HOME / ASSEMBLY OFFICE / 1999 CPA - ALBERTA BRANCH ANNUAL REPORT
C P A - Alberta
Branch 1999 Annual Report
38th Canadian Regional CPA
Mr. Don Tannas, MLA
Delegates' Reports (edited for length)
Quebec City was a beautiful and historic setting for this conference. Representatives from across Canada attended, and representatives from other countries including the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico were observers. The experience and knowledge one can gain in meeting with other elected representatives are overwhelming.
The conference began with a session on parliamentary diplomacy. A variety of issues were discussed including globalization, NAFTA, responsibilities of opposition party leaders, and credibility of representatives of all levels of government.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, Speaker of the National Assembly and our fantastic conference host, delivered a persistent message that the province of Quebec should be recognized as a distinct government. I enjoyed many interesting conversations and debates about the affairs of Quebec with representatives of that province.
In other sessions throughout the week delegates discussed the parliamentary process, information exchanges, embassy networking, agriculture, and concerns leading up to the World Trade Organization conference. They also expressed concerns about specific issues relating to their own provinces.
The province of Quebec and Quebec City did an outstanding job in hosting all delegates.
- Ed Gibbons
I would first observe that the Canadian CPA members reaffirmed last year's decision not to have the CPA become a body making policy decisions. The Canadian CPA will remain a nonpartisan professional development and improvement association of elected representatives.
Speaker Charbonneau of the Quebec National Assembly was the first presenter on the topic of parliamentary diplomacy. While I thought he would dwell on the issue of diplomacy in our interactions with fellow members of our own Legislatures or with members of other Legislatures, he actually presented a point of view that dealt with a parallel diplomacy to governments' foreign affairs or intergovernmental departments. He advocated that interparliamentary gatherings should deal with international issues and that as elected members we should not leave diplomacy only to the civil servants.
The second session on the topic Parliamentary Conference of the Americas and the Canadian Legislative Assemblies was also presented by Speaker Charbonneau. The third session dealt with the role of parliamentarians in defence of Canada's major industries.
Mr. Arthur Donahoe gave an informative presentation on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and Alberta's Linda Sloan gave a thought-provoking presentation on Parliament in the Year 2000: Is Traditional Parliamentary Government Appropriate?
I enjoyed the conference, and it was very worth while.
- Don Tannas
This conference was aptly described by an habitual attendee as professional development for the parliamentarian. Parliamentarians do not qualify for the position by attending school; rather, they are elected to it. So this event brings together members from all provinces, territories, the federal government, and some Commonwealth countries to discuss, both formally and informally, their experiences and issues.
Formal sessions were held in the National Assembly Chamber. A wide range of topics, from the parochial Quebec issue of parliamentary diplomacy to the broad-based financing of political parties, was discussed. This group of parliamentarians was by no means homogeneous. They shared opinions freely, with passion, and without incident, as all members appeared to come to the conference with a full reserve of bonhomie.
The Quebec members were superb hosts, and all in all this was a most wonderful experience.
- Ron Stevens
I was pleased to be a member of the all-party delegation attending this conference. As a first-term parliamentarian, meeting elected officials from the 10 provinces, the territories, the House of Commons, and the many senators and international delegates who attended was a great privilege.
The conference gave me an opportunity to meet and speak with Quebec parliamentarians as well as citizens in and around that region. I found this experience particularly enlightening. I have gained valuable insight into the issues of importance to the Quebecois, and their concerns were remarkably similar to those I hear throughout my constituency.
This conference stressed the importance of interparliamentary co-operation and how that co-operation can help us as elected members do our jobs better. Not only can we learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions, we can be examples to developing democracies around the world. Our challenge is to take advantage of this opportunity.
- Richard Marz
I found all sessions to be informative, thought-provoking, and useful to me as a parliamentarian. Presentations addressed the role of parliamentarians in defence of Canada's major industries, the role of independent members, party discipline, and the financing of political parties. All were interesting and well prepared. I found that the discussions following the presentations revealed information about other provinces' and jurisdictions' similarities and differences, which was quite fascinating.
From a parent perspective I was most impressed by the program co-ordinators who ensured that I was aware of what the day's activities would entail and how my 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, would be supervised. A credit to their personable and engaging approach was that Sarah, initially reluctant to participate, made five new friends during the week and returned home speaking very positively of the program and her first visit to Quebec City.
- Linda Sloan
The Canadian Regional CPA conferences are a place for federal, provincial, territorial, and some foreign political representatives to come together on a friendly basis and discuss issues common to all. The topics chosen for the 38th conference business sessions certainly bore this out, generating lively discussion and debate both inside and outside of the Quebec Parliament Chamber where the sessions were held.
A personal highlight for me was being chosen to chair the third business session, The Role of Parliamentarians in the Defense of Canada's Major Industries Under Attack on the International Scene.
The conference was exciting and invigorating from the opening ceremony to the closing banquet. In closing, I want to comment on how well it was organized. The receptions, tours, and events for spouses and families were very well planned, and Mr. Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, Speaker of the National Assembly, and his wife, Mme Anne-Marie Desmarais, are to be commended for being such gracious hosts.
