Ontario

By Short, William | Canadian Parliamentary Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Ontario


Short, William, Canadian Parliamentary Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly conducted its annual review of the Ontario Legislature's television broadcast system as part of the Committee's permanent mandate. An issue raised during the review was the fact that a major satellite broadcast distributor was apparently not interested in renewing the contract for distribution of the signal which carries the Assembly's parliamentary channel (OntParl). Committee Members were concerned that, with revised channel programming affecting the OntParl signal carried by cable providers and with a decision not to renew the contract for satellite distribution of the signal, fewer members of the public would have access to the televised proceedings of the Ontario Legislative Assembly. After further discussion the Committee agreed that a letter signed by the Speaker and endorsed by the Committee should be sent to the CRTC urging that coverage of legislative proceedings in Ontario be made mandatory.

As a result of this discussion and review of the television broadcast system, Bob Delaney, who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly Committee, introduced a Private Members Notice of Motion on Thursday, October 9, 2008 which read as follows:

 
   That, in the opinion of this House, 
   the Legislative Assembly of 
   Ontario should request of the 
   Government of Canada that an 
   amendment be made to the terms 
   of reference governing the 
   Canadian Radio-television and 
   Telecommunications 
   Commission (CRTC) to ensure 
   that a condition to the CRTC's 
   granting, or renewal, of a license 
   to carry cable, wireless, wireless 
   cable or any other type of 
   television content by every 
   distributor in any market is the 
   requirement to broadcast, as part 
   of every basic package of 
   television services or channels, 
   and using a minimum of one 
   dedicated channel, the legislative 
   proceedings of the province or 
   territory in which the distributor 
   of the television content proposes 
   to offer service, as supplied to the 
   distributor by the legislative 
   broadcast service in that province 
   or territory. 

After 50 minutes of debate during Private Members' Public Business, the resolution was carried unanimously on a voice vote.

Speaker's Sub judice Ruling

A significant procedural ruling was made on Monday, October 27, 2008, when Speaker Steve Peters ruled that a notice of motion for an Opposition Day be removed from the Orders and Notices Paper as it offended the sub judice convention. The notice, standing in the name of the Leader of the Official Opposition Robert Runciman, requested that the Government call a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding an accused individual's bail release. The Speaker ruled on the applicability of the sub judice convention to a motion, and whether this specific motion offended that convention.

The Speaker ruled that although a strict interpretation of Standing Order 23(g) would limit the sub judice rule to "debate", a motion provides the context of the debate and therefore must be subject to the rules of debate. The Speaker also cited support for this interpretation in the precedents and practices of other jurisdictions.

Beyond the strict application of Ontario's sub judice Standing Order, the Speaker also examined the motion with respect to the broad parliamentary convention of sub judice.

The Speaker found that the motion:

 
   identifies--in every one of its 
   clauses--the names of individuals 
   associated with a very serious 
   incident that is "still 
   before the criminal courts. It 
   also draws conclusions on certain 
   evidence and on the actions 
   of officials involved in 
   the administration of criminal 
   justice in Ontario. 

Consequently, he ruled that the motion offended the sub judice convention in that it offered much potential for prejudice to an ongoing criminal proceeding. …

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