Last week was the final sitting of the House of Commons before the winter break.
As is often the case, the government is typically in a hurry to pass certain bills before the House adjourns.
This year was no different as Bill C-3 an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code was deemed a priority as it contained a provision to provide 10 days of paid sick leave in federally regulated workplaces.
In a majority situation, a sitting government always has parliamentary tools available such as “closure” and “time allocation” to essentially force a bill through Parliament. However, in a minority Parliament, where a sitting government can be outvoted by the opposition parties, it becomes trickier for the government to pass a bill.
This is often where backroom deals and agreements are made between the government and one or more opposition parties.
In the case of Bill C-3, in the effort to reach an agreement between the government and the official opposition, a different approach was used.
In this case, my Conservative colleague, MP Scott Aitchison from Parry Sound-Muskoka, proposed amending Bill C-3 to include a proposed Conservative MP’s private member bill that would provide bereavements benefits to parents who lose child.
This private member’s bill was authored by MP Tom Kmiec from Calgary-Shepard who, in 2018, sadly experienced the loss of a child and proposed this bill to help other parents in this tragic situation.
For the Aitchison’s proposal to work, it required support from the Liberal government. On that note, Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan from St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, was the champion on moving this important proposal forward within the Liberal ranks.
Ultimately, an agreement reached between the government and the official Opposition helped pave the way for Bill C-3 to have an expedited passage through Parliament. Subsequently, the Senate passed Bill C-3 and it received royal assent.
The reason I have shared this is because it is an important example of our Canadian Parliament working together to benefit Canadians.
As Aitchison pointed out: “No parent should have to choose between going to work and mourning the loss of a child.”
Thanks to the efforts of these parliamentarians, Kmiec’s private member’s bill is now part of a the law.
This is one of the important things that can, and does, occur when Parliament is sitting (virtually or in person) with MPs doing the work in the House of Commons Canadians elected us to do.
Unfortunately, in the past few years, because of prorogation, the early fall election and a significant delay in recalling the House after the election, Parliament has not sat nearly as often as usual during the Parliamentary calendar.
Regular demonstrations of accountability, such as debate on bills, ministers presenting themselves and their policies to scrutiny at committee and, ultimately, confidence votes are all fundamental to our system of responsible government, where a government must show it maintains the confidence of the House.
I believe we need Parliament to sit more frequently, as has been the case in previous years but has deteriorated considerably under the current government
My question this week:
Are you concerned about our Parliament sitting less frequently?
I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.