For a third-party member of Parliament, Richard Cannings has seen quite a number of successes in 2017.
Typically an MP will introduce maybe five private member’s bills and feel lucky to get one of them passed, Cannings said. But this year, he has seen two of his bills and a motion get positive treatment from the governing Liberal Party.
Cannings introduced Bill C-363 in on Sept. 22 this year, intending to amend the Species at Risk Act, but was at first told the government would not be moving forward with the bill.
“I was a bit surprised and disappointed by that because it was such an eminently reasonable bill,” Cannings said. “Then at the last minute, the minister’s parliamentary secretary called me and said ‘can we talk about this?’ and so they offered to move ahead with it in policy instead of in legislation.”
That was all the better for Cannings, because that would accomplish almost all of what Cannings wanted to with that bill, but without the glacial pace of the legislative process.
But the policy did fall short of Cannings’ proposal — the proposal was to close a loophole first utilized by the previous Conservative government to essentially never need to update the government’s official species-at-risk list.
The bill would have given government up to a year to update the list after they have received advice from scientists. Instead, the government implemented a two- to three-year limit.
“This rarely ever happens. You know this is probably only a handful of times,” Cannings said. “People I talked to could only think of two private members’ initiatives over the last 10 years that have been resolved in this way. So they were very congratulatory about how that worked.”
In January, Cannings’ bill to recommend the government consider using wood to build federal buildings will be going to debate, and is on track to making committee.
“It’s going to get that far, so I’m very happy with that, because, again, very few private members’ bills get over that first hurdle of getting to committee,” he said.
Recently, too, a motion from Cannings to push the government to apologize to British home children was picked up by the Bloc Quebecois and was passed as a motion since, in an odd sort of way.
“In a very kind of confused moment at the end of some question period, we all said ‘yeah,’ and that sort of served as the apology, so I’ve been trying to get the government to say let’s have a real apology,” he said.
What doesn’t appear to have made it past the Liberal’s chopping block was Cannings’ proposed amendment to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, changed by the previous Conservatives to the Navigation Protection Act to restore all previous protections.
On a more challenging side, Cannings said he was disturbed by what he characterized as a tone deaf Liberal government, between conflict of interest issues with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over a helicopter ride last Christmas and with Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who was found not to have divested from his company or put those shares in a blind trust.
Moving forward, Cannings said he was happy with the new leadership in the NDP, with Jagmeet Singh elected party leader on Oct. 1.
More locally, Cannings said he hopes to see some progress on the softwood lumber file, as Canada battles with the U.S. over trade disputes and more engagement from Environment Canada with locals opposing a national park in the South Okanagan.