A very busy session of Parliament ended on June 20th, with over 400 votes on bills and amendments in the final couple of weeks with the House of Commons sitting until midnight.
I was very proud that my Private Member’s Bill C-281, An Act to establish a National Local Food Day, received unanimous support in the House at Second Reading and was swiftly passed by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food without amendment. Bill C-281 will move on to Third Reading when the House resumes in September, followed by review in the Senate. National Local Food Day is receiving support from individuals and organizations from across Canada, and I am hopeful that we will be able to pass C-281 through the House before the Thanksgiving weekend in October.
My NDP colleagues Richard Cannings, MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, and Romeo Saganash, MP for Abitibi – Baie-James – Nunavik – Eeyou, were also able to pass Private Member’s Bills through the House of Commons. Richard Canning’s Bill C-354 requires the federal government to consider the use of wood in federal infrastructure projects, taking into account the associated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, by using wood products or other environmental measures. It will be a boon to our local softwood industry and I was proud to be a seconder of the bill.
Romeo Saganash’s Bill C-262 requires the federal government to ensure that Canadian laws are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This piece of legislation was decades in the making, and I was proud to stand and vote for this historic step towards reconciliation. Both of these NDP bills will move on to the Senate in the fall.
By the end of the session, we also saw two major government bills become law. C-45, the famous (or infamous, depending on your standpoint), bill to make cannabis legal in Canada, passed both the House of Commons and the Senate and is now law. It will take effect on October 17, 2018, so it is still illegal to possess cannabis products until that date.
C-45’s companion legislation, Bill C-46, also passed. It gives police powers to test drivers for cannabis use, and expands current police powers around testing drivers for impairment; they no longer require a reason to administer a breathalyzer and can do random tests of any driver, any time. This section of C-46 may well end up being tested in court for its constitutionality.
When Parliament returns in September, we’ll see a number of high-profile bills discussed, including C-59 on national security; Bill C-69 regarding environmental assessments; and Bill C-71, the Liberals’ new gun reform legislation. I will also be closely watching the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty and the role that our indigenous people and local citizens will be permitted to have going forward.
It is worth noting that much of the spring session didn’t deal with laws at all. Instead, we often debated the news of the day.
The trade war with the U.S. dominated many Question Periods and debates, as it did the news. I am proud that all parties came together to support Canada’s hardline stance against the unreasonable statements by the American President, who often plays a bit loose with the facts.
The government’s buy-out of the aging and leaking Kinder Morgan pipeline also took a great deal of our time. There are arguments on both sides of the pipeline debate, but I have yet to hear one that justifies spending $4.5 billion of our taxpayer dollars on a private, unfinished project that will cost billions more to complete. Even more disturbing is the suggestion that the money to support the Liberal government’s takeover of this pipeline could come from our Canada Pension Plan fund!
In my role as NDP National Parks Critic, I also worked hard on a number of important issues, including upholding Canada’s international conservation commitments, implementing an action plan to meet UNESCO’s requirements for the preservation of Wood Buffalo National Park, and demanding action and compensation for Parks employees impacted by the Phoenix pay system disaster.
On June 5th, I also sent a letter to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, urging her to take immediate action to reject any proposal to hold Olympic events at Lake Louise in Banff National Park. I support Calgary in its bid for the 2026 Winter Games, but this must not come at the cost of the ecological integrity of Banff National Park. Thus far, the Liberal government has refused to give a clear answer on whether Olympic events will be allowed at Lake Louise.
With the House not sitting, I’m spending the summer in Kootenay-Columbia visiting our wonderful farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals. I hope to see you at one of our great community events soon!