim Wilson (MPP for Simcoe-Grey) rose on a question of privilege concerning government advertising on electricity pricing. The Member for Simcoe-Grey alleged that advertisements or announcements in various forms were issued by the government which alluded to future price cuts and changes to the electricity sector. The Member argued that this constituted a prima facie case of contempt in that the items provided to Speaker Dave Levac presumed and predicted the outcome of a decision of the House before first implementing the legislative changes required to give effect to these pledges.
On March 23, 2017, the Speaker concluded that while the message conveyed to the reader or listener of the various communications were definitive – that a reduction in electricity prices would occur; it did not constitute a prima facie breach of privilege. The Speaker ruled that to find a prima facie case of contempt in these communications given their definitive, unconditional language, would require the Speaker to conduct legal analysis of the legislative framework necessary to produce the results alluded to in the ads and other items. Precedent dictates that it is not for the Speaker to undertake legal analysis, make legal findings or attempt to interpret the law. The Speaker therefore ruled that it was beyond the purview of the Speaker to determine whether or not the Assembly had a necessary role in the implementation of measures required to bring about the promised changes to the electricity sector.
Following the subsequent introduction of Bill 132, Fair Hydro Act, 2017, on May 15, 2017, Steve Clark (MPP for Leeds–Grenville) renewed the question of privilege previously raised on March 20. Referencing the Speaker’s March 23rd ruling, Mr. Clark alleged that advertisements released by the government relating to changes to the electricity sector, combined with the introduction of Bill 132, constituted a prima facie case of contempt by the Minister of Energy given that they presumed a timeline and outcome of a bill currently before the House.
On May 18, 2017, the Speaker delivered his ruling and in doing so made reference to the question of privilege originally raised by Jim Wilson (MPP for Simcoe-Grey). In his earlier ruling, the Speaker found that a prima facie case of contempt had not been made out largely due to the fact that to do so would have required the Speaker to conduct some sort of a legal analysis of the legislative framework necessary to produce the results alluded to in the ads and other items. The Speaker found this to be as true in the present case as had been in March. He concluded that it was beyond the scope of the Speaker’s interpretive powers to determine whether or not the specific piece of legislation before the House, Bill 132, was the sole mechanism available to the Government of Ontario to implement its policy agenda. The Speaker found that the government messaging around Bill 132 was conditional in nature and explicitly recognized the need for the Bill to first pass in the Legislative Assembly. The Speaker therefore concluded that a prima facie case of contempt had not been established.
On April 27, 2017, Finance Minister Charles Sousa presented Ontario’s 2017 Budget, which on May 16, 2017, carried on the following division: 53 to 39.
During this period, the House expressed its condolences on the passing of former Members Ken Black, Member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, September 10, 1987 – September 5, 1990 and Stephen David Owens, Member for Scarborough Centre, September 6, 1990 – June 7, 1995.
Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs met in May to consider Bill 127, Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017. Following one day of public hearings on May 15, 2017, and one day of clause-by-clause consideration on May 16, 2017, the Committee reported the Bill back to the House with certain amendments. Once reported back, the Bill was immediately ordered for Third Reading pursuant to an Order of the House. After debate, the Bill passed Third Reading and received Royal Assent on May 17, 2017.
The Committee is currently considering Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. Among other initiatives, the legislation would raise the provincial minimum wage; and mandate equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees. The Committee intends to hold public hearings on the bill across Ontario this July, with clause-by-clause consideration scheduled for August.
Standing Committee on General Government
During the period May-July 2017, the Standing Committee on General Government spent three meetings on clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 65, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act in respect of speed limits in municipalities. Bill 65, which had two days of public hearings in April, sought to address the ability of municipalities to set speed limits within their borders. It aimed to designate by-law areas where speed limits of less than 50 kilometers per hour can be imposed; and to use automated speed enforcement systems and red light camera systems in community safety zones where the speed limit is below 80 kilometers per hour, and in school zones. The bill was reported to the House, as amended on May 9, and received Royal Assent on May 30, 2017.
The Committee next considered two Government bills: Bill 124, An Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and Bill 114, An Act to provide for Anti-Racism Measures. Both bills were time allocated to assure their passage through the Legislature before the summer adjournment, and received Royal Assent on May 30 and June 1, 2017, respectively.
By way of amendments to the 2006 legislation, Bill 124 proposed, inter alia, to repeal exemptions to rent control rules, expanding rent control to all private rental units, including those occupied on or after November 1, 1991; to introduce new obligations on landlords requiring possession of an occupied rental unit for their own use, such as requiring the landlord to compensate the tenant; and to remove landlords’ ability to apply for above-guideline rent increases for increases to municipal taxes or utility costs. The Committee held two days of public hearings, receiving submissions from both landlord and tenant groups. The bill was reported to the House, as amended, on May 17, 2017.
Bill 114 provided for various anti-racism measures, such as requiring the Government of Ontario to maintain an anti-racism strategy, reviewable every five years; requiring the Minister to establish data standards for the collection, use and management of information to identify and monitor of systemic racism and racial disparities; and providing for the Anti-Racism Directorate to assist the Minister in carrying out duties under the bill. The bill was reported to the House, as amended, on May 30, 2017.
Standing Committee on Justice Policy
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy met to consider Bill 89, Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017. The bill seeks to repeal the Child and Family Services Act and replace it with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, as well as make minor amendments to various other acts. The Committee held a total of three days of public hearings in March and April; and four days of clause-by-clause consideration in April and May. The Committee reported the bill back to the House with amendments on May 15, 2017, where it was ordered for Third Reading.
The Committee then considered Bill 132, Fair Hydro Act, 2017. In response to the concerns surrounding energy prices in the province of Ontario, the bill seeks to make amendments to the Electricity Act, 1998, and the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998. The Committee held three days of public hearings in May and one day of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on May 29, 2017. The bill was reported back to the House with amendments on May 30, 2017, where it was then ordered for Third Reading and went on to receive Royal Assent on June 1, 2017.
Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly
In April and May 2017, the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly held four days of public hearings on Bill 87, Protecting Patients Act, 2017. The Bill set out various changes to existing laws, including the Immunization of School Pupils Act, the Laboratory and Specimen Collection Centre Licensing Act, the Ontario Drug Benefit Act, the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, and the Seniors Active Living Centres Act, 2017.
The Committee heard from 39 witnesses during public hearings and considered 120 amendments during the clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill. One amendment proposed an additional schedule modifying the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act. The amendment was initially ruled out of order as it attempted to open an Act which had not been included in the Bill, however by unanimous consent the Committee agreed to consider the amendment and subsequently adopted it. The Bill was reported back to the House, as amended, on May 18, 2017.
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
In May, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts tabled two reports: Public Accounts of the Province (Chapter 2, 2015 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario); and Long-Term-Care Home Quality Inspection Program (Section 3.09, 2015 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario).
Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills
Between the months of February and June, the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills met to consider multiple private bills, 12 of which received Royal Assent on June 1, 2017.
Standing Committee on Social Policy
The Standing Committee on Social Policy met throughout the month of May to consider two Government bills. The first, Bill 68, An Act to amend various Acts in relation to municipalities, sought to amend the Municipal Act, 2001, the City of Toronto Act, 2006, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act as well as several others. After three days of public hearings, followed by four days of clause-by-clause consideration, the bill went on to receive Royal Assent on May 30, 2017.
The Committee then considered Bill 96, Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2017. The bill consists of two parts. The first, proclaims February 22 in each year as Human Trafficking Awareness Day while the second part sets out to define human trafficking while also establishing a process for obtaining restraining orders in the human trafficking context and implementing a tort of human trafficking requiring no proof of damage.
The third session of the 58th Legislative Assembly opened on November 2, 2016, and adjourned on May 5, 2017, sitting a total of 47 days. As in recent sessions, bills and estimates were referred to separate standing committees, which often met during weeks the House was adjourned. During the session, the Standing Committee on Economic Policy, chaired by Gilles LePage, held 26 meetings to consider various government bills, while the Standing Committee on Estimates and Fiscal Policy, chaired by Bernard LeBlanc, held 13 meetings to consider departmental estimates.
During the session, 59 bills received Royal Assent. Bills introduced near the end of the session that were of particular interest included the following:
Bill 56, An Act to Amend the Political Process Financing Act, introduced by Deputy Government House Leader and Minister of Health Victor Boudreau, lowered the political contribution limit from $6,000 to $3,000 and changed the formula for public financing to political parties to give greater weight to votes received by female candidates. The bill was subsequently amended to prohibit political contributions from corporations and trade unions;
Bill 67, An Act Respecting Family Day, introduced by Premier Brian Gallant, designated the third Monday in February, starting in 2018, as Family Day, which will be a paid public holiday and a prescribed day of rest.
On May 4, the Legislature passed a resolution introduced by Bruce Fitch, seconded by Official Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs, which recognized annually the third Saturday in September as Becca Schofield Day. Ms. Schofield, a 17-year-old from Riverview, New Brunswick, diagnosed with terminal cancer, created Becca’s bucket list to persuade people to perform random acts of kindness and post it on her Facebook page Becca’s battle with Butterscotch or tweet it under the hashtag #beccatoldmeto, which resulted in hundreds of people posting about their good deeds in honour of Becca.
Select Committee on Cannabis
On April 28, the House appointed a Select Committee on Cannabis, chaired by Benoît Bourque, to conduct public consultations on the legalization of recreational cannabis in New Brunswick. On June 21, the Report of the New Brunswick Working Group on the Legalization of Cannabis was filed with the Office of the Clerk and referred to the committee. The purpose of the report was to inform New Brunswickers about the challenges and opportunities brought on by the legalization of recreational cannabis and to propose a model for what a legal cannabis industry could look like in New Brunswick. The committee is expected to begin the public consultation process in the summer, with the intent of releasing a final report in September.
A joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Trevor Holder, and the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations, chaired by Bertrand LeBlanc, was held on June 20. The committees considered Auditor General Kim MacPherson’s report entitled Report of the Auditor General of New Brunswick 2017 Volume I, Performance Audit. It detailed the Auditor General’s findings on an advisory services contract in the Department of Social Development and on government’s progress in addressing its commitments to climate change initiatives.
In celebration of Canada 150, the first showing of a high-tech, multimedia presentation was projected upon the front exterior of the Legislative Assembly building on June 21 and continued throughout the summer. The 30 minute presentation, entitled MALA, which means “where I’m from” in Mi’kmaq, highlighted New Brunswick’s history through stories of key people and events.
The presentation showcased major cultural events, partners, characters and stories from New Brunswick’s history, focusing on the cultural diversity of First Nations, Anglophones, Francophones and immigrants.
Inspection of Guard
On July 1, Canada Day, Speaker Chris Collins was invited to inspect the City of Fredericton Ceremonial Guard on the grounds of the Legislature. This was an initiative of the City of Fredericton and coincided with the commencement of weekend tours of the Legislative Assembly building during the summer tourist season.
Resumption of Sitting and Standings
The Legislature is expected to resume sitting on October 24. The standings in the House are 26 Liberals, 22 Progressive Conservatives, and 1 Green.
Assistant Clerk and Clerk of Committees
Hearings before the Law Amendments Committee
Bill # 59, An Act Respecting Accessibility, was introduced during the Fall 2016 sitting of the House of Assembly. In contrast to other Bills before the Committee, Bill # 59 was not reported back to the House during the Fall sitting but remained on the agenda of the Law Amendments Committee when the House rose on November 10, 2016. This was unusual as bills introduced during a sitting are usually passed by the House during the same sitting.
