Short, William, Canadian Parliamentary Review
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. …