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Legislative reports: Assemblee Nationale Quebec.

Since the beginning of the new session, last March 22nd, until June 21, the day on which the Assembly adjourned for the summer holidays, 42 bills were passed. The following are among the more noteworthy of these:

* An Act respecting parental insurance, the object of which is to give eligible workers entitlement to maternity benefits and paternity and parental benefits on the birth of a child, and adoption benefits in connection with the adoption of a minor.

* An Act to amend various legislative provisions concerning municipal affairs, which supplements the principles and rules contained in the Act to reform the municipal territorial organization of the metropolitan regions of Montreal, Quebec and the Outaouais.

* An Act to amend the Labour Code, to establish the Commission des relations du travail and to amend other legislative provisions, which enables this Commission to take over the decision-making responsibilities currently exercised by the office of the labour commissioner general in matters related to collective labour relations and dispose of individual complaints and proceedings brought before the labour commissioner general under the Labour Code or other Acts.

* An Act to establish a legal framework for information technology, whose object is to provide the Government with a framework as regards information transfer, legal security, and the norms and standards involved in communications by means of technology-based documents. This bill also provides for various ways of confirming the identity of a person communicating by means of a technology-based document, and measures to protect privacy in the context of such communications.

* An Act to amend the Public Health Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act, which enables the Government to adopt a plan of action to protect the population from the West Nile virus. The implementation of the measures in the plan providing for the use of pesticides is not subject to the provisions of any law, regulation or municipal by-law, other than the provisions of the Environment Quality Act, that would prevent or delay the implementation of the measures.

Rulings from the Chair

Last June, President Jean-Pierre Charbonneau rendered important decisions concerning the neutrality of the vice-presidents.

On June 1 and 8, the neutrality of the three vice-presidents was questioned by the Official Opposition House Leader. In the three cases, the latter claimed that the positions publicly expressed by the vice-presidents regarding the matter under discussion, namely Bill 29, concerning amendments to the municipal reorganization currently underway, disqualified them from chairing the proceedings of the Assembly involving this bill.

Following the attack on the neutrality of the First Vice-President that occurred on June 1st, President Charbonneau rendered a directive, at the sitting of 6 June, on the rules that could serve as guidelines for the vice-presidents in the exercise of their political activities, in order to determine how much leeway they dispose of in this respect. Generally speaking, the vice-presidents agreed to observe the following rules:

* the vice-presidents will avoid taking part in the proceedings of the Assembly or in those of committees, especially if a contested issue is under consideration;

* if a vice-president makes known his opinion, within the framework of parliamentary deliberations, on a matter that is before the Assembly's consideration, he should avoid chairing the debates on this matter;

* the vice-presidents will vote only when there is unanimity or when the Assembly is taking the final vote on a question;

* when a vice-president takes a position on a specific matter that is before the Assembly for its consideration, this should not disqualify him from chairing the proceedings on another matter that could eventually come before the Assembly for its consideration, even if both matters concern the same subject;

* in any other circumstance, the vice-presidents shall exercise prudence and reserve when making comments.

The President indicated that it was in the observance of these rules and owing to the fact that he had openly taken a position on the municipal mergers that the First Vice-President had chosen not to chair the debate on Bill 29.

On June 12, the President rendered a second ruling, after the neutrality of the Third and Second Vice-Presidents was questioned at the sitting of June 8. He concluded that these two vice-presidents, pursuant to the aforementioned rules of conduct, were qualified to continue chairing the Assembly debates on Bill 29.

Furthermore, the President stated that, under parliamentary law, the questioning of an act accomplished by a Member representing the Chair must be done via a substantive motion which its authors qualify as "censure motion" or "want of confidence motion". He added that, henceforth, the Chair of the Assembly will not accept that its conduct be questioned unless it is done via a substantive motion.

Resignation

Prior to the adjournment of proceedings for the summer, Celine Signori announced her resignation as Member for the Electoral Division of Blainville. There are now four vacant seats in the Assembly.

The by-election held last 9 April having given the Quebec Liberal Party an additional seat in the House, the composition of the Assembly is now as follows: 71 Members of the Parti Quebecois; 49 Members of the Quebec Liberal Party; 1 Independent Member (Action democratique).

Interparliamentary Relations

Upon the conclusion of the proceedings of the 27th ordinary session of the Assemblee parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF) -- Parliamentary Assembly of French-speaking peoples -- which took place in Quebec City from 8 to 10 July of this year, President Charbonneau, was elected as chairman of this important international parliamentary forum for a term of two years.

Five other Members of the Quebec National Assembly accepted the responsibility of various duties within the APF: Monique Gagnon-Tremblay - Saint Francois, Rita Dionne-Marsolais -Rosemont, Roger Bertrand-Portneuf, Jacques Chagnon -Westmount-Saint-Louis, and Jean-Claude St-Andre - L'Assomption.

During their proceedings, the parliamentarians reiterated the necessity of promoting French throughout the world, democracy and the state of law. The defence of cultural diversity also was given special attention.

Parliamentary Simulations

While the APF activities were underway, the first session of the Parliament of French-speaking youth, composed of young people from some forty French-speaking States, was holding its proceedings in the Parliament Building. Close to 60 young men and women aged 16 and 17 took part in a parliamentary simulation that concluded with the adoption of the Charter of the young French-speaking citizen of the 21st century, which states the major issues of the new millennium. This Charter, which was officially presented to the parliamentarians of the APF, who were holding a plenary meeting in Quebec City, will subsequently be tabled before the French-speaking heads of State and Government during the Francophone Summit that will be held in Beyrouth, Lebanon, October 26 to 28, 2001.

A few months prior to this, the Assembly had welcomed, for a fifth consecutive year, the participants of the Pupils' Parliament. One hundred and twenty-five 6th-grade elementary students hailing from all regions of the Province of Quebec came to the Assembly and, for a few hours, "replaced" the Members in order to hold debates on legislation that they had drafted during the entire school year with their teachers.

This year, the subjects of discussion dealt with the use of the "vous" form at school, community support services for seniors, as well as the creation of an Internet site especially designed for 6th-grade students.
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Publication:Canadian Parliamentary Review
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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