Bill # 59 generated a great deal of interest and the extensive hearings resulted in major amendments being made to the Bill. Hearings were held by the Committee when the House was not sitting. This is also an unusual practice for our House of Assembly. For the first time our Legislative TV live-streamed the committee hearings and meetings on a YouTube channel and on the Legislature’s website. We also had closed captioning and sign language interpreters present during all the hearings and deliberations. Some presentations were made via video feed from other parts of the province. Meetings were scheduled well in advance and this facilitated the participation of many persons. This was noteworthy as the committee has not traditionally given “advance” notice of hearings to the public nor broadcast the hearings to the public in the recent past.
This Bill caused the Committee to make its hearings and deliberations “accessible” to a larger audience and this change in process was viewed as a major step forward by many. It will be interesting to see whether the Committee will alter its processes for further hearings on bills referred to it for study.
Spring sitting of the House
On March 23, 2017, the Speaker issued a notice advising that the 3rd session of the 62nd General Assembly would resume at 1pm on April 25 and the Government advised that the budget speech would be delivered in the House of Assembly on April 27, 2017.
Bill # 59 was reported back to the House on the first sitting day and the House gave unanimous consent to the Bill being referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills the same day.
The House sat for four days: April 25, 26, 27 and 28. During that time two Government bills and 10 Private Member bills were introduced, Bill # 59 was passed by the House, the Budget address was given on April 27, opposition party responses were completed and the estimates were referred to the Committee of the Whole on Supply on April 28.
On April 30, the House was dissolved and the writs of elections were issued with an election date of May 30, 2017.
General Election – May 30, 2017
The Liberal party was returned as the governing party for a second mandate and the seat distribution is as follows: 27 Liberal, 17 Progressive Conservatives and seven New Democrats. The gender distribution of the 51-member House is 34 male MLAs (20 Liberal, 12 PC and 2 NDP) and 17 female MLAs (7 Liberal, 5 PC and 5 NDP). There are 13 new MLAs and that number represents 25.5 per cent of the MLAs in the House.
On June 15, 2017 the Cabinet was sworn into office. There are 17 cabinet ministers. The 14 re-elected members who were cabinet ministers at the time the election was called were returned to cabinet but to different portfolios. Three new members were added as cabinet ministers. There are 5 women in the cabinet representing 30 per cent of the cabinet.
The members were sworn in on June 16, 2017.
Election of Speaker
On June 16, 2017, the House sat for the limited purpose of electing a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. Kevin Murphy was elected Speaker for a second term. Chuck Porter, MLA for Hants West, was elected as the Deputy Speaker.
On June 28, 2017, Arthur J. LeBlanc was installed as Nova Scotia’s 33rd Lieutenant Governor. At the time of his appointment His Honour was a justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. He is the first Acadian to occupy this position.
Annette M. Boucher
The spring sitting concluded on May 18, 2017. The first session of the 28th Legislature was unusually long because of the election that was held in April 2016. It is anticipated that regular sitting periods under the calendar will resume on October 25, 2017 when the second session will commence. The Assembly sat 91 days, passed two budgets, and 69 government bills received Royal Assent in the first session.
Member Returns to Caucus
Don McMorris, Member for Indian Head-Milestone, returned to the Saskatchewan Party caucus on March 6, 2017. He resigned from cabinet and caucus in August 2016.
Leader of the Opposition
Trent Wotherspoon, the Member from Regina Rosemont, who served as the interim leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party (NDP) and Leader of the Opposition since April 2016, stepped down from both positions on June 13, 2017 to consider running for the party leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP. On June 20, 2017, Nicole Sarauer, the Member from Regina Douglas Park, was elected as the new interim party leader and appointed Leader of the Opposition by her caucus. She is the first female leader of the Saskatchewan NDP. The Saskatchewan NDP leadership convention is expected to take place in May 2018.
Resignation of Member
Jennifer Campeau, the Member from Saskatoon Fairview, resigned June 26, 2017. Pursuant to section 46 of The Legislative Assembly Act, 2007, a by-election to fill a vacancy in the Legislative Assembly must be held within six months after a seat in the Assembly becomes vacant. A date for the by-election has yet to be announced.
As a result of one member returning to caucus and one member resigning, the composition of the Assembly is now 49 Saskatchewan Party members, 11 New Democratic Party members, and one vacancy.
In the Chamber
This quarter was extremely busy in the Senate. Eighteen bills received Royal Assent during this period, while Bill S-5, the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, and six Senate Public Bills were read a third time and sent to the House of Commons for study, with a response still pending.
Especially noteworthy was the increase in the number of messages exchanged between the houses concerning amendments to bills. A total of nine bills were involved in such exchanges during this quarter. In five cases, all involving government legislation, the House of Commons either disagreed with the Senate amendments, or accepted certain amendments – sometimes with changes – and disagreed with others. In all these cases the Senate did not insist on its changes, agreeing with the amendments made by the Commons. The reply to the message from the House of Commons on Bill C-44 did, however, note “that the Senate confirms its privileges, immunities and powers as provided under the Constitution to amend legislation, whatever its nature or source”. In three cases, relating to non-government bills, the originating house agreed to the other house’s amendments. As for the last case, the message from the Commons with amendments to Bill S-3, which amends the Indian Act to address sex-based inequities in registration, the item was still on the Orders of the Day for consideration by the Senate as of the writing of this summary.
On June 14, 2017, the Senate adopted a motion authorizing its Clerk, Charles Robert, to appear before a committee of the House of Commons with regards to his nomination as Clerk of that house. His nomination was subsequently confirmed and took effect on July 10, 2017.
The Speaker dealt with several points of order this period. Two rulings were particularly significant.
On April 13 the Speaker ruled on the receivability of an amendment to Bill C-6, amending the Citizenship Act. After providing background on the issues of principle and relevancy, and how they related to the bill, his ruling was that the amendment was in order and that debate could continue. In reaching his decision the Speaker noted that the Senate is a debating chamber and, unless an amendment is clearly out of order, debate should normally be allowed to continue.
