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 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 MPs private member’s bill that would provide bereavement benefits to parents who have lost a 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 this proposal from Aitchison to work, it required support from the Liberal government. On that note, Liberal labour minister Seamus O’Regan from St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, was the champion on moving this important proposal forward within the Liberal government.
Ultimately this 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 has also now passed Bill C-3 and this bill has received royal assent.
The reason I have shared this experience 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, this private member’s bill is now part of a government bill that has become law.
These are some of the important things that can and do occur when Parliament is sitting (virtually or in person) when MPs are doing the work in the House that Canadians elected us to do.
Unfortunately, in the past few years because of prorogation and this early fall election and significant delay in recalling the House after our Parliament has not sat nearly as often as per the usual Parliamentary calendar.
Regular demonstrations of accountability such as debate on bills, ministers presenting themselves and their policies open to scrutiny at committee and ultimately confidence votes are all fundamental to our system of responsible government- where a government must show maintains the confidence of the House.
I believe we need our Canadian 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?
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
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