Legislative reports.

Author:Ford, Nancy
Position::Quebec, Manitoba, House of Commons, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta, Senate

On June 23 1995, the National Assembly adjourned for the summer having held 48 sittings since the resumption of the Session in March. During this period, 62 bills were passed of which 14 were private bills and 1 was a public bill introduced by a member. This private Member's public bill gave rise to a point of order.

The Chair was asked to rule on the introduction procedure with regard to this bill, because of its possible financial implications. It was decided that the bill could be introduced by a Member since it would not have a direct effect on the consolidated revenue fund if it were passed.

The Opposition having asked whether the Government would have to introduce another bill for the committal of public funds necessary to implement the measures contained in the budget speech with respect to the said bill. The Chair stated that it did not have the obligation to rule on the measures that the Government was to take with regard to this matter.

Amongst the numerous directives that were given by the Chair in recent months, a certain number of them dealt with the tabling of videocassettes in the Assembly. Regarding this matter, the Speaker, Roger Bertrand, ruled that, in the short and medium term, only written documents would be allowed to be tabled in the Assembly, since the National Assembly does not currently dispose of the necessary facilities for the proper conservation of audiovisual documents on tape and that audiovisual documents containing information can always be transcribed. He also stated that this directive in no way undermined the rights stipulated in certain Standing Orders concerning the tabling of documents deemed to be of public interest.

In answer to a question concerning the application of this directive to the standing committees, the President declared that it was up to the chairman of each committee to decide on whether the tabling of an audiovisual document was desirable and necessary so as to help the committee members in carrying out their mandate.

On another subject, the President declared in order a motion by the Chief Government Whip for the adjournment of the debate on a motion without notice which was debated during Routine Proceedings. The grounds for this decision were that contrary to a motion to adjourn the Assembly, which can only be moved during Orders of the Day, a motion to adjourn the debate can be moved immediately a debate has begun, regardless of the part of the sitting.

Several bills were on the spring session's legislative menu. Among those that were passed, a bill establishing a permanent list of electors and amending the Election Act and other legislative provisions is worthy of mention.

The purpose of this bill is to establish a permanent list of electors by means of a register of electors and a register of territories. The register of territories will comprise electoral divisions, electoral precincts and polling subdivisions and municipal and school electoral divisions. A system of updating and revision of the list has been provided for. Furthermore, clarifications have been made with regard to what constitutes an elector's domicile.

The Assembly also passed bills respecting the development of manpower training, the reorganization of the health and social services network, and the environment, to mention but a few.

In addition to this legislative business, the Members were also asked to approve the Governments budgetary policy following the budget speech, which was delivered on May 9 by the Minister of Finance, Jean Campeau.

The Governments net financial requirements announced by the Minister indicate a budgetary deficit of $3,975,000,000 this year, which is a decrease of some $2,000,000,000 compared with last year, since the budgetary expenditure should total $42,415,000,000 and revenue should reach $38,440,000,000.

In view of attaining its objective to reduce the deficit, the Government intends to tighten up on tax and income tax collection from taxpayers and businesses by increasing measures to control moonlighting in the construction industry and alcohol contraband, among other things. The budget does not add any new taxes nor does it increase the income tax burden on individuals. However, the tax on cigarettes will increase by $0.72 a carton, and the tax on capital and the contribution of businesses to the health services fund will be raised.

After having indicated his disapproval of this first budget by Minister Campeau, the Member for Montmorency, Jean Filion, announced his intention, on June 13, to sit as an independent Member.

The party standings of the National Assembly are now as follows: 76 Members of the Parti Quebecois; 47 Members of the Quebec Liberal Party; and 2 Independent Members.

Interparliamentary Relations

Two major conferences were held in Quebec this summer. The 21st session of the International Assembly of French-speaking Parliamentarians, whose chairman is the Speaker of the Quebec National Assembly, Roger Bertrand, was held in July. Some 200 participants from the 48 member Parliaments met to discuss a wide range of subjects such as: the preparation of the Francophone Summit of Cotonou, which is scheduled for the fall; democratization and long-term development; the challenges that French-speaking communities face and the information superhighway.

In August, the National Assembly was the host of the Annual Assembly of the Eastern Regional Conference. It was the first time that this organization, represented by more than 800 delegates, met outside of the United States. The theme of this meeting was "Partners across borders: pursuing regional prosperity".

Nancy Ford and Jean Bedard

National Assembly Secretariat

(Translated by Sylvia Ford)

Committee Activity

The committees were extremely busy in May and June. Their main focus was on some forty bills and the hearings these entailed. In addition, committees that had not completed consideration of their particular portion of the estimates had that on their agendas as well.

During this period a special committee was set up to hold hearings and consider in detail Bill 90, An Act to Encourage the Development of Vocational Training. The purpose of the Bill was to improve manpower qualifications and encourage employment, worker adjustment, re-employment and mobility. Struck under Standing Order 178, this committee ceased to exist as soon as it tabled its report.

The Committee on Institutions was very active. Among other things it carried out a detailed study of Bill 40, An Act to Establish a Permanent Voters' List and to amend the Quebec Elections Act and other Acts in relation thereto. The Committee's deliberations ended in a closure motion. The Committee also held hearings on administrative justice and considered Bill 79, Human rights and Youth Rights Protection Act, designed to give Quebec's Commission ties droits de la personne the powers and functions of Quebec's Commission de protection des droits de la jeunesse.

The Committee on Planning and Infrastructures considered among other things Bill 94, National Capital Commission Act. As the title indicates, the Bill is designed to create a national capital commission for Quebec City. Seven private bills involving municipalities were also considered by the Committee.

The Committee on Social Affairs considered Bill 83, An Act amending the Health Services and Social Services Act. This controversial Bill passed after the Assembly put an end to the Committee's deliberations via closure. The new legislation provides that the Minister may restrict to certain institutions the right to offer certain services. He may also modify the capacities, missions, categories or types of public institutions, or private institutions under agreement, or require an institution to shut down.

Among the activities of the Committee on the Budget and Administration was continued debate over the Throne Speech Fifteen hours is allotted for debate on this topic in the National Assembly and a maximum of ten hours in committee. The Committee also considered Bill 71, which is designed to improve relations between the Ministry of Revenue and taxpayers.

The Committee on the Economy and Labour had some unusual terms of reference. On the one hand, three private bills and on the other, a public bill sponsored by a back-bencher. This latter Bill followed up on a proposal by the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU) that...

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