On June 14, 2017, a senator moved a motion of instruction proposing that the National Finance Committee divide Bill C-44, a budget implementation act. The acceptability of this motion was immediately challenged by the Government Representative in the Senate, on the basis that appropriations bills cannot be initiated in the Senate as they require a Royal Recommendation.
The next day, the Speaker began his ruling by noting that, by adopting the fifth report of the Rules Committee dealing with the division of bills in late May, the Senate had confirmed that a process does exist to divide bills in certain circumstances. He then reviewed past cases where division had been attempted. In 1988, a similar motion had been ruled out of order because of issues surrounding the Royal Recommendation, but that decision was overturned. The Commons did not accept the division of the bill, and the Senate did not insist. In 2002, a motion to divide another bill was not challenged and the House of Commons accepted the proposal.
The Speaker then turned to the specific case of Bill C-44. Given the nature of the bill and the proposed division, the Speaker concluded that the adoption of such a motion could effectively lead to two bills, each requiring a Royal Recommendation, originating in the Senate, which is not permissible. As such, the motion was ruled out of order. The Speaker’s ruling was then appealed and overturned. The actual motion empowering the committee to divide the bill was eventually defeated, at a later sitting, on a tie vote.
Nineteen committee reports were presented or tabled during this period. In addition, 38 reports were adopted by the Senate, some with motions requesting government responses. A few of those reports are notable for their effects on the Rules of the Senate and the Senate Administrative Rules (SARs).
In April, the Rules Committee reported on a case of privilege relating to leaks of the Auditor General’s report on the audit of Senators’ expenses. The extensive report made several recommendations aimed at ensuring more confidential management of information within the Senate and the development of policies on cases when sanctions can be applied to third parties for breaches of confidentiality. The report also recommended amending the Rules of the Senate to provide for a definition of “in camera”. This report was subsequently adopted by the Senate.
The Rules Committee also continued to study various topics relating to work undertaken by the Special Committee on Senate Modernization. In May, the Rules Committee presented its seventh report, recommending changes to the Rules so that they better reflect the evolving situation in the Senate. Definitions of “recognized parliamentary group” and “facilitator of a recognized parliamentary group” were added, while other provisions in the Rules were amended to provide a role for such groups and facilitators in the workings of the Senate. The Rules Committee also presented its eighth report in May, recommending that proportionality between the parties and groups be taken into account when determining the membership of the Committee of Selection. Both these reports were adopted.
The adoption of the Internal Economy Committee’s twelfth report ushered in a new version of the SARs, which will come into effect in November 2017. The adoption of the same committee’s fifteenth and sixteenth reports amended the current and the new versions of the SARs to reflect the separate decisions recommended by the Rules Committee respecting recognized parliamentary groups.
On May 2, 2017, the Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators presented its second report. This report recommended the expulsion of Senator Don Meredith for breaches of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. The senator subsequently resigned from the Senate on May 10, and the motion to adopt the report was discharged from the Orders of the Day.
Since our last report, Senator Stephen Greene left the Conservative caucus to sit as an independent senator.
The Second Session of the 34th Legislative Assembly commenced at 3:00 pm on April 20 and adjourned on June 13, after 30 sitting days.
During the course of the 2017 Spring Sitting, six government bills were assented to by Yukon Commissioner Doug Phillips:
- Bill No. 2, National Aboriginal Day Act
- Bill No. 3, Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017
- Bill No. 4, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act (2017)
- Bill No. 5, Act to Amend the Human Rights Act and the Vital Statistics Act (2017)
- Bill No. 200, Second Appropriation Act, 2016-17
- Bill No. 201, First Appropriation Act, 2017-18
On April 27, Premier and Minister of Finance Sandy Silver moved first reading of Bill No. 201, First Appropriation Act, 2017-18. The same day, as is customary, Premier Silver moved second reading of the bill and delivered his (first ever) budget address. The Assembly’s approval was being sought to appropriate $1.439 billion, the largest amount in the territory’s history.
Financial Advisory Panel
An April 27 government news release noted that an independent Yukon Financial Advisory Panel “comprised of five territorial and Canadian business, management and academic leaders” had been struck to look at financial options for the territory. It further indicated that from June to September the panel would speak to Yukoners, First Nations governments, municipal governments and others, that the panel would present its findings and proposed recommendations by the end of 2017, and that the government would deliver a response to the panel’s report.
National Aboriginal Day Act
The first bill passed by the House in the 34th Legislative Assembly was Bill No. 2, National Aboriginal Day Act, which established June 21 as a general holiday in Yukon. In his lead-off speech on April 25 at second reading, Minister of Community Services John Streicker thanked former NDP MLA Kevin Barr, Mr. Streicker’s predecessor in the riding of Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes, for his contributions (in December 2015, the former MLA had moved a non-binding motion — that was adopted, as amended — urging the establishment of National Aboriginal Day as a statutory holiday). On May 8, 2017, Bill No. 2 was reported from Committee of the Whole, given third reading, and assented to.
Amendments to the Human Rights Act and the Vital Statistics Act
On the final day of the Sitting, Bill No. 5, Act to Amend the Human Rights Act and the Vital Statistics Act (2017), standing in the name of Pauline Frost, Minister of Health and Social Services, passed third reading, and was assented to by the Commissioner. Bill No. 5’s explanatory note states that the bill amends the Human Rights Act by “add[ing] gender expression and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination.” With respect to the Vital Statistics Act and its regulations, the bill “permit[s] a change of sex on a person’s registration of birth, whether or not the person has had sex reassignment surgery; and allow[s] for a person’s sex to be recorded as something other than male or female.”
Former Commissioner Jim Smith
On April 14, Jim Smith, the territory’s Commissioner from 1966 to 1976, passed away. In a statement released the same day, Commissioner Phillips noted, “during his tenure, Commissioner Smith was effectively the premier of the territory, acting as head of the Government of Yukon.” Commissioner Phillips further observed, “Commissioner Smith had a passionate belief that the control and management of Yukon’s land and resources and constitutional affairs should be in the hands of elected Yukoners. He laid a solid foundation for the development of responsible government and the achievement of the devolution of Yukon land and resources in 2003. All Yukoners remain forever in his debt.”