- Julius Yankowsky
Summary of Alberta Presentation
Parliament in the Year 2000: Is Traditional Parliamentary Government Appropriate? by Linda Sloan (with contributions by Thomas Borreson, political science student at the University of Lethbridge)
In 1997 the Alberta government co-ordinated the Alberta growth summit. The fundamental question posed to participants and delegates was: in the context of where we want to be in the year 2005, what private- and public-sector actions and policies are needed to ensure sustainable and broad-based growth in Alberta?
The summit concluded with priorities for action being identified under the categories of people development, health and quality of life, vision of the province, infrastructure, regulatory and tax issues, role and function of government, partnerships, and framework for policy development and management. Concluding the event, Premier Klein committed to outline the government's response and a vision for the province. The Premier mused that he would like to see a response card developed to track follow-up actions, but this has not occurred.
While such an event might appear to most as a measure of Alberta's democratic state, closer examination of other parliamentary measures would suggest that parliamentary democracy in Alberta is not being sustained but eroded in the context of summits, unelected appointments, and government practices.
The fall sittings of the Legislature in 1997 were replaced by the growth summit. Policy is being made more and more by government-appointed boards. Meanwhile, the Legislature of Alberta is sitting less and less. It sat for only 38 days in 1996-Õ97 Ð a stark contrast to Ontario, where the Legislature sat for 134 days over the same period.
Meanwhile, on a national scale it is important to examine the impact of the social union
negotiated between the provinces and Ottawa, as well as the North American free trade agreement and the multilateral agreement on investment.
Canadians are bombarded with notions that Canada must adapt in order to remain globally competitive, and this includes changing how Canada is governed. Under this unyielding influence the strength of the Canadian parliamentary system wanes, to the point where recent governments have afforded special rights to these artificial entities which can prevent them from addressing the concerns of actual people.
Is the Canadian parliamentary system an appropriate model for the next century? In its present form it appears to be hamstrung and steadily withering. The corporate powers have considerable financial clout and an ever increasing amount of rights once reserved for human beings. Their power has been more than sufficient to undermine democracy in other nations, creating a de facto command economy in various developing regions.
Perhaps the question is not simply whether or not the Canadian parliamentary system is appropriate but which values Canada wishes to represent in its political system.
20th Annual Joint Canadian
Conference of Legislative Auditors (CCOLA) and the Canadian Council of
Public Accounts Committees (CCPAC)
Mr. Lance White, MLA, Chairman
Delegates' Reports (edited for length)
The CCPAC conference was attended by parliamentarians, researchers, and committee clerks from the Canadian House of Commons and the provinces. The group was pleased to have the chairman of the Nunavut Territory Public Accounts Committee and two staff members in attendance. International observers from Bermuda, Tasmania, and western Australia also participated. It is interesting to note the involvement of other Commonwealth nations in the CCPAC process.
Also interesting is the extent to which public accounts committees in Canada can be proactive in ensuring that administration and implementation of policies are carried out in a prudent manner. This fact was corroborated by the survey discussed during the joint session between public accounts committee members and legislative auditors.
- Lance White
I thought the conference was valuable for its national and even international connections. I am convinced that every public accounts committee member in their respective jurisdictions is striving to give the best service in scrutinizing the public accounts for their regions, and the conference confirmed that opinion. The setting and the venues, coupled with the timing and pace of the conference, in Quebec City were excellent.
- Mary O'Neill
de la Francophonie
Mr. Paul Langevin, MLA
Theme: Parliament in the Year 2000
Delegate's Report (edited for length)
The purpose of the conference was to help improve democracy in that part of the world. This was done by sharing our experiences.
Along with parliamentarians from Quebec, Belgium, Mali, and Benin, I made presentations to approximately 60 elected officials and held working sessions. Those who attended appreciated our help and viewed the conference as a great success.
It was a great experience, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity.
- Paul Langevin
Executive Summary of Alberta Presentation (translation from French)
Mr. Langevin gave an information presentation outlining the roles and rights of Members of the Legislative Assembly in Alberta. He explained the differences between government MLAs sitting as members of cabinet and those sitting as backbenchers and the members of the opposition parties, and he indicated that the job of the MLA in Alberta has now evolved to become a full-time position from being essentially part-time prior to 1970.
His presentation touched on such topics as the role of the MLA in caucus, the responsibilities of MLAs both to their constituents and to the Assembly, and also with respect to party discipline and voting. He addressed the role of bills, resolutions, and motions as means of addressing and responding to constituents' needs and concerns. Further, he spoke about the role of the Official Opposition in Alberta's Legislature vis-à-vis critiquing potential legislation and government expenditures, their participation on the standing committees of the Assembly, and the formation of the "shadow cabinet" to scrutinize the operations and spending of specific departments of government.
