Opposition Tories call for transparency and public scrutiny regarding changes to Legislative Standing Rules

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After it repeatedly called for a more open, collaborative approach to modernizing the Legislature's Standing Rules during the fall legislative session, the Official Opposition welcomes Brian Gallant's move to reconvene the Legislature's Standing Committee on Procedure.

 

The Standing Rules set the ground rules for how the Legislature operates.  "Brian Gallant's proposal, in its current form, would implement the most fundamental changes to those rules in a generation, but they were assembled without consulting the Official Opposition or, it appears, any external experts on the subject," said Leader of the Opposition Bruce Fitch.

"We agree there is a need to modernize the Standing Rules, but it must be done in a collaborative, open and thoughtful way."

 

Opposition House Leader Madeleine Dubé added, "The government's calling back of the Committee is encouraging.  We are optimistic it is a genuine move by Brian Gallant to start a productive discussion on his proposed changes.  Hopefully when the Committee meets today, it will be to discuss how it will consult about the government's proposed changes, and other changes that may be necessary."

 

The Official Opposition considers the following elements necessary for open, constructive dialogue about modernizing the Legislature's Standing Rules:

  • Meetings that are open to the public
  • The involvement of other political parties
  • The ability of external experts and other interested persons to present to the Committee
  • Research into the impact of the government's proposed changes, including a cross-jurisdictional review
  • An openness to consider changes to the Standing Rules other than the ones proposed by the government

"The institution of the Legislative Assembly and the rules for how it works should rise above politics.  These changes will alter how MLAs work for years to come, similar to how changes to riding boundaries alter their work.  When ridings are redrawn, public meetings are held, experts are consulted and real research into the proposed changes is undertaken.  We expect nothing less for something as fundamental as changes to the Standing Rules," said Fitch.

 

Dubé added that she expects the government will now come to the table to hear the concerns of the Official Opposition.  "We are confident that after it hears our suggestions, it will agree to start a more open, collaborative and transparent consultation on modernizing the Standing Rules," she concluded.

 

The Official Opposition sees value in some of the principles advanced by the government.  These include an established time for the daily Question Period; adhering to time limits established for Routine Business items; an earlier sitting time on Thursdays; and a guaranteed time when Opposition Business would begin on Opposition Day.

"However, we have serious concerns about other elements of the First Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure," said Dubé.  These changes include:

  • Allowing recorded divisions (standing votes) to be deferred to the next sitting day;
  • Reducing the number of sitting days, which will reduce the ability of the House to hold the government accountable through the daily Question Period and weekly Opposition Days; and
  • Allowing Ministers to vote and be part of quorum of committees of the Legislature.

The Standing Committee of Procedure will meet at 1:00 p.m. on January 14, 2015, to consider again the government's proposed changes.  The meeting is not open to the public.

 

 

 

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