On April 24, tributes in remembrance of Mr. Smith were offered in the House by Premier Silver (on behalf of the Liberal Party caucus), by MLA and former Commissioner Geraldine Van Bibber (on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus), and by Third Party Leader Liz Hanson (on behalf of the NDP caucus).
Appearance of witnesses in Committee of the Whole
On May 18, pursuant to a motion moved by Ranj Pillai, Minister of Energy, Mines, and Resources and adopted that day, witnesses from the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation appeared before the Committee to answer questions regarding matters related to the two corporations.
Public Accounts Committee Hearings
On June 28 and 29, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts held public hearings in the Chamber on two performance audit reports that had been released by the Auditor General of Canada on March 6. The first hearing concerned the report on Yukon government transfers to societies; the second hearing was on the report on capital asset management. Auditor General of Canada Michael Ferguson appeared as a witness at both hearings. Other witnesses appeared at the hearings on government transfers to societies from the following departments: Community Services; Economic Development; Energy, Mines and Resources; Finance; and the Executive Council Office. At the hearings on capital asset management, other witnesses appeared from the departments of Highways and Public Works; Health and Social Services; and Education.
The Committee’s reports on the hearings have been released and are posted on the Legislative Assembly’s website. The reports will be tabled in the House by Official Opposition Leader Stacey Hassard, in his role as the Committee’s Chair, at the outset of the Fall Sitting.
Fall Sitting date announced
While Spring, Fall, and Special Sittings are contemplated in the Standing Orders, the Legislative Assembly does not have fixed sitting dates. The rules provide that a minimum of two weeks’ notice be provided (except in case of emergency) of the date on which the House will meet. On the final day of the Spring Sitting, the Premier announced in the House that the Fall Sitting would commence on October 3.
On May 29, 2017, at the request of Premier Philippe Couillard, the National Assembly held an extraordinary sitting to permit the introduction of Bill 142, An Act to ensure the resumption of work in the construction industry and the settlement of disputes for the renewal of the collective agreements. After some 18 sitting hours the bill was passed on the following division: Yeas 76, Nays 21, Abstentions 0.
Composition of the National Assembly
On April 27, 2017, Sam Hamad, Member of the parliamentary group forming the Government (Québec Liberal Party), announced his resignation as Member for the electoral division of Louis-Hébert.
On May 16, 2017, Gaétan Lelièvre, Member for the electoral division of Gaspé, was removed from the Parti Québécois caucus and now sits as an independent Member.
On May 29, 2017, a by-election was held in the electoral division of Gouin, which had become vacant following the resignation of Françoise David. The candidate who replaced her under the Québec Solidaire banner, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, was elected. He officially took his seat in the National Assembly at the sitting of June 6, 2017.
The composition of the National Assembly stands as follows: Québec Liberal Party, 68 Members; Parti Québécois, 28 Members; Coalition avenir Québec, 20 Members; 3 Members sitting under the Québec Solidaire banner; and 5 independent Members. One seat remains vacant.
Estimates of expenditure and passage of Appropriation Act No. 2, 2017-2018
On April 11, 2017, the debate on the budget speech ended with recorded divisions on the Government’s budgetary policy and on the motions stating a grievance moved within the framework of this debate. On May 10, 2017, after the consideration of the estimates of expenditure by the standing committees, the Assembly examined the estimates of the Assembly in Committee of the Whole. It then adopted the 2017-2018 estimates, as well as Bill 136, Appropriation Act No. 2, 2017-2018, during the same sitting.
From April to June 2017, the National Assembly passed 15 bills, five of which were private bills. Nine of these bills, including four private bills, were passed unanimously. Among the bills passed, the following should be noted:
- Bill 98, An Act to amend various legislation mainly with respect to admission to professions and the governance of the professional system;
- Bill 113, An Act to amend the Civil Code and other legislative provisions as regards adoption and the disclosure of information;
- Bill 115, An Act to combat maltreatment of seniors and other persons of full age in vulnerable situations;
- Bill 122, An Act mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers.
Special events: Celebrations of the 225th anniversary of Québec’s parliamentary institutions
On April 4, 2017, the President of the National Assembly officially launched the festivities of the 225th anniversary of Québec’s parliamentary institutions, which commemorates the holding, in 1792, of the first general election in Québec and the birth of its parliamentary institutions. The exhibition 1792. A Parliament is Born, which was created for the occasion, retraces the major debates of the Members of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada (1792-1841). This reform movement is still the basis of Québec’s parliamentary practices today.
The original volume of comic strips 1792: à main levée was also unveiled during a launching held at the Salon international du livre de Québec on April 5, 2017. This work, produced in collaboration with Québec cartoonists and a comic strip consultant, presents four key moments in the history of Québec democracy: the first elections of 1792, the language debate, Pierre-Stanislas Bédard’s political commitment and the adoption of the 92 Resolutions.
Cancellation of an Assembly sitting
Owing to major flooding that occurred in several Québec regions, and to allow Assembly Members to be present in their ridings, the parliamentarians unanimously agreed to cancel the Assembly sitting that was to be held on May 9, 2017, as well as all committee proceedings scheduled for that day. The next day, the Assembly adopted a special order to reorganize parliamentary proceedings over the two days following the cancelled sitting. The cancellation of an Assembly sitting because of extreme weather events or natural disasters is very rare, the only other case being the sitting of March 4, 1971, which was adjourned a few minutes after the sitting opened due to a snow storm.
