Prior to adjourning for the summer on Thursday, June 20th, the House of Commons passed a number of controversial bills including Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act and Bill C-15B, a legislative package aimed at amending the Criminal Code in relation to cruelty to animals and firearms. In both cases, time allocation was invoked by the government. In addition, the government's pesticides legislation passed in June and a new legislative package aimed at implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was introduced and sent to a legislative committee.
On June 11th the Prime Minister tabled his long-awaited ethics guidelines for members of Cabinet, following months of controversy about alleged conflict of interest on the part of several key Ministers. The ethics package, contained three documents: A Guide for Ministers and Secretaries of State; the Ministry and Crown Corporations and; the Ministry and Activities for Personal Political Purposes. The new guidelines will require cabinet ministers to reveal within 30 days the names of donors to underground leadership campaigns. As well as restricting the activities of cabinet members, the guidelines provide more independence to the federal ethics counsellor, although they do not provide for an arms' length counsellor who would report directly to Parliament. The new rules prohibit Ministers from lobbying Crown corporations and unions, and require all political donations to be reported.
In addition, the Government brought forward a motion to create A Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct to review and recommend action based on the work of a previous special joint committee. Several amendments, and a sub-amendment were moved to the main motion, and following debate and a call for a recorded division, the vote on the sub-amendment was deferred until the House returns on Wednesday, September 18th.
The annual statement of "Individual Member's Expenditures" was tabled by the Speaker in early June. A take-note debate on the review of the Canadian health care system by the Romanow Commission took place on June 7th.
New procedures related to the consideration of the Main Estimates, put place as a result of the implementation last fall of the Report of the Special committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, were put to the test this spring as the Commons held its first debates in Committee of Whole on the votes under the Main Estimates for two departments.
The debates on votes under the departments of National Defence and Public Works and Government Services were held on the evenings of May 7th and June 4th respectively. At the beginning of the first session, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole Bob Kilger made a statement concerning the rules of debate under the new procedure. At the termination of each debate, pursuant to the new rules, the Votes considered were deemed reported back the House without amendment. Pursuant to the rule changes, the Leader of the Opposition also proposed a motion, which was deemed adopted, to extend the consideration of the votes under Agriculture and Agri-Food in the Main Estimates beyond May 31, 2002.
On May 27th, on a motion by Marlene Catterall, the Chief Government Whip, amendments were made to Standing Order 104 to provide for the creation of a new sixteen-member Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The mandate of the new committee will be to review the effectiveness, management and operation as well as the expenditure plans, and supplementary estimates of central government departments and agencies. In addition the new committee will be charged with the review of the reports of the Privacy Commissioner, the Access to Information Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Ethics Counsellor (in relation to his or her responsibilities under the Lobbyists' Registration Act). Finally, the new committee is charged with reviewing and reporting on the process for considering the estimates and supply, including the format and content of all estimates documents.
On June 13th, following the Weekly Statement by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Garry Breitkreuz (CA) raised a question of privilege to charge the...