Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Legislative Reports

Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Legislative Reports

Article excerpt

New Brunswick

The Second Session of the Fifty-fourth Legislative Assembly prorogued on Friday, June 16, 2000, after 65 sitting days. This marked the end of the longest session since 1981 and completion of the first full session since the Progressive Conservative Party came to power in the provincial election of June 7, 1999.

The session included the first all-night sitting in memory, a protest in the Gallery which forced the temporary suspension of a sitting and, for the first time in twenty years, the order for the withdrawal of a Member from the Chamber. Members passed the Conservative government's first budget and passed legislation which resulted in a significant restructuring of government. The standing and select committees of the House remained active during the course of the session, which spanned six months.

In total, the House passed 51 Bills, the most substantial of which enabled a major government restructuring which merged departments, created new ministries, and shuffled various programs.

Bill 34, An Act to Amend the Executive Council Act, established 15 ministries, reducing the size of Cabinet significantly from that of the previous government which had 18 Ministers plus three Ministers of State, going into the 1999 election.

A major change, the amalgamation of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to form the new Department of Food Production, was the subject of intensive questioning in the House. On April 13, the Minister, Paul Robichaud (Lameque-Shippagan-Miscou) announced that the new department would be renamed the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Aquaculture to reflect the desire of the farmers, fishermen, and aquaculturists to have their traditional identities reflected in the name of the new department.

Five Bills were left to die on the Order Paper, including a Private Member's Bill introduced by the New Democratic Party Leader Elizabeth Weir (Saint John Harbour) which would have amended the Human Rights Act to make it illegal to discriminate against persons based on their social condition. The government indicated that it may consider the proposed legislation at a later date.

A Bill which would have abolished the province's minimum wage board was also not passed into law, although much time was spent debating the legislation. The government did, however, raise the provincial minimum wage by 25 cents an hour to $5.75.

A Private Member's Bill, An Act to Proclaim Holocaust Memorial Day Yom haShoah in New Brunswick, introduced by Eric MacKenzie, (Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak) received Royal Assent December 17 and designates a special day to commemorate victims of the Holocaust haShoah and to reflect on and educate about the Holocaust.

For the first time in recent memory, the House passed a Private Member's Public Bill introduced by an opposition member. Bill 37, introduced by Ms. Weir, designates April 28 as A Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace.

In bringing down the government's first budget March 28, Finance Minister Norman Betts (Southwest Miramichi) noted that New Brunswickers would benefit from:

* a $33 million reduction in personal income tax effective July 1, 2000;

* the lowest corporate income tax rate for small business in all of Canada;

* the highest level of health care funding in New Brunswick history;

* the highest level of education funding in New Brunswick history;

* a five million dollar increase over four years in supplements for disabled New Brunswickers, and

* a balanced budget with a surplus of $21.3 million.

In criticizing the Budget, Opposition Finance Critic Bernard Richard (Shediac--Cap-Pele) characterized it as nothing more than smoke and mirrors and stated that the devil is really in the details. The opposition questioned which programs and services would be cut, how many regional offices would be closed and how much would really be downloaded to municipalities. …

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