Rulings and directives from the Chair
On April 11, 2017, the Chair gave a ruling following a request for an urgent debate on the Jordan decision’s effects on Québec’s judicial system. In this case, the request for an urgent debate did concern a specific, important matter that fell under the Assembly’s jurisdiction. However, this subject had been in the news for several months. While true that, for the first time in Québec, a person accused of murder obtained a stay of proceedings on the basis of the Jordan decision criteria, the possibility that the Supreme Court of Canada ruling could have such effects has existed since 2016, when the Court handed down its decision in the case. The Jordan decision was the source of the issue underlying the request for an urgent debate, since a stay of proceedings in a trial was not, within the meaning of parliamentary law, a sudden worsening of the situation. As a result, based on the criteria established by jurisprudence, the request for an urgent debate was declared out of order.
On April 12, 2017, the Chair ruled on the receivability of the motion to divide moved within the framework of the passage in principle of Bill 122, An Act mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers. Reading and analysis of the bill showed that various clusters of amendments proposed to municipal legislation could be grouped together and considered distinct principles contained within the bill. The motion proposed that the bill be divided in two. The Chair ruled that the sections included in the first bill proposed could be considered apart from the rest of Bill 122 and formed a coherent whole that could stand alone from the rest of the bill. Consequently, the motion met the receivability criteria stated in jurisprudence and was declared receivable.
From April to June inclusively, the standing committees held 128 public meetings totalling just over 485 hours of work, which included more than 221 hours set aside for the clause-by-clause consideration of public bills and over 42 hours for public hearings.
Work on bills
During this three-month period, special consultations were held on three bills, including Bill 137, An Act respecting the Réseau électrique métropolitain. Nine witnesses were heard and 15 briefs were received during the public hearings on this bill, whose purpose is to facilitate the construction and operation of a new shared transportation infrastructure connecting downtown Montréal, the South Shore, the West Island, the North Shore, and Montréal-Trudeau airport.
Over the same period, four private bills and 11 public bills were examined, including Bill 137, whose consideration had not been completed, after more than 26 hours, when the Assembly adjourned for the summer on June 16, 2017. The Committee on Institutions (CI) was the busiest with 79 hours set aside for the clause-by-clause consideration of bills. Among the three bills examined by the CI members, Bill 98, An Act to amend various legislation mainly with respect to admission to professions and the governance of the professional system, required 81 hours of work during 23 sittings. The Committee on Health and Social Services (CHSS) was the second busiest committee with more than 48 hours spent on the consideration of two bills: Bill 99, An Act to amend the Youth Protection Act and other provisions, and Bill 130, An Act to amend certain provisions regarding the clinical organization and management of health and social services institutions. The consideration of both these bills should resume after the summer recess.
Estimates of expenditure
As every year, the nine sector-based committees were very busy during the consideration of the 2017-2018 estimates of expenditure, namely the anticipated annual expenditures of each department for which the Government asks the Assembly’s approval. Following the 25-hour debate on the budget in the Assembly and in the Committee on Public Finance, as provided in the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, the estimates of expenditure of the 19 portfolios, divided into 54 components, were examined by each of the sectorial committees within their areas of competence. The Standing Orders stipulate that the consideration of the estimates of expenditure by the committees may not exceed 200 hours for 10 consecutive sitting days, which was achieved at the end of this exercise. With 34 hours of work, the Committee on Institutions clocked the most sitting hours during this period.
Among the six independent Members present at the time, four took part in the consideration of the estimates of expenditure. This resulted in an agreement on the participation of independent Members, valid only for the consideration of the 2017-2018 estimates. This agreement provided for the sharing of blocks of time during the examination of components on which these Members wished to speak.
Tabling of the report from the Committee on Public Administration
On June 14, 2017, the chair of the Committee on Public Administration (CPA), Sylvain Gaudreault, Member for Jonquière, tabled the Committee’s 36th report. This report highlights the observations, conclusions and recommendations made by the CPA members with regard to the eight public hearings held since February 2017, hearings that concerned nine departments and public bodies as well as the Auditor General of Québec. In accordance with the Standing Orders, the CPA must hear the Auditor General every year with respect to his annual management report. In addition to these hearings, the Committee members presented their analysis of the management reports from eight departments and public bodies. The 20th anniversary of this Committee was also underlined in the final chapter of the report, which highlights the evolution of the CPA’s mandates since its inception.
Visit to Lac-Simon
On May 17, 2017, a delegation of the Committee on Citizen Relations travelled to the Lac-Simon community, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, within the framework of the order of initiative on aboriginal women’s living conditions as affected by sexual assault and domestic violence. During this visit, the delegates, namely the chair, vice-chair and a Committee member representing each parliamentary group as well as an independent Member, had the opportunity to discuss this issue with the chief of Lac-Simon, band council members, the police chief of this community, community members as well as people working with the community. This visit allowed delegation members to better understand the environment and reality experienced by the members of this community located far from any major city and thus gather information needed to draft the final report on this mandate.
General Directorate for Parliamentary Affairs
General Directorate for Parliamentary Affairs
House of Commons
The First Session of the Forty-Second Parliament continued through the months of April, May and June 2017, with the House adjourning for the summer break on June 21, 2017. The report below covers the months of April, May, June and July 2017.
On June 14, 2017, the final supply day in the period ending June 23, 2017, the House considered motions to concur in the Main Estimates and the Supplementary Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018. The House Leader of the Official Opposition, Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar), had advised the Speaker by letter before the consideration of the estimates that she was withdrawing the 242 notices of opposition she had put on notice on June 12, 2017. Accordingly, the House did not consider her notices of opposition. Cathy McLeod(Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo), Gabriel Ste-Marie (Joliette) and Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley) had put on notices of opposition to Vote 1, under Privy Council Office — Program expenditures, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada — Program expenditures and Senate — Program expenditures and contributions. The House voted on the motion to concur in Vote 1, which was carried. Following this, as per the usual practice, the House adopted two supply bills for the Main and Supplementary Estimates.
