Reflections on the Spring Session of Parliament
On Thursday, June 21, the House of Commons adjourned until September 17. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on what has been a busy three months working as your Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth.
This past session was marked by the Conservatives pushing their mammoth budget bill C38 through Parliament – and, in the end, accepting not a single amendment during the committee “study” process. On June 13, we spent 23 hours of non-stop voting on the budget; I stepped out for 10 five-minute breaks over the course of the 159 votes. I have heard from many constituents on this matter – voicing concerns through email, phone, and in person at my Budget Bill Townhall in May.
I brought your voices directly to the House of Commons where I spoke out against many of the serious areas of concerns in Bill C38. From the gutting of environmental regulations and protection, to penalizing seniors and Canadians struggling to find work, to slashing 10% of the budget for CBC/Radio Canada, to lack of action on affordable housing.
I was also the first Member of Parliament to speak in the House in support of the Black Out, Speak Out campaign, led by ten of the leading environmental organizations in Canada to raise awareness about the huge threat the Conservative budget represents to the environment, as well as to democracy itself.
In Question Period, I’ve been on my feet, directly questioning the Conservatives on cuts to the CBC/Radio Canada as well as on environmental rules and the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area, a groundbreaking freshwater research facility.
I delivered seven speeches in the House of Commons on various pieces of legislation:
- The Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-38)
- Conservative “Reforms” to Refugee Law (Bill C-31)
- Human Rights and Gender Identity and Expression (Bill C-279)
- Mass Hate Dissemination and the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C -304)
- Self-Defence and Citizens Arrest Reforms to the Criminal Code (Bill C-26)
- Gang Recruitment (Bill C-394)
- Water Contamination in Shannon, Québec (M-273)
In addition, I am proud to have seconded three NDP Private Members’ Bills in the House of Commons. One would ensure the legal validity of all same sex marriages, another seeks to bring our criminal laws up to date with respect to animal cruelty and the third would add a provision to the Criminal Code permitting judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences in exceptional circumstances.
Also on the legislative front, as the Deputy Critic for Justice, I have been busy in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This past session, it seems that the government’s tactic was to use Private Member’s Bills to avoid full government oversight and accountability. So in Committee, New Democrats made sure to consistently demand thorough analysis of important changes to the Criminal Code which we opposed – such as the repeal of Article 13 from the Canadian Human Rights Act that protected against hate promotion through the internet and repeat telephone calls, as well as their continuous efforts to impose mandatory minimums, which leave no discretionary powers to judges whatsoever.
And so ended the spring session of Parliament. After a busy session on the Hill, it will be great to spend some quality time at home in Toronto-Danforth. I look forward to listening and learning from you over the summer months so I can return to Parliament in the fall, ready to take on the Conservatives and put forward constructive and practical solutions.
All the best,