Mr. Langevin detailed the rights and privileges of MLAs in Alberta, noting two essential privileges: freedom of expression and protection from arrest. He explained that freedom of expression permits the MLA to speak his mind within the Assembly without fear of prosecution and that the other privilege, protection from arrest, dates from the early days of British parliamentary democracy and was designed to ensure that a member could not be detained from carrying out his parliamentary duties.
In conclusion, he indicated that while Legislatures have changed little as far as the process of enacting and changing legislation, our society has changed a great deal, passing from the industrial age to the information age. In the new millennium issues such as globalization, the desire for transparent and responsible government, increased demand on services, and citizens wishing more direct involvement in democracy will pose challenges to all parliaments. As his closing observation, Mr. Langevin noted that future parliaments and legislators must possess a more in-depth knowledge and make the most of their capacity to obtain and evaluate the data originating from the many new information sources.
State Legislative Leaders
The Honourable Ken Kowalski, Speaker
Mr. Denis Herard, MLA
Delegates' Reports (edited for length)
I attended several sessions, including one on Confederation, and my colleague's presentation on parliamentary media relations. The session on Confederation was a great history lesson that crystallized an understanding of the heart and soul of Newfoundlanders and provided a new perspective on current issues as they relate to separatism in Quebec.
The session on media relations was perhaps the liveliest, with Colleen Soetaert's humourous paper on how to prepare for media interviews, followed by a debate on all aspects of media relations and the perception of voters.
- Denis Herard
As this was my first time as a participant at a CPA seminar, I found it to be informative and enjoyable. It is great to see how other parliaments work, to see where, in my opinion, Alberta's Legislature is ahead, the technology, and where we are behind, the role of committees.
The question period session was most interesting. In some jurisdictions government backbenchers do not get to ask any questions. In B.C. question period is only 15 minutes long.
All in all, it was a very informative weekend hosted by the gracious people of Newfoundland, most notably the Speaker and his wife. What I learned in Newfoundland was very valuable, but it was getting to know the people of Newfoundland that was most valuable. My intent is to return to Newfoundland with my family someday so that they, too, may benefit from knowing more about the rest of Canada.
- Colleen Soetaert
Summary of Alberta Presentation
Parliamentarians and the Press by Colleen Soetaert
Everyone has a horror story to tell about being misquoted in the press, but in reality the press is absolutely essential to our jobs. I always get distressed when I hear people in politics talking about the press as if they are snakes. We need them. The public needs them. They are the conduit to the masses. How else does the public get information? How do we get our message out? Whether the message is about a good move government has made or the opposition pointing out the government's shortcomings, we need to work with the press.
It is interesting how some politicians want to be in the news and others would just as soon not. I was chatting with a minister one day and he said to me, "A good day is when I'm not in the press," but for opposition a good day is if you are in the paper, even if it is the last line of the last paragraph.
I have found that the small community papers love news and look for it. If you have a credible issue you will get covered, and local papers tend to be read cover to cover, unlike some of the bigger papers.
I know many of the reporters fairly well, but I never say anything to them that I don't want to read about the next day. They have a job to do, and if you are talking to them and it is newsworthy, they have an obligation to report it. Half the time you end up giving an interview with no prior notice, and it is important not to get caught off guard. You have the right to say, "Let me do a little homework, and I'll get back to you."
Most of all, be yourself. Thousands of people voted for you, and when you get into the news in a positive way, it reaffirms that they were correct in choosing you to speak for them.
21st Annual Conference, Council
on Governmental Ethics Laws
Bob Clark, Ethics Commissioner and Information
and Privacy Commissioner
Delegate's Report (edited for length)
The conference focused on information and privacy, ethics, and election and government reform issues. Topics such as the importance of public access to government information, recognizing and avoiding bad deals in public/private partnerships, and election campaign finance were addressed.
The session on Instilling the Public Value of Open Government led to a discussion of freedom of information laws and how such laws are based on a recognition and acknowledgement on the part of government; that while openness and transparency are necessary parts of the accountability framework for public administration, at some point governments invariably begin to question the value of the law.
Debate also focused on the roles and responsibilities of board members of watchdog agencies by commission chairs who have various enforcement powers, discussing the relationship and interaction between members, their appointing authorities, staff, constituencies, the public, and the press.
The topic Affecting Political Culture and Government Institutions from the Outside was discussed as successful government reform efforts begin from outside the institutions of government.
The session also explored the efforts of private advocacy groups to achieve reform on issues including campaign finance, lobbying, ethics, and public access to information. Public participation processes were discussed with emphasis on how and why groups outside government affect and interact with existing watchdog agencies.
- Paul Langevin
Bursaries are presented annually to nominees from Tuxis Parliament of Alberta and the Alberta Girls' Parliament to increase interest in the parliament process among young Albertans. On May 4 Speaker Kowalski awarded bursaries to Jill Delarue from Tuxis and to Kristy Bruce and Jessica Schaink from the Alberta Girls' Parliament.
A provincewide essay contest is held annually for grade 6 students to encourage greater awareness of the Commonwealth and the parliamentary system. This year the grand prize went to Jacqueline Kennedy.
electronic copy of the CPA - Alberta Branch 1999 Annual Report is UNOFFICIAL