Points of Order and Questions of Privilege
Points of Order
On May 17, 2017, Murray Rankin (Victoria) rose on a point of order concerning the nomination process for the Commissioner of Official Languages. Mr. Rankin argued that, as required by the Official Languages Act, substantive consultation was required before the appointment of the Commissioner, which he claimed, did not occur. Both Mr. Rankin and Ms. Bergen contended that the nomination process should be halted until such time as true consultations had been undertaken. On May 29, 2017, the Speaker delivered his ruling, reminding the House that the role of the Chair is strictly limited to determining procedural admissibility of the motion for the nomination of the Commissioner of Official Languages and that the Speaker cannot adjudicate on the legality of matters. As such, the Speaker indicated that he was satisfied that the procedural requirements were met.
On June 19, 2017, John Nater (Perth—Wellington) rose on a point of order regarding the appointment of the Clerk of the House of Commons. Mr. Nater contended that the Government’s motion to appoint the new Clerk of the House of Commons should be ruled out of order since the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs had not yet studied and reported back to the House on the matter. The Speaker ruled immediately, explaining that a report from the committee is not required in order to proceed with the nomination of the Clerk, and as such, he allowed the motion of nomination to proceed.
Questions of Privilege
On April 6, 2017, following the Speaker’s prima facie finding on a question of privilege raised by Lisa Raitt (Milton) regarding access to the parliamentary precinct, Ms. Raitt moved a motion to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. During the debate on the motion, Alexandra Mendès (Brossard—Saint-Lambert), moved a motion that the House do now proceed to Orders of the Day, which was later adopted. The adoption of this motion had the effect of having the privilege motion superseded and dropped from the Order Paper. The next day, Mr. Nater raised a question of privilege, in which he asked that the matter of privilege under debate on April 6, 2017, be revived. Mr. Nater alleged that the adoption of a motion to proceed to Orders of the Day when debating a privilege motion prevented the House from pronouncing itself on the merits of the question of privilege raised by Ms. Raitt. On April 11, 2017, the Speaker delivered his ruling in which he determined that it was procedurally in order to revive a matter of privilege that has been superseded. Acknowledging that the situation in which the House found itself was unprecedented, he indicated that the method proposed by Mr. Nater was a procedurally acceptable manner to revive the matter of the original question of privilege, drawing a comparison to instances where Members who wish to revive a motion to concur in a committee report, can again give the required 48 hours’ notice of the same motion and move it again in the House. The Speaker found a prima facie question of privilege and invited Mr. Nater to move the appropriate motion to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. This motion was later adopted and the matter was referred to the Committee. On June 19, 2017, the Committee presented to the House its 34th report entitled “Question of Privilege Regarding the Free Movement of Members of Parliament within the Parliamentary Precinct”.
On April 11, 2017, the Speaker ruled on a question of privilege raised by Ms. Bergen on March 23, 2017, regarding an alleged intimidation by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett (Toronto—St. Paul’s) during a recorded division. The Speaker noted that a review of the events did not show any indication that Ms. Bergen had been impeded in the performance of her duties, and accordingly, the Speaker did not find that there had been a breach of privilege.
On May 18, 2017, the Speaker delivered his ruling on the question of privilege raised by James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman) concerning the alleged discrepancies in comments made by the Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South), in the House concerning the tax credits for members of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Kuwait and Iraq on Operation Impact. The Speaker indicated that while Mr. Bezan may be in disagreement with the statements made by the Minister of National Defence, there was no evidence presented that would suggest that the three necessary conditions for finding that a Member misled the House existed in this case. Accordingly, the Speaker concluded that no prima faciecase of privilege exists in this case.
On May 4, 2017, Luc Thériault (Montcalm) rose on a question of privilege regarding the right to freedom of speech for Members from unrecognized parties. Mr. Thériault argued that the rights of independent Members had been violated as a result of the government’s approach to proposed parliamentary reforms. Mr. Thériault pointed to several factors, namely the government’s intention to increase the use of time allocation, that independent Members were made aware of the government’s intentions later than other parties, and that independent Members of Parliament are not able to sit as permanent members on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Speaker ruled on the matter on June 6, 2017, explaining that the Chair has no authority to judge the adequacy of time limits agreed upon by the House, nor decide when and if an issue has received sufficient debate. The Speaker stated that ultimately, the Standing Orders can be amended only by way of a decision of the House. The Speaker concluded by indicating that he had not found a prima facie question of privilege.
On May 10, 2017, Mr. Rankin rose on a question of privilege alleging that a breach of privilege had occurred due to the government’s decision to advertise the appointment process for the board of directors of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank, before Parliament passed the enabling legislation. Mr. Rankin contended that the government was undermining Parliament’s authority by advertising for positions that had not yet been formally created. On May 12, 2017, Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) provided comments, drawing to the attention of Members the news release published on Infrastructure Canada’s website on May 8, 2017, where it indicated that the selection processes were subject to Parliamentary approval. On May 29, 2017, the Speaker presented his ruling and concluded that, in applying the strict procedural confines of contempt, he found that the matter raised did not constitute a prima facie contempt of the House, and accordingly, no prima facie case existed given that there was no evidence that members were obstructed in the fulfillment of their parliamentary duties nor that the House was obstructed in its legislative authority.
On May 17, 2017, Kelly Block (Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek) raised a question of privilege concerning the alleged leak and premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. Ms. Block stated that confidential information from the bill was provided to journalists before the tabling of the bill in the House on May 16, 2017. Ms. Block referenced news reports from May 15, 2017, which, in her view, indicated that journalists were granted access to parts of the bill before parliamentarians. She argued that the details contained in the media coverage demonstrate that a leak had occurred and that the government had thus breached the privileges of the House. On May 31, 2017, Mr. Lamoureux argued that while extensive consultations were held prior to the finalization of the bill, the government took great care in ensuring that the details of Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, were not prematurely divulged prior to its introduction. The Speaker gave his ruling on June 8, 2017, noting that there was no acknowledgement that the government had prematurely disclosed the contents of the bill and that the government assured the House that it did not share the bill with the media before it was introduced. The Speaker concluded by indicating that there was an absence of evidence that Members had been impeded in the conduct of their parliamentary functions and that he could not find that a prima facie case of privilege existed.
On June 2, 2017, Monique Pauzé (Repentigny) raised a question of privilege concerning an amendment moved in committee in relation to Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, and other measures. Ms. Pauzé argued that the Chair of the Standing Committee on Finance wrongly ruled that her amendment was inadmissible, stating that it required a royal recommendation and, having given notice of the same amendment at report stage, was asking the Speaker to select it at this stage. On June 5, 2017, the Speaker delivered his ruling in which he upheld the view that a royal recommendation was required for her proposed amendment. Responding to Ms. Pauzé’s argument that her status as a Member from an unrecognized party prevented her from appealing the decision of the chair in committee, the Speaker indicated that while she may not have been able to participate in precisely the same way as other Members, the process did afford her the ability to participate. The Speaker indicated that Ms. Pauzé was granted the opportunity at report stage to present her arguments as to why her amendment should have been admissible. In conclusion, the Speaker stated that that he could not find that Ms. Pauzé had been impeded in the performance of her duties and that therefore no prima facie case existed.
On June 8, 2017, Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre) raised a question of privilege on the right of Members to use indigenous languages in proceedings in the House of Commons. Mr. Ouellette stated that his privileges had been violated when simultaneous translation was not provided for a statement he made on May 4, 2017, in Nehiyo, the Cree language. He argued that the lack of simultaneous translation effectively silenced him and asked for resources to be allocated to allow for translation of indigenous languages. In a decision delivered on June 20, 2017, the Speaker stated that given the House’s current limited technical and physical capacity for interpretation, Members wishing to ensure that their comments made in a language other than French or English are understood are encouraged to repeat their comments in one of the two official languages so that the interpreters are able to provide the appropriate interpretation. The Speaker noted that the decision to change the current system in terms of interpretation services ultimately belongs to the House itself. The Speaker concluded by saying that while the current offering of interpretation may not be seen as ideal to some Members, he could not find that Mr. Ouellette had been prevented from conducting his parliamentary functions, and therefore could not find that a prima facie case of privilege existed in that instance. He also noted that Members could raise the issue with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The filibuster that began in March 2017 in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, as a result of a government proposal to study proposed reforms to modernize the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, continued during the month of April. Debate continued for numerous days during which the meeting was suspended overnight, during weekends and during constituency weeks, but not formally adjourned. On April 30, 2017, in a letter sent to the House leaders of the opposition parties, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Bardish Chagger (Waterloo), announced that the government would abandon certain proposals towards this modernization, but would move forward with proposals related to omnibus bills, the role of ministers and parliamentary secretaries on committees, prorogation, the financial cycle, as well as a Prime Minister’s Question Period. Soon after Ms. Chagger’s letter was sent, on May 2, 2017, the meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was adjourned, putting an end to the filibuster.
Changes to the Standing Orders
On June 19, 2017, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Ms. Chagger, moved a motion concerning proposed changes to the Standing Orders. The changes included changes to prorogation, omnibus bills, the financial cycle and the roles played by parliamentary secretaries in committees.The motion was adopted by the House on June 20, 2017, by a vote of 168 to 128, with the changes coming into force on September 18, 2017. These changes will be permanent, with the exception of the changes to the Financial Cycle, which will only stay in effect for the duration of the current Parliament.
Address to Parliament
On April 12, 2017, Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, co-founder of the Malala Fund and a girls’ education activist, delivered an Address to Parliament in the House of Commons. Ms. Yousafzai was welcomed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau) and thanked by the Speakers of both Houses. Ms. Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever address Parliament and the sixth person to receive honorary Canadian citizenship.
On May 3, 2017, the Speaker informed the House that the Acting Clerk had received from the Chief Electoral Officer certificates of the election of five new Members. Bob Benzen(Calgary Heritage), Mona Fortier (Ottawa—Vanier), Stephanie Kusie (Calgary Midnapore), Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent) and Mary Ng (Markham—Thornhill) were introduced and took their respective seats in the House.
On May 16, 2017, Ms. Bergen, Prime Minister Trudeau, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair (Outremont), Xavier Barsalou-Duval (Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères) and Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP), made statements in tribute to the Interim Leader of the Official Opposition, Rona Ambrose (Sturgeon River—Parkland, CPC). Ms. Ambrose, who had recently announced her plan to resign as a Member of Parliament, made a farewell speech.
Denis Lebel (Lac-Saint-Jean) announced his departure from federal politics with a speech in the House on June 20, 2017. The Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu’Appelle), the Government Whip, Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier), Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga), Mr. Barsalou-Duval, Ms. May and the Speaker also made statements to pay tribute to Mr. Lebel.
New Clerk of the House of Commons
On June 20, 2017, the House adopted a motion designating Charles Robert as Clerk of the House of Commons. Mr. Robert previously served as Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments since March 2015. His career on Parliament Hill began more than 35 years ago, with service at the Library of Parliament and House of Commons before he joined the Senate in 1991. He replaces Marc Bosc, Acting Clerk of the House since 2014.
Moment of Silence
On June 5, 2017, the House observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the attack in London and to commemorate Christine Archibald, from Castlegar, British Columbia.
Table Research Branch
Newfoundland and Labrador
The House reconvened following the Easter break on May 1.
During the Spring sitting the House passed nine Bills in addition to the Supply Bill. There were two amendments to the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Actpassed; one gave effect to the recommendations of the Members’ Compensation Review Committee which had been approved by the Commission and the other made provision for the temporary appointment of Officers of the House by the Speaker upon recommendation of the Management Commission in certain circumstances.
On May 29, the Speaker ruled that a prima facie case of privilege had been established with respect to a Member tweeting and re-tweeting a video of unparliamentary language which he had been asked to withdraw from the House. The matter was referred the Privileges and Elections Committee which will report when the House re-convenes.
On September 6, 2017, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador struck down as unconstitutional the special ballot provisions of the Elections Act, 1991 which provide for voting prior to the close of nominations.
The House is scheduled to meet for the fall sitting on November 6.
The House adjourned on May 30 sine die.